Monday, July 21, 2014

Espana!

So, this was my first trip ever traveling by myself. I would so say far it has went pretty well. I learned a lot about traveling solo quickly on my way over here. Now that I am here and have been for a few weeks, I am not nervous anymore, just kind of content. Of course not everything goes as planned, but that is expected while traveling. I have come to realize that and it is okay.

Lets start with currency exchange. I knew there would be fees, but I was not sure how many or how much. Let's just say I was disappointed and next time I will just save those rates and draw money out of the ATM next time I travel. Again, first time traveler problems. Next is that I was not told that I would be living with children, but that is okay because I love children!! The kids are so cute and very sweet at times. They are three and five. However, they are not disciplined which can get a little overwhelming at times. Again, it is fine though. My host family is great and so is the other host student I'm living with. I get my own bedroom and then Celia and I share a bathroom which is really nice. Their flat is really modern and nice, too! They also have a pool, two cars, bikes, they live close to school, and close to the beach. We usually take the bus to school though which is interesting. It is the first time using a public bus like that for transportation, but I enjoy it. Spain seems to be environmentally friendly which is AMAZING!!!! They also have great tasting food which our host mother makes taste even better.

Some cultural differences that have shocked me is how Spain is supposed to be in a depression. If Spain is in a depression right now, America is doing a depression wrong. My host family seems to be pretty wealthy because their flat is new, they own one by the beach, and they also have a family house in the mountains they go to every Sunday with their parents and siblings. Water in Almeria is valuable because there is very little. I like to take quick showers anyway, but this reminds me to take even quicker showers. The city has multiple fountains though that constantly run as well as street cleaning trucks which is pretty cool. The stores also close early on Saturday and nothing but restaurants are open on Sunday to respect citizens who do attend church. It is also set aside as a day for family which I found really nice. The food is different, but a good different. I can't explain it. It is just different from my expectations.They do have Kinder bars though! :) So the language, of course, is different as well. Again,as expected, some words are different. This small town of Almeria has lots of different accents as well which can be a little difficult to understand, but most people are patient.The people are really nice, but they know how to stay up late. Whereas in America, we stay up until 3 if we go out, they stay out until 6 or 7 a.m. That siesta really does help.

Besides that, classes are great. I get a long well with the students in my program. Excursions are fun, and other groups join. Besides ISEP study abroad, there are Mexicans, Germans, and Canadians taking a managerial skills class at the same university.They come on our excursions with us and give us opportunities to learn about more cultures which I love! I have not had home sickness yet, but I am just now starting to feel like I am in Spain after three weeks. It is weird, but I love it! I wish I would have studied abroad earlier.

Those are my thoughts for the night,
Ash

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

ESL Summer 2014/ 2 Weeks Session/ Week 1

ESL program at the Maryville College is not only about sitting in the class but also about fun. We are having special two weeks session when we are not only learning and practicing English but we are also experiencing different activities.Every day is different, exciting but also adventurous. This session help us to make better friends, to communicate better and to learn about our classmates’ cultures.
Here is a little description of our first week of the session.

Day 1: Rafting in Ocoee Inn, Georgia.

The river was wild but we are wilder. 

Day 2: Mountain challenge team Building at the Maryville College campus.

The Mounting Challenge helped us to improve our communication skills. 

Day 3: The Lost Sea.

The Lost Sea is America's largest underground lake, located in Sweetwater, TN. 
We are in the middle of the session and we went for two overnight trips, to Gatlinburg and to Atlanta. 

Day 4: Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade.

Happy birthday America!!!

Day 5: Dollywood/ Splash Country.

Ready to have some fun. 
Day 6: Trip to Atlanta and Atlanta Braves Game.

The Braves won and we really enjoyed the game. 

Day 7: Atlanta: Zoo/Aquarium/CNN.


Day 8: Shopping in the International market.


Day 9: Smoky Mountains- Cades Cove picnic and horseback riding.

Another great day in GSM.
The last week was great and we had a lot of fun. We can't wait for the next few days  for more adventures. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On To the Next Adventure: South African Style



Taylor Smith
Blog 2

The trip here.

I am now in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  The trip here was excruciating to say the least.  I left Knoxville at 6:00 a.m., I had a 10 hour layover in Washington D.C., an 18 hour flight to Johannesburg, and overnight layover in Jo-burg, and then a 2 hour flight into Port Elizabeth.  I left Knoxville on Friday morning and finally arrived at my destination Monday morning.   The flight out of Knoxville to D.C. wasn’t too bad; it was over fairly quick.  However the 18 hour flight to South Africa was almost unbearable.  Initially it wasn’t so bad.  I had a window seat and the girl who sat beside me was very friendly.  She was visiting family in Durban, and was happy to answer any and all questions I had.  Throughout the duration of the flight I became restless and body was sore all over.  I honestly just needed to stand up, walk around, and stretch. 

After arriving in Jo-burg, I had to go through customs which ended up taking about an hour.  Next I had to fight my way through the massive international airport, and try to find my way to the bus which would be taking me to my hotel for the night.  I found my way to the help desk, and the employees there gave me directions to the shuttles.  However, what happened next was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.  As I was walking to my bus a couple of men who pretended to be airport employees walked up and proceeded to “help me.”  They asked where I was going, and then said they would personally take me to my bus because it was a dangerous place for women after dark.  I gratefully thanked them and we continued on our way.  All of a sudden these men directed me down a darker more abandoned pathway. Right away I felt that something was off, but since one was carrying my luggage I just prayed that everything would be okay.  About halfway to the busses the men stopped and demanded a tip.  Me being the naïve traveler pulled out 10 Rand.   The men then demanded that I give them 600 Rand which converts to about $60.  I handed over the money and rushed to my shuttle. 

Once I arrived at my hotel, I tried to connect to the wifi so that I could check in with my family.  Unfortunately, the wifi wasn’t working very well.  After calming myself down I tried to take a nice shower thinking that it would help to ease my mind.  However the hotel heated their water by a gas system, and one of my neighbors must have just used all the hot water.  I finally climbed into bed and tried to sleep.   As one could imagine I had a rather sleepless night.  I tossed and turned all night worrying about the rest of my trip.  My flight to Port Elizabeth flew out at 6:00 am but I had to leave my hotel by 5:00.  Needless to say I was absolutely exhausted by the time I reached PE. 

Thankfully NMMU had arranged for someone to pick me up, and I was greeted by a very friendly welcoming face.  I joined one other girl and was brought to the university for my program orientation.  I finally felt like I could be at ease because I was around other students and smiling faces.   

Hopefully my study abroad experience gets better because I don’t think it can get much worse.

Praying for a better time!

Taylor Smith

Monday, June 30, 2014

Cambios, Cambios (Changes, Changes)

Llevo 4 meses acá en Montevideo, y me queda un mes más. Pasó mucho (!) tiempo hasta la utlima vez que escribí para este blog, entonces es necesaria menionar algunos CAMBIOS en mi vida.

I've spent four months here in Montevideo, and I have one month left to go. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote for this blog, and so it's necessary to mention some CHANGES in my life.

Festejando los cambios con amigos buenos
Celebrating changes with good friends
Me mudé de la casa de la familia uruguaya para una residencia de estudiantes del interior de Uruguay. Tomar esta decisión me exijó mucho, pero al fin estoy 100% más contenta vivir lejos de la familia. Pasé un mes en miserio, el mes siguiente escondida, y para mis ultimos meses me fui y siento que puedo respirar de nuevo. Ví una foto del blog popular "Humans of New York" (Los humanos de Nueva York) que muestra un viejito "buscando cualquier pretexto de estar feliz." Creo que esta lema aplica a toda mi vida, pero especialmente al período en que vivía descontenta.

Todavía dirría a los quieran estudiar en el extranjero que vivir con una familia local puede ser una experiencia rica, buena. Hay la posibilidad de aprender de la cultura desde un punto de vista más cercana, de practicar el idioma y gustar comidas caseras. No obstante, también querría decirles que si la familia no proviene estas ventajas (o no sirve cualquira meta que tengan), no es un fracaso dejar la casa para una experiencia nueva. El único fracaso sería no apreder de la experiencia!

I moved out of the house of my ex-host family and into a residency for students from the interior of Uruguay. Making this decision was taxing for me, but at last I am 100% happier living far away from the host family. I spent one month in misery, the following month in hiding, and for my final months I left from there and I feel like I can breathe again. I saw a photo on the popular blog "Humans of New York" that shows an old man "looking for any reason to be happy." I think this motto applies to all of my life, but especially to the part where I was living unhappily.

I would still tell students who want to study abroad that living with a host family can be a rich, positive experience. There is the possibility to learn a new culture from a more intimate perspective, to practice the language and taste homemade foods. However, I would want to tell them, too, that if the host family isn't providing these advantages (or isn't serving whatever goals you might have), it's not a failure to leave the host family for a new experience. The only failure would be to not learn from the experience!
La cocina/el living/el baño
The kitchen/living room/bathroom

Mi habitación antes de llegó mi compañera de cuarto.
My room before my roommate arrived.


Como ya dije, vivo en una residencia para estudianes y jovenes del interior del país. En Uruguay, 50% de la población vive en la capital Montevideo, y lo demás viven en los departamentos del interior. La gran mayoría de las universidades se ubican en Montevideo, y por eso se necesita alojamiento acesable para todos.
Sí, hay algunas desventajas de vivir en la residencia (que más o menos es igual a un hostal), como la falta de califacción, y la INCREÍBLE humidez dentro del apartamento. A la misma vez, hay pilas de aspectos positivos para mi: puedo cocinar toda mi comida, no hay límites de cuando puedo estar en el living o el baño, mis compañeras de cuarto son nativohablantes, y apredí de la magia de la bolsa de agua caliente para calentar la cama curante las noches frías. No tengo duda que veo mi habitación con optimismo debido a mi experiencia negativa de antes, pero aprendí que (al menos, para mi) es mejor vivir sin lujo y con libertad que vivir con riquezas y sin libertad, amistad, cariño... ok, paro acá. ;) Jaja!!

As I already said, I now live in a residency for students and young people from the interior of the country. In Uruguay, 50% of the population lives in the capital Montevideo, and the rest live in the departments (districts, provinces, states, counties... you get the idea) of the interior. The great majority of the universities are located in Montevideo, and so they need accessible housing for all the students. 
Sure, there are some disadvantages to living in the residency (which is more less equivalent to a hostel), like the lack of heating [it's winter here right now -- southern hemisphere!] and the UNBELIEVABLE humidity inside the apartment. At the same time, there are so many positive things for me: I can cook all of my food, there aren't limits on when I can be in the common area or the bathroom, my roommates are native Spanish speakers, and I learned of the magic of the hot water bottle to heat your bed on cold nights. I don't doubt that I see my room with rose colored glasses because of the negative living situation I had before, but I learned that (at least for me) it's better to live without luxuries and with freedom, than to live with riches and without freedom, friendship, caring, affection... okay, I'll stop at that. ;) Haha!!

Las fotos de mis amigos y familia, y mi querida bolsa de agua caliente (en forma de vaca!!)
My pictures of friends and family, and my hot water bottle (that's shaped like a cow!!)


Empezó el Mundial!! El fútbol en Uruguay es más que deporte -- es casi religión! Como dice este imagen, "Nada más importa que el Mundial." Ahora que Uruguay esta afuera, puedo resumir brevemente cómo pasó el espíritu para el partido uruguayo.

video

The World Cup began!! Soccer in Uruguay is more than a sport -- it's almost religion! Like this photo says, "Nothing matters more than the World Cup." Now that Uruguay is out of the games, I can briefly sum up how it's been to be surrounded by such spirit for the Uruguayan games.

Para cada partido de Uruguay, la gente podía verlo por una pantalla grande en frente de la Indendencia de Montevideo (al centro de la ciudad). Y creéme -- es impresionante verlo con este grupo de desconocidos. Vi el primer partido de Uruguay (contra Costa Rica) allá, y la energía de la gente fue insurmontable! Desafortunadamente, lo perdimos el partido, y el la ciudad parecía vacía y triste.


Mi profesor de la clase Cultura Uruguaya dijo que en los años en que Uruguay no tiene resultados buenos del fútbol, hay más suicidios (y menos suidicios cuando ganan más partidos)..!

For each Uruguayan match, people can watch the game on a big screen in front of the Intendency of Montevideo (in the downtown area of the city). And believe me -- it's really impressive to watch the game with this group of strangers. I watched the first Uruguayan match (against Costa Rica) there, and the everybody's energy was out of control! Unfortunately, we lost the game and the city seemed empty and sad.


The professor of my Uruguayan Culture class said that in the years when Uruguay doesn't do well in soccer, there are more suicides (and fewer suicides when they win more games)..!


video

Vi el segundo partido mientras viajando a Buenos Aires, en un barco encima el Río de la Plata! Ganémos!

I saw the second game while traveling to Buenos Aires, in a boat atop the Río de la Plata!

Mirando el partido de Uruguay contra Italia en la facultad
Watching the Uruguay vs. Italy game at the university

Vi el tercer y más contraversial partido de Uruguay (contra Italia) dentro de la facultad, por una pantalla grande en medio de la cantina. De nuevo, la energía y pasión del grupo fue impresionante! Cuando ganémos, el salón eruptó con gritos y canción. Felicidad pura! Pero, qué mala fama ganó Uruguay, también, con la mordida de Luís Suarez, fútbolista famosísimo que nací en Salto, Uruguay. No quiero decir más sobre este tópico contraversial que decir que la gente que lo ama, lo ama por todo, y los que no lo importan son feroces en ridicularlo.

I saw the third and more controversial Uruguay game (against Italy) inside the university, on a big screen in the middle of the lunchroom. Once again, the energy and passion of the spectators was impressive! When we won, the room erupted in shouts and song. Pure happiness! But, Uruguay sure did get a bad reputation because of the bite from Luís Suarez, the super famous soccer player who was born in Salto, Uruguay. I don't want so say anything more about this controversial topic than to say that the people who love Suarez love him through anything, and that those who don't care about him are ferocious in ridiculing him.

video


Para el partido final (en contra de Colombia), el frío me dio pereza y lo vi por mi compu dentro de mi apartamento. Cociné comida rica y lamenté que perdímos...

For the final match (against Colombia), the cold weather made me lazy, so I watched it on my computer from inside my apartment. I cooked some tasty food and lamented our loss.

"La fantasma del 50" que representa el éxito de Uruguay en el Mundial de 1950.
"The ghost of 1950" which represents Uruguay's win at the World Cup of 1950.

En conclusión de esta entrada tan larga, quiero alardear mi braveza. Recibí una invitación a una fiesta de tango anoche, y con la llegada del evento, me di cuenta que no tendría amigas que asistirían la fiesta. Nunca aprendí el tango, ni tengo talento natal para las danzas. Pero -- tenía muchas ganas de ir (fue gratis!), entonces fui sola. Para mi, tomar esta decisión fue un momento enorme. Soy una persona más introverta, tímida, y pensar en ir dónde no conocía nadie me dio nervios que sentí en mi estomago. Pero fui y conocí a gente muy amistosa, y también aprendí un poco del tango. Mi aventura fue vale la ansiedad, y tengo orgullo que superé mis miedos!

In conclusion for this so-long post, I want to boast about my bravery. I received an invitation to a tango party last night, and as the event drew closer, I realized that I wouldn't have any friends attending the party. I never learned how to dance the tango, and I wasn't born with any skill for dancing. But -- I really wanted to go (it was free!), so I went alone. For me, making this decision was an enormous moment. I'm a more shy, introverted person, and to think about going somewhere where I wouldn't know anybody made my stomach squirm. But I went and met really friendly people, and I also learned a little bit of how to tango. My adventure was worth the anxiety, and I'm proud that I overcame my fears!

Hasta pronto, lectores del internet!

See ya soon, internet readers!

On To the Next Adventure: South African Style

Taylor Smith
6/20/14
Still at home


So the time has come to begin my study abroad trip to South Africa.  I am leaving in the morning, but I am too anxious to sleep.  I keep wondering about all the exciting new places and opportunities I will get to experience.  At the same time however, I am thinking about what will happen when I am gone, and if things will be the same when I return.  I hope I am not forgotten by all my friends and family.  I know this may sound silly since I am only going to be away for 6 weeks, but I am genuinely concerned because life waits for no one and nothing.  I don’t necessarily want the people I love to wait around for me to get back, I only hope that once I am back everyone will welcome and accept me again. 

My other fear about this trip is that I won’t be able to fully enjoy and experience everything South Africa has to offer.  I am afraid I will limit myself mainly because I have low self-esteem which even hinders me from even living to my full potential at home.   I am always the girl who sits in the corner and assess my situation.  I like to know my surroundings and stay within my comfort zone.  However it was time for something different.

 I am an International Studies major and required to study abroad.  When I was deciding on a location, a lot of things ran through my mind.  I have already been to Eastern Europe on a student ambassador trip, so I knew I didn’t want to go back there.  Like I mentioned before I wanted something new, so I began looking at programs that were somewhat out of the ordinary.  I knew I needed to find a program that not only met my education requirements, but one that would also be challenging in terms of pushing me outside my comfort zone.  After a lot of searching, I finally found the program in South Africa.  While abroad I will be studying Human Rights and Conflict Management.  I have a passion for helping people, especially those who are less fortunate and under-represented.  I believe this program will be an amazing learning experience in and outside of the classroom, and I am incredibly excited to begin.

Signing off still in the US!

Taylor Smith

Sunday, May 11, 2014

This One's a Doozey

There are 22 days left before I hop on a plane and leave the United Arab Emirates. TWENTY TWO DAYS. It seems like I just got here, but on the other hand I'm ready to leave. I've been so busy with schoolwork (mostly) that a blog post is long overdue, and since it's almost the end of the semester I'm going to write a reflection. I'm going to be completely candid, and what I say might not be what you want to hear, so brace yourselves.

I've valued my time here, but I haven't necessarily loved it. That's not to say that there haven't been parts that I've enjoyed, but on the whole my experience fell short of my expectations. And because I feel that way I feel like I'm going to hurt some one's feelings... Well she wasted her entire experience and a lot of money. Why couldn't it have been me that went abroad instead? How could she not have had the time of her life? Everyone seems to think that studying abroad is this amazing, life-changing experience that will produce lasting friendships and an overwhelming feeling of wanderlust that will stay with you forever. I had that expectation, and it seems that many people actually have that experience. Let me clarify, though, I DO NOT regret studying abroad.

I may have mentioned in an earlier blog post that I'm a lot more introverted than I ever realized, and that has made it really difficult to put myself out there to make friends. Now that the semester is ending, I feel like I'm finally starting to establish myself socially. In that respect, I don't think that a semester is long enough to fully socialize yourself into a new, foreign school, especially not for me. The friends I've made have mostly been other exchange students, and my friendships have shifted. I never got very close to anyone, and I drifted away from the friend group that I had at the beginning of the semester. In the prep class Maryville College students take before they study abroad, we discussed the importance of maximizing your experience by making "local" friends. In theory it makes sense, and in practice it still makes sense. But in practice you have to talk to new people who aren't white and notice right away when your face turns red because you're shy, so naturally they point it out, and you make the striking first impression of a red, sweaty American girl. I know I'm exaggerating, slightly... But my point is that introducing myself to local students has been really scary and difficult! Even though most of the people I have met have been exceptionally kind.

This brings me to another point: the pressure of maximizing your experience. It pretty consistently makes you feel like you're not doing enough to maximize your experience. But as the wise and venerated Tyler Jones put it, "...I don't need to get lost everyday in order to have a life-changing epiphany." His blog post ---> http://centerforinternationaleducation.blogspot.ae/2014/03/a-creature-of-habit.html <--- made me realize that simply living and adjusting to a foreign place is an accomplishment. I MISS YOU TYLER!

As far as being an "adjusted" expat in Sharjah goes, IT'S HOT. I really miss being able to go running during the day, or even being able step outside without suffocating. I think this is honestly a significant reason why I'm ready to leave. Even the people who live here leave during the summer and vacation somewhere that permits walking outside.


 
puns
I'm not a changed, worldly person after studying abroad for 4 months. I can say a few words in Arabic, I've eaten a lot of new foods, and I might be half a shade tanner (or redder). I have learned so much about Arab history, culture, and politics, though, which is the main reason why I came here. I have also decided that I'm not going to pursue international relations after I finish my undergrad degree, but instead pursue art. HA! JOKE'S ON YOU SUCKERS! But being here has made me realize how important learning and staying informed is, even if you decide you don't want to become an environmentalist, biologist, psychologist, or a diplomat (I have given every single one of these options a try). And even if you aren't completely happy with where you are physically, socially, whatever, you can still learn something. My mom has been reminding me over and over that I came here to learn, especially when I've felt discouraged, and at first I was like, "Yeah mom, but I just don't feel like I belong here, and I want to draw and paint pictures and avoid talking to people!" But she's right (Happy Mother's Day, by the way), and this is why I have valued my study abroad experience even though I haven't exactly loved it. 

And to conclude, here are some pictures to highlight the high points of the rest of my study abroad experience! 

 
This is the track at the Dubai World Cup races, the richest horse race in the world worth $10 million. J Lo performed after the races, but my phone died. I swear I saw her perform, and she is the most fabulous 44 year old I've seen. I wish I could look as good as she does at 21.


This is the winner of the Dubai World Cup

And this lady is wearing an entire peacock on her head.


The Incredible Hulk at the Dubai Comicon. The group I was with used him as a landmark to find each other if we got separated.



I have no idea who this guy was dressed up as, but the decapitated head he was carrying looked a lot like me!

Dubai Comicon propaganda

Any Breaking Bad fans reading my blog? You'll understand why I decided to make this picture bigger than the others, then. 
I found a barn to ride at, and a horse to ride! His name is Hugo, and I want to take him home with me.

Being able to go to the barn has made my experience more enjoyable.

This is from an exchange student trip off the coast of Oman.


It was such a beautiful trip, and I got my first jellyfish sting! It was a big day.

They don't like it when the grass touches things here, or when it gets longer than half an inch.

This is a student's car.

This is a picture from a lunch date myself and a few other exchange students had at an emerati's house. She was so kind and served us SO MUCH food. This was one of my favorite experiences of studying abroad. Being invited to some one's home is a huge deal when you study abroad. 
THE END
 !خلاص

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Friends in low (geographically speaking) places

I've said this for the last 4 blog posts, but I am truly sorry for the delay of this blog. I know you guys might be a little disoriented about the details of my trip, so allow me to bombard you with numbers in order to fix that.

1. 12 days ago my beautiful niece Nora Danielle Edmondson was born. She's adorable and I want to meet her now. 

2. 73 days ago I arrived in Argentina

3. 67 days until I leave Argentina (over halfway—WOW)

4. 68 days until I meet my niece for the first time.

5. 36 days until the World Cup starts. THIRTY SIX DAYS!!

6. 52 days until Cade Thompson gets here (52 days too many, if you ask me)

7. 56 days until Daniel Munger gets here.

8. 63 days until Daniel Munger misses his flight home so that he can stay in Argentina to fish for an indefinite amount of time.

Like I said, I know it's a bombardment of numbers, but those are just some of the things I've always got on my mind while I'm here in Argentina. 

As you guys will notice after looking at number 3, I'm over halfway done with my trip to Argentina. I can't believe it. I've finally stopped looking at everything through the eyes of someone who's just arrived, but this luxury comes with a challenge.

I've been here for more than two months, but have I truly made the most out of my trip?

This is the question that has been eating at me lately. It's one thing to get through and experience 5 months in Argentina, but it's another thing to fully utilize my time here. It may sound like something that's pretty simple to do, but it's more complicated than I thought. To help you guys understand what I'm facing, let me remind you of two goals that I had before I came to Argentina.

1. I wanted to learn the people of Argentina—not as a tourist, but as a friend.
2. I wanted to see some of the really stinkin awesome landscapes that Argentina has.

Seems simple!! Travel and make friends… Duh

No.

Wrong. 

So very wrong.

Why?? I'll tell you why. I want to travel, but my friends here that travel aren't from Argentina. I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but to me it is. I'm in Argentina for 5 months.. If I left from Argentina and had spent the majority of my time with people from my own country, I would never be able to be ok with that.

So how exactly to I combat this problem?

I still have no idea, but I'll tell you what I've currently got going on down here. I'm proud to introduce the first list and formal grouping of every friend group I have down here.

THE FOREIGNERS

Who they are: These are the other exchange students that go to the same university as me. This group is definitely the most convenient group for me to be around; there's less communication problems, they're going through the same thing I am, and they want to travel just as much as me. When we're together at school, there's no doubt that everyone around knows we're foreign… and weird… and super super foreign.

Disadvantages: First of all, they're not from Argentina. Secondly, there's always the temptation to speak English. Lastly, the attention that we draw in public is more than unnerving. I honestly think people can tell we're not from here by the way we smell. It's eerie.

Why I like them: These guys want to take advantage of their time in Argentina just as much as I do and they're always wanting to do something fun. It's also fun to see others make the same mistakes that I make when speaking Spanish, but I think the most enjoyable thing about this group is that we all have a good laugh after we learn some new slang that's only used in Argentina or in Córdoba… Posta


Add-ons: In this group I'm going to include our tutors.. NOT because they're foreign, but they're just extremely accustomed to foreigners and they are really good at understanding how things are different here than in our country. They're also extremely extremely fun to be around and have become very efficient in using a series of hand signals and noises to communicate things to people who can't speak well. It's AWESOME. Kudos to these guys. Argentina wouldn't be the same without them.

THE DESIGNERS

Who they are: These are the students that are in my graphic design class here (don't ask me why I'm in this class.. at this point I don't even think I know). The majority of these students are around 18 years old and are in their first year of college, so I'm anciently old in this class. I showed them a picture of my niece and one of them asked if it was my daughter. I'm still going to assume that my Spanish was off that day and I misunderstood what was actually said.

Disadvantages: I'm a grandpa that still has the drawing skills that I used to draw on the wall when I was 2 (I honestly think I was at it better back then).

Why I like them: This group is SUUUUUPER friendly and they help me understand a whole lot about the people of Argentina. It's extremely entertaining to see them learn things about how college works and they make my class very very fun. I'm in a chat group with them on WhatsApp and it never disappoints me. It may as well be a dictionary of jargon. Two thumbs up to this group.

Add-ons: The professor of this class is extremely nice as well. It's a woman in her mid 60s (I think) and she is very good about understanding that I'm not in my element AT ALL in that class. Nonetheless, every time she makes a reference to a book that was written in the United States she always is surprised that I haven't read it. I'm sorry Profe, but if it's a scary book written by someone other than Stephen King, I don't have a clue.

LOS DE ROSARIO

Who they are: This group is the group that I already knew before I came to Argentina because they spent some time studying at Maryville. I don't see them much because Rosario is a solid 6 hours from Córdoba.

Disadvantages: Six stinkin' hours…

Why I like them: These guys have been my friends for almost two years now and they might be the nicest people I've ever met. I'm super comfortable around them and we've already got a ton of memories together. They also took me to a soccer game in the Primera División here. They definitely know the way to my heart.

LOS FUTBOLEROS

Who they are: Ahhhh these guys. This group consists of the guys on my soccer team here. I don't even know where to start. The dynamic of this group is EXTREMELY distinct and it helps me get a good taste of the culture here in Argentina.

Disadvantages: I speak Spanish, but you don't even know the accent that I face when I speak with these guys. Allow me to elaborate on how to talk like them:

1. Mix Spanish words with the voice inflection of an Italian.
2. Remove the last syllable from every word.
3. Insert slang that is only understood and used by less than 40 people

Why I like them:
I learn a ton of words that are very very authentically from this area of the world and nowhere else. I also really enjoy soccer with these guys, and they show me a different side of Argentina than I see from the students in my design class. Their type of friendship is more like what I'm used to at home in the United States: lots of jokes, lots of sarcasm, and lots of laughter. Playing on this team and meeting these guys is one of the better decisions I've made here.

Add-ons: We have a manager/director of the program named Gon. For those of you that watched Viva la Bam and remember Don Vito:

Don Vito + Spanish = Gon

Could not be more true.

LOS MEXICANOS

Who they are: I'm almost just as confused as you are as to why this group exists on my blog about Argentina, but these are the exchange students from Mexico that study here with me. This group has contributed a lot to my experience here and they are ALWAYS having a good time. They've influenced me so much that I already have begun to draw up plans for a vacation to Mexico soon.

Disadvantages:

Why I like them: No disadvantages. These guys contribute to my Spanish a TON and it's awesome. Learning the slang from Mexico is definitely as entertaining as learning the slang from Argentina. Es muy chido. I'm already fairly positive that I'll be seeing a lot more of these guys after I return to the States. I also found out today that Alan, one of the guys from Mexico, will be moving in with me in a few weeks. YAAAAAA. Looks like I'll return home speaking a Spanish that's a combination of the Spanish from Mexico and Argentina.

Add-ons: I think I'm a Mexican at heart


I'm super glad that my friend situation has worked out like it has. I've got a little bit of everything going on right now and it's exactly what I wanted to happen. I wish everyone back home could see how things are here, but I'm SUPER excited that Cade and Dan are coming down. They're going to love Argentina.. it's a super friendly place.

I know that my title almost implies that I have friends in valleys, but I mean low places referring to in the south.. the southern hemisphere. If it doesn't make sense, Get over it*

*I know that pun wasn't good but for some reason it cracked me up.

Hasta luego,
Benjamín




Labels