Sunday, June 1

City lights lay out before us

Soccer games are fun. Buenos Aires is South America, kind of. I like it here.
You're never going to speak like a native speaker, just so long as you are becoming more fluid and augmenting your level of vocabulary, which you are, don't worry. I don't.
Mendoza is doza. Uruguay is a "chill" place. Iguazu is like no other. Sometimes I feel like I am just getting to know the cool things this city has to offer, there is always something going on. Other times, I feel trapped by the cement of a place in which I am a foreigner. I like it here, but I am ready to travel again. One more month. What will I do with that month?
I will volunteer in Villa Lugano(Villa 20). The government provides the kids of this area with one good meal a day. This happens in places called comedores. In between the time when school gets out and when dinner is served, kids have free time with little supervision and even less to do that could be considered safe. The organization I will volunteer with is called LIFE(Luchamos por una Infancia Feliz y con Esperanza). Its not the greatest, but what organization is perfect? I will use it for what they allow me to do. They go to these comedores and hang out with the kids, help the with homework, maybe just take their minds away from the duro de la vida.
While providing them with a space to just be kids is great, the potential to be educationally productive in this time frame asks me for something else.
I, in partnership with my amiga Suzie, have created a health education program that we have done and will do on thursdays. We are completely uncertified, unfunded, unhelped, and unsomething else too. But man do the mothers we talk to appreciate it. No catholic hesitations on this stuff (even though they are very religious). They know the reality of situations. It will be a lot of work for us, but we will stay motivated. The kids need it. I guess we will never know if we have helped, but for me that won't be necessary. I just need to think that I will be helping someone at some point in the future. Even if the kids will laugh and giggle and maybe not appreciate it, it will be worth it. What else can you do?
I will also do research for a monography on the water distribution in Villa XX. I will explore the area with the safety and guidance of some friends who I have met who work in the area. The process of urbanization is an interesting one. The water is privatized here, go world bank! These people didn't have much access before the privatization, nor after, hard to say that privatization is worse than governmental supply. I will be writing 20 pages single spaced in spanish on this topic. If you would at any point like me to go more in depth on this subject, I probably will be able to.
I will have found a community about which I care a lot.(spanish being translated to english). But I don't think it will be enough to make me want to live in this city again. I need green.
After returning the USA for 5 days and then going to Israel and then coming back, I think I will appreciate this time as one of immense growth away from the scientific world. Will I be ready to enter that world again? The microbiology of infectious diseases says "you better be."
Despite the tone of this tablet, I assure you, I'm in a good place.

Wednesday, March 19

A Day in the Life

I wake up usually around 10 am sweating if I didn't put the air conditioner on high enough, freezing if I did. I stand. My bed says, "Seriously, Jeremy, seriously?" Yes I am seriously getting out of bed. I make myself an egg and cheese sandwich and drink the orange juice which my host mother has squeezed for me this morning. Its a requirement of our program that we have fresh squeezed orange juice every morning by our host mothers. I don't let her do it every morning, but she does it quite often.
After playing guitar or reading "The Uses of Hati" I'll go out on to my personal balcony and check out my penthouse view from the 9th floor. It's not very pretty. By about 12 I am feeling somewhat antsy not doing something culturally enriching to better myself as a person. So I will call my friend Chris from tufts and Elyse from yale to see if they have anything that will make me feel personally satisfied that I am not wasting my time here. Sometimes I get too caught up in trying to do that and I just need to relax and have a good time.
Getting places sucks. Instead of being built up, this city is spread out. It's huge. I decide to try and figure out the bus system today. I will take one of 700 buses to try find my friends and cultural enhancement. But first, I need moneda, coins. The buses only take coins and here there is a shortage of them. The bus company, privately run, takes coins and sells 1 peso worth to companies for 1.05. Its a real racket. It's hard out here for a pimp, or a person trying to get moneda. Stores will ask for all sorts of different bills in order not to give you moneda. I buy an empenada for 2.25 that ensures that I get moneda. I get on the bus to personal satisfaction.
When I get off, I am late, but my friends are not here either. It takes forever to get anywhere in this city. It's big. They arrive. We start walking around some neighborhood or museum or something argentine. We walk through the streets and some rain falls upon us. The sky is blue. Something you learn very fast in Buenos Aires, since there is no central air conditioning, if you feel a droplet it's probably an air conditioner pissing on you as opposed to God.
We realize we have some academic obligation and hurry off to it. On the way we see a demonstration being held for some cause which we try to discern but probably can't. We arrive at our academic orientation and sit through it while they tell us how dangerous the city is. It's not. It only is if you aren't smart.
Now its time for dinner. My friends want to go out, but the combination of me being cheap and having absolutely delicious food for me at home make me decide to go home. We have someone cook food for us and bring it to our apartment. It's dank. Being in this city and not knowing the best way to get from place to place makes me ask for directions, not something I often do. People here are nicer and more willing to help than in the States. In fact, they are too willing, they will tell you directions even if they are not quite sure the right thing to do.
I go home via the subway. In the subway a man is selling toolkits. Another boy ands me and everyone around me a bracelet and walks to the other end of the car. He returns and we hand them back to him. I see some kind sucker giving him two pesos for one. I get home. I sit down with my mother over a salad (the only dressing here is olive oil and vinaigrette). We talk about Peron or something I learned today. She is incredibly awesome and level-headed. She says that Peron was just the right person at the right time. If it wasn't him, the same thing would have happened with a different person. We talk about everything, then we warm up a potato tart and some meat cut with cheese in the microwave. They are delicious.
After dinner I feel gross and dirt from walking today. I shower but I can never get the right temperature. There are two knobs. One for hot and the other for cold. They do their respective thing with other one is not turned on, but I can't seem to combine them to get a tolerable temperature. When it is heating up I think, maybe this time will be the time that the temperature doesn't go all the way to scalding. It's not. I get out and decide that this is the day I will start growing my beard, or rather when I shaved 2 days ago was that day.
While waiting for it to be late enough in order to leave my house, I send my mom a few emails, and talk to John on skype. I talk to a few more people about what I will do tonight. If I am lucky I will get to go to a place with very few foreigners and lots of argentines. On the one hand, I am getting my cultural experience, on the other, I know close to no one. This is good in its own way, it forces me to be more outgoing and feel more comfortable in situations in which I know almost no one. A skill that will be useful throughout life. I talk to several people in spanish, trying to find the words that will make them want to keep talking to me. I manage to snag a few nice ones who seem interested. I usually don't ask for their numbers to hang out again, although I should, cos what do I have to loose.
If it is an unlucky night, I will go somewhere, to a bar, with american friends from my program. This is usually fun, but I am not improving myself as a person so I feel a little guilty. I am improving relationships though, and what more to life is there than that. I'm just not sure how much this happens at a bar. Usually it is an unlucky night.
The night ends at 4 typically. I go to bed feeling satisfied with the effort I have put out in making the most of my time here in Argentina. I feel happy with my friends, american and argentinian. I feel happy to be here. I look forward to tomorrow, where the process of bettering myself begins anew.

Sunday, February 24


On the bus back from Bariloche. I spent too much time not doing things in Bariloche. It is an amazing place, city set in the foothills of the andes. Tons of lakes. I went on some great hikes. I wish I would have been able to do more. There was so much to do in that area. Well, I am going to be returning with m program in a couple weeks, hopefully I get to see the volcano. It was not as serene as Chalten, the woods have more life in them. They are many birds. I saw 2 parakeets. For my birthday, I went on a long hike through woods next to a river with rona, and it was great. The trees were old and the way they creaked made it sound like an old wooden door that was opening. I got cool gifts from Rona and Marina on my bday, went out for a nice dinner courtesy of my parents. Its sad that I wasn't with my family and all of my friends for my birthday, but spending my birthday hiking through the Andes is probably the second best thing I could think of to do for my birthday. I am going back to Buenos Aires now. Happy to be getting settled soon. Patagonia was awesome.

Saturday, February 23

El Calafate and Chalten

Went to see Perito Moreno yesterday. Huge! It was about 55m tall. On the way to the glacier our guide started to talk about how some of the mountains were private property. Thats a comical idea...something that huge being owned by someone. It was amazing watching the chunks of ice fall into the glacial lake. Pieces that look no bigger than a penny would fall, but by there thunderous sound you could tell that even the smallest of these chunks would make would crush a person into nonexistence, like matter and anti matter coming together. There are many things in this world that are much bigger than us, and its our job to enjoy them without inhibiting others from doing the same.
Trying to capture this on camera conflicts with my desire to just sit and enjoy the moment. I wanted to sit and wait to get a piece falling into the water, but that takes away from me being there. It's a conundrum. Sometimes, or a lot of the times, it would be better to just to sit back and live in the moment. So thats what I did. I also took a lot of pictures.
Ice trekking on from the secluded town of Chalten on the glacier Torre. We zip lined over a river, hiked for about 4 hours around a glacial lake. The only way to describe the scenery here was perfect nature. Green all around. Tree's bark has fallen off and looks like they have been in a fire. A rabbit. Glacial river. Glacial Lake. The water in these lakes just seems more pure and more serene. Path through woods. Green. Mountains. Mountains. Mountains. A more tranquil place, i could not imagine. Untouched, the way things were meant to be. Here man adapted to nature, instead of the other way around. It's the kind of place that makes you want to be a better person. I want to get in better shape so I can observe this land without feeling tired. I want to help more people because this land wants me to. A feeling of nature's adrenaline is shooting through my veins. So lucky to be here. Perfect.

Puerto Madryn

Feb 4
A beautiful small town that next to the ocean that in 15 years, sadly, is going to be built up and touristy. Sad for me, not for the residents. The first day that we arrived, we fell asleep on the beach for an hour and all got sunburnt. The atlantic ocean, however, was great. A little cold, but great. I love the sea. We went to an eco-center to learn about the marine animals that were there. A poem that Pablo Neruda wrote about the albatross was there, its awesome. Read it.
Feb 5
We went to Penisula Valdes, an nature reserve with a private guide and Brazilian named Bruno. Bruno was coming around patagonia and doing the circuit in the opposite direction. He was interesting and opinionated, but fine for a day of travel. Animals I saw were: sea lions, guanacos, sheep, patagonian foxes, armadillos, Magellanic penguins and elephant seals. All the area is almost desert like, no trees and little vegetation because of the lack of rain and the great winds.
Feb 6
Went on a 34km bike ride with Rona along the coast. Great. The road to turned to gravel about 4 km into the ride. Not little rocks with a hard surface underneath, but all little rocks. It was tough biking. There was a mini vacant sand dune that did not compare to michigan, but it was still cool. We wondered how long it would take our footprints to disapear from the sand. Ah time. Continuing on, to my left there was the sea and to my right there was a tundra-like field. And trash. Makes you think "The U.S. has much more waste, we are just better at hiding it." I guess that counts for something though. Taking the bus further south, the hills start rolling and it reminds me of eastern Washington the way the Cascades make it so treeless.
On the bus, we watch terrible movies. I hate ben stiller, I have seen everyone of his movies except zoolander here. But we do get to watch 80's music videos in between. If you like great things from the 80's do yourself a favor and watch Bonnie Tyler's music video for total eclipse of the heart. The end is amazing.

Buenos Aires

Jan 30
Arrival in buenos aires. Get off the plane, my suitcase lock doesn't work, its stuck. Oh wait, I just need marina's strength to open it. Thinking of all those stories you hear about airport sequestrations(I have resolved to start using spanish cognates more in english) and thieves. Get to taxi. get ripped off by the taxi, but arriving at the hostel alright. Walked around, stumbled upon a park that is infested with cats. Why are there tons of cats in every direction you look? Met a girl at the hostel who had been traveling throughout South America and is leaving tomorrow. Seems fitting that our first day here is her last...passing the torch.
New day. Met my host mother to store my stuff. She seems open and warm. Rona and I go exploring to the aeroparque in order to find plane tickets. We get lost for a while, but it was fun. I didn't eat anything that day until 5 or 6 at night, so I was starving. I bought a chicken sandwich and ate it on the way home. While waiting for the bus and ravishing my sandwich, a boy no older than me was pulling a cart down the street with many belongings and 3 kids all under the age of 5. Poor. One in particular stared into my greedy eyes and I into her envious eyes. I knew that the hunger that I felt was nothing compared to what this girl ad already felt in her life. I felt no compassion at the time. What can you do? You can't give everyone who is hungry your sandwich, but I could have given it to this girl. I feel guilty and I don't. This is what I came to see and feel.