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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Reporting from Cordoba, Argentina

Que aventura ayer!

At 6:30 yesterday morning, as most Argentineans were just coming home from their Saturday night out, I sat on the curb outside the residence with Thursten - a German software engineer who goes to my school here - waiting for our guide Martin to pick us up in a van headed for Las Sierras Grandes de Cordoba. At 7 (right on time, if you're from Argentina), the van pulled up and I hopped in, still under the impression that the day I was about to spend trekking would be reminiscent of all those hikes I've done in the Smokies over the years.

Wrong. Way wrong.

You'd think after almost a month of living in a country where it's not unusual to see dogs walking on roofs of stores or restaurants, where the men hiss at women instead of whistle, where some phone numbers are given with 6 digits, some with 5,7,9, or 10 (still haven't quite figured that one out yet...) -- you'd think I'd have realized that everything is different here.

Trekking is NOT the same as hiking. Trekking does not involve trails or signs that say "Rainbow Falls: 5 miles," or even plans to get from the start to the finish, apparently. It does, however, involve holding onto a tree limb or rock or pampas grass or whatever you can manage to grab before you slip and roll down the face of the mountain. I'm not talking about one really tricky part of the trip - that was the majority of it.

So there I was, in the middle of the most gorgeous landscape I can remember having seen, complete with cascades, rivers, and ravines with unforgiving cliffs. During the day we spotted falcons, eagles, and even a condor. Our group of about 15 was being led by a ruggedly good-looking cliché of a trekking guide, who didn't seem to have that great of a sense of direction, as we had to retrace our steps several times when we were pointed in the wrong way. And every time we came to another cliff or peak and I thought there was no way we could be going forward - that we had no choice but to go back - there was no way we could be going that way! - I would watch as Martin skillfully maneuvered his way down the mountainside.

Just when I thought I had the hang of things (literally...I was hanging from things), one of the women in our group fell and broke or maybe dislocated her ankle. The "first aid kit" was fully equipped with Band-Aids and aspirin, but luckily two nurses happened to be in our group and skillfully crafted a splint out of two water bottles and my Italian scarf/wrap thing. There was no way the woman could go anywhere - it was nearly impossible with two good ankles! So while a few people waited for help to arrive, the rest of us climbed to the nearest road - two hours and three peaks away. Several firemen and federal police (the CAP, they're called here) came to carry her back up the mountain on a stretcher. I'm not sure how they did it, but it took more than three and a half hours. Luckily, she made it to the hospital just fine.

All in all, it was a very exciting day. Beautiful weather, amazing views, interesting people from all over the world. I'm not sure if I'll elect to go on another trekking excursion, but it certainly was an experience!!

Tango and horseback riding is still really fun. Next week I'll start my Argentinean art history class - in Spanish!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Four McDermotts study in Guanajuato, Mexico

Four members of the 2004 class of McDermott Scholars (Zac Cox, James Fickenscher, Rachel Markowitz. and Jordan Youngblood) spent this summer studying in Guanajuato, Mexico. Here they all are having a fancy dinner above the city, where the food was spectacular and there was always tons of it to eat. Guanajuato, nestled in the mountains, was particularly magical if watched from up in the hills while night fell and the lights began to twinkle.