Get Exployring!

So I have put this aside and for the time being I am working on building a community centered around extreme sports and adventure in general.  The website is www.exployre.com.  We have topics, reviews, photos, news, and videos on everything from skydiving, to rock climbing to kayaking.  So come check it out and get to exployring!

Noticas de La Plata

Many of us from UNC who were traveling abroad this summer had a few safety training courses beforehand.  There was one about identifying threats before they happened, one about how we react to these threats, and a third where we were required to write a travel safety plan before hand and it was analyzed during the session.  The training was relatively in-depth and run by some fellows who knew what they were talking about.  One of the topics that they touched on was the food in foreign countries and specifically taking food from street vendors.  Now a few days ago Cameron, Emily and I went on a wild goose chase with our program director, Horacio, that led us to a small university, the massive cathedral to the left in the small city of Lujan, and eventually that night to a rough corner of Buenos Aires where our director had to meet up with someone in the city.  To start off our adventure we got chorypans, which are simply homemade sausages on bread (chor->chorizo=sausage, y=and, pan=bread) from a street vendor.  Now our safety guys had told us to be wary about street food.  But I figured I would go for it, and guess what? food poisoning.  Funny how that works.

The elections for Argentina are in October and to say that the country’s citizens are politically active doesn’t quite get the point across.  They have plane’s fly over the city blaring, “Todos con Cristina,” the nation’s current president, which to someone unused to these types of political antics seems like it has a slight touch of propaganda and manipulation.  The graffiti covering the walls, the buildings, and the national monuments of the city don’t reference many gangs or intend to vandalize, their purpose is to push one candidate or to bash another which is an interesting sight to see what seem to be the work of relatively well informed political pundits sprayed across even some of the city’s most symbolic monuments.

Today the forecast is slightly cloudy with a chance of volcanic ash so we’ll see how the eruption of the Puyehue Volcano in Chile that affects things here in La Plata.  Our plans to travel to Bariloche after the internship, which currently has two feet of ash in some areas, may be put on hold for the moment.  The volcano sent a plume of ash 6 miles into the air halting air traffic and forcing the surrounding areas to stop all activity and stay inside.  No ash in La Plata yet but it is predicted to reach here by this afternoon.  But until then, here at the Biosfera Foundation, we’ll be working on saving the world one plastic bottle, one fluorescent light, and one tree at a time.

Adjustando

The past few days have been a lot of settling in, a lot of experiencing, and a lot of learning that they do things a little differently here.  The Foundation for Sustainable Development was the group that organized our trip, found the NGO where we will be working, located host families and various other things; they had us go through an orientation which was something of a crash course in Argentine culture, the work of local NGOs and how to make the most of our time here.  Emily and Cameron are my two companions for the whole of this trip; we are all from UNC and we will all be working on similar projects with Biosfera.  Emily is documenting the trip in photos here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ebowe/sets/72157626819431282/ (or just http://www.flickr.com/ebowe for her whole flickr account).  Tuesday night was our last night in the hostel and on Wednesday afternoon, after our last day of orientation with FSD, Emily, Cameron and I were picked up by our respective host families and carried off into the thick of Argentine culture.

Now having only been here for a week; still having the perspective of a foreigner in the country there are a few things that stand out.  First off, the city’s garbage disposal system is a bit different from ours.  In NYC horse-drawn carriages are for romantic types or a pleasant jaunt around town, but here, they are the garbage disposal system.  The city’s populace simply throws the trash, usually in bags, onto the sidewalk and the drivers of the carriages pick it up, often with their children.  Another difference is that the city doesn’t have public bathrooms and using a store or restaurant bathroom isn’t an option unless you are a paying customer; now whether it is common I know not, but apparently, when necessary, some folks simply relieve themselves on the street or specifically on a mailbox as Emily and I saw just a day or two ago which required a suprised double-take.

Along with simply adjusting to the pace of life here things are all going well; even if that pace means that they are going a little slow.  We’ve spent two days at Biosfera thus far and haven’t done much besides have a “lluvia de ideas,” literally a rain of ideas, aka brainstorm, about the projects we will be working on for the next two months which, for me, currently include:  helping a mechanical engineering student from Canada with his wind turbine, building a homemade solar water heater from recycled materials and helping to fix the roof of the greenhouse here at the office which was broken by some local kids throwing rocks at the building, or most likely right now: devising a system of dividing and holding trash, recyclables including metal, plastic, paper, and then compostable organic matter for a few of the major government and commercial buildings of the city.

As the acclimitazion continues I am understanding more and more more of the Castellano language which initially seemed to be part Spanish, part Italian and part gibberish with a zchhhh thrown in there every couple seconds, but luckily it is beginning to make a bit of sense.  Now that it is finally la fin de semana and I have no obligitations tomorrow I’m hoping the weather holds and we get to go explore.

Patrick

Bienvenido a Argentina

It is somewhat daunting to sit down and write your thoughts out for others to read and others that you know quite well.  I journal for myself regularly, just to keep track of things, just to remember, but it is a whole different experience and process when you are writing down your private thoughts for others to read.  I will try not to make it too much of a different process but we’ll see how it goes.

So after  a slight delay in Norfolk, due to some angry clouds up around JFK, which led to a not so slight delay in Miami, that included a questionable motel stay, I made it to Buenos Aires.  From there I took a bus with some locals to La Plata.  Apparently there aren’t many traffic rules, or they are more like traffic suggestions here.  A red light here means, “stop if you’d like, but if not, don’t worry about,” and the intersections that don’t have stop signs for any directions are a somewhat different experience than those in the US.  But the driver got us here and without incident.

One a different note Argentina is a Spanish speaking nation.  Now I’ve taken Spanish for 4 years now and I’ve come to like the language.  But I know it as one building on the UNC campus, and that’s all that I know of it.  That is not all there is to it.  At UNC if you walk out of Dey hall then everyone speaks English again.  Here, when I walk out of the hostel, the Spanish becomes twice as fast and is mostly slang.  There is going to be some language adjustment.

At this point I am at Frankville hostel, and it is exactly what comes to mind when I think of a hostel.  They have Wi-Fi, lots of Europeans, rooms with what look like toy locks and 7 other strangers have the key, thankfully one bi-lingual woman working the front desk, and are smack dab in the middle of La Plata.  It should be a fun week.  After the week here its off to stay with the host family but for now its time to explore downtown and see what restuarants La Plata has to offer

Patrick

la explicación

I am a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Class of 2014 and over the next three summers I will be doing quite a bit of traveling and in these virtual pages I hope to document these global ventures.

Over the next ten weeks I’ll be working and living in La Plata, Argentina.  Living with a local host family and working through the Foundation for Sustainable Development (http://www.fsdinternational.org/) as an intermediate for the Biosfera Foundation in La Plata (http://www.biosfera.org/) on a to be determined environmental project.  8 weeks of working with Biosfera and then a week and some change of exploring the country with a few friends.  This blog is to keep track of the trip, both for myself and anyone who, for some reason or another, happens to be interested in my travels and, hopefully, adventures.