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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.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Tabitha's First Four Days in Argentina

Hi everyone sorry it took me awhile to get this blog up and running! But here it is and I hope you enjoy it :)

I arrived in Buenos Aires on Saturday morning after a long 10-hour flight. I was pretty groggy when we arrived because, as you can imagine, spending the night in an airplane seat is not the most fun or comfortable experience. I had been under the impression that the seats on an overnight international flight would be bigger, have more room, or be at least a little more comfortable. I was very wrong. They are exactly the same.

Aside from the grogginess leftover from spending the night on airplane, our first day was pretty fun. We successfully exchanged money and made it through customs and baggage claim with no problems and were picked up by our program leader. We piled into a bus and headed to the Fundacion Ortega y Gassett, the school we are studying at for the next month, for a brief orientation. When we arrived at the school, we realized very quickly that, unlike any school I have ever seen in the United States, it was located inside a shopping center. The school was only one part of a building that housed a food court, various shops, several art galleries, and a tango studio.

After our orientation at the school, our host families began arrivng to pick us up and take us to our new homes. My roommate Whitney and I were really anxious to meet our host family and were extremely nervous about speaking Spanish to them. Once our host mom Graciela arrived, however, we were excited to get to know her and her dog Isis. She has two grown children and three grandchildren, none of which live at her house, and a sister who eats dinner with us every night. Another student from Minnesota is also temporarily living with her. Graciela's home is a quaint apartment with a combined living and dining room, a kitchen and small laundry room, one bathroom, and three bedrooms. Whitney and I share a room and Jana, the student from Minnesota, has her own room in the back of the apartment. Jana has been in Buenos Aires for about 3 weeks before our group arrived and she will be staying a week longer than us. She speaks Spanish very well and will be going to Peru for the remainder of the summer after leaving Argentina.

Our first night in Argentina was very exciting and we were happy to try empanadas, a common Argentine meal, for dinner. I also tried fernet at dinner, which is a liquor that you mix with Coke. When Graciela was explaining what it was, however, I thought she was saying that it was similar to Coke, which made me think it was some Argentine soda equivalent to Coke. So since I thought it was just soda, I started filling my glass and got it about 1/3 full before I realized everyone was telling me to stop. As Graciela began mixing Coke with my excessive amount of liquor, I realized my mistake and just began laughing. Needless to say, I slowly sipped my way through a very strong drink. And no, parents, I didn't get drunk.

On Sunday, we had a walking tour of the city with our UTD group and learned how to use the subte (subway) and explored a couple of the pedestrian streets located in Buenos Aires. We also visited La Casa Rosada (The Pink House) that is the Argentina equivalent to the White House. The only difference is that the Argentine president doesn't live there. Sunday night Whitney and I went to an heladeria (ice cream shop) near our house and are now afraid we might be tempted to go there every night until we have tried all of the flavors.

Our first day of classes on Monday began at 8:45 AM with our spanish course and ended at 5 after our Argentine culture course with an hour break in between. We heard a lecture on Argentine political history and went on a bus tour of the city for our first day of culture class. The lecture was really interesting and focused on the military dictatorship Argentina suffered from 1976-1983 called The Dirty War. An estimated 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the government during this time for being suspected of liberal ideas. Intellectuals, university students, professors, and anyone suspected of being a threat to the government were at risk of becoming a desaparecido. I had no idea that Argentina had such a terrible regime only a few decades ago. Our lecturer said that a lot of Argentines still don't respect authority figures, such as the army and police officers, due to their past.

On a brighter note, the bus tour was beautiful and brought us to several interesting locations in Buenos Aires such as the Recoleta Cemetery and La Boca. Recoleta Cemetery is an extravagant cemetery where members of old elite families are buried in family graves. It's unlike any cemetery I have ever seen and rather than marking tombs with gravestones, each family has a large house-like structure that holds all the coffins. The tombs are extremely ornate; some are decorated with marble statues, detailed carvings, and intricate metal work. La Boca is a neighborhood in Buenos Aires where predominantly immigrants lived in the late 1900s after migrating from Europe. Most of the houses were very colorful because supposedly when they arrived from Europe they didn't have enough money to buy houses and instead built them out of tin sheaths that they paint to cover up rust. Our tour guide told us the colors were so random because rather than buy paint, the immigrants would just go down to the nearby port and take leftover paint used to paint boats. There were several cute small shops in La Boca and dogs everywhere! No backyards = dogs in the streets. We also ran across a guy who called Whitney Barbie - she is a short blonde so it made sense and it made us laugh. We also saw the Boca Juniors stadium where soccer games are extremely popular. Our tour guide told us that soccer is so popular in Buenos Aires that it's practically the only thing that Argentines celebrate.

Yesterday we watched a movie in our culture class called La Historia Oficial, which I highly recommend. It takes place at the end of the Dirty War and is the story of a mother who finds out that her adopted daughter is probably a child of a desaparecido who died in prison. After class, a big group of us went to a pizza restaurant near our school and it was really different than American pizza but was pretty tasty. Mine tasted like a giant slice of garlic bread. Some of my friends also got wine with their pizza and when we were paying at the end I realized that my water was more expensive than their wine. Not cool. After we ate, we walked down one of the pedestrian streets looking at all the street vendors and watched a couple that was http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifperforming tango at one of the street corners.

Wow that was a very long summary of my first few days and I still probably forgot something! I included a guestbook on this website so if any of you have comments or questions just open up the guestbook and write me a note! Thanks for reading!

For more of her posts, visit her blog at: tab-argentina.webs.com

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