Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hoovervilles in the US

My friend Cat passed this report from the BBC onto me about the sad position many people have found themselves in the US after the mortgage crisis. Accordingly the US press isn't following it. That's very sad. I hope you watch the video:

BBC Report on Subprime Shantytowns

Please consider sharing this with others.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Look

I wanted to change the template for awhile, but I hadn't gotten a chance. I took the time this morning. Hope you like it. I think it's easier on the eyes.

NYTIMES Argentine Nights

Last week there was an article in the NYTIMES about Buenos Aires Argentine Nights. I recommend you to read it if you have any interest in BA, but today I read a post from another blog that cites the author of nearly copying an article written for Newsweek.

It's a very well written article. There always be a debate about ethics in journalism, I suppose.

NYTIMES Argentina Story Lifted Material from Newsweek


Friday, March 28, 2008

Argentine University Experience

My favorite study abroad coordinator at my college posted a comment the other day asking me about my classes. I realized I have only blogged about them once. I haven't really talked about my classes very much since I feel as though I'm in a constant state of changes. After being here for a month and a half I can't still tell you exactly what classes I'm taking this semester, yet.

The COPA program has a shopping period where all of the students are allowed to try courses at the four universities, USAL, UCA, UBA, and di Tella. We have until April 10 to decide exactly which classes we want to stick with for the semester.

For the official COPA program, we have to have a course load between 15 and 18 credits. Everyone has to take a class in Castellano (Spanish) for 3 credits. Those of use who have decided to take a track (e.g. Independent Study, Gender and Minorities, Film, or Human Rights) are required to take a foundations course and a practicum totaling 6 credits. I am enrolled in the Independent Study program, therefore I already have 9 credits between those requirements.

Each university then adds a dimension. Courses at USAL and UCA, di Tella, and UBA are worth 3, 5, and 6 credits, respectively. I want to take 2 courses this semester so I opted to try courses at USAL, UCA, and di Tella. It's a good idea since I want to explore career opportunities in Public Health. Plus these are courses I can't necessarily take at Gettysburg. Therefore I'm trying a ton of courses. I'll give you the list--and yes, it makes my head spin:
  1. Business and Biotechnology (di Tella)
  2. History of Art (di Tella)
  3. History of 20th Century World (di Tella)
  4. Intro to Political Sciences (UCA)
  5. History of Art (UCA)
  6. History of Argentina Siglo XX (UCA)
  7. Intro to LA (UCA)
  8. Investigación Epidemiología y Comunidad (USAL)
  9. Sociology Seminar III : Topics in Public Health (USAL)
  10. History of Ancient Egypt (USAL)
  11. History of Jewish Culture (USAL)
  12. History of Argentina (USAL)
  13. Neurosciences I (USAL)
You might ask why I needed to try all of these courses. Well it was the sensible thing to do! Every university starts at a different time and also registers at a different time, therefore I had to register in a ton of courses in case a section was canceled or I couldn't understand the professor or I didn't like the course.

Out of all of those courses, at this point I'm only sure that I want to take #9 Sociology Seminar. I love this course! It's an overview of the sociological public health literature. It's team taught by a social psychologist and a psycho sociologist (they're different types of training).

As for the other courses, I still have another week to decide. 2 of the courses won't start until next week. Therefore I will have to make quick decisions once I try those last two courses out.

As for my other courses, I love my independent study. I am studying Mal de Chagas which affects many people in Central and South America. My Castellano class is interesting, there are only 6 students in it. I like the professor, Lucía Dussaut. In this class we're reading a lot and subsequently doing literature analysis, which worries me since I'm not a huge fan of analysis. We're reading Boquitas Pintadas by Manuel Puig first. I guess I'll see how the course goes...

I'll fill you in on more experiences with the classes at another time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Demonstration in BA

I came home from class two days ago, María told me, "¡No hay nada carne en este ciudad! / There isn't any beef in this city." I immediately knew why.

Over the past few weeks there has been a brewing controversy between the new president Kristina Kirschner and the agriculture sector. I will attempt to summarize what I understand about the situation.

Kirschner is imposing taxes on the Argentine farmers raising crops and cattle, thusly reducing their profits. The farmers are outraged because now in the worldwide market soy grain is a very lucrative crop, and they feel as though this tax is unfair if Argentina continues a free market economic policy. They started striking two weeks ago by blocking the main arteries into the main cities of Argentina--Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Cordoba, Rosario, etc--and are not permitting trucks to get through to deliver meat or milk. They are blocking the roads with farm equipment like combines, tractors, grain drills, et al. At this point it seems they're allowing chicken through, but beef is nonexistent within the city and the milk is being rationed.

What has been really interesting has been the response by porteños. As an American citizen--raise on a farm--I would never expect Americans in general to support farmers. I actually don't even think American farmers would support themselves in the way that they're doing here in Argentina. At any rate for the past 3 nights the porteños have been taking part in a protest of solidarity for the farmers. Between 8PM and 10PM they have been going on the balconies of their apartments and partaking in cacerolazos, literally translating to "big casserole". The people take pots and pans out to the balconies and bang them and are joined by a chorus of honking horns from the buses and cars throughout the whole city.

It's contagious. It starts in one barrio and progressively fills the city with this eerie form of protest. It is really neat. María and I went out on the balcony and were banging some pans both nights.

Last night I was on the way to our program director's house for dinner and I was walking on the streets during the cacerolazo. It was really interesting to take it all in. In a very haphazardly organized fashion, porteños were all coming together for farmers; it was amazing.

Here's a video from Reuters showing some of the protests that have also been going on:

Last night María and I watched Presidenta Kristina Kirchner's address to the nation, we thought was about the strike. The address took place at place filled with Peronist Supporters (her political party). The address included the Argentine national anthem and the Peronist party song. The funny thing was that she started her speech out with a long lament about not treating her fairly because of her gender as a female. I was disappointed by this, as well as many other Argentines, because the topic at hand had nothing to do with her gender.

When she finally talked about the protests, she said that the farmers would have to halt the protest in order for her to talk to with them. The point of the protests in the first place was for the president to come up with a different way to approach the problem. After her speech the farmers initial reaction was to continue with the protest.

Today it seems that the reaction has been to have a 48 hour halt for negotiations. There still with be a large protest on Plaza de Mayo tonight.

At the dinner last night several students from the program and I were grappling with how to describe our American perspective on the nonviolent form of protest to our host families. I tried repeatedly to explain to María that this type of thing just wouldn't happen in the US. She kept saying that we're a democracy and we have a 2nd amendment. I agreed, but explained that it would be halted. María just didn't understand why.

I used this example: I said that if I spoke against the government, I would be able to say whatever I wanted, but it could potentially impede my ability to get a job with the government in the future and/or depending on the remark I could be investigated. With the Patriot Act--that's still enacted--anyone who is suspicious--and suspicious is a term that is used vaguely--can be investigated. For example, while I don't condone the actions of the governor from New York, I would rather not have the government snooping in my bank records--or whatever else for that matter--like they did in his case.

This has been an awesome experience. I am experiencing a process of Argentine culture that is far different from my cultural perspective in the US. I didn't plan on coming to Buenos Aires to see cacerolazos, but it is impacting my experience.

I have picked out a couple articles/blog posts in English that describe the current situation if you'd like to hear more:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Farmers on Strike

Let me begin by saying that Argentines in general have more political demonstrations than what we're accustomed to in the United States. It is good that they are that way because over the years it has lead to a lot of liberties and fundamental Human Rights laws that are in result of demonstrations (i.e. Las mamas de los deparaceidas, casino workers, wage cuts, revolts over presidential leadership, economic situationas, et al.).

Yesterday I read my first article in English about the farmers on strike here. I find the situation fascinating. The farmers have been using their tractors and combines and are blocking major highways around Argentina. The day before Easter Vacation (Thursday) they blocked something like 15 highways leaving Argentina towards the provinces.

They are protesting the price of grain and the export taxes.

I wonder how the US would react if our farmer would strike? I wonder if our farmers actually would strike? Farmers continue to get the short end of the stick in the US, while the government often ignores them in favor of stronger advocacy groups.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Trip to Bariloche - Part 4, last part

This is the center of Bariloche. The artesian market
was right behind this plaza.

Sunday morning we had breakfast in the hotel and checked out early. There was a short group hike that day, but several of my friends and I elected to go back into Bariloche to shop before we left for the airport. It was Dianna, Lindsay, and Holly. We had a great time because it was low key. We ate at a nice pizzeria for lunch and ended up sitting in a park and relaxing before the bus picked us up. All of us were very tired from all of the excitement from the weekend.

This is the motley crew: Dianna, Lindsay,
and Holly (from left to right) chillin' at the
park. Note the people making out in
the background--so Argentine!

We had a lot of fun. I bought some great cheap t-shirts, and my friend Holly was hit on by a store owner and got free sunglasses over all of this. It was a pretty day.

This is Diana showing off her flashy new ring
purchased at the artesian market (turquoise) and
wielding Holly's beautiful amethyst earrings.

Our bus picked us up and we headed to the airport. We had a 22:00 flight back to Buenos Aires’s Newberry Jorge Airport. I think everyone was very tired during the flight. It was a very smooth flight until we got to Buenos Aires, which was still having bad weather. (apparently there had been a tornado touchdown earlier in the day) The landing was rocky. I was glad to be back in Buenos Aires because I love this city.

The program arranged us to go back to our homes in buses. I got home after midnight. María had her nieces there and they got home just a little bit after I got home. Therefore, she had a meal for all of us. Usually we have empanadas de carne on Sunday nights. Matias (María’s son) burnt them, therefore he whipped up some milanesas and María made my favorite tomato-cucumber-basil salad. Everything was very tasty and it was good to be back home with my Argentine family.

P.S. María thought my story about my underwear being soaked was hysterical. I think I have a true Argentine mom now, she says the same sarcastic things my family is prone to do at times, haha. Also, hotel’s laundry services are a godsend. I only had 2 pairs of jeans, and my clothing was cruddy, and they laundered one pair for me!
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Trip to Bariloche - Part 3

I decided that I didn’t want to go with the group on Saturday, because I wanted to go horseback riding in Patagonia. I’m glad I didn’t go with the group because I had more fun on my own. I also had more time to spend with my friend Lindsay.

The group didn’t have very good luck. The itinerary included a lot of travel by bus. Unfortunately, one of the buses broke down. Then the group was 8, but they didn't return until after 9. I’m glad I did my own thing.

This was my guide overlooking the lakes from one of the vantage points on the trail.

So in the morning I headed to Tom Wesley's Cabalgatas by bus. (Side note, the bus system for Bariloche is great and is very simple to use.) The bus left me off at the main road and I walked about a quarter of a mile back to the estancia (estancia is about the equivalent of ranch). It seemed at first that it was a small estancia, but my opinion changed once I saw all of the land that was part of it. Also this was one of two different locations that Tom Wesley’s family owned in Patagonia. The estancia in Bariloche just had trained horses, mostly quarter horses. On the other larger estancia in another part of Patagonia, they have a breeding and training facility It was about 40 pesos to go on an hour and half trek. It was exciting because I haven’t rode a horse for quite awhile.

This was my horse, saddled up and ready to go!

The guide was very nice. After I was on the horse we were able to talk for quite awhile. It was great because he didn’t speak any English, which surely helped me continue to use Spanish. It was really neat because we departed from the shed with a boxer-dog that accompanied us the whole time. I thought this was amusing because I doubt horses would like my dog, Molly--Lord knows the sheep detest her!

The trail was a bit steep at points. The horses were very used to going the same way, and I almost didn't have to any directing. It was cool because I would be in the middle of a forest and all of a sudden we’d walk to an amazing vantage point. Some of the views were completely amazing. I took some pictures of the experience. The next picture is one of my favorites, with the reflection of the island on the water. It was breathtaking to see.

This view is spectacular.

I definitely want to go on more cabalgatas, horse riding tours, while I’m here in Argentina. I had a lot of fun. We never had horses at the family farm growing up. The cabalgatas surely are an interesting way to see the terrain.

After the almost 2 hour ride, my guide was able to recommend several restaurants to eat lunch or dinner in Bariloche. We parted ways and I headed back to catch the bus. I also called Lindsay since we had previously decided that we would try to get together in town after my ride. We connected downtown and ate lunch at one of the recommended restaurants. We had a wonderful afternoon walking around the streets of Bariloche and going into several little shops.

Then I had this genius idea of going into a book store because I was looking for postcards, soduku, and pens. For my parents and friends who might find it strange that I went into a bookstore not to buy books, I will tell you that I have made a pact with myself only to buy 1 book at a time here—the one I’m reading—otherwise I’ll purchase so many books that I’ll never be able to return to the states with two suitcases.

However, I found my equal. Lindsay loves buying books as much as I do. She ended up with a hefty stack that just solidified our friendship. We’re both bookaholics. She admired my control. I had a bit of a quiver to buy a book, but I resisted through lots of breathing, haha. I’m sure my mother will be thrilled!!! I never found my soduko book here, but I did find pens—now my mother is rolling her eyes—this was a kind of pen that my research investigator used this summer, so I had to buy 2. See, I was controlled—we both decided we better get out of the store before we bought anything else.

…then we stumbled onto an artesian market…

I’ve learned that artesian or food markets are among my favorite places wherever I travel. Usually the people at artesian markets are interesting to talk to, and I also prefer home crafted things to the traditional over merchandized tourist items that are at many of the shops in towns like Bariloche. Lindsay went crazy and bought several pairs of earrings and other jewelry. It took longer for me to find some things, but I did buy some presents for friends/relatives. Some of you might be the recipients of them…hehe…

Many of the booths at the artesian market had knitted items in wool. So I started asking them if it there was a local yarn store, and I got the directions. I was very excited because the lady said that this particular store had great alpaca and llama yarn. After Lindsay and I were finished with the market, we walked up there. Of course the 2 shops closed about an hour before we got there. I’ll have to find natural fiber elsewhere. On a positive note, the one lady gave me a recommendation for a yarn shop here in Buenos Aires.

Lindsay and I got back early to Hotel Amancay so that we could prepare for dinner ahead of the group. Before we got ready, we decided to have an afternoon cocktail—oh the life! I had a wonderful daiquiri de frutilla—strawberry daiquiri. It was amazing. I have pictures of this drink in my album. It had really strawberries! Also for those Spanish speakers out there, frutilla is fresa here. If you say fresa people will just give you a “look”.

The group was supposed to get back at 8 so we would all take a bus back into Bariloche to eat in different restaurants in Bariloche. After dinner we would have the option to go out to different bars/baliches. The program had a bus that would pick us up at 1AM and 5AM to return to the hotel.

The night ended up to be pretty funny because the bus broke down for the group and they never got back until close to 9:30PM. Lindsay, myself, and all of the others who didn’t go on the trip that day were all waiting back at the hotel for them. We ended up going to the hotel bar and socializing over a bottle of wine.

We left to go to dinner shortly after 10PM. My friends and I decided we were going to go out that night. Our guides wanted us to eat quickly. I really wanted to go to a restaurant that had Patagonian lamb, but it ended up there wasn’t time for that. A group of us had a nice meal of carne de chorizo, which was quite good. We met our guides and they showed us some nice bars and later boliche’s to go to.

I think we had guides this night because typically Bariloche is a tourist area, and the prices change somewhat depending on how the opinion of the person that is at the door of the bar—if you get what I’m saying. We went to a Pub first for a few hours. Then the group headed to a baliche. I had a headache from the smoke in a pub so a friend and I took a taxi back to our hotel. It turned out to be a great day!

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Trip to Bariloche - Part 2

We departed early following breakfast. Plans had changed due to weather since it was supposed to rain—making it a perfect day to hike (sarcasm). We got to the mountain, as it drizzled, and started climbing. It was a steep climb for about the first 800 feet, but it got easier because the terrain changed from rocks to dirt and vegetation. The only problem was that it continued to rain for longer periods.

See the nasty rain clouds. They're awful.

We got to the first vantage point and it was only misting, therefore I was able to take a few photos. Then we started up the next bit, as it progressively begins to rain more. Keep in mind I wasn’t equipped for this trip since I didn’t have a jacket appropriate for hiking nor hiking shoes—just sneakers and a t-shirt. Also keep in mind that with every 500 feet the temperature reduces half a degree or so, therefore I was starting to get quite wet and cold. Also I was very worried that the rain would ruin my camera. The camera bag I bought is supposed to be waterproof, but I still was concerned. Luckily the guide told me that I should put my camera in his waterproof hiking backpack—what a godsend.

The guide was really nice. I told him of my interest in plants, therefore he was pointing out to me some species that weren’t indigenous to Patagonia. I also found out that Argentina doesn’t have many government enabled programs to preserve forest land. This struck me as kind of strange when it seems to be a huge priority to preserve/maintain green spaces in the cities. I’ll go back to my new catch phrase, “Es Argentina / It’s Argentina.

At the second vantage point the view really wasn’t that good because of all the rain clouds. The rain would come and go for the next two hours as we ascended up to the third and fourth vantage points. Eventually the group came to easier trail, while it also started to pour cold rain. Of course it put everyone in a certain foul mood at this point. This part of the trail didn’t have tree cover; all of the rain was coming down directly on us.

At the second vantage point the view really wasn’t that good because of all the rain clouds. The rain would come and go for the next two hours as we ascended up to the third and fourth vantage points. Eventually the group came to easier trail, while it also started to pour cold rain. Of course it put everyone in a certain foul mood at this point. This part of the trail didn’t have tree cover; all of the rain was coming down directly on us.

We got to the top of the mountain eventually where we were supposed to eat our lunch. At the top was this large pink house/shelter. All of the COPA students when in there, but the lunches kind of stunk. We had these pretty awful (now soggy) milanesa sandwiches and some little thin sandwiches—very popular in Argentina—that tasted awful. We were there for an hour and a half as it continued to pour outside the building. The guides confirmed with the weather report that it was going to continue to rain. Just at the point that most of us were warming up, they decided to take us down—only this time it was raining harder and it was freezing.

Our ascent was about 4.5 hours. Luckily going down the mountain went faster—we made the trek in less than 2 hours. In my humble opinion, it was because we all wanted to get out of the rain.

This picture is when the sun was coming out at the last vantage point.
The sun was shining to brightly that it hurt your eyes to look at it.
When we finally got down to the first vantage point, the rain decided to cease—praise God! However we were still very wet. The last part was the hardest to come down since it was also the steepest part—it was miserable. It’s good that I have been maintaining a state of fitness because several people on the trek suffered exhaustion. I was very good until I twisted my ankle, thusly jerked my knee. I still have lingering problems with steps sometimes. I think I twisted something.

The guides were worried that the buses wouldn’t be there when we got to the base of the mountain since the hike took about 5 hours instead of the intended 8 hours. We got to the base of the mountain and stood under a roof at a Pancho (hot dog) stand at the base of the mountain and luckily someone had called for the buses to return early. We were all wet, hungry, and miserable. It was good the buses were there—it avoided a coup d’état.

Apparently rain isn’t very typical for this part of the year in Bariloche. Usually it only rains 1 or 2 days per month during the dry season. Obviously we got the short end of that stick.

All in all the day of hiking kind of stunk, but I’m glad that I went on the trek. It was a good experience. There’s nothing like returning to the hotel soaked, leaving your mucky sneakers at the door, and ringing your soaked underwear out in the hotel shower, to wake yourself up to the reality of nature.

When we were cleaned up—and dry—we went into town to eat. The group split up into groups and went to different restaurants.

My group went to a great Swiss restaurant that had local trout. They also had lamb, fondue, and beef. Sadly it was a tough decision for lamb or trout. I decided on the trout with roasted almonds because it sounded good and the waiter assured me it was very tasty—“Es muy rico”. We ate in table and shared a bottle of wine. The deserts were amazing, too. I had a chocolate mint mousse that was amazing. It was a good meal and a lot of fun. After hiking for as long as we did, I believe anything would have tasted good, however.
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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Trip to Bariloche - Part 1

Finally I’m going to write about my Bariloche trip 2 weeks ago. I apologize for its tardiness, but I had it written, but didn’t have time—or energy—until now to revise/edit it. Now you’ll have the story to go along with the pictures that I posted.

As part of our study abroad program, COPA sponsors a group trip during orientation for each of their programs. For the Buenos Aires, the trip was to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina (Bariloche). Bariloche is part the lake region of Patagonia, and is located on the western border of Argentina very close to Chile. The program flew us there in two groups for a 4 day vacation.

The trip was organized by the program office. On the onset the program director, Mario, made a deal with us: If everyone talked Castellano (Spanish) for the entire trip, the program would buy alcohol, wine and beer, to accompany our meals. I think it left a little bit of an impact. It was a pretty easy deal to make too, since they planned on taking us to a microbrewery in Bariloche.

The focus of the trip was 4 days of hiking. For those of you who know me, you’re aware that hiking isn’t exactly my cup of tea, however, we were told that everything in the trip was option, except one thing: una parasilla.

A parasilla, or chairlift, translates to living hell if you don’t like heights. I don’t like heights—I abhor them. More on this later.

We planned to leave Buenos Aires at Thursday, 28 Feb at 10:22 AM, but we ended up leaving late from Buenos Aires because it was down pouring in BA. We left about 4 hours late. When we finally left, it was about a 2 hour flight from Jorge Newberry Airport in Buenos Aires to Bariloche International Airport. The ascent was amazing into the airport because there are mountain ranges and lakes surrounding this part of Argentina. The view was incredible! However it was really scary for a moment because you couldn’t see a runway anywhere since there didn’t seem to be life for miles. All of a sudden we landed!

We ate our boxed lunches the program provided at our first stop since we weren’t permitted to eat in the bus. We pulled up to this mountain with a huge “parasilla”. Just seeing it made my heart quiver. I sucked it up, closed my eyes, and prayed as I ascended up the freaking thing that all would be well. I think I would like chairlifts much better if they didn’t do the creaking and intermittent stopping—the creaking is 100% worse at each of the transfer poles. My heart still raced the whole time…

The view definitely was worth the pain of descending up the stupid chair lift. You really could see the entire area. I got some of my best pictures from the whole trip from that vantage point. Still I would have rather just compared my pictures to the other people than actually experiencing it for myself. Of course what goes up must come down, and the descent down was worse than going up the damn thing.

Next we went to another area for a small hike before dinner. This was a trail that was close to several lakes and we hiked for about 15 minutes to get to the first vantage point. Later we did another 25 minute hike to get to a better view. We ran into a snake during this hike. I took a picture of it for my favorite—and only—cousin since I know she LOVES reptiles.

Later we went to a restaurant for dinner—it was about 8PM by now, early for dinner by Argentine standards—to a microbrewery that served a family style meal. The waiters brought all kinds of things to our table: bread, meat, cheese, nachos (argentine style), lamb, stew, etc. They also brought 2 pitchers of beer per table. They had light, dark, and raspberry beer; I’m not a big beer fan, but I did like the light and raspberry flavors. Then they served us ice cream for desert. Afterward we went our Hotel Amancay (the web site has great pictures) and my roommate and I talked until 2AM.

Sadly that killed us the next morning when we had to get up at 8:30 for the hike.
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Monday, March 17, 2008

Food Costs Surge

I read saw this NYTimes article originally on one of the blogs I follow, What to Eat.

The article discusses surging US food costs. I have a unique perspective on this since I was raised on a farm. Since my FFA days in high school, I think it's interesting to follow the market prices in conjunction to the consumer prices.

Right now corn and soybeans are more lucrative for farmers to sell. There is argument in the industry if its due to speculation for corn/soybean ethanol usage, or if it's an actual demand. Either way retail milk prices have also increased but not to the degree that expenses have risen for farmers. Farmers--like my parents--have to pay more to purchase their grain and to fuel their enterprise, but are not being fairly compensated for the added expense.

I know that the middle industries all repeatedly say that they have increased costs, too, but why aren't they paying the farmers more? This is yet another example why verticalization in the agricultural industry has been bad.

I know have another culture to compare this to. In the US, by and large, we're not used to living in economic conditions with constant inflation. In Argentina, however, it seems like inflation is a social institution. There was an article in the Clarín the other day that talked about vegetable inflation. According to the article and anecdotal evidence from my host mother, retail potato prices have nearly tripled since I arrived a month ago. I have yet to figure out how the farmer is compensated here, though. A part of me could tolerate the US food costs rising, if I knew it was being redirected to all parties within the system.

It seems that the Argentines beef industry is highly subsidized here, which keeps beef prices low. The farmers and advocacy organizations are not happy with it because it limits their international trading opportunities, for some reason. The farmer advocacy group here wants them to lift the subsidies so that they can export beef again, but the consumer groups are very opposed to it since it would cause beef prices to soar.

I find this situation to be very interesting and conclude that we must take some action into our own hands. We all have the power to support our local farmers. We can buy food direct from farmers-or nearly direct--at local farmer's markets, road side stands, or small businesses. We can buy local and reduce the ecological footprint we have on the earth by eliminating the extensive shipping that our fruits and vegetables usually have. I always prefer eating fruit, vegetables, and meat from local orchards, farms, and butchers. When you eat this way, the food is picked when it's ripe, the food is more nutritious since it had more time to ripen properly, and the money goes directly--or almost directly--to the farmer and/or local businessmen.


Go VEGAN! - The contradictions of BA

I took this picture with one person in mind, followed by a group of other people. This photo is especially for Madeline, but also for all of my vegetarian friends and readers.

I found this graffiti on the side of the zoo walking towards another Jardín Japones. I thought it was neat because it is very contradictory to Argentina's cultural attitude toward vegetarians.

Generally Argentines don't understand Vegetarianism. There are actually a lot of vegetarians in the program and they are finding it difficult to communicate especially to waiters. A lot of of times you'll ask the waiter, "¿Tenés opciones para vegitarianos?" (Do you have vegitarian options?) Then the respond will include some entré that has chicken. Then you say again, "Quiero comida sin carne o pollo o carne de animales," (I want food without meat--aka beef--or chicken, or meat from animals) and then they'll finally give you some options. It's funny. Believe me it is possible to eat very well here as a vegetarian, it's just that you have to make an extra effort to get your point across. However, I think it would be trying to adhere to a vegan diet.

When I saw this graffiti post I just laughed because almost all of the traditional meals here revolve around meat: empanadas, milanesa, bifé de chorizo, raviola espinaca con salsa roja carne, et al. I would argue that graffiti is an art form and, as art, it is a reflection of culture. I've been thinking for over a month how I could interpret this. I guess I just have resolved that it is a social commentary on the large amount of meat (primarily beef and chicken) that Argentines consume.

I was looking for something way more profound, but I couldn't think of anything. There you have it.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Finished a Pair of Socks

So I finally finished this pair of socks that was kind of being drug out from before I arrived here. These were knitted with Knitpicks 'Felici' Yarn with the Arugula colorway. It's 75% Merino Wool and 25% Nylon Acrylic. It was really nice to knit with.

I used a toe-up pattern and I did a 4x4 rib. I decided to vary it by ever 2 rows doing 4K, 4P, and then alternating with 4K, 1P, 1K, 1P. I like the effect. This was my first toe up sock. I think I will do more like this because they look a bit more professional to me--only my opinion.

I would encourage anyone making these to look at Cat Bordhi's YouTube Videos for wrapped stitches. They really made it easy to learn this technique. I believe her patterns call for single wrapped stitched, but mine called for double wrapped stitches.

I used the Knitty Pattern pattern for Universal Toe Up Socks, and it was very easy to follow. However I made some changes. I used Judy Becker's magic cast on--Cat Bordhi demonstrates on YouTube--and I multiplied the the circumference number by .85 instead of .9. All this did was made the sock a bit more snug, reducing the final circumference by 15% instead of 10%. I like how it turned out and I will do it again.

So I was really proud to wear this socks because I finished them. I wore them to my meeting yesterday morning with my Independent Study advisor and accidently stepped in a puddle while walking home. You can see how dirty my brand new sock got. Erg...was frustrating.

My host mother wanted these socks. It was too bad they didn't fit her--since they were created for my feet. I will make her a pair before I leave.

Meanwhile...I want more of this yarn...its really cool.

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School Starts for me, Spring break for GC

It's March. Usually by this time I'm sick of the semester. This year, however, my calendar has been turned on its side, as I'm only beginning my classes here in Buenos Aires this week. This week I've been afforded the opportunity to hear many stories about Spring Break from my friends. I want to pass this one in particular onto all of you because I think it's something very important.

Two of my friends Morgan and Alli--both future teachers--had the opportunity to go to Wisconsin during Spring Break not for vacation, but to learn. They were learning about the Bernstein Center for Learning model of teaching in the midwest. In fact Alli was featured in this article in the Des Moines Register.

I think what's really fantastic about this is that this model of teaching harnesses student and teacher creativity in a way that assists students to reach their academic goals. The program emphasizes teaching a subject through the arts and humanities. It's an approach more teachers should adopt.

One example might be to create a lesson about the Holocaust through photos--or even poetry--from the Holocaust. Then have the students experiment with taking their own pictures or making their own "history" through the arts. Afterward the teacher would bring them back to reflect on the topic history with the gained experience of the history and the way that a historian reflects images when they write history.

Anyway, hope you'll browse to the web site and the article. It's great information for everyone.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Photos from Bariloche

Hi Folks,

Sorry for the suspense, but I have finally uploaded my pictures from Bariloche. The stories from there will come in a separate post later today.

Pictures of Bariloche


Monday, March 3, 2008

More Pictures from Buenos Aires

I've finally had some time to follow up on posting pictures. Since some of you had troubles seeing the photos on Facebook, I decided to change my service to GooglePublish Post's Picasa.

I hope you enjoy these 3 sneak preview photos. There are many more. Most of the photos are of Puerto Madero, Plaza de Mayo, San Telmo, La Boca, etc.

If I have enough energy tonight I will post my pictures from Bariloche, otherwise that will be tomorrow night.

Click Here for My Google Album
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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Argentine University System from Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina

I haven´t had a lot of time lately to post because orientation has been demanding. Finally I´m going to take some time to explain some idiosyncrasies about the Argentine university system, so the next blog posts might make some sense. I´m blogging from Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina, and I promise you I will be posting photos from this experience in the next two days.

One of the main reasons that I picked the Butler University program (aka COPA) was because it is a very unique program. I found no other program that permited students to take courses in 4 different internationally acclaimed universities. It is certainly something that makes this program unique and (at times) complicated.

With COPA it is possible to take courses at Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA), Universidad de di Tella (Di Tella), Universidad de Salvator (USAL) and Universidad de Católica (UCA), which are all located in Buenos Aires. While this is an awesome opportunity, it also creates some logistical problems.

First let me speak to these problems. All of the universities in Buenos Aires are at different locations--or one university at multiple locations. This is partly because the concept of a campus is nearly nonexistent in Buenos Aires, rather the schools are loosely held together by a University name and scatterred throughout the city. You might compare Argentine universities to Georgetown or New York City University since they are two universities that don't have a "traditional campus". To compound the problems, multiply the sprawl of 4 universities over one of the world´s largest cities and you will realize how complicated scheduling and getting to class can be--a logistical nightmare.

The good thing is that each university has its own charm. Di Tella is known for its International Relations and strong academics--also a private school. UBA is known as the most prestigious public school in Argentina and has the reputation of being the hardest, too. UCA and USAL are reputable universities in their own rights, but they´re private schools. It´s been neat to visit each school during orientation and seeing their individual character--almost like hunting for college all over again.

To give you a better idea, let me give you an example day: A student could start the day by taking a bus, or colectivo, to Belgrano for a class at Di Tella. Next, take a bus back to Microcentro for a noon class at UCA. Study at a café in a small group after class in Puerto Madero and then take the Subte (subway) to Caballito to take a 5:45PM course at UBA Filosofía de Letras. Go back home for dinner via colectivo, and then head out for a group study session over coffee or a glass of wine...all before sleeping around 11:30PM.

This is only possible due to the generally organized transit system that exists in Buenos Aires, because literally a typical student´s day in COPA covers many kilometers mixed with public transportation and walking. Clearly this is not something you could do in most cities in the US. This makes selecting classes and having a cohesive schedule difficult, but the rewards are definitely going to be worth it.

The other unique thing about this program is that there are very few requirements and lots of flexibility. For example, the only required course within the program is spanish or Castellano class. COPA does provide "Tracks" in multiple areas, such as Gender studies, Human Rights, Film, and Independent Study tracks.

Now for the downside to all of this. Because there are technically 5 university systems, if you include COPA in this, there are a host of different deadlines and credits. Each university has their own rules governing registering for classes and dropping classes, but by and large, it´s possible to register for many courses and select which ones you want to take over a 1 month period.

Going back to my first "day" scenario: Add the pressure of trying upwards of 20 classes out within a two week period and you´ll realize how crazy my life will be for the next 3 weeks. The good thing is that after these three weeks, I don´t think I will have any problems navigating the city at all.

I learned a lot this week about the differences between US classrooms and classrooms in Argentina, but I will save them for experiential anecdotes.

I will share this. In Argentina, the textbooks cost crazy amounts of money. In general the professors select a photocopy place near the university. The professor puts everything from the syllabus to the readings in these places. This adds another task to the to-do list for the first week of classes.

I have much more to share, but not now. I will add more soon. Thanks for all of your emails; I enjoy hearing from all of you.

¡Chau de Patagonia! Dave

Interesting Article on Recoleta Cemetery

I found this article on one of the Argentina travel blogs I follow. I think you might enjoy reading some of the history behind the cemetery I blogged about two weeks ago:
Recoleta Cemetery History