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Argentina Wrap Up

Well, I realize that I have perhaps left some of my readers in suspense about the success of my schooling in Argentina.  I did have many amazing experiences, but overall my purpose was to receive a satisfactory score on my CLEP Spanish Exam.  

I went to Triton College three days after arriving home, and took the exam.  It was a great success!  I scored 72 out of 80.  If I had not already received credits for Spanish, I would have had a total of 15 credits from this CLEP score.  As it was, I managed to get another 8 added on which created a total of 16 credits.  

I have decided to pursue a Spanish minor and take a middle school endorsement class, which means I will be able to teach Spanish to middle-schoolers.  I think this is a good fit for me.  I only need to take one more Spanish class, and then a class about teaching foreign languages.  

I am also in a Cultural Anthropology class this semester, which I think my time in another culture will help me out with.  

So, that is the end of my Argentina portion of this blog.

I hope to continue by describing other events in my life and by giving my opinion on the practice of Organization (and maybe a few other things).

Laura R.

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Part I

Tigre, a popular weekend getaway town located about 50 minutes outsde the city of Buenos Aires. I went there with three of my friends from school. The day was overcast, promising the rain that was later to come, but for most of our time there the weather was nice.

After having tea at the bus station, we walked along the river taking photos. There were many tour boats (rides along the river are offered) and a good number of rowers. The Buenos Aires Rowing Club sat large and imposing along the river.

After a bit of a walk, a hideous pink building appeared. This was a casino. Poorly constructed and an eyesore on the outside, however inside was much worse. The thousands of blinking lights visible at every turn were enough to create an instant headache.

After we passed the casino and walked across the polluted stream, culinary delights presented themselves. A small little shop called Waffles del Mundo sat small but impressively full of customers. They offered large waffles on sticks dipped in Chocolate, Onion and Garlic sauce, catchup, etc. I ordered a waffle dipped in chocolate with dulche de leche in the middle. It was well worth the messiness.

The beating heart of Tigre is a collection of restaurants, storefronts and booths along river. Weaved baskets and furniture are popular along with art items for the home (both decorative and useful). We walked around for a while and by the time we left everyone had bought something. I purchased two framed prints for about $20. While passing the casino, on our way back to the train station, it began to rain and then pour. We ran for about the next few minutes until again reaching the station. Fortunately we entered the train just before it took off for Buenos Aires.

Part II

Colonia is another popular weekend destination for the citizens of Argentina, however one for which they need a passport. Colonia is in the neighboring country of Uruguay. The only barrier is a 50 minute boat ride across Rio de la Plata.

Craig and purchased tickets for Saturday, but due to our lack of knowledge about international boat travel and a misguided taxi driver, we managed to miss the boat. I moved my ticket to the next day, and spent the rest of my Saturday in the Japanese Gardens and at an Argentinean producers show (where I purchased an beautiful pink leather bag among other things). After missing the boat on Saturday, I woke up at 6:00AM to ensure that I indeed would be there. As it turned out, I could have slept another hour. I was the second person to show up for the check in to the boat. After a rather nice (if not sleepy) boat ride, I finally arrived in Uruguay.

I was immediately joined by a family asking for directions to town. There were no signs posted, but fortunately I had a map procured at the check in office. I studied the map and had already picked out several sights I wanted to see in town. After helping the family find the tourist office, I took off for the old section of town with them. We were walking down the main road (Flores) and suddenly I heard someone calling my name. I turned around and my friend from school, Mary, was behind me with several of her friends.

After our surprise encounter I went along with Mary and her friends for a while. We walked through the old section of town and along the wall bordering the view of the river which looks a lot like lake Michigan because it is impossible to see the other side. After hanging out for a while, I decided to see what else the town had to offer. After browsing through a few shops, I stumbled into a nice leather shoe shop. After debating for a while, I bought a lovely pair of black leather dress sandals.

After taking several photos of the town gate, I confirmed the location of a motor/golf cart/scooter/bike rental shop. Now, I would love to claim that I rented a scooter (or even a golf cart) however my driver´s license was in my apartment in Buenos Aires, so I took the bike out for a spin.

The weather was perfect (about 75 and sunny) and so the bike ride along the shore yielded many beautiful views of the river. However after about 2 hours I had biked my way through Colonia. It is really a very small town. I went back to the historic section and took some more photos, climbed up the lighthouse, ate dinner, bought some ice cream, and then headed on back to the boat for check in.

This time I was again among the first in line, but there was a problem with the boat, and so I had to wait to board with the rest of the passengers. I arrived at the station at around 6:00 for a 7:45 departure which did not happen until 9:00. People in the boat station actually began clapping (a much used Argentinean form of popular protest) due to the delay. After arriving in Argentina at 10:00, I took a taxi to my apartment, very glad to spend the night in my own apartment instead of an interesting hostel.

Laura R.

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This past weekend Craig and I and another student from the school named Kent traveled to Cordoba for some fun in the sun. After visiting the tourist office, we realized that the City of Cordoba really held no interest, and so decided to head out for a small town called La Cumbre. This is where our adventure takes place. Here is our story:

Part I: Cordoba

Unlike the trips to Iguazu and Bariloche, our plane left at 6:30 PM on Friday. This sounded great. No more waking up at 5:00 in the morning. However, it meant we also had one more night to account for. The plane ride was fairly uneventful, except for the 1.5 hour delay in Buenos Aires due to low clouds. These clouds have caused major airline and traffic problems, however, there is not much we could do to change that.

We arrived at the Cordoba airport at around 10PM and proceeded to the Bus Terminal by taxi. By that time, it was about 11PM and so we decided to bunk down in Cordoba city near the bus terminal. We bought tickets for the 7:45 bus the next day.

Now, before I go on, this bus terminal deserves a bit of time. I suppose I have not spent much time in terminals, however this one was fairly unique to my experience. There was a rather large supermarket on the third floor, and several different “restaurants” all pretty much serving the same greasy meals. People and dogs sat around the edge of the building waiting. Overall it was a busy terminal and the buses tended to run a strict schedule. What it basically came down to was this: your bus could be late, but you had better not be. The buses pulled in for about a minute before heading off to their next destination.

After leaving the terminal, we began hunting for a decently priced hotel. Craig has a book of Argentina travel, and so we looked through the index for all the one star hotels in the area. We finally decided on one two blocks from the bus station. I would say it was highly comparable to the hotel in Iguazu. It did have heat (thank goodness) but that was just about the only thing that worked.

The room we chose had a bunk bed and a double bed. Craig and Kent slept on the bunk bed, while I got the double bed. The room was pretty small, and incredibly filthy. I do not think they had a maid. There was one mirror that was very warped. The bunk bed must have been purchased from a children´s store, because it was bright red and flimsy. I made Craig shake the bed before climbing on to test for sturdiness. It was definitely not made to support his weight (fortunately it managed to stand).

In general, however, the beds were not a problem (although when Craig lay down he discovered someone´s deodorant stick under his sheets, thus supporting my nonexistent maid theory). The real problem was the bathroom. The first thing we noticed was the horrible smell, and so initiated a closed-door policy. Then we noticed that there was no soap, however I was experienced enough with this kind of hotel and had purchased soap in the supermarket at the bus station. After that we found out there was no toilet paper. Craig got some from the front desk. This was the oldest most disgusting role of toilet paper ever, and so Kent went out to buy another one (at my insistence). However, the final blow came when we found out that we did not need toilet paper. The toilet did not work. After that, we just avoided the bathroom altogether.

There was another room down the hall that had an open door. The toilet did not work either, but at least it did not smell bad. Small blessings always seem huge in these kinds of places.

Although there is clearly a lot of bad to say about this hotel, there was one good thing. We all slept like the dead. When the lights were out, it was impossible to see the hand in front of your face. Fortunately I had an alarm, or we would have never woken up.

Part II: La Cumbre

After catching the bus to La Cumbre, we settled down for the 2.5 hour ride. An advantage of leaving in the morning was we got to see more of Argentina. At first the land was flat, but then the hills began. Where we were heading, they never actually became mountains, but they were still beautiful. It is winter here, so the grass was a tan color, interspersed with small bushes and occasionally a tree or two.

La Cumbre. 75 and sunny. An amazing town that I am completely in love with. Due to the capital brought in by so many tourists this small town is flourishing. The streets are clean and in good repair. There are many nice shops open, and people are incredibly kind and cheerful. Although, I must warn you that there is not a whole lot to do around town. The main entertainment on a Saturday night was driving in circles around the town square.

We first visited the tourist information office that was next to the bus station. They gave us some numbers and locations for the activities we wanted to do: paragliding and horse back riding. We decided to first find a place for the night and then call up one of the paragliding numbers.

What looked to be the best deal was Hostel La Cumbre, a Hostelling International member. I loved this hostel. Not only was it in complete contrast with our lodgings from the previous night, but I was actually able to take a shower (that had been one of my standards for a two night trip). It looked like a beautiful old house that had been converted into a hostel. Everything inside was clean and bright and all bathroom appliances functioned beautifully. This was the first time I felt comfortable sleeping in between the sheets on one of our trips. It was amazing.

Part III: Paragliding

After we had settled in to our hostel, Craig called up one of the numbers on the paragliding sheet. He spoke with a man who said he would meet us in an hour. We walked down the hill and bought some bread for lunch and then sat outside to wait in the beautiful sunshine.

I actually was not feeling any nervousness about paragliding, and when I shook our driver´s hand, I knew that I had absolutely nothing to worry about. He was a bit taller than Craig and he completely crushed my two smallest fingers.

The ride up to the hill we were to jump off was incredibly fun in itself. We were in some sort of jeep, and the rode was strewn with rocks. The driver kept turning around and taking his hands off the wheel to make conversation. It was very much like an amusement ride.

At the top of the hill, we came to the paragliding spot. It was breezy (a good thing) and we were overlooking a river and some more hills off in the distance. After about 20 minutes of waiting for the wind to pick up, we were suited up and jumped off the cliff.

Getting started paragliding is not actually that easy. I was placed in this harness contraption and my guide (Toti) was on my right side facing me. My job was to run as fast as I could towards the cliff on his mark. At this point I did get a little bit nervous because I was going first. They spread the wings of the para-glide out and I ran for all of 2 seconds. The wind was very strong and as soon as the wings lifted off of the ground, so did I. Immediately a guy was there pulling me by the legs towards the edge of the cliff. This is now all very confused in my mind, but it must have only taken a few seconds. I can remember people shouting at me to run and lean foreword, and then we were over the cliff and I was able to sit in the “chair”.

Paragliding was actually incredibly peaceful. There was almost no noise, and we were gliding over beautiful scenery. It was absolutely lovely. I took a lot of photos of the surrounding land and the other para-gliders. For some reason I forgot about the video feature on my camera (something I now feel really stupid for). However, it was a great experience. Something I would recommend to everyone. It is nothing like what I assume parachuting to be. You do not rush towards the ground, but fly tranquilly over it. Really, it is not scary.

Part IV: The motorcycle and El Cristo

After another crazy ride back to town, Kent and I decided to go to look for a place to go horseback riding the next day. We took a leisurly walk through the town and ended up exactly where we were supposed to be on the map. However, unless they had invisible horses, it was definitly not a horse ranch. Deciding to ask for directions I flagged down this man on a motorcycle. He gave us directions to a place called Rosario which was about 3 blocks away. He was taking his mother home and when he dropped her off a few houses down he then offered to take us on his motorcycle to the ranch. We were probably on for all of two minutes, but it was still really fun. I had never been on a motorcycle before.

Once we arrived at the ranch, we arranged to meet the ranchers the next day at 9AM. We were very close to this huge white statue of Jesus holding out his arms called El Cristo. It was on top of a hill, but there was not really anything else exciting to do in the town, so Kent and I decided to climb the hill. It was reasonably physically challenging and a nice walk. About every 30 feet there was a monument with a bible verse. When we finally reached the top, I took pictures of the gigantic monument and the beautiful view of the town in the valley.

The base of the monument was made of stone and people had decided to carve their prayers or nail flowers onto it. Most of the prayers were “Gracias por todo” but there was one that was strikingly different:

Senor te pido que Fernando se case conmigo. Sil

God I ask you that Fernando will marry me. Sil

I thought it was awfully bold of Sil to carve that in stone.

There was a guy and his girlfriend selling little handmade crafts at the top of the hill and we spoke with them for a while. I actually ended up buying a wooden cooking spoon for about 2.50 US which has been very useful in the kitchen.

On our way back to the hostel we happened to bump into Craig and the three of us went out to eat and then walked around the town for a bit. Here is where we discovered that the only movie theatre in town showed one movie a week and that people do literally drive in circles for fun. However, everyone seemed to be having a good time with friends and family. That is a kind of atmosphere I appreciate.

Part V: Horseback Riding

After sleeping in the most wonderful hostel, we set out to meet the men from the ranch. They took us on a 30 minute drive up to their ranch in the heart of the hills. The horses are allowed to roam freely around the good sized patch of land. However, when we arrived a number of them were close to the gate. Of these, five were saddled up. In stark contrast to the safety-conscious United States, no papers were signed or helmets worn. Between Kent and Craig, I was the one with the most experience on horseback, so they gave me a young horse that was not used to having other riders.

I discovered that my horse liked to run going up the first hill. I was holding the reigns too loosely and the horse just took off. I was able to slow it down, however the real problem came when we descended the hill. My horse decided it was time to run again and off he went. Unfortunately my stirrups were too short (a problem when going downhill because they are what you brace your body against) and there was no saddle horn, so with nothing to hang on to I began to bounce right off the horse. I was about halfway off, when I managed to give a good tug to the reigns and the horse stopped. For me, that was the scariest part because we were on an incredibly rocky cliff, and I did not have any kind of protection. However, once the guide tightened my stirrups and I got a bit more used to the horse, things went well.

I really do have lots of photos, but an incredibly accurate mental picture would be Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. The landscape is almost identical. The weather was beautiful and we all had an amazing time.

Our ride took us through the hills and then on to a path that lead back to town. In total, we were on horseback for 3 hours. That is a long time, and by then end I was definitely wishing for the guide´s pillow, but I was also able to become accustomed to riding again. When my horse spooked at a dog barking near the end of the trail, I was able to calmly stop him.

Besides my near fall, the guide also almost fell. His horse spooked at something and almost backed off the cliff. He was actually grasping at branches in order to stay on. All in all, horseback riding was an impressive experience.

After leaving the horses at the ranch, we slowly and sorely made our way through town, stopping to eat a nice lunch, and then continuing on to the bus station that would take us to Cordoba and then to the airport.

Laura R.

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Flying into the Bariloche Airport (which was just as small as the Iguazu one) I could see the mountains, and couldn´t wait for the skiing to begin.

I was, in fact, prepared for the cold weather. I had decided to buy a ski coat in Buenos Aires, which was a very good thing. Not only were the prices higher in Bariloche, but I would have frozen on my way to buy a coat. As it is, I now own a very cute and warm pink ski coat. Surprisingly pink is not a popular color, so I was very easy to pick out. Craig just wore his jacket with about 5 sweaters underneath.

Now for that skiing. We actually did manage to ski, but cross-country skiing, and not down hill. The Catedral (mountain where everybody goes to ski) was only open at the bottom. While this would probably have been fine for me, Craig did not want to ski on just the easy slopes, so we decided to take cross country ski lessons.

It is very different from down hill skiing, but my ski instincts (which I was not sure if I had retained) did kick in and keep me from falling. After the ski lessons, we walked around the town and then returned to our hostel for a great 11 hour night`s rest. On Sunday we went to a scenic outlook where I got some great pictures.

Now, that was the simple version of what happened in Bariloche. Very dry and basic. Here is what really happened.

We got off the plane, and immediately I could feel the cold. It was a biting chill (probably 15 to 20). We waited outside the airport for about 20 minutes for a cab, but then spotted a van with a sign that said “Central” on it. After finding out that the driver would drop us off anywhere in the center of the city for only 10 pesos a person, we could not pass up that offer.

The road to the airport is lined with fur trees. They are two or three deep in some places, obscuring the view of the surrounding land. However, when the trees thin out it is possible to see the vast expanse of grassland that leads up to the foot of the mountains. This view of the mountains, while different, is also awe inspiring.

I suggested we go to the tourist information office to get some information about Hostels, Skiing, and a map of Bariloche. The office was located in the center of town, which is fortunately very much unlike the town of Iguazu. It is similar to any American ski town, but for the fact that everyone speaks Spanish.

Apparently we were there during the Festival of Snow (or something like that). Not much was happening during the day, but at night they had a beauty contest. I kid you not. It was bitterly cold, and six or seven high school girls were standing up on a stage in short sleeved dresses, hands at sides, smiling to the crowd. There were so many people it was difficult to see them very well, but my guess is that they were incredibly cold.

After visiting the tourist office and finally finding a hostel that was open, we went searching for a ski mountain. This involved another trip back to the tourist office and visits to several different locations. We finally figured out that the only kind of skiing we could do was cross country. We went for it.

A van picked us up, and headed up the mountain. After a while, snow appeared on the ground, and the van seemed (to me) dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. This road would be incredibly dangerous to driving at night (which is why the mountain closed before sunset).

The ski lessons were interesting. I think it was the first time for everyone in the class, but the instructor was very good. I did not fall, which was fortunate because I was not wearing snow pants. It was very cold on the mountain, but the view was amazing. Snow covered all the trees and the ground, and it was possible to see the surrounding mountains where the trees were thin.

After skiing, we walked around the town visiting a few shops and finally ate dinner at a reasonably priced diner.

After that, we returned to the hostel. Knowing that if we had any other roommates it would be incredibly difficult to sleep, Craig and I rented a room with only two beds. This was a good decision because the other people ended up listening to music (and probably drinking) until three in the morning.

On Sunday, with our flight leaving at 4:00, we did not have enough time to ski, and so got on a bus that took us to a scenic outlook. We fortunately got off at the correct stop, and took the ski lift up the mountain. It was numbingly cold, but beautiful.

After leaving the mountain we saw the bus back to town pulling away from the bus stop. The wait for the next one was 30 minutes, but this was not a big problem because we still had enough time to get to the airport. We took this bus through the center of town to the bus terminal, where we expected to take another bus out to the airport.

Buses may be an economical mode of transportation, but when you are standing for an hour out in the cold, a taxi begins to look really inviting.

So, that was Bariloche. This week I will move to my new apartment which is really just one room with a bathroom and a kitchen, but I will experience something new…living on my own. This upcoming weekend Craig and I head to Cordoba.

More to come…

Laura R.

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Yes, dear friends, it is true. One of the cities on the world best known for its meat, is having to do without. The situation between the Argentinean farmers and the government (La Presidenta) has escalated. I do not know if this has been reported on the news in the US.

Here is the deal: The president feels that it is within her rights to charge Argentinean farmers incredibly high taxes (44%). While the power to tax belongs to Congress, and it is illegal to tax above 35%, she still feels she is within her rights because this kind of tax has another name, in other words the money she is taking is technically not tax money.

Well, anyways, as you can imagine, the farmers do not appreciate having 44% of the money they earn from exporting food taken away from them. They have been protesting by blocking the routes that the delivery trucks take. This means that food is not making its way into the city. They tend to block a few kinds of food at a time. Right now milk and certain kinds of meat are not getting through. This means that some items on the restaurant menu or on the grocery shelves are unavailable. Do not worry, I am not expecting to starve.

The problem is a political one. The president does not want to give up her power, and the people do not want to be charged an exorbitant amount of money. On Monday, there was a huge demonstration. It was a holiday, and so many people chose to spend their day off of work marching down the street banging on pots and pans. As a result, the Congress is now in session to discuss the problem. I believe today is either day 99 or 100 of the conflict.

The political situation is tense, and many people have no trust in the government, seeing everyone in politics as corrupt. Democracy is incredibly difficult to achieve.

On a more personal note, I had a great weekend. I walked around the graveyard in Recoleta, and saw both Prince Caspian and Indiana Jones. I am definitely a Narnia fan. If you have not seen the movie, I would highly recommend it.

Well, keep enjoying the summer weather, and hopefully next time I write the meat will be back on the shelves.

Laura R.

P.S. I realize I have been slow to deliver on my promise of Iguazu photos, but Craig now has my camera and I will hopefully be uploading some amazing shots in the next day or two.

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I realize I have not written in a while, but I have been busy discovering a new part of Buenos Aires: the hospital system. Wednesday of last week I finally decided to have the incredibly painful bump on my foot checked out. It turned out that the membrane around my tendon was swollen. I was then told to not walk for a few days and ice my foot every two hours. On the third day, I was ready to go back to school, but again visited the hospital because of pains on my left side rib cage. I apparently did something to my muscle that made it difficult to breathe for a while. On the whole, after all this, I am on the mend. I even went to the hospital yesterday, but that was because one of my friends needed to see a doctor, and he wanted someone with experience navigating the system to come along.

As my voyage of discovery continues, I have found one of the most amazing places on the world. Sure, it does not hold a candle to Iguazu Falls, but for an English major, it is pretty amazing. It is a bookstore called El Ateneo. It was a movie theatre in the 1930s and is now a bookstore. There is a domed ceiling with an amazing mural, a stage with a cafe. Overall, the sheer number of books combined with the antiquity of the store causes me to grin stupidly each time I enter.

This is a popular place to simply go and read. They do have chairs, but hardly enough to support the masses. People simply bunk down on some stairs or on the carpet, completely absorbed with the book in hand.

What I also suppose I love about it is the lack of space efficiency. Any American company would have been chomping at the bit to knock down the old theatre and create a multi-level store (picture Borders) with as many books as possible per square inch. The bookstore could have conceivably added two floors. There are in fact two levels of balconies, and they did create a basement level for children’s books, along with the main floor. However, I think they made the right move. There is something precious about reusing an old building. Preserving the past and converting the books to fit the space. People respect that, perhaps that is why they have more customers than any other book store.

Along with checking out El Ateneo, I saw my first film here. In Spanish it is called “Quiero Robarme a la Novia” (I want to Steall the Girlfriend) but you may better know the English title of “Maid of Honor”. A decent movie, although I would not want to see it twice. If you see the commercials, you basically have seen the movie.

Although you may be thinking that this was an amazing opportunity to practice Spanish, alas, it was not. Movies here (except those for children) are shown in their native language with subtitles in Spanish. Many nuances of the English language were lost in the written translation. I have noticed this on the TV as well.

Well what more interesting bits can I impart to you of BA culture? I have three more: teens, football fans and children´s theatre.

Teenagers. While the professionals always dress as though about to walk into the board room (they even wear their best leather shoes in the rain), the teens of BA seem to have developed their own popular form of dress: Goth.

While not entirely original, it is still a bit startling to see a group of teens in complete ensemble from makeup to fishnet stockings among the throngs of impeccably dressed citizens. I have no idea where this counter-culture originated, certainly not with their mothers. Most likely American movies or posters, although research I am not about to do would definitely be required to know for sure. These teens also gather on the weekends around the central monument Obelisko.

Surrounded by Goth teens by day and over ecstatic football fans by night, the weekends are a busy time for this monument. After the victorious win of team River (there are two soccer teams in BA, much like Cubs v. Sox, if only a bit more violent) people surrounding the monument dressed in red and white chanted and set off fireworks for hours. It was impossible for cars to pass, and incredibly dangerous for anyone wearing Boca colors. This impressive display of team loyalty was only for a small match. The only time I can attest to seeing that many people fanatic about a team was in Chicago after the Sox won the world series. Any win here, however, is an open invitation to go out and proudly shout with the masses.

Around the time when the goth teens are out, but before the crazy footballers emerge, it is time for children´s theatre. Masses of parents from the suburbs and within the city bring their precious little ones to see shows that all resemble the Muppet’s. While I definitely would not want to enter the theatre while a show was in progress, I did unfortunately get to see them all after. The street was so crowded with children I could not even get by. Most streets in the states would only be that crowded during a Hollywood premiere. Vendors lined the sidewalk, all selling the same variations of Muppet stuffed dolls, a few carrying princess outfits and plastic wands. While people normally ignore the street vendors, children’s theatre is their blockbuster time. It was possible to see the money flying out of the parents pockets as new (and very cheap) toys flew into their children´s arms. Most likely to be loved and discarded within a matter of hours, but for the moment a definite fashion statement all children were making: my parents bought me a toy.

While anyone who knows me also knows that I love children, this was almost too much. It was children´s capitalism at work. Seeing so many 4-7 year olds effectively wielding their parents pocket books is a rare sight indeed.

Signing off from Buenos Aires. Thanks to all my devoted readers. I love to read your comments.

Laura R.

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realize I have not written in a while. The past week I was busy and this weekend I traveled to Iguazu Falls with Craig. Here is a catch-up.

Wednesday: Bought amazing inserts for my shoes, my feet had been killing me for weeks- the problem was cured.

Thursday: Met an Argentinean girl arranged by the school. We spoke for two hours in Spanish at her aunt’s house. She is 17 and has a sister who is 19. I will hopefully see more of them this week or next.

Friday: Last day for two students at the school. We went out for dinner and had a great time.

Saturday: Woke up at 5:00AM to catch a flight to Iguazu. This all went as planned, although once we got there, Iguazu was full of surprises…

After arriving in the smallest Airport ever, we paid for a taxi to take us to the village. Craig asked the driver if he knew of any “good” hotels that were under 100 pesos. He recommended San Fernando. Before I describe the hotel, I should describe the town.

The collapse of 2001 has left its mark. There are several skeletons of partly finished hotels with trees growing in them, although there is ground broken for a big new hotel a ways away from the town. Along the road to the town are hotels, none of which would really be called 3 or 4 star. In the town itself the hotels are about 1 star.

The one we chose seemed ok, although strange when we first entered. There was a bad smell and 3 incredibly skinny beds squished in one room. It was also very cold. We said we would take it. After leaving some things there, we went to the falls.

The water falls themselves I do not think are possible to describe. I will use Craig’s computer and USB cord this week to post my pictures here. I took tons of pictures and videos. This is a location of incredible beauty. Some locations can boast one amazing waterfall. Iguazu has hundreds. Some areas by the falls are constantly raining because the rush of the water produces a constant mist.

When we arrived back at the hotel we discovered that what we thought was a heater was actually an air conditioner. Also, not one thing in the bathroom was level or plumb, including the toilet which had a noticeable slant. This was to accommodate the drain to the shower.

We were not able to stay in the room without being under the covers because it was so cold. We went to dinner at a restaurant by the bus station. The food was surprisingly good and not expensive. After reading there for a while, we returned to the hotel, where the only thing to do was watch TV. Literally. The two lights barely provided enough light to walk around, much less read.

After a nice 11 hour sleep, Craig and I returned to the Falls to walk the last trail: the island. On the map it looked a lot shorter than the other trails, and I thought it would be the easiest. It was definitely the hardest. Just to get down to the ferry to the island was a jungle gym course of rocks. Once on the island, the stairway, also of rock, was incredibly long. By the time we reached the top I was actually wheezing and my legs were wobbly for hours after. However, the view from the island was spectacular.

I realize I have described more of the hotel than Iguazu, but his is only because I really do not know how to describe it. Only pictures can do it partial justice.

If you have never seen Iguazu, look it up online. Consider visiting. If not soon, then before you can not walk the trails. This is a walking park. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Most people are backpackers or older tourists. To see it all comfortably I would recommend two days. I will post photos and perhaps video as soon as possible.

Laura R.

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