The Darkest Day

I’ve found that the best way to calm an overactive mind is distraction. So, without further ado, I present to you:

10 Steps to get over heartbreak: an interactive list. 

1. Listen to some crappy heartsick music:

2. Spend a lot of time with your lovely friends.

3. Cry… a lot.

(also, as a side note, this is a photo from Iguazu!)

4. Listen to some awesome heartsick music and watch a silly music video:

5. RetailTherapy.

6. Read some inspirational words, and believe them.

7. Be active.

8. Cook some awesome meals.

Sausage-stuffed potatoes from Smitten Kitchen (click for recipe)

9. Take some deep breaths.

Or, alternatively, get out there with a camera.

10. Let go.

The Birds

I’ve never seen the movie The Birds in its entirety. I saw part of it on television once when I was a kid, but really the only thing I remember is a scene where a couple of people hide from a pack of crazed birds under an overturned boat in the water. To be honest, I don’t remember where in the movie this happens, or even how the scene ends. I must have been too scared by it and turned it off.  Those birds were intensely angry, dangerous, and blood-thirsty, and I think it’s scarier because I don’t even remember what made them so. While I’ve heard that it’s a good movie, and I actually have grown to like scary movies, I absolutely refuse to watch the movie now. Maybe I’ll watch it when the summer is over, but right now the film is too close to real life for comfort.

You see, in the past few weeks, I’ve had a massive bird problem. It’s nothing like the scale of the bird problem in Hitchcock’s Birds, but I’m worried it might be getting there. Right outside my apartment there is a tree whose branches are absolutely covered with little red berries. In this tree live about a hundred birds of all kinds– robins, cardinals, weird little black ones… you name it. They’re lovely to wake up to in the morning and lovely to listen to during the day.

The only problem is that these birds are absolutely psychotic. No, I’m not joking. I did say psychotic. And I mean it. Psychotic. What’s wrong with a few birds, you ask? What could these little bundles of berry-eating, song-bringing joy possibly do wrong? Oh, I don’t know. How about we start by figuring out why they keep kamikaze-style bombarding themselves into my window?

I have absolutely no idea what is going on, but these little guys have been crashing into my windows for the past two weeks and it’s starting to freak me out. Six– SIX– crashed into my living room windows yesterday alone. According to the internet, there are a few possible explanations as to why that might be happening, the most popular of which is that they see a reflection of the sky in the window and think the building isn’t actually there. But as far as I can tell, the internet doesn’t have anything to explain the other weird things some of these birds who have been doing, including the two yesterday who tried to land on my open window (who would want to land on the sky??) and the two who sat on the ledge outside my window for about fifteen minutes staring straight at me. Oh, yeah, not to mention the two I’ve caught today alone trying to peck their way through my window screens.

A screen capture from the movie, and also eerily how I imagine my relationship with these birds progressing.

Thank God this tree is behind my building or I would be afraid to walk outside. I doubt that these birds are actually going to peck me to death a la the Hitchcock film, but I’m too cautious to not consider it as a possibility. And that makes me smart, right? Not crazy? Because the last thing I would want is my brain to be pecked out by terrifying feathered stealth fliers. And unless The Birds secretly holds the key to calming my avian friends, I am going nowhere near it until the summer is over, my lease is up, and I am safely out of this apartment. I don’t need any more images fueling my bird-induced nightmares.

UPDATE 6/6: Thanks to BJ for suggesting the movie in the first place!

I haven’t felt this alive

So it turns out that being at school makes me a blogging bum. I can load up on excuses, I can apologize and beg for your readership again, or I can just get right back to it.

Before I jump into things fully, I have to mention that the title of this blog post comes from a song by Kishi Bashi, an incredible musician who I discovered at a concert a few weeks ago. The title is a line from his song Manchester, which is one of my favorites:

This song speaks strongly to what I want to write about. I just found this invigorating post on how awesome it is to be in my 20-somethings and it’s inspired me to get back on the horse and write. I’ve been sick for almost the past week and I’ve felt just like a gigantic lump on the face of the earth. I’ve been snotty and I’ve been exhausted, but now I’m invigorated to actually go out and do something with myself.

When I got back to the US my fencing coach told me, “Pay attention to how you feel right now. Right now, just back from being abroad, you feel alive. I can tell. In a few months, you’ll be back asleep like the rest of your teammates.”

And as much as I hate to say it, it’s true. When I was in Buenos Aires I treated every day like a gem. My experience there was timed; I only had a certain number of days, and I planned to make the most of them. I carried that attitude back with me to school and for the first couple of months I approached life with the same vigor.

Now though, I realize that I’ve lost a lot of what made me feel alive. I don’t feel special anymore. I feel like I’m slogging through whatever life I’ve set out for myself and I certainly don’t feel like every day is a new adventure.

This blog post– the one about how awesome it is to be in my 20-somethings– made me feel a bit of that spark again. It’s springtime. I’m performing a solo tomorrow night, I’m going to be in an art show this weekend, and I’m in the process of starting up a storefront where all of you lovely people can buy prints of my photos. I get to define who I am, what I do, and who I want to be. I get to make myself and my life and my choices freaking awesome. So I’m getting back to it.

Firsts and Lasts

I leave my Buenos Aires family and home in less than 41 hours. I will be home– to my USA family and home– fairly early on Friday morning.

All I can say is, I have finally learned the true definition of bittersweet.

I don’t know if you could all tell that I was pretty apprehensive about coming to Buenos Aires initially. I tried to keep it under wraps, a bit (or at least not make it super duper obvious), but you can sort of see it here and here and even kind of here. I’m not the type of person to get anything close to panic attacks, but I was really freaking out in a seriously major way. I couldn’t imagine leaving the comfort of my college and friend groups to go to a place where I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t speak the language, and basically had no idea what I would be getting myself into.

It’s five months later and right now I can’t imagine leaving.

On one hand, it’ll be nice to go back to my family and see all my friends again. I’m excited to go back to legitimate fencing practices, and I’ll be happy to start singing again. That said, the fact that doing all of these things means leaving this wonderful city, with its beautiful buildings and culture and the wonderful, wonderful, people here, amables y graciosos, is tearing my heart up. Seriously. My heart is currently being ripped apart into pieces of bloody confetti and thrown into a trash can.


But yes. In the past five months I’ve grown, a lot. I know it’s 100% cliched but the only reason for that is because it’s also 100% TRUE. At the very least, I’ve changed from someone who was afraid to leave her home into someone who is ready to travel the world. I’ve not only learned what living in a big city is like (even though I had never lived in one before), I have learned to navigate it alone, smartly, and make it my home. Because in reality, this city is my home. It always will be and it feels like it always has been. I’ve never felt the same way about a place before– like I was meant for it and it for me.

I’ve known all along that I would have to go back, even though honestly if I didn’t have to finish school, I’d actually stay here forever. It’s just that packing up my life from the past five months makes it all real. Figuring out what I need to take with me, what to leave with my host family (maybe my Wegman’s peanut butter? My host brother LOVES that stuff!!), and what to just throw out is difficult. It’s hard to imagine that I’m not going to wake up every morning to a view of the city and all the sounds that come with cities, and it’s even harder to imagine that soon I’ll be living with students again. People my age instead of a family. There are many things that I’ll need to readjust to.

I know nothing in life is certain, but what I am certain about is that I will be back here. Maybe not next summer like I originally envisioned. Maybe not directly after I graduate college, like I certainly hope. But definitely at some point, and definitely sooner rather than later.

So here’s to another couple of days before hitting reverse culture-shock.

Argentina, te quiero, y te voy a quierer siempre.

Shoe Problem

Okay, first of all, before the post I originally wrote and which will follow this brief freak-out– my second midterm is tomorrow. The first one was yesterday and it went totally fine. I can’t say that I did a stellar, knock-it-out-of-the-park job on it but I just need to get a 4/10 to pass and it doesn’t count towards my final grade. Which is pretty cool. My midterm for tomorrow for my class on Latin American Politics, on the other hand, is going to be the biggest bloodbath of a midterm I have ever taken. It is going to be an open-book, open-note test, which seems nice at first but just means that it is going to be incredibly difficult. What will make it even more difficult is that I don’t understand the majority of the readings. The test will be one essay question about one of the themes of the class– the left, populism, or structural reforms– and we are going to have to go through what each author says on the subject while using different countries as examples. Bloodbath, am I right?

Anyway, the reason I am legitimately freaking out is that we leave for Iguazu right after my exam, as you know. We just realized, however, that even though we watched the guy click the correct return date when we were buying the tickets we are currently scheduled to return a week later than we intended. Which means that another two hours of my incredibly crunched study time is going to go down the drain trying to fix it. Womp, womp.

Now, without further ado, my other current problem. It is quite a big problem. You see, I have what we call a shoe problem. It’s embarrassing how long it’s been going on, really, and that’s why I’ve avoided writing about it until now.

This might sound misleading because I don’t actually buy lots of shoes. I’ve actually only bought one pair of shoes, my wonderful, wonderful leather boots that my mom likened to desert boots:

Other than those, though, I haven’t bought a single pair. It’s surprising, really, because on the shoe front I seriously did not prepare well to come to Argentina. In fact, I am in what you could say dire need of a new pair of sneakers. And this is where my problem comes in.

Or, if, like in the past few days, my problem is rain, it comes in from many places. Like here:

And oh yeah this kind of important place:

In case you guys weren’t aware, that latter part is called the sole of the shoe, and having a hole in the sole of your shoe while it is pouring outside means your foot gets pretty freakin’ wet.

Plus, see how in the picture below there are actually two parts to the sole-beneath-the-sole? The black part and the beige part?

That is because I have actually worn through the protective rubber part of the inner sole, and it turns out that under that is a squishy inner inner sole has just been sucking up water like a sponge on a field day. Seriously. While walking from class to the subte today my right foot gained about three pounds and my shoe squeaked so much it sounded like I was wearing a dying mouse.

Honestly, I love these sneakers to death (obviously) but that isn’t the reason I haven’t bought new ones. Well, it’s only part of the reason. The other part is that I am so busy doing other things that I really just haven’t gotten around to it. I know, I know. Shoes are kind of important. But once I got through the heel pain these lovely Converse were causing it just kind of dropped off my list of uber-urgent things to do.  And because I am leaving for Iguazu after my bloodbath of a parcial tomorrow it is just going to have to wait a bit longer.

What? What is that you ask? Of course I’m bringing these guys to Iguazu. What are a few more days of wet socks among friends?

San Isidro

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” –Kurt Vonnegut

This quote is kind of how I have been living my life, recently. And even though I only found it last night, it seems to be an appropriate descriptor. I know it seems kind of backwards because Buenos Aires is one of the largest cities in the world, but living here has been teaching me to loosen up. For one thing, they have a completely different sense of time here– no one is ever early, and most people are consistently about half an hour late. Which means that here my inability to get places on time puts me right in the sweet spot of arrival!

Basically, this entire experience has been teaching me that what happens, happens. Sure, you still have to put in your part of the effort. You have your own responsibilities. But you can’t help, for example, if your colectivo never shows up. You can’t help if the subte is having delays. And people here understand that. It’s teaching me to relax a bit, and I think that is a very good thing.

Another important lesson learned– DON’T BE TIMID. My friend Rachel certainly has this lesson down. This weekend we went to San Isidro, where half the streets are lined with orange trees. They had the most beautiful fruit! I mean, really. Look at these guys. Good enough to eat, right?

Well, Rachel decided that she wanted to eat one. The next thing we knew she was standing with only one boot on, the other in her hand, outstretched towards our tallest friend, Kelly. And even though we were in a pretty populated area, with people walking up and down the other side of the street, in broad daylight, Rachel somehow convinced all of us that it would be a good idea to try to get one of these oranges.

And you know what? It was a good idea! In some of the photos I took you can see people’s reactions in the background and gosh, are they hilarious. A lot of them are a mix of confusion and jealousy, of course. Who wouldn’t want an orange?

I think the best part, though, is that when Kelly finally knocked a low-hanging orange down by hitting it with Rachel’s boot it rolled out into the street… and as Kelly walked casually to get it, a guy from the other side of the street started sprinting to get it before she did! He was joking, of course, but it really showed us how light-spirited people can be, even towards some wacko bunch of girls hitting oranges out of trees with a boot.

All in all it was a wonderful experience. The orange was awkwardly tart, but it just means that we’ll have to go back in a few weeks when they are really ripe. San Isidro is gorgeous, as well. Kelly’s friend has a friend who lives there, so he met up with us to show us around the city. Gosh, is it beautiful– it’s right on the coast, so there are lots of wonderful views. Historically it’s a kind of get-away town, where people who could afford it built gigantic weekend homes, so the architecture there is pretty spectacular, as well. For a taste, look at the church:

Really, I think a trip back wouldn’t be too much of a pain.

Until then, it’s time to enjoy spring in Buenos Aires! In addition to being the first day of spring tomorrow, it’s also the Day of the Student so no one has classes! Wheeeee! As of right now, a few of us are planning to go throw a frisbee in the park and enjoy the day. In the meantime, today is 60 degrees and I’m off to enjoy some sun before my class in the basement of UCA. Later, gators! Hope fall (my actual favorite) is treating you all well back in the States.

To Start Anew

Yes. I know it is nearly 2.30 AM. And yes, I am still sick. So why am I still awake, you may ask?

It’s because I’m trying to fix things.

The Dalai Lama is in Argentina this week; I saw him being interviewed on TV tonight and, as always, what he said really struck me. He talked about letting go of anger in your heart. He talked about meditating on love, but not “biased love,” as he called it, or love that focuses on one person. The kind of love we should practice, he said, is love that you can extend to your enemies, even the entirety of humanity. He talked about being good in this life, and living it well, so we can let go without fear to do whatever comes next.

So right now, I am trying to fix things. I am trying to rid my heart of anger and look at the world through a new, calmer, lens. I am trying to repair the wrongs I’ve done and mend the relationships I’ve wrecked.

It’s going to take a while. It starts tonight.

Looking on the Bright Side Part II (or at least, an attempt)

This post is dedicated to Homesick by Kings of Convenience.

It’s hard being here and seeing everyone’s pictures and posts on facebook– life is really going on without me, in all aspects. I miss my friends and the people I love. The past day or so has been rough.  Life just needs to cool it, right now.

The bright side? Thanks, Alex, for reminding me of it– today is a new day in a large city, and I can let this adventure take me where it will. The people who really care about me are the ones who will be there when I get back, and until then I am just trying to enjoy myself as much as possible.

Argentina: Where Crazy Lives (aka Navigating Daily Life)

So… as it turns out, I am forgetful. I wrote all of this sometime last week and forgot to post (and finish) it:

I have a serious question: do companies actually think about the names they are giving to their products before they release them? For example, why would anyone want to buy something called a “Paper Bag Waist Dress“? Granted, the dress itself is not hideous, but if I were in marketing I would seriously consider the impact the name was having on the product. Especially in online sales, where you have to click on the name of the product to view it in more detail.

Anyway. Today I went to the Plaza de Mayo for the first time. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the plaza right in front of the Casa Rosada, or Argentina’s version of the White House. It’s called the Casa Rosado, though, because it’s pink! Hehe! Anyway, the Plaza de Mayo was also the site of a huge protest way back when by what is now called “Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.” Basically– mini history lesson– the military government stole a bunch of people who were never seen again (los desaparecidos) and a bunch of their mothers and grandmothers went to protest in this plaza in front of the most important governmental building in the country. Don’t actually quote me on any of that; it’s been a while since I’ve studied this stuff. But a bunch of us heard that the Madres would be convening today in the Plaza so we went to go see it. No one showed up, though, so we’ll have to verify our information.

This afternoon I also successfully navigated the laundromat near me. The whole concept of laundromats is completely different here– for everyone I’ve talked to, the laundromat they use is full service. This means that instead of going and standing there while your clothes wash and dry, you drop off your  clothing and the lady behind the counter washes, dries, and presses everything. All for the price of around USD12. Weird, huh? It saves me the hassle of chillin’ there for two hours, but it also means that I might come out with blue laundry– I forgot to tell the lady that I had a new pair of (twice washed, but still shedding dye) blue jeans. I guess we’ll see!

Heh. So as some of you know, I’m allergic to a lot of scented detergents. So far, though, it appears that I’m not allergic to whatever detergent the laundromat uses! Whoo!

Today I added something else to my list of new experiences: I successfully navigated the grocery store for the first time. Our host families provide two meals a day except for Saturday, when we only get one, but honestly buying lunch every day is getting pretty expensive. Plus I like to have yogurt and milk and feel bad always using a lot of the milk in the fridge for my cereal every morning. I didn’t have classes today so I went to the grocery store and bought some yogurts, a loaf of bread, a jar of cherry jam, some salami, and mayonnaise… and it came out to almost 60 pesos, or USD15. WOWZA. I was so surprised!! I mean, I knew roughly what it was going to be because I was doing a tally in my head as I picked things up, but WOW. Seriously, the most expensive thing I bought was the loaf of bread at $15, or USD3.75. I could really get used to this.

I also started classes yesterday and that was a CRAZY experience. If the rest of my semester is going to be anything like this I actually might cry, or just stop going to classes altogether. Or just learn to go with it. Anyway. My first class of the day, Política Exterior Argentina, was at 11.00 at the Universidad de Salvador. I didn’t know how far away it was so I budgeted an hour to get there… and it ended up taking 15 minutes on the bus, haha. It’s definitely a good thing because it means I can walk to that school, but it’s a bit of a sketch neighborhood so it meant spending a few dollars for a coffee so I could sit in a cafe for a while.

When it was finally time for class I walked up to the aula and all of the students were already there. Classes here are not like in the US; each carrera, or major, only takes classes within that carrera. This means that kids taking political science only take political science classes. Even more than that, they have a set class schedule for each year and only maybe have some variety in their fourth year. This means that because this was an upper-level class, the kids all already knew each other and had formed tight bonds… which put me very obviously on the outside. I know I should be open and introduce myself to people, but when they are all standing in groups staring at you it is pretty damn intimidating. The professor ended up showing up nearly half an hour late and then spent another ten or so minutes getting herself a coffee from the staff lounge. And then, after all of that, the class wasn’t actually the class I thought it would be. It was in the same room, at the same time, and with the same professor as the schedule listed for this Argentine foreign policy class, but the class ended up being about world peace and the human condition and how we all need to understand each other. And I know I didn’t just read the schedule wrong because there was another girl there from my program who showed up looking for the same class. Seriously, WTF.

After that we had orientation for the program about how to apply for residency, and my friend told me he was going to a class about Argentine foreign policy that night. So, take two: I (and about 14 other kids from our program, haha) went with him and we invaded this would-be class of 7 fourth-year students. Another half an hour of sitting around later, some random guy appears and tells us that the first class is cancelled.

So as to not completely waste my day, another girl and I went to a History of Argentina class where neither of us understood about half of what either of the two professors were saying. Ooof. I am also worried because the school where I have classes tomorrow hasn’t, as far as I can tell, posted any classrooms yet. Basically this whole experience is the most hectic and ridiculous thing ever and I am just happy that there are 120 other lost Americans going through it with me.

I know people are starting classes at my home university in almost a month. Other than summer being over, how are things going stateside?