Sin Palabras.

The closer I get to the idea of home, the less I want to return. I can’t decide if it’s because my parents visited me on two separate occasions here, or the fact that we’ve all been discussing what meals we will eat upon our return to the States. It feels so close, so easy to return, that I simply don’t want to anymore. My last days here are mellow – they lack the craze of writing papers or making it to class (more or less) on time each morning. There is a somber tone to our conversations as we recognize that they are some of our last together.

I am sin palabras at this point, struggling to capture everything here one last time.

Somewhere between the late night banter about Argentine politics and education and the ease in ordering café con leche virtually everywhere, I made a life and a home in Buenos Aires. It is in these final moments that I can truly call this place home.

I will miss the city nights, chatting with taxi drivers about our common love for the stillness of the streets at night, when suddenly they aren’t constantly flurried with people and the only thing preventing cars from gliding up Nuevo de Julio in one fellow swoop are the stop lights.

I will miss window shopping, discovering a thousand shoes on top of each other or the large asado meats turning around the burner so close to our faces I swear I can taste the smoke through the glass.

I will miss the squeeze in my ribs as I check my watch for the 20th time, acknowledging how late I am for the next obligation, trying to remind myself that the world won’t end if I show up at a different time than planned.

I will miss the grunge of this city, the paint-splattered subte cars and skate parks; the dog droppings on every street and pungent smell of vinegar walking by facultads after exams; the ability to order alcohol at noon on a Monday without getting strange looks. I will miss clenching my leg muscles on the 25 minute subte ride so I don’t lose balance because there are never empty seats; the many street vendors that place their items on your lap so you may consider purchasing it rather than immediately waving them away.

It is these moments that I will think fondly of,  it is the people that I will never forget. The homeless woman I turned to see washing herself in a Bank of America ATM lobby, clad in nothing but a shower cap with the tall windows allowing everyone on the dark streets of Puerrydon to see her. The man who walked by and did a double-take upon noticing her, then stood and stared for a moment. The children who sell little prayer cards on the subtes to help support their family. The older women who refuse to sit down when offered a seat on an public transportation and the mothers, las Madres, that have welcomed me into their office to learn about their resilience. I will take home with me María Elena, Lucia, and Felipe – a loving family who allowed me to see another side of Buenos Aires, always patient with my Spanish and ensured that my stomach would expand at their dinner table. I will think back to mate-sipping park days and lunches in the computer labs, the last minute trabajo practicos and debates with fellow Flacsitos on all things Argentine.

 

No one mentioned the gut-wrenching tug at my stomach as I look around and wonder when I will return again, when I might receive such an incredible feeling of accomplishment like this again. No one mentions how empty you begin to feel, no matter how many “last time” foods you consume or deep breaths you take in. No one tells you that the pain is indescribable because you are looking forward to returning to family and friends, so the ache within your heart is constantly numb just waiting to erupt at the most inopportune moment. It’s the pain of not knowing how to explain your experience, not wanting to consolidate five months into “Oh yeah, I loved studying abroad in Argentina”. It’s the pit at the back of your throat as you give your last goodbyes and plead to your subconscious that these people and this place don’t fall back into your memories only to be taken out on a rainy day. You want them to hang and dry each morning on your back porch so you can gaze over them while drinking mate, letting the water flood your mouth as the memories flood you.

There were certainly days when all I wanted to do was go home. I do not regret those. Without them, I would not have grown so much here. I am not the same person who arrived on these crooked streets, dusted with a Latin flare. I can only hope that I will not fall backwards, but be held up by these experiences and the lessons I have learned – to push me forward, still searching outside of my comfort zone. I constantly pushed myself and everything I once thought I knew, in hopes of truly accepting the challenge of Argentina. Sometimes I lost control and let life take a turn for once. For this, I am extremely thankful.

I wish I could better explain this conundrum of leaving. I wish I could find the right words and place them perfectly in a row, just to share what I have experienced. But that’s the magic of life and experiences – you have to go out into the world and see it for yourself. So until then, I am without words.

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Weekend of Wine.

In case you skimmed the last two blog posts because they were incredibly long and you don’t have much interest in all things feminism, (I get it, you’re not the one receiving a research grant to complete a [hopefully published] thesis on the feminist movement, so of course you’re not as crazy passionate as I am) here’s some highlights of my weekend in Mendoza with my dad and stepmom.

 

This is Carmelo Patti. He’s a grass-roots, boutique-style winemaker. Which makes him cooler than those big, factory ones and super old school. He barely speaks English but somehow manages to make all the foreigners laugh.

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Thanks to Juan Cruz, our tour guide for the wineries, we visited three beautiful bodegas and maxed out our stomachs during the most incredible lunch I’ve ever had (So. Much. Food.). Yes, we tried the little red and green peppers sitting in the bowl. YES we all squealed in pain because they were so spicy, and yet each of us continued to try them for ourselves.

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Check out those gorgeous mountains hiding in the back.

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At the end of our tour, we went to una Fabrica de Licores. We tried tons of delicious flavored dulce de leches (coconut, hazelnet, chocolate) as well as dessert liquors. They were scrumptious. Then we tried green absinthe. I’m still not sure why we decided to, nor why I drank SO much in comparison to everyone else. Enjoy. 

Part II: Mujer! Escucha! Unite la Lucha!

2. Explain the US feminist movement to a room full of Argentine women I’ve never met

One of the most exciting and important aspects of Encuentro de Mujeres are the talleres. They are 3-hour workshops that occur three separate times during the weekend. On Saturday afternoon I chose to attend La Mujer, Identidad y Empoderimiento. I took a ton of notes, listening in on all the women speaking from personal experience and their own observations about what it means to be a woman in Argentina.

On Sunday I decided to attend Las Mujeres y Feminismos. Since the third round of talleres is for closing and conclusions, I wanted to commit to one workshop for the day so I could learn more through 6 hours with the same women. This time around, the women wanted everyone to introduce themselves to get a better feel for where everyone was from and so they could address each other by names. I wasn’t that nervous to introduce myself to a group of strangers, considering I’m constantly introducing myself as follows, “Hola me llamo Raquel. Soy de los Estados Unidos. Soy una estudiante intercambio. He vivido en Buenos Aires por casí cuatro meses. Estoy investigando el movimiento feminista de la Argentina y también el impacto y la perspectiva de las organizaciones feministas”.

There were four or five women who spoke up the most and helped move the discussion along. It was one of them that was extremely excited when she learned I was from the States. There also happened to be another young girl in the workshop, Melissa, who also studies in the States but is originally from Malaysia. As we sat down for the conclusions workshop after lunch, the same woman asked the two of us to share our perspective. I knew it was coming. I’m incredibly proud of the ease in which I was able to speak to a roomful of Argentines I didn’t know about the distinctions between feminism in the United States and what I’ve observed and experienced in Argentina. Looking back, I wish I could have explained it a little bit better – but then again it’s difficult enough to explain such a broad, large topic that encompasses so many subjects in my native language, much less in a few short minutes in my second language.

Never fear. I did explain that we don’t have the same ability to protest or march in the streets for our rights they way they do. To legalize the march, they inform the government and the police to ensure security on the roads, which allows for a more peaceful protest overall. I tried to explain that this doesn’t occur in the States. We have women’s organizations but they aren’t as visible as the multitude of groups in Argentina. I made sure at the end of my explanation to tell them how much I appreciated their passion and commitment to change. I told them that as a foreigner, I found them very loud, visible, and clear in their fight. That I could hear their many voices and loved that they have events such as Encuentro for all women to come together and discuss these important topics.

It was such a blessing to sit in on their conversations, jotting down as many notes as I could about their views on feminism in a machista society. I learned so much and gained a stronger perspective on the way they see the world around them.

 3. Participate in a protest

We are over one thousand women. We are strong, independent, passionate, and courageous women all fighting for equality. Our right to choose. Our right to live fully and happily without the limitations of a machismo culture, without the stereotypes that secludes us to less opportunities and lower self-esteem. For the first time, I truly felt like I belonged in Argentina – more than just an outsider. It was incredibly moving and empowering to chant powerful words alongside so many strong and defiant Argentines.

On Saturday, there was an escrache. On Sunday, la marcha. The escrache, I quickly realized, was a lot like a march. All the women who are a part of an organization begin grouping up with their massive banners and flags, ‘repping all of their shirts with slogans like, “Aborto Legal en el Hospirtal Ya” or “Campaña Nacional Contra Las Violencias Hacia Las Mujeres”. I asked what the difference between the escrache and marcha was and  Jose explained that escrache is the term used for a political demonstration where the activists go and “reclamar las demandas” by publicly addressing the homes and workplaces of the oppressors and using graffiti as a means to allow their voices to remain on the streets even after they have left. They have tons of stencils and spray paint to use during the march, drenching the walls of stores and buildings on the main streets to further express their desire for legalized abortion and equality for all.

There were so many chants that it was difficult for me to keep up and memorize them all just by ear. However, there were a few that stuck with me – both in the rhythm of the song as well as the strength of their meaning. One in particular though, was simple yet very powerful.

Mujer! Escucha! Unite la lucha!

(Women! Listen! Join the fight!)

Every so often, we’d respond to the women on the sidewalks watching us or peeking out their apartment windows. The chant was only five words but it got our point across and could be easily heard throughout the streets. We were yelling for these women to join us in our fight, because it’s everyone’s battle.

The biggest difference between the two marches that weekend was how we ended la marcha. We stopped right in front of the huge church by the main plaza of San Juan and continued chanting, though the march itself had already lasted around an hour and a half. We surrounded the church, peacefully enough that the police didn’t have to get involved. But we were loud and tough and more liberated than ever.

Jose and I had been participating in the chants of a large circle of women with drummers in the middle, when I turned around to see a huge fire. Another group of women had circled an area where they were burning an image in protest. It wasn’t until I did my own research later to learn it was an image of the Pope. The point of this burning was for the separation of church and state. This is why the march ends at the church – its values are in contradiction to all the issues feminists are fighting for: legalized abortion, integrating the sexual education law, changing the housewife stereotype of the traditional family, etc.

I found it fascinating how open Argentina is about abortion, considering it’s very taboo in the United States. To this day, I still don’t know where my beliefs lie because I think it’s extremely situational and I hope to never be in a conflict deciding between aborting or keeping a baby. Nonetheless, I do understand these women and their perspective. They are fighting for their choice. “Mi cuerpo es mio” (My body is mine). They don’t want the government deciding how they choose to live their lives, nor what they do with their bodies. They are against the government and its lack of safety in hospitals for women. Whether or not abortion is legalized, women are still going to abort. These women want to legalize it to ensure safe, rather than clandestine abortions, that kill so many women.

Encuentro chooses to meet in more conservative provinces of Argentina each year because it is within these conservative values that are fighting against the feminist movement. It is in these schools that girls and boys do not receive proper sexual education and therefore don’t have access or knowledge of contraceptives. They are the ones most likely to abort, but don’t have the money to afford it nor have access to hospitals or the proper healthcare in most situations.

The following video includes the escrache y la marcha, both from my camera as well as a few clips by other videographers so you can get a taste of what I experienced. Excuse all the shaking, but it wasn’t easy to capture so many moments.

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Part I: Braving New Territory Alone

After a weekend of no showering, an extremely burnt tongue (Argentines like their mate water SCALDING hot), and being surrounded by incredibly empowering women – I can now check a few things off my life bucket list:

  1. Travel through a foreign country alone
  2. Explain the U.S. feminist movement to a room full of Argentine women I’ve never met
  3. Participate in a protest

1. Travel through a foreign country alone

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This weekend I attended XXVIII Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres in San Juan. It’s an annual conference in Argentina where women come together in the fight for women’s rights and equality for all. This is the 28th Encuentro, with participants including extreme leftist feminists to social change organizations to independent women seeking a safe place to share their personal experiences. I knew about this event before I even step foot in Argentina, so I knew it would be the perfect place for me to learn more about the feminist movement for my Lumen research.

This weekend was huge for me, not only for my research, but for my personal growth as well. Laura and I were planning on traveling with Marea Popular, a huge political group newly created through the synthesis of Juventud Rebelde, Corriente Rebelión, and Socialismo Libertario, three independent leftist organizations.   They have a passion for activism and a commitment to social change through popular participation. Marea Popular had posters on the walls of UBA (Universidad de Buenos Aires) inviting students to travel with them to Encuentro. We contacted them and were easily able to grab two seats on their buses to the Encuentro in San Juan (near Mendoza).

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Fast forward to Wednesday night. First, you need to understand that I have irrational social fears. Yes, I know, shocking to hear from the girl who’d jump right up on stage since age 10 and perform in front of hundreds of strangers. I’ve never had much discomfort public speaking nor helping run regional theatre festivals, which included many improvised mic announcements and monologue performances. Yet, when it comes to new experiences with no crutch to hold onto, I become incredibly anxious. It’s hard enough for me to gain enough courage to open doors into important offices or places where I don’t know what to expect next. There’s something about that unknown that makes my palms sweaty, my breathing heavier, and it becomes harder for me to push myself to take that final step. I’ve discussed this with my father, who also shares my irrationality when it comes to making certain types of phone calls and the like. It’s difficult to truly explain, but I believe it a very specific and personal discomfort that we absolutely loathe taking part in – and there’s no real rhyme or reason which ones make us so uncomfortable.

So when I found out my dear friend Laura was not going to be able to make the trip with me, my heart dropped. The last thing I wanted to do was step on a bus full of strangers and travel 14+ hours away from Buenos Aires for three days completely alone. The entire concept was daunting and terrifying and I almost didn’t go. I’m not a fan of public crying and hate every time I can’t contain my emotions, but I think it’s important for the sanctity of this post and my journey that I tell the world – yes of course I cried. Of course I was scared. I cried because I physically didn’t know how else to express my anxiety, my nausea, my anger at myself for not having the courage and confidence in myself to do this alone. The range of the “could-be” was far too large for my wild imagination to dwell upon.

Thanks to Maria and Clari, who not only understood my irrational fear but also had the utmost faith in my social skills, I was reminded how amazing and empowering the experience would be simply by going solo. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go. I needed this, to give myself a final challenge before leaving Argentina. I’ve lived a full life, but sometimes I hold myself back out of fear. I think we all do at times. But I’m tired of allowing the unknown dictate my actions.

I packed my backpack, grabbed my sleeping bag and headed to our bus meeting area. Besides checking in with a woman that told me which bus I was on, I didn’t speak to anyone. The women were all ingroups,sipping mate and smoking cigarettes. I didn’t know how to break the ice just yet, particularly in my blatantly non-fluent spanish. I quietly found an empty seat next to the window on the first floor of the bus where there were less seats, hoping for an easier environment to make friends. I have to thank Haydeé, the Madre de Plaza de Mayo, I interviewed earlier that Friday afternoon for keeping me at her house for 2 hours. If it weren’t for her, I would have made my 6pm bus and wouldn’t have been switched to the 8pm departure.

Fast forward through my awkward first 20 hours of barely speaking because I was too tired to make casual conversation in castellano. Looking back though, it must have been pure luck and coincidence that José (short for Josefina) happened to grab the seat next to me. Perhaps it was out of pure pity, or of interest when I finally engaged in a conversation and told her I’m an exchange student studying the Argentine feminist movement, or the fact that Jose was a bit of a lone wolf too. Nonetheless, she became my guide for the next two days. It didn’t happen quickly. It was subtle and in the little moments that I realized I had people to rely on for the weekend. Not just Jose. I somehow fell into a group of women that I could sit by and talk to during our down time. 

We were a motley crew. Me: the practically mute foreigner who spoke up occasionally, always surprising them when I strung a few coherent sentences to add to the conversation because sometimes I think they thought I didn’t understand anything. Jose: the social butterfly who managed to read all of my charade faces without any audible explanation. Chivy and Dani, previous good friends who enjoyed our company and our love of Quilmes at any hour. Girl in the blue shirt: the one who hung out with us every so often, the one Jose and I never learned the name of unfortunately (then again, stating names in an Argentine introduction isn’t common). Finally, Milly and her mother. Milly is an adorable 5-year old, daughter to a woman who suffered a tragic accident where she lost her right arm and shows the results of a burn on the same side of her face.

The group began as we all shared two bottles of Quilmes at 2pm while waiting in the ridiculously dry and harsh heat of San Juan for a bus to take us to the plaza. It was how we all looked for each other during the marches to make sure we hadn’t lost each other. It was when Dani finally asked me how I found out about Encuentro. When I explained that I had come here alone she said, “Well not to worry. You’re not alone anymore.” We sipped mate, drank Quilmes, and took in the experience as it was the first time for all of us. It was the most comforting feeling, just to have people to help figure out where to be for the next event or share a refreshing beverage with during the exhaustingly hot afternoons. 

The connections I made with these women aren’t long lasting. I won’t be facebook friending them anytime soon, but I do know that the bond we made within two short days will stay with me for a very long time. I was able to listen and learn about the Argentine perspective more than I could have with an American friend by my side. I still felt like an outsider,a bystander, to all that was happening around me. Until the march on Sunday night.

Hold up. So much happened between my first connections with women from Marea Popular and that final Sunday night march that I must rewind a little bit. And let you know right now that this weekend is going to be separated into two, yes TWO, posts because the impact was that grand and I have so much to say.

Here’s an exciting sneak preview of all that I encountered, thanks to the lovely Internet and people who are quicker than me at putting together videos. It will give you an idea of the women that attended and the energy of the weekend. This is the final meeting as they announce 2014’s location (Salta) amongst other exciting things.  Excuse the Spanish to all my English-only speakers out there, but I don’t exactly have the time to translate it all for you. Use your imagination?

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Tiran Huevos.

In celebration of finals week, (besides my entire tango class going out for guac & margs at 1pm this afternoon) I thought I would share with you one of my favorite traditions I have stumbled upon during my time here.

During my first few weeks, I noticed some large areas of sidewalk that were covered with the residue of flour, eggs, and other unidentifiable foods. Sometimes there were bits of streamers or other colorful materials strewn about as well. It never happened often, but I did notice it was normally outside of a university building. The students are always actively participating in any and all protests, marches, you name it – so I didn’t think much more to it.

Eventually I saw where the rest of these strange food and decoration items had ended up besides on the ground. On people. Better yet – students. I finally learned that it is known as a rite of passage. Upon the completion of your final exam that will allow you to complete your university degree, you celebrate! Your family and friends come find you at the building and shower you with love.

Love and mayonnaise, vinegar, eggs, and so much more. Sometimes they get creative with paint and other crazy party favors to cover them in.

The aftermath of this throwing of mayonnaise and eggs is quite gross. The student is dripping in strange colors, sopping wet and smells like some kid’s weird kitchen-blender experience. As a bystander walking by, however, I find it absolutely hilarious. It’s so unique and ridiculous. They say it’s to celebrate this final stage before official adulthood and entrance into the work force, finishing the crazy days of childhood and heading into the formal, responsible land of“grown-ups”.

They used to celebrate inside of the schools in halls and classrooms, but eventually it was prohibited. Professors had clean up after the mess and it wasn’t enjoyable for anyone using the facility to study or work. So now I get to enjoy some exciting treats on my walk home every so often. It’s happening more and more frequently as the end of the semester approaches us.

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The only photo I’ve snagged myself. It’s kind of awkward to take pictures in the aftermath with the students and their family still around…

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Thankfully, CIEE does not shower us in this fashion as a form of bon voyage from Argentina back home. To be honest, I’d much prefer a Fernet and Coke once I’m done.

My un-sticky hair and non-stinky skin thank you.

Marchas y Museos.

Saturday was another incredible day of Argentine culture.

No. I did not attend the Justin Beiber concert. Nor the huge Creamfields music festival that also happened last night. Hundreds and hundreds of Argentine youth and pogo do not count as experiencing the true roots of this beautiful country. Instead I learned more about the modern and historical aspects of the city.

XXII Marcha del Orgullo. Translation: Gay Pride Parade. I am ashamed to say I have yet to attend a parade in the States, but I am so happy I had the opportunity to go here. I utilized my Gender and Sexuality in Argentina course’s final project to interview some of the people participating in the day’s festivities. Plaza de Mayo was drenched with people, from transvestites to lesbian couples to heterosexual folks just as loudly in support as those who recently received the right to marry. Yup. Argentina beat us to the punch, but legalizing matriomonio igualidad in 2010(law for same-sex marriage). It is the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage nationwide.

Every year the parade has a different focus. This year it was on the law for sexual education. We interviewed men and women representing different organizations, from government health or human rights programs to LGBTQ awareness. We attempted to interview a few of the transexuals dressed up for the parade, but two out of three turned us down. Those we received interviews from were very involved and knowledgeable of human rights issues the country is currently facing. We felt that we were turned down by people who were already expressing their beliefs and opinions simply by dressing up in drag or fully body painted, and were content solely being a part of the spectacle rather than the politics behind it. Their mere presence was their voice.

There was so much love and joy running throughout the streets, with huge trucks of people dancing and drinking into the night. In perfect Argentine fashion, the march that was supposed to begin at 6pm didn’t start moving until after 7pm from the Plaza to Congreso. And yes, the street vendors did sell Quilmes (popular beer) with condoms all day.

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Steph mid-interview.

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La Noche de Los Museos. One night every year, all of the museums of Buenos Aires are open to the public. FOR FREE. Bear in mind that some of these are always free, but it was still a fun museum-hopping time. We went to Museo de Bicentenario, Manzanas de Las Luces, and the Colegio de Escribanos. The lines are ridiculously long by midnight, so it became difficult to commit to more museums without losing energy with every second getting longer as we waited. We reviewed our Argentine history in the Bicentenario, which was enjoyable considering we all know WAY too much at this point. At the end of our night we enjoyed some classic tango and milonga songs performed by a trio. The final musical performance was a band of precious old men (and a pink flapper dress wearing, red heeled piano lady also verging year 80) played some Louisiana jazz tunes.

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Evita (and Perón) in all their glory.

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The drummer was having THE most adorable time of his life performing.

My day began by leaving my apartment building around 3:15pm and I didn’t get back up to my room until 3:20am, 12 hours later. I spent the majority of this time on my feet, walking or standing, thriving in all the excitement around me. Suffice to say my feet burned and another pair of sandals are on their last leg, but it was definitely worth procrastinating another long 1.5 spaced paper. As was this blog post. Now, back to how tango and prostitution were representations of the discrimination against women at the end of the 19th century in Buenos Aires.

The Edge of the World

I want to stand on the edge of the world just to come home and tell you what it feels like

 

They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. For the past three months I have stood on a very thin rope, balancing between comfort and discomfort, consistently vulnerable to all that Argentina has to offer me. For better and for worse. I have worked for every reward I have gained here. I had no idea I would be faced with so many challenges, both big and small, in my daily life here. It’s made me fall in love with this country and culture more and more as I learn all that this world has to offer me.

 And yet, there is this small corner of paper that’s been ripped off. I’m always reaching out but still grabbing air. No matter how hard I try, from how I dress or how I pronounce my “ll” as “sh”, I will perpetually be an outsider. As comfortable as I have become, as immersed as I try to be within this life, I will always feel a little out of place.

I’ve got six weeks left here and I’ve never felt so emotionally conflicted. There will always be a small voice in my head that aches for the ease that comes with college and my life at home. But there’s a larger voice that screams at me every time I dream of home instead of focusing on the beauty of here and now.

Argentina has taught me about new interactions with strangers and the joy one receives when making a new friend. Just last night I spent my 20 minute cab drive speaking to the driver about the many local myths of Argentine culture and how I need to learn how to make empanadas and milanesa before I leave. He insisted, yelling a reminder out the window as I walked into my apartment building. Argentina has taught me the art of exchanging pleasantries, as I do this every morning and night with the 5 or 6 different security guards that sit in the back corner of our apartment lobby. One has taken an interest in me, probably because he’s beyond bored when I stroll in at 3am, and we chat for a while until I’m too tired to understand him. I’ve loved sipping into new worlds of Argentine life every time I converse with a stranger.

I could rave on and on about my wonderful host family, a trio I have yet to speak on. It’s been silly of me, but then again there’s a bountiful of explanations and stories that are too difficult to put into words for someone who hasn’t experienced them. I could explain the delight I receive every time I share a laugh or great story with my friends here. I don’t mention the smile that emerges upon my face as a violinist steps on the subte towards the end of the night and serenades our car with his strings. I could speak for hours on all I have read and observed on women’s rights in this country. Pretty sure I speak out at any chance I get about some fact or observation I’ve discovered to whoever will listen to me (Shout out to everyone who tolerates how much I’ve embraced my feminism here).

My confidence in Spanish has gone from a negative 4 to an 8. I’ve still got a lot to learn when it comes to speaking and writing and all that jazz. Whoever said you could easily become fluent living in another country for a few months must have been an extremely dedicated person who never becomes exhausted after focusing on a lecture for 3 hours. Or they were under the age of 14 and fundamentally it was easier for them to pick up. It’s pretty obvious after conversations that last longer than two minutes that I am not from here. Sometimes, the Argentine will decide to switch over to English or the little that they know to speak with me. It’s sweet, but burdens my growth. Let me struggle when I don’t fully understand. Just because I’m hard of hearing and truly need you to repeat yourself because I simply didn’t hear the words, doesn’t mean I won’t understand them.

Six weeks feels too short. It’s not enough time for me to finish checking off my BA Bucket List while also trying to crush all my final exams and papers, savor every moment with my friends here, and snag as many interviews as I possibly can from women for my research.

I’m a nostalgic person. I’m already bitter about leaving and I’m not even close to packing my bags yet. I beat myself up every time I think about all that awaits me back home, because none of it is going anywhere. A small part of me is ready to be filled with all my comfort foods and enjoy the luxuries of home I never knew I’d miss. There is a long list of wonderful people that I cannot wait to embrace in crazy awesome reunion hugs (jumping and squealing may or may not be involved).

That doesn’t mean I’m ready to let go just yet. I’ve created a wonderful life here and I hate the idea of it suddenly disappearing when I leave and only remaining in my memories. Sure, I will carry many lessons in my pockets and wear them gracefully. I will remember how many times I picked myself back up when I stopped believing in myself. I will hold onto the words of friends who barely knew me, but saw so much potential and strength within me. I will write and write until there are no more words left to write about this place.

If I’ve learned anything from las Madres, it’s that as long as the memory remains in your heart – the memory will never die. This country has skipped many a stone onto my ocean waves, the salty waters I have grown to call home. I can only hope that everything I have learned here will be ingrained within me, that I will be able to carry this culture and these lessons like splashes across my own sandy shore.

Argentina has made me face myself once and for all. The edge of the world makes me feel more alive than my comfort zone ever will.

That’s what I’d tell you. I’d tell you that in the end, it’s all worth it.