The final days: a project, a rainbow and a Jesus-themed theme park

Hello America, well specifically North America. I am back. I know I have not written in over a month now but that is only because I was trying to soak up my final days in Argentina. So alas, I have a lot to say. I think I left off with how I was beginning the ISP project so I will start with that.

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river in Claypole

My project was on access to water in Claypole, which is part of the outer province of Buenos Aires and is about an hour outside of the city. Given that water seems to have inundated every part of my life (according to the stars my element is water, I’m from Florida, go to school in the Ocean state, work on a campaign at school to eliminate bottled water, and swim competitively on a college team,) water seemed to be a natural fit for my topic of study. Ever since organizing the Think Outside the Bottle campaign at PC and working with a non-profit in Boston called Corporate Accountability International, I have had an interest and passion for water rights and the problems associated with the privatizations of water. While Argentina had many issues with privatizations of many services in the nineties, the water utilities are no longer under private control. I ended up choosing Claypole, because while there are no problems with privatizations, access to clean water still is a huge issue. I learned that there was a group of University of Buenos Aires students called Taller de Aguas, who had worked with the “vecinos” (neighbors) of Claypole since 2008 to try and petition the water company to improve their water infrastructure. From there, I began emailing this group to try and organize a time to meet with them to talk about their work and about the current situation within the community. Continue reading

A story of grafitti, an 1830 house and the world’s biggest dinosaur discovery.

What does a walking tour, four hours of sleep and a painted astronaut all have in common? That was my state of existence last Saturday when I went on a graffiti tour of the city. I will first explain the sleep. So the night before, a few friends and I (including my fellow PC friend, Brian) decided around 3 am that after a long night out that it wasn’t time to go home, rather to stay out and watch the sunrise – so that is exactly what we did. The rest of our night included, a 5 am stop to get choripan (the most delicious bread and sausage combo), a subte ride to Puerto Madero (the port), a chat with a hotel guard, and finally the sunrise over the ecological reserve. Granted, we we were all eaten alive by mosquitoes for the two hours it took until the sun rose (it rose much later than we anticipated – around 7:15), but we all thoroughly enjoyed witnessing a “Lion King”esque sunrise while singing Hakuna Matata. So that is why I had four hours of sleep. The next day I was going on graffiti tour and it was lovely.

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Lion King

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Final classes, a final month

School’s out! I walked outside of CEDES, the place where we take classes, with my notebook in hand, and threw my Spanglish-infested notes into the air. Clase de Derechos Humanos y Movimientos Sociales was done forever and I was a new woman, ready to walk the streets of Buenos Aires, lecture-free. Just kidding, I did none of that but I am excited to be on to the next phase of my study abroad experience. The ISP—independent study project. For the last month of my program, we are all given the assignment to pick a topic, of our choosing, to study and research through the final days of our program. We must write a 20-40 page paper in Spanish and give a presentation on it at the end. I will admit that the progression of my stress over the past two weeks had escalated greatly due to the oncoming nature of this project, but now that I have figured some more things out, the stress is slowly diminishing. Anyway, the past few weeks have involved many emails to local organizations, trying to coordinate interviews, meetings with my advisors and un poco research. My topic is on the lack of access to water and problems with water contamination in the area of Claypole, part of the province outside of Buenos Aires. There is a trash dump very near this neighborhood in which trash seeps into the groundwater, contaminating it. Since many people in this community don’t have access to water networks, many of them dig deep holes in the ground to get their water, which due to the contamination has lead to many health problems. There is a social organization and group of University of BA students called Taller de Aguas, who work with the community to improve the water situation, which I am interviewing on Wednesday, along with community members. I am excited to begin working on this and I shall let you know how it goes over the course of the next three weeks.

In the meantime, here is summary of the last eventful days of class. Continue reading

The Many Perspectives of the North and a Quick Trip (slip) in Mendoza

Hola chicos, I am back from the North and from my excursion to the wine region of Argentina, Mendoza. To be honest with you, summarizing the best and most interesting stories from the past two weeks (3 and a half weeks ago now) is presenting itself as a very daunting and challenging task, yet here I go. Warning: this may be long.

My first impression of the North was Salta. We drove in from the airport and all I could think of as we drove was how Spanish-inspired the buildings looked. We passed whitewashed buildings with green ivy climbing the walls. Rod-ironed lanterns lined the streets, window boxes adorned each balcony and each roof was made of brick-red tiles. This city was “precioso.”

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The view of Salta from the chairlift.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the state of the North in general before I go into the stories. So the North, is a lot poorer than the rest of the country. It is much drier and has a completely different landscape from that of the South in Patagonia or obviously in the city of BA. The mountains are red (and many other colors which I will get into) and cacti and llamas are everywhere. But due to the more impoverished state of things, they do not have as good of a water infrastructure, which to my chagrin meant that we had to buy bottled water. However, after a few days of submitting to this torture, I reverted to boiling water using our water boiler in our hotel kitchen (and using the super cool electrolight wand device my aunt and uncle gave me that uses UV light to kill the bacteria in the water.) Needless to say, I am alive and well. Continue reading

Part 2: Things Done (Redeeming Curiosity)

It’s too bad that curiosity gets such a bad rap, ya know, for killing the cat, because curiosity has taken me to some very interesting places over the past few weeks. Image

A few weeks ago, I was invited to an  “asado” — which is a typical BBQ — with my family host family. Ana, my host mom, son, Mariano, and his girlfriend, Jennie, all drove an hour away to Pilar where my host mom shares a resort-type house with her sister. The food was delicious –choripan (chorizo sausage and bread), potato and egg salad, and green salad and lots of delicious beef. Ana’s sister was there with her boyfriend and another family who were family friends. They had a three-year old. She was learning English. That was a real esteem booster… Continue reading

Part 1: Things Learned, Things Observed

In Argentina, the socialist party is the 4th most popular political party. Cristina Kirchner (the President) just became the godmother of a child of two lesbian women. Marches and protests occur daily, and the public university system is free for all and so is the healthcare.

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While this is not the Socialist party, this is the Communist Party rallying at a march.

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An Indigenous Community, A Remarkable View and A Rabbit-Fur Hat to Top it Off

Hello. I’m back. After a two-week hiatus, things have not slowed down but I am forcing myself to find time to write. One week ago from yesterday, I came back from brisk and beautiful, Patagonia. Here is a review of the trip:

After a 21 hour bus ride, we were dropped off at a Patagonian bus stop. We stepped out into the crisp air where we waited for two smaller buses to bring us to the Mapuche community. Many of the locals reminded me of peddlers with their beret hats, poncho-like jackets and European-styled boots. Once we boarded the buses, we took a short pit stop to buy paint (for our project in the community) and fruit (for us to eat.) Scaling the rural roads to Chiuquiliuin was no challenge for our driver. We arrived weathering only a few jolts from the potholes and carrying a chip bag full of apple cores. The first thing that greeted us were the bees. Some people shrieked as bees swarmed everywhere. After getting accustomed to the bee infestation, we dropped our bags off in the community center and moved to a room where the Mapuche women had prepared a delicious lunch of polenta, tomatoes and cheese – oh and of course, bread (which has proven to be a staple of the Argentine diet.) We listened to the story of their role in the community, making “dulces” (jam – anything sweet here is called, dulces, it’s super cute) and woven products and then we feasted. We were then divided into our homestay groups. I was with Gali. We were told our house was about an hour walk from the community center and advised to leave our bags there and only take the essentials. I filled my Northface backpack with what I needed for the night and a grocery bag of extra stuff and headed off with Veronika (my host mom for the next few days) and Gali. We began our trek up the mountain and chatted along the way about the scenery. I think Veronika was amused with us because we just kept saying “que linda,” which means “how beautiful.” Everything was though! As we scaled the mountain, climbing higher and higher, we stopped to take many (many) pictures. The views were incredible. All I could see for miles was more mountains. All of the houses were so far apart, they were basically iconspicuous. After about an hour and 15 minutes, we arrived at her house – Veronika out of breath and Gali and I drenched in sweat, happy to set our stuff down.

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Veronika and I on our trek to her house on Day 1.

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