Last week wrapped up quite nicely with my last day of volunteering at the YMCA before the kids finished with school and the start of summer session. My first day volunteering there last week I was actually quite reluctant to come back because one of the dudes who was a counselor there and had dreads just played guitar for the kids the whole time and knew all the games, while Liv, the girl I volunteered with, and I just sat there and didn’t really say a single word the whole time. But then as we went back, I ended up actually interacting with the kids and becoming friends with the other counselors, thus practicing my Spanish and being satisfied with everything again! My volunteering experience at the YMCA culminated in a “fiesta” last Thursday, and then I had to say bye to the kids and that was sad, but at least we’re all going out for dinner and drinks with the rest of the counselors next Friday.
Two of my favorites, Carla and Daniela. These two were inseparable, having to do everything together. Here is another cute picture of the children at the YMCA I volunteered at!
Lately I’ve been feeling restricted in terms of practicing my Spanish and improving in my fluency. As I’ve said before, I live just the floor below my classroom, and sometimes when work starts to pile up I don’t even leave the “Fundación” during the day. This isn’t anyone’s fault but my own, though. I consciously chose to not stay with a host family. The way I’ve been rationalizing this to people has been by saying that my last year’s homestay experience with my family in Tarija, Bolivia is probably the best a homestay experience could get. Homecooked meals by a maid who wants to become a professional chef and living in a rural mansion – it’s hard to beat. I also didn’t want to risk being put in a homestay that was super far away from class, especially considering my morning wake up habits and the fact that I’m trying to do well in class. But with all the reading we’ve been doing in class, I definitely have been improving in my ability to read and comprehend Spanish, which is where my skills are weakest. My point with all this, though, is that I was able to speak a lot of Spanish these past couple of days to natives and feel even more confident with my fluency, because we went on a weekend excursion to Granada! (see picture below)
We had a lot of trouble coming to a consensus on where to vacation to this weekend, since our program was given a free weekend with which we could do whatever we wanted. Some wanted to go to Valencia while others wanted to go to Madrid again for Kapital round 2. We’re doing that next week after our daytrip to Segovia, so I was part of the group that toughened out the five-hour one-way bus ride to Granada, easily the most densely populated city in the world of ridiculously attractive women. The story of Granada, Spain is essentially a bunch of heavenly blessed divine beauties (anywhere from 8-10/10) settling with a bunch of 3.5/10 guys. If things back home don’t work out, I like to think I’m going to find my future wife here, seeing as my criteria are “really hot” and “speaks Spanish.”
It also just so happens that Brian Bernard is doing a study abroad program in Granada through the University of Arcadia, so we were able to meet up with him. Here is a photo of us at “Chupitería 69,” the bar we pregamed Friday night at. While the rest of our group stayed in a nice little hostel with free, functioning wifi, Garrett and I decided to take the cheap (poverty) route and stay in Brian’s apartment, where there was no wifi, no hot water (or even warm water), and a chandelier in Brian’s bedroom that was barely hanging on by a thread of wire and is probably already shattered into pieces on his floor right now. On top of that, Garrett ended up having to sleep on the floor instead of on the couch he was promised, because Brian gave us his keys to get home a little earlier from the club on Saturday night since we needed to wake up at 8 AM for Alhambra, but his keys just did not work for us - not for the main door to his apartment nor for the door to his room. In fact, had the paperman not let us into the building at 5:45 AM, we would have had to sleep on the streets. Or at least wait a little while for Brian to get back. So I think it’s safe to say we got exactly what we paid for (0 Euros) in terms of living accommodations.
As I had mentioned earlier, we pregamed Friday night, the only night we were able to go out in Granada, at a bar called “Chupitería 69.” Here is a photo of Hyun and his lover from the bar. There was a menu with over 60 shots, and each shot cost only 1 Euro. You get a coupon for each shot you buy, and there is a list of prizes you can trade in a certain number of tickets for. 50 coupons purchases a thong, so the whole night we were just fighting the good fight to help purchase a thong for Brian’s friend Abby. Turns out now Brian has 116 tickets, so he can buy two thongs, the second one being for his other friend Rachel. That alone was worth our weekend trip to Granada. In fact, I actually just realized Abby is the friend whose couch I slept in and whose floor Garrett slept on. We never got to meet Abby, but we did hear from Rachel that Abby was apparently woken up by Garrett and I arguing over who would sleep on the floor. She thought that neither of us wanted to sleep on the floor, when it was actually the other way around - we were arguing because we both wanted to be the hero and take one for the team by sleeping on the floor. Garrett won.
I don’t really have any photos from the club, but here is a photo of me in Alhambra early Saturday morning! Alhambra, a Muslim fortress originally constructed in 889, is a world heritage site and is apparently the second biggest tourist destination in Europe after the Eiffel Tower. In this photo, I am standing in the “Patio de los Arrayanes,” a patio used for ambassadors and distinguished guests, such as myself. Waking up for Alhambra was the absolute worst because we got home from the club at 5:45 AM, got into our sleeping quarters at about 6:30 AM, and then woke up at 8 AM to get to Alhambra in time for our 8:30 AM tickets, the only ones that weren’t sold out by the time we purchased them.
Here I am sitting on a chair in one of the palace side rooms. Keep in mind I am only on one of hour of sleep in this photo, after a night in which we spent several Euros at “Chupitería 69” and I downed absinthe shots at the club bar with Brian. Let that guide your imagination as you envision how I must have acted and felt as I walked through the same halls that the last Muslim emirs of Spain’s Nasrid dynasty walked through over a thousand years ago. Hint: I nearly vomited. Also, I sat down at a bench with one of the guards patrolling the Alhambra and I asked him if 1.) the fruit hanging from the trees in the courtyard we were in was edible and 2.) if the water from the fountain in the courtyard was potable. He blatantly ignored me after my second inquiry.
Fortunately I was able to find water at one of the many water fountains scattered around the site. Also, the reason I have that stupid white shirt in all of these photos is because my backpack at this point was still locked in Brian’s room, and I got this shirt from the club we had gone to the previous night. I had no way of storing it anywhere, so I had to carry it around with me while touring Alhambra.
Here I am with Kate and Amanda pretending to be Spanish Muslims. After our excursion in the Alhambra, we convened in Plaza Romanilla to eat a much needed and deserved lunch. I took advantage of the classic “Menú del Día” by ordering a phenomenal bowl of spaghetti with marinara sauce (classic) and a succulent plate of fried calamari for only 10 Euros. After lunch we went to the hostel the rest of the group stayed in and napped for several hours.
After waking up from what seemed to be an endless slumber, we went to the Muslim corner to check things out! Here is a nice pic stich of me getting in touch with my Muslim side. On the left side of this pic stitch I am in front of the Court of the Lions in the Alhambra fortress. The upper right hand picture is of several tapestries in one of the many bargain stores in the Muslim corner. I made a nice little purchase for 8 Euros, which I bargained down from 25 Euros! Wow! I am a cheap bastard! The bottom right hand picture is of a quaint little hookah bar we went to for a little while to decompress before eating dinner at Kabab King. (How authentic!) Then after dinner… “dinner…” we went to several bars and ate some tapas here or there, but then had to make it back to the bus station for our 1:30 AM bus back home. After arriving in Madrid and then taking another bus back to Toledo, I finally ended up getting back home at 9:30 AM.
Final picture of this blog post. Here I am in a tower looking forward, to the future, to next weekend in Segovia and Madrid, and to the ridiculous amount of work I need to accomplish in these last two weeks of the program. I have a presentation to give on one of Goya’s paintings tomorrow, and then I have a five-page essay due Wednesday, in which I am also focusing on Goya. As far as I’m concerned, though, my group will be meeting up with Brian’s group again this Saturday night in Madrid, so at least I have something to look forward to.
Meanwhile, over 80 new students just arrived in the “Fundación.” I thought our wifi was fucked, but it actually seems to have somehow gotten faster. I think many of these kids are living with homestays, so there are actually less people living in my residence this time around. Also, I found out that there is a convenience store right next to my residence that sells red bulls, so I will without a doubt be pulling an all nighter Tuesday night to finish this wretched paper. I’m writing about a painting by Goya in which Saturn, the Roman god of time, devours his son. The painting is called, “Saturn Devouring His Son.” Wish me luck. This is going to be another one of those, “If I can make it through this week, I can make it through anything” kind of weeks.
6/5/13 - 6/11/13
I hope people understood the pun in this blog post title.
I haven’t been blogging as much this trip as I did last summer because to be honest, I have a pretty similar daily routine. I wake up at 8:55 for 9 AM class, I have class until 10:30, I do some combination of homework/sleep until 1:30 PM lunch, I eat lunch until around 2:30 and then lounge around, I have 3:30 PM class until 5, I try to get a workout in to pass the time until 8:30 PM dinner, and then afterwards I usually go to Dragos with everyone or just sleep early. Very mundane weekday life. Every Friday, though, we do go to Madrid to look at the real versions of the artworks we study in class in their respective museums. We went to the “Museo del Prado” last Friday, and it was definitely a whole new experience seeing paintings by Greco and Velázquez up close rather than seeing Google images of their work projected onto a screen in a dark room.
On that note, we spent all of Saturday in Madrid, stayed the night, and got back to Toledo on Sunday afternoon. Several people stayed for the Real Madrid vs. Manchester United Legends charity game, but I didn’t want to have to worry about getting back home so late and maybe even missing the train/bus, especially since it took us so long to find the right train station back home Sunday morning. Here is a picture of a nice roundabout (“glorieta”) in Madrid. If only the Carmel roundabouts could be this nice.
Madrid is a much more urbanized city than Toledo, and many of its streets are reminiscent of those of New York (especially those of Times Square), with its skyscrapers and crowded streets and its many venues that show plays such as the Lion King. We drove around the city via bus tour and were given a brief historical context of many of the important buildings before disembarking at our main destination of the day…
The entrance to the “Palacio Real,” or the Royal Palace of Madrid. The current king of Spain, King Juan Carlos, and his royal family, do not reside in this palace, but rather live in the “Palacio de la Zarazuela” on Madrid’s outskirts. Thus, the “Palacio Real” has become more of a museum, displaying the rooms occupied by 18th and 19th century Spanish monarchs.
Here is a nice photo of the palace.
Here is a nice photo of me in front of the palace.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the “Palacio Real,” so for the most part I refrained. There was one room we were in when I pulled my phone out in preparation to snap a photo, but the security guard accosted me before I had even clicked the camera setting on my phone and rudely screamed “¡no se permite tomar fotos!” at me, so I conceded. But this room, the dining room of the royal family, was too magnificent for me to leave without having snapped a photo. Every single cup is in line with the cup directly in front of or behind it. This is what I envision my future dining room looking like.
After visiting the Royal Palace, we ate a nice buffet lunch paid for by the program, replete with “paella,” spaghetti with marinara and bolognese sauce (!!!), steak, chicken, pork, potatoes, and salad. My drink of choice was “Fanta Naranja.” Here is a photo of me in front of an elephant statue. After taking this photo, I was accosted by a man for having touched the elephant. There is a common theme with me and my photos here in Spain.
Lounging on the queen size bed in our hostel room. Paid only 25 Euros to stay here, which I guess was pretty reasonable. The wi-fi was probably the best it’s been all trip (lol), but however the water pressure was all sorts of messed up. You would barely turn the faucet on and the water would torrent out, and also the hot and cold water was switched on the faucet in our shower, so I showered in someone else’s room because I couldn’t quite figure out why the water was blisteringly cold after I had turned the faucet to the “hottest” setting possible.
After checking in at the hostel, we walked around the commercial area of Madrid. In one of the plazas, there was this event advertising Nivea shower gel, and every 30 minutes or so these scantily clad women would go up and sing this super catchy song that went something along the lines of, “N I V E A (Spanish pronunciation), bajo la ducha!” They also had a choreographed dance to go along with it. Also, I caught a free t-shirt and got some free Nivea shower gel, which was nice because I brought no body wash products to Madrid, or to Europe in general, and thus far I’ve had to bum shampoo and body wash off of my friends.
Then we went shopping for 3 hours (srs)! So this is the entrance to Madrid’s H&M, without a doubt the nicest H&M I’ve been into. Four floors, lots of clothes, none of which I purchased! Abe thought he could get into the club with cargo shorts (lol), so then we promptly had to find him a pair of nice cheap pants he could wear instead. So at H&M he found a pair of nice blue pants, and all was well.
We bought these hats so we could all walk into the club looking like Oliver Twist or orphan Pip from “Great Expectations.” #Poverty
Later that night we went to Kapital, a seven story nightclub that was just a 20 minute walk (I think) from our hostel. This is a view of the crowd from the fourth floor! Also, Luigii Nieto played a sick set. For the most part all EDM. Can’t complain at all about that.
Hanging out with the DJ! We were up front for most the time, when we weren’t utilizing our two free drink tickets that came with the already discounted 15 Euro cover fee. Kapital was honestly the best clubbing experience of my life thus far. Yeah. Oh yeah!
By the point in the night the balloons started coming down, I was on one.
And then the carbon dioxide gas sprayed all the way from the ceiling of the club, seven floors up, that kept the club cool. And the pressure was actually quite high given that the source was seven floors up, so technology is pretty neat. I vividly remember snapping this picture when “Like Home” by Nicky Romero was playing. You make it feel like home.
But of course, all good things must come to an end. And Saturday night had to end eventually. When we were all leaving the club, I didn’t want to leave. Garrett told me this the next morning, but apparently as we were leaving, “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia was playing, and I was so sad and was complaining that I would never hear that song again in my life, and didn’t want to leave. How absurd! But then I left with everyone because I am safe and responsible. Here was my exquisite breakfast/lunch the next day. Everyone else wanted to eat other stuff other than pasta and marinara sauce, but I was not having it. Especially since we went into another restaurant and they told me I had to pay for water. And then I walked out and went back to the place with spaghetti.
And then once the group that wasn’t staying for the Legends game congregated, we walked to the train station to go home! It took us so long to find because we honestly had no idea where we were going and ended up going to the train station that has trains to all locations in Spain EXCEPT Toledo. But we found our way eventually. Here is another view of the “Palacio Real.” As we walked past it, there was a public event for some television or radio station, and an orchestra was playing this beautiful music and I never wanted to leave. But I had to, because Toledo and a presentation on Velázquez’s “Los Borrachos” (that had yet to be made) were calling my name.
And here is me just hanging out in front of my house!
Madrid was incredible. I’m probably going back this Friday to spend the night and go to another club that David Guetta will be playing a set at. We’re also going back to the “Museo del Prado” again this weekend to study works from Francisco de la Goya, whom we are studying in the art history portion of class this week. I’m in the process of trying to make plans for this weekend, but no one is coming to a consensus on anything, so I might just stay in Madrid Friday night and then come back and spend Saturday night in Toledo. Decisions will be made, eventually. Here is my blog post!
6/2/13 - 6/4/13
Classes started yesterday! So my class is split into two components, the Spanish culture part and the Spanish art part, with the former being in the morning from 9-10:30 AM and the latter being in the afternoon from 3:30-5 PM. I didn’t fully utilize the convenience of my living location until this morning, when Garrett from next door came into my room (we have a shared bathroom with him and Hyun) and said, “David, don’t you have class at 9 AM? It’s 8:50 right now…” To which I responded, “Yeah man, I set my 8:55 alarm already, no worries.” Brushed my teeth and got to class with a minute to spare! In my defense, I planned on waking up at 2:15 AM with a couple friends to go to a bar to watch the Pacers Heat Game 7 with some of the Puerto Ricans who are also studying at the “Fundación,” only to find out that the bar closed at 3 and that they would not be showing the game. And then we lost, which rustled my jimmies into a new dimension of space time.
Classes are great, though. I’m incredibly excited to learn about Spanish culture, even more excited that I’ll be able to experience its nuances through my daily (and nightly) interactions with Spaniards. And since Madrid is home to the “Museo del Prado” and the “Museo Reina Sofía,” both of which host authentic works from Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Picasso, and Dalí, there really is no better place to learn about Spanish art. We had a nice lecture this morning about how Spain is hesitant to relinquish its romanticized image of the past, of bull fighting and rural landscapes, that it projects upon other countries, even though it is striving to create an image of the future, and it is this identity crisis that is problematic for Spain as it seeks to situate itself in the world. Enough educational talk, here are some fun pictures!
My boy Hyun and I celebrating our first night, and thus first night out, in Toledo! There is a quaint little bar right outside the “Fundación” called Dragos, and it has become our pregame spot of choice. Jesús is the bartender, and he is particularly generous with his drinks. After celebrating at Dragos on two separate occasions this night - the second occasion being when we finally met up with the rest of the group, including the Portland and Minnesota students we went out with - we finally went to “El Circulo de Arte,” a discoteca with a relatively older crowd. We made it fun, though, since we were all there together. Then we all made it home safe and had to wake up for 10 AM program orientation, yeah!
Beautiful shot of the “Puente de Toledo.” After program orientation, we embarked on a bus tour of the city - well, we ended up walking the rest of the way back to the “Fundación” after we were dropped off at this bridge. Went to the “Museo Sefardi” and learned a little more about “mudéjar,” which is the artistic mixing of Christian and Muslim religious elements. To my parents, if you are reading this - I promise I’m actually learning things this month, so don’t be worried that this program is a waste of my money!
On that note, here is a fun picture of me incredibly hungover / still intoxicated, with a breathtaking view of Toledo in the background!
More beautiful architecture around Toledo.
Not quite sure exactly what this is, but it looks nice.
Definitely starting to become more and more acquainted with the city and with all the other students living in the “Fundación.” Even interacted with some of the Puerto Ricans yesterday, which is impressive considering most the other students don’t talk to them because they always speak in Spanish and I guess that’s intimidating. But Abe and I went to shoot some hoops yesterday instead of going to salsa class (lol), and some of the Puerto Ricans came, so we ended up running a few games and becoming friends with them. Meals are particularly late here (1:30 PM lunch and 8:30 PM dinner), so that doesn’t align well with my “wake up five minutes before class schedule,” but we’re making it work.
Going to Madrid this weekend for a “weekend excursion.” Bracing for impact. Should be fun!
You guys never thought you’d see this blog again, did you? Well, you’re seeing it again. After nearly a year long hiatus from my ratchet adventures in Bolivia, I’m back for more - this time in Spain through Princeton in Spain. Just because I’m taking a course for credit (SPA310S - Spanish Art and Culture) doesn’t mean my experiences will be any more tame. After a month in Spain, I’ll be flying into LHR to stay in England for two weeks, but I might go around to other countries in Europe depending on where my friends are at the time. Just got to Toledo today after flying out of JFK. The jetlag is horrendous because I am now 6 hours ahead of EST, so I essentially pulled an all nighter aside from a few cat naps on the plane, and am now struggling to deal with the ramifications. I tried to start the summer off strong by asking for red wine on the plane ride over, but when the flight attended asked me how old I was and I said 21, and then she asked for identification, I decided to go with the orange juice instead. I promptly remembered that I am still a bit ill and need all the vitamin C I can get to recover! And of course, just like last year, I have nicely instagrammed pictures that make my life seem much more exciting than it actually is!
Beautiful view of Toledo from my window in the Fundación Ortega y Gasset, where I will be staying the next month. I had the option of living with a homestay, but I already experienced that twice last summer in Bolivia. Plus, who could pass up the convenience of having your 9 AM class be a 30 second walk away from your room every morning?
After eating lunch and settling down, the dorm students decided to take a walk around town while the homestay students were meeting their families. A point of contention: basically everything they serve here has cheese in it, so for this next month, I am fucked. Here is the beautiful view from another area of town!
Beautiful chapel in one of the plazas by our residence. There is also a nice store by our residence that sells bottles of wine for around 5 euros, so that is nice. We also went to the cellphone store today, which was closed, and then decided that we probably won’t even need to buy cellphones because we are YOLO and will just rely on finding wi-fi connections or making emergency phone calls to contact each other in times of danger! I hope my parents don’t read this!
Another shot of the chapel. I’ve been absolutely floored by how beautiful Toledo has been so far, and we’ve only seen a small fraction of it.
I always have this weird complex before going abroad every summer that’s like, “Wow I’m lazy and don’t really want to leave home because I’m so established here and I just want to dance and work out and traveling is so tiring,” but then by the start of every trip I realize that I’m lucky as hell and need to cherish every last moment abroad. Except for 6 weeks into Bolivia last summer (around when I got my Bolivian cellphone stolen) where things just got too ratchet for me and I decided I needed to go home ASAP. But after walking around Toledo today and meeting some of the cool people in my program, I have come to the conclusion that these next six weeks are going to be fun! Except I told a couple of people in my group after our walk through the city that I might go blog about it and they made fun of me for how gay blogging is, so you guys need to convince them that they’re wrong! Except one of the people was then like, “I make fun of things I respect!” Good save.
Orientation tomorrow. Classes start Monday. More posts to come!
Kodaline - All I Want
Our love was made for movie screens.
Just had a great talk with my friend Kevin that got me thinking about what I intend on doing after Princeton. All this time, I’ve been lazy and ingrained myself in the mindset, “I’m going to go to a good college and work hard to go to a good medical school and then work hard to go to a good residency and eventually have my own private practice and then live out what should be a stable, successful life.” But now that I’m almost halfway through college - insert existential crisis here - my laziness has started to catch up to me and I’m starting to be truly critical of this long-time mindset.
So I don’t really want to go to medical school. I think at a basic level, it comes down to what I value as a person, and I prefer the spontaneity and upward mobility that comes with going straight to work after college as opposed to the routine nature of medicine, the grueling marathon to get to the finish line of a steady career. I would actually prefer not knowing basically what’s going to happen to me in the long term. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to belittle medicine by any means - it’s obviously a rigorous and respected field - but maybe it’s not for me. I do like medicine, though, but I’d prefer to work in the business sector and benefit healthcare somehow through my contributions there. I think a lot of what my future will come down to is whether I’m able to find a niche market that also happens to be something I love and am passionate about. This all sounds so cliché.
Oh well, at least this isn’t a “I got a C in orgo and now my chances at med school are ruined forever!!!” type situation. I’m still going to finish taking all the prerequisites, since they interest me and I’m done after biochemistry next semester. I’m going to keep taking other classes I’m interested in, too, and then I’ll see where I am in a year. I honestly believe I’ll succeed in whatever I want to do, so the hard part now is just finding what that is.
I also still might get an MD anyway and then go from there, maybe even teach medicine. But going through all that school just doesn’t seem practical to me. Ideally, I’d come up with some crazy idea to revolutionize healthcare and then try to execute it entrepreneurially. But that isn’t very realistic. We’ll see in a year.
8/21/12 - 8/24/12
Really not that sad. I’m so stoked to go home, although it is quite shitty traveling on my birthday. But alas, the best birthday present I think I could have asked for is going back to America. I have a 6 AM flight, and right now it’s only 10 PM, so I’m just going to hang out in the La Paz airport for a long time… At least there’s free Wi-Fi! Also, I hopefully won’t get jetlag because Indiana and Bolivia are in the same time zone, so that’s cool. I had an amazing last week in Tarija, though. Here are some pictures!
This week, my clinical rotation was “Emergencies” in Hospital Obrero, but it was boring as fuck. I mean, what are the chances you’re going to see an emergency in only a few days in a clinic. I worked for only one day, witnessing the doctor give prescriptions to a bunch of people who simply thought their problems were emergencies. Other than that day of “work,” I just visited my friends in the Chagas clinical rotation to say a proper farewell.
Of course host family has been keeping it on point with the lunch. Pumpkins stuffed with a rice medley. Also a great sauce to go along with it. Really going to miss their food.
My ultimate meal had to be the spaghetti. Especially because I did my birthday celebrating the night before. Best hangover remedy ever. Also best spaghetti ever.
Cow just hanging out right in front of my house… Moo!
Aaron and a cute little puppy… Poor thing had a stomachache, though.
Last day of volunteering at Edyfu… Going to miss these kids so much.
Invited my host parents out for an awesome dinner at “El Marqués.” I had an awesome barbecue steak with salad, and also was able to convince the restaurant to give me a free birthday dessert. And what they gave me was…
Probably best ice cream dessert I’ve ever had. Took three Lactaid pills for this bad boy. Mix of strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate with a bunch of fresh fruit. So delicious. So fat.
Also went and hung out at a pool… Listened straight through Arcade Fire’s album “The Suburbs” for the first time ever, and all I can say is that I can’t believe I had never listened to it before. Such a clutch decision on my part.
We also had a barbecue at Karina, the program director’s, house. Here I am on the grill! Had so many different cuts of meat, along with freshly boiled potatoes and an epic salad of more vegetables than I can count. So healthy. So fat.
Of course I went out afterwards for the birthday festivities. Took some birthday shots with my dude Darko, one of my bboy friends I met here. Birthday night was crazy… Apparently I didn’t pay the taxi on my way back home, because the driver came to my house in the morning and asked for the fare. #YOLO?
But now it’s time for me to go home. It’s been an amazing two months in Bolivia, and if I gained anything from my time here, it’s more perspective… Perspective on how the healthcare system of a third world country functions, perspective on how people of a different culture interact, perspective on how to effectively learn a new language. Also, I really appreciated the two months away from everything because, sure there were people from the States in my program, but I was just able to have a lot more alone time than I would have had back in America. Solitude is necessary to appreciate even more the relationships you have with people. Well, I guess this is it for me. No more of these blog posts about my South American adventures. Not really sure if anyone is sad about this at all, but it has to be said. Thanks to everyone who’s followed me along this life-changing journey and has read what I’ve had to say. You guys keep me keeping on. Peace.
“We must think of our education as part of a larger spiritual journey and approach the work of the mind with a pilgrim soul.”
8/17/12 – 8/20/12
This past weekend was my last weekend in South America, so the group and I decided to #YOLO and take a bus to Salta, Argentina. Now, I’ve been to 16 countries and have more pretty stamps on my passport! This trip was very unplanned and last minute, unlike all our other ones, but things ended up (for the most part) working out for the best. We traveled with a new company called “Juárez,” which meant that we traveled on nearly brand new buses. My only reservation with traveling with a tour bus was that it would take forever to get through customs, but luckily enough there was literally only one other group on the bus. Also, the Juárez bus was arguably the nicest bus I have ever been on – lots of leg space – so it all worked out! We left Friday at 10 AM and arrived in Salta at around 8 PM, so we were famished after the bus ride. But, we were in Argentina!
Beautiful Argentinian sunset.
We found a nice little hostel called “Exxes Hostel,” which was very centrally located; had quaint, cozy rooms; and wielded the oh-so-precious commodity of Wi-Fi. After settling in, we all went out for our first Argentinian meal! I forgot the name of the restaurant, but I did remember that I had without a doubt the best bread-dipping salsa I’ve had in my nearly two months here. It was some sort of green salsa, different than that earthy-smelling, weird-tasting tomato salsa I’ve had this whole time with my bread.
I also enjoyed a nice garlic chicken with potatoes dish.
After eating dinner, everyone was all like, “Guys we’re in Argentina and we’re only here for a weekend so we need to make the most of it and we’re going to go out no matter what! But we’re all going to take power naps beforehand, despite that we’re all exhausted from having traveled all day. Yeah!” But I was like, “Taking a nap right now would be a terrible idea because I won’t wake up,” so I just hung around the hostel and befriended Ezequiel, who traveled from Buenos Aires (so sad I didn’t get to go) to Salta for one night. Also, by virtue of staying at Exxes, we were given free passes to go to a bumpin’ discoteca called “Club Room,” so Ezequiel and I – and at this point, apparently the rest of the group as well – were ready to make moves. But then everyone woke up from their “power nap” and was like, “I’m too tired to go out… We’ll go out tomorrow!” I was sad, but also cognizant that my birthday was only six days away and that five years ago from that night, Shira had been cured of cancer, so I was not phased by the group’s lethargy. Out Ezequiel and I went.
The details from the rest of the night are fuzzy, and probably not apt for a blog post.
The next morning, the group and I went to take the “teleférico,” or cable car, to the top of San Bernardo Hill. After this glorious ten-minute ride, we were at the top of the hill and with a gorgeous vista of Salta in its entirety.
Also, on top of San Bernardo Hill was also a mini, yet well-attended, workout station, replete with a bench press, treadmills, and plenty of free weights. Looks like the people of Salta like to stay healthy! Also, I can bench way more than that lol, this was just the weight on the bar when I asked two random dudes to take a picture of me!
So happy to be in Argentina!
Afterward, we went to the main square – “Plaza 9 de Julio” – for a much needed lunch. I had homemade egg noodle spaghetti with Bolognese sauce (best hangover remedy). Yum!
Street level view of Salta.
Fortunately enough for our touristy selves, the most significant buildings in Salta are grouped around this main square, so we had plenty of colonial architectural eye-candy. We then went to the “Museo Arqueológico de Alta Montaña,” which housed a collection of exhibits gathered from high-altitude Incan shrines, including mummified children!
This is a preserved mummified child! The Incans would sacrifice children by burying them alive after serving them an alcoholic drink called “chicha” to knock them out. This ceremony was meant to unite different regions of the Incan empire. Although kind of fucked up, human sacrifice is quite fascinating to me. After our touristy excursion, we went back to Hostel Exxes to take power naps and rest up for (hopefully) going out on Saturday night!
Every night, Hostel Exxes has events, and Saturday just happened to be barbecue night! I had an amazing dinner, with salad, pasta, and an assortment of various types of meat grilled to perfection! Easily in my top five meals I’ve had while in South America. The barbecue was also nice because we were able to meet our fellow hostel-goers, including this group of three hilarious New Zealanders with whom I went out later that night. Sadly, only Lukas from our group went out with me. Things got heated Saturday night, and our group was already kind of broken, so going out just didn’t work out. But off to “Balcarce Street” we went! The New Zealanders couldn’t really speak Spanish, but they kept going up to random Argentinians and asking, “Dónde está rainforest?” and “Dónde está Iguazu?” so that kept me very entertained as we struggled to find our way to the clubs. After a less-shenanigan filled night than Friday, I got home at 5 AM because Argentinian night life doesn’t really start until 2 AM.
Sunday morning was a huge struggle. Let’s just say that, for undisclosed reasons, we were not allowed to go back to Exxes Hostel. We were supposed to leave with Juárez on Sunday, but the company decided at the last minute to delay travel back to Tarija until Monday because it was apparently a holiday in Salta on Sunday. So we got fucked. And we couldn’t go back to Exxes, so we found another hostel… right by Exxes… It was mad awkward when we saw one of the Exxes workers walking by right as we all left the hostel to go to dinner.
What is presumably a fire… I hope everyone is okay.
But Sunday was just a relaxing, nap-filled day with no activities at all other than eating dinner and watching “Blow.” Very fitting that I was watching it in South America. We were all just able to decompress and prepare ourselves for a long day of travel home on Monday. But things are all good now because I’m back in Tarija and ready to kick this last week here in the face before going home to the great United States of America!
8/12/12 - 8/16/12
My friends and I were competing to see who has been to the most countries and states. I won the country competition with 15, but in the process of winning I sadly realized that I have been to more countries than I have states. So one of these days I’m going to have to road trip across America and hit all 50. Especially Hawaii. I really want to go to Hawaii. But that’s aside the point. The point is that I want to add more to my country list, and Argentina is right around the corner, so I’m just straight going on a bus to Salta tomorrow and seeing where life takes me from there. I haven’t talked to any tourist agencies or anything, and only vaguely have the idea in mind of going to Iguazu Falls. I just want to see what another South American culture is like… But for now, more pictures of this past week!
Host family has been keeping it on point with the food. I told them that I love their spaghetti and I love their potatoes (carbo loading), so they made me this dish!
Before every main course for lunch, I have some sort of salad variation or a vegetable soup that tastes like nectar from the heavens. This was a salad I had this week with carrot, onion, beet, cucumber, and lettuce. Balsamic vinegar for life.
Salad rolls with meat, rice, and vegetables inside them. The sauce on top is made from sesame, garlic, lemon, and some other ingredients I can’t remember. This is apparently an Arabic dish. Great with chili powder. Yum!
Ice cream at Gattopardo, the Internet café I always go to… I’m lactose intolerant.
This week I worked in a center of health known as “Nestor Paz,” which was very similar to “Servicio de Adolescentes” in La Paz. The consultations in “Nestor Paz” are more varied, though. I got to see many different clinical cases, but at this point I already have a very good idea of Bolivia’s healthcare system and am kind of getting burned out with work. Hence this spur of the moment Argentina trip.
This is Dra. Delgadillo, with whom I worked for the past week. She is a very wise woman who has a bunch of degrees in a bunch of different medical-related fields. She told me that some people will take used gloves out of the trash and sell them for money, so she has to puncture gloves after using them to prevent this horrible reality. She also helped me contact a few tourist agencies, but none have direct tours to Iguazu Falls, so that was very disappointing. After work every day, we would go to a nearby market and buy bread and meat (and sometimes candy hehe) and have a mini-feast.
This is the cute little munchkin I was holding a few pictures ago. Sadly, many of the babies here get parasites and then have crazy diarrhea. The most common parasite is known as Giardia - it lives in water and enters human systems when people wash vegetables with dirty water. There is a mini laboratory in “Nestor Paz,” so I was also able to see other parasites and worms and eggs and stuff under the microscope. Yeah science!
This is a cute little kid named Ronald who has a form of mental retardation that prevents language learning. The thing is, I didn’t even notice until halfway through his consultation that something was off with him… And then, I suddenly had this profound appreciation for how beautiful mental retardation is and how kids like Ronald with mental disabilities are just like us and how their behavior even shows this truism. One of the “Hospital del Niño” doctors in La Paz will say to parents with Down syndrome children, “Your child will be able to grow up and live a healthy, happy life and get a job and do everything that he/she wants,” before informing the parent that the child in fact has Down syndrome. Real heartwarming.
On the walk to afternoon volunteering, I saw sheep!
Just to give you guys more of an idea of what I do every afternoon. This is one of the classrooms in which I help little kids with their homework! It does get frustrating when kids don’t want to learn, though. Remember that picture I drew for Abel? He told me it’s hanging up in his room! How’s that for making my work here sustainable, Princeton?!
Moises and Oliver being cheeky little bastards. Moises is cute, but Oliver is the cheekiest little bastard imaginable and is quite possibly the devil reincarnate. Whenever he sees any of the volunteers - they call us “Profes” - he’ll stick his tongue out at them. He also likes fighting with everyone and doing anything other than his homework.
Shira and one of the cute little puppies. Puppy love!
So I really hope this whole spontaneous Argentina trip thing works out. I’m pretty sure that at least I’ll end up in Argentina. As far as what I’ll do there or where I’ll live - have not yet reserved or even called any hotels/hostels! - I have no idea! Talk about YOLO, right? I also watched the “Hunger Games” movie and am obsessed. Need to read the other two books. “I keep wishing I could think of a way to show them they don’t own me… I just don’t want them to turn me into some kind of monster I’m not.”