Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Going Home

My taxi will be here in 15 minutes. Its a crazy thought to be going home already. I've had a wonderful semester abroad, and I've really learned so much. As I've said before, I'm ready to go back - see family and friends, have a bit more privacy, and go back to Penn. On the other hand, I'm not sure if I'm ready to leave - the city, the friends, the relationships. I'm going to go say goodbye to Bocha. See many of you very soon.

Mis queridos amigos argentinos - realmente fue un placer conocerlos. Tengo tanto suerte. Cuando vengas a los Estados Unidos por favor mandame un mail!


Saturday, December 15, 2007

The end of BA

Glacial fields

Me at the 7 colored mountains

The salt flats

I'm back in BA after a wonderful few weeks of traveling. First, I was lucky enough to have my Mom and grandparents come down to visit. After a fun time in Buenos Aires (and a lot of studying on my part), I took my LAST final exam and immediately got onto a plane. We went to Iguazu falls in the north, and to El Calafate in the south, home to beautiful glaciers. We had a great time and saw some truly beautiful sights. As Papa said, it is important to see the glaciers now, so that I can some day tell my grandchildren all about them because they are rapidly receding from global warming.

After they left, I spent a few days traveling in Northern Argentina in the provinces of Salta and Jujuy with my friend from COPA Laura. The north is different than any other part of the country - it has retained its roots much more than anything else I have seen. For the first time since arriving I truly felt like I was in Latin America - people wearing old fashioned clothes, lots of horses, and gorgeous scenery. The mountains up there aren't like anything I've seen before - due to the minerals, they are all different colors. In the north, we visited small Qechua (modern-day Inca) villages and saw gorgeous scenery. At one point we did the Paseo de 7 Colores (Walk of 7 Colors) - but, only found 5 colors!

Our real story was the Quebrada de Humahuaca (Humahuaca Gorge). The travel books talk about how gorgeous it is, but don't really get into what it is. But, one book mentioned that the best place to view it was from the village of Humahuaca. One day, we got up very early and caught a bus to go to Humahuaca. My friend immediately fell asleep, and I dozed in or out, enjoying the beautiful scenery when I was awake. Once there, we went to the tourism office to talk about seeing the Quebrada... It turns out that Quebrada de Humahuaca is the name of the region, not an actual "thing" and that the best way to see it is the busride up... which we had slept through! After that revelation, we were very careful to find out what things were before we did them!

Another incredible sight were the salinas grandes, the salt flats. Geologists believe that millions of years ago the whole region was a sea. Today, what remains are giant stretches of land covered in a layer of salt. It was very cool to see - it basically looked like everything was covered in snow, but it was 90 degrees out.

Besides seeing the gorgeous scenery, we also spent time in these small villages. I really can't imagine living there personally - they really are pueblitos (little, little towns). However, they were so interesting to see. The pace of life was so much slower, everybody knew everybody else (that part was familiar!), and people looked "Latino." A quick digression - Argentina is a country of immigrants, much like the US. In Buenos Aires, most people are white, and don't look much different than they do in the US. In fact, many of the people who look ethnically Latino are immigrants from neighboring countries. In Jujuy, Laura and I had the experience of being the only white people on a few occasions - it was a strange feeling.

Now I'm wrapping things up in Buenos Aires, seeing friends and visiting the places I still haven't been, along with packing. I can't wait to see everybody when I 'm back in the US soon!

Monday, November 26, 2007


I have so many potential blog entries to write, I don't even know where to start! I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Uruguay with most of my program. The boatride was about 3 hours (if you pay more you can get there in 1 hour), and unlike anything else I've done. I barely felt like I was in a boat - there are two sections that are set up like airplanes, with lots of chairs in rows, a big game room area which also has small tables with chairs to lounge in, an upstairs deck, a small cafeteria, a HUGE duty free shop (the waters are considered international territory), and a first class area (which I didn't get to see).
We got to Colonia and immediately went to our director's program for Thanksgiving. There were various rumors about how the turkeys got to Uruguay... let's just say that the director has connections (turkey's are not easy to find in Argentina or Uruguay). One student's parents had brought several bags of cranberries with them from the US so we could even have cranberry sauce! The food was good, though Yaya's is better. I was very happy to see pumpkin pie, as its one of my favorite parts. Afterwards, we went on a short tour of the city of Colonia and then hung out in the city for the night. The next morning my friends and I headed out to Punta del Este, one of the most popular beaches in Uruguay. Unfortunately, the weather decided to be rather uncooperative and our beach days were cold and windy :-(. It was still nice to see, and we had a good time together.
The most confusing part of Thanksgiving, was, in fact the weather. Wearing a summer skirt and tshirt to Thanksgiving dinner just didn't make any sense! On Thursday, the weather was in the 80s and we were all wearing sunscreen. I can't even imagine what it would be like to celebrate Christmas here - I'm dreaming of a sunny beach day Christmas?
I'll be seeing everyone soon! Love, Becca

Sunday, November 18, 2007

So much to do, so little time

I officially have a month left in Buenos Aires. It still seems crazy to think that I've been here for four months. I got here July 15. I still can't believe it. And now I leave in a month. In some ways, I'm getting very ready to come home - ready to see the family and friends, have a "normal" slice of pizza, speak English on a regular basis, and take discussion based classes. On the other hand, I don't know if my "abroad experience" is really over. Every day I feel like I learn something new about this place - I learn a new Spanish phrase, find a cool new art gallery, discover a new Argentine food, or meet a great new person. Today I went to Hillel, and started talking to one of the security guards as I was walking out. Yet another great person...

I hope that everyone at home as a happy Thanksgiving! My entire program is making the 2 (3?) hour trip to Colonia, Uruguay (PASSPORT STAMP!) for the holiday, and I am planning on staying on a bit with friends. I'll be seeing you all so soon!

ADDENDUM (Mon at 10:30 PM): I just bought my plane tickets back to the US... I get into Newark Dec 19!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In case you didn't believe me

Here's this link, about the coin shortage in Argentina :-)

Off to a busy day of studying. Lots of love!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Election Day!

Last Sunday was Argentina's election day. Cristina Kirchner, wife of the incumbent president Nestor Kirchner, ran and won the election as a part of the party Frente Para la Victoria (Front for Victory), one of the many branches of the modern day Peronist Party. I could give you a whole history of the Peronist party (I'm taking a class on Peronism), but I'll spare everyone the lecture. Basically, they are still considered Peronists, because that is the dominant political party, but today's Peronists' politics are worlds apart from Peron's politics. For some information about Cristina, click here.

Election Day was interesting for several reasons. First of all, the wife of the incumbent president was running. While she won in the province of Buenos Aires, she lost in the city of Buenos Aires, which is called Capital Federal (where I live and all the national government stuff is). Fun fact: the capital of the province of Buenos Aires is not Capital Federal, it is a city called La Plata. Amongst the people I've met (all in BA), she seems to be unpopular, and many people have told me they see her election as a way to keep the couple in power for a long time - Nestor just finished his four years, she will be in office for four years, then she passes the power back to him for four years, and she takes it after him. I'm not sure if I agree with this reading, but thought it was interesting and worth sharing.

In addition, EVERYTHING is closed on Election Day. It is on a Sunday, and all of the bars close at midnight on Saturday night and you cannot serve alcohol. For a city that usually doesn't go out until 2 AM, this was very surprising! Sunday was not much different than a normal Sunday in BA - everything was closed, but everything is always closed on Sunday.

Finally, voting in Argentina is not option, it is obligatory. According to the Argentine Constitution, every person has to vote in elections, unless they have a special circumstances. Election day is on a Sunday, so people don't work and it's easier to get out and vote. Needless to say, they have a very high percentage of people who vote, unlike the US. I was very curious about it, and actually asked in one of my classes what it means that it's obligatory - if you don't vote, can you be punished? The answer is technically, there is a fine. However, it is a strictly enforced policy.

Besides elections, life has continued as normal in BA. Nothing too exciting to report on. I'm getting excited for the family (Mom, Yaya, and Papa) to come down and visit. Over Thanksgiving our program takes us to Colonia, in Uruguay for the day (its a short boatride away), so that should be fun! I'm starting to plan my adventures for the end of the semester, and I'm weighing all my different options for interesting things to do.

Lots and lots of love to the US (and South Africa, and Spain, etc.),

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making Change

Math is usually something I´m good at... two plus two is four, the square root of negative 1 is i, and the integral of 2x is x squared. but, simple math here confuses me so much! Mostly, its due to the money sytem. Like the US, Argentina uses bills for $100, 50, 20, 10, 5 (called pesos). But, they have a $2 bill and "monedas" (coins) for $1 peso, and for 50, 25, 10, and 5 centavos (cents). So, for example, something costs $12 and you pay with a $20... You´re going to get $2 and $5 bills and a $1 moneda or two for .50. Similarly, if something costs $9 and you pay with $10, you´ll get back a moneda for $1. It suonds simple, but I tend to forget, and try and find my $1 bills, which don´t exist!

To make things more complicated... monedas are highly coveted objects. You need monedas to pay for the colectivo, the buses that you use to travel around the city. In addition, when you buy something that only costs $.75, people tend to get annoyed if you don´t use your monedas, and pay with a bill to try and get back change. Clearly, that is what all of BA is trying to do, so that they can get on the colectivo! According to somebody I met, there is actually a shortage of monedas, and this is what is causing all the problems...

That´s all for today! Today´s moral: count your change and save your monedas!