Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Preparations and Nerves

Shit shit shit. My to-do list is ridiculous—filling prescriptions for three months, getting my doctor to call in my malaria meds and my best friend cipro, finding my Africa clothes, stocking up on sunscreen like only a pale ginger can, tutoring, figuring out my summer plans for before I (hopefully) head off to grad school, and putting in some last minute times with my Murfturf friends. GEEZ LAWEEZ. Somewhere in there, I am determined to watch all of Friday Night Lights. Possibility of finishing everything??

So I head off to San Francisco for the day in less than a week before getting on my flight to New Delhi. I’m kind of freaking out, but I also know that nothing ever feels real until I see it. Like, I didn’t get nervous about going to Uganda and Rwanda until I saw my plane icon flying over the map of Africa on my little seatback monitor. Then I think I took a nervous poo every hour for nine freaking hours. Too much information?? If India is anything like my first month in Kigali, then this is just a warm up.

In all seriousness, though, my mom did a tarot card reading for me today. I know, I know, it’s kind of silly. But whatever. My cards were basically all about learning how to let go of material attachments, dependence on what is comfortable, and upcoming growth?? FORESHADOWING. But really, isn’t this the whole part of me going, right? To learn how to be truly independent in a place where I am literally all alone and can’t fall back onto anyone. To put myself so far out of my comfort zone that I stop being afraid of pushing my limits. To face my fears and to come out knowing that whatever happens, whatever comes my way, I will be okay. But enough with the clich├ęs.

My friend Heather reminded me yesterday just how lucky (or unlucky if you ask me) I am to be completely untethered.  No job. No school. No boyfriend. No rent. Only 2,000 bucks and a plane ticket. It really is probably the most exhilarating and terrifying feeling—to be this free.

Last thoughts, I promise. I am a bit afraid that I have too many expectations and too many hopes. I think it’s because I know someone that did just this; he thought time abroad would radically change him. And it did. But I’m not sure if it did in the way he wanted it to or if he ever really recognized in what ways he was different. Whereas, I went into my study abroad completely and totally open-minded. The better word, though, is probably naive. I didn’t have any expectations at all, and so when I came back different, it was a bit unnerving.  So who knows what pre-travel attitude is better. I guess I just don’t want to disappoint myself.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


My week spent in Boston and the ADK after Patagonia could not be any greater. Seriously. It finally snowed, which I have been waiting for since, what, last April? 

As most of you know already, I LOVE the Hoarhouse and, as Rizzo says, K Hoar's house in the ADK pretty much restores my faith in life.  

In other news, I was walking Hobbes (my adorable black lab) tonight, and it started lightening/raining, and ahhhhh I just had one of those moments where everything just feels likes it's falling into place. The last time I had a moment like this I was listening to "Home" and running into a small village on the outskirts of Gulu, Uganda. There was this HUGE downpour and all of these cute kids were laughing at me, the silly mzungu in soaked running shorts. Didn't she know it was rainy season, and to expect it every afternoon? But in that moment, I just felt like everything I had ever wanted was happening. I mean I had thought about going to Africa since I was little (to see elephants, though, not to study genocide), and there I was, caught in the rain, in Uganda, surrounded by people I had only read about in books, halfway across the world. And all of those moments of homesickness and self-doubt no longer seemed to matter--or at least, they seemed worth it.

I'm still not sure I understand the full extent to which I changed during those four months, but I am sure that in that moment I felt the change. And walking along Murfreesboro's suburban roads, I felt the same thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Newfound Loves

Today I discovered a new talent of mine—ice trekking. Something about walking around ice with spikey things on your feet appeals to me. Seriously, though, walking across a glacier was unreal (I know I keep saying it, but it’s so true!!).  We took this great boat ride across the glacier lake to the glacier, which was in between two mountains, and then we hiked around it for a couple of hours. We explored little crevices,  ice peaks, and this really cool bit of rock that had been under the ice for so long that it is now smooth. They also chipped off some of the ice and gave us Baileys?? True life? Is this going to be forever?

Just the view on the drive over.


You had to straddle this to get a picture!!

Windy boat rides.

I know I mentioned the whole climate change issue a bit earlier, but seeing how far the glacier has receded in just twenty-five years is a bit scary. Our guide also showed us crevices that had just developed a couple of weeks ago. Gahhhhh, seriously.

Anyways, we just finished up our last dinner here in Patagonia, and the food is surprisingly AMAZING. There is a pretty big Italian/European influence here and so a lot of what you get is this odd combination of local stuff and what you would expect in Europe. Oh, and the wine is the best! I’ve always loved Malbec, but now I’m definitely a true believer.

So tomorrow morning we head back for one more day in Buenos Aires, and then we catch a flight home to New York!! The sun just now set (it’s midnight here) so I’m going to dry and take advantage of what little darkness there is here.

Updates on Boston/ADK adventures to come. And then, ASIA!!!!! Nervousnervousnervous.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Clear Day

This morning I woke up with blisters on every toe and a pulled muscle in my hip, but a few advils and pieces of moleskin later, I was good to go. Today, we learned our lesson about breakfast and bought bananas and stuff at the grocery store next door. We nomed on our much more filling meal on the drive to our next hike, which was (thank god) only 9 miles and relatively flat. It went along this gorgeous river, and we climbed up a bit of a hill in the middle of this valley formed by glaciers and surrounded by mountains. 

Fitz Roy!! Apparently, there are only a couple of clear days a season and we were sososososo lucky to have one!!

I think what I have come to appreciate the most about being here is how little evidence there is of human life. Patagonia really is the last bit of wilderness there is left. Like you can walk for miles and see nothing but nature—even when you stand on top of these mountains and can see for hundreds more miles, it’s just glaciers, lakes, rivers, trees, etc. It makes you really think about what the earth was like before people came around.

Also, it’s oddly fitting that I’ve come here after spending a couple of months watching TONS of environmental-focused documentaries. Our guide here told us that the glaciers were receding pretty quickly, and it reminded me just how quickly climate change is affecting the world. I really do think that this is going to be the defining issue of our generation as much as communism was way back when and as much as Iraq has been now.

Being here has also made me realize how much of the world there is to see, and how important it is to see the physical parts of earth. I mean when I have traveled in the past, I always focused on getting to know a people, their history, and their culture, and I never really got into exploring the local landscape. But gahhhhh, I’ve been missing so much!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Wearing Patagonias in Patagonia

The little city (I am using a VERY loose definition), Chalten, is unreal. Oh my goodness, the views are insane. It’s totally surrounded by mountains and seems to have a large population of only hikers, most of which are from Israel, the US, and the UK, and just a few locals. And apparently, it shuts down completely during the winter. 

Gorgeous, right??

Anywayz, today we woke up bright and early to a breakfast of bread, butter, and a less than a teacup of cereal without milk. Fun times?? I think breakfasts in Rwanda and Uganda were better than this. The Fiers were not pleased. They were, however, pleased with our guide who showed us what berries were edible (we all ate them) and what different animals’ poop looked like (we saw a puma’s). We also picked out our baby cow for dinner, because here you basically eat whole cows for meals. Biff, don’t come here if you want to maintain your vegetarianism.

GAHHHHHH!! I cannot even begin to describe how amazing the hike was. So I’ll just give you some of views.

I coincidentally had a green rainjacket to match the Fiers. Successes?

These trees die every four hundred or so years, so the forests are this really beautiful mix of dead trees and little cute baby trees.

Wearing Patagonias in Patagonia!!

Look at how steep that is!! Gahhhhhh!! Ridiculous!!

15 miles later, Jo and I are drinking beers, eating some Pringles, and listening to Argentinean game show through the speakers in our hotel ceiling. I have blisters all of my feet, my arches hurt so much that they are preventing me from walking, and I think my calves are now larger than Ryn’s. But I could not be more pleased. In fact, I could not be more pleased with this day. Or the Fiers.

Speaking of the Fiers, I now completely understand Jo. We’re going on brewery tour despite the fact that we have an equally long hike tomorrow, and Jo’s mom announced that she was excited to take a beer into the shower with her. LOVE IT.  College forever? We don’t even go here.

More hikes tomorrow, and glaciers the next day. Also, true life I kept up the Fiers. Did not fall behind even once. Although there were many many times I wanted to just sit down and nap. My time with the stairmaster paid of for sure.

More laters. DINNER TIME. Just want bowls and bowls of pasta right now.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day One/Struggles/Fun Times With the Fiers

Many many eventful things have happened. Jo and I spent a 10 hour plane ride sleeping and making up our own script to Footloose (awful movie, by the way! Don’t ever watch it if you can’t make up your own stuff). The word slut, pronounced sloot, was used quite a bit.

We landed in Argentina rather early in the morning and immediately took off on our adventures around the city. Jo and I both got sunburned after just two hours. She has a pretty sick t-shirt tan line and I have the classic v-neck shirt thing going on, both with the sunglasses frame around our faces. Hard lives, I know. 

Here are some quick photos: 

Sunburns/Obviously Displeased:


Then we went out to an AMAZING dinner. We probably ate a whole cow. But before then, Jo and I ate lamb feet and tongue. Surprising, right?? Also by this point in time I was failing on my not getting intoxicated/staying healthy for hiking. Jo and I split a bottle of Malbec (my FAVORITE wine) before dinner, had another bottle during dinner, and some nice liquor after dinner. By this point, I had become a big believer in steak. Like seriously, steak for lyfe. It’s soooooo good.  We also got a lot of rough stares from the crowd as we had trouble limiting our discussions to quite conversations, standard American problems.

Then, we headed back to the hotel, dripping our ice cream cones everywhere. At our place, we made many new friends. We have a new gay best friend, whose boyfriend’s name is Ivan. We spoke with him several times on the phone, but he didn’t sound too enthusiastic to meet us. Wonder why? But Essay (unsure of our friend’s real name) was still pretty cool. He did say, referencing gingers, “We should kill them all.” But pretty sure he was joking? But we may never know as there is a lot of ginger hate out there (be careful Izzy and Katie). We also meet a lot of hotel workers, who particularly enjoyed our company. End of the night:

And tomorrow, we’re heading down to Patagonia!! Da besssssssst.

In the more nerdy side of life. Argentina is incredibly European. I honestly feel like I'm in Spain. I guess it's because we're in the French Quarter/most European section, but still. Also, there are a TON more white skinned and light eyed people that I expected. Other than the fact that I'm carrying around a big camera everywhere, I don't really look out of place.

Also saw some interesting protest movements around the government areas of the city, and I wish that I could have explored further. I really need to get on top of Argentinian history. There has to be some conflict/underdevelopment/authoritarian regime history lurking around here, right? Nerd4Life. 

 So that pretty much sums up the first day. For Motors:
-Adventured in the city
-Tried to keep up with the Fiers in the wine department and failed
-Made many new friends
-Got horribly sunburned after two hours…true life of a ginger
-Took notice of some nerdy/political things like protest movements, homeless people, and skin color