29 August 2013


and i didn't think i could get more ~gap year~.

i'm excited to have finally started work in córdoba.

attending the blas pascal town hall meeting.

as law & human rights volunteers, maddy and i have elected to work in the field with disadvantaged people to help them understand their human rights and improve their living conditions. my main project is working at a correctional facility - a sort of small boarding-school-like prison - for teenaged girls who've committed serious crimes, often due to an abusive family background. i'm going to provide them company and to teach them job skills, helping them write resumés and practice for job interviews. by thinking about and preparing for the future, they'll have tools to stay off the streets once they're released. it gives them a chance to escape the cycle of violence and poverty that's created their situation.  we (the projects abroad coordinators, other volunteers, and i) also are planning other projects, like having the girls bake alfajor cookies to raise money for p.e. equipment they really want. i've been once already, with a coordinator, to get introduced to everyone. this time, we just sat and talked for an hour or two. the five current inmates (usually there are more) basically sat around on their small patio chain-smoking and explaining their tattoos while i concentrate really hard to understand their slurred spanish. still, they seemed genuinely eager to learn and think ahead.

alfajores, a delicious south american equivalent to macaroons, are the perfect way to end a long day.

i've also visited a project where volunteers interview homeless people after they receive free dinners from a partner charity. eventually, the pa project will provide a comprehensive picture of córdoba's homeless and their situations, even providing simple solutions to a some of their problems. for example, two weeks ago volunteers learned that one man had come from another city to find work but had been unsuccessful and now couldn't afford the bus home. a donor quickly came through with the relatively small sum, allowing the man to return to his family.

blas pascal is a government-built community that replaced a shantytown.

today i worked in the blas pascal neighborhood, a former slum that's now a government-built neighborhood, what we'd call "projects" or something like that. volunteers lead the daily after-school program for the area's children, which offers art, outdoor play, snack, and sometimes lessons. today was unusually rough. the children were wild and loud and difficult to manage. the classroom was a mess of paint and cookie crumbs. several groups starting fighting, accusing each other of misdeeds and allying based on whether they were from peruvian, bolivian, or argentinian families.

still, the kids were sweet and craved attention. they love playing with our phone cameras, leaving us with streaked screens and zillions of funny selfies. the younger ones want to be picked up. the older want to show you their handstands. others had to be pushed for a ride on a broken office chair. i painted nails and braided hair. one of my favorite moments was when i ended up impromptu ballroom-dancing with one of the girls, twirling and stepping all around the room.

hanging up art to decorate the space.

grabbing for my iphone.

some unexpectedly good portraiture taken by the kids.

the first broken office chair...

...and the second.

the dusty playing "field" was littered with glass, which i did my best to pick up.

field work in general is intimidating and tough. it's not going to be easy or "fun" or just four hours a day, as projects abroad told us it would be before we arrived. we're working out in the field all the time, so the professional workplace outfits i brought are less useful than i'd expected. but work here will also be always interesting. this whole trip is an incredible learning experience. i know i can hope only to broaden my own perspective, but i'll also do my best to make a difference in a few other lives, in any small way i can.


p.s. the last couple days besides work:

sometimes some lounging and journaling is in order.

our house is so so beautiful.

the asador out back.

one last silly photo because we like lemons and selfies.

27 August 2013

bienvenidas al mundo real

welcome to the real world.

we certainly learned quickly: real life comes with the good, the bad, and the ugly.

"you may not forget them. they are not negotiable. córdoba's tribute to the fallen in their heroic deed in the south atlantic [the start of the falklands war], april 2, 1982. april 2, 2005."

since arriving in córdoba on sunday, we've simply been getting oriented and learning about our surroundings and our new country. in addition to practicing spanish all day every day, which i love, i've been learning about argentine history and culture and customs... and adjusting my sleep schedule. we eat dinner at 10 p.m.? what? maddy and i still haven't figured out how the argentinians sleep so little and still seem energetic and happy. something about a siesta, we think...

anyway, aside from unpacking and orienting, we've gotten a chance to explore, which is awesome. our first day, we walked around the cerro de las rosas neighborhood, which was eerily quiet on a sunday. we scouted out pharmacies, health food stores, and a gym. we peeked into restaurants and cafés. and in this barrio that seems to seamlessly flow between residential and commercial, we wandered dusty tree-lined streets with low-slung architecture that is absolutely adorable. each house is set back with a gate and iron fence, often covered in ivy or vines. the buildings themselves are one or two stories, boxy shapes built in white stucco and topped with red spanish tile rooves. the shutters and doors are beautiful dark wood. the effect of each little house is charming and unique and "can you please invite me over to look around your house and have tea on your patio?"

a strange little chinese restaurant.

we love the plant store.

the weather is perfect. dry but sunny, cool and breezy and ideal sweater weather. the only issue is the extreme range - i think the variation is about 60 degrees fahrenheit this week alone. oh, and the fact that we don't understand celsius scale at all. thanks, america.

yesterday was our "induction" where we wandered around the city center and learned every detail of the bus system that takes us from our homestay to downtown. it was fun to see the main city and later to explore and take lots of photos.

outside the monasterio de santa catalina de siena.

so many cappuccinos.


we took the bus home at rush hour, and were extremely cautious about our bags as we also gripped the railings to not fall on the lurching bus and squinted to make out passing street signs as we looked for our stop. it's not hard to navigate, but riding a crowded bus turned out to be a tense experience.

unfortunately, our best efforts weren't enough: only when we got off the bus did we realize that maddy's purse had been slashed and her wallet stolen. it's terrifying to think it happened right under our noses: as she held her longchamp in front her, they took a knife to the only exposed sliver of nylon between her arm and body, reached in and grabbed her wallet. luckily, it was only her wallet, but it was still disconcerting and stressful and a serious wake-up call. after handling the immediate crisis, we started talking to our hosts. they reassured us that while córdoba is no less safe than any other big city, it can happen to anyone: one of our hosts has gotten her wallet snatched twice. and we've thought a lot about how to not let it happen again.

the damage.

anyway: back to the good parts. we window-shopped on pedestrian streets, browsed a bookstore, and saw the colonial plaza san martín. we went into the colonial catedral de córdoba and the basílica de santo domingo, both cathedrals with uniquely south american architecture on the outside and breathtakingly intricate art on the inside that's both reminiscent of and distinct from european cathedrals.

the catedral had loads of gold gilded details and frescoes.

walking into the colonial catedral, i was immediately astounded by the details and by the immense scale of the entire building.

maddy paid a two-peso offering to light a little candle. i would've... but i didn't have any cash left.

i love flags.

the churches were both lavish and grand but the interior decorations as well as the architecture were of noticeably distinct styles. the basílica had maroon and dark blue colors with gold accents, and more abstract patterns compared to the realistic paintings of the first church. the numerous domes were also beautiful both inside and out - probably my favorite part of the church. i could stand in the little circle of light and just look up at it for a long time.

"don't write on the walls. there is a guestbook at the top of the stairs."

above the guestbook table are hundreds of plaques thanking the virgen del milagro.

we loved our independence, our freedom to explore and people-watch without needing to be doing anything.

outside the basílica!

we spent our evening poring over my lonely planet argentina book, planning all the day and weekend trips we'd like to take around this amazing - and huge - country. guidebooks always make me kind of sad, because i won't ever be able to see and do everything! we won't be able to fit it all in, but we'll do our best. that was a good way to take our mind off the day and look forward to the next weeks.

i can't wait to start work and start developing a routine here and making new friends. it can only get better! :)

x, m