Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is everyone getting married without me?

For everyone not in the Midwest this may not be as much of an issue right now. But for all of us living in the very exceptionally landlocked part of the country, saying that everyone you know is getting married or having children may actually be true. In fact I don't have enough fingers to count all the people that are my age (22) or below that are married or engaged that I've been friends with. It's sort of a surreal feeling to imagine people like you spending the rest of their lives with someone when you still feel like you're that awkward girl with the braces and cat eye glasses that was dying to be kissed.

So why does it feel like everyone is getting married? And why is it totally okay if they are and you're still in the single ready to mingle point in your life.

First off, the reason that you seem to feel surrounded by married couples and soon to wed ones is because you have much greater access to acquaintances and not super close friends lives. Before people had Facebook and Instagram to bombard with photos of their ring and dress and flowers and #MCM husband the only way you found out was through word of mouth or the announcement in the newspaper. If you limited everyone you know that's engaged or married to only posting one thing about  it, I bet it will seem like a whole lot less than you felt like before.

But all that being said. There is nothing wrong with people being super excited about the person they are going to spend the rest of their lives with. I mean, I can hardly restrain myself from posting every single picture I take of my beautiful niece because I want to share with the world how incredible she is when she makes one of her 5 different infant faces. Being excited is the completely natural thing to do and wanting to over share is pretty normal also.

The problem becomes when you take their gushing about their love as a challenge or an attack on how your love life is going. I firmly believe that 99.999% of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with you (sorry).

But still, you say, it makes you feel your single hood even more (grabbing the nearest cat and a pint of Ben and Jerry's). The biggest mistake you are making probably lies in that you are ignoring all the totally awesome things you have done too. For myself I went on a super awesome adventure and got a dog and have now realized I have a long way to go before I should ever be responsible for another human being.

Just don't let this happen!

I guess the problem is that we try to turn our lives into one big marathon. We assume that we're all on this same path and that these people are meeting checkpoints ahead of us. When in reality it's like we're running in completely different races or maybe aren't wanting to be in a race at all!

So maybe everyone is getting married (probably not completely true but we can go with it), SO WHAT? Be happy for them but also be happy for yourself. Our accomplishments aren't limited to specific categories like relationships, worldly experience, education... they are open to be anything in the whole world which is pretty awesome.

And if none of that works at least you get to go shopping because you're going to need some outfits to wear to all those weddings.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Hometown Blues: Getting Back to Normal

I apologize for the lack of posts recently, crazy (wonderful!!!) things have been happening. I will beginning posting regularly once a week from now on. 

When I say "going back" I don't mean returning to Argentina, rather I'm talking about going back to the life I had before Argentina. I knew that studying abroad changed you and you would experience reverse culture shock when you got home, but I just didn't expect it to be like... this.

Exciting things like this munchkin! 

I thought that when I came back after studying abroad life would be exactly as it was before I left. For the most part that is true. Things haven't changed all that much, but I have. It's like I'm looking at everything through different colored glasses now and it's familiar but slightly different.

The biggest challenge by far, is dealing with the sense that my life is now boring. In Argentina, to be honest, I didn't feel like it was really all that exciting. Sure hoping a bus to go hike in the mountains for the weekend or hang out on the beach was no big deal. It became so normal that it didn't seem adventurous at the time. Now confined to everyday life of school, work, watching TV it seems like none of that can bring you the same rush as your adventures abroad.

Part of my problem also was that I was home for a good month and a half with no job and no one to spend time with during the day because everyone had jobs or school or their lives to carry on with. Winter breaks have always been rough for me, with the lack of structure and the feeling of isolation from your friends that have become a part of your daily routine.

I found myself in a major funk. I knew that I had friends I could have called to do stuff with. I had places I could have gone to visit if I had tried. In reality, I brought the boredom on myself. That "funk" creates a feeling of hopelessness about everything which prevents you from seeing clearly. Thankfully though I've managed to finally shake it off.

My dog Jazz, helped give me a sense of purpose. 

Going through this odd period after returning home, I think I can see what I did wrong and what would have really helped me readjust without having to feel depressed. So here is my advice to you whenever making any life transition, whether it be returning from travel or graduating school or leaving a job.

  • Wake Up: When you have nothing to do for the day, it's easy to just sleep it all away until the early hours of the afternoon. Even though you can, don't. Force yourself to wake up at reasonable time everyday to help keep you from turning into a potato. 

  • Dress Up: This one sort of falls into faking it till you make it. Getting dressed and doing whatever normal routines you would usually do (make-up, styling your hair, etc.) helps you keep that normalcy also and will make sure that you are ready if the opportunity for an adventure does arise. 

  • Busy Yourself: Find something to do, anything at all. The 6 week or so period that I was at home was such a random amount of time I couldn't really do any work. But don't let that stop you. Find something to do, even if it's just volunteering to walk your neighbors dog every day at a certain time. Having a purpose will motivate you to do other things. 

  • Plan Adventures: One of the biggest things I learned in Argentina was independence and how little I had explored my own home. Let those things apply still after you get off the plane and check out new things nearby, even if you have to do it solo. 

  • Ask for Help: I think this one is the most important of all. Don't bottle up your feelings because you're embarrassed. Let your friends and family know if you're not quite feeling like yourself. They're good to vent to and will also help get you back into a routine. 

While I was ready for experiencing culture shock going to Argentina, I was not prepared for the hole in my heart leaving would create. The turning point for me was getting a dog and a brand new beautiful niece that both gave me a sense of purpose I had been lacking. But don't wait for some life changing event to knock you out of a weird mood. 

I learned abroad to be independent and adventurous and to constantly challenge myself with things I never thought I could do. I just momentarily forgot all of that when I stepped off the plane. But now I know better for my next trip! 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Coming Home: Life After Study Abroad

Being home has been great and well, weird. It's a bit like walking back into a life that isn't yours anymore. Despite how it felt, people moved on with their lives while I was gone. My sister's belly has gotten so big! My brother has moved into his own place. Even the animals have gotten chubbier. While at first it was a bit disorienting, it's now become more and more evident that things won't be the same way that they were before I left. Because not only has everyone else changed, I've changed and that's a bit hard to deal with.

Sharing some Argentine culture with my family!
Luckily, the usual boredom that accompanies returning back from an exciting trip abroad will be short 
lived, because I have so much to look forward to! With a baby on the way, a million friends to reunite with and my final semester of school fast approaching, I have no shortage of things to do. 

One of the biggest things that has come with coming home though is the questions! Which believe me are not a problem because I could blabber on about Argentina for hours (oops already do!). But there are some really common questions I get that I know find hilarious because they seem so obvious after having lived and breathed the Argentine lifestyle for four months. So I decided to address the most common questions I get!

Question 1: Did you just stick out everywhere as an American?

Like most big cities, Buenos Aires is a total melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. But it turns out that Argentines, at least the ones in BA are generally very "white." Like the United States they are a country of European immigrants and the majority of the indigenous people were marginalized and live in the rural areas. So, in short I didn't really stand out from the locals that bad, until I started talking that is!

Question 2: Did you just eat Mexican food all the time?

I did a post previously on the most common foods I ate in Argentina, but generally it was a little bland in flavor compared to what I'm use to (lots of Mexican). Not to say it wasn't good but sugar and salt were the only spices we really used.

Also it was SO MUCH BREAD. Pretty much everything was breaded or involved bread in the meal. Now I love bread just as much as the next girl but it took it's toll. Besides bread, every meal included meat and a lot of it. Argentina is not a vegetarian friendly country!

Question 3: Did your family speak English?

If you haven't seen some of my previous posts, you should know that I adored my host family. They were a huge factor in making it an incredible experience. Fortunately, my host mom spoke English which allowed me to have more in-depth conversations about the culture, politics, history that would have been impossible with my limited vocabulary. But I spoke to my host Dad and sisters only in Spanish which was great practice!

Overall, I was surprised at how few people spoke English in the city. In the tourist areas it was pretty common but once you venture out you are probably on your own with whatever Spanish you can speak.

Now that it's done I'm excited to get started with my next adventure! As of right now the plan is to go to Spain/Italy? this summer. I've also applied for a Fulbright Grant to teach English in Malaysia but that wouldn't be till January 2015, if I get it. Even though I'm not totally sure of my future right now I'm excited to see what happens!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Fair Well Argentina

In just a few hours I get on a plane to leave for home. I'm feeling such mixed emotions I don't even know what to say. It's that bittersweet feeling of being happy to go home but know that you're leaving the place that has become a home. In a rare moment that I don't have words to express what I'm feeling I've decided to just put pictures of my favorite memories. Disfruta (enjoy). 

Making music videos with these girls.
Finding this girl again after 10 years.

Getting shushed in a museum

Hiking in the Andes

Hanging out with tigers

The countless selfies JJ took on everyone's phones.

Swimming in the ocean when it was 50 degrees out.

The multiple attempts to break in at Recoleta

The fear is real.

Seeing this in real life!


Feeding a baby tiger.

Everything about this night. Oh Mendoza.
Family dinners, even by flashlight

So many things happened on this trip and we all changed so much. It's clique but studying abroad taught me so much about myself. I'll never forget you Argentina! Now just wish me luck that my flight all goes well this time!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Chau Chicos!!

Before coming to Argentina I had thought about all the amazing things I would do, the beautiful sights I would see, and the adventures I would have. I never really factored in who I would be sharing all of those experiences with. While I think I prepared myself to miss my family and friends back home, the fact that I'll be going home is always in my mind. What I didn't think about was all the wonderful people I would meet and all the relationships I would make during my time abroad.

Taken by the guy with a broken arm, hilarious.

Today I said good bye (though not forever!) to my gang. It was a bittersweet moment because as much as I want to be home, I don't want to lose all of these people. Over the course of four months we've shared so much more than what usually happens between friends I've had for years. Now that this is over, they will be the only people who can really understand what all the name, Argentina applies when we say it.

We've shared countless laughs together and tears too. Together we've watched each other become different people than we were before we stepped off that plane and into this adventure. It's a bond I never expected to be making but I'm so glad I did. There are a lot of great people I've met here that I will probably never see or hear from ever again but I'm happy I got the chance to meet them. I hope that they got as much from our relationships as I did from them.

Gotta love our gansta poses.
Even if my group never gets back together again, though I really hope we do, I just hope they know how much I love them. We're a family and they helped make my experience here in Argentina what it has been. At the end of the day I don't think I'm going to remember the frustrating times but rather the great times and the bond that we created.

I thought I would come home from Argentina more experienced about the world and with memories of cool places I saw. But it turns out I'm coming back with something so much better, a whole new set of people to love!

So if you're reading this, remember it's not chau it's nos vemos because we will see each other again!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We took care of the body.

Just in time for halloween one of the strangest and creepiest things I've done to date happened with my host family in Entre Rios. It involved opening a real coffin, dealing with a skeleton, and black trash bags. Believe me, it's just a strange as it sounds!

For the background of the story, we were spending the weekend at my host grandma's casa in Concepcion del Uruguay, Entre Rios. This house has been in the family for a very, very long time and they've had the same neighbors for all of that time also. About 3 months ago the man who lived in the neighboring house passed away. Instead of burying people in the ground like we do it the states, they put the caskets in wall crypts and they also don't embalm the body so you can sometimes smell them decomposing which is disgusting! The man's daughter, who now owns the house lives in the US currently and asked my host family if they could do a big favor.

Because Bob Ross
Like I said, they are buried in wall crypts that must be paid for, like rent, to keep your family member there. The daughter didn't want to have to pay for 2 crypts when she could just combine them into one location so she asked us to go and move her grandmother's body into the same crypt as her dad. I ASSUMED that meant that we would need to move to coffin to a new area, but then we had to stop to pick up black trash bags and I got a little worried...

We went to the cemetery and got some of the employees to open up the mother's crypt. The brought along a shove and a broom which made me even more worried than I originally was. The pulled the coffin out and laid in on the ground then pried it open with the shovel rather ungracefully. With no gloves they reached in and began pulling out the bones and shoving them into a black trash bag. I saw the skull and a foot that hadn't decomposed for some reason. It was a train wreck you couldn't look away from. I should also note that my family was a freaked out as I was this whole time.

After they picked through the decomposed remains of the fabric and wood they decided they had gotten all of the body and wiped their brows (EWWWWW) and knotted up the bag. They then opened the son's crypt and shoved the bag in beside the coffin, thank god they didn't open his!

It was just so disrespectful and gross and weird. That's also why I have no pictures, I didn't want to add to the disrespect we were already doing this woman. Her name was Argentina, which I found kind of funny and she died in 1958. Hopefully she doesn't come back to haunt us.

After that we were all kind of in shock as to what we had just saw and went to visit the grave of my host mom's father and some other relatives. As we were doing this we saw the three men pushing past a cart with the remains of the coffin on it. A piece of the once white but now brown and gross fabric flew off onto the path.

It was the most bizarre experience I've ever had in my whole life. My host family told me that, that is NOT a common thing and it was extremely freaky to them also but at least I have an awesome story now!

It's one of those things that just makes me say, only in Argentina!!

Happy Halloween!!! Celebrate extra hard for me since Argentina is silly and doesn't celebrate the best holiday of the year.


Why begging me to kiss you doesn't work.

One of the biggest things that's put a damper on my time here in Argentina is absolute lack of respect men have for women (generally, there are exceptions). I understood before I came here that guys would act differently than at home. They would be more aggressive and forward. I thought I was okay with that, I mean how bad can it be? They just think I'm really hot right? Well turns out it's significantly more bothersome than I thought it would be. I previously wrote a post about street harassment in Argentina, here. But for the moment I would like to talk about the lack of understanding that no means no.

First, I'll give you my little anecdote that brought on my need to discuss this. While I was having a lovely weekend in Iguazu we met some local guys that seemed really cool. We agreed to go out to a club with them. Luckily they didn't speak a lick of English so we could tell each other if we felt uncomfortable really easily because they couldn't understand.

The night was great for a while we danced in a pretty non-sexual way, compared to dancing in the states. I mean the majority of the time you're a good foot or two away from your partner. At some point during the night the guy I was dancing with tried to kiss me. I pulled away and he apologized, perdon, perdon lo siento! I told him it was okay and continued to dance.

The second time he tried, because if at first you don't succeed try, try again, I told him that I didn't feel comfortable kissing someone in a public place. In retrospect that was a bad choice of words but cut me some slack because I had to explain it another language.

When it came time to walk home is when things got rough. (Note: I in no way whatsoever felt threatened or unsafe, if I had I promise that I would have gotten away!) We had a good 15 minute walk back to the hostel, normally the same distance I walk to school everyday, expect this felt like hours.

As soon as we exited the club the guy attempted to kiss me again which I deflected. He then argued with me the entire walk home about why I wouldn't kiss him. I told me that I didn't feel comfortable making out in the street with a perfect stranger and that in the states that's not how we do it (which could possibly be a lie, but oh well!). I just kept repeating that I was classy and didn't want to kiss a guy I didn't know.

He countered that in Argentine culture that was how you did it and we're in Argentina. He also repeatedly called it a "gift." I'm try to give you a "gift." I hope I don't need to explain to much how disgusting this rhetoric is to a female.

Just because it's a part of your culture in no way justifies forcing yourself on girls. What if I kicked him between the legs and then explained that, that was "just American culture" so he should deal with it? Sexual habits are a personal choice that may be influenced by your culture, but are not dictated by it.

Then we come to the a kiss is a gift comment. So now I'm suppose to rejoice that I have been given the gift of your mouth on my face! As a woman I should feel "lucky" that you are willing to kiss me because it's such a great honor. Thanks, but no thanks.

After we made it back to the hostel, I slammed the door in his face when he said that the reason I didn't want to kiss him was because he was indigenous. (Because yes, I'm racist and that's why I didn't want to accept his wonderful gift to women.) I was disgusted for his behavior ruining a perfectly wonderful evening and found out my friend had been battling a similar situation about not wanting to spend the night at the other guys house.

The most ironic part of all of this is that if he had simply accepted it when I said I didn't want to kiss him time, I probably would have at the end of the night when we were back at the hostel. But the way he completely disrespected my choice to say no just made me disgusted with him. What he didn't seem to realize was that there is an inverse relationship between how many times you ask to kiss me and how likely I am to actually kiss you.

So why is this such a big problem? He just wanted to kiss me right? I shouldn't be overreacting. WRONG!!! This is a perfect example of what rape culture is. The idea that when a girl says no she doesn't really mean it. While I'm not accusing him of being a rapist, the fact that he just couldn't accept no about a kiss can only lead you to believe that he probably wouldn't accept no about sex either.

Assuming that I must want him because I'm a female and we are all just dying for men to offer to make out with us, shows a sharp divide that many men have about perception and reality. They can't seem to perceive no for what it is, a no. Women aren't as complicated as they seem to think. If I wanted to kiss him I would have, simply as that. But when I said I didn't want to he should have dropped it and respected my choice.

If you have to beg anyone to do anything sexual with you then you are perpetrating rape culture and disrespecting our right to choose who we share our body with. So the next time a girl politely declines to kiss you or go back to your room stop asking or she may slap you and go off on a rant about rape culture, which I totally would have if I had the vocabulary to explain it in Spanish.

Moral of the story is that anything but enthusiastic consent means stop trying! Lucky for me, I didn't feel like the situation was threatening and had other people around me. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation and in anyway feel threatened don't be afraid to make a scene or get out. Believe me, I'm not against simply screaming at a dude to go away if he isn't taking a hint. Always worry about your personal safety first!

Have you had a similar experience? How did you choose to handle it? Let me know!