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5 days left: Final week observations in Buenos Aires

joe previte stacey fawthorp friends in chinese restaurant

[Photo in Tao Tao Restaurant with Ivana, Allie, Sam and Stacey.]

I know I’ve said this multiple times in previous posts by WOW. It feels like this entire semester rushed right by me and now it’s finally here. By this time next week, I will be back living life in Phoenix. It’s insane to think that I’ve been in Buenos Aires for 140 days and will be leaving in five. FIVE DAYS! :O

For this blog post, I want to include a few observations that relate specifically to this last week.

The week feels packed fulls of last minute “things to do/see”

You know when you say, “Yeah, I’ll do tomorrow” and then you put that thing off til tomorrow but never do it? Well, our postponing has caught up to us and everyday has been busy this past two weeks. Obviously, we won’t have time to do everything we had wished we had been able to do but I’m happy that we’ve been able to do the numerous activities we’ve planned and done.

Relationships get stronger as the end approaches

I’ve noticed I have become much closer to my friends(Allie, Sam, and Ivana), girlfriend(Stacey) and my family(the two older women that I live with) in these past few weeks and it’s sad to think that we’re all moving on to new things. Though I may be sad I won’t be spending the morning chat Irma or Ruth or the afternoon exploring the city with Allie, Sam, Stacey and Ivana but I do know that this isn’t goodbye but rather an “I’ll see you soon!” farewell as we all move on to the next chapter in life.

Money is tighter and time is more valuable

In the beginning and the middle of the trip, I felt fine on money. Now, I’m down to my last pesos trying to decide how I should spend my money and making sure that I have just enough local currency to last me the last small stretch of this trip. Time also holds more value as the amount of it decreases. There are so many things left to do and so many people to see before I leave. It’s difficult because I can’t do everything unfortunately so I have to really spend my last few days wisely.

Hope you enjoyed reading! Next week’s post will be a reflection and summary of what perspectives of mine have changed and I have learned from studying abroad. See you then! Feel free to leave any thoughts or comments below ūüôā

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Thoughts on language skills after two months in Buenos Aires

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So this week marks two months right on the dot(60 days or so) and I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s post to what has helped my Spanish language skills and what I need to work on.

What has helped

Meeting people before coming here and meeting more people through the internet

Before I came here, I knew more or less 10 people. Those are the people who I’ve been able to practice my Spanish with and who I’ve learned the most from. It’s seems easier to meet people on the internet or at an event than at the university(opposite of what I expected).

Watching movies, TV shows, and listening to the radio in Spanish

Even after practicing with an Argentinian for eight months before arriving here, I still have had trouble in these first two months with listening and understanding everyone that speaks to me. However, I’ve watched a few Argentine movies and a few episodes of a TV show called¬†Solamente Vos,¬†which have both helped A LOT. I also try and listen to the radio every day and either listen to music or talk shows. Both also have helped a lot.

Dedicating one day a week to English

I think before I came here I was expecting everything to immediately translate/change into Spanish. Obviously, that’s not the case! My parents and friends still speak to me in English, my Facebook feed is still mostly English, etc. etc. But, I’ve empirically learned that if I dedicate one day to English-phone calls to friends and family, writing on my blog, reading in English-it’s easier for me to focus on and think in Spanish.

Living with a host family as oppose to by myself

I hadn’t thought much about this before hand but I’m really glad I found a family to rent a room from off Craigslist. I am forced to speak Spanish whenever I’m at home which has had positive effects on my speaking skills.

Trying to only speak in Spanish with my American friends

This has been a challenge since I’ve been here. It’s hard because when I’m with a group of Americans, the majority of the time I’m speaking English. What has helped though is speaking to any Americans I meet in Spanish and giving off the vibe that, “Hey, I only want to speak in Spanish.” Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t but at least trying to do it has helped me improve my language skills.

What I need to work on

A system for learning new words and phrases

I’m still trying to find a system that will serve me best to learn new words and phrases. Everyday, there is a word that I don’t know in Spanish but need during a conversation. The one idea I came up with just recently is to write down the words that I want to know in Spanish in my journal before ¬†I go to bed and then look them up the next night and study them before I write my next journal entry. I don’t know if it will work but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Speaking more with locals

Like I mentioned above, it’s easiest to meet Argentinians on the internet for me. I’ve been searching for more events such as concerts or festivals and meetups to meet more people but I have yet to actually go. I need more practice with natives because it’s the best way to improve my speaking skills.

Reading and pronunciation

I should be reading a little bit everyday because it’s a great exercise for learning new vocabulary and phrases and recognizing grammar structures. I also need to work on my pronunciation because I still have difficulty with some sounds in particular.

Of course there are other aspects I need to work on regarding my Spanish but these are the ones I believe I should focus on to achieve fluency the fastest. If you have any tips or thoughts, feel free to share them! ūüôā

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P.S.- For fun and to see my progress with the language, I’ve recorded videos of me speaking in Spanish and plan to record more throughout the remainder of my study abroad.

20 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/9WXYFaCdgHc

8 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/uGHpFKGajVk

5 weeks ago- http://youtu.be/CVHvfydx5CA

Pursued in Buenos Aires after exchanging money

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Eyes fixed on the door, I walked out the exchange market and turned right, followed by another right into a small, clothing store just to get off the streets and situate the folds of 100-bill pesos sitting in the pocket of my tan corduroys.

Thankfully, the owner of the clothing store was busily chatting away with a friend as I pretended to look for a jacket and figure out where to put my money. I pulled out the pesos and decided to keep 400 in my pocket, 300 in my jacket and the rest hidden in my money-belt underneath my clothes.

“Alright, I’m good. Nothing’s going happen,” I told myself as I walked out of the store and headed towards the bus stop.

Crossing Santa Fe street, I noticed a line 152 bus to the right of the crosswalk, and thought, “Perfect! I’ll get on right here and no one will even have the chance to follow me!”

Hoping it was my lucky day, I pointed to the doors asking permission to board only to be shot down by disappointment to see the bus driver respond with a, “Sorry pal, you can’t board here. You have to go to the bus stop and wait for the next one.”

I finished crossing the street and headed towards the bus stop to wait for the next bus. I happened to notice a man who seemed to be following me to the bus stop. He had brown hair and a brown mustache and looked to be in his forties. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell if he was watching me because of his sunglasses.

Without hesitating, I saw people boarding another bus and I jumped on seconds before the conductor closed the doors.

“Phew. I’m safe. I don’t know where this bus goes but they can no longer follow me” I thought to myself as I pressed my Sube card to the reader and paid for my fare.

Out of the corner of my eye, I happened to see the same suspicious man walking faster than normal in the same direction as the bus while talking on his phone. The fear jumped right back into me and I had to stop and tell myself that they were actually following me.

Less than three stops later, a man wearing typical business attire carrying a briefcase boarded on the bus. We made eye contact as soon as he paid his fare. I knew immediately that he was given a description of what I was wearing-grey Nike shoes with copper-tan corduroy pants and a black windbreaker. He then pulled out his phone, I assume to send a text message to the rest of the guys working with him, letting them know our direction and location.

Panicking a little on the inside, I knew I should probably get off soon and take an alternate route home. Less than 5 minutes later, the big green circle indicating a subte(the subway) station for line D appeared and filled me with relief. I pressed the red button to alert the bus driver that I wanted to get off at the next stop, which happened to be on the same side of the street as the station.

The suspicious business man on the bus didn’t get off when I did but I was certain it was because there was someone nearby waiting for me. Trying to buy time and figure out what to do, I took refuge in an office supplies store and acted like I needed to find a notebook for the university. I was scared to take a taxi home because my girlfriend told me a taxi driver held a screwdriver to the leg of a boy in her program last week. The best option seemed to be taking the¬†subte home and praying nothing would happen.

I walked out of the store and started to head towards the¬†subte station until I noticed Farmacity, one of the main pharmacy stores here in Buenos Aires. “Hey. I actually need something here,” I laughed, remembering my throat had been hurting earlier that morning, and entered the store.

I purchased cough drops and descended the stairs into the subte station. Still unsure as to whether the men were still following me, I decided to wait in the middle of the platform and hide behind a newsstand, just in case.

Scanning the people around me, I noticed one man listening to his iPod. He was young, probably in his twenties, dressed like an average guy but seemed to stick out for some odd reason. Then I froze. Near the boltería, or ticket window, I saw the same man who was in front of me in Farmacity.

“I swear I saw him cross the street after I left Farmacity. He must be one of them.” I said to myself.

I broke eye contact with him as soon as I heard the sound of the¬†subte for my side arriving. “Thank goodness,” I thought.

I boarded the subte and made sure to memorize the people who boarded at that station so I would know who might be working for the men following me. Then a light-bulb lite up. I knew exactly how I was going to lose them.

After about four stops, I quickly disembarked the subte at the Puerreydón station, and  hopped onto the subway heading in the opposite direction. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie, escaping the bad guys. Looking around for any of the suspicious men, I seated myself and took a deep breath. I lost them.

I got off on the next stop, crossed platforms and boarded the subte heading in the direction towards my house. I felt calm and collected thinking about the potentially dangerous situation I had just escaped when all of sudden the doors opened at the Puerreydón station and what happened sent chills down my spine.

The man from the very first¬†subte station, who was listening to his iPod, boarded the subway and all of my hope in getting home safely vanished. I had no idea what I should do. I wanted to say something and let him know that I knew he was following me but I knew it was probably best that I didn’t.

He started to pull out his phone and I did the first thing that came to mind. I started to move closer towards him as if I were getting ready to disembark the subway. His eyes shot up at me and I thought he was going to grab me but he quickly looked back at his phone and slide it back into his pocket. I wasn’t sure if that meant I scared him, he already sent the message or if I was just overreacting at a random guy sending a text message to his girlfriend.

To my relief, he got off the subte before my stop and I felt 85% sure I was in the clear. I decided I would get off and go immediately home where I would be safe.

I left the subway station and made sure to walk along the busiest street just in case anyone were still following me.

Walking a little faster than the average pedestrian, I focused all of my attention on getting home. Only three blocks left until I arrived at my street.

Then without warning, a large masculine hand grabbed my shoulder from behind and a man yelled, “GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY!”

The blood and the adrenaline had never rushed so fast in my entire life than in that moment.  With the most petrified look on my face,  I turned to look the crook straight in the eyes only to realize it was my friend Miguel planning a joke on me.

The only thing I could do was laugh to myself knowing it was just a friend and no one was actually trying to rob me. After I finally arrived home, I felt relieved that nothing dangerous had happened to me and that I made it home alive and safe.

Since then, I haven’t had any similar situations(knock on wood), but boy did that startle me. Now, I try not to exchange as much money as I did my first time going alone for my own safety. Hope you enjoyed the story! Feel free to share any thoughts or comments below! ūüôā

Day 45: Door knobs are just for looks

puerto madero buenos aires argentina

Day 45 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and here are more cultural observations- hope you enjoy!

“The bus comes when it comes”

When it comes to transportation, it seems as though there is all the time in the world. People simply wait at the bus stop or at the subway platform and get on when the bus or subway arrives. No one seems to be in rush. However, the reason for that may be because the public transportation is really useful and the most time I’ve had to wait for a bus or subway is 15 minutes.

A lot of Argentinians talk with their hands

Not everyone uses their hands to talk but those who do paint a picture of what they’re describing with their gestures. I believe this is because a lot of people have Italian roots and Italians talk with their hands.

“Muy amable” expression

This is my favorite expression in¬†castellano.¬†After someone gives you directions, or really shows you kindness in anyway, you hear this expression.¬†I interpret it as¬†“That’s very kind of you.” I love it because I don’t feel like there’s an expression in English that we use to express gratitude in the way an Argentine person might. It’s really cool!

Description words are used as names

Instead of using the person’s name such as “Nico” or “Sara,” people sometimes call a person by the adjectives one might use to describe that person such as¬†flaco(skinny), gorda(large), linda(pretty),¬†etc. I wouldn’t consider it “labeling” a person but rather using words that actually relate to what the person is. An example would be, “Oi, flaco. Ven√≠ ac√°,”¬†which directly translates to “Hey, skinny, Come here.”

You always greet the people that live in your building

I live in an apartment and every time I see someone walking out the front door, in the elevator, or on the stairway, the person always greets me and says hello. I wouldn’t know if it’s the same in New York or Chicago or another big city in the United States but it was something that stuck out to me.

Most doors in restaurants don’t shut automatically

I’m not exactly sure this falls under the “cultural” category but one thing that caught my attention is the fact that at¬†some restaurants, the doors¬†don’t close automatically. You have to actually shut it and this is something I’m not used to in Arizona. ¬†There are doors that do shut automatically but I also see a lot that don’t compared to in Phoenix where I hardly see any.¬†

Door knobs are just for looks

It amuses me that there are numerous doors that have door knobs just for looks. By that I mean you need to turn the key like a doorknob to enter the building. This also means that if you forget your keys and no one is home, you can’t get in.

Feel free to share any thoughts below ūüôā

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3 weeks in Buenos Aires: more observations

street in buenos aires argentina

Today marks my 3rd week here in this metropolis called Buenos Aires. This will be the second post(read the first one here) I have written regarding my observations and things that have caught my attention while living here.  Just a fore-warning, this one is longer than the last one but should be just as interesting!

The custom for introducing yourself is a kiss on the cheek

The most common way to introduce yourself to a person(male or female) is to kiss them on the check(or kiss the air next to their cheek). I remember learning about this in a class during my first semester in college but I completely forgot and made a fool more than once during the first week.

It’s uncommon to walk barefoot in your house¬†

At my host family’s house, everyone walks around with shoes on. Now I don’t know how widely practiced this custom is but I do know that it’s practiced in other host family houses, according to a few other students.

When you go out for the night, you probably get home til 7am

Before I came to Argentina, my friend Nico told me that when you go out at night here, you stay out until the sun comes up. I told him that wasn’t going to be me. As it so happens, he was right. Usually, you leave your house around 11 or 12, go drink at a bar until 2 or 3 and then afterwards, go to a¬†boliche,¬†or club to dance.

The traffic light shines yellow light before a red light AND before a green light

I have no idea if this happens in other parts of the United States or even world but before the traffic light shines green, it shines yellow. I don’t if this has positive or negative side effects but I noticed this while riding in a taxi home one day.

You have to weigh your fruit/vegetables/meat/etc. before you checkout at the grocery stores

Instead of weighing your fruits and vegetables at the checkout, you have to wait inline near the produce section and have a clerk weigh your items and stick the price tag on them before you pay-not a big deal. It was more something that I didn’t realize would be different.

Professors don’t use Powerpoint presentations in class: they only lecture

Wow! This was totally unexpected. Since the classes are taught in Spanish, it’s especially hard to take notes AND listen to the professor lecture at the same time. I know I’ll get used to it after we move more along into the semester(this is the second week of the semester).

Everyone cleans their driveway/storefront

I don’t believe this is common in larger cities but I wouldn’t have enough experience/knowledge to say if this is common or not. Basically, in the morning you’ll see store owners or janitors cleaning the sidewalk in front of their complex or property. Where I come from, it would be very unusual to see someone scrubbing their driveway.

Cigarette smoke is UBIQUITOUS

It would be realistically impossible to go a day without breathing secondhand-smoke. Everyone smokes here and there is no escape. Even at the university! People smoke near the single, university building and sometimes the tall, wide doors open just enough to “click” and stay open to allow the unpleasant cigarette smoke to linger all the way to the eleventh floor.

That’s the end of my observations for this blog! Next week, I plan to write about the gastronomy of Buenos Aires that I will have encountered thus far. If you have any comments or thoughts, feel free to share them below ūüôā

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Leaving a Legacy at the University of Arizona

I’m writing this week’s post in English because it’s something I want to share with everyone(a pr√≥xima semana, vou regressar a portugu√™s ūüėČ ). I know I already posted a picture of this one Facebook but there is a fascinating story behind it that I would like to share with you.

After the second week of school or so during freshman year, I decided to buy a Moleskin journal to write down my thoughts and ideas. I was just beginning a new chapter in life and my brain couldn’t handle it all. I needed to write things down and let my ideas flow from my mind onto paper.

I ordered a journal off of Amazon and received it shortly(thanks to my free two-day shipping trial) that week. I began writing random figments as the week progressed. Then, five days after I had received my journal, I wrote something that I had completely forgotten about until last weekend when I was skimming through my journal entries.

This is what I wrote this on August 29th, 2013.

Journal Entry

Now you’re probably wondering, “Okay. What’s the big deal? You thought something big was coming your way and you said you wanted to leave a legacy- I don’t get it?”

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The reason that this is so crazyis ¬†because of what happened exactly one week ago from today- I received the The Honors College Outstanding Freshman of the Year award¬†from the University of Arizona’s Honors College as.

I couldn’t believe it! My thoughts from the beginning of the semester had become more than just thoughts- they had become real life!

I remember the exact feeling I had had in those moments during the start of school. I was excited, nervous, happy, and scared-all at the same time. I wanted to do something great and leave a legacy here but I had no idea how I would go about it.

Around the end of March/the beginning of April, I found out about this award and I knew I wanted it.

I was at the Slonaker House(the Honors College house) for an Honors College Ambassadors overnight visit when I happened to notice the plaques on the wall with names and the words written “HONORS COLLEGE OUTSTANDING FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR.” The dean of the Honors College was standing right next to me so I gathered up the nerve and asked,

“How do you even win that kind of award?”

“Well, each year we ask professors to nominate students for the award by submitting a letter of recommendation. This year, however, we didn’t receive as many nominations as we would have liked to so we’ve extended the deadline till next Friday. If you’d like, you can ask a professor to nominate you but they¬†must¬†submit a letter of recommendation.”

My eyes lite up because I knew exactly who I planned on asking: Melissa Fitch(Profa)- one of my favorite professors at the university and one of the professors who had just written me a recommendation letter for my study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I knew I only had a week for her to submit the letter and I knew she was super busy so I made sure to email her as soon as I arrived at my dorm.

Luckily, she liked me and found time to submit the letter of recommendation before the deadline. I received the email notifying me of my nomination that same weekend and I was then invited to write an essay explaining how my academic and social work embodied the Honors College mission statement.

At first, I felt like I was cheating since I had asked a professor to nominate me, but then I reminded myself that:

a. the Dean suggested that I ask a professor to nominate me

b. the professor could have said no

c. I still have to write the best essay to win

I decided to accept the invitation and write an essay for the award. I struggled at first because the prompt was semi-vague and I wasn’t sure what I was going to write. I had only a week to write it. I wrote an outline and emailed it to Susan Kaleita, a staff member at the Honors College, ¬†and my mom, who helped me flush out my ideas and write the award-winning essay that I wrote, which you can read here. I worked really hard on the essay and I am proud of the outcome. Writing it made me want to write a book about my backpacking experiences in Europe because it was so amazing what happened during my travels. It was troublesome choosing only one experience to write about.

Now, I have the plaque that I posted a picture of above AND my name will go on a plaque in Slonaker and will be there¬†forever. Hence, I have created a legacy for myself here at the University of Arizona and fulfilled what I had originally written in my journal at the beginning of the year ūüôā

I wanted to share this with you today because I still cannot fathom the fact that I wrote about this at the very beginning of the year and it came true! I took advantage of the opportunity presented before me and this is what happened.

A little side-note I want to add that puts the cherry on top of this cake-I was¬†rejected by the Honors College when I first applied my senior year in high school. That’s right REJECTED. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have high test scores? Who knows! But hey- that didn’t stop me. I reapplied and went through the Freshman Review process to make certain that I got in. I was constantly emailing Sara Dorer, an Honors College Recruitment and Outreach counselor, to¬†ensure my admission into the Honors College the second time around. However, thanks to her assistance and Bill Kimsey’s recommendation letter, they finally accepted me.

The main point of this blog post is to inspire you to never give up, pursue your dreams, and most importantly, to believe in yourself. I did all of these things and look what happened. Of course you’re going to fail multiple times in life, but you can’t give up! If you persevere ¬†and take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, then you’re going to succeed. Keep a positive mental attitude and good things will come your way.