First Day!

Today was my first day meeting my students! I was supposed to start on Monday but we had two cold days, so the new semester actually began today. The teacher I am subbing for was there as well – her last day is now Friday. I am glad we were able to start the semester together so that the students can see we’re on the same page and whatnot. 

My day looks like this:

Hour 1 – Spanish 4

Advisement – This is about a half hour and I have seniors. We do some curriculum things and some study hall on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday all students choose 2 or 3 different teachers to be assigned to so that they can get help in their classes. No students take a study hall at my school, they’re all required to take all four block classes (unless they have work release and are upperclassmen). So this gives everyone an opportunity to meet with teachers and get help. I think it’s a cool system! 

Hour 2- Prep

Hour 3 A Lunch – That’s right, Prep + Lunch = ALMOST 2 HOURS OF PREP TIME!

Hour 3B/C – Spanish 1

Hour 4 – Spanish 4

It is really great only having 3 groups of students, and all my classes are around 25 students. 4th hour basically all know one another so they’re a little chatty but seem really fun. Spanish 1 is always a struggle for me, especially for 83 minutes! Day 1 presented some potential troublemakers so we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks. The classes meet everyday for one semester, so some of my Level 4 kids haven’t had Spanish 3 for an entire year. That might also present a challenge.

Tomorrow and Friday I am not teaching, but I’m going in after school to meet with the teacher I’m subbing for and get myself organized. I’m so excited to get my hands on a classroom again! 

From “Miss” to “Profe”

In 2013 I lived in Argentina. It’s weird to put that entirely in the past tense now. It was an amazing experience that I am deeply grateful for. I taught English at a private high school in Salta and was fortunate enough to have amazingly dedicated, talented, and advanced English students. I miss them already!

Now that I am back in the USA it’s time to make the adjustment from being called “Miss” to being called “Profe” and “Señorita.” In a few weeks I will be starting out at a large metro-Milwaukee area high school teaching Spanish I and Spanish IV on block schedule. I will only have about 80 students and have almost 85 minutes of prep time each day (woo hoo!). I am excited to meet new students, learn about a new district, and try things out on block! I will also be teaching Spanish IV for the first time ever. So this blog is turning from one about my experiences in Argentina to one about my experiences as a teacher.

I won’t be offended if you all unfollow – my daily teaching struggles and successes will probably be not nearly exciting as going to Machu Picchu! But if you want to keep following along as I become a better teacher you are more than welcome! This will be a place where I hopefully make note of good lessons, talk about my failures and proud moments, work through tough days, procrastinate when I don’t want to grade, etc. So, here we go… from “miss” to “profe”!

Salta (12/13-12/18)

We made it from Iguazú to Salta with no issues at all. It’s weird to think that on December 13th when we landed Salta felt so much like home to me and now it seems like a distant memory. We made it to my apartment which was still in good shape thanks to my friend Matías who kept an eye on it while I was gone! After throwing in some laundry and relaxing it was time to show my mom Salta! It’s weird to show someone a place you’ve been living for almost a year, because everything is so familiar to you and so distant to them. Anyways, we checked out the plaza, ran some errands and then headed to dinner at Café del Tiempo, one of my favorite spots in Salta. I had made a Salta itinerary so I was able to revisit all of my favorite places (or at least that was the plan…).

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Pedestrian streets near the plaza

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Cabildo in the plaza

The next morning we headed up to La Quebrada de Humahuaca which I had visited 4 times before and blogged about a ton. We had horrible weather – it was super gloomy and ominous which makes the Quebrada towns not nearly as cute as they usually are. But we still had a good time!

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Gloomy weather in Tilcara

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We did meet a lot of stray pups

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Salt flats will never get old

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Terrifying drive on a mountain road with this much fog behind a semi truck – coming back from the salt flats

The next night (Sunday night) we were back in Salta and ordered pizza and watched the Packers game on my laptop – felt just like a Sunday at home! Monday and Tuesday I had lots of errands to run, lots of loose ends to tie up, and friends and Rotarians to say goodbye to!

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Last time I will ever be seeing my “Facultad” at my university

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This is the university exam schedule… hahahaha

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From the top of the hill overlooking Salta

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The central market where I always bought my produce

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A typical intersection in Salta… no stop signs or red lights anywhere. Just go.

My last few days in Argentina also meant a final trip to the grocery store and eating at all my favorite restaurants!

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The aisle at the grocery store dedicated to “mate,” a looseleaf Argentine tea consumed my 98% of the population…. so many varieties

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Lots of different brands of dulce de leche!

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Aniceto, my favorite breakfast spot

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Lunch at Santa Gula with a fresh pitcher of lemonade

So, as I mentioned above, I had my last days planned down to the minute really. Our flight from Salta to Buenos Aires was scheduled on Wednesday, December 18th at around 1 PM. On Monday night, I took my mom to Balderrama, one of the most famous folk music peñas in Salta. It has been around forever and is a must-see in the city for most tourists and those who want a look at folklore culture. We got there about a half hour before the show was set to start, ordered dinner… and were the only ones there. We ate and I finally asked the waiter about the show. “Oh, no show tonight, you’re the only people here.” “Oh. So just… no show?” “No.” “Well this is my second to last night in Argentina and I really wanted to show this to my mom.” “Oh.” GREAT. Epic failure.

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At Balderamma… total disappointment

We left the restaurant and I immediately started to feel sick. I sucked it up because I had plans with my two best friends, Matías and Camila, to make s’mores. They have no idea what s’mores are because there are neither marshmallows nor graham crackers in Argentina, so my mom brought the ingredients all the way from the USA! Thanks mom!

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The s’more making was very successful, but I felt awful all night. The next day (Tuesday, my last full day in Argentina) my mom and I had plans to spend more time exploring Salta and that night was my going away party at my favorite restaurant in Salta, la Casona, which I’ve blogged about before. However, around 1 PM I started to feel really really hot even though it was only 75 degrees out with a light breeze. We went to lunch and I wasn’t hungry but ate a little bit and felt nauseous and dizzy and hot the entire time. We got back to my apartment, I laid down and immediately knew… I had food poisoning. The same place that screwed us out of a folklore show also gave me food poisoning. Great.

So rather than spending my last afternoon wandering the streets of the town I’d called home for the last year and spending my last night surrounded my friends and live folklore music, I spent it in my bathroom (I’ll spare you the details). My mom was great about the whole thing, even though I could see that she was disappointed she never got to experience a huge part of Salta culture and something that had become super important to me over the past 11 months. I sent sad text messages and emails to everyone I had invited and realized I would not be seeing any of them before leaving for the USA because I just couldn’t physically leave my apartment.

The next morning I actually felt better, went to pay my final cell phone bill, run some final errands, and move our BAJILLION suitcases down to my apartment building entrance. My friend Matías came over to say a final goodbye, I gave him my extra key so he could go in and take a lot of the stuff I had bought during the year (an iron, toaster oven, etc.), and we got into the taxi.

Salta, I love you. You were the cause of extreme frustration and confusion. You make waiting in line for 30 minutes look easy. One of your master’s programs is basically awful and unfortunately that’s the one I chose. You have great public transportation. Your inflation is really scary and makes me worry about the future. Your people are kind and always willing to help. I will miss your little kioskos, your insanely dangerous traffic, your beautiful plaza, your amazing empanadas, your enchanting folklore. I will miss your long nights that don’t even begin until 2 AM. I will miss the Spanish classes with Pato. I will miss drinking mate every day. I will miss spending time with my Argentine friends, speaking a crazy mix of Spanish and English. I will miss the crazy gringo friend group that somehow found each other in a city of 600,000. I will miss you Salta. I will miss you.

I know I will be back someday. I don’t know when. Maybe Fulbright will work out. Maybe it won’t. But I know that I have eleven months worth of amazing memories. I’ve become a much stronger, more patient, more reflective person. I’ve become more fluent in Spanish. I’ve returned with a huge wealth of new cultural experiences and resources that will make me a better teacher as I take on Spanish 1 and 4 at Hamilton this spring.

This New Year’s Day, I am thankful for an amazing, incredible experience in Salta, Rotary. Thank you for an unmatchable year. Adiós, 2013. Te espero, 2014.

I leave you with a piece of Argentine music: La llave, by Abel Pintos.

Salta, la distancia y el tiempo no saben la falta que le haces a mi corazón. 

Iguazú (12/10-12/13)

As soon as we landed, despite not having any luggage, my mom was SO happy. She loves hot, tropical climates. My huge hair doesn’t really like them so I don’t either. But I too fell in love with Iguazú as soon as I saw where we were staying. There is one hotel within the Iguazú National Park in Argentina… the Sheraton. It’s definitely, definitely worth it to stay there because you end up with a view like this from your room…

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Breathtaking. The first day we just relaxed, enjoyed the amazing view, ate some great food and waited for our luggage (which arrived that night, luckily!). The next morning we got up very early to be at the park by 9 AM. The National Park is literally connected to the path to the Sheraton, so within 10 minutes of leaving your hotel you experience views like this:

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We also decided to take a boat INTO the waterfalls. They warn you that you will get wet but I guess I didn’t realize that we’d be directly underneath the entire force of the waterfall. I had a great waterproof digital camera, attached it to my wrist, and just randomly took pictures with my eyes closed (the water power is too powerful to keep your eyes open).

1484055_686696894694193_1822661700_oAfter a beautiful day mesmerized by the waterfalls, the next day we decided to spend the morning in Puerto Iguazú (the city) and the afternoon by the pool. The city was mediocre at best – not worth spending much time there. But the pool at the Sheraton is definitely worth spending time at.

Happy mom! :)

Happy mom! :)

Iguazú was definitely one of the top 5 most amazing places I have ever been and I am so happy I was able to experience it with my mom!

Punta Tombo, Puerto Madryn, Península Valdés (12/7-12/10)

Do you like penguins? I like penguins.

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When you arrive at Punta Tombo you are welcomed with a big boardwalk and are bound to see a penguin right away. We saw this little guy coming our way and immediately got very excited! Both my mom and I love seeing live animals in their natural habitat and this reserve is the perfect way to do so.

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That little penguin kept coming towards us! He was so cute!

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Then his little foot got caught between two of the boards and he fell over flat on his stomach. He couldn’t really catch himself with his little penguin arms so he had to like force himself up and then just kept on waddling. I didn’t even know how to react! It was so adorable!

As you enter more of the reserve and head towards the ocean, it starts to look like the book “Holes.”

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These little penguins dig themselves caves/nests in the sandy ground and they are super protective of their own little houses. They head out to the ocean to get food and then waddle back to rest and feed their babies. That’s right, babies!

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WE SAW NEWBORN BABY PENGUINS!

We also saw penguins going fishing, basking in the sun, walking around…

And… a penguin biting my mom. Hahahah. This will definitely be one of my favorite memories of all time. She was posing for a picture and this little guy just started getting closer and closer until he bit her leg. Not hard – it didn’t break the skin or anything, But still totally hilarious.

1462721_686677768029439_1775064584_oAfter a beautiful afternoon in the sunny 70-degree weather surrounded by penguins we headed up to Puerto Madryn to find out hotel and relax. Puerto Madryn is a decent sized port city. There isn’t a ton to do but it’s right on the coast and makes a good stopping point to visit Punta Tombo and Península Valdés.

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Península Valdés sticks off of Argentina and is known for one of the best places to see sea lions and whales.

Map that shows Puerto Madryn and the península

We were there at the very end of whale season and the winds were so high (40 MPH or more) that they weren’t doing any whale-watching boat tours. But we were able to see lots of sea lions and some cool landscapes on the peninsula.

The Puerto Madryn area is a must-see for anyone who loves to see unique landscapes and lots of animals in their natural habitat. They do a great job of making sure all the visitors respect the animals so that you can see them truly in their element. After three days we set off for the airport (yet again) to make our way to Iguazú – but not before a layover in Buenos Aires. Our first flight was delayed and so we were literally sprinting through the Buenos Aires airport. Our gate was closed but luckily an earlier flight to Iguazú on the same airline was SO DELAYED that we were able to make that one! We arrived in Iguazú only about an hour later than planned. We had no luggage. But at least we made it!

El Calafate, Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno Glacier (12/3-12/7)

As our plane was landing in El Calafate I was absolutely speechless. I was amazed at the beauty of Patagonia and couldn’t believe how gorgeous the area around the airport was. We walked outside and 50 MPH winds smacked us in the face right away and our taxi was shaking and weaving from side to side trying to fight against the wind!

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We arrived at our hotel, La Cantera, which was a quaint boutique hotel done in a lodge style reminiscent of Northern Wisconsin. Our room was enormous, had a view of Lago Argentino, and the beds were super comfortable. After settling in, my mom and I went into town for lunch at a place that had salads, sandwiches and crepes. We were battling the winds the entire time and I knew we were in for a rough couple of days. After lunch we went to the Glaciarium… half museum that explains all about glaciers and half ice bar (below).

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You see, Calafate is a big tourist destination because of (and only because of) Perito Moreno glacier. The ice bar was super expensive and you could only go for 20 minutes, so we skipped it and learned about how glaciers are formed. Being from a snowy climate I didn’t think I’d be that impressed with a huge thing of ice, but it was fascinating to learn about how they are formed (and how snow vs. ice vs. sleet vs. hail come to be).

Since we were in Calafate for four days we were able to do a lot, including a mini-trek on the glacier. We approached the glacier by boat and I was absolutely stunned at how beautiful it was.

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This day will forever be known as “The day I almost died” by my mom. (… it wasn’t that bad, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves):

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of only three Patagonian glaciers that is growing and it is bigger than the city of Buenos Aires! Woah! It was incredible and beautiful and I loved the sounds of huge chunks of ice falling off and splashing into the water. Being able to visit this amazing place will always be one of my favorite memories… even though my mom thinks she almost died (she didn’t). Love you, mom!

We survived!

We survived!

In addition to the glacier, we took a day trip to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. It is about 4 hours from El Calafate so you can actually go there and back in one day! Torres del Paine has long been a dream of mine to see and it finally came true! We boarded literally the strangest vehicle I had ever seen and set off through the super ugly Patagonian countryside. Eventually we entered Chile and then the National Park and I was left speechless at some of the views we came across that day…

El Calafate is an awesome destination because it allows a really unique look at natural landscapes that don’t exist almost anywhere else! After a few days there we set off for the airport again and arrived in Trelew, a city on the costal side of Patagonia, a few hours later.

Buenos Aires (11/30-12/3)

After a long, long bus ride across Chile and another across Argentina, I finally arrived at the less-than-glamorous Buenos Aires bus station, Retiro. I took a taxi and was immediately shocked at how expensive BA is compared to Salta! I made it to the Air B&B apartment we would be renting for the next three days and was met by Cynthia, our host. I had never done Air B&B before but my friend Kate had stayed in the same apartment and liked it, so I gave it a shot — highly recommended! It was amazing to have a ton of space to spread out, unpack and organize, cook, watch TV, and even do laundry! My mom arrived a few hours later from the international airport located an hour outside the city (and she made it by herself! So proud!). We relaxed for a little while and then set out to explore downtown Buenos Aires.

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In addition to being shocked at how expensive BA is, I was reminded that I really don’t like it. Sorry, porteños. The city is just overwhelmingly large, it is hard to get anywhere quickly, downtown feels grungy and fairly unsafe, and most people are rude. Not even a little nice. Just rude. Sigh. The money exchange situation is also so sketchy in Buenos Aires but totally necessary. If you take pesos out of an ATM you get about 6.2 pesos to the dollar, but we were able to get 9.35 just exchanging on the street. That difference adds up quickly and even though there is a risk of fake bills and being robbed, if you speak Spanish and are smart about it you can change money successfully.

I was sad that this was my mom’s first impression of Argentina, but I think eventually we both found things we loved. Here are my top 6:

1. We went to the artisan market in the plaza near Retiro cemetery and bought lots of souvenirs for ourselves and our family members — it’s pretty authentic and the people selling things there actually made them — we both found that refreshing!

2. Buenos Aires has enormous old trees that flower in the spring and summer with pretty purple flowers, there is a lot of green space,  and the architecture is quite lovely.

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3. Palermo! We were happy to be staying in Palermo! It is definitely my favorite part of BA. I fell in love with the neighborhood and all of the little cafés and shops. We felt totally safe at night, it’s a great place to people watch, and everything (supermarket, metro, etc) is within walking distance.

4. We were also able to visit the Casa Rosada which was neat and something I hadn’t seen before. The tour was honestly horrible, they had no English tours available in the afternoon so I was translating the entire time, and the guide was boring. But we got to see the equivalent of the “Oval Office” which was very rare and interesting!

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5. Food. We had several good meals in the city! I do not like the empanadas in Buenos Aires but we had some pizza that was to die for and several great pasta dishes. The Italian influence in Argentina is totally evident in their food :)

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6. Tango. We were able to see tango in a plaza and it was cool to see that culture alive!

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Other than that… I’ve got nothing. Chau, Buenos Aires!