A beautiful birthday in Bariloche, Argentina

I can’t believe it, but this was the last week of classes! And what a crazy week it was. I had several assignments and 3 essays due, plus trying to make the most out of every moment! I recalled my first few days at the University of Buenos Aires, and how the dirt, posters, pigeons, smell, and strongly political school interested us, and was nothing like we had expected. But I felt that this week, we had all grown a little fond of the UBA. We became accustomed to the building and acquainted with the people in it, seeking refuge in its café and sustaining ourselves with more than our fair share of café con leche and medialunas.

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I have really enjoyed my classes, especially my literature class, which, oddly enough, was the only class I didn’t want to take prior to coming to Argentina. We were able to make some cool connections with our professors as well as other students, and learned what kinds of things are important and relevant in their lives. In my very last class on the very last day, one of our history professors asked us about our experience in the program and taking these classes. I reflected on how much I appreciated being able to learn about Argentina and its history and rich culture. I also commented on that fact that if I hadn’t come here, I would never have learned nearly as much about the people of Argentina, the peso, the president, Los Desaparecidos, and their years and years of military governments ALL of which I find exceedingly important, and not just because I’m learning it here. I think that the stories of Argentina, and Latin American in general, are somewhat of a conglomerated mystery to many Americans, and I really wish there was a better understanding of the history here and how American factors into that history. If anything, I hope that my trip here will be a small means of communication, so that people back home can learn a little snippet about life here, and the things that are important to the people here. I think these are important parts of becoming Global Citizens.

Another point our teacher pointed out that I thought was very interesting is that Argentines are very “carpe diem” so to speak. She explained it to us in that Argentines don’t know what tomorrow will hold, so they take every advantage of the present moment. And I can totally see that. People don’t rush, they take their time to eat and enjoy each other’s company, stay out late, kiss each other hello and goodbye, and are some of the most affectionate people I’ve ever seen. What at first seemed like interesting peculiarities, now makes a whole lot of sense.

So, as I said, I spent much of the week writing my essays and spending a LOT of time in the café next to my house. Café con leche fuels the mind in ways I cannot explain. At the end of the week, I was very relieved to turn in my work and enjoy the last lessons. Friday night IFSA held a fiesta for us all with our coordinators and teachers which was really fun. I also celebrated my 20th birthday that night, as I had special plans for my actual birthday the next day. So afterwards we went out for dinner and I had my first steak in THREE YEARS. So, let me explain. I have been a loyal pescetarian for three years. But I realized the other day, after having written an entire essay on the importance of meat in Argentina culture, that I would be seriously missing out on my experience here if I did not even TRY the meat.

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Saturday came, and with it, another year of life (still can’t believe I’m two decades old), and another adventure! I reunited with a group of friends at the bus station, and we hopped on our 25 hour bus to Bariloche, Patagonia! This bus was so much nicer than the one we had taken to Mendoza, and I was very glad for that. And the views on the way there could not be beat. It was awesome to gaze out the window and see the scenery change from the wide open pampas, where cattle graze, to then open up into the fantastic mountain scenes. It was beautiful.

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Bariloche is an adorable town with gorgeous views. It’s very mountain-homey feeling. I have to give a shout out to my friend Jeff who did a fantastic job picking our hostel because it was lakefront with the best view! We knew we were going to have a fantastic weekend. That night we ended up eating out together at a great restaurant downtown, and I even got to have another celebratory birthday cake and song! We spent the rest of the evening finishing homework, relaxing, playing card games, and chatting with the other hostel goers.

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The next day was fantastic and also happened to be the most physically taxing thing I have ever done. We decided to do a bike tour of the mountains because we heard it was the thing to do and that it was a great way to take in the scenery of Bariloche. What we spent the rest of the afternoon doing was the hardest 18 mile bike ride of my life. I swear I still don’t know how I actually made it back. But we did, and I was incredibly impressed with my entire group! We made a couple pit-stops along the way to snap some pics and get a bite to eat.

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We all made it back to the hostel exhausted and ready for a warm meal. So Jake, JT, and a few others got started in the kitchen and what followed was our fantastic family dinner. We transformed the hostel living room into a dining room, and had salad, garlic bread, appetizers, lasagna, and red wine. It was amazing. We were accompanied by our new Argentine friend Santiago, and we had a great time stuffing our faces and feeling the joy that comes from rest after a long day of exercise.

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The next day, after a little sleep in, a group of us made our way to a mountain close by to a place called Cerro Otto. We took a gondola ride up to the mountain which was gorgeous. It was really cloudy that day, which was unfortunate, but it was awesome while riding the gondola. At one point, we could see nothing but white all around us, and it felt like the stereotypical Hollywood image of ascending into heaven.

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When we got up the mountain it was freezing, and there was snow everywhere. It was gorgeous, and we even took a little snowshoe walk.

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After that we de-thawed and had lunch up in the 360 degree rotating café. We went out dancing later that night and just all had fun hanging out with each other in the hostel. We attempted to stay up all night to see the sunrise over the mountains, but not all of us made it. The next day we packed up and did a little shopping and were running out the door to make it to our planes, trains, and automobiles. Bariloche was such a fun, fantastic trip, with an awesome group of people, and I couldn’t imagine enjoying my 20th birthday any other way.

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