Congrats on a Month

One of the hardest things to get my head around, in fact I would almost go so far as to say it’s incomprehensible, is that it’s been over a month since I left home. It sounds terrible but in all honesty I’m still waiting to get homesick, granted I miss it now and again when I happen to see something that reminds me of home but I can’t say that’s it’s a constant feeling, or even that strong when I do get it. I have no idea why, maybe it’s because I love it here so much, and I have really been blessed with the best; I love my family so much, and the fact that I can talk about them in a way that requieres me to clarify I mean my Argentine family goes to show how close to them I’ve already become, Amalia is like my second mum, it feels like Valen has been my brother forever, and I’m sure Chino will be the same as soon as we can understand each other… I am so incredibly grateful for them, and even though we’ve only known each other for less than 6 weeks, I would call them my family in a heart beat.

As soon as I finished my last post, yes I needed (and still do, in real time it was only last night) to add photos but Writing Jacqui was already planning what she was going next. You might be wondering what it was I was planning but to be honest I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, but I do know that it wasn’t this, but I had some free time on my hands, with no wifi, and I thought what better way to pass the time than by doing something actually productive.

I have no idea what I’m going to write about next but I think it might end up being like a month at a glance, looking back at some of my favourite stories, you’ll probably have read about them before but they’re my favourite for a reason, and I’ll probably add in some other tidbits too, little interesting things, like how I still haven’t adjusted to the sleeping pattern, usually waking up late and staying awake for the rest of the day without a nap in the afternoon, or how much pizza we get to eat, which I’m definitely not saying is a bad thing I need to get used to, a life with pizza is a good life after all.

Moment of truth, I hadn’t quite realised the toll typing so much takes on my phone battery so maybe I won’t be making the most of the time. Why am I on my phone you ask? Well currently we’re sitting in a field, where, I don’t know, but somewhere about 2 hours from home, because Valen is racing his quad here today. While it’s considerably louder, it reminds me strangely of BMX days, the constant stream of riders going past, sitting under a gazebo listening to the same music which always seems to be on a three song loop. Ok so I had good intentions I promise, but this paragraph alone has cost me 7 valuable percent of my battery, and since I forgot my charger when we left at 5:45 this morning, I’m not exactly looking to burn anymore just yet considering it’s only 9am and we still have the whole day ahead of us. So until either a charger appears in front of me or I get home to my laptop, chau for now…

None of the above has happened but I’ve decided I’m going only going to write when I need to fill in the time, now being one of those times. Every time I start to write I wonder what I should talk about, but never before has it occurred to me to look at the blogs of other exchange students but that’s exactly what I did the other day. Reading them, I can help but notice how similar they are to each other yet quite different to mine which makes me wonder, am I doing this whole blog thing right? I mean obviously I’ve got the part where I talk about what I’m doing, but am I missing some things? Should I be talking about the things I’m noticing here? Maybe I should focus less on what I’m doing and more on how it’s different to what I would be doing in New Zealand… instead of talking about the places, perhaps I’d be better talking about the people? I assume you’re making up your own opinion as you’re reading this, wether it be along the lines of don’t worry it’s fine, or actually I wish she talked more about such and such. Whatever it may be I’d love to know so please make the most of the comments section and if you want to go that extra mile, send me a message while you’re at it! You’re probably getting sick of me waffling on and on, and that’s the perfect example of what you should write in your comment! But long story short, I know I complain sometimes and make it seem like it’s a big deal, but I love writing, and I love knowing people are enjoying what I write so I want to make sure it’s the best blog possible, and I need your help to make sure it is! It’s great fun telling you all about my adventures but I’d love some feedback as well so let’s help each other out and make the world a better place…

Well moving on, I said this was going to be a bit different and I think I’ve nailed that part, now let’s see where part II takes us… it’s at least once a day that I have to remind myself where I am, obviously it’s not home but it’s become familiar enough that it doesn’t scream, Jacqui you’re in Argentina, and one of the strangest things is the thought that just like I’m from New Zealand, these people around me are from Argentina. Their home is Argentina, this is where they live. It’s such a strange concept and wrapping my head around it is even harder, Argentina is such a foreign country to me, on the other side of the world, and yet they’re probably thinking the same thing about me and New Zealand. I think what’s different than being on holiday in a foreign country is for those two weeks or so that you’re away from home, there’s always the knowledge that sooner or later you’re coming home so you don’t take in quite as many of the little details, at least that’s what it seems like, whereas coming to live somewhere for a year you quickly become acutely aware of the way people are living their lives around you, picking up on their mannerisms and the way they act knowing for them it’s just another day in their life, yet for you 90% of what you’re seeing is different, sometimes fascinating, sometimes worrying, sometimes it’s something absolutely incredible. I don’t know what it’s like for other people who have been on an exchange, or lived abroad for extended periods of time but while this is time is a strange one for want of a better word, I’m not entirely sure I want it to end because who knows what comes next, although taking into account the experiences I’ve had already I’m sure the next chapter is going to be a good one.

In the beginning I touched on the things that I haven’t got used to like sleeping and pizza, ironic because those are two of my favourite things, but there’s a whole lot of little things that mess me up sometimes, like the literal embodiment of living on South American time. A typical Friday for me is usually as follows, wake up about 9, go to my Spanish lesson at 10:15, fill in the day with whatever I fancy, catch the bus to hockey at 3:30 for hockey at 4:30 then come home and probably go out somewhere. Let me demonstrate the difference between what that means in Argentina and what that means in New Zealand. If this was my day in NZ it would mean waking up at 9 because I’m not going to waste time getting up any earlier than I have to, get ready, have breakfast about 9:30 and be heading out the door about 10 just in drive somehow ends up 10 rather than 2 minutes. I would be early of course, but that’s ok. Then I’d come home, still do whatever the day brought, and then start getting ready for hockey about 2:30, leaving for the bus 5 minutes down the road at 3:15 and I would come home from hockey knowing exactly where I’m going when. In Argentina this is not the case, yes I wake up about 9 but this looks more like setting an alarm for 9 and then another 5 between 9 and 9:30, when I’ll usually start psyching myself to get out of bed which I do about 9:45. NZ Jacqui is half panicking but ARG Jacqui is there saying don’t worry, you can be having breakfast at 10 because Amalia won’t be here to pick you up until at least 10:14 which is fine and you’ll get to Carola’s house at 10:18 at the latest. I’ll finish my lesson at 11:30, ish of course, and wait for Amalia to pick me up, filling in the time struggling to talk with Lucas, whose learning English, exchanging more apologetic confused looks than words in the anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes it takes for Amalia to arrive. Then it’s home for whatever until lunch about 1, and whatever until getting ready for hockey about 2:30 then waiting for whoever it may be to take me to the bus stop about 3:27 so I can buy a ticket at 3:29 as the bus is pulling in and be on it at 3:30. Just. Then I come home, have a shower, eat (maybe) evaluate what everyone else is wearing, then try to match it in the anywhere between 5 and 55 minutes until we leave. And that is life in Argentina. And another thing that didn’t even cross my mind until I realised I probably couldn’t have been more stupid: the taps in the shower and everywhere else for that matter don’t say H or C. I also thought that was strange for the first week I was here, how can you tell the difference? Then I realised that the taps don’t speak English either and the random letters, C and F are in fact hot and cold, they just happen to be in the language that everyone speaks… Also fun are the words that sound like completely different words, which makes trying to understand things very fun when you’re relying on being able to pick out the words you do know and figure out the rest of the sentence from there. It soon becomes clear that you’ve heard something wrong when you put the words together and you end up with something like look me the water please… and it takes a few seconds before realising that actually 3 seconds ago they asked you to please pass the water and they’re now looking at you while you both have the same confused look on your faces, only theirs is from wondering why you’re giving them a strange look while yours is from wondering what the heck they just to you. Such fun. It gets even more interesting when words sound like something in English. I would like to give you an example but I’m still trying to work out what the word actually was, unless people go around saying random things like ‘thats enough’ in the middle of lunch, or ‘please stop’ when lying by the pool.

I could probably say that I’ve noticed so many different things about life here, but in all honesty I can’t think of that many on the spot, apart from the time, taps, dirt roads, driving on the other side of the dirt roads (!!!) but I am pleased to say I’ve only physically gone round the wrong side of the car once, the other 473 times were only in my head. People are always asking me if I like it here, and they always give me strange looks when I say how much I love it. Why?? They ask me, but most of the time I can’t explain why. I don’t think it’s the individual elements that they expect me to talk about, like how the Main Street is closed in the evening, or how the majority of cars are old, or even the fascinating weather, it’s all of these things coming together that make Capilla so different from my first home that make me love it so much. It might not be anything incredible to the people who live here but for me, coming from a relatively big town, living on a road that might see 1000 cars drive it in a day, to somewhere with less than a third of Papakura’s population and a street home to 10 people with half as many cars, makes my experience all the more interesting and exciting in a way, because I never know what’s going to surprise me next, but most of the time it’s something that makes me love it here even more.

Even though a month is only 30 or so days, it’s unfathomable when I think about everything I’ve done since getting here. From being in Buenos Aires for three days, experiencing one of the best days of my life at Santa Susana, to arriving and settling in here, returning to Buenos Aires not once but twice, making my count more than Amalia and Valen, to all the things we’ve done here, the ones that I’ve told you about as well as the ones that I still haven’t got around to, all the dinners with everyone, riding horses in the mountains with Valen, discovering my previously undiscovered slight claustrophobia climbing between two rocks while also negotiating my dislike of heights, and all the other things I don’t have time to talk about. I’ve had such a great time here that I’m worried I’m not making the most of the time with my amazing family, and it’s hitting me that I have limited time here, and it’s in those moments that I realise how much I truly feel at home and I could stay here for another 11 months. I know that the whole point of moving families is to get a better perspective and a deeper understanding of where you are, and I’m sure once I’m there I’ll be saying the same things as I am now, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to move. I’m yet to find out but I was thinking to myself that maybe that’s going to be even harder than leaving home, having to leave your first family, the first ones who welcomed you here, who took you in and introduced you to everyone and everything, the ones who are now, in my case, the people closest to you, your true home away from home. Something I do know is whatever happens and however it turns out, I will have a home here for life, and don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated no matter the outcome.

I think, and hope, I’ve covered everything I wanted to say… it’s hard to tell since it’s been such a crazy month and besides, there’s nothing stopping me from adding something later if I suddenly think of something I think you really should know. I’ve typed all of this on my phone, so it seems like it’s a lot, but I’m probably going to look at it on my laptop and think wow, you really got ahead of yourself, it’s only 10 (small at that) paragraphs, compared to the usual 34! (I guess theres not photos like there usually is, and they tend to make it seem like I’m scrolling forever)(Speaking of images, what am I meant to use as a cover for this one?? If only there was a way for you to leave a comment and tell me…) What’s the writing equivalent to chewing someone’s ear off? Whatever it is I’ve somehow managed to do it yet again so I’m going to wrap it up here, but congrats to me because I only started this yesterday (so if the date makes you think, no fool it’s a month and a day, the thought was there)! It seems strange ending in a random place but I’m living kind of a random life right now. Random but good that’s for sure…

Chau – Jacqui Philp

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Story Time

So since the last time I’ve posted something here I’ve had multiple people telling me multiple times that I should write something new, which I’m going to take as a sign that I should write something new. So here we are. Why haven’t I done this before now? Well that would be Classic Jacqui showing her colours and convincing Writing Jacqui that lying in the sun by the pool is a much better idea, even if it results in the introduction of a third character to this crazy story, Tomato Jacqui. Don’t worry you will be hearing more about her adventures later on provided Classic Jacqui doesn’t take control before I get to that part.

I think I’m just going to say what comes to mind this time, of course I’ll write about all the things I’ve done, including Mute Jacqui going to Buenos Aires again, making that more times than Valen and Maria, don’t even get me started… and the time Valen took Tomato Jacqui horse riding in the mountains. What I’m trying to say is don’t give up on me just yet, if my memory serves me correctly this is going to be packed full of cool stories, and if you’re lucky, more like if Crazy Jacqui is feeling generous, you might get to hear about my ingenious plan to get Jacqui a South American man. Or not, don’t get too alarmed thats just Crazy Jacqui talking again. Maybe. Plus the plan involves writing so if Classic Jacqui decides to say hello before then… well there might not be a plan at all.

Anyhow. Fun story number one. I feel like I’m on a roll already so brace yourselves. And of course change of plans, this is Stupid Jacqui and I’m coming to you live from my bedroom, where Writing Jacqui has just been interrupted by Hockey Jacqui, who, enticed by Valen’s offer to go outside and play if she had a ball, immediately ransacked her bag to find not only did she not have a ball, all her tape and other lifelines were not present. This in turn has created crisis in the life of Writing Jacqui; will she continue? We are yet to find out, so stay tuned. This was Hockey Jacqui, signing off to pester which ever parent replies first about where the rest of her things might be. Update: it was mother. The balls would’ve been too heavy. I believe it might be time for Problem Solving Jacqui to make an appearance because nope contrary to said mothers belief I don’t think I can get everything here easily…

So I’m back. Five hours later, at 9pm, the time I thought I would be starting crossfit, which much to Lazy Jacqui’s internal delight is actually tomorrow, however minus anything useful to play hockey but also armed with the knowledge that Awkward Jacqui is not only allergic to SPF 15 as she found out thinking she was safe, but has skin which has a hissy fit when it comes into contact with SPF 8 and will have to settle for SPF 6 which seems to cause minimal itch, redness and a bit of puffiness to complete the look. Although Writing Jacqui is trying her best to come back, Social Model Exchange Student Jacqui has to live up to her name and say hello to the new round of visitors who have just arrived for dinner, so it looks like this will have to wait yet another day, unless Writing Jacqui is feeling particularly inclined to make a return.

It would appear that Patient Jacqui would like plans to change yet again, as a small child has found her way into my room after getting over her stage fright the first time we met and having seemingly forgotten I can’t understand or speak to her has decided to stay for the foreseeable future, accompanied by my hope that the string of words she just spoke in my direction didn’t require more than affirmative eyebrow raises, head nods and understanding murmurs on my part (I’m sure they do because she gives me a look that says “what is wrong with you… you don’t speak..) although it seems that laughter is once again universal because its helped me survive the last five minutes of small child energy…

While Patient Jacqui works her magic, Writing Jacqui would like us to multi task so now is where the fun stories begin. Wow this really feels like primary school recount writing; Guess what? Two weeks ago on Monday January 30 2017… ok no I can’t stand this, but really, that was when we went to WaveZone, a water park just outside of Villa Carlos Paz. We, turned out to be family friends Gaby and Marcos, with their two sons and daughter, who also joined us for dinner after we left the waterpark at about 7. The park itself was smallish, or as Leo described it, very boring, or words to that effect… but it was fun nonetheless, and we went on all the biggest slides and then went to the wave pool and waited for the ‘Tsunami’, a big wave which swept through the pool every so often, taking with it everyone who wasn’t braced against its strength, and in my case causing children to be our of control bowling balls taking out the skittles (Jacqui) at the other end of the pool. I was of course wearing my ring in the water and when I fell over in the water it scratched a bit of paint from the bottom of the pool which lodged itself in one of the bits of my ring which I haven’t had the heart, or motivation, to clean, but in a way its a nice reminder each time I look at it, of the smiles and laughter in the sun from a pretty great day. Gradually everyone began emptying out of the park and soon we were about the only ones left as tables were being packed up around us, so we too gathered our things and headed to the larger than Capilla but not so large to be called a town, Villa Carlos Paz. Well,  maybe it is a city, to be honest I’m not sure, but what I am sure about is that when it gets dark and the streets are filled with lights and colour, you’re on a hill overlooking everything, the view is absolutely amazing, the lights twinkling and the glassy reflection on the river a rippling replica of the beautiful view. We walked the main street for a while before we decided on somewhere for dinner and on our travels we came across a small mall where we found a head massager, which became the entertainment for the evening, which as mundane as it sounds now, was hilarious seeing the simultaneous look of horror and peplexison at the feeling of the soft metal prongs embracing their heads.

After dinner was another great experience, we walked down the other side of the main road this time, and i had the surreal moment of experiencing a classic clickbait Facebook post in real life! You’ll never believe what I saw this man on the street create with spray paint and newspaper…. Keep reading to find out! Ok so in hindsight that didn’t have quite the same effect as the Facebook version since you were going to keep reading anyway (I say that with the confidence that you were, so don’t be the one to make me wrong), but I bet now you’re thinking, plz Jacqui just tell us… or this is one of those times when you know its obviously going to be one of those street artists who makes the cool pictures with spray paint and newspaper and a bowl and whatnot but you want to look anyway, well yes if thats you then you’re right, I think seeing the disbelief on my face Amalia felt compelled to buy me not one, but two of the amazing paintings! Which yes, don’t worry, you will see, just scroll down to see the amazing result! No but really, I was going to put the picture here but I realised that I don’t have a picture so I’ll take one and add it later, oops…

On drive into Carlos Paz we went past some Go Kart tracks which of course got the boys attention, (and low key mine) and on the way home there wasn’t a choice but to stop and have a quick squiz at the first track. Which turned out not to be the one, for reasons I did not understand due to the rapid fire Spanish which was not Jacqui friendly. Never fear though, there was a second track which was deemed acceptable, and it was then that I realised I may have a problem. In the five minutes it had taken to drive from one track to another, I had not developed the ability to speak Spanish. Which of course created a problem when it came time for Spanish speaking people to speak to me… Let me tell you right now that in New Zealand I usually do ok when racing go karts. I’m not going to go all out and say that I always win because thats not true, it’s more like 95% of the time when I don’t decide to let someone have a taste of victory for a change. But this was not New Zealand. In New Zealand I can understand more than one word of what I’m being told before we start driving but I thought hey what can possibly go wrong. Ok well. Let me also tell you that I like to not be the one to cause trouble in these sort of situations so every look in my general direction that I interpreted to be concern I slowed down, which was not the best strategy for someone who wanted to win. All I’m going to say is it’s just as well I know how to have fun without winning everything… In all seriousness though I might not have been first, it was more like 5th but same difference, but it was so much fun just laughing with everyone, even if nobody understood when I challenged them to come to New Zealand and beat me there, and I got a taste of driving again so all in all it was a pretty swell time. The drive home was very quiet, Amalia asleep in the front seat, while I was next to two very tired sleeping brothers, so it was just me and Chino having a very animated conversation the whole way home (yes thats a joke, the only conversation I was having was in my head, something along the lines of, I hope he doesn’t think I’m weird and never say anything, if only I could tell him I’m weird and can’t say anything).

Back to real time now, this is kind of fun. Writing Jacqui is feeling very proud of herself for saying so much, but at the same time Child With Short Attention Span Jacqui is getting bored of writing, but Sensible Verging on Stupid Jacqui just posted something on her Facebook page (cheeky promo- Jacqui in Argentina, go and give it a like if you haven’t already) saying the there will be something new on her blog so I think Writing Jacqui might have won this round. On another note, plus sticking to the live update theme, mother just informed me that Leo will be staying with Claire and Bruce, my aunt and uncle in New Zealand (maybe that NZ part was irrelevant but it helps me feel like I’m being productive and writing more) which is awesome news, I’m excited for him already, and I’m not even there, plus mother also told me that she has ‘registered interest’ in being his fourth host family so all in all he’s in for a pretty wild time. Thats a random bit of info out of the way for now so continue with story time it is…

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Right now the only way I can remember things is by looking at my photos. But I’m confused because the photos of WaveZone are before the photos of my first Rotary meeting, and yes I am aware that I’m not doing things in order but I feel as though theres a whole lot more things that should’ve been in between those two events. In order to help my Confused Jacqui’s poor little brain I’m going to talk about the next thing thats come to my mind, which was making the trip to Buenos Aires to say goodbye to Leo as he got on a plane to New Zealand. (ok another live post giving you a rare insight into the life of Easily Distracted Jacqui, who literally just went to plug her headphones into her phone which has somehow, thanks to the power of laziness, morphed into checking social media for the last half hour. This is why you’ve had to wait so long for me to actually write something). Buenos Aires. With Leo. Right. Write. This would obviously be the second time I had been to Buenos Aires which was exciting since I left thinking that one day I might be lucky enough to come back before I left, obviously I had no idea what I was in for, but more about that later. I had being doing a bit of research just out of interest which led m to discover that to drive would be about 9 hours, 787.6km to be precise, so you can imagine my surprise when I learnt that was exactly what we would be doing, however Roadtrip Loving Jacqui was very excited at the prospect and when offered the chance to stay at her councillors house, took all of 0.17 seconds to say no thanks, rest assured you’ll find me in the car as soon as its time to go. T’was the night before the drive, and creatures were stirring all throughout the house… visits by everyone possible were done and dusted, photos had frantically been collected from around the house and bags were finally packed and ready to go, and the morning of the 5th, was upon us. The drive consisted mostly of sleeping and stopping to eat every so often, a crucial strategy to survive long distance. Me being the machine I am who can sleep anywhere and anytime did just that for most of the time, using her generous brothers head as a pillow when she was in the middle between said brother and Amalia, which made it seem like more like an hour and a bit drive, although I’m sure Chino may beg to differ.

When we arrived in Buenos Aires, we headed straight for the airport to make sure Leo was all sorted to fly and then headed into the city. I of course had no idea what the plan was, so I was just going along with everything as per usual, so I was pleasantly surprised when we stopped outside Museo River, the museum of River Plate for those of you who were a bit confused. Ok so I might not be the biggest fan but even I could appreciate how cool it was to walk through the museum, and as we saw people coming back from the stadium tour I felt a hint of jealousy. That was until I realised that we were about to do the tour as well! It probably didn’t have the full effect on me since I don’t live and breath River Plate like some, but I imagine for my brothers who support CARP the experience was somewhat similar to that of the other brother who supports Chelsea when he went on a tour at Stamford bridge, mind you as much as I hate to say it, one of said brothers still here is also a Chelsea fan much to my dismay… We looked around the stadium with a sense of awe that had fallen over everyone like a veil, and of course took lots of obligatory photos.

Time flew by and soon everyone was getting hungry so we moved onto the next mission- looking for somewhere to eat. You’re going to think I’m exaggerating but I have literally never hated pizza so frequently as I do here, and it is very clear that its only pizza, but we like it, so there was no question what Leo would be having for his final meal, rather where we would choose. After diving round in squares (I’m not sure what you thought I was going to say but no the streets weren’t circular) we finally decided and devoured the monstrous, cheese loaded, yes circle this time, that was placed in front of us. Being the person I am, that being the one who is late when she arrives on time, was getting slightly concerned when it got to 9pm and were still sitting in the restaurant, considering Leo’s flight was at 11:59pm (I kid you not) but sure enough we got going soon and once he had changed into his Rotary numbers 1s we were on our way back to the airport. Luckily alls well that ends well because just like it was for me, the next hour and a bit did not go overly smoothly. Deciding to weigh the bags before they got wrapped turned out to be very sensible, as the scales soon revealed, prompting an emergency repacking outside the doors of the terminal, with me exchanging smiles with everyone who looked knowingly in my direction. The time soon came, too soon I expect, for Leo to leave, and even I, who had only been a temporary sister the past two weeks, was a bit teary eyed, which should give you a fair idea about the state of everyone else. Goodbyes were said and tears were shed and we waved until the very last second, leaving the drive home the only thing left on the agenda.

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Final goodbyes at the airport with Leo

I have no clue why, perhaps it was the thought that he was going literally right to where I was two weeks ago, or that at some point he would be seeing my family while I was halfway across the world, or the way that Amalia’s description of what Leo and I were both experiencing hit the nail on the head, “it’s like you’re a baby again. You have to find your feet in this whole new world and learn to walk, and talk again. You are surrounded by people you don’t know, you even have a new mother and father” but whatever it was caused tears to silently run down my face as I thought of everyone at home. Looking back now I don’t think it was because I am missing my family and friends terribly, or that I want to go home, it was remembering all the emotion at the airport, the teary goodbyes of my own that really pulled on the heart strings. The drive home was much the same as the one there, and after pulling into a carpark at about 2am for a bit of a snooze after being unable to find a motel, and stopping at the Argentine equivalent of a Wildbean, it was 10am and we were finally home. And that was my trip to Buenos Aries. The second time.

Theres so much more Writing Jacqui wants to talk about, but Sensible Jacqui has reminded her that she’s already at 3622 words so now is probably a good place to stop until next time. Date Freak Jacqui has also pointed out that its a month exactly, wow literally the time changed from 11:59 pm on the 25th to 12:00 am on the 26 making it literally literally exactly a month since I arrived in Capilla Del Monte, although if you were being picky I guess you could say its not exactly a month since my flight didn’t land until about 8:30 but hey its the though that counts… Like I said theres so much more I want to say but never fear, Writing Jacqui will reappear with most likely another 3000 words so stay tuned, and this time I promise I won’t make you wait so long… plus I promised a plan and I’ll try my very best to make Crazy Jacqui spill the beans. Also thanks for reading, I know it’s a lot to take in, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed think of what it was like for me writing! Ok so it wasn’t really that bad, but it has taken me 5 days from start to finish so I’m going to say it required a lot of effort from Writing Jacqui to convince Lazy and Sleepy to pull finger and actually get to this point. But until next time…

Chau – Jacqui Philp

Keeping up with Capilla

I may as well just continue from where I left of last time, but this time it’ll be on a more positive note, and more about the adventures, but a warning in advance- there is a very high chance that I will repeat some things so bear with me please, and besides, they’re all good stories so who wouldn’t want to hear them again!

Trying to think of where to begin is always the hard part, and from now on I think I’ll give up on trying to tell everything in chronological order, so many things have happened in so little time that it’s easier to write it down as it comes to mind, so first on the agenda appears to be my first rotary encounter in Capilla. I was going to say Argentina but I think that was crossed off the list when I paraded through airports in all my glory wearing my badge covered blazer and bright blue New Zealand scarf, which definitely brought rotary to the front of my mind. Anyhow. That afternoon (that because I have no idea what day it was) Leo mentioned to me about going to a rotary meeting that night, but that was the last I heard of it and I assumed he must’ve meant another day because it got to about 9pm and he was still at a friends house and there had been no further mention of going anywhere. Until that is, when it got to about 9:15 and Chino came home saying where is Leo the meeting is at 10 and we really need to leave soon, and as though he had summoned him, Leo came running inside and straight into the shower. From then on it was a mad rush, me having to transform from being in the pool all day looking like a creature from the wild with messy hair and bare faced, to somewhat presentable, nicely dressed, hair tamed and face painted on, just as Leo was doing his hair, in perfect time to run to the car and only be a couple of minutes late. As it turned out this was no big deal as everyone was standing around talking when we arrived and Chino welcomed us in. Looking around the room I realised that this was the epitome of Rotary, a room full of older men, with me being the only girl in the room. To add to the situation I was of course, once again, the only one who spoke English, which was as fun as you can imagine when everyone came to greet and welcome me, my response being a polite smile and nod. It was relatively similar to a meeting in New Zealand, but one interesting thing I noticed was when everyone stood to raise the miniature mechanical flag in the corner of the room, clapping then returning to their wine and conversation until the president rang his bell and began to talk. I’m not sure what he was saying but he let Chino speak and occasionally I heard Leo or my name mentioned and everyone would turn and smile at us so I’m under the impression that he was telling our story, which was fine by me if it meant I didn’t have to try and do it myself, in a language I barely knew. Time flew by and before I knew it Leo was being presented with his club banners, we were having our photo taken, I presented my banner to the president and then it was home time! Leo and I said our goodbyes and jokes were made about my Spanish but the two of us left with a smile as everyone else began dinner. For a first experience it was definitely a good, if different, one and I’m sure it’s only going to get better from here as I get to know everyone and the language better and I’ll really be able to get into the swing of things, as well as going to the roteract meetings with Valen.

Looking at these photos now I can’t help but smiling as I’m reminded of the family I’ve been welcomed into, the arms of rotary reaching out and bringing me in as one of their own, and it makes me feel so incredibly happy and I know that it’s an absolute honour and privilege to be able to have this once in a lifetime experience. I think now is a very appropriate time to say a huge thank you to my sponsor club, Papakura Rotary, in New Zealand, for their generosity, support and trust in me, as without them I have no doubt that this exchange would not be possible. I can assure you that I am making the most of every single second here and I am, and always will be forever grateful to everyone who has supported me so far. I can whole heartedly say that I am trying my very best to be the best ambassador for New Zealand and the Papakura club, and whenever and where ever I can I represent the club to the best of my ability, because it is the least I can do to repay everyone. Hopefully everyone is able to keep up to date with what I’ve been doing, because I want to share every incredible moment with everyone, not just because living here is the best thing to ever have happened to me, but also as a way of saying thank you once again. When I first applied for an exchange I had no idea what I was getting into and I had some doubts about whether this was what I wanted to do, and if this was the right thing for me, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have filled out the papers and signed on dotted lines in the blink of an eye, because I would have known I was applying for the year of my life, and preparing for an experience that words simply cannot begin to explain, though try as I might. Another thing I underestimated was the sense of community and belonging that is so strong within rotary, even though I have never met most of these people in my life, and don’t speak the same language as a lot of them, everyone has welcomed me with open arms and it is truly humbling to be part of this organisation and I know I can confidently say that I will always have a place within rotary and knowing that makes me feel incredibly overcome with gratitude and appreciation.

For those who are reading this and are not yet a part of rotary, or who are unaware of how incredible it is an organisation, I urge you to get out there and just find out a bit about your local club and what they do for your community because I guarantee you will be both surprised and amazed, because even if you didn’t realise it, the strength of rotary is everywhere, granted it is sometimes in the background but they take the sort of action that may not be recognised, but would be sorely missed if they were not part of a community. I am not asking that you give up all your time and dedicate yourself to rotary, although I’m sure they wouldn’t have a problem with that, but all it takes is a little knowledge, and some selflessness here and there to make a difference, and once you realise the difference that you can have in the lives of others, as well as the differences in your life thanks to rotary you will never look back, and if you’re like me, you will do everything in your power to give back to rotary when possible because there is nothing as rewarding as helping others and being part of something which changes lives around the world. I know that from my experience as a Rotary Exchange Student, Rotary has the power to make a difference in the world if we all do our part to help, whether that be donating a gold coin when you can’t, volunteering with projects in your community, or attending meetings and fully immersing yourself in Rotary so even if it’s something small, just go out and do something selfless for someone you think might need it, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous do some research on your local Rotary club because when you do you’ll never look back, and your life will be changed for the better.

I’m getting off topic as this is about as far from Argentina as you can get but I may as well take this time to also quickly talk about the other experiences I’ve had the privilege to be a part of thanks to Rotary so you can get an idea of how incredible my journey was before it even started, beginning with a memory that will stay with me for as long as I live, getting to do the Karanga at the end of Marae weekend, where all the exchange students in Auckland got together to know each other and more about the Maori culture, heritage and customs. It began with a Powhiri, a traditional welcome onto the Marae, which was opened with a Karanga, a call. Every time I hear a Karanga it is a unique and indescribable experience and even for those who haven’t heard it before and may not understand the significance of it, can get an idea of the intense meaning behind it, and without fail the fund of the wavering call always causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up and a shiver to run down my spine. As the weekend came to a close, we were presented the opportunity to put our hand up to do the Karanga when the parents returned for the last day, and immediately I knew I wanted to be the one to have the privilege. I spend the next day, most of the night and every spare second leading up to the final Powhiri rehearsing my part practicing with the other two girls who were doing the reply, practicing with Whaea and Koro until finally the time came to put everything into action. I took my place at the front of the Marae and let my voice ring out into the courtyard, putting everything I had into it, pouring my heart and soul into every word. As I was calling I felt something come over me, and it almost became like an out of body experience. I could feel the sound coursing through me, and hear the echo of the wail and waver of the words I was no longer concentrating on, my thoughts focusing on the meaning behind them, welcoming and warning our visitors, bringing them into the Marae and paying respect to those who had come before us. My first verse tapered off and somewhere in the background of the rush in my head I could hear the response, and again it was my turn, and again I felt overcome with emotion, the sense of pride coursing through my veins, my beating heart threatening to burst through my chest. I moved with the words as though it was a second nature and as we sat down I met the eyes of my mother and grandparents and I knew in that moment that if I never got the chance to do something like this again, I would be content in knowing that I gave everything I had into my call, and doing the incredibly sacred tradition justice once was enough to last me a lifetime.

Since then I have had countless other experiences through rotary, Auckland day for one, getting the chance to go to Auckland Central Fire Station, having a meeting in the council buildings and then exploring Auckland with the other exchange students. Even presenting at the Papakura Rotary club was an honour, as it was a way for me to give back to those who have supported me so much by sharing with them my passion and excitement about this year, and while I’m over here I also have the chance to share our culture with those who may not have the chance to learn about Maori culture and the true history otherwise. I mentioned talking to German, Maca and Valen and one of the topics that came up was Maori culture, after German asked about my Taonga. When I began talking about its importance and how special it was to me I felt again a sense of pride that I was able to wear something so special, as well as share the meaning behind it. Then we went on to talk about how prominent Te Reo is in New Zealand today, the influence Maori heritage has on our lives today, and the way that it’s almost sad that we don’t honour our roots as best we can, both in New Zealand and Argentina. I also talked to them about Papakura and what my own life was like at home and as I was talking I realised how privileged I am to be able to share this information and my life with others, who live on the other side of the world and have had a completely different up bringing, and the more I talked the better it felt to be able to share my knowledge and heritage.

What I have been trying to say throughout this post is that Rotary has opened up so many doors for me and my life has been so thoroughly enriched through their generosity and kindness, and it has also become a time for me to express my immense thanks and gratitude to the Rotary Youth Committee for making this experience something that is within reach for teenagers around the globe, Papakura Rotary in particular because without their ongoing and endless support, this year would still be a dream. Without out their trust in me and love they have shown me I would not be here writing this blog, and there is no way that I can think of to show how grateful I am, other than being the best ambassador I can, whether that be through my actions, the words I share with others and the pride with which I wear my Rotary uniform. Although I started this post with the intention of giving everyone another update about life in this amazing town I now call home, I feel as though that can wait for next time. I was considering rewriting the beginning of this post but then I thought maybe it is the best way to show the funny ways Rotary works and how it weaves it’s way into every aspect of life, and whether you intend for it to or not things always turn out better than they were before they started. I’ll leave it there for now, so once again, thank you, and I hope I’m doing the Rotary name, and my home justice.

Chau – Jacqui Philp

PS- more photos are to come…

Life in Capilla Del Monte

I’m going to start this instalment with an apology. I know the last post ended in a bit of a cliff hanger and for that I’m sorry, but it obviously worked since you’re reading this now!

If I remember rightly it was Thursday the 26th of Jan and I was in the boarding lounge in the airport at Buenos Aires waiting to get on a plane to Cordoba, which all going to plan would take off at 7:15am. Which was a long while away considering we got to the airport at 5 just to make sure we had time to sort everything out, which perhaps was necessary for those flying international to Brazil and Chile, however for me going a mere hour and a bit, it meant I had about an hour to kill before the gate opened at 6:40am. It took me a very long while to actually figure out when they opened as I couldn’t read the screens but then I had the brainwave of looking at my ticket which solved that problem, however I soon encountered another one when I began to hear what I assumed were other boarding calls. In Spanish. Which of course I did not understand. Being by myself meant I had a lot of time to consider all my options, however it also meant there was nobody there to point out the obvious; even if I didn’t understand the call, it wouldn’t be that hard to see everyone lining up at the gate when the time came. I eventually got it figured out and soon I was walking down the path to the bus (!!) which took us to the plane waiting on the tarmac and after struggling down the aisle to the row second from the back with my awkward bags I was finally ready to embark on the next leg of my journey.

I decided to make the most of the time and update my diary so I didn’t get even further behind than I already was, but try as I might the excitement was too much and my nose was either glued to the window taking in an aerial view of Argentina, or to the screen of my phone where I was reliving the previous day at Santa Susana. It definitely didn’t feel like an hour when the air hostess came round asking for tray tables to be stowed (I assume thats what they were saying) and we were ready to land. All of a sudden everything became very real, the paddocks below were no longer passing land, but the place where I would be, and once I landed there was no going back, there was no connecting flight, no tickets home booked for two weeks time, this wasn’t just a holiday and the next time I would be on a plane could be as far away as a year. I began to stress a little to say the least but I was too busy videoing our approach and soon we felt the bump of tyres on tarmac – we had arrived. It took an eternity to get off, of course being at the back also meant I was one of the last to do so but once we started moving there was no stopping until I rounded the corner to see a sign with my name on it “Bienvenidos Jacqui Philp” and it was purple! At the time I didn’t register the significance of the colour, and it wasn’t until a few days later that I remembered telling Maria that my favourite colour was purple and it made the moment all the more special. I was greeted with huge smiles with hugs and kisses and I was so overcome with their kindness that I completely forgot anything I might’ve been able to say in Spanish had I thought hard enough but nevertheless after a quick photo and more smiles we were headed to the car, and began driving, to where I had no idea.

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Welcome Jacqui! My new family waiting at Cordoba, from left to right – Leo, Maria, Jacqui, Valen

As it turned out we were destined for the city of Cordoba, where I was lucky enough to get a tour of everything there was to see but once we had walked around for about two hours ( really I had no idea how long we were there for, or even what the time was, but what I did know was that I was absolutely cooking in my Rotary number ones) we headed back to the car and started driving for home, Capilla Del Monte. I had absolutely no idea what sort of a drive I was in for, but what should have been about a two hour drive turned out to be a relatively short one as the lack of sleep soon caught up on me and I started seeing double and fighting to keep my eyes open before falling asleep and waking up as we arrived in the small town. I still had no idea what I was in for but when I saw a sign saying Rio Negro at the end of a broken dirt road I knew we must be very close to home. Sure enough we were just around corner and that was it, welcome home! It was a very surreal moment, but it got a whole lot better when I walked into my room to see a huge purple banner covering the wall saying “Welcome Jacqui”. It was at that moment that I knew I had hit the jackpot with this family and I would be very happy to be a part of their lives, even if I couldn’t understand the majority of it.

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My purple room – I couldn’t have done it better myself

Seeing as I’m writing this a week later some of the details are a bit shady but I’ll try and do may best to tell them as it happened. The rest of that day went very quickly, we had lunch, I unpacked my bags and promptly fell asleep, not waking up until it was about 8 o’clock. This turned out not to be a problem as I found out that everything really is South American time, and we weren’t having dinner until about 11pm, which turned out to be a trend, as we usually eat at sometime between 9 and 12pm. The next couple of days were a blur, at least the time that I wasn’t sleeping or eating was…

I’ll start with the town itself and then work from there. Capilla is a very small green town in Cordoba (9 hour drive from Buenos Aires), located at the foothills of the Cerro Uritorco mountain, the highest point of the Sierras Chicas, a mountain chain in Punilla valley. It’s quite a small place, the epitome of in the middle of nowhere, with highway runing along the edge of the town and its such a small place that if one was to take their eyes off their surroundings they might be driving past the ‘thank you for visiting Capilla del Monte’ sign without even realising it.  The town is tiny, peaceful and charming, surrounded by nature with a hippie vibe and a tranquil atmosphere. Downtown there are just a few cafes and restaurants, many organic and natural food stores, craft shops, Yoga, Reiki and meditation studios and even a small cinema. Many locals sell their crafts and delicious homemade pies around town. Although its so small, there is definitely no shortage of interesting, historic and fascinating things dotted around the place, and from my understanding (I can’t be completely sure what with the language barrier) both the origin and goings on around the mountains are somewhat extra terrestrial with reported sightings of UFO’s and paranormal activity, but the closet I’ve got to anything odd is the lightening storm that noiselessly turned the sky into a strange purple glow. The extra terrestrial aspect generates huge revenue during the tourist season, which it is now, and every day there are multiple busloads of tourists who flock to get a bit of the action (which usually turns out just to be a photo under the Capilla Del Monte sign which has an alien peering over the top of it, something I’ve yet to do) and walk around the many shops with a small green man in the window.

Then there is the beautiful scenery, La Calabalumba river, a rock which bears uncanny resemblance to a shoe, a huge lake and the opportunity to climb the mountain if you’re feeling adventurous. ‘Downtown’ as everyone likes to call it, is relatively well looked after, a few cracks in the road here and there, but as soon as you make your way into the streets, you’re met with potholes and bumps, falling down fences, and in many streets like our own, a narrow dirt, or mud depending on the weather, path filled with channels created by the heavy spontaneous rain and the vehicles which try to navigate them.

The first few days were an initiation of sorts, first I met my councillor Juan Carlos, his daughter and the exchange student from Germany staying with them, and got the grand tour of their ‘house’ the downstairs of which acts as a hall for the campground/hostel/public pool/farm that is also part of their property. While we waited for Maria to return, Leo took me to see the incredible stone cathedral which sits on top of the hill which was absolutely breath taking, with incredible detailed paintings on the roof, beautiful statues and a shining gold altar. That afternoon we went to the river, Leo and Maria under the impression that I had never seen a waterfall up so close, until they later realised I live 15 minutes from Hunua falls, however it was still amazing, the river itself flows through the rocks and there are many natural waterfalls along the way. After walking for about 5 minutes we came to the perfect place where one could jump off the rocks, which much to the horror of Maria and admiration of Leo, I did without hesitation. We stayed for about an hour, laughing at the girls only in the water to take photos, gasping at the occasional time someone came particularly close to the rocks below, and overall enjoying the summer heat. One of the things I have noticed, not just in Capilla Del Monte, but Argentina in general, is the number of stray dogs hanging around everywhere, and as we were walking back along the river, one in particular took a liking to us. It wandered slightly ahead of us, checking to make sure we were still following every now and again, stopping when we did and he soon became a faithful companion. As we neared the skinny swing bridge to cross the river we saw the huge line of people waiting to do the same, so Leo being the boy that he is decided it would be better to cross the river further up, but the message didn’t get passed along to the dog, who had squeezed through the crowd and was waiting faithfully at the other end of the bridge. None of us had realised until we looked back to see him looking back to where we would’ve been coming from, holding up everyone trying to cross as he tried to look for us. Maria wasn’t too keen on returning home with another mouth to feed so much to Leo and I’s disappointment we continued walking, the fate of the dog unknown. On the way to the car we had a token tourist moment, taking a photo with Leo posing as aliens, then despite their protests, walked back to the car with no shoes on, shocking them both as I proceeded to walk across the stony path, my New Zealand summer and hot sand accustomed feet serving me well.

 

The rest of the week has been filled with visits from what must be half the town, Maria explaining to me they are a very social family (to say the least), family meals where I am the only english speaking person at a table of 20, afternoon naps, meals at every possible moment and party after party preparing for Leo’s departure to New Zealand. And it’s been a blast. Another thing I’ve noticed is how family orientated they are, with at least on grandparent here most of the time, just popping over to say hello, coming round for lunch,  dinners with cousins just because. There are also some who live from further away in Cordoba, but when in Capilla seemed to spend majority of their time here with us or other family, which was an awesome thing to see, and the bond between my ‘brothers’ and both the older and younger cousins is so nice, but especially the older ones, anyone would think they are siblings, but not the bickering type, more the inseparable best friend type with admiration of the older and the love for the younger as well as the general care and concern for each other. It always makes me smile to myself when I see one of the boys come up and hug Maria, for no particular reason and its nice to see that even though they’re classic teenagers who hang out with their friends and party on the weekend, they always have love for their parents and are never to cool to show it.

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Family farewell for Leo

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Spending time together by the pool with Valen and Maria, taken by Leo

While a lot of the time has been incredible and unforgettable for all the right reasons, there are of course times when it isn’t such smooth sailing and even though I laugh about it with my english speaking friends, sometimes things are difficult here. One of the most challenging occasions is when we are having a meal with a big group of people, usually family, who of course know each other well, speak fast Spanish and little English, and what tends to happen is conversation continues on without a word of english for a good 5 minute, sometimes even half an hour will pass and I won’t have spoken since the last time I realised I was being asked a question. When it is my turn to speak, its after someone has spend the last few minutes trying to translate a question directed at me, but other than that I stick to smiling when every one else smiles, laughing when everyone else laughs and praying that I’m not the one their laughing and smiling about. It’s times like these when the extend of what I’m doing really hits home, as I have time (not out of choice but still) to stop and think and let my mind wander, sometimes into dangerous territory, about how lonely it gets sometimes and how out of place I am, no matter how much everyone tries to include me, and I think in not just the back of my mind, but every one else too, that no matter how long I’m here for, or how well I speak the language, I will always have a degree of foreigner in me that sets me apart from everyone else, wether that be in a good way or a bad way. I think I first noticed this on my first Saturday night here, when the plan was to have dinner downtown with friends, then go out afterwards. Dinner was delicious, and when we had finished eating Valen, Sabri and I went down the road to get ice cream and went to the small fair which runs on weekends. Even though I couldn’t understand half of what was going on, the most important thing to remember is laughter is the same in all languages, and it feels  just as good for the soul whether you understand the joke or not. It’s interesting thinking back because when Leo and the other boys joined us it was so incredibly fun and everyone was enjoying themselves, and it wasn’t until we went back and sat with the adults that my mood started to change. We had been at the table for a while, the ‘kids’ having their own conversation while the adults were having theirs and I found myself caught in the middle. Seeing that I was empty handed Maria offered me a drink which I gratefully accepted even if it was just something to focus on rather than trying to understand the conversation while not being part of either. Everyone started getting up to leave when Valen asked if I was coming to the club with them (to the rotary people reading this, don’t panic, it’s legal the minute you turn 16) but my mindset had spiralled from happiness and enjoyment to just wanting to go home and be away from everyone. These moments come and go every so often but its usually after being with groups of people who forget you can understand and just continue talking as if nothing is wrong, and each time its as difficult as the last. Of course there are people who speak English, and I’m biased in saying this but they are my favourite people at the moment, for example the cousins living in Cordoba, Macarena and German. It was after Leo’s big farewell where all family who could possible be there was, and the ‘kids’ (Cousins and brothers and girlfriends and Jacqui) had moved off and were passing drinks that German and Maca’s true ability to speak english was revealed. Dai and Leo had gone home so it was Valen, Maca, German and I just chatting by the pool. It was honestly the nicest feeling to be able to talk to people my own age and even though it was a bit difficult at some times we talked for almost two hours about everything from what I think of Argentina, to Maori culture and the conflict between Maori and land and Waitangi and all sorts of other irrelevant things that seemed so much better at the time because talking about something is always better than nothing.

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German takes a photo at dinner, from bottom left around the table – Chino, Santiago (cousin), Maria’s sister, Leo, Dai, Valen, Camilla (cousin), German and Maca’s mum (Chino’s sister… I think), Macarena, Jacqui, Maria, Chino’s dad, Maria’s mum, Chino’s mum and German

I just took a look back at everything I’ve written and realised that I may as well start calling them chapters rather than posts, but theres so much to write about its hard finding somewhere to stop. I think here will do for now, but don’t forget to come back soon, as theres so many more stories left to tell, and I still haven’t really gone full on novel about Buenos Aires, which will definitely be worth waiting for, plus I have heaps of photos to add. Until then though…

Chau – Jacqui Philp

3 Days in Argentina

So it’s official. I’ve been with my family for exactly a week today, so I guess you could say I really do live in Argentina now, how crazy is that?! Technically I’ve been here over a week if you want to count our stopover in Buenos Aires, but I arrived in Capilla Del Monte on Thursday the 26th of Jan and have been loving it here ever since.

I’ll start from the start, hopefully I won’t bore you with over sharing, I’m thinking I’ll give you the basic run down of what it’s been like since we left Auckland, and I’ll go into detail about Buenos Aires in another post, sound good? Good.

We left Auckland on Monday the 23rd of Jan (yes I do have to put the full date; you have no idea how confusing the time difference is) and let me tell you, that day was one of the most hectic of my life so far. In all honesty I can hardly remember the nitty-gritty details since so much has happened since then, but I can remember that it was a mad rush trying to get everything packed within weight limits, deciding what I really needed, and what things I could part with in an attempt to reduce the 3kgs of extra things… That of course doesn’t count the 54kgs of carry on luggage I had… well maybe not quite 54 but i can assure you my suitcase, plus my ‘handbag’ as well as my camera bag sure felt closer to 54kgs than the 8 point something it really was. As for the rest of the day it was spent frantically churning out badges and pins, fingertips of cousins getting burnt on hot glue guns, parents and an aunty saying surely there can’t be that many more, grandparents stressing about placement of flags on blazers…. it was a very crazy few hours to say the least, and this was before the bag debacle!

Finally leaving the house was a whole other situation, with panicked last-minute checks making sure I had everything (I didn’t), forgotten goodbyes to cats (obviously I had to find her before I went), deciding which car I was going to go in (sorry mum, you’re welcome best friend), coming to the conclusion that sunglasses were the best way to hide the tears in my eyes (but praying my make up lasted) and trying to remember every single detail of Auckland as we drove to the airport (there is a surprisingly large variety in the colour of grass as it turns out). The whole process was a mixture of emotions, of course I was excited to be embarking on the next chapter of my life, but at the same time I was nervous, sad and one or two second thoughts crossed my mind but soon I was too busy to take proper notice of them.

We (Lou, Tiana and I) got to the airport first and unloaded my 17 (3 very large) bags and saw Dad as we were walking to through the car park so we the 4 of us waited inside for everyone else to arrive (Mum, Grandma and Grandad, and Claire with Anna and Lily) which they did in typical Philp/Carrick/Hart fashion, hair blowing everywhere and a slight manic look on their faces. Of course there was drama, I couldn’t get my boarding pass without help, yes I was coming home on May 18 (if you say so), my bag was too heavy (goodbye $200) but finally everything was sorted and I only had to get through the next hour and a bit before I went through customs. Which was not easy. Long story short, the decision was made to wait in the bar for Roger who was helping sort out my visa (another long story), meanwhile the rest of the group was meeting the chaperones and Stuart was looking for me.

All in all it was confusing and stressful to say the least but the chips were a great last meal though! Finally it was time to go, which really meant wait 10 minutes for all the photos to be taken, be the last one to go through, and also be the one who has trouble with her ePassport, has to start again, and gets in trouble from customs. Then realises when its time to get changed that someone had forgot to put both socks and a singlet in your bag so you have to rock shoes without socks and stick with the slip you were wearing underneath your blouse. I think now is the time to mention that before I got changed, my uniform was very similar to that of an air hostess, and I found out just how similar when I went to buy a bottle of water and got asked if I wanted to use my staff discount, never mind the Rotary Student Exchange emblem on my blazer pocket, the badges all over it and my name tag that I would have thought would be the final piece of evidence to suggest that although I may look very similar, I am not in fact, an Air Hostess, contrary to popular belief. It was fun and games that’s for sure, and we mustn’t forget that I knew absolutely nobody in the group which was also great fun while we sat around waiting to board. Which we did at about 7:30 (don’t quote me on that because all I can really remember is when we took off). It was about 8:00 when I looked out the windows at my last views of New Zealand, the friendly screen in front of me “Kia Ora Jacqui” a girl I’d never met before in my life sitting next to me, who i would also spend the next three days with, along with the other 7 strangers in our group.

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Final goodbyes with Tiana and Hamish, Los Tres Amigos

The flight itself was pretty good considering it was 11 hours. To begin with I kept looking out the window (in the opposite direction of everyone else) so nobody would notice my sweaty eyes but I gradually settled in and chose some movies, and before I knew it, dinner was being served. I was not so excited when I heard the first option was Argentine Beef Casserole, but my stomach perked up at the sound of the chicken, however much to my disappointment it was beef or beef, as everyone else apparently had the same idea as me. I pushed through the beef anyway and carried on with my movie, before having a snooze, watching another movie, breakfast and before long we were into the last 10 minutes and we were coming into Buenos Aires, which I kept track of as I watched our altitude slowly drop as we began our descent into Jorge Newbery Airport, Buenos Aires, at approximately 3:15 on Monday the 23rd of Jan, 2017.

We stepped off the plane and into the air bridge and it was literally like a stepping into a wall of heat. No air conditioning, long pants, a singlet plus a shirt, no socks still, carrying my excessively heavy two extra bags, in 34 + degree heat… Getting through security was a breeze, my tendency to make sure I knew everything about everything paid off when I was asked the name of the hotel we would be staying at, which prevented me from looking (and sounding) like everyone else who was calling out across everyone trying to figure out a) what the officer was saying and b) what the answer was (the Waldorf Hotel). My stress about the arrival card (the make, model and series of my phone? Other accessories?) was unwarranted as I’ve been here for a week and someone has yet to ask to see it so I’m beginning to think that it may have all been slightly irrelevant. Either that or something to do with my New Zealand passport which most people take a look at, smile and wave me through.

We saw our guide, Laura, who turned out to be absolutely lovely, and after the mandatory toilet stop we went outside to wait for the bus which would take us to the hotel. The drive was so interesting, I don’t know what I was expecting but in some places there were tall office buildings, and 200m down the road would be run down, half collapsed buildings and dead rooftop gardens. It also seems that going from place to place has a toll, as I learnt when I realised the road suddenly had about 15 lanes… after we got to the hotel, had settled in, showered, we changed into cooler clothes and decided we would all go out and explore the new city we had just been dropped into.

The buildings were one of the first things all of us noticed, the incredible architecture and masonry was something that you might expect to see in the streets of Rome or Paris and yet the building next door might be a glass high-rise, but at the same time it was equally likely to be a skinny apartment building, grungy walls covered in air conditioning units with wires hanging from windows and gutters… Even the shopping mall (Galeria) down the road looked absolutely amazing, and we hadn’t even seen inside it yet! Needless to say it became easy to see why Argentina is called the Paris of South America. Once we got back we saw Merv and Gill heading out so we organised to meet them at 8:30 and go out for dinner, our second of what would turn out to be a 34 hour Monday. Ordering dinner was much easier said than done, as we soon realised that while most us knew at least a little bit of spanish it was nowhere near enough to understand the menu, let alone actually order anything, and of course none of us had data, which made it even more difficult not being able to translate anything. After about 15 minutes of discussion and confused, frustrated looks we finally decided it would be easiest just to get three pizzas, one cheese and two ham and cheese, the only ones we knew wouldn’t entail any surprise toppings, and share them at the near by Plaza San Martin. We finally got home about 11:30 where we promptly fell asleep ready for a big day in the morning.

This is where I’m going to try to give the skeleton version of events, and I’ll go into more detail later. The next two full days we had there were amazing, on Tuesday we toured the city, getting to see both the rich and poor areas, we visited a cemetery home to Evita, that was more like a small town filled with mausoleums, coffins on display for all to see, saw the church where Pope Francis worked (work seems like the wrong word…) before he was the Pope, the parliament buildings where the President worked and arrived in his helicopter, visited the tourist orientated town of La Boca, and that evening went to a Tango lesson, dinner and watched a show in the restaurant (where some may have had a few to many glasses of wine on top of their Argentine Mojito), before returning home at around 1am. The late night would have been fine if it weren’t for the fact that I didn’t sleep for even a second so I made the most of the time by practicing my Spanish and sorting out all of my photos into albums. It got to about 4am when i decided that I would go for a walk and try to get to the roof, which I may have been able to, however the second I saw the dimly lit top floor at the top of the stairs I promptly speed walked back to the safety of my bed and waited for it to get light.

We (Lili and I) woke up about 8 so we went down to breakfast, which I still hadn’t got used to. We were greeted with a huge selection, different cereals, sweet and savoury croissants, bread, sliced french stick, ham and cheese, so many spreads including the famed dulce de leche, not to mention the selection of drinks and yoghurt and milk! Wednesday soon became my favourite day in Argentina so far, and words cannot describe how much I enjoyed it, and I think it’s safe to say that since then nothing has quite compared to that day. We went to Estancia Santa Susana, a ranch in Buenos Aires province, about an hour and a half drive from the city where we rode horses, were taken for a ride in a carriage, had a huge, huge Argentine BBQ which consisted of chorizo, black sausage, steak, a very large bit of chicken, bread rolls and 4 different salads, of course with wine and beer!

After lunch was where it got really great, it was the gauchos (cowboys/horsemen) time to shine. They did all sorts of cool things, directing the horses around and lining them up along the fence for photos, but the most impressive part was what they did next. It was a competition between the three men called Corrida de sorjita, which consisted of a small ring hanging from a frame, which they had to try to get on a wooden stick the size of a pen while cantering past it, then offering it to someone in the audience for a kiss. They were very skilled to say the least and one of them only missed twice out of about 10. Then one of them took some people for a ride around the paddock and everyone went their separate ways. Except for us who got to what I assume was make the most of the rotary name, and got to hang around and three of the group were lucky enough to ride their own horse with one of the gaucho next to them. All in all the day was so amazing, being so close to the horses and the whole experience from the food to the place to almost getting bitten by a snake made the whole day unforgettable.

With Wednesday being our last day in Buenos Aires, and for everyone else, Argentina, we decided to go out for dinner one last time which once again was easier said than done. In an attempt to try to cover some new ground we walked a different way however soon enough, just like I predicted in my head we would as we headed in the usual direction, we ended up back at our original stomping ground until we stopped at burger king. Which would have been fine had we not been with a vegetarian, who wasn’t catered for by Burger Kings menu… Lily and I decided the three of us would keep searching for something else and meet the other at the park when we had got something, which ended up taking about an hour, until I finally convinced them that the way I was suggesting we go was in fact where all the food places were. Eventually we settled on pizza, but I was still full from lunch so I passed on anything for me (I told myself I was full but really I couldn’t speak enough to order). We made our way back to the park and soon found that everyone else was nowhere to be, and must have given up waiting. Much to our dismay we got back to the hotel to find that this was not the case, and the lack of data meant that we (Lily) had no idea where they were, until we heard the loud voice of John on the way back to his room. As it turned out they had been looking in every McDonald’s and pizzeria they could find but gave up when it got to 12 and headed home, but all is well that ends well and soon it turned into a party in our room with Lily and John eating the left over Squiggles, Alexis teaching Hugh some Tahitian dance moves from Norfolk Island while Aotea and I quietly watched the madness from my side of the room.

Once we were sure everything was packed with only the things needed for the morning left out, it was about 2:30 when we went to sleep, until we got the wake up call at 3:45 so we quickly got dressed, painted on our faces and scurried downstairs for a coffee before we packed the bus and left for the airport. You’ll notice I didn’t mention handing the swipe cards back… that was because we forgot. It took me until I took my phone case off and found the card to realise my mistake, and from what I heard on the bus, others had done the same, finding them in pockets and all sorts of other ‘safe’ places. Just as last time did, the airport process went smoothly, even if it was difficult to understand at some times, but after I took out my New Zealand passport, everything seemed to go a lot more smoothly. We took some photos before we parted ways but then it was off in our separate directions, but I was lucky enough to get the details of the Amazing Laura should any thing go wrong. The only tricky part was putting my bags through the X-ray and me through the metal detector, as I could hear no word of English being spoken, so I copied the actions of those in front of me, putting my bags down with a smile and waiting for the nod of a head before walking through and collecting them on the other side. Or so I thought, this was before my bracelet set off the alarm (of course it was going to wait until I was out of an english speaking area) which required a swift pat down but once it was decided that I wasn’t carrying a gun or a bomb I was on my merry way. All that was left to do now was wait for the next leg of my journey to begin…

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A sad but excited goodbye to Lili at the airport

That’s all from me for now, the next time I write it’ll be about flying to Cordoba, arriving in Capilla Del Monte and all the adventures I’ve had here so far.

Chau – Jacqui Philp