I have recently indulged in some Flashforward viewing (draw what parallels you will between this and the advent of revision period); the latest American import, based on the premise of a global blackout granting each of us a two minute sneaky peek at our lives in six months time. This sent me on a somewhat opposite journey, namely a nostalgic glance back to Rachel circa June 2009.
Six months ago seems a far and distant memory, yet somehow the days have been and gone far too quickly and I am revelling once more in a few (somewhat cold) home comforts, whilst looking fondly on my former self. This was a Rachel that, with a mere two years of Spanish under her belt, had a confidence residing in the extreme minuses when it came to speaking. The prospect of six months on the other side of the world (where, might I add, they only spoke this language) may have seemed like a good idea on application, yet now appeared to be, frankly, insane.
However, this was also a Rachel minus the googols (one plus a hundred zeros, in case you’re asking) of unforgettable Argentinean experiences and encounters that came to pass, whom I hold fully responsible for disrupting my at best sporadic updates in my ultimate weeks and consequently leaving me with a somewhat bumper final update.
So, we’ll go for some edited highlights (with visual aids).
I finally made it to an Argentine (well, to be fair, my first ever) football match. To put into context the passion overflowing in the stadium, the ongoing elections to be president of River Plate (- heard of Boca Juniors of Maradona fame? Well, this is their nemesis) rivalled national political campaigns in both hype and budget. Being not the biggest hincha (fan) of the beautiful game, it is fair to say that the incessant drumming, singing and jumping around held my attention more than the actual match.
My final asado (BBQ) took place in what, although described to me as ‘one of guy’s weekend houses’, can only be considered a great big hunking castle, reminiscent of the English country houses that no one can actually afford to upkeep anymore.
To point out the obvious, San Andrés is a private university and is far from representative of the average Argentinean existence. Although the rich/poor divide is not as obvious as in Brazil, particularly in the capital where you will find many an affluent neighbourhood, Argentina is still a third world country with a quarter of the population living in poverty. This was painfully apparent on my journey back from Salta, with the ghost towns, their barely constructed houses and ‘streets’ laden with copious amounts of rubbish or even every time I took the train from the central train station in Buenos Aires, which backs onto a villa (shanty town). The effects of the financial crisis of 2001 are still very much felt.
Taking a break from finals, I finally managed to get a few beach days in Uruguay. Don’t be fooled into thinking Southern Hemisphere = tropical climate. As I left, it was still technically Spring, which involved a few days of, granted at times, a good degree of heat, followed my storms and grey, grey rain. Nevertheless, Uruguay came through and we were able to compare the chic (Shakira has a house) resort of Punta del Este, with the slightly more rugged and all the more beautiful for it, Punta del Diablo. Apart from the minor hiccup of getting stopped by traffic police for driving a golf cart on the pavement in Colonia, we returned safely to Buenos Aires for a last few weeks of wining, dining and fiesta.
So, in the words of a certain great, late musical monarch, this is, indeed, it. My time in Buenos Aires is over and I now set my sights on the six months to come a la française.
I cannot recommend a semester in South America highly enough and I hope these blogs have gone some way to convey this. I will endeavour to add on a post script chockablock with handy hints for all those planning their adventures.
Suerte and Happy Holidays