Saturday, January 17, 2009

I have arrived safely in Buenos Aires in spite of the shortcomings of air travel. I believe my plane took off and landed two times in addition to the scheduled three due to equipment failure of both plane and passenger. Oh the joys of flying! But I am grateful for its existence, as annoying as it can be. How else would I be able to go to sleep in Ohio one night, and in Argentina the next? The last leg of the flight was long. It has taken over the previous number one spot for my longest flight ever, 8 hours to France. After Huston it was 10+ hours of broken sleep, movies you’d never have bothered to see otherwise, and lots of turbulence. And then finally……bienvenidos Buenos Aires!

The airport was very easy to navigate. Customs was a breeze. My bag was lost and I successfully filed the claim. I can only hope it will arrive tomorrow morning as promised. I was surprised to find how many Argentines speak English. As obvious tourists approached the claim desk, I observed that they were spoken to in English first. Whether this is just an airport phenomenon remains to be seen. Now, I have actually had two successful semesters of college Spanish. Those classes feel practically worthless to me now. I find myself concentrating so hard on understanding what people are saying to me that I freeze when I am expected to respond. My mind goes blank and all I can do is stand there with a bewildered look on my face. I can’t even muster a “no entiendo.” This has been one of the biggest stressors so far. It is embarrassing more than anything else. These people are bilingual at least and I can’t even engage them in the most basic conversations. However, I must keep in mind that this is why I’m here, to be uncomfortable, to broaden my perspective, to learn.

So I walk through the sliding doors and I immediately recognize my people. The smiling, welcoming faces of Luli and Tony were a sight for sore eyes. I’m sure they were delighted to see me too, they were waiting at least two hours for my arrival. Luli is a small and sweet native who is working with Tony to help the students in our group get acclimated. She immediately greeted me with a kiss on the left cheek. Here I’d like to mention that this is one of my favorite things about traveling abroad, discovering how people greet each other. It is so much more genuine and intimate than the insincere handshake of America, and it is always a little different everywhere I’ve been.

This was also the first time I had actually met Tony. We have been communicating via email and telephone for about three months now and it was great to finally meet him. He has been my sole contact with Panrimo and he has been amazing. One of the reasons I decided to go with Panrimo, a small company as opposed to the bigger more reputable study abroad companies, was the hope of a more personal relationship. It has so far been a 100% positive experience working with them. I am really appreciating the one- on-one help that I am getting from Tony and Panrimo. This program was definitely the right fit for me so far. I think this small group of students and the personal relationship I have with Panrimo will really enrich my study abroad experience.

Tomorrow’s topic: my host family and the strangeness of living with strangers. I need my luggage to continue so I can charge my computer so cross your fingers! By the way, some comforts of home that I am glad I brought with me: my computer and my pillow. Sweet dreams…….

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