Saturday, 30 January 2016

Hitting the 1 week mark

I haven't really updated much for a few days because everything has kind of settled into a routine so there hasn't been much to report but I have now been in this house living in Argentina for exactly a week. This is just a short post to bring those who are interested up to date.

I really love my family! They always go out of their way to make sure that I am happy while also letting me have freedom and space. My host mum has been so busy this week because normally we have a lady clean our house and cook our food but she is on holiday and my mum couldn't get a replacement. This means that everyday she has been cleaning and cooking (yes I have tried to help) and when you have 5 dogs and a big house, cleaning is a full time job. Everyone is so encouraging with my Spanish and always up for a laugh (often at my host dad's jokes). For example last night I stayed up with my host sister until like 1am talking about the social pressures on teens (yes in spanish).

They have also been so good with my food. I have not been hungry or given food with gluten or food I don't like since I got here. They are so accommodating with what I can't eat and we always have gorgeous sit down meals.

The weather has maintained the ridiculously hot temperatures and every day it seems to hit at least 30 degrees. This means that I have spent a lot of time by the pool, or inside with the air con on. I am so so grateful to have the pool though. For example after my run yesterday, I was so sweaty and so I just jumped into the pool and life was just perfect.

Speaking of my run yesterday, that was probably one of the most scary points I have had here. Earlier that day, Virginia had taken me for a drive around the town so I could get to know it a bit better because I really wanted to go for a run later. So when we returned I put on my running gear and off I went. I ran alongside the river and then crossed the bridge into the park. At the place where I crossed the bridge, 4 guys were sitting around smoking and yarning and as I ran past they whistled at me and I was like ah creepy. So I kept going and running around this park and I swear like do people not run here??? Or is it because I look foreign?? cause every time I ran past someone they just stared at me like that's not what I was supposed to be doing?? I was like okay. Anyway so it was about 8 o'clock and getting dark so I decided that it was a good time to try and get home. I ran back the way I had come and got to the bit to cross the bridge but the guys were still there and I was like mmm no better not because of stranger danger. So I turned and ran out the park entrance a different way. Smart move right?? No! I ran for about 20 minutes in what I thought was the right direction, but no. I got myself really and truly lost, in the dark when I didn't speak much spanish. Fabulous. I kept going, feeling very scared. Eventually I managed to find the river and get back home.  I have never felt so relieved as the moment I knew where I was and could see my house in the distance. Luckily now I am getting to know the area a but better and in a few weeks it shouldn't be a problem but it was definitely a very scary situation and a caution to other future exchange students.

Another thing I have done is kept in a lot of contact with my family. Even though Rotary don't really advise this because it can cause homesickness, I love keeping my family updated with what I am doing and haven't felt homesick once. I even got the chance to Skype them the day before yesterday and that was really cool because I introduced them to my host mum and sister. It's weird because while I miss them, I feel very detached from NZ , and what is going on there because I have this whole other life over here and while I'm jealous of the beaches and obviously yarns in English, I know I am so lucky and so am not really thinking about nz because of it. Like I am in Argentina?? For a year?? How cool is that?? They have also received Svenja (the German exchange student) so they have a daughter replacement hahaha.

I also finally got a sim card for my phone although it took a ridiculous amount of trouble to obtain it. I think we went back maybe 4 times in total. I felt so bad for Virginia because she kept having to return with me. Basically they were just so frustrating like they forgot to put the sim card back in the packet?? So I return back home and just don't have it?? It's like how can you forget something like that?? And then he wanted me to pay 40 pesos for a new one? Like no? But it's okay because I have sussed it now and have a decent phone plan.

I have had the chance to hang out with 2 girls my age already, one is the daughter of my counsellor, Stefi and the other is the girl who is going to NZ on exchange this year on the 7th of February, Agustina.

With Stefi, we went to a bar called "La Goleta" (I had also been there the previous night with Virginia) and we just chatted! She is so lovely and very affectionate. We have loads in common and she is a good laugh. I'm not sure but I think I might be going out with her again tonight? She is always smiling and actually my height, if not shorter?!?!?! I know it's ridiculous the idea of someone shorter than me and older than me but yeah she is such a cool person and I can't wait to get to know her better.

With Agustina, I went over to her house and we had "Mate" (a common Argentinian herbal drink) and crackers. She is so amazing as well, very welcoming and lovely. Also a guy friend of hers came over and we chatted for a few hours. I am so excited for her to go to NZ on an exchange, I know she is gonna love it and will fit right in because she is so outgoing and sporty. She is also ridiculously gorgeous.

Another thing I love here, is the dogs. I love all 5 of our dogs. Alexia is like the mum of the group and very chill and so cute. Then there is Juana who is a little minx and always so excitable and gets jealous if you pat the other dogs and starts growling. Then there is Lupe and she is quite calm like Alexia but always so cute and happy. Then we have Charo who is this white ball of fluff. I love her, she is very much like Juana but less in your face. And finally we have Boris. Boris is the big guard dog and such a little softy and he follows my host dad around like my host dad is god. They are literally the light of my life. I love them way too much.

In terms of my spanish, you are probably curious to hear how that is going. I think I expected it to be harder than I have found it, due to the stories I had heard from everyone else. Like yes, I struggle with my spanish, especially in the morning when I am tired, and I don't voice all my thoughts like I would in NZ because sometimes I can't be bothered, but it is already getting so much easier. Everyday I am understanding more and more and I can always get what I want to say across, even if I explain it in really bad and grammatically incorrect spanish. I think the key thing is, is that I am immersing myself in it and always trying to speak spanish. I think my host sister is helping the most because although she speaks English very well she is always trying to explain words I dont know through other words in spanish and she is always willing to spend time with me and just speak in spanish. My host mum is also very helpful as she is always helping translate stuff I don't understand or help me in anyway she can. I can often understand at least parts of conversations going on around me, if not all and everyday my brain is absorbing more new words.

Just an update on what's ahead, I am not going to the festival that I was talking about going to in my last post because it was all too hard but I am going to Cordoba to my host sister's apartment next week from Monday to Wednesday and I am taking the bus down with my host mum! I am so excited because it means I can see Charo and meet other exchange students that live there. I am missing the first Rotary meeting which I feel bad about, but I reckon it will be so cool to explore Cordoba.

Hahahah whoops this was supposed to be short, I guess I just got carried away haha anyway,

Chao for now.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

First few days in Argentina

So Rose and I woke up at 6:30am to both our alarms blurting out to begin the big day, the day I was going to meet my host family and arrive in Argentina. We rapidly showered and got ready and then took our suitcases down to the lobby. Zayyen wasn’t too far behind and we said goodbye to Norah and hopped on the bus to go to the airport. After a quick journey we jumped off the bus and Graham and I queued in this massive queue for what felt like forever while Rose and Zayyen were lucky enough to be in a special one for the flight to Sao Paolo. Eventually Patricio arrived and we were rushed through in a matter of minutes. 

After that we went and saw Rose and Zayyen (who by this point were eating breakfast at a little cafe) and we said our goodbyes which really sucked and it felt very final cause they were the last people left in our little squad and now I was really on my own (well with Graham but not people my age). 

We quickly got through immigration and then within the hour we were on the plane. It was quite cool cause the woman next to me was also gluten free so we talked a bit in spanish, although for the majority of the plane ride I listened to music and wrote my last blog post. 

We got off the plane and without a hitch went through customs, got our suitcases and were on the other side and I was about to see my host family for the first time. I was so so nervous and I felt sick. When I came through Carmen and Stefania enveloped me in hugs and kisses and then I saw my host parents and they were much more calm, making me appear even more crazy as I was so wired and nervous that I was like fumbling my words. Also a family friend of my host family came, Franco and that was really nice of him. Hahah he is a model and very handsome so I was a bit flustered haha whoops but he carried my bags for me which was nice of him.

I mostly talked to Stefania (the daughter of my counsellor) because she spoke English and we tried to get money out of an ATM but my card didn’t work so in the end my host mum, Emma said we will just suss everything when I get to Bellville. My host dad went and got the car and then we chucked my suitcases in and I said goodbye to Stefania, Carmen and Franco and away we went. 

The drive was 2 hours and it was crazy cause everything was so so flat and my host dad was driving at like 150km per hour (hahah at first I thought he was the driver). Also Emma was speaking to me in Spanish and I didn’t understand much so then she would often translate into English for me (turns out her English is very good). 

We arrived at the house and I immediately had the house tour. I was so stoked to see a pool in the back yard, especially with the weather being about 38 degrees.  The house was amazing and my bedroom is very big and i have a gorgeous en suite. I have 2 beds, a tv, air conditioning and a walk in wardrobe! It’s all incredible! Also it goes out onto a balcony which overlooks the river, garden and pool. They also have 4 small dogs and one really big guard dog and they are so adorable hah. 

Anyway after that we had a lunch of meat and salad and then I came upstairs to my room and had a nap because I was so tired. After about an hour I came back down (I set an alarm so I didn’t oversleep) and then I went in the pool. It was so perfect and my host dad had a friend over. We chilled by the pool for ages, like 4 hours and Ignacio (my host brother who is 34) came back from his girlfriends house and his friend came over too. We had Campari with lemonade, ate some cheese and ham, chilled and swam. I didn’t understand much spanish going on around me but when my host mum spoke to me slowly I could understand majority of it. My host dad’s accent is really strong though and although with me he speaks slowly, often I still find him hard to understand. After that we had dinner at like 10pm and we had chicken with chips and potato salad and then I helped clean up and then went to bed. I also understood parts of the conversation going on around me over dinner which was very exciting.

I remember before I went to sleep I missed my family back home a bit and thought about how crazy it was that I was going to be here for a year and make this my home.

The next day I woke up at 8am but went back to sleep and eventually Emma woke me up at 11 am. It’s quite weird cause my host family just come in and out of my room as they please which is very different from home but it’s okay cause it makes it quite communal. I got up and Emma and I got in the car (BMW) and then went straight to the supermarket! We went to a small one first and it was so different to anything in New Zealand. It’s really hard to explain but it was very small. When I woke up I struggled more with the spanish than I had the night before but as the day went on it got better again.

After that supermarket we went to a bigger one and there I found some rice biscuits and rice pasta which was really cool because they were gluten free. Then we returned to the house and prepared lunch which was pasta with mushrooms, tomatoes, olives and aubergine. It was so delicious! We also had a glass of champagne. 

After that everyone had their siesta (which is like a nap or time of rest where everyone relaxes) and I talked to mum and Harry, had a shower and then went down and watched some tv. After that I went in the pool, although the weather was very cold because there was a lot of wind and a storm was brewing. The storm hit shortly after that and Virginia came home (she’s my host sister who is 28). She was so lovely and I spoke heaps to her in spanish (especially over dinner). She has offered to take me into her apartment in Cordoba city whenever I want and that way I can see Charo which will be so mean. We then started watching The Revenant and about half way through we stopped and went and had dinner which Ignacio and his friends had bbqed for us. I tried intestine and it was quite interesting.. kind of like bacon but with a really weird texture… We also had potato salad and normal salad! I also tried a really typical Argentinian drink of fernet with coke and it kind of tasted like toothpaste, I wasn’t a fan haha. 

Over dinner I spoke heaps of spanish and understood quite a lot which was so cool!!! I was so stoked. 

After dinner we finished The Revenant and now I am in my room chilling before bed. It is now 2am but it’s weird because this sort of time is so normal to be awake, like we only had dinner at 10pm. 

Tomorrow I am going to the bank with Virginia and hopefully going to get a sim card for my phone! Also I want to go for a walk and explore my town a bit and maybe go for a run cause I have done like no exercise since I left and I feel so gross haha. Then on the 30th of January, potentially I might be going to fiesta colectividades with the Rotary student. That is an 8 day music and art festival and I really hope I can go! I’ve talked to my counsellor (Carmen) and hopefully she is going to suss it for me. Fingers crossed. 

I really miss my other exchange students that I was with in Chile and obviously my family but I already love my life here. I know there is going to be ups and downs but for now I am so happy. 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Santiago stopover

So we have had the stop over in Santiago and now I am on the plane to Argentina. The stop over was incredible and I loved every second of it. I remember when I arrived at the airport I was so nervous to meet the other exchange students and apprehensive about what I was embarking upon. I didn’t have to worry about the exchange students, they are some of the most amazing people and I am honestly going to miss them so much this year because they are all in Chile and Brazil. 

Anyway so day 1: 

It was so amazing because Jasmine came to the airport and Svenja + my family and while saying goodbye was hard, I still didn’t feel like I was leaving for a year. Then we started the 12 hour plane journey to Santiago; Chile. Brooke and I played a lot of who wants to be a millionaire (yes we won it!!) and watched a couple of movies and had about 4 hour sleep in total which wasn’t so bad. We arrived in Santiago at about 1:50pm and then didn’t get through customs until about 4pm. Sarah, Victoria and Louis’ families all came to meet them at the airport and that was super cute. Also Max and Nacho came to the airport (they were nz exchange students last year) and so it was really cool seeing them and they were to be our translators for the trip. We then met our other chaperone Norah and also Patricio (he basically organised the stopover for us). They were such amazing people and I am so grateful to have gotten to know them over the past few days. We then came outside to a wall of heat and eventually hopped on a bus, shattered but excited and made our way to our hotel; Hotel Fundador. 
We were all very hungry by this point and we weren’t disappointed. We had a solid 4 course meal, with Ceviche, a lot of bread (which I couldn’t eat) and a lot of meat (like a massive helping) and then fruit or pancakes for dessert. We were so bloated by the end but it was amazingly delicious. Then we went upstairs to quickly change and get ready because we were going to go to the biggest mall in South America. We took the metro there and it was rush hour. I don’t think I have been so squished or sweaty in so so long. It was ridiculously packed but luckily I was with Zayyen and Max and so I was looked after. When we arrived at the mall it was very commercialised and had a big American influence and honestly we were all so tired we hardly looked around. We then went up the tallest building in Chile (and maybe it's the tallest in South America idk) and the views over the city were incredible and I was so appreciative of what I have and what I am embarking on. The boys then grabbed some food and then we jumped on a slightly less crowded metro (although no less hot) and got back to the hotel for a shower and some internet use. I was sharing a room with Victoria and Sarah and it was really nice with them. We then went to bed with excited thoughts of what was to come.

Day 2:

We woke up at 7am to our alarm and went downstairs for breakfast. I had fruit and yoghurt because it was basically all I could eat but boy the fruit was so good. The watermelons were like 3x the size of ours and the strawberries and blackberries were so so delicious. Then we all jumped on the bus and started the long journey to Valparaiso. During the 2 hour journey the scenery changed like every second and it was so beautiful everywhere. The majority of the group slept but I was to glued to the window admiring the scenery to even consider a nap. We arrived at around 11am and went into the parliament house. It was really interesting learning about the history and how their government worked. We also sat and watched the senate which was very interesting to see how it all worked. 

We then got back on the bus and drove on a bit further with the intention of heading to the port. We got out and saw a little market where Victoria and I both got matching bracelets.  Following this we went down to the water and there was some chilean music and we all kind of jammed to it. Then we hopped on a private boat and took a spin out on the water. We saw a seal lying on like a floating kind of buoy thing and got really close to it which was cool and the views back over the city were so beautiful. We then got off the boat (and of course I slipped and nearly ended up in the water haha) and back on the bus to head over to this place on the water for lunch. It was a gorgeous setting and half way through lunch a pair of buskers came along and jammed out some Chilean tunes which was sick. 

The food was quite interesting.. and I tried a lot of seafood with the appetisers (Rose and I were the adventurous ones) and then the fish arrived and it was like a steak, it was the size of the whole plate and looked like pork or chicken, it wasn’t that great and Louis had a similar deal while majority of others got massive portions of fried fish and chips with egg, which looked slightly better. 

We then got back on the bus and went to ViƱa del mar (another city) which was about a 20 minute drive away. Max told us that the water in Chile was freezing and so we didn’t change out of the jeans and gear we had had to wear to get into parliament but we hopped off the bus and walked onto the beautifully inviting beach. I went straight down to the water and felt it and it was so perfect. So Rose and I went running into the water in our jeans and bra with Zayyen and Louis not far behind in their underpants. It was like being at a beach in nz, although a bit colder and with a sprawling city for a view and not trees. The waves were so massive and really dumpy and sand got everywhere, all through our jeans but it was 100% worth it. We were in the water for ages and then eventually got out to head back to the hotel. 

We changed on the bus and got sand absolutely everywhere ahaha I felt so bad. Everyone except Victoria and I slept on the way back and we just chatted and listened to music. When we got back we all had showers and got ready for the night at the Chilean night club. 

At 8pm we all went downstairs and got on the bus to head out to dinner. When we arrived we were all seated at a long table and just chatted. Then lots of Rotarians came and they sat at the table next to us. Shortly after that, the Chilean dancing started in the room next to us and we could see it all through the glass partition. It was so crazy and cool. Ofcourse Zayyen got up and did the dancing when they asked for people from the audience and it was crack up as. Dinner slowly trickled out and I was starving by this point as I hadn’t had much lunch. Unsurprisingly the main was a massive portion of meat with a small side of veges and chips. We all finished and hit the d floor because the Chilean dancing had stopped and it had turned into somewhere to dance and jam. Zayyen, Rose and I were on the d floor all night and Zayyen especially was a sick dancer. We danced with everyone and even got some of the Rotarians up. By the end we were all dripping in sweat and Rose and I were both dancing with this random Chilean for a while haha. 

We had dessert somewhere in the middle and were up on the stage for awhile dancing. Occasionally they had some English songs which we all screamed at the top of our lungs and the occasional spanish song came on that I knew like bailando and la mordita. I just put my everything into it. 

They had the most crack up bathrooms with pictures of hot guys with abs plastered all over the walls and that was honestly so cool and different from nz, well in truth the whole night was. By 12:15am we were all so tired and we got on the bus at 1am all still buzzing. When we got back to the hotel we said goodbye to Max for forever which was sad cause he couldn’t make it for the next and final day. We were all keen to get in the pool as we were all so sweaty and so we ran upstairs but it was locked and so we all headed off to our rooms. We didn’t get to sleep until 2am and I was so shattered.

Day 3:

Louis, Zayyen, Sarah and I had decided to get up at 7am to hit the pool and when my alarm went off up we got. Zayyen decided to stay in bed though so it was just Louis, Sarah and I. The pool was small and quite cold so we didn’t stay for long but it was quite refreshing at least. Sarah and I got changed and then headed down to breaky. It was more of the same for breakfast and then we went upstairs, packed and got ready and were back downstairs again for 9am. We had a city walking tour in the morning and went to the national library and walked up this hill to a kind of tower type thing. We sang some hsm (ofc) and just had a great time. At 12pm we got back to the hotel and hopped on the bus to go see some other sights. We stopped at this massive building and honestly idk what we were going to do but we weren’t allowed inside and so then we ended up at Burger King cause Louis wanted some?? hahah and then we jumped back on the bus and started the hour and a half journey to the ex- chairman’s house. We got there at around 3pm and then went straight in the pool! We swam for about 4 hours straight, only stopping to have some food. We then performed a couple of songs, a waiata and the boys did a haka which was very cool as we made Graham proud! 

After this Sarah, Finn and Victoria’s families came to pick them up from the house and it was so so sad saying goodbye because even though we had only known them for a little bit, they had become like family. 

Rose, Brooke, Louis, Zayyen and I then got on the bus and made our way back to the hotel where we had to say our second lot of goodbyes for the day to Brooke and Louis which was very sad but  finally Rose and I went up to our room to pack and chill before the big day the next day. 

It’s crazy now how I've become so accustomed to the little Chilean gestures such as kissing people on the cheek when you meet them. Also having a massive serving of meat for like every meal and hearing Spanish around me all the time. Speaking of which, I can already feel my Spanish improving although I know it’s going to be hard in Argentina cause the accent isn’t as nice and clear as the Chilean one. I'm very nervous to meet my family but I have a feeling this year is gonna be a good one.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Packing and anticipation - 8 days out

It's now only 8 days until I'm leaving the comfort of my home and I'm starting to get anxious but also excited. Is this the right thing to be doing? I think so but I guess I'm starting to get those pre-travel jitters.

I've started packing and it seems like there are only a few more hurdles before I set off on this big adventure. I have to go down to Wellington on Thursday to get my visa and I don't know, everything is just starting to feel so much more real.

I have been in communication with my counsellor, first host family and district chairman for my district in Argentina. My counsellor seems so so lovely and I'm really grateful that I am going to have such an amazing person who has my back in a completely new environment. I have also been communicating heaps with my first host mum Emma and she is so welcoming and I cannot wait to meet her. She seems to be one of those people who will always go the extra mile, for example with being gluten free, she messaged me saying "I'm a bit nervous about your Coeliac disease because it's not very common here but I am looking everywhere to try and find alternatives and we will eat with you, what you eat." Then her daughter messaged me saying that she has all these things we can do together and she is going to introduce me to lots of people my age before school starts, and honestly I'm just so grateful. It makes me more excited about what's ahead. Also they live on the side of a river and there house seems so so amazing and only a short walk to my school!

Another thing that happened, is that my friend Laura and I bumped into these Argentinian's at mission bay last weekend and Laura started speaking with them in Spanish (she's columbian). They all spoke so fast and it was probably the first time it all felt real to me and I started to fully comprehend how difficult these first few months are going to be. I could understand the gist of what they were saying but it was so hard to keep up when they said 4 words in what sounded like one. I know it will get easier and I can't wait to be able to speak fluently in Spanish, and I am especially lucky cause I have been studying Spanish for ages so I'm not going in with no knowledge whatsoever, but it's still nervewracking. Well nervewracking enough to give me a few sleepless nights.

8 days and counting