ON FLYING OFF THE ANDES, BIKING THROUGH VINEYARDS, AND SEEING WHAT CHILE’S ALL ABOUT…: Sam in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Well. It happened again. Time ran away from me and I didn’t prioritize writing my blog and I’d like to formally apologize. I’ve been incredibly busy with classes and weekend trips and having some of the absolute best times of my life. I’ll try to be better in the coming weeks, but for now, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Let’s back up to two weeks ago. On a lovely Saturday, us IES students boarded a bus and headed an hour or so outside of the city to a city called Tigre (or Tiger if you wanna speak in ‘murican). I had very little expectation for what this place would be like, but it reminded me of a mix between Amsterdam and a rain forest. We took a boat down the river for about 20 minutes through gorgeous woods and past beautiful houses. We still didn’t entirely know where we were going, but when we pulled up and got out at a luxurious spa-island, I can promise you that I was not complaining. Here’s some pictures to give you an idea of what that means:

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So we spent the day swimming, drinking grapefruit-flavored water, gorging ourselves on too-delicious food, and relaxing on one of the most beautiful and naturey places we’d so far been to.

The week after that was a normal one full of classes. I’m still plugging along, still really enjoy my professors and taking classes at la UCA. Classes are significantly more work than any other study abroad program I’ve done, but it’s also so much more worthwhile and rewarding work. I’ve so far managed to find a good balance between spending time studying and also getting out to see the country I paid a lot of money to fly to. And when I have to study, I try to do it in a cafe or somewhere so as to still experience some aspects of the Argentine culture.

Speaking of Argentine culture, they really like to have ferias or days off of work and class. So last week, we had no class Monday or Tuesday, and since I don’t have class Fridays any way, a very long weekend was born. After hours of looking at different hostel options, plane and bus tickets, I headed off to Mendoza, Argentina with a group of about 7 others. Mendoza is one of the Argentine cities I really wanted to make sure I visited and there are 4 main reasons for that:

1) It’s situated at the base of the Andes Mountains so it’s muy lindo.

2) It’s the main producer of vino in this region and has vineyards on vineyards on vineyards.

3) Did I mention the wine?

4) I also really like mountains.

We took a super short and not at all uncomfortable 12-hour night bus across this wonderful country and arrived around 13:00 at our hostel (24-hour time in Argentine. Subtract 12 if you’re confused). Here we broke into two different groups. Jackson, Caitlin and I headed out into the country (in search of vineyards) and made the amazing decision to rent bikes for the day. At the bike rental place, they gave us a map of each of the main bodegas (wineries) we should bike to. A lot of them are located within a few miles of each other, so with the sun shining above, the mountains in the distance, and miles of vineyards in every direction, we headed out.

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The next day we paraglided off the Andes Mountains.

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Yeah… it was one of the craziest, most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. I’ve been skydiving before, but I actually preferred this. We had more time in the air (20 minutes-ish) and it was much more relaxing. We drove to the top of mountain, unloaded the parachute and gear, and then pretty much you just let the wind catch the chute and next thing you know you’re 6,000 feet above Mendoza.

It’s the closest thing I’ve ever felt to flying (and that’s saying something since I’m on the Quidditch team (jokes)) and man oh man, I wanna do it again. The pictures give a sense of what an experience it was.

That night it was back on a bus with the whole crew and heading to Valparaíso, Chile! New country, new ocean, and new side of the continent (and a new dot on my world map tattoo!) The bus was ocho horas through the night and over the Andes (unfortunately too dark to see anything) with a SUPER FUN 3 hours of Chilean customs at 2 am during which time we had to get off the bus and go through multiple security checks.

Needless to say, we arrived at our hostel really well rested and not at all tired… To top it off, we were 6 hours early to check in, so we didn’t even have access to our rooms. This ended up working out amazingly actually, because one of the workers at the hostel, Santi, let us in and offered to take us on a tour of the city. So bright and early and before really anyone in the whole country was awake, we began what ended up being a day full of walking and seeing the gorgeous sights.

Valparaíso is unlike any city I’ve ever seen, and it quickly became one of my favorites. It’s more colorful than any city I’ve ever seen. Its narrow, winding streets and flights upon flights of stairs that lead down the Pacific Ocean are impossible to navigate but in a I-can’t-wait-to-get-lost-here-and-see-what-I-can-find kind of way. The town is full of incredible graffiti (two words I’ve never put next to each other) and the city has a really cool culture surrounding it in which the most respected artists’ work is left untouched or painted over, and the less impressive work is naturally replaced by something new every few days. Santi taught us how to recognize certain artists work, and we even bought some original artwork from one of our favorite graffitists (I wanna make that a word if it’s not already).

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Please note the Maize and Blue photo with my fellow Wolverine, Bianca.

The next day we went to a city just north of Valparaíso called Viña del Mar, where we hung out on the playa, ate some delicious sea food, took too many pictures, and saw some more sights. At sunset, we went on a boat tour through the harbor. As these pictures show, the sun set was as colorful as the graffiti and painted walls of the city:

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Important: One of the typical Chilean dishes is a pile of french fries, cheese, sausage, and fried eggs, so I managed to push through my exhaustion and eat that twice during out time in Santiago. I really know how to embrace culture.

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An hour and a half flight back to Buenos Aires, and the week-long “weekend” came to a close. Since I don’t have class Friday, I only had to go to class on Thursday and then it was the weekend. I decided to stay in Buenos Aires to relax and catch up on everything but that didn’t happen.

Friday, we went to the US Embassy for tours and presentations, Saturday we visited a small city outside of BA called San Isidro, and Sunday we had an extensive walking tour through the San Telmo neighborgood and toured the White House equivalent, La Casa Rosada (for those Spanish-speakers reading this, yes, the house is Pink).

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Now it’s Monday and we’re back into the swing of things, working day in and day out, studying hard and having no fun at all…

Just kidding. We have another short week because of Easter and there is a transportation strike on Tuesday, so I only have two days of classes this week.

Life is hard here…

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