Blog Post Four
Hello for one final time,
Now that I have been back home for one week, I am finally able to reflect comprehensively on my time in Buenos Aires. At first, the sudden transition back to real life in Tacoma felt too rushed. I had just gotten settled into my routine in Buenos Aires, adapting to the city which at first felt so foreign. While in Buenos Aires, I found solace in the fact that life there differed so much from the one I lead here in Tacoma. At the same time, I missed a lot of aspects of my daily life in the small city, which I realized I had been taking for granted. After the first couple days back in Tacoma, the transition started to blend into a sense of comfort and familiarity. I still reflect on the many incredible experiences I had in Buenos Aires, and feel grateful to be able to vividly recall these memories. If I try hard enough to activate my senses, it’s almost as if I’m back in Argentina. I can still feel the wind generated by a city bus passing me on a narrow street, mere inches away from my face. I hear the white noise of Spanish being spoken around me, so incomprehensible that I just tuned it out after a while. I can smell the potent mix of cigarette and sewage, that I’d encounter while walking down certain alleys. These are unique memories that I will never forget.
When reflecting on my time in Buenos Aires to my friends and family, I do not detail my daily routines, but rather I describe the remarkable characteristics of the city. I usually highlight the surprisingly bland food, busy traffic, black market ubers, beautiful architecture, and political turmoil. These are cultural differences that I had no preconceived notion of encountering, but ones that stuck with me. The mantra I live by is that experiencing a different culture, whether locally or internationally, is one of the best things you can do for your personal growth. For my first experience outside North America, studying abroad in Buenos Aires reaffirmed the benefit of embracing this motto. Seeing how people place value on different aspects of life, makes me appreciate what I have, while also being inspired by how people from another culture interact with each other and the world around them.
Blog Post Three
Well, my time here in Buenos Aires is coming to a close. I write this on Wednesday evening and most of my classmates are leaving on Friday after class. While I miss certain aspects of life back home, I cherish my time in this city because it feels so refreshing and is a place where my life back home does not apply. It has been hard not to regret not exploring more of this city, but I think that is due to the fact that this city is so large and our time here is limited, especially when time dedicated to class and field work is factored in. While I am typically avert to schedules in my normal life, I feel that while making future travel plans, I will try to plan out my days because, before you know it, it’s time to go home. Nonetheless, my time here in Buenos Aires has been remarkable and hard to put it into words. I love it here and every day there is something amazing I come across that I wouldn’t have imagined seeing back home. At the same time, the bustle of the big city stresses me out. It is impossible to go anywhere outside of the hostel where there aren’t at least fifty people in your immediate eyesight, and that’s not an exaggeration. The mass concentration people in Buenos Aires is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
At this time, my research is wrapping up and I’m beginning to conceptualize the results and my data that I’ve collected. After many revisions, my research question has ended up being, “In an effort to advance bicycle share systems towards achieving transportation equity, what can be learned from the functionality of EcoBici within Buenos Aires?”. To try to answer this question, I have been examining the location of docking stations and the surrounding urban infrastructure to facilitate ridership in neighborhoods of various income-levels. Relating to the last paragraph, this city is so huge that it has required more effort than I imagined to reach each location that I sought to examine. I have been able to go to the neighborhoods of Palermo, Recoletta, Retiro, San Nicholas, Puerto Madero, Boca, Barracas, and San Telmo. These neighborhoods are within the city of Buenos Aires, but they could really be cities on their own as they are large and each have their own distinct qualities.
On Saturday, I was able to go to the La Boca Juniors futbol game. As sports are closely related with culture, and soccer is so closely tied to Buenos Aires culture, I felt that I had to see what it was really all about. I have heard going to a soccer game in Buenos Aires is a sports experience that I would never get anywhere else, and it absolutely lived up to the hype. We arrived at the stadium a couple hours before game time and got to witness the stadium fill in with 45,000 people. About thirty minutes before the game started, the stadium was full and chants were already on the way. I wish I could attach sound to these blog posts, because the voices in unison were something I had never witnessed at any United States sporting match.
Well, I hope everyone has had a nice time wherever they may be. If you ever have the opportunity to do so, travel, travel, and travel. It is one of life’s greatest experiences. When I speak to you next, I will be back home! Wow, that feels weird to say. Take care!
Blog Post Two: Initial Thoughts about Buenos Aires
Now that I have been in Buenos Aires for four days, I am able to understand the culture a bit more. It doesn’t feel like I have been here that long; time has flown by. My flight from Miami to Buenos Aires was the biggest plane I have ever been on. It was three aisles wide and many rows deep and it seemed that everyone on the plane except my travel buddy (Jen) and I had Spanish as their first language. That was only the beginning of what was to come. After two days of travelling and a missed flight, I arrived to Buenos Aires on the morning of August 26th, feeling a combination of exhaustion and pure thrill.
As I said in my last blog, Argentina is my first country (outside of Canada) that I have been to. Therefore, it is the most different culture I have ever experienced. To communicate in Buenos Aires, I have been using what I remember from high school Spanish class and the Duolingo lessons I have been doing periodically on my phone. I have been surprised about how many words I remember from high school, but it is still not enough to hold a conversation. Not many people here speak English, and if they do, they only know common phrases. Despite the language barrier and lack of efficiency, I have found trying to communicate with the locals to be quite amusing. It has been a fascinating insight into human communication. Despite our lack of verbal understanding, we can get ideas across based on body language and basic common phrases from each other’s language. For the most part, the locals are very patient and gracious as we attempt to understand one another.
So far, my main takeaway about the people of Buenos Aires has been premised from what our walking tour guide told the group, describing the political turmoil and historical resistance to authority that exists within Buenos Aires culture. This rebellion that exists within this culture is a remarkable trait and one that I have definitely noticed during my short time here. Every day walking the streets, I see protests about social issues that the people feel is not being handled adequately by the government. A lot of this distress is represented in street art all around the city. It is not hard to find the words “aborto legal” spray painted on just about every block, in protest against the country’s illegalization of abortion. I have seen protests against police brutality, poor work conditions, and in favor of fair wages. Each protest was packed with emotion and I felt the passion radiating from the disgruntled attendees. It is both inspiring as wells as disturbing that people feel essentially hopeless against their local and federal government.
When I write next week, I am sure I will have seen more protests to update you on. Until then, take care!
Blog Post One: Pre-departure Thoughts
I have been counting down the days until I leave for Buenos Aires and I am now just three days away from boarding my flight to Panama. It doesn’t feel real yet; I don’t think it will actually kick in until I arrive at my hostel. I booked the first night at Millhouse Hostel in the Congreso neighborhood of Buenos Aires for only $11 a night. I have heard that everything is cheaper in Buenos Aires, so I expect to treat myself to at least one fancy steak dinner. Apparently, most meals in Buenos Aires revolve around a plate of beef and vegetables will be hard to come by. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I’m excited nonetheless. Probably my favorite part of traveling is researching places to eat. I like finding genuine, hole-in-the wall food that can accurately exemplify the cuisine in that particular area. You can learn a lot about a culture by learning about their food. A couple weeks ago, I watched Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on Buenos Aires, where he painted a pretty bleak picture of the place. I wasn’t sure if that was a reflection of his mental state or an accurate portrayal of the city, but I am trying to go in without any assumptions. I’ve never been to a foreign country before and I truly do not know what to expect.
This past week, we have been working in class to develop our research questions and figure out what exactly in Buenos Aires we will choose to study. Being a Sustainable Urban Development student, I naturally thought about topics related to the city’s urban infrastructure and possible social issues that may exist. While researching, I came across the city’s new bikeshare system, which was implemented as part of their Sustainable Mobility Plan. By all accounts, the system has been a great success by increasing the number of those choosing bicycles over private vehicles as their mode of transport. To facilitate this modal shift, the city has made investments in bicycle transportation infrastructure through an interconnected network of protected bike lanes throughout the city. Upon further research into similar bicycle sharing programs, I came across articles critiquing the class exclusivity of bicycle transportation. This was not really an issue I had considered before; I had assumed that bicycling was one of the more equitable modes of transportation considering its relatively low-cost compared to car ownership. However, these articles explained that it is the lack of investment in bicycle-friendly urban infrastructure within lower-income neighborhoods that lead to this class exclusivity. Finding this topic of transportation justice to be very intriguing, I determined that I want to orient my research around determining how well Buenos Aires’ bicycle sharing system achieves transportation equity, and I am very eager to get started.
Next time you’ll hear from me, I will be fully immersed within Buenos Aires and will have more to say on the bicycle sharing subject. Until then, take care!