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Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Argentine Traveler

Time has already escaped from me as this post is well overdo. My second week in Argentina was once again characterized by  a variety of  high and lows. This past week contained many moments of frustrations in regard to speaking and understanding the language. In this aspect, it is common to doubt my ability to truly master the language, especially when I have encountered many students in Cordoba that speak three or four languages in addition to their native tongue; this talent makes learning a language seem just as easy as tying your shoes. In my opinion, it is important to avoid judging my linguistic journey to another's; I have strengths and weaknesses in my ability to communicate that others may or may not possess, and it's my own progress that I need to remain focused upon. By nature, I am a perfectionist, which  often leads to inner conflict. For example, as a perfectionist, this trait often inhibits my ability to converse with those around me because I am afraid to make mistakes. So this is the million dollar question I have repeatedly asked myself since I have arrived: How does a perfectionist have such a desire to learn a language if she finds it difficult to accept that she will make mistakes and utilize those mistakes as only a small part of a much larger learning process? This continues to be a struggle that I battle with everyday as I slowly open myself to Argentine life in order to discover my Spanish voice. Luckily, to help with this process, I have a wonderful speaking partner, Lucy, with whom I met for the first time with this last week. A huge thank you to her and her patience as I stumble along; our encounter was one of my highs for the week and I felt comfortable sharing my experiences with her. I know she will a huge part of my success at the end of time  in Cordoba. Gracias, Lucy! In the moments of despair, I am truly fortune to have a strong support system, which includes my amazing host mom, Tere, and my American and native friends in Cordoba. Without them, I'd probably be beating my head against the wall, laugh a lot less if they weren't around, and eat way too many alfajores by myself! A huge TE QUIERO to the best girls in the Cordoba and my partners in crime, Morgan and Haley!
Just like every cloud has a silver lining, every moment of frustration has a silver lining to which my own survival through the disparity is celebrated during the weekend among good company, amazing food, and great laughs. This weekend started off with another great memory for books! My roommate and I were walking through our university after dinner in the center of the city when a stray dog began to follow at our heels. At first we thought he was only after us because I was carrying a bag of delicious alfajores, but as we got closer to our neighborhood he had not scurried of like many of the strays do. We gladly embraced his presence because it was a bit dark and we were confident he'd protect us (and our alfajores) against any danger. When we arrived at our front door, I tried to block the dog from entering while my roommate unlocked the door. In theory, a great plan, but in practice a complete failure; the dog pushed his way past me and made himself at home in our living room. Between the feats of laughter in astonishment of this peculiar event, my roommate and I tried to entice the dog with treats, but he was persistent and remained in the living room. The last time I checked, no Argentine survival guide prepared me on how to deal with a stray dog in the house!
The rest of the weekend I spent outside of the city for the first time; my friends and I along with several Argentines, two girls from Germany, and a girl from France embarked on a journey to La Cumbrecita, a village at the base of the sierras about three hours from Cordoba. En route to La Cumbrecita, my group stopped in Germany--wait, what? Germany? Just checking to see if you are still paying attention to this seemingly endless blog. :)  It seemed as though my group and I had stepped right into Frankfurt when we arrived in Villa General Belgrano, a quintessential German town about two hours of Cordoba. From there, we arrived at the La Cumbrecita enjoying the sights of beautiful waterfalls and crisp, fresh, but rather cold air. La Cumbrecita was first in a long list of adventures within and outside of the city limits! Only time and a little money for a bus ticket will tell me where I land next!

"I was not born in one corner; the whole world is my native land."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Argentine Traveler

Well, I'm back typing away again so this is a great sign of my survival! Today marks my first completed week in Cordoba and the time definently had its highs and lows, which primarily centered around my first experience with Cordoba's rowdy nightlife. On Friday I had dinner with my new friends who are also  from the United States and two natives of Cordoba.  Dinner was great, the commradory was even greater, but my inability to understand what was being said to me sucked any linguistic confidence right out of me. Just before I left for Cordoba, a friend's dad jokingly told me to say "si" (yes) to everything. So when in doubt, there I was at dinner saying "si" to everything as if it was the only word I knew in Spanish. (Trust me, I do know more than that). The worst part was, after a few attempts to make conversation with me, the native speaker probably thought I was either completely idiotic or a hopeless case (maybe both) and quit talking to me. In the aftermath of this situation, I felt frustrated and it was easy to feel as if my time in Cordoba would only be characterized with linguistic downfalls as I interacted with those around me. In senarios like this one, it is important to remind myself of the small successes of the week such as navigating a large city without any complications and acknowledging the Spanish conversations I did understand with my professor, host mom, and other international students. In addition, it is equally crucial that I take time each day to grow in independence because it is within these moments that I spend exploring the city alone that I come to realize the successes of the week despite the setbacks. I thrive on moments of independence because they hold together my sanity and the belief that tomorrow is a new day that holds even greater opportunities than the day before.
I've learned so far that my path to fluency depends on personal independence, but also exposure. Back in the United States, the classroom has its limits. The professor can teach the difference between the the preterite and imperfect past tenses or the subjunctive mood, but the real world, the exposure in a Spanish-speaking country, is the true test to whether or not I truly understand the concepts that were taught. In Cordoba, this is where I learn my strengths and improve my weaknesses. I believe to hop in a plane and travel thousands of miles from home is essential to fluency; I may not have been as prepared as I wanted to be for this journey, but I figure that I could have spent the entire rest of my life learning Spanish and refining my skills, and still feel intimidated  to step off a plane in South America. The feeling of such unpreparedness is a lesson in its self because, in life, it is impossible to be prepared for everything; sometimes one just needs to jump in all at once.
Now that I am in Argentina, I quickly developed an even stronger appreciation for those that come to the United States to learn or improve their English. I think it is important for every person, in his or her own way, to experience what it is like to live among the majority when he or she constitutes the minority. For example, I have a Russian friend who studies in the United States and has become an inspiration to me. He is the example of independence that I strive to create for myself in Cordoba, and he is part of the driving force that pushes me to keep learning Spanish despite setbacks.
Equally important to these components is the ability to laugh at myself when mistakes are made, which does not come easily to someone who is a perfectionist. After the horrific dinner, we went to another causal, hip establishment in which I shared many laughs with my friends that helped to lift my spirits. This experience became one in which I know will stick out among all others in the future. Although I am in Cordoba to improve my Spanish, I think it is important  to have small moments in which English is spoken in order to keep my sanity in check. After dinner, my friend and I expressed similar doubts about our Spanish abilities, but laughed them off, both hoping that in the near future everything will begin to click. By the end of the night, I left the heart of the city with a greater sense of connection to my peers. What began as my first frustrating experience in Cordoba ended with my greatest high of the week because not only did I make two new wonderful native friends who are eager to help me practice my Spanish, but these relationships have the potential to create beautiful friendships.

"Some of life's best lessons are learned at the worst times."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Argentine Traveler

Hello from Cordoba after my arrival to Argentina yesterday!
The first day has already brought a daunting yet manageable transition for a small town girl like me. The sheltered lifestyle I once knew has been challenged today and will certainly continue to be altered as I adapt to the environment of the city's 1.5 million residents. The atmosphere of a big city demands common sense, which should not come as a surprise, but still certainly does for a girl whose family sometimes forgets to lock house or close the garage door at night. Learning to live in a big city requires caution, but will not prevent me from experiencing the diverse culture that surrounds Cordoba. Despite the enormous population, differences in geography, social mannerisms, culture, and language between my two homes will help me to foster appreciation for both lifestyles; at the conclusion of my term, this experience will provide me with the ability to examine both cultures and say that neither is better or worse, but simply different in the best possible ways.  An equally surprising difference were the deserted streets as I passed through the city at nine in the morning most likely due to the fact that Cordoba's nightlife does not return home from the boliches (bars) until 5:30 or 6:30 am. As the hours passed, the city awoke and, by late afternoon, the streets were full of  lively Messi supporters and children blowing horns in preparation for the final World Cup game.

A striking difference between American and Latin American culture is meal time, which is difficult to adjust to because I enjoy walking around my kitchen as if I'm Pacman when I'm hungry! In Cordoba, there really is no such thing as a hearty breakfast of pancakes, waffles, or even cereal; it is definitely not the most important meal of the day as many American children have been told before rushing to school each morning. Usually breakfast consists of bread, coffee or tea and nothing more. Lunch is served around 1pm and dinner is eaten at the earliest by 9pm. If you're a mathematician, there is 8 HOURS DIFFERENCE and if you eat ALL THE TIME just like me then this is worrisome, but have no fear because there is snack time somewhere between 5 or 6pm.

I am adjusting well and there will be so much to read in the coming months since my fingers find it incredibly hard to stop writing about the excitement of a new journey. Until next time!

"To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice" --Eat, Pray, Love

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mis ultimas memorias de mi cuidad antes de Argentina

El Rio de Mississippi

El centro de mi cuidad (La Crosse)

El Rio de Mississippi

En el parque en el centro

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Argentine Traveler

Bienvenidos a mi mundo en Argentina! Soy Leanne y tengo 20 años. I’m glad that you have chosen to read my FIRST EVER blog post because that means you are curious about my Argentine travels and you want to learn something new about Argentina, just like me! :) This is my final week to relish in the comfortable routine of my life in Wisconsin before I leave on July 11th for my nueva casa in Córdoba, Argentina. Ever since I was a child, I have loved to travel, but it is exhilarating that this I time I am on my own to grow in independence and diversity for the six months that I am abroad. I look forward to forging a new lifestyle, which will include Argentine asados, or barbecues, fútbol (maybe I will run into Lionel Messi on the streets!), the traditional drink of mate, and of course the tango. I want to go beyond what is recommended to see and do in the land of silver, and create my own unique adventures along undiscovered roads and neighborhoods. I want to pack a bag for a day and just see where the roads take me. It is my biggest passion to explore what the average tourist may not capture from behind a camera and to see from every perspective the land that Evita called home.  Amidst all the enthusiasm for potential adventures, I am studying at the historic Universidad de Nacional de Córdoba where I will take classes in Argentine culture, cinema, and history. My greatest desire for my experience abroad is that I will return home fluent in Spanish. Every journey I take in Argentina will have its high and lows, but I am most nervous about my adjustment to my new home, culture, and of course the language barrier as I attempt to communicate with those around me. I hope that each struggle will increase my inner strength, optimism, and confidence about my life in Argentina. Once on the plane, it is time to set aside these worries and let the adventure begin!:)

“The world is a book and those who do not travel only read a page.” –Saint Augustine