Saturday, March 22, 2008

"¡Por Fin!" (that means "Finally!" in Spanish)

Sorry to anyone who frequently checks my blog who has been waiting (ever so patiently) for me to update my blog about our trip to Argentina. Thanks for waiting. (As if you had a choice, right?) The reason it took me so long is because it's going to be a long blog and I just didn't have the energy or time until now.

Well, I'm going to start by saying we didn't go to any of those beautiful places I wrote about in my last post. There was some epidemic at Iguazu Falls/Jesuit Mission, so we couldn't go there. And Machu Picchu would have been too complicated to try to get there because it's so far away from it's closest airport. So, just go look up some more pictures on the internet if you want to see it that bad. :)

Ok. Now that that's off my shoulders, here we go. I didn't keep a great journal because most of what we did was visit people that Mark knew/baptized, so I'm going to do this by subjects instead of days.

Travel - Flights
For those of you who didn't hear, we had a lot of problems with the airlines. The actual flights weren't so bad, but we're disappointed with the Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DFW) and American Airlines. First of all, we were supposed to leave to Argentina on Friday, March 7th, and return home on Sunday, March 16th. On Thursday night before we left, we got a phone call telling us our Friday flight had been canceled and we were now going to leave on Saturday. Huge bummer. Finally we found out that it was because it had snowed 6-9 inches at DFW and the airport had closed. After some discussion with each other and the AA agent, we decided to extend our trip to Tuesday, March 18th. (At this point, we were missing 2 days of school - and each of us were missing a quiz.) All was fine and dandy after that until our returning flight. We landed at DFW from Buenos Aires at 6:00 am on Tuesday morning. Our 9:30 flight was delayed an hour, then canceled. By 12:00, the whole airport was shutting down... again. We were stranded in Dallas for the night (in a hotel, thanks to my mom) because the rain was causing flash floods and there were little wind tunnels. Not to mention that our luggage was slower than we were, going both ways. By the time we got back to Logan, Mark had missed all of his classes and I only made it to one class. If I fail those classes, I'm blaming American Airlines.

Travel - in Argentina
While in Argentina, there were only 3 ways by which we traveled. First, by Remis (sounds like reh-mees). These are taxi-like things, but you go to their house and they take you where you need to go. They came in handy a few times, but they're pretty expensive. And most of the cars in Argentina suck. The inside looks like a bear came in and tore it apart. It seems that in general, our worst cars were their best. Second, by Collectivo (sounds like collect-ee-voh). These are the buses used down there. Unlike Logan, they cost money, and for almost all of them, you have to pay with monedas (change). There was some big scandal having to do with melting monedas and selling them for more than they're worth, so now they are really hard to come by. We spent a lot of time trying to get monedas so we could ride on the collectivo. Driving is crazy down there. Most stoplights don't mean anything, and a honk means "don't go, I'm going now." I thought we would have crashed or killed a whole bunch of pedestrians, but everyone drives the same so they are aware of what's going on. Our final mode of transportation was walking. My shoes have about died from all of the walking we did. Most of the roads are dirt roads so they weren't that fun to walk on. In fact, there are hardly any paved roads, and from the ones that are paved there are few that are paved well. Anyways, I was always tired at the end of the day because I always felt like I'd walked 100 miles.

Home Sweet Home
We stayed with an LDS family, the Iskras (sounds like ee-skras). They are in the upper end of the lower class, so their house wasn't too bad. It seemed small, but it was 3 stories high. We were supposed to sleep in a room on the bottom floor but it smelled really bad, so we slept in the living room/dining room every night. When we first arrived at the house I was pretty much in shock. The ride to their house showed me more poverty than I'd ever seen, and everyone was speaking only Spanish, so my mind was on overload mode. Everything looked really dark and weird so my first impression was really bad. After a few days it started to feel like a home. Except for the shower. Our first shower there, we didn't know we were supposed to shower into a bucket so the sewer water came up and covered the bathroom floor. It was horrible, and we never made that mistake again. Regardless of that, I was really glad we stayed there instead of in a hotel in the main capital. They saved us over $1000 by letting us stay with them. Thank you, Iskra family! Other families that we visited were not quite so fortunate. Most houses were small, with a lot of rooms, and made of homemade cement and bricks. Floors in most houses were concrete with nothing covering. The worst houses we saw were small little shacks made of wood. I didn't dare take a picture of any houses because we were afraid someone might steal the camera or get mad at us. The hotel room we stayed in for one night (which cost $120) was small, the tv was small, and the bathroom was small. But it did come with a continental breakfast. It was a nice break from staying in the Iskra's house.

Food
The one reason I would move to Argentina is the food. I love it. My favorite food is now milanesa (sounds like mill-en-ay-sah) and papas (also known as mashed potatoes). Milanesa is thinly sliced chicken with breading on it, deep fried. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top, and wha-la! Yum. And I don't know what's different about their mashed potatoes, but they're really creamy and delicious. We ate that meal as often as we could. For breakfast, we mainly ate facturas (sounds like fact-oo-dahs) which are sort of like doughnuts, but they taste better and are more filling. Most of you have probably had empanadas, but I have to say that homemade empanadas (especially ham and cheese) are fantastic. It's probably because they are also deep fried. To prevent going into taste bud shock, we ate at McDonald's and Burger King a couple of times. Those are the only two fast food restaurants in Argentina. I don't really care for McDonald's, and though it was better down there it still wasn't that great. Burger King, however, was amazingly good. I think it's in the beef. Another familiar food that tasted better there was helado (sounds like el-ah-tho) which is ice cream. Pizza (sounds like pizza) is way different from American pizza. They put hardly any sauce, a whole bunch of mozzarella cheese and oregano. It's good, but I like Domino's pizza better. I should've taken some pictures of some of the things we ate, but I didn't think about it.

Tourist Areas
We spent a couple of days in the main capitol to do some tourist things. There were some pretty interesting sights to see. El Ateneo is a bookstore that used to be a theater. There is a restaurant on the stage, and the books are all around the balcony walls. It was pretty cool.



The Cementerio de la Recoleta was a pretty amazing cemetery. As you can see in these pictures, it is made of mausoleums and beautiful statues.




Calle de Florida (sounds like ca-shey, means Florida Street) was pretty cool. It reminded me of New York, with people selling things all over the place, artists painting before a crowd, and a bunch of stores to go shopping in. We bought a couple of bracelets and looked for a leather jacket for me. They were asking 500 pesos (about 166 dollars) for a jacket. We got one about two subway stations away for 250 pesos (about 70 dollars). While we were walking down the street I heard tango music and we found some people dancing in the street. We missed the tango, but here is a video of them doing some traditional dance.

video

We saw an obelisk that is a copy of our Washington Monument.


Here is a really cool bridge. Instead of lifting up ⁄_ to allow boats to pass through it swivels.



This street is the widest in the world. It is 12 lanes wide on either side, which you could see if there weren't any trees separating the lanes.



Finally, here is the Pink House (the equivalent of our White House).


And here is a couple making out by the Pink House.


And a bird lady. Feed the birds, tuppins a bag...


One thing that is interesting about the city is that the further in you go to the center, the cleaner it gets. The further out you go, out by where people actually live, it's dirty with dirt roads and garbage everywhere. All of the buildings and houses look better as you get further in and the people are more rich, whereas (in general) in the U.S. the main cities are run down and trashy and poor people live in the city and the richer people live off in big houses away from everyone else.

People
We spent most of our time visiting with people that Mark knew on his mission. For the most part, I really had a good time. But I don't speak Spanish so it was hard sometimes to not get bored while Mark was talking with them. I've taken a couple Spanish classes, but that was 3 years ago. By the end of the trip I could follow conversations and know generally what they were talking about. The Iskra girls were really good about helping me understand them and trying to understand me. They all told me to practice my Spanish so that the next time we come down they will be able to talk to me. Some also said that they would learn English so they could come visit us. I did understand when people told me that Mark was their favorite missionary and that he is an amazing person. People would tear up when they saw him because of how much they love him. That was probably my favorite part about the trip. The feelings of love that I felt from these people was amazing. The way that they greet each other helped with that, and it is a custom I wish we had here. You all know the kiss on the cheek custom, and I love it. I was going to try to bring it home with me, but failed. A custom they have that I'm glad we don't is uncovered breastfeeding. We saw people on the bus, walking down the street, and even an endowed member who just popped out to feed their baby! I'm so glad we use blankets here. Anyways, here are some pictures of some of the people I met. I'm sad to say that we didn't get a picture of the family of 9 (mostly men) that Mark baptized. Things were crazy at that house so we never got a picture.

The Iskra's


The Sandoval's


The Cabral's


The Benavidez's


The Tastaca's


The Fernandez's


Cute little Luciana whom we want to adopt


The cute little twins belonging to the Cabral's


By the way, this took me 2 days to complete, so I hope you enjoyed.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Spring Break

Well, this is it. We leave tomorrow morning for Argentina. If we don't make it back, I want you all to know that we love you. If we do make it back, then I will have a long blog next time with a lot of pictures and cool stories about the LDS members in Argentina. The tentative plan is to fly to Buenos Aires and spend some time with people that Mark knew on his mission. Sometime during the trip we're going to travel to either Iguazu Falls


and the Mission


or to Machu Picchu near Cusco Peru.


Maybe both, maybe neither. But it will be fun!