“A tope”? An expression used often in Spanish-speaking countries to mean something that is lived fully. July has definitely been a tope with over 68 arrivals, weekly Socials & Dirty Weekends. I’m going to miss many of the volunteers who came to Argentina and I really hope they come back and visit us!
Last weekend the second group of the Two Week Special arrived. A young group mostly who are here to discover Medicine and the Argentinean way of life. They are all very nice and have been enjoying the different events organized for them during their first week in Argentina: A visit to an internationally renowned Anatomy museum, a diner and tango show at El Arrabal restaurant, a city tour of Cordoba city, a game of Bowling, a surprise 18th Birthday Party organized for one of the volunteers and much more!
This weekend they will have the chance to discover the beautiful mountains of Cordoba province & different exciting outdoor activities like zip lining! And me? I’ll be relaxing at home, enjoying the warm spring-like weather while sharing a mate with friends, a typical Argentinean drink.
It doesn’t matter that tango as we know it today emerged in Buenos Aires city, because La Falda town in Córdoba province is one of the favourite spots of local tangueros. If Buenos Aires offers daily gigs in different venues, La Falda welcomes the country’s finests musicians in several nights of pure tango in only one place.
It all started when in the 60s, La Falda’s residents envied Cosquín folk music festival. La Falda looked up to Cosquín, wanted to be like them because people were driven crazy by the event, which drew huge crowds. They knew that culture can rescue a city, so they thought that tango could foster tourism in La Falda. Following Cosquín’s example, people from La Falda created La Falda Tango, which opened in 1965 with 9 nights in a row.
During La Falda’s nights, artists feel welcomed by the warm audience, which counteracts the cold weather. La Falda is important not only because of its name and history, but also because it brings together high quality artists. Good art prevails above all things. Mythical artists who are no longer alive will also be part of the festival: a special section pays a tribute to late tango artists and musicians.
Saturday 24th of July, I took the volunteers to discover this Festival that is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. We enjoyed the show and discovered some very talented tango singers and dancers!
In February of this year, I went out to Cordoba to volunteer on a Care Project. Three weeks before I left I found out that I would be working at CeCAM, a prison for young girls. My immediate thoughts weren’t those of fear at the prospect of working with criminals, they were: these girls are going to hate me! Here I was, an 18-year-old gringa, who had come to be a “role model” for them. After a few phone calls to Ariel, an email from Sofia, and a word or two with a previous CeCAM volunteer, my worries were slightly alleviated. Obviously it was still going to be a challenge but that is what I came to Argentina for. I wanted to be completely taken out of my comfort zone… and I was.
I had been in Argentina two days when Horacio took me for my first day at CeCAM. I had the nerves that come with any first day at a new job but they were slightly enhanced by the fact that I could speak very little Spanish. Standing at the locked iron gates of CeCAM, waiting to be let in, Horacio turned to me and said, “This is gonna be tough.” “Yep!” was all I could muster as a response. Eventually we were led in. After being told what I could and couldn’t do by the director of CeCAM and having left my bags with the guards, I was led into the ceramics classroom where the girls were having their morning lesson. I was met with about 15 staring faces and all eyes on me. I was told all the girls’ names and introduced to the two ceramics professors. For a while I simply sat trying my best to understand any Spanish that I could. I tried asking a couple of girls their ages and other simple things like when their birthdays were. One or two of them seemed very wary of me but others were really friendly and interested and tried to ask me questions, some of which I could answer, but mostly we just laughed while we struggled with a mixture of Spanish and hand gestures. There was one girl who spoke a little English that a previous volunteer had taught her, so we stumbled through a conversation in Spanglish. Throughout the morning I started to feel a little more relaxed. I spoke to one of the professors who told me about some of the problems the girls were dealing with and told me why some of them were in CeCAM. The crimes ranged from armed robbery and drug abuse to murder. Despite finding out what crimes the girls had committed, it never made me feel any less safe or any more wary of them, they still all seemed to me like any young person who has made a mistake. To be honest my first thought was how friendly and open they were for girls who had been through so much so early on in their lives. That first day was unlike any I’ve ever had before or since.
It took a week or so for all the girls to start talking to me and to feel more comfortable with me being around, but I found as I relaxed around them they relaxed around me. I started to give some English lessons which usually devolved into us sitting and chatting in Spanish with me throwing in a word of English here and there, such as “novio es ‘boyfriend’ en ingles!” Even though the English lessons weren’t all that successful it was a chance for me to get to know the girls a bit better and for them to get to know more about me. I think that the more I simply let them come to me and ask me questions, make fun of me when I got things wrong or didn’t understand, the more they saw that I was someone they could be themselves around.
After the first two weeks I relaxed a lot and things became a lot less nerve racking, I always enjoyed going to CeCAM, even at the very beginning, but as my Spanish improved things became much easier. The arrival of another English volunteer helped massively. CeCAM was a pretty intense place to be every day and it was a great relief to have someone there at the end of a day who had heard and seen what I had and who I could talk to. From then on things just got better and better.
Some of the girls started to confide in us and to trust us enough to tell us about some really awful things that had happened to them. Sometimes they simply wanted to tell someone that they were fed up because they didn’t have any visitors that week, that they weren’t getting on with another girl or that they were bored of ceramics. After the girls started school a couple of mornings a week, we decided to go in the afternoons when they didn’t have much to do. We would drink mate, play card games and every now and then we brought things in to do. We brought Twister one day, which the girls absolutely loved. After a while they stopped spinning the wheel and just chose the move that would get Becki and me in the most awkward positions possible, which they thought was hilarious. One of the girls really wanted to learn English so we gave her a few lessons. We would listen to Argentinean rock music (they were big fans of ‘La Mona’) and they would try and teach us to dance, unfortunately our European hips don’t quite move like Argentinean hips. One day we took in t-shirts and paints so they could decorate their own tops but because they didn’t own many clothes and were seldom given them first hand, they didn’t want to ruin them with the paints so they ended up painting on old magazines instead.
Some days were hard just because of some of the stories that the girls would tell us about their family lives or things that had happened to them. They all had days where they were quiet and felt frustrated and sad and those were the days that we had to work harder than usual to interact and try and cheer them up. Of course we could never really understand how hard life was for them but we could try and understand and try and help in little ways.
When it came closer to the day I had to leave CeCAM I became more and more upset about the thought of leaving. I couldn’t imagine not seeing these girls every day. They had become great friends and I loved spending time with them. Eventually my last day arrived and it was really sad to leave but some of the girls who were expecting to get out soon gave me their addresses so that I could write to them. After hugs and promises to write and keep in touch as best as we could, I was locked out of CeCAM for the last time. It was horrible to leave the girls, the ceramics professors, all the staff who were so friendly and helpful and who were always doing their best to look after the girls. However, although it was hard to leave, it was a great feeling to think that the girls really trusted me now and I was no longer the shy little gringa sat in the corner of the ceramics class, I was someone who they seemed to trust and who I hope, they were glad had come. I will never forget the CeCAM girls and every day I hope that somehow their lives will get better, that they will make better choices and that someone in their lives will notice what special and fantastic people they are and give them the self-esteem they all truly lack and deserve. I can’t be sure how much I changed or helped them, but I do know that they definitely changed me for the better and not a day goes by that I don’t think about those summer months at CeCAM.
On July 20th of each year El Día del Amigo (Friend’s Day) celebrations take place in Argentina.
The idea for Friend's Day goes back to Argentine teacher, musician, and dentist Enrique Febbraro, who lobbied to turn the anniversary of the first moon landing into an international day of friendship, along his Rotary Club de Once, in Buenos Aires. He saw that for once in their lives around the world people were united and thought that this "big step for mankind" should really be remembered through a celebration as important as Christmas or New Year.
Febbraro argued that on this particular day, the whole world had been friends of the three astronauts and wrote a thousand letters to people around the world, suggesting that July 20th should become the day in which we would celebrate friendship. He received 700 responses and from the moment he founded the Friend's Day.
The first official recognition of the day came with decree No. 235/79 by the government of the province of Buenos Aires, which authorized the celebration and gave it official nature.
“A friend is someone you can count on, someone you can trust, someone you can rely on, someone who is always there in good times and bad times.”
“Friendship is based on trust and respect”
In Argentina, Friend's Day is often a good excuse for a common friendly gathering, though people also employ the day to get in contact with old and seldom-met friends and greet them. Though Friend's Day has always been respected, in recent years it has turned into a very popular mass phenomenon. In 2005, too many well-wishing friends led to a temporary breakdown of the mobile phone network in the cities of Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Córdoba and Rosario, comparable to the one experienced in 2004 on Christmas and New Year's Day.
I wish you all a happy friend's day!!!!
This week has been so far one the busiest weeks in July – 12 new arrivals, a monthly Social & a mini Dirty Weekend have contributed to the rush of this month. On Wednesday we were over 48 to meet at a Pizzaria for a fun evening all together. It’s always great to see the new volunteers meet the old ones and socialize!
Last night we had our monthly Mini Dirty Day at the Querrubines Foundation, a home for young children. Every month they organize a clothes fair to collect money for different projects and they asked Projects Abroad to give a hand. We spent a couple of hours there preparing everything and organizing the clothes for sale.
Tonight, is the two week special’s last night and we are going to be meeting at a local Parrilla Restaurant to eat a typical Argentinean barbecue!! The best in the world, I can assure you.
Before I came to Argentina, I read about fundraising on myprojectsabroad website. It sounded really cool so I decided to try it at home before my departure. At that time I was in Spain so I couldn’t do a lot of things but I sent an email to all my family, friends, neighbours and so on. I told them about my upcoming trip, the volunteering and my idea to collect money in Holland which I could use to buy school supplies or toys in Argentina. I chose to not buy the things in Holland because I didn’t really know what my placement needed and it was also easier because my suitcase was big, but not that big!
My family and friends all replied very positively and almost everyone gave some money; some of them a lot and some of them just a few euros. For my goodbye party I also asked my friends not to bring presents but to bring the money which they would have spent for a present otherwise. I put a big Argentina-box at the table in which they could put the money.
This is how I collected the money; it took me such a little time but by the time I went to Argentina, I had collected a lot of money! The first month in Argentina I didn’t really think about the money. I was too busy with learning Spanish, getting to know the other volunteers, my volunteering placement and all the other things Argentina has to offer! But after that month I started to talk with the helpful staff of Projects Abroad. They all helped me very much and we decided to give the money to different placements. There were a lot of placements which needed something; some paint, chairs, clothes and so on. So it was better to give a little bit to every placement instead of everything to one placement. We wanted to help as many people as possible! That week the staff helped me to buy the first things. One day we bought paint for the orphanage ‘Los Hermanitos’ and we started to paint the playhouse. When we started to paint it was all white and depressing but now it looks so much better (there are photos in the last newsletter) and the children loved it! That afternoon I also bought 15 pairs of shoes for the rugby-placement. This placement is located in the poorest neighbourhood of Córdoba where one man started to teach the boys how to play rugby. I went there with Sofia to bring the shoes and it was so impressive! About 60-100 boys come together 2 times a week to play rugby and they also get dinner for free on those evenings. We talked to the coach and he told us that he wanted to give the shoes to the boys who are the most motivated, who always come to the training and who performed well at school.
A few weeks later it was time to buy all the other stuff. We decided to buy something for some orphanages, the hospital in Rio Ceballos and also for the girls-prison in Córdoba. On a Saturday morning Sofia helped me to buy all that stuff in Córdoba. We spent the whole morning shopping. We went to 50 shops and we had to push everything in the tiny elevator, but we bought everything we wanted to. Towels, chairs, paint, underwear, socks, t-shirts, shoestrings, and so on. Maybe it doesn’t sound that special but the people we bought it for really needed it more than we needed those euros. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring all the stuff to all the placements anymore, but the staff of Projects Abroad did that for me and told me how grateful the people were.
My donations in Argentina made my experience in Córdoba even better than it would have been and I really recommend doing the same to new volunteers. It is such a small effort and you can really improve someone’s life there with little things! So just send an email to all your family and friends or organize a small event to collect money because it’s definitely worth the effort!
On Saturday July 10th I took the volunteers to see a local gaucho gathering near the small town of San Esteban. After a bumpy ride through farmland, we arrived to what we first thought was the wrong place, everywhere we looked it was deserted. However, with the help of an old man we discovered the “arena” where the competition was taking place.
Gauchos from around Argentina had gathered for three days to celebrate their skills with horses and compete with each other. I knew they were great horse riders but I didn’t realize how well they rode. It was impressive, especially when we met a 5 year old boy who rode as if he had been born on a horse.
After a morning watching the gauchos compete in the arena, we headed for lunch and enjoyed the festivities there. I felt like a family gathering, and our presence made it very interesting for the volunteers to question the gauchos about their horse riding skills and culture. A couple of choripans later, we headed back to another arena to see more horse riding skills before going back to Cordoba city.
Tucked in the south coast of the Nahuel Huapi Lake is the beautiful town of San Carlos de Bariloche. It is for many synonymous for winter, snow and skiing. Also known as the "American Switzerland", this area offers more than just a great ski destination.
Visitors are enchanted by the city's views of soaring mountains, clear lakes, and beautiful pine woods, all in the heartland of the nearby national park. With charming Swiss chalet style stone and wooden architecture, international ski slopes, and renowned chocolate shops, Bariloche is a place where time seems to have stopped. With a wide range of options for tourism, both conventional and adventurous, visitors throng to Bariloche year after year to breathe in its fresh mountain air and enjoy its truly everlasting beauty.
Bariloche, which is in the heart of Patagonia's Lake District, is in close proximity to several nearby attractions worth seeing during a visit. Travel to Argentina's oldest National Park - Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, explore the renowned touring circuits such as Circuito Chico, take a day trip to the enchanting Isla Victoria, visit the magnificent Llao Llao Resort on the peninsula that bears the same name, or even take the Lake Crossing Excursion to Chile. All these sight-seeing opportunities are easily accessible.
In winter, Bariloche provides excellent opportunities for skiing, an activity enjoyed from June to September. In fact, it is one of the best places to ski in South America! The main mountain is Cerro Catedral, only 18 kilometers from the city, with peaks resembling gothic temples and dozens of runs varying in difficulty for skiers of every level. A smaller skiing destination a few hours away from Bariloche is Cerro Chapelco in San Martin de los Andes.
Last Saturday Ariel, our Desk Officer, and I took the volunteers into the mountains for the day. We took a special train that goes all the way up to the city of Cosquin. With more than six year of absence, this train was open again in a section than links the Rodríguez del Busto station in the City of Córdoba (Center) with the La Calera, 16 kilometers away. The official project is to finish the itinerary to Santa Cruz del Eje, 150 kilometers away. This train has three cars built in Portugal with capacity for 120 passengers in every one. The train goes through the picturesque mountains of Córdoba towards Valle de Punilla. Part of this excursion extends up to the hillsides of Suquia River. Then, the train goes through long and smooth slopes of the Punilla landscape.
After a two hour trip through the Sierras Chicas of Cordoba, we discovered the small city of Cosquin. It is at 720 meters above sea level bordering on the north with Casa Grande, on the east with Sierras Chicas Range, on the west with San José and La Pampa de Olaen and on the south with Santa María de Punilla.
Famous due to the "Festival Nacional de Folklore" (Folklore National Festival) that calls together thousands of people from everywhere in its main square during nine moons for the identification of native music and dances inside and outside the country, Cosquín is the place where nature and man's culture join together in order to offer one the typical features of Argentina.
We decided to have lunch in a local restaurant before walking along the river to enjoy the afternoon sun. Thank you to all of those who participated in the Social!!
Football is a synonym for Argentinean. The passion awakened by this wonderful sport that reached the country back in 1840 on English ships can be breathed in the streets, bars and workplaces. Many of the immigrants who arrived on those boats settled down in these lands and founded colonies and colleges where the importance of physical education was encouraged. That is precisely the reason why Scottish professor, Alexander Watson Hutton, is considered the father of Argentinean football, because he fostered this sport so much.
In 1893, Hutton founded the Argentine Association Football League, which later incorporated the Amateur Association to give origin to the Argentine Football Amateur Association. During the same year, the local players started to become part of the teams that had only admitted English footballers so far. But this porteño sport was so popular that it was already being played in the streets and yards of the conventillos in the neighbourhoods of La Boca, Boedo and San Telmo.
It was not until 1899 that the first team of Argentinean footballers was created: Argentinos de Quilmes. This was officially the first Argentinean football club and ever since, football has become a national passion par excellence and it has been practiced by men and women of all ages in Argentina. Already in 1934, the organization called Asociación de Fútbol Argentino (AFA) - which stands for Argentinean Football Association in Spanish - was created. Some of the many best-known and most popular clubs are: River Plate, Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing Club and San Lorenzo.
The participation of Argentina in the World Cup had practically gone unnoticed until one man beyond compare made the difference. Diego Armando Maradona, a milestone that generates love and hatred at the same time. History goes that in 1978, the World Cup was held in Argentina and the national team won its first football world championship. Even though the victory was celebrated all throughout the country, there were enough domestic reasons for people not to feel completely identified. In 1986, instead, with democracy and Mexico as the host, Argentina did become consecrated as World Champions, without any help, without suspicion, just because they played the game and were the best. The way it should always have been. It was then when Diego Armando Maradona had the courage to avoid all and any player from the opposite team who dared to cross his way and score two jewels that would remain forever in the history of football. They both took place during the same match and had political and social condiments: the rival was England (the inventors of football), and it happened right after the war conflict between both countries over the famous Malvinas. The man in the T-shirt with the number 10 on it, dressed up as a magician forever. "The Hand of God" scored the first goal of this great match (illegally) and after a few minutes the whole world witnessed how this short man once nicknamed Pelusa scattered English players all around the field and showed us the best goal in the history of all world cup championships. The rest was just a procedure; the World Cup already had an Argentinean taste.
Whether a favourite for the title or not, the truth is that Argentina will take part in the new edition of the World Cup once again and this time it will be in South Africa 2010. The National Team, now coached by Diego Armando Maradona, considered by many as the best football player ever, will include football celebrities consecrated worldwide who will attempt to repeat the deeds of Mexico 1986, when Argentina was crowned World Champion. The first-round debut will set it face to face with the Nigerian national team on June 12. The second game will be played on June 17 against South Korea and, on the third one, which will define the round of sixteen, Argentina will share the field with the Greek team.
Television will let Argentineans travel to the African continent and settle down in South Africa. They will see the most representative cities. They will be there, their hearts pounding. They will have their amulets and carry out their rituals, those that have always brought Argentina good luck. There are high expectations. Whether lovers of football or not, 37 million Argentineans started June longing for the World Cup, which may bring the big trophy to Argentina.
Tomorrow morning Argentina will be playing against Germany - The whole country will be holding its breath for 90 minutes... VAMOS ARGENTINA!!!!!!
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