It’s been one week and three days since I left wonderful New Zealand of Argentina….. and boy what a week and three days it has been. I currently sit at my host families computer having no idea where to start. I don’t want to bore anyone, so hopefully this wont be too long. I guess I should start with where it all started yes…..
I departed Wellington at 12.05pm last Tuesday. I left a very teary eyed mother and the rest of my family for this big adventure to Argentina. I took in the New Zealand country side one last time as I flew from Wellington to Auckland for my flight to Santiago. I don’t think it had hit me yet that in less than 17 hours I would be on a foreign continent 10000km from little Aotearoa. I arrived in Auckland and made my way to the international terminal to find the other three New Zealand gappers waiting patiently for me to check in. With my bags on the plane I made my way to the international departure gates whilst the others said goodbye to their families.
We had heard that we would be meeting the 12 Australian gappers in the Auckland terminal and sure enough there they were and upon meeting they immediately in sued the Kiwi bashing. Although they were all awesome people and I might even be travelling with them around South America after my 4 month placement finishes. We made our way to the departure gate and well….. departed New Zealand, bound for South America.
Having never really flown long distances before I was quite excited by the fact that I would have my own T.V with multiple movies and t.v shows. I thought the flight would be over in no time. How wrong I was. Two hours in…. dead bored and wanting just to get there. One thing that amazed me was the ability of the flight attendants to speak about 3 or 4 different languages to the passengers! I think there were Spanish, English, Portuguese and even Italian! The flight went slowly but I managed to make friends with a little Brazilian boy who was 8 years old called Juan Pablo. He was flying all by himself! We managed to find out that both of us were football fans so because of the language barrier all we did was say player names and then agree if they were good or not! That passed like 20 minutes…. Anyway we arrived in Santiago and had a 5 hour wait there. They anticipation only grew!
We boarded our flight to Buenos Aires! Only a two flight but the scenery was absolutely amazing! We were lucky we had a clear day so we were able to see the absolutely magnificent Andes ranges as we flew over. I spent a good hour of that flight with my mouth open in awe. We touched down in Buenos Aires and that was something else… 80 kilometres in diameter and over 10 million inhabitants. I just couldn’t get over it! After going in the wring customs line and having to go all the way back to the start of another line I finally made it “into” Buenos Aires.
We boarded a bus and drove more than 45 minutes to our Hostel in Palermo. People here drive like crazy by the way. No regard for the law. Upon arrival to the hostel we meet probably the most amazing woman I have ever met. Kika the Lattitude representative of Argentina. She had a dinner of Empanadas (a filling filled pastry) waiting for us and we all awkwardly ate and small talked with the 6 volunteers from England Wales and Canada. Having not slept for more than 24 hours most of us crashed straight after dinner.
We awoke to an absolute scorcher of a day with the temperature 25 degrees and rising rapidly! It was only 9 30 as well! We had been arranged a tour of Buenos Aires on bus but first we eat our first Argentinean lunch out at a cafe called Donca. Rhys (a fellow volunteer from Wales) and I both met the love of our lives at this restaurant. She shall be called Colombo because we never plucked up the courage to ask her name. She was a Columbian waitress at Donca. I think I’m going to go live in Columbia now……. Anyway we boarded the bus for our tour and our first stop was Ricoletta. Ricoletta is one of the biggest cemeteries in the world and all the graves are layered out like the streets of Buenos Aires. It is called `the second city’. It is a cemetery for the very wealthy with giant tombs encasing the coffins or ashes of the wealthiest families in Argentina.
Travelling to the south of the city we arrived at La Boca. Influenced by Italian immigrants all the houses and streets were painted with every colour imaginable. Home of the famous Boca Juniors who play at the La Bombonero (chocolate box) and the birth place of Tango. Whilst walking the streets I got asked twice “come have a drink with my sister, she is waiting in the basement” which I later found out was translated into “I am tricking you into buying a prostitute”. Good thing I said no…. Tango dancers lined the streets with little stores selling all sorts of trinkets and gifts. I regret not buying anything.
Later that evening we went out and had dinner at a night club called Kika (not the kika mentioned before). Yes you read it correctly; we had dinner at a night club. Trust me it was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. Eating a three course meal whilst dance music blared and lights flashed all around. We stayed out late and “discoed” but grew very tired as the morning came closer. We learnt that no one really comes out until 4 in the morning…. That when we left. Better get used to it I guess.
The next day we took a boat trip from Tigre to the “Isla de Tigres” where we were treated to a traditional Argentinean barbecue (if it sounds like we are eating a lot you would be correct). We went out to dinner at Donco with, much to my delight, Columbo working again. We had what was called Milliones which is basically, a ginormous piece of crumbed beef. But boyyyyyyy is it tasty. This was accompanied with probably the largest baked potato I have seen, maybe ever known by man.
They next day was spent having free time and wandering the streets of Bs As. We spent about half an hour trying to order pizza at a pizzeria. But finally we managed. We ate probably the best Ice cream I have ever had too (sorry NZ). Unfortunately, whilst out and about one girl from the group did get her necklace mugged right off her neck. It was a pure gold necklace for “safe travels”. How ironic.
Later that night, another disaster hit. We were preparing to leave on a bus from Buenos Aires to Neuquén. But, typical Argentina, the bus union decided to strike. No buses were allowed to leave Bs As. Unbeknownst to us we set out for the bus station. The traffic was absolutely insane. We weren’t able to make it to the station so the taxi driver made us get out and take the subway. If outside was about 20 degrees, inside the subway felt like 50 degrees. It was disgusting. Carrying 20 kg’s of luggage (yes I know I took too much) up stairs and through countless people, I believe I lost about 5 kgs. Arriving at the station and finding that no buses were leaving we pitched our tent and waited. Kika was rushing around finding out every little bit of information possible and bringing us snacks and water. I began to think that nothing happened in Argentina without her approval first. God bless her. After 4 hours of waiting we finally found that buses began to move and soon enough our bus was called for us to board. Although I was sad to leave my new friends from all over the world. We will keep in touch though.
We boarded our bus to Neuquén to find probably the most amazing seats ever. Comfier than a plane, they almost reclined completely flat. You can be safe to assume that I slept for the majority of this bus ride.
After the 15 hour trip to Neuquén we exited the bus to find our host families waiting for us. A hug and a kiss from my host mother Andrea and I was on my way to my new home. I met my host sister Martina (who is 9) in a cafe where I was fed a massive sandwich filled with steak! Protein galore, I know.
We arrived at my new house to find a police van outside. Great I thought a rough neighbourhood. Lucky me. But this thought was soon extinguished, as we found that it was just a loose wire in the alarm system. I met my host father, Beto, who doesn’t speak a word of English, but he is still hilarious, although, I don’t know what he is saying half the time. I slept from 3 in the afternoon till 9 the following morning and was treated to Asado. A traditional Argentinean barbecue on Sundays. We then slept because it was too hot to do anything outside. I like this place. We then visited my host mothers brother. His daughter showed me their pets. They have fish……. two turtles……. and albino hedgehog and a snake which they didn’t know where it was! Because that didn’t make me nervous at all!
This week I have been just getting to know Neuquén and working my way round my places of work. I will be teaching for Multiliguas (a language institute) and at Confluencia (a local private high school). Having been to Confluencia, I was absolutely amazed at the level of English these 15 16 17 year old children can speak. They are borderline fluent. They have 6 hours of school a day and 3 hours of that day is completely dedicated and IN ENGLISH! They do 14 subjects and studying things like history and geography IN ENGLISH! It really is crazy.
To give you an idea Neuquén is a city about the size of Palmy North and with the population of Wellington. I walk to the city everyday for work and next week I will begin really working with a timetable. There is little crime (that I know of) and most people seem very nice. It’s mostly but it hardly ever rains even in winter so everything has to be irrigated manually. Also the footpath is absolutely destroyed so you need to look where you are going……. trust me I know! Otherwise you look like and absolutely fool tripping up in the middle of a busy street.
Sorry this went on for so long….. I can’t believe his is only my first week….. Feels like forever. Keep me updated with all the goss in Wellies and around the place. And I miss you all a ton. Come visit me please.
But for now Ciao Ciao (kiss on the check) <—– that’s just how it is here. Even if you don’t know the person.