This wonderful two-month experience has come to an end and looking back I can't believe how much I have experienced. All I ever hoped for and more.
- Getting a large dose of adventure.
- Working outside, with horses and children, doing something active, helping out with something which only purpose is to improve the lives of disabled children. Seeing an incredibly shy kid smile and wave at you once in a while.
- Riding horses.
- Practising Spanish speaking, learning the local lingo with their pronunciation and words,
- Getting to know the Argentinian culture - habits, food, music, dance etc. I really liked how they greet everybody with a single kiss. Enough to break the cold personal space barrier but not enough to make me uncomfortable. I liked how they share everything from mate to clothes to food, and how people helped each other out instead of just focusing on themselves. I loved the rhythm of the music. I loved how everybody had animals. I almost got used to the fluid attitude towards schedules. Almost.
- Understanding the importance of football in Argentina watching the Argentina-Ecuador game and seeing the euphoria when they won.
- Trying the few meatless Argentinian foods. My choir friend made me vegan empanadas once - what a gem!
- Meeting volunteers from other countries, talking about the strange things we experienced in this country.
- Learning more about Argentina and South America - history, culture, politics, geography (more being more than basically nothing. Swedish school curriculum basically covers the countries and capitals. And bits and pieces of relevant information if you study Spanish.)
- Getting to know Cordoba, learning things like "the streets sometimes suddenly change names", "the buses don't really follow a timetable", "you have to wave at the bus to make it stop", "don't cross the street because the cars don't care, they will hit you" and after a while feeling really at home there.
- Seeing different parts of the country. Cordoba, Jujuy and Iguazu. Mountains of various kinds, salt desert, lakes, waterfalls, jungle, city and countryside.
- Having a nice host family that gave me as much love as they did to the cat (which I will clarify is actually a whole lot.)
- Being welcomed with open arms into a choir that taught my Argentinian folk songs, put in effort to learn a Swedish song, with whom I had various concerts. Where I made really good friends who put up with my bad Spanish, brought me on excursions and were generally lovely. People who will remain in my heart.
My darling timetable-less bus
Fellow Projects Abroad-volunteers from Norway and USA cooking for the homeless
Riding at a horse refuge centre
Coro FAMAF with our conductor and 'Swedish choir music'-lover Gustavo at the front
Here are some things I take with me from the trip
Speaking another language opens doors and allows you to connect with people in a very different way than you would otherwise. And the best way to improve is to stop caring about getting it right. Just keep talking until you notice people aren't following any more.
Be brave and curious, because either you get amazing experiences, or you learn something about yourself or the world, like "Oh this was horribly boring, I will not spend time and money on this ever again". And it makes you feel stronger and shuts up the "I wish I had done that..."-voice.
Sharing and being generous, interested and caring is so much nicer than the individualistic "ensam är stark" and "mind your own business"-attitudes.
Sometimes it's good to plan ahead and be structured, but as things always change sometimes no plan is the best plan.
Being outside is lovely. (I wrote that before I came back to Sweden where the air hurts your face.)
I found the most rewarding things were not when I just got something, but when I felt that I gave something in return. The choir took me in and taught me so much, but I could also show them the Swedish songs which they found very cool and they were so happy to see I appreciated their dear folklore. I got to stay at Facundo's in Jujuy which was great for me, and he loved having company. My host mother's cousin showed me her handicraft skills and taught me a little. People really appreciate when you show genuin interest in what lies close to their hearts. Wanting to learn their language is another example of that. I realised that altruism - concern for the well-being of others without any personal gain - is impossible because when people are good to other people everybody gains something. How cheesy is that?
Symbolic cliché ending with a sunset