Monday, June 30, 2008

Resistencia - Ciudad de las esculturas

Before I first arrived in Resistencia, one of the only things that I knew about the city was that it was supposedly world famous for its sculptures. Every year, people from all over the world competed in a contest to be part of a sculpture festival in Resistencia. The competition is called Bienal. For one weeks, the artists fervently work from sun-up to sun-down to complete their sculptures. They must adhere to a certain pre-determined theme, and must only use the materials provided by the Municipality of Resistencia. After the festival ends, the sculptures are then strategically placed within the city, for all to see. Common non-artistic people are encouraged to make sculptures, as anyone who puts a sculpture in front of their house is pardoned from paying taxes for two years. Sounds like a good deal to me, as the taxes here are out of the roof. But even though I knew all of this mumbo jumbo about the sculptures, I didn’t really care or believe that something so important could take place in my city, that I thought at the time, appeared to be so insignificant compared to the other cities in Argentina that I had earlier yearned to live in. Apart from the sculptures, the internet didn’t say that there was anything else interesting about Resistencia, only that there was a lot of dust, and poor people. I was very mistaken. Upon entering the city, I was greeted by a mass of sculptures: some abstract, others metal, a few wooden, and a plethora of strange and twisted ones... The list goes on, and keeps growing every year. This whole sculpture thing made me feel a bit more proud about my pre-surmised dirt bowl of a city. Could it be that Resistencia actually had a bit of culture, or was perhaps a bit different and maybe even special compared to my other dream cities? Could be, I thought to myself. As one day turned into two, two into 20, 20 into a few months, I started liking my city a lot more. I think maybe the sculptures gave me a bit of pride of Resistencia, made me feel a little special. Supposedly, there are around 500 sculptures in the city, sounds like a lot. It is a lot. On almost every street corner and in front of almost every big building I constantly encounter these pieces of art, and on several occasions, pieces of abstract poorly thought out products of a bad childhood. I am not kidding, on the corner of Mitre and Concordia there is a 6 foot tall statue of a penis.... Yeah man, I am from Resistencia - Ciudad de Las Esculturas, and I gotta say that I am actually proud of it!

Below are two videos of the sculptures. The first is of the Bienal competition this year, the second is a compilation of the sculptures already placed in Resistencia.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On Sharing

From the day I arrived in Resistencia, one of the first things I noticed was the abundance of bakeries (panaderias). They were everywhere, and were filled with all kinds of European style pastries. The only difference between the pastries here and the pastries in Europe is about 8 pesos (almost 3 dollars). Here, you can buy a dozen for about 5-10 pesos, which is much less than your average 3 Euros for ONE pastry in Europe or in the United States. So I started buying a lot. Almost every day I bought a dozen, sometimes more-rarely less. I would come to the house and eat them, or go to Cima and do the same. I followed the same routine with other kinds of food and drinks. Sometimes, I would bring a coffee into the house; othertimes, an ice cream. And noone said anything, at least noone said anything for a while. Then one day, my ¨mom¨ Marcela, took me into the living room, sat me down, and let all hell loose. I never realized how important sharing is. I think they thought that I was just a selfish person, but I´m not. You can´t buy something for yourself here, without buying enough for all the other people you are around. For example: If you want to eat a slice of pizza from the pizza store and you plan on showing your face around your friends or your family, you must buy a piece for everyone. I had spent the first 2 months buying huge amounts of food for myself, sharing, but not thinking about other people when I bought food. In the US, I think people are a generally lot more self centered. Back home in the US, I did´t have a problem buying something and eating it around my friends or family-they didn´t seem to have a problem with it either. But here, its totally different. People get genuinly offended. From mate, to whatever else you are drinking or eating, you share. Its a country much more focused on the group, not so much on the individual. This theme seems to apply to everything. You know how in the US, girls go to the bathroom together? Here, guys go to the bathroom together as well. You don´t take a dance lesson or any type of class alone-you always do it with a friend. One thing I noticed that tops it all, is what people do when they leave the house. They almost never leave alone. If I want to go buy a coke a block down the street, I go with my uncle. You are always with your friends or family, sharing everything. You are part of a bigger thing here. There is not a me, only an us. But I think I like it. Sure, more effort is put out for the same thing, but somehow its better.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yerba Mate

In the hand of almost every bus driver, passed along through countless circles of friends, the milk of the Argentine baby, and one of the most famous trademarks of this country, yerba mate is all but worshiped. Prior to coming to Argentina, I did try mate. About 3 months before I left, we bought some at the supermarket. Cost me about 6 dollars for a half pound. Once we had brought it home, I figured I might as well put it in a french press, as it was in a loose form-without a tea bag. So I let it seep for a few minutes, poured it into a cup, and sipped my first sip of many sips to come. Tasted a lot like cigarette water. Not like I´ve tried cigarette water, but it definitely wasn´t good. Following the bitter grass taste came a energy buzz I´d never felt before. A lot like coffee, but maybe better. I noticed that I didn´t get the energy rollarcoster effect from mate as I did from coffee. Lots of energy for a while, and then I crash. Mate lets you down smooth. So every morning before school, I drank mate, and every morning it tasted a little better. Here in Argentina, they call this type of mate ¨mate cocido.¨But the type of mate they drink here most often is very different from mate cocido. First, they fill a gourd-most commonly made from a special type of plant-with loose mate leafes, about 90% full. Then a little hot water is poured into one side of the mate to form a hole. After this, a metal straw is pushed into the hole. This straw is called a ¨bombilla.¨ It is usually made out of metal, and has a filter on the bottom so you won´t be drinking the yerba leafs. Once the bombilla is touching the bottom of the mate, hot water (from a canteen) is poured in on the same side. The first few drinks are usually very bitter, but after a while it gets good. Usually, you can go through one or two canteens of water before you have to change the yerba. Mate is usually drunk with other people. One person pours the water and passes it to the other people in the group. Once one person is done, they give it to the server and he passes it to the next person. This is repeated until the mate needs to be changed or when you run out of water. Mate with sugar is called ¨mate dulce¨ and mate without sugar is called ¨mate amargo.¨ Unlike the US, buying yerba here is very easy and cheap. Almost every kiosko or store sells mate. Usually the yarba ocupies an entire isle in the store, with dozens of brands and flavors to choose from. There is mate amargo, mate dulce, mate con limon, mate with herbs for the stomach, mate with milk, mate with coffee..... For a kilo (about 2 pounds) you pay about 3 or 4 pesos, which is less than 2 US dollars. When the weather gets hot, people switch from drinking mate in the gourd, and start drinking a different type of mate called ¨terere.¨ Overall, terere is mate with cold water instead of hot water. The canteen is usually filled with cold water, ice, and some sort of fruit juice mix, most commonly orange juice. Then it is poured into the mate cup. The cup for terere can be any cup, but most commonly it is either a hollowed out horn of a cow, or a tall metal cup. Maybe mate is the reason the Argentines have so much energy and can go to bed so late and wake up so early without problems.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Been a while

What can I say, I´ve been busy. But my best excuse is that I lost my password and my username and about 5 minutes ago after an extensive process on blogspot I finally retrieved them. Its been about two months since I last posted, and there is no way that I´m going to recap everything that has happened in the last few months, but I´ll give an overview. I got off the bus and there was my family. I thought I would be nervous, or feel something but I wasn´t and I didn´t. After I got my bags, me and Zoom walked over to them and shook their hands and kissed them. We got in the BMW, and since then its been good. No, I´m just kidding I will write more than that! In the picture above, starting from top left and moving down to bottom left: Marcela (my host mom), me, Zoom (Thai exchange student), Agostina and Iara (host sisters) Carlos (host dad) is not shown.
After we got adjusted in the house, we drove around the city a bit, and stopped to drink a mate and eat some facturas (sweet breads) in a plaza. The next week or so we got to know the family, and I did a lot of walking around the city. One thing that I remember about the first few weeks here, was the heat. On a few of the days, the temperature went well over 40 degrees Celsius. That's pretty hot for me, as I am used to 40 degrees Fahrenheit back in Washington. Another thing I got familiar with the first month I was here, were facturas. I would buy a dozen costing about a dollar fifty US, and eat them all by myself in a day. The next day I would repeat the process. It took me a while before I learned about the whole sharing thing here, but I will come to that later on. I started making friends in the streets. In the bakeries, kioscos (small stores that sell candy and drinks) and other places that I frequented. Before long I went to my first boliche. After a couple of weeks, we had an orientation with AFS to talk about our first month and to get to know the other exchange students better. There I met some of the kids who had come before me, and we left afterwards to drink a coke in a restaurant. This group included me, Andreas (a volunteer from Denmark, Karl (Sweden) and Eric (a semi-volunteer from Resistencia). For the next couple of weeks, I did some more adjusting, a lot of walking around the city, lots of asados, etc. Then I got sick for about two weeks. I think it was all of the facturas and fat I had been eating. When I got better, my Swedish friend Karl introduced me to some people, and I started going out with my new friends a lot. Birthday parties, boliches, concerts.... By then I had gotten a pretty good grasp on my spanish. I was able to carry on almost any type of conversation, but my accent and vocabulary were definitely lacking. Then school started. My first day wasn´t bad. It actually seemed easy. My classmates talked among themselves, and didn´t seem to be paying attention very much. So I began to do the same thing. Big mistake. Since then I learned that they can listen and talk at the same time.
Around this time (about one and a half months in) this was pretty much my weekly schedule, and it has stayed constant since then.


We wake up late at around 1 PM. Get dressed and showered and decide where we are going to eat. Then we go and eat, normally at a place called San Jose. They are a panaderia/heladeria/restaurante. (bread, ice cream, and food) Then we either rent a movie or go to our quinta. The quinta here in Argentina is a house where the family goes on weekends, vacations, or whenever they don´t want to be in their house. Usually its located in the country, or far from the city, but ours is about 20 blocks from the apartment. We go there and eat an asado, and hang out for about 6 or 7 hours. Sometimes I get really restless. Its not because I don´t like to talk with the family, or because I don´t like to eat asado (asados are great), but I have never liked the feeling of being trapped in a house, with no way to get out or do anything else. After we eat done eating and talking, we then go to Carlos´s grandma´s house to drink a mate dulce and eat some food. After this we sometimes will drive around a little and then go to church. After a few hours of church we go back to the quinta, and order pizza and empanadas (meat or vegetable filled pastries). At about 1 or 2 AM we head to the house to sleep.


School starts at 7:40 in the morning and goes until 12:10. The school day is divided into three classes. On tuesdays I have four classes (portugues is added). After school I usually either walk home with friends, go to Cima (my host parent´s store) or go to the plaza with friends and drink a coke. Then we eat lunch. Always delicious, prepared by our house-keeper ¨Raquel.¨After lunch I use the computer a while and then head off to the gym for about and hour or two with both Carlos and Marcela to work out. After this we sleep an hour and they head off to work. For me, every day varies. Sometimes I go to hang out with friends and drink mate. Other times I have friends over. Sometimes I just like to walk around the city to get to know it better. And a lot of the time I like to go to Cima and hang out with the guys that work there. The other days of the week I pretty much do the same thing. School, eat, gym, friends, sleep. Repeat.

Friday nights/Saturday Mornings:

Friday night is the beginning of the fun. Its the first day of a very long weekend. Usually, as a family, we eat out at a restaurant. Then, I either play soccer with my dad, or I go with friends and hang out until about 1 AM. Around 1, I either leave to go hang out at a friend´s house, or I go to a boliche. Here, there are a number of different boliches (dance clubs) but some of the more well known ones include Central, CaƱadas, Mitre, Chill Bar, 8 Nights, and Nectar Bar. There are also a lot of bars where you can eat and also dance. The boliches go from about 2 or 3 AM until around 8 or 9 AM. This is definitely different than in my city in the USA, where the closest boliche opens at 8 PM and closes at 1 AM at the latest. When we are done, I go home and sleep.


When I wake up at around 1 or 2 PM, we usually go out to eat, and then hang out with friends or do homework until 10, when Carlos and Marcela get back. Then we go out and eat again, and either have an asado with friends, or I go with my friends and do the same kind of thing that I did friday night.

The last two months or so have adhered pretty closely to this scheduale. I spent a week in the provience of Corrientes to go fishing with him and his family while my family was in Brasil. A few times we had AFS orientations, and I went on a short trip to Entre Rios and Buenos Aires, which was nice, but other than that, its been about the same. When I first thought about doing this blog, I thought that I would have a lot more time to write, but I have recently realized that I don´t. So instead of writing about my experience day by day, experience by experience, I have chosen to only write about my most significant experiences, and reserve the other posts to talk about one or two specific things. One post might be about asados, the next about boliches, another on mate....
Bueno, I hope to write again soon.

Here are some pictures:
Resistencia ¨Ciudad De Las Esculturas¨

Me drinking a Mate in my room

Me, Gaby, and Pepo at Negri´s birthday party

Me and Jorge at a birthday party

I got him to wear the cap haha....

This is an asado

The view of Resistencia from my room

Me, Marcela (Karls girlfriend), and Karl

Me and Ben at the AFS Corrientes orientation

Group photo at the Corrientes orientation

Ben (New Zealand), Kiki (USA), Me, and Andreas (Denmark) looking good at the AFS Corrientes Orientation

My host sister Agostina

AFS orientation number 2 group picture

Despidida (going away party) of Tess (USA)

We rented this boliche called Zimbabwe


Monday, March 3, 2008

Seattle to Miami to Santiago to Buenos Aires to Resistencia

I´ve been here in Resistencia, Argentina for a couple of weeks, three I think, and a lot has happened. I´m not about to write everything down right now, but I will give an overview of the first week. I flew from Seattle on wednesday the 12th of February-my birthday. I arrived in Miami the next day and spent most of it with my uncle Peter and my aunt Aryn, their kids, and my grandparents. We drove around Miami, and drank some starbucks. Afterwards, we ate out at a restaraunt and walked around on one of the main streets. One thing I learned that day, was that it doesn´t matter how small a baby is, they can still rip a hole in your head with their screaming. Another thing I learned is never feed a baby starbucks coffee. At around 4 I went back to the hotel, and we spent the day in orientation, learning over and over again the three basic rules of AFS, and everything in between.
1. No illegal drugs
2. No driving anything with a motor
3. No hitchhiking
We also learned AFS´s famous moto ¨It not good, its not bad, its just different¨

After the orientations the first day, we had a few hours of free time, so me and some friends played poker and talked for a few hours. The next day we did the same kind of stuff, but more program and country specific. For example, we spent an hour watching a video about what different facial expressions and hand motions mean in different countries. For example, if you are in Venezuela, and you grab your croch with both hands when a lady you want walks by, that can be seen as offensive. I can´t say I learned much in those two days, but I did meet a lot of really cool people who, like me, were going to be staying somewhere in South America for either a semester or a year. After the Miami orientation. The Argentina semester and year students broke up, and left for Argentina on different planes. Those of us who were going for a year had to first fly into Santiago, Chile and then to Buenos Aires. The others got to fly straight to Buenos Aires. Once we arrived in BA, and after going through customs, which was easy for most of us, we proceeded to change our US dollars into Argentine pesos. Every US dollar is equal to about 3.17 Argentine pesos. This means everything in Argentina is incredibally inexpensive. A family sized coke for example costs me only 3 pesos, or less than a dollar. A 40 ounce Brama, which is one of the local Beers, costs about 5 pesos. If you want to eat out, this too is very cheap. A large pizza, with everything on it, costs about 15-20 pesos. Back to what I was talking about before. So after changing our money, we met up with the New Zealand students, and took a few busses to this place way on the outskirts of BA, in a very poor district. It was a hospital/church/dormitory. We stayed there for about one and a half days, mostly spending time doing absurd ¨team building¨ excercises, and asking questions if we had any. But at night, we had talent shows and danced cumbia until the early hours of the morning. We sang Tribute, American Pie, and some black gospel song. All the other countries had origional dances and songs. We Americans felt a little ashamed that the only thing we could come up with that represented our country, were a few trashy songs and our national anthem. But it was a lot of fun. The next day, we packed up and did a little tour of Buenos Aires. Its a really nice city, with modern archetecture, couples dancing tango around every corner, the parks flooded with people playing soccer, and a lot of noise, cars, and people everywhere. We went to three or four different places, and all were a lot of fun. After this, we said our goodbyes, and proceeded to the bus station. Bus stations in South America happen to be dangerous. I didn´t really know this. When we arrived at the Buenos Aires bus station (about 100 of us) we were waiting outside by the street for everyone to get off the bus. I was talking with my friends when some woman tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to some money on the ground. It was 12 pesos. She kept on insisting that it was my money. I kept on insisting that it wasn´t, but I finally gave in and picked it up. My back was turned from my bags. Then some guy ran into a woman standing next to our group and a lot of people fell down. I heard a shout that someone was running off with someone´s bag. I looked and short man was quickly walking off with one of my bags. It had my camera, some clothes, money, passport, and all of the essentials in it. So me and a few of the counsejeros ran after the guy and yelled at him in english and spanish. Instead of running, he dropped it and put up his hands in the air saying he thought it was his bag. Afterwards, the lady asked for her money back. To spare other people from being robbed I did the right thing. I kept it. In the bus station, we all made a circle around our bags, and as time went on, different groups of people left to go to their provinces. Our group was one of the last to leave. We had a 16 hour bus ride ahead of us, and I was tired, sweaty, but excited to leave BA. The bus was really nice. The seats were all leather, there was AC, a waiter, and the seats could recline and turn into beds. I ate some shitty food, and watched a movie. After the movie, the waiter offered me and my friend Andeas some champagne. I slept for about 10 hours, and woke up to some more shitty food. All I could see out of the windows was flat land going on forever, palm trees, and an occational car racing by. Finally, we arrived at the bus station.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Only Six Days

Its hard to believe that it hasn't hit me yet. That is, I'm not nervous at all. I'm betting that sometime on the plane ride over, or during one of the first few days, I will suddenly get hit with the reality and enormity of my decision. I will probably freak out and want to go home-thats what my friends have done and I doubt that I will be an exception. But I plan on staying strong. I will be departing on my birthday, and will spend the day in Seattle with my family prior to leaving. I will then fly to Miami and meet my grandparents and uncle and his family and will spend the day with them. I still haven't talked to my host family. I think I want it to be more of a surprise. My parents still call to Argentina at least once a day trying to catch my "family" so they can talk, but haven't had any luck yet. Well I think my next post will be a desperate cry for help from deep inside of Argentina so until then, Chau.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Poste Numero Uno

Too all of you, my friends and family, here is the first of hopefully many posts. As you may or may not know, I will be staying in Argentina for a year with an exchange program called AFS. (American Field Service?) AFS called today and told me that I will be staying with a family in a large city in Northeast Argentina called Resistencia. It looks really poor, but I'm sure it will work out. My host family seems pretty cool; they are in their late twenties with two children-girls 9 and 6 years old. I will also be staying with a Thai girl called "Zoom." They own their own store, which is supposedly a big one, so that is cool. Also, they said that they like to travel, and that me and Zoom will be going with them on a vacation before school starts in February. Enough for now, I will write again when I am in Argentina.