Alright, folks. It’s honesty time. I have never felt further outside of my comfort zone. I have been in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for 5 days now, yet since my arrival it feels as though I’ve lived 10 lifetimes. This description may be a little graphic, but I have felt as though someone stuck a metal rod in my brain and mixed it up a little, like they used to do to frogs before dissecting them.
My program with SIT began very late in the semester. We didn’t arrive and begin orientation until February 25th, when everyone at Hope was already approaching midterms. This means that I flew into Buenos Aires after three months at home with my family in the small town of Crawfordsville, Indiana, working a job where I made my own hours and living my life at whatever pace I desired. Then I arrived in one of the largest cities in South America and was thrown into a group of 20 students from all over the Americas, full of ambition and excitement for the upcoming semester. I was very quickly overwhelmed and slightly intimidated by these peers of mine who came from prestigious schools in New York City or Los Angeles and had grown up speaking Spanish in their home countries of Peru or Mexico. For me, coming from the very small, very English-speaking city of Holland, the intersection of learning how to navigate a huge city in which I also need to speak Spanish is a lot to process.
However slowly, I believe I am beginning to adjust. There’s something uniquely empowering about finding your way around a new city alone, which I luckily have been able to do multiple times since arriving. My host mom, Claudia, has been an angel sent from above, and will repeat herself however many times I need to understand; which is often an excessive amount of times, I might add. She also makes a mad ravioli dish.
SIT’s orientation for this program was just a little bit different than I had been expecting… Our group traveled five hours south of the city to a sustainable school organization called Quinta Esencia. After some presentations and discussions with our academic director about the program, we were given the opportunity to learn about bioconstruction. By learning, I mean mixing mud and straw in a pit with our bare feet and then hanging it on horizontal strips of bamboo to make a wall. Just your average Friday afternoon activity, I know. Things got even more interesting when 10 of us packed in the bed of a truck to explore a local pub down the road, where we watched the locals in their trendy berets play pool while a man named Pullulo from the school taught us how to play the card game Truco, which is regionally specific to Argentina. The game was wildly confusing and required lots of deception and memorization. I wasn’t able to pull it off, but it was fascinating to watch those who knew what they were doing, laughing with them the whole way through.
While my first few days have been a somewhat overwhelming whirlwind, I have learned already how important it is to be flexible at all times. Whether it be sitting for two hours at a gas station while our bus is repaired or running across the coolest coffee shop while trying not to look as lost as I am, my experience is bound to continue in unexpected yet fulfilling ways each day.