Monday, July 20, 2009

One year later

Against all odds I made it out of Buenos Aires in one piece. I had been so depressed in the winter in that city, doing homework. But last Wednesday I got on a plane to Iguazu Falls and a period of traveling began. All of a sudden I was no longer in the dark, cold winter of BA and instead I found myself in the humid jungle! It was still cold and very damp, but it was refreshing. Plane travel is amazing.

I'm back in Urubamba now, I almost can't believe it. Blogging from an old PC in a dusty internet cafe feels so much better than blogging from my little computer in my room, just like I would write from here last summer and it just felt good.

Amy and I made it to Cusco on Sunday and Monday, and spent a couple of days wandering around. Cusco is a marvel but also the most touristy place I´ve probably ever seen in my life, so it´s not my favorite city in the world. We lucked out with a wonderful hostel perched way up on the hill. The first night there was a thunder and lightning storm and purple bolts shot down from the sky followed by an uncharacteristic light, winter rain. We met up with Craig where he´s working and on the way drove through low neighborhoods of Cusco that I´d never seen before. There was a massive blackout and the only lights were the headlights of the fast-driving taxis. Everybody was out on the street and little candles were shining through all of the windows.

Yesterday there was a transportation strike and we didn´t know if we were going to be able to make it down to the valley. We got very mixed information from Cusco residents about the likelihood of our making it out, but decided to try anyway. The bus station was closed, but we caught a big van (which I prefer to the bus anyway).

The drive down to the valley was like a spectacular show. We had to take a dirt road for a good half hour because of road blocks from the strike, and even then the driver had to get out and move rocks. But going this alternate route meant a slower, new view of the valley, one that I had never seen before. We crossed over the highest part right as the sun was setting, and each turn meant a new little lake, a new ice-capped peak, a new purple shadow on silvery clouds. I almost couldn´t breathe. The Sacred Valley is hands down the most beautiful place I have been in my life.

Today Perú already caught Amy with illness, so we cancelled our hiking plans and I decided to head out on my own to see the cemetery and then visit my old host family. It´s strange to be here almost a year later to the day. If the Valle Sagrado is the most beautiful place in the world, this cemetery is the most beautiful spot within that place. As I was sitting there I realized that it has been eons since I was outside, alone, surrounded by flowers and warming up in the sun. Complete solitude is not easily found in Buenos Aires.

I stopped by and saw Pilar and Ruby. The house hasn´t changed a bit. It was so nice to talk to Pilar, maybe the sweetest most innocent woman I´ve ever met. Randú the dog still has a watery eye and Ruby looks older but the same.

What surprises me about Urubamba this time is how much has actually changed. The bakery where I used to buy truffles moved across town, the alpaca clothing shop across from my house closed and the whole building is no longer Eric´s dad´s house but some kind of political organization. The firewood place on my street is now a restaurant and live music bar. Everywhere I could notice differences. I guess proof of evolution and growth? I did, however, see Dominga (the insane, homeless woman that all of the parents in the town threaten their children with when they won´t eat) within minutes of nearing the market. Some things stay the same.

I´m excited to spent more time with Katie tonight, who is doing ProPeru this summer. I feel really calm and content in my alpaca sweater nestled in these hills but strangely also really ready to get back to the United States. We´re really finally at the final countdown.


Friday, July 10, 2009

new chapter.

My 3 best friends here are currently out of the city (2 home to the states, one traveling) and wow, everything just looks so different even though nothing actually really changed...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

swine flu update

Swine flu mania continues. More people are now wearing masks on the street and all the banks have decided to close for like 5 extra days. This produced lines around the block to take out money because the banks will not be stocking the machines. Thank god I took out money the day before that happened. The other day at a café they also gave us a huge container of hand sanitizer and made us put it on before we drank our café con lech (?). Then at the grocery store they make it so that if you are in line you have to stand at least 3 meters from the cashier at all times.

Today the subway naturally decided not to stop at my stop or the one after it, so instead of taking a bus home I decided to walk the 12 blocks since it is a beautiful, clear winter day. As I walked I noticed how much ridiculous swine flu (a.k.a. Gripe A, H1N1) propaganda there is. I found this in just about 8 blocks:

Maybe someday they will actually tell me what I have to do for my final exam. It looks like I'm going to be working on homework for this semester all the way through August, most likely when I get home...

Friday, July 03, 2009

swine flu.

I am currently sitting in the #3 Swine Flu country in the world. The mayor of Buenos Aires declared a national emergency state on Tuesday and ever since then what used to be called "peste porcina" (swine flu) when it was all the way up there in dirty Mexico is now called "gripe influenza A" (much more civilized) is all that is on the news stations.

All of a sudden life went from being shut up doing homework to being pretty eventful. I finished correcting my paper on Tuesday morning before going to turn it in - I ended up printing it off 5 minutes before class in an internet café near the facultad with about 5 other classmates. It was kind of a sweet moment. I felt like I was on cloud nine with that hot little 12 pager right off the printer.

Then I got to class and my professor asked for our papers. This professor is not the kindest or most nurturing of individuals, let's just say that. I handed him mine and he immediately bitches at me for not putting it in some kind of plastic sleeve or report cover. Fine, did not know that was the cultural norm. Whatever. I don't care. Everybody gives him their papers. He starts flipping through them, commenting on citation errors and misuses of the guidelines and font size, obviously in front of everybody. He gets to mine and says that my introduction is too long and that he doesn't understand my thesis statement. Why don't you at least read it and then rake it over the coals, I think. He then informed us that if he spills something on them and they don't have plastic covers, it's not his fault. His last statement about the papers is to say that anybody who put it in double-spaced, size 12 did not write enough and that the single-spaced ones were much more substantial. Flash back to assignment sheet, which specifically asks for size 12, double-spaced. So, cloud 9 went down to like cloud 1.5 and I'm sitting there angry just thinking about how ready I am to not have to deal with this stupid facultad anymore.

Turning in this paper meant the recovering of life for at least a couple of days. I met Avery and ate half of a gigantic pizza and then the biggest piece of chocolate mousse cake I have ever seen. We parted ways and I spotted the linen converse that all the porteñas have that make them look so cool and that I've been looking for for weeks. I finally get them. I go and wait inside my hair salon to get another trim and become human and non-wookie again, and then on my walk home I happen to pass right by my favorite store in all of Buenos Aires, Prune. Prune is the most fashionable, beautiful "casa de cuero" leather purse store that exists.

I've been in Prune many times since I arrived, but never found something that was quite right. Finally, I saw it. Soft, supple, large, black leather bag with fringe. Big enough for laptop, but definitely not just utilitarian. I've looked at a billion leather bags since arrival and found nothing quite what I wanted, but this was love at first sight.

So, now I am becoming quite the porteña. Linen converse high tops, long grey jacket, Prune bag, $19 all-in-one mp3 player (because my ipod shuffle got lost/stolen...). Found the perfect lamp for my room and a can opener that I know how to work. I'm really settling in here.

Also found out today that I will not be having my oral final exam at UBA...because of swine flu. While nobody has contacted me regarding exactly how I will get any credit for the massive amounts of work I have put into Sociología y Antropología de Arte, I am just going to be happy about this for right now and begin to deal with school again tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Things you don't know you need until you don't have them, vol. 1

I've been doing a lot of homework lately, and once I'm sick of cafés and it's 2am, I am pretty much stuck in my room. The yellow light was driving me crazy, and really adding to the seasonal depression I'm beginning to develop in the Buenos Aires winter. Today I found the perfect lamp for less than $10 and bought a 60 watt white, cold bulb thatonlyexpendsasmuchenergyasa15watt! (the gruff man in the little hardware store was very insistent about that point).
It has made my space just that much more liveable and the long nights of paper-writing pass that much more quickly.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

snapshot 2, 3 +

Been busy with finals and friends visiting.
While never fun, finals in the dead of winter in another language in Buenos Aires are just that much less fun than usual.
With all of this work and no time to really hang out with my American friends here, there have been some benefits. In a normal day, the only people that I tend to see are Liliana (host mom) and Guille, as well as going to class. This means that my whole day is in Spanish and I often will go multiple days without speaking English out loud to anyone. I've noticed that Spanish has now become my main thinking language and the first thing that wants to come out of my mouth when I talk. It's also just a lot easier to say things than it ever has been. This is exciting, because I feel like I've gone years without making any real improvement in my Spanish abilities, but now have.

The other day a pigeon wandered into my class at the facultad and just kind of chilled while we talked about postcolonialism. He must have liked our discussion because he wandered out and then came back with a friend. It's not like i"m the only person who finds this ridiculous and/or funny - all of my classmates and professor did as well. Sometimes I think that I'm the only one who thinks that these really ridiculous things are actually ridiculous, but I have come to find that that is not the case. Really, I think it's just that in the US as soon as a pigeon wandered in the building they would put screens on the windows, or something. But here in Argentina the same things just keep occurring. This is a pattern that I have noticed.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

snapshot: june 22nd, 2009

I need to be in Palermo Chico (neighborhood where I lived for the first two months) by 3pm. I leave at 1:45.

I catch the 55 bus (a bus that I take 5 or more times/week) by my house to go to Plaza Italia in Palermo and catch another bus.

55 goes normally about half way and then inexplicably decides to just go on some other random street. I notice immediately but hope that it will just wind back.

Suddenly I find myself on the right street but about 15 blocks too far down. I get off.

I get on the subway. Ride one stop.

Wait for the second bus. Doesn't come for over 10 minutes.

Get in a taxi.

Taxi driver sideswipes another car on the passenger side and knocks his rear-view mirror off.

Doesn't stop. Is kind of fat and breathing heavily and agitated, but does not stop.

I get out in front of where I'm going, pay him, and go on my way.

Oh, Buenos Aires.