Across the Andes to Argentina!
This weekend I journeyed across the Andes to the city of Mendoza, Argentina, with a group of students on our AU program. The experience was great in the sense that it really showed me how well I have adapted to life in Santiago. Let me explain…
We took a bus that left Santiago at 10 PM on Friday and arrived in Mendoza around 5:30 AM on Saturday. The bus was a double-decker and the seats were semi cama, which meant that they reclined somewhat into beds. While this sounds very comfortable, the heat on the bus, coupled with the fact that a movie was blaring on the television, did not make for a pleasant sleeping experience. We also took about 2 hours to clear Chilean-Argentine customs, all of which was spent waiting outside in the freezing cold in a stationary line. We finally arrived in Mendoza and waited for an hour in the bus station as it was dark (i.e. dangerous to walk around in the streets) and we couldn’t take a taxi as none of us had Argentine pesos and all of the ATMs in the bus station were closed. When dawn broke, we set off to find our hostel. At this point, we were all fairly irritable and looked fairly horrible (as I bluntly pointed out to my traveling companions, all of whom were female). After settling in at our hostel, we walked around the streets of Mendoza for a few hours before embarking on a wine tour. Said tour consisted in us being bused to two wineries and an olive oil factory. At each winery, we were shown the cellars in which the wine is kept and we learned about the winemaking process. Each visit concluded with a sampling. I do not drink, and I found the ceremony involved in “sampling” wine to be a little ridiculous. It took everything inside of me to refrain from bursting into laughter as our tour guide told us to “gently swish the wine around in the class, then sniff it, then hold it up to the light.” Still, Mendoza is renowned for its wines, so I am glad I was able to learn more than I ever needed to know about wine.
While in Argentina, I kept catching myself missing Chile. I missed the relative security of Chilean streets (I was always looking over my shoulder in Argentina), using the Chilean peso, and the trustworthy police. But above all, I missed my host family and the familiarity of Santiago. That said, Argentina did have its charms: gnocchi, ice cream, French fries (the best I have ever tasted), a more classical feel, etc., and was MUCH cheaper than Chile. I hope to visit Argentina again, but I think that my next visit would be to Buenos Aires (on the other side of South America), which is supposed to be very different from the rest of Argentina.
I think that my trip to Argentina marked an important milestone in my study abroad experience, and definitely one that I never felt while I was studying abroad in Cuba last semester: I realized how much I felt like I belonged in the country in which I was studying. In fact, I remember feeling extremely proud whenever I saw the Chilean flag or whenever someone mentioned Chile. We’ll see how long this warm, fuzzy feeling lasts, but for now, me encanta (I love it). ¡Chi-Chi-Chi Le-Le-Le! ¡Viva Chile!
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