It feels like it's been forever since I've written, but it's only been 2 weeks (which may or may not actually be a long time, I'm still undecided on the matter).
The month long intensive language program ended when Manuel and Nico left. I finished and got an A in the class, so I was extremely relieved about that. Within the next few days we got two new students in our house who are staying for just the semester program, so from now until November. One girl, Kristen, and a boy, Spencer. It was too frigid to go outside for the first 4 days of my vacation (which was only 10 days long to begin with), but on Wednesday of last week I left Buenos Aires and headed to San Miguel de Tucuman which was about a 16 hour bus ride north.
First off, I went to the bus station alone and had to wait and listen to the loudspeaker to find out which terminal my bus would be arriving at. Have you ever had trouble understanding a loudspeaker in your native language? Because I know I have. Now imagine trying to understand a loudspeaker in a language that you're very much still in the process of learning. It was near impossible. On top of that, my bus came 20 minutes late, so for those 20 minutes I thought I missed it. (Welcome to Argentina, where the idea of punctuality does not exist).
Finally the bus showed up and I got on and got all settled. I had a "bed with suite" seat, which is basically like a la-z-boy that reclines all the way back and there is a part at your feet that you can pull up to make it completely flat. I also got two dinners (one cold and one hot), as well as breakfast during the trip. Surprisingly it was really comfortable. I slept probably 12 of the 16 hours to Tucuman. However, we were, of course, 2 hours late arriving in Tucuman, but I've come to remain, as the Argentines constantly say , tranquila (or relaxed).
On the ride there we rode past gauchos riding horses! That was a pretty unique sight to see, since you don't generally see gauchos in the middle of the city in Buenos Aires.
So why did I go to Tucuman of all places?
12 years ago, when I was 8, we had an exchange student , Nico, who lived with my family from Tucuman, Argentina. Because of him, I have dreamt of coming to Argentina for the past 12 years. He was a big brother to me, and made a bigger impact on my life than I realized then, and even than I realized before I went to see him last week. Now he's about to turn 30, is a father, and has his life pretty much in place, drastically different than 12 years ago, but still with the same kind, caring, and funny spirit that he had back then.
When I got off the bus in Tucuman, he called my name and I think we both had the same sort of reaction of, "Oh my goodness, you're not [insert age] anymore!" Even though it had been so long since we'd seen each other, I felt instantly like I was with family. We talked a lot about our memories of when he lived with us, and what we've each been doing for the past 12 years, and I got to see into his life now. His son, Felipe, is PERFECT. While I was there he turned 1, and he was so much fun to be around. He's seriously such a precious little gem. I also got to meet Nico's girlfriend, Noel (who's more like his wife since they've been together for 10+ years and have a child together). She was so wonderful! I also met her whole family, and I got to meet Nico's parents, brothers, and their families as well!
Noel, Felipe, and me!
Nico, Felipe, and me!
My nephew and me!
When I went into Nico's parent's house I saw a picture that looked really familiar but I couldn't remember why. Come to find out it was the picture Nico had painted in America and the same painting that we had taken a picture in front of when he lived with us! For your viewing pleasure:
It was such an awesome trip. Because I stayed with them at their house, I got to see into an authentic Argentine life, which I don't really get to see since I live in a house of Americans and am at school most of the time. It was really cool to see how they actually live, and I learned a lot.
For example: The reason Argentines don't get hungry between lunch (at 12:00/1:00 ish) and dinner (at 9:00/10/11:00 ish) IS BECAUSE THERE IS ANOTHER MEAL IN BETWEEN! It's called merienda and it's at like 5:00/6:00 ish, which makes sense why I didn't know it existed because I'm never home around then to hear my host parents talk about it. In Tucuman they usually eat like a little sweet, like a piece of pie or something, and a coffee, or some fancy hot drink, but in Buenos Aires it's more of a "tea time." Which if you know me, you know that I am TOTALLY okay with.
I also learned that they do take siestas in Argentina but it's more in the north because of how hot it gets up there in the summer. Between 12-5:00 ish everything is closed, even in the winter. In Buenos Aires it doesn't get that hot so they don't really have as much of a need for a siesta, but still some people do take them but the city doesn't shut down for it.
Tucuman is surrounded by mountains, so we went a few times up to the mountains. One day we took a boat ride in this lake that is surrounded by mountains, and afterwards we drank mate outside at this outside theater.
Another day we drove up to the mountains and had lunch at the top of San Javier. It was awesome because the restaurant was at the very top so it overlooked the whole city of Tucuman. On the way down the mountain it was absolutely beautiful. We drove by this little section that looked like a scene from a fairytale. There was a really old, cute, and quaint looking church built from stone, it was just too cute.
We also toured around the city one of the days. Went into the place where the independence of Argentina was signed, and saw a pretty funny reenactment of the moments when their independence was declared. Tucuman is much smaller than Buenos Aires so it was much cleaner, and less people.
I also got to see Nico play (he's a musician) twice, which was awesome! My favorite memories of him from when he was in America was him playing music so it was really amazing to see him play now, and to know that he's doing something that he really loves.
Felipe's first birthday was on Saturday (when we went to San Javier) but his party was the next day. I only got to go for about an hour because I had to catch my bus back but it was seriously the most AWESOME 1st birthday party I've ever been to. Noel decorated everything and it looked so sweet. It was a candy theme and had tons and tons of candy and sweets everywhere, and bright colors. I want a birthday party like that.
Also, when I was in the Netherlands I had a friend from Argentina, Emiliano. Turns out he lives in Tucuman as well! So we got to meet up one day for merienda and hang out and it was really cool. It's been 3 or 4 ish years since we saw each other so that was really great to get to see him.
By the time I had to leave, I really really didn't want to. Both of their families were so sweet and made me feel so comfortable there that it felt like I was with my own family. Nico and Noel are both just amazing, I can't thank them enough for giving me such a great time. I absolutely adore Felipe, and am so happy I finally got to meet me nephew. He's seriously perfect. It was really nice to be able to get to know another city and see what a normal Argentine life is like. I hope I can go back before I leave, I definitely have to--they're too great not to.