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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, July 25, 2011

Highlights from Irene's trip to Argentina

Photo: Marissa and me jumping and attempting a "Whoosh!" in front of the Floralis Generica

During my first weekend in Buenos Aires, my friends Marissa, Husain, and I all went to the Buenos Aires Zoo together. Upon entering, we were surprised and pleased to discover that many animals were just wandering around loose on the path, including ducks and some strange animal that looked like a combination rabbit and dog. After holding out on spending the money for awhile, I finally broke down and bought a bag of food, which all three of us shared. It was a good purchase, as we proceeded to feed zebras, llamas, goats, deer, lemurs, giraffes, and several other animals. We had the most fun with the giraffes, because if you threw the food far enough away from them, they would extend their super long and flexible tongues to get it. Overall we had a great time; the day wasn't too hot, and the zoo was very pretty, although a bit run down. Later when I discussed this excursion with my Spanish teacher, she suggested I check out a larger zoo called Temaiken, where the visitors can supposedly pet most of the animals, including wild animals such as tigers. Unfortunately I ran out of time to explore this other zoo, as it was a bit of a trip to go there, but I had a great time with the animals in Buenos Aires nonetheless.

During my first week in Buenos Aires, I began attending Spanish classes at the Fundacion de Ortega y Gasset. My Spanish teacher's name was Juliette, and it was just Lye-Yeng and me in the advanced Spanish class, so we received lots of personal attention. Juliette was by far the best Spanish teacher I have had in my life. She was incredibly knowledgeable about linguistics and therefore was very good at explaining things. She spoke in Spanish the entire time during class, but she was very easy to understand and had lots of insight on Argentine Spanish and culture. The first day of class we discussed differences between Argentine Spanish and Latin American Spanish that I had been totally unaware of, such as pronouncing "ll" as a "j" and changing verb conjugations in the second person singular. We also spent a lot of time in class discussing differences between American, Argentine, Malaysian, and Moroccan culture, all in Spanish of course. I could tell my Spanish was improving every day, and I was glad we had so many oral exercises in class. It was also helpful and exciting that Juliette also taught Latin at the university in Buenos Aires. Sometimes she was able to better teach me a concept in Spanish by relating it to Latin.

I had some good times with friends in Buenos Aires. One Saturday, Marissa and I went to Recoleta together and wandered around the large weekend market they have there for several hours. Afterwards we attempted to enter the cemetery, but it closed right as we approached the gates. To make up for this unfortunate event we walked to the nearby Floralis Generica, a large metal flower sculpture that opens and closes its petals depending on the time of day. We felt it was necessary to take some cliche tourist photos in front of the flower, and we proceeded to do so for almost an hour, having way to much fun in the process. The flower is very amazing and beautiful and is a nice touch to the city.

During the middle of the trip the group found out about an upcoming concert at the famous stadium Luna Park. La Fuerza Bruta, an Argentine acrobatics team that is similar to the American Blue Man Group was giving performances over several nights there. The entire group eagerly purchased tickets for the show, but unfortunately I was a bit slow on the uptake and did not figure out my plans for that night until it was too late to buy a ticket. I was extremely disappointed, especially when I heard reports from the others the next day about how awesome and interactive the show had been. I determined that I would make up for my situation by buying tickets for a later performance, even if I had to go alone. Based on tips from my friends, who were disappointed in the seats they had had, I purchased tickets for the pit. While I would have to stand during the entire show, these "seats" would be more exciting because the acrobats would enter and perform in the pit. Sure enough the performance was very exciting! The show was a combination of percussive music, inscrutable acting, and acrobatics. It featured movable stages and cranes that were constantly being driven in and out of the pit, forcing the audience to have to move out of the way continuously, as well as a large plastic beehive sheet that was thrown over the audience on which the acrobats ran, and two large clear plastic swimming pools that were lowered close enough over the audience's heads, so that they could touch the girls that were swimming in them, through the plastic of course. At one point water was dumped on the audience in the pit, and the entire pit routinely became a mosh pit. Needless to say, I was soaking wet and a bit dirty by the time the entire show was over, but I had a great time and enjoyed talking about the show with some new Argentine friends as I took the subway home.

As the end of the trip drew near, some friends and I realized that we had been to only one milonga, La Catedral, and that even this milonga probably wasn't representative of most Argentina milongas. Determined to remedy this situation, Jessica and I headed to a new milonga one evening. We arrived, and the place seemed crowded and very fun. They were alternating between tango music and other kinds of music such as salsa and rock-and-roll. We eventually found a table, and I ordered some lemon ice cream. While I was happily eating my lemon ice cream, determined that I would never dance, but hoping that Jessica would get asked to dance, so she could show off her tango skills, an older man approached me and asked for a dance. I was horrified. I immediately declined and told him to ask Jessica instead, but this cute old man was very insistent and told me he would wait till I finished my lemon ice cream and then we could dance. Despite my continuous protestations, I soon realized that my only option in this situation was to dance with the nice man, which was unfortunate for me since I knew no tango whatsoever, or any kind of dance really. Luckily this man (I think his name was Eduardo, but I don't remember for sure) was very patient and kind and taught me a few basic steps and one more fancy step. I could tell that he was a very good dancer, as I always knew where we were heading on the dance floor and I never got stepped on, even when I was not doing the steps correctly. While I'm sure I was horrible, I had a very fun time and enjoyed the tips he gave me ("Don't look at your feet"), as well as the stories he told me about his daughter who lives in Florida. To my surprise, after that performance, he asked me to dance again for some rock-and-roll songs. At this point I started to feel bad, because I, with no dance experience and really no desire to dance, was getting asked regularly, while Jessica, with tons of dance experience and a huge desire to dance some more tango before leaving Buenos Aires, had not gotten asked yet. The situation was only exacerbated when I was asked to dance again, this time by a different and younger guy. He was not as good and kept running us into other dancers, but I appreciated that he too provided me some lessons on basic steps while we were dancing. We must have been a humorous dance couple, as he was much shorter than me. Once again I had more fun than I thought I would, and I left the milonga in a good mood.

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