Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Peering Through the Beans

The time it was cloudy for FIVE DAYS in Mendoza. My host mom almost didn't make it.
I have officially outsmarted my first encounter with an attempted thief without actually meaning to. About two weeks ago, my good friend Katie and I were sitting contently next to a window inside a classic Mendocino café, sipping tea and using the wifi internet, as neither of us had access in our houses until recently. A boy of about 15, possibly less, walked into the café and directly to me next to the window, fanned out some pamphlets for a restaurant and hovered his outstretched pamphlet hand over my watch, which I had taken off and set to my side on the table. He said nothing, just held his hand out and looked at me. I stared him right back and started to talk to him--“Qué tal? Qué pasó? Qué es esto?” I’d forgotten about my watch, but knew that one of my possessions—I thought it was my phone—was now out of my sight and to my right, so as I babbled on to the unresponsive kid, I reached under his hand, took my watch, and put it in my lap. He continued to stare at me. I took a pamphlet, now starting to ask him about the restaurant and why he was still standing there. After a pause of continued staring, he turned around and bolted from the restaurant with a glance to the register counter, not attempting his grab on anyone else. It wasn’t until this point that we realized how textbook the whole interaction had been, even if completely out of the blue inside of a café.
El micro (bus): always a life-risking but fun adventure
A calm reminder to stay on your toes at all times as anyone can be and probably is watching you, even when everything seems fine. I am lucky: others have had attempted bag snatches on the street and one student has been held at gunpoint a block away from his house upon returning in the early morning after a night at the boliches (nightclubs). He was lucky and had a fake wallet, but they also took his phone and his shoes. This is why I keeping my walking alone at night to a minimum of a block or two before meeting friends.


Eating carrots in unacceptable places such as cafés and cines.
In other news, I have started classes! Technically. Barely. Not really. It certainly doesn’t feel like it… why? Well, classes in both Universidad Nacional de Cuyo (UNCuyo) and Universidad de Congreso (UC) were arranged to start last Monday, 18 March. I had one class that day, Dibujo III (Drawing), at UNCuyo so three other intercambio students and I walked to class, got there on time, and were all super excited to draw and meet some Argentinians. The entire building was deserted, but for two attendants at the front desk who were shocked to hear that we didn’t know about the paro—all of our professors were on strike, so there were no classes for the week. Well. Lovely. We still had our Spanish class for my study abroad program and UC will always have classes as it is the private university. With so much free time, we were hoping to quit the city and go camping for a surprise four-day weekend, but I unfortunately got an absolutely killer cold for the rest of the week and a few others were sick as well. Upon getting home Monday evening from learning about the cancelled classes, I did not emerge from my apartment again until Friday morning to finally see the light of day and go to my first class at UC.
We cooked all of this. It was absolutely amazing.
Team 3: Empanada-making champions.
This class was super interesting—Ecología de las zonas áridas, or essentially Desert Ecology. Since UC is a private school of only about 2,000 students, this class felt like a Spanish class at Wheaton with maybe about 20 students, but all being phenomenal at speaking Spanish apart from Katie and I (the two rather silent intercambio students in the class). Still the professor was very understanding and engaging, the students have interesting viewpoints, and it was great to meet our classmates. Only drawback? This class is once a week from 6-10pm on FRIDAY. Yes, I voluntarily chose class until 10pm on a Friday. It actually works out perfectly with the Argentine schedule as dinner is only starting at 10, so you go home and eat with your family and then out, or just go straight to the bars with your classmates—built-in way to meet people! The one other class I have had is Dibujo III which I successfully went to Monday of this week. The Monday class is a solid four hours of figure drawing right off the bat on the first day and I love it. It is so exciting to be back in an art class, and this is barely a class. What I gather so far is it’s basically just a studio to practice what you already do best: the models are there, the professors roam around but don’t really comment on what you do, you are just encouraged to challenge yourself and improve naturally. I am SO excited. Tuesday and Wednesday were paro (protest, strike) again, right before having no class for about a week starting on Thursday for Semana Santa (Easter). My next class isn't until Ecología again next Friday night. Good deal!
After 10 weeks on the continent, I figured I've earned my own maté.

One of these days, I will actually go to all of my classes, but for now it is just a list. I am lined up to take:
-       Ecología de las zonas áridas (UC)
-       Dibujo III (UNCuyo)
-       Modelado y Color Cerámica
     (UNCuyo, Ceramics)
-       Español
     (IFSA Butler, study abroad program)
-       Lenguajes Artísticos Guitarra
      (UC, Guitar lessons, evidently with singing lessons thrown in. Oh boy.)
I feel like I’m taking nothing at all, but that’s a solid 17 credit courseload that I have already had the syllabi approved by the Department of Hispanic Studies back at Wheaton through email, so I’m set to go! I don’t know if I’m going to be able to throw myself back into reality at Wheaton, but I do miss math and I’m actually wicked excited for the schedule masterpiece I’ve miraculously pulled together for next semester. Nevertheless, I’m pumped for a semester abroad of beautiful classes I never let myself take otherwise.
You can't exactly tell, but pub #2 of the St. Patrick's pub crawl was overflowing into the street.
Our personal serenade from our neighbors during St. Patrick's festivities.
In other news, life is going smoothly: plenty of picnics in the plazas with maté and watermelon, Argentine cooking classes in a beautiful vineyard in Maípu, constant searches for carrots, sleeping for four days solid thanks to dying of the plague, St. Patrick’s Day festivities with surprisingly many redhead-wigged Argentines and drunken guitar serenades from strangers, bumbling around the streets of Mendoza, trying out as many wines as our wallets allow, sketchy methods of acquiring money for AR$7.6 to the dollar rather than AR$5.2, and some very serious consideration of running the Maratón International Mendoza. Stay tuned for that.

Picnic in Plaza Independencia: 4 people vs. 6 kilos o' watermelon.
 Still, the most exciting event for me right now is that in T-minus 16 HOURS my beloved PARENTS are arriving in Mendoza!!! I am seriously so outrageously excited. I’m one of those children who couldn’t stand being the only child for four years of high school after Anne and Tom left for college, but now regard my parents as some of coolest people on the planet. They arrived in Buenos Aires on Monday morning and embark on a 13-hour bus ride to Mendoza this evening, to be greeted by a very enthusiastic Emily-tackle tomorrow at 9am in the bus terminal.

Much love from the maté gods,
Testing the Mendocino vino... still are very much so not pros.


  1. Show your Ecología professor some photos of New Mexico, maybe the Jornada, and he'll understand why you find Argentina so... como se dice... familiar.

    Give George a noogie for me!

    1. Haha! I'm absolutely planning on that, it's been so unnerving how similar the geography is. And noogie attacks certainly happened, haha.