Friday, November 21, 2014

Argentina: A Love Letter

  Today, I will have been in Argentina for three months. I cannot believe that a third of my exchange is complete. I literally cannot believe it. I don't think I'll ever really believe this year is real. Not now, not when I go back home, not ever. It's simply too fantastical to think that I up and left everything behind for a year. Not just physical things either, like my family and home and friends, but conventions, expectations, the predetermined path has been my "plan" since I was born. It's crazy that certain kids can just shed their story and baggage for a year and plunge into a year-long adventure that will forever alter the course of their life. It's just too crazy to wrap my head around. The world is not as big as I once thought, but getting to and from places is expensive, time-consuming, and overall an incredibly cumbersome process. The world is wonderful, but it is also indifferent to human emotions. I have forged relationships with people from here and from all over the world whom I will never forget, and whom I will most likely never see again because of the difficulty of travel and the unpredictability of life. Going a day without some of my closest friends down here is hell. I can't imagine an entire lifetime. Yes, I am already three months in, but I am also only three months in. There is a long way to go on this journey, yet I already feel nostalgic for things that have not even happened. It's a strange feeling to know that only amazing things lie ahead, but to be certain of nothing but the fact that they will be over all too quickly. Everyone told me, "Gaby, this will be the best year of your LIFE". I believed them then, I believe them now, and I will tell future exchangers the same thing. I am currently living the best year of my LIFE. This. This is IT. There is no way to replicate this experience, not in college, not backpacking on a whim, not even another exchange program. Those would all be quality experiences, which I hope to have as well, but this year...this is the climax. I am living it, and I never want it to be over. I have fallen hopelessly in love. I have fallen in love with the city, the smells, the people, the siestas, the yerba mate, the clothes, the spray-on deodorants, the late dinner hour, the nightlife, the stray dogs, the homeless woman whom I chat with on my way to ballet, the way an entire bus full of people bless themselves in unison when driving past a church, the free education, the school uniforms, the "dos besos", the intimacy of interaction, the fact that old people and babies stay out past 7 PM, the fact that instead of saying "7PM" they say "19:00", the list goes on. When I arrived here, I didn't notice much of a difference at all from the States. In fact, I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn't be experiencing enough of a culture shock. Here I am, three months later, and I can't say enough how glad I am that I was wrong. I have never been a part of a community or a culture that has felt so loving and robust, bursting with life and an attitude of tranquilidad, peace. I loved my life in the States, but between school, two jobs, homework, extra curriculars, and daily teen struggles, I barely found enough time to eat or sleep or stay healthy. I forfeited all of my time for myself and poured it into other endeavors that I thought were serving me, but were really only detracting from my overall well-being. Here, I truly feel an inner peace as though I have struck a balance within and I never want to let go of this feeling. So, for now at least, I won't, for I still have a long ways to go. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"This Time Tomorrow", or the wild goose chase to get my hands on USD

Song of the day:

So much to say, so little energy to type it all out.

Here goes nothing!

WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THE IMMENSE IMPORTANCE OF BRINGING DOLLARS TO ARGENTINA?!!?!?!?!??!?!?!?! I COULD LITERALLY BE DOUBLE AS RICH (poor) AS I AM RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THAT IS HOW VALUABLE THE DOLLAR IS HERE. Well, I'm screwed because it's literally illegal to acquire dollars here because it's so valuable, worth almost double on the black market than it is at the normal exchange rate. Go to an ATM machine? Pesos. Go to the bank? Pesos. Go to Western Union? Pesos. Basically, damnit.

The adventure to get dollars has begun. I went to PARAGUAY to get dollars and STILL couldn't get them because my bank thought my card was stolen. I called my bank, unfroze my accounts, went back to the ATM, and it was OUT OF DOLLARS.

That's a brief, BRIEF summary of my journey (through hell) to get dollars.

In more interesting news, my English is getting progressively worse and conjugating verbs is really hard. One time I said to someone, "I go quick to bathroom now". Who am I becoming? And a better question yet, who will I become at the end of the year? I'll probably just say "Me bathroom now" and hope people get the idea. Pretty sure this will be me at the end of my stay: (Spanish-addled brain trying to speak English)

But the reason I was in Paraguay the weekend past is because it was the first of three orientation camps for all the exchange students in our huge district. In all, there are about 70 exchange students in our district alone! So many Germans, so many Danes. I met a few kids from the US which was awesome, they were all so kind, and I was consistently appalled by how positive all of these kids were about their year. I was really feeling cranky and grumpy when we arrived to the camp in Paraguay and I realized, "Wow, Gaby, you have a really shitty attitude about a lot of things. Look at how these kids are handling their new lives. Half of them live on dirt roads (in Paraguay, nonetheless! Jajaja) and have to walk miles to school. This new living situation is such a stark contrast to their lives back home but they are so genuinely happy and thankful to be here." It was a reality check in the thankfulness department. I live in one of the nicest places within the district, have such a warm, loving family, and have the best friends I could have asked for here. I am making a more conscious effort to act more thankful for these things that come absolutely free to me. At our inbound camp in Paraguay, we roomed with between 6-12 other people. Our room was 12 girls from all around the world. Friday, our bus left Corrientes at 1 AM. We drove for about 6 hours and then at the Argentina/Paraguay border we got off the bus and made our way to the booth where we showed our passports and visas for entry. Getting my visa is another wild story for another time. Apparently the border is a very dangerous place, which made it all the more hilarious when one of our numbskull exchange student friends went missing for a few minutes but as it turned out he just desperately had to use the toilet. We got back on the bus, drove for a few more hours, and then arrived in Asuncion, Paraguay. We waited in the terminal for about an hour and began to meet other exchangers who were taking the same bus as us to the camp in Paraguay. It was awesome to meet these kids, but I was also so incredibly sleep-deprived that I had to work extra hard to be pleasant. After faking my way through pleasantries and small talk, we all got to talking about how different our exchange lives are, despite living mere hours away from each other. Asuncion is a sad city. Its former status as a colonized Creole nation is now evidently reduced to garbage-ridden streets, black market vendors on every corner, and mass inflation of the local currency, the guaraní. One USD is about 4,300 guaranís at the current exchange rate. Want a burger? 25,000 guaranís, please. Okay, let me just fish out tens and tens of bills to give you twenty five THOUSAND guaranís.

After our brief stay in the creepy, dingy Asuncion bus station, we began to board a bus to take us about two hours away to where our camp was located. As Noah (exchanger from Toronto) and I were approaching the second bus, we saw on the door "Five stars! Music! Wifi! Warm food!" Finally! We got on the bus, made our way to the second floor, and the smell of warm onions soaking in armpit juice hit us like a ton of bricks. Forget the whole "Five Stars!" nonsense. The bus was anything but, and the rusted metal bearings and exposed electrical work throughout only upped the creepy factor. I resigned myself to the fact that the words on the door of the bus had lied to me, and napped the rest of the way to the camp. We arrived a a beautiful, sprawling campsite where colorful edifices and vibrant gardens dotted the landscape for acres and acres. We registered and made our way to our rooms. Mine was a room with, gulp, TWELVE beds. Six bunks beds, all in rows. It was kind of weird in a military/boot camp sort of way, but we were 70 kids after all, they I suppose they had to put us somewhere. That night we played a variety of those useless "icebreaker" games that everybody loves (hates) so much. By the end of the night, I had a unibrow, Hitler mustache, and cat whiskers drawn on my face in black permanent marker, poison ivy on my feet and ankles after a nighttime scavenger hunt through deep woods (thanks for the heads up to wear boots and socks and insect repellent, oh, wait...), and a belly full of milanesa, deep fried breaded chicken, gnocchi, and rice. I went to bed really really happy.

4 AM rolls around and I'm heaving buckets into the public toilet.

I spend the rest of the day Saturday in a bed with a doctor giving me teaspoons of peach juice to keep my blood sugar up. Damn travel, so fun, yet so dangerous! Of all the times for my system to fail me it had to be during our first-ever inbound camp in The Middle of Nowhere, Paraguay. I missed out on all the day's activities, which all sounded so incredibly fun. But I decided to join in again around 6 PM when I was beginning to gain my strength back. I'm glad I did because even after not seeing them for only half the day, I realized how much I missed being around such warm and lively people. That's what makes the difference for me. Places like school, where some people just don't give a shit about anything, are really taxing for me. It's hard to maintain a certain attitude around people who just suck the life out of you. But being around such enthusiastic, eager, and genuinely happy people was one of the most healing things I've encountered on this journey. Some people have the ability to heal you and instill a wonderful sense of hope and joy and optimism in you, and finding people like that is quite rare. Finding people like that all together for a weekend, well, that's one in a million. Lesson learned? Exchange students are good for the soul.

Sunday morning, we all went our separate ways, some back to their cities in Paraguay, and the rest back to our cities in Argentina. It was bittersweet. Bitter saying goodbye to these wonderful kids, and definitely bitter getting back on that onion armpit bus again. Not to mention it was 100 degrees so we were all literally stewing in our own juices. That night, I got home, brushed my teeth, and fell asleep with my jeans and backpack still on. The next morning I woke up and checked my sleeping app on my phone. It said I slept at 100% quality which I didn't even know was possible (like getting 0% error on a lab or something), but after the weekend we just had, I believed it.

That was Paraguay, and I really wanted to write about it. But that was also three weeks ago, and since then, a lot has happened and a lot of things have come into focus:

1) I took the bus for the first time.
2) It was awesome.
3) Each time I get out and explore around the city I find myself feeling less and less lost. It's so       indescribably exciting to know where you are and what streets are around you.
4) The architecture is badass.
5) I have awful luck with toilets/plumbing in general. Broke my 5th toilet in my lifetime.
6) I have the best group of exchange student friends (Moritz from Germany, Noah from Canada, Philipp from Germany, Kelsey from Belgium, Axel from Denmark).
7) I have the best group of friends from school (Dahiana, Caro, Celeste, Constanza, Alejandro, Ayelen).
8) My host family are the most generous and trusting people. Every day I am thankful for them.
9) DO NOT TRUST THE PIZZA HERE. It's mediocre bread with the wrong kind of cheese and tomato slices masquerading as sauce.
10) DO trust the burgers. Though it may be cat meat, they're so worth the risk.
11) Challenges are never challenges in the moment; it’s only when you look back that you realize how much that moment made you grow.

Sorry I've been so lax about writing, to those of you like Abe who actually read this. It's been really hard for me to accurately and adequately summarize the moments that are important for me. Most of them aren't big things or days or weekends or stories, but tiny particles of events that make me feel amazed, mature, sad, grateful, puzzled, content, mesmerized, intelligent, lucky, and human. It's nearly impossible to quantify these fleeting moments, and many times I do not even believe I should attempt to do such a thing because they are all absolutely divine experiences that I feel very possessive of. What I am finding more and more difficult about writing this blog is sharing these moments and being unable, in my human way, to do them justice with my words. The most frustrating thing as a writer (I can call myself a writer because hey look I'm writing stuff) is not being able to do your subject justice. You run the risk of cheapening the topics and moments and instants you hold most dear, and that is a terrifying and sad thing to think of. For instance, who would think that watching Superbad with two friends at 4 AM would carry any sort of deep significance? It doesn't. Not for you, and that's okay. But for me, it was one instance of a million that I've had so far that has enlightened me a bit more into who I am and why I am on the other side of the world right now. What is awesome about this whole year away is that I can share the wonderful times that I am able to verbalize that the people who are not with me right now can latch on to and even relate to, and those other moments that I am unable to put to words can be my own to keep. Both are good and necessary.

Now I feel super dramatic and over the top but I guess that's what I get for listening to Death Cab for Cutie while writing this blog post. The End.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"A Confederacy of Dunces" - A Book Review: Would Cohrs Be Proud?

During my school days here in Argentina, I don't really do much. No, it's not the language barrier, it's simply the fact that these students are finishing their senior year and I already finished mine, so why dish out more work? Well, this leaves me with ample time to read, doodle, practice cursive writing (which is the most common form of script down here), and write lengthy book reviews (like I said, ample, AMPLE time). When I was nearing the last 30 or so pages of John Kennedy Toole's posthumously-published opus, A Confederacy of Dunces, I grew somewhat sad inside, for I felt the adventure of reading such a wildly enjoyable book was coming to an end all too soon. Upon turning the last page, I had to let my feelings digest before I could really put words to my thoughts. Here's what I came up with:

How else can you describe Ignatius J. Reilly as anything other than a lovable villain, or, inversely, a loathsome hero? His outward demeanor could very well suit either one, and this is displayed through his absolutely grotesque personal hygiene and social manners, juxtaposed with his immeasurable lexicon and innately childish spirit. Educated at the university to the highest degree, yet unbelievably gluttonous and immature, Ignatius is indeed one of the most complex characters that readers have had the (dis)pleasure of encountering in modern literature.

To begin explaining the intricacies of the novel would be too sizable a feat without the help of a literary comparison. To help explain what I believe to be the most notable and intriguing facet of Toole's A Confederacy, I will call upon another author to help me, Mr. Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, McCourt's memoir. To make the statement that McCourt and Toole wrote in a similar manner would be flawed. However, to say they both treated their characters' truly despicable lives with a sort of charming humor would serve as a much more apt statement. Make no mistake, the trials and tribulations of the McCourt clan and the Reilly's are incredibly different. But both authors tip their hats to the utter tragedies that their characters suffer, and to compensate for this, both authors enlist the use of humor. For McCourt to write a memoir about his dismal childhood could have gone one of two ways: directly depressing or indirectly depressing, the latter being far more effective. To write a memoir entirely devoid of humor, entirely devoid of any sort of ability to make light of the hard knocks, would have been the most straightforward manner to deliver a memoir of this depth. But to write with the intention of being able to laugh at events so horrendous to a reader such as myself, ironically seems to exacerbate the underlying sadness felt by this author. In this sense, McCourt's use of humor is the most powerful tool in his arsenal to give the reader the ability to truly feel the depths of his characters' agony.
Likewise for Toole.

One can only wonder if Toole did not place much of himself and his own characteristics within his bizarre anti-hero, Ignatius J. Reilly. Though Reilly is said to be based primarily off of Toole's eccentric friend, Bob Byrne, it is difficult to look past the similarities shared by Toole and Reilly. Wildly misunderstood, isolated, yet with a strong desire for recognition, both Toole and Reilly embody a sort of modern-day Don Quixote, incredibly rooted in their ideals. Though a work of outlandish, raunchy fiction, perhaps A Confederacy was indeed a memoir of sorts. Detailing the good, the bad, and the ugly of his native New Orleans, it would appear that Toole identifies certain aspects of his own life through the vessel of Ignatius, a character who despite his perpetual hilarity, seems to yank the pity out of his readers with his incontrovertible adversity. The powerful use of humor comes across almost as a coping mechanism for both Toole and his characters, and that in itself amplifies the despair felt for and by these people. In this sense, I believe that to call them "characters" is inaccurate. They truly were real people in Toole's life, manifested in his work. This might be saddest realization to come to. Despite the hilarity and beautiful comic structure that both Toole and Ignatius master, the true sadness comes in realizing that the only thing these people had left was a joke at the end of the day to avoid coming to terms with the daily struggle of being themselves.
          Toole finished writing A Confederacy of Dunces during the last years of his life, but its repeated rejection from publishing firms coupled with the assassination of JFK and his father's failing mental health led Toole into a tailspin of severe depression and heavy drinking. After turning the final page of A Confederacy and wiping tears of laughter out of my eyes, I felt very hopeful for Ignatius and co., but also for Toole and the people in his life. The ending felt truly liberating. In my head I rejoiced for these people who had endured so much, on and off the paper. They were freed of the shackles that kept them rooted in their vicious lives, and I felt that new chances were around the corner. This "emancipation" is not to say that the ending was happy. The sense that the struggles endured by the characters would surely follow felt almost guaranteed, taking on a different form of new challenges. But to be fair, the ending felt as perfect as possible for a novel written by such a tormented soul. Through it all, my heart only broke a little more for Toole, a genius amongst a world of idiots, living in a real confederacy of dunces, driven to suicide by the demons within. Perhaps he was somewhat prophetic with this title, as no one seemed to understand his brilliance for many years to come. My comfort lies in the fact that Toole knew he could trust Ignatius with the battles he embodied his whole life. Wild, brutish, yet strangely lovable Ignatius J. Reilly will live on in these pages, and I find the utmost consolation in the knowledge that John Kennedy Toole will live on through this magnificent rascal for many more years to come.

Monday, September 1, 2014


It's been a little while since I've written anything, and I know that I need to continue honing my writing skills while I'm away, or else they'll go to hell like the rest of the things I have learned throughout my 12 years of public education.

Reading the blogs of exchange students past, it seems as though all have a similar trait in common: a summation of sorts of the bigger lessons gleaned from their year abroad. These revelations seem to be the biggest takeaways from an exchange year, and I think I just learned my first one:

Humans have a beautiful and innate ability to make a home wherever they may go.

You don't have to travel far to test this theory. Hell, you could camp out in your own backyard and eventually it would feel like "home", despite the absence of normal amenities and creature comforts. I feel that this theory is being realized here in Corrientes. Upon my arrival, my host family went above and beyond to make me feel at home. Even now they still remind me to rummage in the fridge whenever I please. Despite having everything I could possibly think of accommodated for me, this house didn't feel like a home until about three days ago. I don't know, it just kind of clicked that this was my bed now, my cereal, my dog, my yard, my sister, my mom, and my dad. This is my life now, for a whole year. I never felt uncomfortable here, by any means, but I still felt like a guest in someone else's home. I was honestly concerned that it would never feel like my own. Perhaps the moment clicked when I went upstairs to take my siesta a few days ago and found my dog waiting to cuddle up with me. Maybe it was when I made breakfast for my sister and I realized, "Oh, I know how she likes her oatmeal and tea, I don't have to keep asking". It could have been when I took a cab by myself, and the cab driver thought I was a native Argentinian because my Spanish was "rrre-buenooo" (very good). Maybe it is the summation of all these seemingly ordinary moments, that when viewed as a whole, start to form a picture that I am, indeed, becoming an Argentinian. Spelling it phonetically, "Sho soy unaaaarshentina!" In other words, "Yo soy una Argentina!" Making this realization that I actually have the balls to leave it all behind and start anew somewhere else, no matter where, makes me really proud of myself. It's only week two, and I can't wait for what else I'm going to face, the good, the bad and the ugly. Lucky for me, however, I have an amazing network of friends in the States, in school, with the other exchange students, and in both my families. I wake up each morning (slightly sleep-deprived but) more eager than I've ever been to test my limits, day in and day out, and to continue making a home for myself here in Corrientes.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Stages of Psychosis as told by me at 4 AM

Further confirming my desire to relocate to Iceland following my year abroad was the information found in this link,, that mosquitos are not found in Iceland. Reykjavik, here I come. Apparently this is due to instability in the climate (i.e. rapid and unpredicted changes in temperature, not particularly conducive for the breeding of mosquitos). THANK GOD BECAUSE IT IS 4 IN THE MORNING AND THERE IS ONE, JUST ONE (just tried to kill it, it got away, of course), LEFT IN MY ROOM AND ALL I WANT TO DO IS GO TO BED. Thus, in my vastly paranoid, alert, and cold-sweaty state of mind, I will begin to explain my take on "The Stages of Psychosis of Homo sapien vs. Whatever Life Battle Is Thrown His/Her Way" using the extended metaphor of Man versus Mosquito.

Phase 1 - Gross Overconfidence:
This phase is commonly marked as the introductory phase to any sort of unbecoming endeavor a man may face. Humans are armed with the unwavering ability to be more sure of one's self than they should be when beginning to face a challenge seemingly trivial or mundane, in this case, simply killing a mosquito or two. I think to myself, "They're loud, they always land on white walls (thank god for that), and they're pretty fucking stupid, so smacking it with my shoe shouldn't take too long and then I can return to my previous state of dreaming about Agent Cooper from "Twin Peaks". Cool. " I step out of bed, crack my neck, whip out my Birkenstock, and say to myself, "Alright, suckers (pun intended), let's dance". Phase One is going great! They're loud, just as I predicted, and they always land on the white walls. Sitting targets. I have just killed the first mosquito and all is fine and dandy until I look at my shoe and what do I see my but my own...goddamn...blood. My own blood that my body produces. For me. So I can live. No, the amount of blood a single mosquito withdraws in one bite will not deplete me of enough blood to die. But it's the principle of it, damn it. That's my blood, and it's not about to become food or whatever for some larvae bed in a stagnant pool of water somewhere. I look up from my bloodied shoe, and I feel hellfire dance in my eyes. I reach for the warpaint, or in this case, bug spray, and it's game on.

Phase 2 - Pure Anger:
Does this really need further explication? I just saw my own blood in a scenario that wasn't getting a paper cut or donating at a blood drive, but rather, exploding out of the abdomen of blood-eating Culiseta longiareolata onto my new shoes. I'm a madwoman on a mission to kill.

Phase 3 - Vulnerability (Mental and Physical):
By now, I'm realizing I got more than I bargained for with this endeavor. It is now 3:30 in the morning, all I want to do is sleep. Despite my deep-seated fear of bedsheets that aren't mine, the bed looks amazing and it's calling my name. It's been an hour since the Hunt began, and there's still at least one more on the loose. I'm slowing down, my drive is dwindling, and I sense an early defeat. I have no one to turn to because who the hell is up at this hour anyways? In more ways than one, I realize I am alone. I am alone, I am tired, and I realize that the mosquito is still pining for my legs. I spray them down once more and proceed to put on long, loose pants and a shirt of a similar description. I do this in a strange preparation for defeat. I might as well just cut my losses and let this fiend have a few more goes at me from the comfort of my own bed. At least I'll be covered up. I sigh in dismay. I just want this to be over.

Phase 4 - Deterioration (Mental and Physical):
If you think sweating sucks, try living in Corrientes. It's winter and it was 90 degrees today. Therefore, covered head to toe in clothes to protect myself while running around my room trying to kill this mosquito, I begin to just pour sweat. I took my contacts out before I went to bed (two damn hours ago) so I am wearing my glasses. But not really because my face is sweating so much they keep sliding down the bridge of my nose and falling off. Not only is it distracting, but it is preventing me from keeping my eyes on the little deviant. I can't turn the fan on because then I can't hear the incessant buzzing of the mosquito, but I can't take my clothes off because then I will expose myself and subject myself to further bites. It's a vicious cycle happening, and I am beginning to lose it. At this point I'm pretty sure the little twerp is just taunting me. I bet it won't even bite me, but it's still buzzing around to keep me awake. It knows. It knows when I'm distracted, Googling answers on "How to lure bugs out of my bedroom" and "Homemade remedies to keep mosquitos away", and it will whiz past my ear, cackling as it flies by. As I hear it in my ear, half my body breaks out into horrid cold sweats of paranoia and fear. It's so incredibly hot and humid in my room, but I feel chilled nonetheless. I decide to call a truce. I say out loud, "Okay, mosquito, if I stop trying to kill you, you have to stop trying to bite me. Deal?" I don't know why I wait for a response, like a mosquito is going to say, "Yeah, sure, Gaby. Truce!" But in my heart of hearts I pray that somewhere in its antennae or brain-type organelle she can feel a trace of empathy for my plight as I feel for hers. After all, she is just fulfilling her biological role in the food chain and attempting to execute her duties as a mother. Though as an r-species she really doesn't care for her offspring since they can amount to numbers in the thousands. As this thought crosses my mind, I know I desperately, desperately need some sleep. I truly feel miserable.

Phase 5 - Divine Intervention (My host sister helps me):
My host sister had a dinner to go to tonight and returned in the knick of time. She came up the stairs and saw my light was still on, heard the crashes and the clamor coming from the room, and knocked on the door. She looks at me. I try not to think about what she is seeing right now. A deranged, sweaty girl with her glasses sliding down her face, hair in a rat's nest of a bun, wearing totally inappropriate clothes for the current weather, reeking of bug spray, and laughing (accidentally) kind of maniacally because she is so happy to see her come to help. Yes. I am a disheveled mess. Mora says to me, "It's so hot in here, you should turn on your AC. The bugs hate it."Okay, a good first step, I guess. I explain to her the events of my night, and she laughs and says, "Girl, you're gonna have to get used to it living here!" Goddamn it. But in the end, she helps me kill another bug, not the mosquito, but still another bug with the potential to bother me in the night. She tells me to go to bed and not worry about the mosquito. She goes to bed, and I am recharged with the anger that had previously raged within me.

Phase 6 - Control of Mental State and Eventual Triumph:
Reinvigorated with a sense of determination and passion, I rev my engine (though I'm definitely running on empty), I'm for real this time, and I'm gonna nab this sonofabitch. I develop a strategy. If I sit in one place and look at the same spot, eventually the bug will fly that way. We spar for a while, a series of hits and misses on my part, but as I graze the mosquito with my shoe here and there, it begins to lose coordination, making my job easier. At last, it lands on my wall, something it hasn't done in at least two hours, and I lunge, literally lunge for it. I am so desperate I smash into the wall with my entire body weight, and I KILL IT. A wave of relief rushes over me, and I am so elated. I smack it again for insurance, but that bad boy is d-e-a-d. I hate killing things, especially defenseless bugs like spiders and beetles and whatnot, and even mosquitos I feel bad for sometimes, but I couldn't have been more proud that I had persevered and killed that motherfucker. The cold sweats stopped, the paranoid looking-over-my-shoulder-type behavior that had become normal came to an end, and I could sit peaceably in my bed for a change. Then, I thought, "Hey, it's 5 AM, might as well blog about it". So here we are, until tomorrow night when a mosquito comes in my room and the Stages of Psychosis will start all over. But now, I have armed myself with a guide to handle the roller coaster of emotions that is killing a mosquito.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Power of Two

I knew I had to write a blog post immediately so as not to forget this day, because I know I'll remember this year for the rest of my life.

Last night was a disaster, in every sense of the word. For the past five days I have been dealing with a stomach flu and last night was no exception. I felt like every movement took all the effort in my being, and talking brought about bouts of nausea. But the worst of it was knowing it was my last night with my parents, which only doubled the effects of the stomach bug. I could literally go on and on and on about how much I love my parents and how close we are, but it's just easier if I say that I am closer with them than with anyone else in my life, and I would take a bullet and a half for them. Two times over. They're my best pals. I could hardly look my mom in the eye, for each time I looked at her it felt like the last. I tried making small-talk but the words turned into tears. It was the worst night. Jay reassured me that they would miss me, too, which helped, but it did little to alleviate the pain that I felt that night.

Then, this morning, I woke up, and vomited. A super great omen given that this was the day I flew to Corrientes to begin my exchange year. But strangely enough, I cleaned myself up and felt loads better, just really hungry. In the taxi to the airport, my mom and I held hands. It was a somber taxi ride to say the least. Logistics at the airport were relatively seamless. Before going our separate ways (parents flying internationally to Santiago, Chile, and me domestically to Corrientes), we enjoyed The Last Supper (or in this case, The Last Brunch). I feebly ate my cereal and yogurt, and my parents ate their toast and medialunas (sweet croissants made with lard). The entire meal was ever so slightly saddened by the thought that this was our last meal to be shared together for a long, long time. So, we three decided to make a list of the things we would do when we we were feeling sad and wanted to to turn that sad energy into something constructive and positive. My list is pretty embarrassing, seeing as it involves watching many Will Ferrell films (isn't one too many?), but other items on my list were:

Go for a run
Listen to "our" songs
Watch videos of baby animals
Talk to my host family
Work on college applications (turn sad energy into bored energy, ugh)

My mom shared a similar list, but Jay's held an exception:

"Be sad for a little while"

When he read it it seemed like a fake answer, just to write something down, but it's only now that I can appreciate the validity of this statement. To feel love is a wonderful thing, and I am so lucky I have such wonderful parents to love. But the extent that I love them is the extent to which I will miss them. To acknowledge this for a few minutes and to allow myself to feel sad is alright. It's fine, it's healthy, and it simply balances the positive feelings I have within. I'm not prideful to the point that I can't ever let myself "show weakness" by feeling blue. It is a human emotion that I am comfortable with, and will embody for however long I might need. The key is to not let it overwhelm me. But with the wonderful family and sister that I have here, I doubt that will ever be a problem. I am blessed wherever I look. And for those who know me, I mean that in a very honest, non-ironic sense. For now, whenever I listen to the Indigo Girls, especially the song "Power of Two", I will always be reminded of my love for my parents, and for now, that will be enough.

 I should stop being rude now and go downstairs and socialize, seeing as I have awoken from my siesta. Thank god they siesta here.


Continued from earlier today...

I was greeted with the warmest of welcomes at the airport this afternoon. I really wasn't expecting such a wonderful greeting, but it really made me beam from ear to ear. We drove to the house and talked the whole way. My family is so lovely and is so incredibly hospitable. The second I got to the house they sat me down with a meal and told me to make myself at home. Then we chatted for a bit, and they advised that I siesta for a while. That was totally okay with me. I went to my room and unpacked for a bit, lied down, and listened to some music. I got up around 7:00 and my host sister, Mora, and I went for a walk. It was a straight shot 10 minutes from our house to...the beach! Down by la playa, the beach, there were just so many people (on a weekday!) enjoying the beautiful weather, drinking mate, the local beverage, and running or walking their dog down the sidewalk. It's still winter here (even though it was 90 damn degrees today) so the sun set very early still, around 7:30, so by the time we approached the beach it was dark. The beautiful bridge connecting Resistencia and Corrientes was illuminated in such an enchanting way, I wish I took a picture. We walked along the beach, then meandered back home. It was so peaceful. I am thankful for that moment. When we got home, I was so pooped I crashed on the couch and watched NCIS. NCIS! I know. I'm disappointed in myself, too. But hearing it in English was a welcomed change. Then Mora and I ate dinner around 11 and talked for a while. She is remarkably kind, a trait which I feel is too often undervalued. The rapport we have is awesome. That brings us here, and I am falling asleep with my fingers still moving. More later.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Shiny Happy People" - also known as my dinner at Hermann's

Disclaimer: I'm quickly realizing this blog will mostly act as a receptacle for my various thoughts and musings on this journey. So, if it's boring or mundane or superfluous to you, dear reader, just know that I don't care. I'm writing this for myself, first and foremost, so that I don't forget the small moments that will truly make this year a unique experience. But if you do enjoy reading my unspoken thoughts, please, continue! Disclaimer over!

I didn't think it was possible to fall in love with an inanimate object, but I think it happened to me last night. Well, it was more a place than an object, but that's just semantics. Last night, my family and I dined at a small, cozy restaurant called Hermann's. We arrived around 8:30 PM. Two or three tables were occupied at this hour, and it was pretty drafty, given there were two entrances and exit doors and not many people inside. The bread was stale and not served with butter. At first I thought, "great...I'm starving and I can't even bite into this damn baguette, it's so old". But I began to notice the restaurant quickly fill up, and at about 9:00/9:30, it was absolutely full to capacity. I admired the tables of people, and how diverse the clientele was, in age, socio-economic class, gender, etc. I also was in awe of how the entire night I did not see even one glow from a cellular device (except for my own, taking dorky tourist pictures of how absolutely charming the place was). Even the "younger crowd" present at Hermann's was totally immersed in their own conversations, free of the cell-phone. Seeing old people out and about after 6 PM was very inspirational. It was, in a word, awesome. Another thing that I noticed was that at this restaurant, all the servers were at least 35+. Our waiter in particular was about 65 years old. 

*Tangent* I can confidently say, as a blanket statement, that waiters are all males, and older in age. When you try and say "thank you", if they bring you water or bread, etc, they say "No, no, of course, it's no problem at all". The waiting staff takes their job very, very seriously. They're incredibly nice, but not in the traditional American way where they smile really big and make small talk and act super nice. They are just very professional and elegant and serious when doing their job. I believe that many waiters start in their late 20's or 30's and continue for the rest of their lives. It is very much a respected and viable career option here. I bussed my plates the first day in Buenos Aires and they were offended that I did that because their job is to do everything. It's interesting and new to be waited on in such a detailed manner. It's a definite contrast to what I'm used to in the States, but it makes you feel very special :) *Tangent over*.

He reminded me of Dusty from Wes Anderson's film, The Royal Tenenbaums, but less smiley and more dignified. He took all five of our orders, all from memory (as most waiters do), and returned about 20 minutes later with piping hot food. I ordered Bife a la chorizo, the most typical cut of Argentine steak, and French fries. When Dusty served our food, it all came, quite literally, on a silver platter. It was beautiful. He took my steak with tongs, set it on my plate, spooned up the excess steak juice from the platter, and gently ladled it on my plate. He did the same with all the other meals, took the main course from the silver platter and placed it on the plate. My mom ordered Ravioli con pollo, and after swiping a few noodles I determined it was some of the Italian food I have ever eaten (Argentina is 15% Italian heritage and home to the best Italian food in world, except for Italy itself). Furthermore, the meal was the most homemade-tasting food I have eaten here so far. That, plus the wonderful ambience, made for an incredibly homey and comfortable atmosphere. As I looked around the restaurant, I saw that everyone was laughing, drinking wine and beer by the bottle, cracking jokes left and right. People were hugging and kissing friends they were meeting for dinner as if they hadn't seen each other in years. It was beautiful to sit and watch people interact this way, with so much love, happiness, and touching. Men kiss men, women kiss men, women kiss women, everyone hugs, it's wonderful. Everything was delicious, salty, and real. As our meal was winding down, an older couple walked into the restaurant. The man was walking with a cane, wore a woolen cap, and wore the most genuine smile I've ever seen. His wife was absolutely stunning. She had magnificent white hair, rosy cheeks, and very simple makeup that highlighted her natural beauty. Her combed hair was pinned back with a diamond and ruby clip. They glanced around the restaurant, only to see that no table was available. Their faces appeared as if to say, "We got all dressed up for nothing?" They looked so forlorn, my heart wanted to break right there on the spot. But fortunately, a table for two occupied by another couple just a bit younger opened up and the old couple looked so happy to sit down and enjoy a meal at Hermann's. Right away, they ordered a bottle of Malbec and I thought to myself, "good for you guys" :) Sitting in Hermann's was the most content I have felt so far. It was a wonderful evening, which made me thankful for food (good food), friends, family, beef, and even stale bread.