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Finally Home

Well, after five weeks I’m finally back home in California. I’ve gone from the middle of winter to summer in about two days which is taking some getting used to. And while it is only my first day back, it’s taking some time getting used to everything back in the United States.

I keep looking around everywhere for all the stray dogs from Rosario. It’s difficult to walk down the street and not see four or five of them on every block. The traffic laws are also an adjustment. Drivers let pedestrians walk here, something which doesn’t happen in Argentina. Also, there are stop signs and red lights. It’s wonderful. Another good thing about being home is there is no dog poop everywhere I walk. I love that.

I love that I’m no afraid of the police here. Everyone is wary in Argentina when they see officers in uniform and that affected my image of them also. So to see officials here and not be afraid is…amazing. I was also struck by the lack of shanties on my driver back from the airport with my Dad. People live in gorgeous houses, and I’ve never been as aware as I was returning home.

One thing I noticed and what I find funny is that I’ve forgotten English. I’ll sit trying to think of a word in Spanish, but I know it in English! Even better, it that Spanish grammar is affecting how I talk. So I use double negatives and refer to inanimate objects as he and she. My Dad has been laughing at me.

But the most amazing part of being home is seeing everyone I love. I’ve missed my family, and when I saw my Dad for the first time in five weeks I cried a little. Today I saw my best friend and was ridiculously happy. While I liked all my friends and host mother in Argentina, I adore my family and am happy to be home.

I just want to say I loved Argentina. It was gorgeous, the people were nice, and the food was amazing. But while living there, I realized how lucky I am to live in the United States. And coming back, I’ve learned to appreciate and love my country even more than I did before I left. Plus, I’ve decided that since I had such a good time in Argentina, I’m going abroad next summer to study history. Don’t know where, but that’s part of the fun.

And if you ever get the chance to go to Argentina, stop by Rosario. Drink mate by the river, see the Monumento Bandera, talk to street vendors just because you can. And above all else, just laugh and realize you won’t know what you’re doing but that’s alright. Because most of the fun I had was just going day to day and learning as I went. I wouldn’t change anything I did there for the world.

My last picture in Argentina.

My last picture in Argentina.

Ezeiza International Airport.

Ezeiza International Airport.

View of my home from the plane heading into San Francisco.

View of my home from the plane heading into San Francisco.

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Returning Home

I’m going to miss Argentina. My host mother was fantastic, I nearly cried saying goodbye to her today. All the friends from my program were hard to wish well. I’m going to miss the view of the river I get everyday walking along the bank, and defiantly the food.

For our last day, we made dessert in Spanish. It was amazing.

For our last day, we made dessert in Spanish. It was amazing.

I will not miss taxis though. Getting to my hotel in Buenos Aires was a test of patience because of my taxi driver. The man got lost and went past the exit for a good twenty minutes, then had to turn around and come back. So I got charged extra which I am not pleased about.

Vamos Argentina! Party at the monument!

Vamos Argentina! Party at the monument!

Not to mention flying. Whoever thought showing us the movies Flight a week before we all left is an idiot. The entire movie is about a horrific plane crash so during turbulence all I could think was “oh my god I’m going to die!”

So I’ve realized that while I’ll miss the people in Rosario and the places there, I won’t miss traveling itself at all.

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Week Five: Now It’s Time to Leave

This last week in Argentina was incredibly hectic. All of my finals were on two days, so I slammed out two tests and turned in a term paper. While happy it was over, I found myself sad that I would  be leaving Argentina in the next week.

Also, Mat, his friend and I all had an adventure after finals on Thursday. We all got asado to go but realized there was no where to eat it seeing how it was 8:45 at night. So we hunkered down on a street corner and started to eat the best barbequed steak and chicken I have ever had. We had no silverware so it looked pretty silly. Half way through we realized people were giving us these dirty looks and then Mat and I remembered something. In class, that morning, our teacher told us it was culturally unacceptable to eat in the street. …But we still did it anyways.

It was made even more bittersweet in our final Spanish class. Five out of eight were there and we made sweets with the teachers. It was nice to just sit and talk, but also hard. The majority of my class is there for ten weeks and I had to deal with knowing I would probably never see them again.

For our last day, we made dessert in Spanish. It was amazing.

For our last day, we made dessert in Spanish. It was amazing.

However, they did offer for my 21st birthday this next year to head down to Eugene (where they all go to school) and will take me out drinking. It’s an on going joke with us that they’ll take me out for drinks because I don’t drink…

I’ll miss them, it’ll be hard to go to Spanish next year and not see them sitting there begging the teachers for how to ask where the toilet paper is… (this was the first thing we learned)

All of us together on our last day of class.

All of us together on our last day of class.

Following this we had the goodbye dinner. The majority of kids turned up and it was again wonderful but emotional. After spending ten weeks with the same 26 people, it’s hard to think that I probably won’t ever see them again…

The goodbye dinner with my friends Isamar and Karina.

The goodbye dinner with my friends Isamar and Karina.

On the left is my Grammar teacher and the right is my Conversation teacher.

On the left is my Grammar teacher and the right is my Conversation teacher.

Of course this weekend was for hanging out with my friends. We celebrated Isamar’s birthday and watched the Peruvian Festival. It was fun, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I won’t be here next week to see what’s happening at the river.

Festival for Peruvian heritage in Rosario Argentina.

Festival for Peruvian heritage in Rosario Argentina.

My last day was also fun. I hung out with Naomi and Karen, and two of Naomi’s friends came and met with us. It was a good group and we looked at the stalls and had fun walking by the river. Afterwards I headed home and picked up some flowers as a gift for my host mother.

Dinner tonight was another adventure. Monica was out with friends so around 8 I went to a restaurant I wanted to try and got some food to go. When I came home, Monica was there. Turns out she came home to cook me a pizza and wanted to know why I had bought this food. I of course, in my terrible Spanish, explain it was because I thought she was out eating with friends. I then declared the food a present and we split it. Tomorrow we’ll be eating the pizza for lunch, which I look forward to.

My last day in Rosario.

My last day in Rosario.

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Week Three: Vamos Vamos Argentina! Vamos Vamos A Ganar!

On Saturday Naomi and I went to Independence Park, which is two blocks over from my house. The entire park is about ten city blocks put together and was gorgeous. While just walking around looking for stuff to do, we ran into these little guys!

Little ponies I saw in Independence Park

Little ponies I saw in Independence Park

After walking around for a while we found the Argentina Municipal Museum. They were so excited two Americans wanted to look at their museum, they even took us to a special exhibit that’s usually closed to the public to show off! They have Meradona’s jersey there along with some old jerseys of Messi which I was enjoyed.

Outside of Rosario's soccer museum

Outside of Rosario’s soccer museum

After the soccer museum, we met up with Katerina who wanted to try Argentine McDonalds. Here, it’s considered pretty high quality food, and their McCafe was an actual café! Overall it was pretty interesting to see how different it was compared to the McDonald’s in the US.

Somehow Argentine McDonald's looks better than McDonald's in the US...

Somehow Argentine McDonald’s looks better than McDonald’s in the US…

I got to watch Brazil loose amazingly to Germany. When I turned on the tv, I had to double check the score to make sure I was seeing it right. Losing 7-1 in the semifinals? An incredibly embarrassing moment for Brazil. And while they host the World Cup on top of it! We all felt pretty smug that the US has only lost by 1, whereas Brazil was destroyed.

On Wednesday I played soccer in the park with a couple kids from the university. I turn out to actually be pretty good! Afterwards we all went to a bar to watch Argentina play the Netherlands to advance to finals.

Watching the Argentina game!

Watching the Argentina game!

In case you didn’t know, Argentina advanced. We lost it in the bar, everyone was jumping up and down hugging each other and screaming. Then we went with everyone else to party in the streets. There was basically a parade of people heading towards the Monumento de Bandera where a massive party was taking place. We all joined in the party, dancing and chanting along with everyone else. Even more amazing they set off fireworks!

There is no better time to be in Argentina than during the World Cup! This is the first time in twenty years they’ve advanced to the finals so it’s very exciting! I can’t wait until they win!

Vamos Argentina! Party at the monument!

Vamos Argentina! Party at the monument!

Well, today was a bit difficult. I had three tests today and was pretty fried once all was finished. So afterwards I went to the Cathedral in Argentina to pray for good grades. Just kidding, I’d been planning on heading inside since week one.

It was gorgeous, a wonderful experience. They just recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Cathedral which was great to learn about while there. I was quite pleased we made it all the way down to see it.

Image from the Cathedral in Rosario.

Image from the Cathedral in Rosario.

And tomorrow I get to go see the other religious site of Argentina-the soccer stadium!

I found a video on youtube that explains my feelings on the entire World Cup. It was done by John Oliver, so not only is it informative, it’s also pretty funny.

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Week Two: One of the Best and Hardest Things I’ve Done

So this week was rather exciting. Our site offered a ride on the Panema River, which I took them up on. It was cold but rather exciting to be sailing and seeing all the different houses around us. Some houses were really well maintained while others were beginning to fall apart. Once again I was stuck by the difference of wealth inside the country. While on the boat Alex and I met a kid who spoke fluent English. He had a lot of questions about America’s political system so we had an hour discussion with him. It was interesting.

On the Panema River with Alex and Naomi.

On the Panema River with Alex and Naomi.

Houses on the river.

Houses on the river.

The next day Naomi and I went to a flea market, and in the afternoon we met up with Alex to get a coffee. While walking to meet Alex I ended up on tv. This guy came up to me and asked me if it was alright if he asked some questions. Hoping to practice my Spanish I agreed. Next thing I know, I’m in a Messi jersey giving an interview on how wonderful the Argentine soccer team is!

On Tuesday we all went to a sports bar to watch the Argentina game, and went nuts when they won. But that was nothing compared to the USA game that night. It was the single most patriotic thing I have participated in ever, no doubt made even more so by being in a foreign country. We sang the national anthem twice, chanted USA every couple of minutes, along with another chant of “I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!” And yes, the all caps was necessary. We were that excited. Of course, the US lost and the bar owner gave us all free shots for mourning. It was amazing.

Watching the US game with the other Americans.

Watching the US game with the other Americans.

And of course, today is the fourth of July so we all went out to a bar to celebrate the independence of our country. The national flag monument here is lit up red white and blue, but I didn’t take a picture because to get there I would have to walk through a very sketch part of town. It would not have been safe, so instead I went with my friends to a restaurant and had a steak for America.

Celebrating the 4th of July!

Celebrating the 4th of July!

However, not everything about this week was happy. Yesterday we went to the Memorial Museum for the Disapeared during the dictatorship that was only about 20-30 years ago. It was hard to get through the museum, the pictures of the missing are haunting. The hardest part for me was to look at pictures of children who had been killed/kidnapped during this time. Many of them still have not been found. We heard a story that happened about a year ago of a young girl who lived in Spain. At age 24, an old man came to talk to her and she learned something shocking. Her parents were not her biological parents. Her mother and father were two of the disappeared (it is used as a noun here) and the grandfather knew her mother was pregnant. The people who raised her tortured and killed her real parents before kidnapping her and fleeing the country. How do you live with that information?

The children of the Disapeared.

The children of the Disapeared.

Even worse, in the building across from our university, they used to torture and execute Argentines during this time. When I look in the windows for the basement I can see the torture rooms, it is chilling to walk by this reminder every day. I can’t fully explain how horrifying it truly is to be constantly reminded of this when I go to class. Once again, I’m struck by the differences between the US and Argentina. It’s hard to think any country could do this, and their motto “nunca mas” reminded me heavily of WWII. (It means never again). Not only that, but the burning of un-approved books and the concentration camps also pounded this in.

In this building, they tortured and killed many Argentines. I see it every day on my way to school.

In this building, they tortured and killed many Argentines. I see it every day on my way to school.

So while I am in a beautiful country, I am constantly reminded of the horrors it committed on the way to and from school every day. And I think this experience will make the biggest impact on me from my time in Argentina.

"These crimes only exist in a society that refuse to see"-quote from the Memorial Museum.

“These crimes only exist in a society that refuse to see”-quote from the Memorial Museum.

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My first week

Well, the first week in Argentina is complete and I made it through! Quite honestly I spent most of the time exhausted from jet lag and classes but over all it went pretty well. Classes aren’t difficult, but long. The hardest class I have is Spanish grammar level 2 and that is only difficult because she explains it in Spanish so we don’t know what’s happening. It’s getting better, but still.

My first day in class was one of the worst things I had ever faced in my life. I woke up with a mild fever, more like a summer cold, and a pounding headache before walking to class. At first I thought it was just dehydration, but after chugging bottles of water at the university and it not getting better, I realized what it was. The smoke from Rosario (smog and cigarettes) was causing the headache. Once I realized what caused it, I could live with it. For our History of Soccer class we went to a sports bar to watch the game on the tv there. Argentina was playing Nigeria and it was a huge deal.

Kids were let out from school early to get there to watch the game. People were painted white and blue, flags were everywhere, and you could feel the excitement in the air. Even though I felt like I was going to puke, when Messi scored the first goal I was out of my seat screaming with everyone else in the bar. It was chaos. And when Argentina won, the owner set off fireworks.

Watching Argentina win while checking how the USA is doing during the World Cup.

Watching Argentina win while checking how the USA is doing during the World Cup.

After that, a couple of the students and I took a walk down Cordoba street before heading back to the university for evening class. The next day we had class, and out grammar teacher took us on a two hour walk where we be-friended two stray dogs who joined our pack of kids. Then, the mature adults we are, we decided to play in the park with the dogs before heading back for soccer class. This time we had a lecture then watched the end of the Germany/USA game. We were going nuts, about 20 Americans screaming at the screen while these poor Argentines were trying to eat lunch.

Today we had a fun excursion after class. We were given a walking tour of Rosario, told the history around Cordoba street, and showed where the pedestrian walking streets were. Not only that, but we also walked to the National Flag Monument (Monumento de Banderas) where the Argentine flag was originally created. We passed by a cathedral, which I am going to return to take pictures of soon, and walked through the Monument which leads to the river. It was gorgeous, a massive project. To give a rough estimate, it was about the size of the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Me at the National Flag Monument in Rosario.

Me at the National Flag Monument in Rosario.

I went home after that because the day was over, and found out that we were having a fiesta tonight. It turns out today is my host mother’s birthday and her family came over. I met her son, daughter-in-law, brother, niece, nephew, and nephew’s girlfriend. Her son also brought his daughter, so it was the entire family there. There was a ridiculous amount of food and it was all amazing. We had empenadas, tostitos, and pizza which is apparently a treat in Argentina. After we had chocolate tarts with champagne and they kept trying to give me whiskey.

During the entire fiesta, the nephew kept asking me questions in English which I had to respond to in Spanish. This is what the night resulted in, he has decided when he and his girlfriend get married they will honeymoon in San Francisco. They announced they would stay at my house for five weeks because I was staying here for five weeks. I told them they needed to talk to my mother, because it wasn’t my house. My host mother chimed in saying my father wouldn’t like me living with strange Argentine boys even if they were married. The nephew’s plan? Show up to my house in drag and pretend to be a girl. I’m pretty sure this entire thing was a joke, but don’t know enough Spanish to be entirely sure.

The highlight of the night was when I was trying to explain what a forest fire was, and all they got was forest. Next thing I know, the entire table is yelling “Run Forest run!” while I try to figure out what just happened.

My host mother (Monica's) birthday party.

My host mother (Monica’s) birthday party.

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At the Host House

I made it to my host mother’s house. Her name is Monica and she is a very nice woman, however she does not speak any English what so ever so communicating is a little bit difficult right now. I figure after a couple of days it will be better, I at least recognize basic commands. It’s the full length conversations that are getting to me. She seems like a really nice lady (it’s only been a couple hours though) but strangely she doesn’t want me to really help with anything around the house. She has two children who are moved out and married, so I think she enjoys taking care of someone. I offer to help of course, but she refuses.

My room in my host mother's house.

My room in my host mother’s house.

The house is a bit away from the university, so I’ll have to walk in the morning for a while to get to classes which means I get to wake up early. Yay! I was originally going to take four classes here, but after talking to the professors here they convinced me to take three. Their argument is 16 credit hours, when you meet every day for class, is a bit ridiculous. Even with three classes I’m in school until about 2 o’clock. Also, Monica bought me a phone for my stay here. It’s a pay as you go phone, mostly so I can call her if I need to. I just showed up and there it was ready for me to use. Tomorrow she’ll be taking me down to the store where I pay to use it so I can talk to the other kids in the program.

I’ll try and post something tomorrow about what the classes are like here.

Argentine phone Monica bought for me.

Argentine phone Monica bought for me.

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Ready for the Next Chapter

Graduation!! That came out of no where.

I cannot believe I just graduated from Western Oregon University with a Bachelor’s degree this past weekend. It was so refreshing getting to graduate with all my friends, and having my family there to support me. It will definitely one of the best and most memorable days of my life, and I am not saying that just because I graduated, but because it is the beginning of my next chapter, and because I may have tripped on my way to my seat at the beginning of the ceremony. I guess it is nice that even though I walked across the podium to receive my diploma a different person, I still got a little of my clumsy, childish personality that keeps me being me.

I am so blessed for all the opportunities I have had as well as for my experiences throughout my college years, my internship, and my life thus far.

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Class of 2014

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My two younger brothers and I

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My lovely parents

It is amazing, how fast time passes by, I cannot emphasize that enough. It feels like just yesterday, my parents were dropping off, a nervous, insecure, scared, Marlen at Western Oregon University’s campus four years ago. Now, I am a completely different. I am in awe, looking back and seeing how much I have grown and changed over those years. I feel so ready for my next path, my next chapter. photo2

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Arrival

On my flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Houston, Texas I could not fall asleep from all the nerves and excitement I had of knowing that I would soon be able to see my family and friends. From my flight from Houston, Texas to Las Vegas, Nevada it all hit me “I am going home.” I could not keep still; I was all shaky and antsy. Then once I got on my last flight from Las Vegas, Nevada to Portland, Oregon all I could think to myself is, “Could this plane fly any faster.” After, the longest flight ever finally I arrived. I was all full of so many emotions that I could not contain myself, especially when I saw my father and mother waiting out for me, I ran right towards them giving them a great big hug. After a few hours of waiting for my lost luggage, I went back to my hometown where I saw other, my two little brothers, who by the way are not so little and other family members.

A picture I took as I was flying over Oregon.

A picture I took as I was flying over Oregon.

To be completely honest it has felt weird coming back, its as if time had stopped. It almost feels like I never left. However, I still feel like I have to readjust especially when I have all these things going through my head and having so many emotions that I do not know how to express.

It is all coming at me, all at once, coming back, finals week, and graduation. I am just lucky enough to have the right people surrounding me who have and continue to support me that will make my transition back much easier.

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Saying Goodbye

“Really, is this my last week in Argentina,” I asked myself, at the beginning of my last week.

I felt like my time in Argentina went by too fast. I was just getting to feel like I really belonged. I am one lucky individual to be able to take so much back home, new knowledge, skills, memories, experiences, and of course new friendships. I have been so blessed to be given the opportunity to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina where I never thought I could say, “I discovered myself.” It really is amazing how much you can change in 72 days, I know I have came home as a new person ready to face the world.

Knowing that this was my last week all I wanted was time to slow down, but of course it did just the opposite. I had so much to do in so little time, finish up my internship, finish up last minute projects, spend time with my friends, say my goodbyes, and pack. I felt so rushed.

My first few days I got to help out my BAC coordinator with some work, and volunteered to create a video for her. The rest of my week I got to spend some quality time with my friends and say my goodbyes. My last day, Friday I thanked my internship supervisor, said goodbye to some of the lovely workers I got to be around, and receive my certificate. Then in the afternoon my BAC coordinator organized a goodbye party where I got to enjoy the company of some friends with some delicious food. I got to admit it was very difficult. I really shed some tears just knowing that the next day I was leaving.

Some of the lovely people I got to work with in my internship.

Some of the lovely people I got to work with in my internship.

Some of the amazing people that had joined me in my farewell dinner on Friday.

Some of the amazing people that had joined me in my farewell dinner on Friday.

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Some of the delicious food that my friends and I got to eat during my farewell dinner.

Saturday, I could not believe my time in Argentina was up . I woke up full of all kinds of emotions, all I wanted was time to stop, but of course it continued. So, I ate breakfast with the company of my friend from Switzerland, bought some last minute things, got ready, made sure I had everything, thanked everyone from the BAC residence, then spent my last hours with my BAC coordinator, her mother who has become like family, my friend from Switzerland, and another friend from the BAC residence.

As time got closer to my departure. I got more anxious and nervous, then once it was time, I could not believe my time was over. I said my goodbyes, which I dreaded. Then, off I went in the taxi to the airport with the lovely company of two of my friends who had been with me in my last hours in Argentina.

As we arrived to the airport and got all checked in, my friends joined me on my last meal in Argentina by eating some typical American food McDonalds, while sharing some laughs. Then next thing I knew, it was time, they walked me to security and said goodbye. I got to say my last hours are unforgettable!!

My two wonderful friends, who kept me company my last hours in Argentina and who were willing to take me to the airport.

My two wonderful friends, who kept me company on my last hours in Argentina and who were willing to take me to the airport.

Now, even though I did not get the chance to spend time with everyone or even say goodbye I will always take them with me.

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