Greetings from Cordoba!
Well, it has been quite the adventure thus far. It´s only my fourth day here and already there is so much to tell.
My flight here was pretty good. I had very good luck with seats, getting seats by myself with the other free beside me. This was especially appreciated on my ten-hour overnight leg from New York to Santiago, Chile. It was also a nice surprise to be served red wine with a complimentary meal by the very attractive Chilean flight attendants. The worst part of the trip was that my baggage did not leave New York with me, and I had to wait about 36 hours for it to show up. I can´t express the joy I felt when I was reunited with my suitcase. After wearing the same clothed for three days, and warm clothes at that, changing into shorts and flipflops was incredible.
Here in Cordoba I live with a host family: a mother, a father, and two other tourists. One is from South Carolina, and he speaks English and Spanish, and my roommate is from France, and speaks French and Spanish. My host family only speaks Spanish, and I learned very quickly how difficult it is to communicate when I can basicially only name objects, and can´t really put a sentence together. So, I have been speaking a lot of French with my roommate, and somehow managing to have conversations with my host parents, Elena and Pepe. They are extremely kind people, which is what Argentines are known for, and have been extremely welcoming. I already feel like I have learned a lot of Spanish, so hopefully I will leave this place able to communicate better.
Friday I had my induction with Projects Abroad, the organization I am here with. A Projects Abroad local Cordoban came to pick me up, and with two other new volunteers (one from Holland, the other from Germany) we got a tour of the Projects Abroad Office, we were shown how to take the bus, and were brought downtown to get oriented, had lunch, and bought phone cards and a bus pass. I now have a cellphone to communicate with fellow volunteers.
The city is magnificent. There are beautiful buildings everywhere with unique architecture, which are of every colour of the rainbow. At night many of the buildings light up and change colour too. There are many beautiful churches with breath-taking art on the ceilings and walls. Yesterday I met up with the volunteer from Holland, named Alicia, and we explored the downtown simply by walking around, entering buildings as we pleased. We also went to the bus station to find out about schedules and prices to travel around. On weekends it is very common for volunteers to leave the city to explore, and next weekend just so happens to be a 6 day weekend. Alicia and I didn´t know about this until we arrived, so we are now trying to figure out where we can go. My roommate Emilie is going to Iguazu, witch is a 20 hour bus ride to one of the great wonders of the world, a giant waterfall. I really want to go, but it´s far, a bit expensive, and I need to find out if it is possible for me to entre Brazil as a Canadian without a visa. So, either I will go to Iguazu or Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, and only 10 hours away. The latter would be about half the price.
Last night I went out on the town with Emilie and two other volunteers. In Argentina, going out is literally all night. I got home at 6:30 this morning, as the bars close around 5 or 6 am. Initally, I met the girls at a restaurant and drank wine. We then joined up with a few other people (all Spanish speaking Argentines) and had more drinks at a bar until about 3:00am. Then, we went to the club until 5:00am. Argentina is famous for the tango, and the music reflected what I think of as tango music. And, everybody seemed to know how to dance well – even the men! I danced with a guy who seemed to know what he was doing.
By 5:00am I was ready for bed, but my amigos wanted to socialize outside of the bar. Not wanting to cab alone, I waited for my roommate, and eventually we decided to take a taxi. But, of course, there are thousands of others doing the same thing, so we didn´t get a taxi until past 6:00am. I finally got to bed at 6:30 this morning, only to be woken up at 8:30 by hammering noises. My host family is getting a bathroom installed beside their bedroom, and somehow it is totally acceptable for construction workers to start early on Sundays. I managed to get back to sleep with the help of ear plugs, thankfully.
In all, it has been quite the adventure. I definitely feel a huge cultural difference in some aspects, but I also feel welcome and content being here. I am still adapting to the culture – for example, I am still not used to eating dinner at 10:00 at night – but, overall I have not felt culture shock the way I thought I would. This month is going to fly by, and I think it´s important just to throw myself in the culture and enjoy it as much as possible.
Tomorrow I finally get to work at the garden! I´m very excited to see it and learn about my responsibilities as a volunteer.