Monday, December 9, 2013

Exam Week

How many blog posts have I written about my loathing of the sedentary lifestyle? I keep thinking maybe I'll grow out of this dread of an office job. Why am I in college if it's not to get a professional job, and how many professional jobs are out there where I won't be sitting in front of a computer all day? Or most of the day. How much screen time can I stand?

These are the thoughts exam week inspires in me. I'm jittery and antsy sitting in coffee shops all day, even when the material I'm studying is intellectually engaging. I need variety; I need to move. I often get distraught thinking about how lofty my standards are for job satisfaction. Only time will tell how this will be resolved...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Top Six Reasons Why I'd Be a Seahorse

I was just reminiscing about my summer in New Orleans and came across this photo of me at the aquarium, reminding me of how much I admire seahorses.



Here are the top six reasons why, if I could, I would be a seahorse:

1. The males carry and deliver the babies. (My dream husband)
2. They eat constantly. (If I could do anything without consequence...)
3. They live underwater. (I actually dream more often about living underwater than about flying.)
4. They have prehensile tails. (Like a monkey!)
5. They can move each eye independently. (One of my secret talents.)
6. They're monogamous (which I think is sweet).

All I want for Christmas is a seahorse?

But actually. I don't know if these can be kept as pets, but as soon as my life becomes stable (hopefully starting around fall 2015?) I'm looking into owning one. Company for my beloved windowsill succulent:
<3 <3 <3 


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Suburbiaphobia

This is a 680-word column I wrote for the student publication Rival Magazine.


The suburban home is the setting of my greatest fear: the supposed American ideal of the big house at the end of a cul-de-sac, with a dog in the backyard and two kids playing together on the living room floor. Imagining myself there in ten years makes me feel trapped and panicky. And then I imagine commuting to a respectable but monotonous office job, and I cringe even deeper into my seat.

Is life in suburbia an idea that one grows into? Is my dread of a 9 to 5 office job something I need to make myself accept? The more I think about it, the more I convince myself it’s okay to not be dreaming of getting married and having kids and commuting to the office from my nice suburban home. I don’t know how widespread that projected ideal is among my generation, but I know I shouldn’t feel aberrant for wanting something different. I’m not even sure what I want, but I know it’s not this traditional American image of success.

At selective universities like UNC and Duke, it’s easy to get trapped inside a narrow, imposed definition of success. This definition varies by subject of study, but largely I’ve found that it pushes for a high-paying corporate job in a big city. And then, right on top of that, general American culture promotes that image of the brick family home with the white fence.

But what if that’s not what I want? Why am I surrounded by people who seem convinced they know better than me what I need to be “successful”? Why is it so hard for me to commit to pursuing my own ideas of success?

I often struggle with a sense of desperate anxiety over finding the right career path. I once read a story about a man who, while working in the office, accidentally spilled coffee on his desk. His immediate reaction was to automatically hit "control+Z" on his keyboard (the shortcut for "undo"). In that moment, he suddenly realized his life had become so artificial that his subconscious wasn't distinguishing between the real world and the digital world. 

That idea terrifies me. The digital future is a big part of why entering the professional world is scary to me. We're living more and more in front of lit-up screens. Yet I’m convinced I would wither a little bit every day I spent working in front of a computer.

I don’t want that. Nor do I want the suburban house that comes with two kids and a dog. So where does this leave me? Homeless and unemployed? The career advising I’ve received in college — both from official University sources as well as from many of my high-achieving peers — has given me the impression that if I’m not looking for the “right” things, then I’m doomed to an anonymous life of continuous financial struggle. Which maybe is my fate. But beyond making enough to pay the bills and eat out once in awhile, I know that money won’t buy me happiness. I know what makes me happy: things like intellectual stimulation, creative freedom, spending time outside and forging meaningful connections with the people around me.


I know it’s not a novel thing to defy a perceived norm, but each person doing it knows he or she has to do it deliberately and confidently — and therefore must think it out thoroughly. I also know wanting a corporate job or suburban home is not necessarily a mainstream thing. I am sure plenty of people never feel the pressure of that expectation. But I do believe that model is a pervasive expectation at elite universities like ours, and I don’t think it should be. But I don’t want to imply it’s a bad thing, either. I just hope I can maintain the tenacity to hold onto my own definition of success, reminding myself of the unique combination of factors I need to be happy — and having the foresight to respect that, independent of everything else.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Drums to light

The sound of drums takes me back to Argentina — and reminds me of the value of my chosen career path.

As many days as not, the streets below my office window in Buenos Aires would be filled with people marching and pounding drums. Whenever I'd ask someone why, I'd get a vague answer referencing a general discontent that was evident in all the major cities I visited. People were intently and actively dissatisfied with their government and their quality of life.

But I sensed an undertone of strange joy in those protests. The people of Argentina celebrate their ability to make their vexation public. That ability to send a direct message to the government isn't a freedom they've had for long. It was only 30 years ago that a cruel dictatorship inflicted terrifying and heartbreaking wrongs on these same people to keep them from fighting the regime.

For that reason, Argentinians hold a deep respect for independent journalism. My casual acquaintances in Argentina would nod their heads with respect when I told them my study of periodismo — journalism — because Argentinians realize the importance of trustworthy news sources that can make public the concerns of the people. In a country where the government once kidnapped, tortured and killed random people in secret detention centers, the people are grateful for an effective symbol of public communication and government accountability.

I'm always looking for affirmation of my chosen career path, seeking evidence of societal impact to make newswriting meaningful enough to be fulfilling to me. I don't think America will ever fall to the level of the Dirty War in Argentina, but that period of time still serves to remind me of why good journalism is so important. Quality journalism keeps a beam of light on powerful governmental processes that are simultaneously far away and directly relevant to individual citizens' lives. Just one reason of many why I respect this field. Just one reason why I'm proud to sign emails with the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication under my name. And the drums of Argentina beat along in agreement.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nos Vemos

My favorite phrase that I learned in Argentina is "nos vemos" — a standard farewell that basically means the same as the American expression “see ya.”

The American version is short for “I will see you later.” But the Spanish version, translated literally, means “we see each other.”

We see each other. Present tense. Reciprocative. We see each other now. Maybe it extends to, we see each other always. It means that we part on the same level. We part, seeing each other the same way.

I think we all need more of this. America needs "nos vemos."

What do you see when you look at someone? You might see a taxi driver, a businessman or woman, a punk kid, a janitor, a waitress. But how often do you really see a person?

I remember being surprised once, at the beginning of my sophomore year at UNC, when a dining hall employee sat down at my table and told me her story. She was an incredibly strong woman who had left her abusive husband and spent the last three years living in a homeless shelter, fighting for custody of her children.

Thinking about her later, I hated how surprised I had been to hear her story. I had glanced at that woman, and immediately, subconsciously, easily, I wrote her off as insignificant to my life. Whether I judged her for her standard food services uniform or because her skin was darker than mine, I saw that woman as unimportant to me. I had looked through her almost as if she didn't even exist.

I hadn't really seen her at all. But she saw me: she sat down and talked to me personally and openly and honestly. I'm embarrassed that at first glance, there wasn't reciprocity in our brief relationship.

It takes stories for people to truly see each other. I didn't see that woman in the dining hall until she told me her story and reminded me of the vulnerable, beautiful, vibrant humanity that we all share.

We all share it, but when do we take the time to recognize it?

Nos vemos.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Iguazú, I love you

(The title of this post rhymes, in case that was unclear. Believe me, it's clever.)

This past weekend was Iguazú Falls: one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. As with any spectacular sight, pictures far surpass words in representing this experience:

First, I went to Brazil! Without a visa! I have no idea how I pulled that off
At the triple border: Argentina on the left, Paraguay in the distance in the middle, and Brazil on the right.
The border checkpoint I went through without a visa
Brazil has a more panoramic view
Notice the tiny little people 
Double rainbow!! 


Trying to give it a sense of perspective 


On the Argentinian side, the walkways went over the top of many waterfalls 
This sign made me laugh. "But it looked like such a nice place to swim!"

Up close and personal with the water

Like a fairytale...


Nature Carol in her natural environment
La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil's Throat)
Like staring into infinity 
Brand-new handrails because of flooding a few weeks before. This part of the park, the most dramatic and spectacular, re-opened the day before I got there. 

The edge of forever
Wouldn't want to get swept over that edge...
These creatures, called coatis, look vaguely cute but are actually vicious and tried to steal my lunch.
More wildlife

It's difficult to convey the immensity of Iguazú with my measly photos. Over 2.7km in width and composed of some 275 individual falls, it's the biggest waterfall in the world in terms of sheer volume. The setting makes it even better, since it's surrounded by national parks on both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides. According to worldofwaterfallsdatabase.com: This is what Niagara Falls should have been - pristine, protected and allowed to flow unabated with the full wrath of its river. This is nature at its most primal, most incredible and most spectacular. There was no question in our minds, Iguazú Falls is the best waterfall on the planet and there's really nothing else that needs to be said.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

LDOW

At college, we love to celebrate LDOC: the Last Day of Class. Today was my Last Day of Work. It felt like walking out of my last exam in May. Like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tJoIaXZ0rw 

After work, I met up with a friend from Duke who's here for a semester abroad (she arrived two days ago) and we exchanged expectations and perceptions about Buenos Aires. It was a pensive day for me, thinking a lot about where I started and where I am now and how to process the meaning of it all.

Later I went to a private wine tasting in my neighborhood. I had a lot of fun and learned lots about how to taste wine as well as more about the production process. This tiny bit of experience in the world of wine has made me want to have the opportunity to learn more about wine in the future.

Came home and packed up my entire room, because my lease officially ends tomorrow! I'm leaving a couple of bags here while I trip off to Iguazú and returning to pick them up on Monday just before my flight home. How exciting to be packing up already! It seems to have come so suddenly. I still have a few days left — a few days of wonderful adventure! — but I'm so close to home, and I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Muchisimo coffee and some trippy art

I went to three cafes today. Not deliberately, but I'm glad I've been getting as much as I can of the cafe culture here before I leave. It's one of my favorite parts of this city: the sidewalk cafes, where you pay two US dollars for a coffee with milk, a small glass of sparkling water, and usually a small cookie of some sort as well. I'm going to miss that a lot.

I had a very productive day at work. I accomplished a lot, in part because it's my second-to-last day, which motivated me to stay focused. Wrote two articles and edited a bunch more.

After work, I waited at my third cafe of the day (the first being before work and the second during my lunch break) for Léa to get off so that we could go together to MALBA, or the Museum of Latin American Art. They have a temporary exhibit by a Japanese woman who has hallucinations and makes art about them... like a room filled with glowing neon dots, or a sculpture called the "phallic shoe," or a room made of mirrors and filled with lights that change colors. It was all extremely trippy.

Afterwards, we had potentially my favorite meal of the summer at a Vietnamese restaurant, where we exchanged letters and gifts. I'm really going to miss this girl.

Highlight of my day: the typical morning setup in the cafe next to my office
My third cafe today
Léa and I in one of the trippy art exhibits
such a cool exhibit
Photos can't do it justice 

wooaaahhhh

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

LIFE UPDATE

I just made some rice and it is bangin. Summer Cooking Success #2! I'm basically a chef, yall.

Flora & Fauna of Buenos Aires

What an excellent day, I'm thinking, and I realize it's because my day was full of plants and animals. Why did I not seek these places out from the very beginning? When I got to Buenos Aires I already knew that I love nature, but all I did was bemoan how I never saw it here in the city. 

Turns out Buenos Aires has excellent parks, if you know where to look. Today I went to Los Bosques Palermo, or the Palermo Forests: a collection of parks, including the lovely Jardín Japones (Japanese Garden) and the Palermo Zoo. 

Buenos Aires Jardin Japones. Photo from buenosaires.travel


The zoo was good, I guess. I'm not much of a zoo connoisseur. I know they're crucial for preserving the species and educating the public, but I still get sad seeing animals in cages. At least the monkeys were kept on an island, so they had sky. I always appreciate efforts like that.

Parque 3 de Febrero was excellent, with dirt footpaths winding between sturdy, wide-spaced trees and lots of grass. If only I lived a few blocks closer: at the start of my summer, I tried running there, but by the time I got there I had to turn back. Just barely too far. 

Tucked on the edge of this giant park is the Japanese Garden, a beautiful space filled with exotic plants and picturesque bridges over koi-filled ponds. I had a huge and delicious lunch at the garden's restuarant: salmon dumplings and a combination sushi plate. Later I bought an intriguing Japanese snack at a kiosko inside the garden: shaped like potato chips, but made with peanuts and tastes like fortune cookies. 

Afterward I walked down the wide Avenida Libertador to visit El Museo de Artes Decorativos, which Dad & crew recommended to me. It's a restored French mansion with original furniture and paintings, and informative signs in each room. A gorgeous home, free to visit and quite pleasant to walk around.

Monday, July 22, 2013

This post is really long but I think it's actually interesting

Early this morning I bid farewell to Dad, June, Sammy, and Louise and lugged all my stuff home. I had pretty much moved in at their apartment and was sad to leave that huge fluffy bed with the wide windows and the 17th-story views. Don't get me wrong, I've lived perfectly comfortably these past two months, but my twin-sized bed and windowless room just can't compete with a vacation condo.

Dad came back with me to La Casa Naranja (as I call the orange-painted house I live in) to see where I've been staying. Not much to see, but it was still fun showing him my Argentina life. Then he set off on a run and I headed towards the subway to go downtown.

I don't think I've seen a non-graffitied subway here
I went straight to the Teatro Colón, one of the best, oldest, and most lavish theaters in the world. Tours for extranjeros (foreigners) are 110 pesos, and 30 pesos for "residents." I have a residential address here, so I figure it's fair to call myself a resident. AND Mondays are half-price for students, so I whipped out my student ID, tried to exude confidence speaking Spanish, and walked in with a 15-peso ticket. Accomplishment of the day.

The tour was at noon, so I sat in the cafe and enjoyed the coffee and wifi for an hour. The tour was excellent, teaching me wonderful tidbits like that the tiled floor is made of two million individual tiny pieces, and only the people who buy the most expensive tickets get to enter through the main doors. Poor people come in through the sides and are shepherded straight to their seats, not even getting a glimpse of the grand lobby.

The guide telling us there are two million of these tiny pieces in the floor
The first floor is architecturally distinct from the second because the first architect died suddenly only six months into the project.
This painted ceiling is painted cloth, supposedly, and the gold molding is real gold.
The tour took us to the most expensive box seats, where we sat, pretending, for a few moments; and to the Presidential box, which is next to the stage, putting the President on display for all the patrons to see. The President, however, has a severely obstructed view of the stage. Our guide said President Kirchner has never seen a performance in Teatro Colón. I'm not surprised, since she'd be more of a spectacle than the performance.

Box seats in Teatro Colón
After work, I went and had a coffee and a brownie to cheer myself up.

Léa met me at the cafe, then we walked together to Palacio Barolo, a super cool building based on Dante's The Divine Comedy. The first floor represents hell and is decorated with evil-looking serpents and birds of prey, and firey tiles on the floor. The 16 or so floors in the middle are offices, representing purgatory. And then there's a lighthouse tower on the top, representing heaven. We got to go to the very very top, where the light is. It was kind of terrifying, even for me (I love high places) because it was a tiny space with glass all around. I was afraid of the possibility of someone falling through the glass. But regardless, it was a rejuvenating top-of-the-world feeling.

In "heaven"! On top of Palacio Barolo, downtown Buenos Aires. With Léa and her friend from Boston College.
Why I was afraid: the guide told us to sit on these glass window panes!
Pretending we work in this 1920's office in Palacio Barolo
Back at home, I had another fruit-and-cheese feast. (I think there is nothing that makes my taste buds happier than fresh pear and blue cheese, except maybe certain chocolate desserts.) And now I'm just piddling on the computer til I go to sleep! Four nights left in this bed...

A week in review

Okay unfortunately I gave my memory card to Léa so she could download all the Salta pictures, so I still don't have photos from the estancia (ranch). 

But take my word for it that it was fun. The gauchos (traditional Argentine cowboys) were all super friendly and good-natured. The same group of men led the horseback rides and the carriage rides, served the lunch, and performed the gaucho show at the end. I was impressed by their well-roundedness, at the very least.

I'm struggling to remember my week right now. It slipped by so pleasantly. I'm going to recount the days in reverse, because that's easier for me to remember than chronologically.

Sunday was the street market day. I went to church with Dad, June, and Sammy before braving the windy cold for some shopping at the famous San Telmo street market. We also visited an old restored mansion with some cool tunnels underneath.

Saturday the adults went to Colonia, Uruguay, while I visited an art museum and took a graffiti tour. I learned that there are laws about graffiti (you can't paint a wall that's not yours), but they're not enforced. The buildings of Buenos Aires are covered in paint ranging from simple tags (someone's name spray-painted on a wall) to veritable street art (commissioned and often paid for). Some of it I like, some I don't like but I can still appreciate, but a lot of it to me just looks tacky and/or dirty. It's all a matter of taste, I guess.

Friday was the estancia day trip.

Thursday I remember vaguely was a terribly frustrating day in the office, followed by a wonderfully lovely dinner with Dad & crew. 

The week flew by with such good company to look forward to in the afternoons and to enjoy on the weekend. I'm glad I have only four days left here, because I already feel lonely without them! 

I leave Argentina exactly one week from today, but I leave Buenos Aires on Friday for a weekend at Iguazú Falls. Counting down the days!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Quick update

What a week! Having family here is so much fun. I've come over to the condo every day this week after work to hang out with Dad, June, Sammy, and Louise. We sit and talk and drink wine until it's time for dinner.

I spent last night here because they have an extra bedroom. Today we went to a ranch an hour north of the city. Horseback riding, carriage rides, tango, folklore, and gaucho dancing, plus a huge lunch (meat on meat on meat yummm... But actually there we some nice salads too). And at the end was an impressive show of horsemanship where the gauchos (Argentine cowboys) at full gallop snatched a silver ring hanging on a string.

This post is almost embarrassingly sparse, but I'm tapping it slowly on Louise's iPad. I have photos to upload and more details to share, so I'll come back to spruce it up once I move back in at my apartment. Enjoying the life of luxury for the while, shirking my blogging responsibilities-- but I just wanted to write something quick to appease anyone who might get concerned at prolonged silence.

Check back for a better version of this post later this weekend!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I'm a reg

I reached an important milestone in my time here: I now can consider myself a regular at the cafe outside my work! This morning the waitress who works there brought my coffee exactly the way I like it, without even asking. I wasn't paying attention, so it caught me by surprise. When she set down the coffee unprompted, I was unreasonably happy.

Similarly, the people who work at the place where I buy lunch now greet me with familiarity. I remember the first time I went there with my coworkers. All my coworkers greeted the employees with the standard kiss on the cheek, while I stood somewhat awkwardly off to the side. Now I'm included in the kisses too, which makes me happy. I like to think that I've established myself here, in however small of ways.

Today after work I went home to Dad's condo and stayed there til nearly midnight. Léa came over and met everyone briefly before they headed off to a tango show. The weather was incredibly warm today, so Léa and I spent the entire evening on the rooftop patio with glasses of wine and a platter of fruit and cheese. It couldn't have been more perfect.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Oh hey dad


Look who found me in Buenos Aires! This week Dad and June are here with Sammy and Louise Anderson, and so far I have absolutely loved having all of them here. We went to dinner together last night and tonight. Both times I came home in a great mood because of the great company :)

They arrived yesterday (Monday) afternoon. When I visited their condo after work, I was completely in awe at the views of the city from their 17th-floor apartment. The sun was just setting, casting an orange glow over the horizon while the first stars came out on the other side of the sky, and the building lights below started to twinkle. The street traffic sounded like the ocean. A fresh breeze swept up from the distant river. Way up there, with the buildings and cars and dogs and people so far below, Buenos Aires was beautiful.
The view from Dad's rooftop patio
It makes me feel closer to home, to have family and neighborhood friends visiting me here. I'm not any closer physically, but every day brings me closer temporally. And their presence makes the time pass that much quicker, so in a way, it is bringing me closer to home!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

To market, to market...

This was probably the best weekend I've had in Buenos Aires. Nothing can compare to the travels I've done, of course. But for the time I've been here in the city, this was hard to beat.

Yesterday was nice, with the touristy stuff I got to check off my list, and today was even better. Turns out I didn't go to last night's party after all: didn't wake up from my nap til 7am this morning. Oh, well. I worked on planning my Iguazú trip, went running, and then met up with my friend Sarah at an organic street market in my neighborhood. I'm a sucker for things like that. Free samples of cheeses, olive oils, and every baked good imaginable. I wanted to buy it all, but I limited myself to a very satisfying quinoa brownie.

We made the rounds, fighting the crowds for the free samples, and then headed over to a different neighborhood for the famous San Telmo antiques market. Antiques really aren't the focus, as every kind of artisan is out there with their wares. Jewelry, bags, shoes, decorative knickknacks, all sorts of souvenirs, etc. It was extremely crowded, but I was impressed by the range of handmade products. On the whole, it was a lot less tacky and kitschy than I expected. I plan to go back next week with Dad, June, and crew!

We met up with our friends Reem and Jen there, and also met their friend, a guy from Argentina whose name I have forgotten. He just moved to Buenos Aires from a town outside the city and told us he'd invite is to his housewarming party, yay! It's bound to be mostly Argentinians, and I love a good opportunity for Spanish conversation practice.

Didn't take my camera with me this weekend, so I don't have any new photos, but I can repost some after my friends load theirs to Facebook.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Casa Rosada y Museo Evita

Getting up early this morning to go running was difficult because I had been out late for ice cream after dinner with some friends. But, as always, it was worth it. After showering, I went to a money house to exchange my last US dollars... It'll be just enough until Dad brings me more!

Later I met up with the same friends for a tour of la Casa Rosada, the presidential offices. I saw the desk where she works! As well as a lot of the rest of the building, which has tall ceilings, lots of gold molding, and old-fashioned furniture.

After the tour we made our way back to Palermo (my neighborhood) to see Museo Evita, the museum honoring Eva Perón, who was Argentina's beloved First Lady for two terms. She advocated for a lot of social issues, such as laborer's rights, and won the women's vote in Argentina. The entire country mourned when she died from cancer at age 33.

Her museum was impressively tasteful, showcasing her life from childhood to death. There were a lot of glass cases displaying her dresses and accessories-- maybe she had a trademark fashion style?

Then I returned to my house, met a Brazilian boy who just moved in, and ate some dinner. Now I'm going to take a nap before heading to a party that I was invited to by some boys I met in a bar the other day... I'm excited for the opportunity to practice more Spanish!

Peruvian dinner with my favorite girls in Argentina: Reem, Sarah, Jen, and Léa. Plus Sarah's friend!