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

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I had some ideas before going to Argentina about what I wanted to see - the main thing being the waterfalls of Iguazu - but then I fully fathomed the size of the country. "Hey this is quite close! Oh, no, 6 hour bus ride." I then decided to spend my time in and around Cordoba, and really enjoyed that. As the end of my stay drew closer I decided that even though Iguazu is kind of far, it's a lot closer from here than from Sweden. I booked tickets for the 20 hour bus journey to Iguazu, right where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet. And I am soo happy I went.

Iguazu national park is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of South America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It deserves all the titles. There are over 275 waterfalls of different sizes, up to 80 m high. You can see the falls from Brazil and Argentina. In Brazil you get a really nice view of a part of it, but in Argentina you see them all and you get so close. Words don't do the place justice. Pictures show a bit, and videos a little more, but you just have to experience it to fully understand. The first day I went to the Brazilian side.

There were these little animals called coatí that were super cute, until one of them jumped into my backpack when I put it down on the ground and snatched a plastic bag with food and ran of to have a feast in the bushes.

Never leave luggage unattended. Food will be removed, and maybe destroyed.
There were also some kind of lizard animal and lots of pretty birds.

I got talking to a guy from Colorado who was also travelling alone and we decided to explore the Argentinian side together the next day. It was lucky, because it's so much nicer to have someone to look over to to share your amazement and to exchange looks of "are you seeing what I'm seeing? This is crazy."

The Argentinian park is an actual paradise. You walk around surrounded by greenery with birds, coatís and monkeys, constantly reaching yet another stream and seeing the waterfalls, from above, from beneath, from afar, and - if you go for the boat ride - from right under, almost in the falls. There was a train that brought you to the top of the park, to the highest waterfalls, called "Garganta del Diablo". "The Devils Throat." The power of it was mindblowing - the amount of water, with all the force of a coursing river, deafening sound of rushing water, hypnotic movements of streams crashing into each other and splashing water droplets cooling you down in the hot sun. Walking above the river on the pathways it felt like the water was calling you to go down with it, and it was only my rationality and wish to not die a certain and very painful death that stopped me because it looked so tempting.

Some views were just like this: loads of splashing water. Not as pretty, but oh so pleasant in the hot sun.

The sun and the splashing water droplets decorate every view with rainbows.

We walked back down from the top to the other pathways instead of waiting for the train. On that road we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a butterfly gathering. There must have been as least 50 butterflies that for some reason were flying around and constantly returning to the same spot. It was like being in a fairytale.

We went on a boat ride that brings you to the feet of the waterfalls so you can see it from right underneath, and then even closer until you can't see anything because the water is splashing into your eyes and you get completely drenched. (See the boat in the picture below)

I love the fact that this is just nature. Nobody put the falls there. It wasn't constructed with some purpose, no man was involved in the making. It's simply a natural wonder.

There is something about the sound of movement of the water that to me is so incredibly calming and hypnotic. I could have watched those waterfalls for hours. Oh right, I did.

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As previously mentioned, the city is full of political graffiti. You could say that the graffiti makes the city ugly, but I like getting the daily reminder that there are people who care about fighting for better education, more inclusion, human rights.

Less repression, more inclusion. Stop the transphobia

"Abortion in the hospital", "International day of the working woman",
"Public education", "Don't let the laws destroy your love"

"The prisons deny the validity of human rights"

"Disability shouldn't be impossibility"

I think it might have to do with the fact that their country was an actual military dictatorship just 35 years ago.

The first week I started noticing the message "Dónde está Santiago Maldonado?" here and there. "Where is Santiago Maldonado?"

Maldonado disappeared after participating in a demonstration with the Mapuche community on 1st August. A few weeks ago I saw on the news that he was found in a river. Supposedly he was chased by the national security force until he fell into the river and drowned, but I don't know what are confirmed facts and not. In any case this event has engaged a lot of people, and last week there was a big march for Santiago in town.

ORGULLOSX
"PROUD" is Spanish. Or really the word is orgulloso/orgullosa depending on gender, but as well as in Sweden where we've invented the gender neutral pronoun "hen" that can be used instead of han/hon (he/she), here they are using the "X" instead. Usually in Spanish you just use the masculine whenever there is a mixed group, but it's cool to see that there is a discussion about that here too. I've also noticed my friends here writing "Hola chic@s" for the o/a. It's cool to see how global the "equality for all genders and sexual orientations" is. it makes me orgullosx.

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Joining the choir Coro FAMAF is one of the best decisions I've made during my time in Argentina. I signed up to get to sing a bit, but didn't expect to get to sing so much Argentinian folk music and that they would learn the Swedish song "Sommarpsalm", making an effort to get the pronunciation right. (It was hilarious when I said we have about 18 vowel sounds in Swedish, opposed to their 5. "Sorry but there's no difference between what you just said." "Ohh that is supposed to be an A?" "How do you even make that sound with your mouth?") I didn't expect to get to sing on the radio with them, which we did this Friday.

Neither did I expect that they would be so welcoming, have so many social events and that I would make such good friends. This weekend three of them showed me a bit more of the area surrounding Cordoba. We drove around in one of the guys' family's old chevrolet truck through the landscapes, passing the lake San Roque and the town Carlos Paz, dipping our feet in the water in another lake, and going up a hill in el Cerro de la Cruz. After reaching the cross we had a picnic with mate, of course.

This weekend I also got to see another part of Cordoba with another group of friends who I met though talking to one of them on couchsurfing.com. We went to Villa General Belgrano, which is a village founded by German and Swiss people, and La Cumbrecita, a place nearby with pretty nature. It's a bit odd, in the middle of Argentina there's this village with German style wooden houses where they sell lots of beer and other German things. Argentina has had a fair amount of German immigration, but this place, now at least, to me seemed very touristy and artificial. But la Cumbrecita was beautiful, in the mountains with streams and small waterfalls.

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"This is what I find disturbing with vegetarian restaurants. I don't know if what they've given me is the dish I ordered or the centerpiece."

This is a comic I saw here that sums up the attitude against vegetarianism. Argentina is one of the worlds largest meat producers and all their traditional "Oh you must try this"-dishes contain meat.
The Cordoba essentials are:
- asado (a barbeque of meat, meat and meat)
- empanadas (pasty filled with different things)
- choripan (sausage in bread)

The food culture is strongly influenced by the Spanish and Italian cuisines - due to the history of Spanish and Italian immigration - meaning there's a lot of pasta, bread, pastries and meat. I always cause a look of disappointment when I say I am vegetarian, but my host mother has kindly cooked very nice vegetarian food so I'm well fed. 

The main drink is mate, a kind of herbal tea that they drink, share and pass around - it's a social thing. It can be enjoyed with or without sugar - here in Argentina. If you drink it in Uruguay with sugar you're WEAK. You drink it out of a special wooden cup with a metal straw that strains the herbal leaves.

Their other big thing is dulce de leche, a kind of condensed milk, or toffee sauce, that they put in all their desserts. ALL their desserts. The 4th of October was "volunteer day" apparently and the owner of the equine therapy made us a cake with a filling of this dulce de leche.

Most disturbing thing witnessed so far: canned rabbit meat, next to the canned dear and goat meat.

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I went to the memorial museum of the military dictatorship of Argentina 1976-1983. 1976 the right wing military took over and began their quest of eliminating all kommunists and sympathisers of the left, which led to thousands of journalists, students, activists, politicians and gerilla members being kidnapped, tortured or murdered. The museum is in the actual building that was used in Cordoba as a prison for these people with the wrong opinions. The cells, the writings on the walls, the documents - it's all there. There were photographs of people who had been there or who disappeared during this time and on a wall they had written all the names of the missing people in the shape of a fingerprint. It's not like I didn't know these things have happened, and happen, in the world, it's just that it becomes very real. Some people sat there for years and thinking about how I now and then stress about having "wasted time" made me feel slightly ridiculous.

"You should be proud of having been born into a land with a rich, prosperous and great future son"!
Argentian comic from 1983

Astrid, one of the people who disappeared but returned, and below the photo that was used when they were searching for her.

Colourful decorations to give the place a hopeful vibe.
A message of never forget, never again.

Other topic

I also went through my own Museo de la Memoria, looking through old pictures on my computer and it made me cry. Going back, far back and finding pictures of me four years ago. When a horrible, horrible illness had made me lose 20% of my body weight and 100% of my happiness. It wasn't nearly as bad as in 70's Argentina, but how can you compare? My mind felt like a prison. I remember feeling that nothing was ever going to work out for me, that there was no future to look forward to. But I remember how the smallest things meant so much, like when my dad driving me 2 km to the lake at sunset when I wasn't allowed to go for walks.. I remember how much I appreciated when my friends came to see me, or when my brother took his time to sit and talk to me, making me feel like a person. I remember how good it felt when I had gotten enough physical strength to be allowed to do the dishes.

Flash forward and here I am, on my adventure in Argentina and yesterday I climbed a 1200 m mountain in las Sierras de Cordoba. I just want to tell my past self that it's all going to be just fine, better than fine even and I'm trying to be thankful and happy in every moment because life is amazing. I try to take nothing for granted and cherish everything. And just like at the museum I'm thinking:
never forget, never again.

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Some of the best experiences I've had in my life have come from doing something that isn't what most people would usually do. I'm not trying to be all hipster, it's just the truth. This weekend I went for an excursion to the province of Jujuy in the north of Argentina, and instead of doing the hostel + tourist bus tour experience I stayed on a farm with a person I met through couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a website for travelers where people can find people to hang out with or stay with when they are travelling. Some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of staying with a stranger, but through chatting and reading references from other travelers you can get a good sense of whether a person is trustworthy or not, and doing this allowed me to get a better and more real experience of Jujuy and Argentina in general. There is something unique in intercultural encounters that I really like. And also the place was unrealistically beautiful.

Facundo, who I stayed with, has an organic cheese farm in the middle of the Jujuy mountains. It's a big area where he, his mother and sister live, and the cows, horses, chicken, gees and dogs are just walking around freely everywhere - actual free range. It's really idyllic. They don't take the calves away from the mothers to take all their milk, just take what the baby doesn't need, so it's all very ethical and lovely. Livning on a farm makes it difficult to go travelling, which is why Facundo likes to host travellers, as a form of travel without travelling, and also to have a reason to go and see the nice places in the area.

The house is 300 years old - older than Argentina, European colonial style - and has been in the family all that time. Walking around there felt a bit like when you go to see an old manor house, with all the old things on the walls, knowing there is so much history in the place. The location is absolutely gorgeous - surrounded by mountains, palm trees, green pastures where the animals are walking around. After a while I almost stopped being surprised seeing a cow right outside the kitchen window. The house has a little inner courtyard with fragrant jasmine where I spent the mornings sitting in the sun patting the giant but friendly belgian shephard dogs (there were seven) and listening to the crazy noisy parrots.

Facundo kindly showed me some of the best places of Jujuy. We started off by driving through the mountainous landscape that is completely different from Cordoba, passing grey and colourful mountains, cactuses, a sign telling us we were on a altitude of over 4000 meters, and arrived at las Salinas Grandes.

If you look at a map Las Salinas looks like a big lake, but it's actually all solid salt, that is used for salt production. The ground you walk on is so dense and hard - because it's all solid salt. It's such a strange experience. There are long water basins cut out in the salt where salt crystals are floating, and if you dip your arm in the water is gets all white. The sun reflecting on the white surface makes it impossible to keep your eyes open. It's so beautiful and I really loved it.

On the way we saw llamas and a wild llama like species called vicuña.

Next up was Purmamarca, a little village with an indigenous population selling handicrafts, right by Las Sierras de Siete Colores - the mountains of seven colours. Goodness gracious was it a beautiful sight!

The next day he took me to a lake in the mountains. This area is greener, with flowers and creeks, and cows walking around everywhere. (People call India the land of the cows, but I saw way more here than I did in India.) Some of them, like Facundos cows, are used for milk but some are half-wild cows who just live in the mountains, occasionally being brought in to get necessary vaccinations and things like that.

Sitting by the quiet, tranquil lake, reflecting the surroundings like a mirror filled me with peace and a homely feeling, as I come from a lake abundant country and Cordoba hardly has any water. It was beautiful and just a few other people there, on the other side of the lake - perks of a local guide!

Another gorgeous non-touristy place in the mountains is called Tiraxi. You have to drive on winding, stoney "roads" up and down and here and there but the place is worth it. There's a tiny waterfall and a little river where I dipped my feet and head which felt glorious in the heat of the sun.

The Sunday was Mother's Day, El Dia de la Madre, which is a huge thing in Argentina, and I got to come along to the celebration - getting some Argentinian culture! It was a gathering of two families in a casa de campo. Everybody was really friendly and welcoming. Some of them talked to me as if I was completely fluent in Spanish, and some talked about me in third person, telling the others how they had to speak slowly to me or else I wouldn't understand. It was quite funny.

The traditional meal for any occasion is asado, a barbeque of different kinds of meat, and, to my pleasant surprise, a vast selection of sallads and things. It was fun to get an insight in the culture but keeping up with the Spanish conversations for a few hours made my brain hurt a little.

Before I left I just wanted to go for a walk, and Facundo said that well there isn't really anything to see but we can just walk for the sake of walking, and then we came to this stunning valley. I guess you get blind to the beauty you live in. All in all a lovely weekend. Corazón contento.

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It's raining outside, which makes this a perfect moment to write a little.

As I mentioned I went to Miramar with some of the volunteers of the organisation Projects Abroad. They work with other things, such as medicine, dog shelter, child care, human rights, but we meet once a week for a social event and sometimes more times to go on trips or to explore Cordoba. There are people from USA, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Holland. Last week we had a tango lesson, as this is a must when in Argentina. It was a lot of fun, and we got the steps right, even though we never really got the "suave" going, meaning soft, soft movement of the feet. This weekend we went to a museum of modern art - some of it very modern. There was an Art Nouveau exhibition, some political art, some about how being and artist is also a real job, and some that I don't even know how to categorise.

I started singing in a choir, because how could I not? Cordoba is a university town which means that there are university choirs and I wrote to one of them and they accepted me. Everybody was very welcoming and curious as to why this Swedish girl wanted to sing with them. They rehearse in a 400-year old university building in central Cordoba, the oldest university in Argentina, founded by the Jesuits in 1613. On their repertoar there is everything from classic European music to traditional Argentinian music, and to my surprise the Swedish songs "Uti vår hage" and "Sommarpsalm".

We watched the football game, Argentina against Ecuador, that determined if Argentina would go to the world cup or not. The joy that was expressed when Messi scored his three goals was insane. They won the game and the roar sounded through the city. I can hardly imagine what it must be like during the actual world cup.

I also spent one weekend sleeping away a cold and staying still as to not trigger a cascading nosebleed. It was super boring but I think it was good that I was forced to rest for a while. Because cleaning up after horses, riding and leading a horse round in circles takes some energy.

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My first week working as a volunteer has passed. It's been exhausting, but I like it.

So firstly, what is this place where I work, equine therapy? What they do is they have riding lessons for children and young people with different mental and physical challenges. The lessons aim is to make them focus on mobility, spatial orientation, body posture, language and muscle control, or just improve their quality of life as a recreational activity. For example some get a constant reminder to straighten their back and neck, some have exercises with colourful balls or letters on a board integrated in the lesson, one boy who is usually too shy to speak is not allowed to trot (horse term for jogging) unless he asks for it. One girl is really good at riding and jumping but has trouble walking. I suppose she comes because this is a sport her handicap doesn't stop her from doing. Some of them light up when they come and meet the horses, and some cry and scream when their parents disappear, disobey orders or are just totally unaware of the instructions given. So sometimes it's tougher than other times.

It's a family business with the mother in charge of the therapy. She calls me quiet, but I don't think she realises all my energy goes into understanding what everybody is talking about. She's very sweet though and always thanks me for my help. Then there's a girl my age from Germany who has been there as a volunteer for a couple of months already, and a couple of other volunteers who come once a week to help out. Th

My role is to maintain the stables, clean, prepare the horses for classes, and once I've got to ride one of them to warm her up. I'm also involved in the teaching, right now just walking at the side for safety and observing what the teacher​ and the other volunteers are doing, but eventually I will have more responsibility.

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I am not doing a good job of staying put in Sweden am I? Going off to Argentina come from a long period of analytically researching hypothetical plans leading up to a quick emotional decision. I'm going to Cordoba through a voluntary organisation that provides me with food and accommodation and a job that I am excited about.

There are lots of things I don't know as I take off, about my host, work, the city, the people. But to be honest, the little I think I know just turns out to be preconceived ideas that aren't true, so I don't think preparing is always the best way to go.

As a person with a large interest in photography it troubles me to realise that photography is a lousy medium of showing the feeling of a place, at least a buzzing city like Cordoba. The majority of the strongest impressions here have been triggers of other senses than sight.
The smells, of the gas stove och a hint of cigarette smoke in my house, of the bakeries, of slightly polluted air, that other smell in the city I have yet to put my finger on, and the very distinct smell of horses and stables at the equine therapy. The sounds, of cars going by 24/7, street dogs barking, street musicians, people talking. People who come to Stockholm always talk about how calm and quiet it is. I get what they mean.
The new tastes of a different cuisine, of a different kind of tap water, of Argentinian wine.
Also even the sight impressions cannot be correctly depicted, as a photo is static and the city is full of life.
But anyway, I digress. A picture says more than a thousand words, but a thousand words are not enough.


The first day isn't great. After 25 hours of travelling I arrive and it is cold and rainy. Apparently I brought the rain as it's been hot all week before I came. I know that 98% of my mood has a direct link to my tiredness and the weather so I try to keep an open mind through my lack of excitement and think I shouldn't put weight into current emotions. (And I'm right to do so. When I'm well rested and the sun is shining two days later I fall in love with the city. )

Day 2 a man from the organisation Projects Abroad comes, shows me the places I need to know. I'm happy about how much of his Spanish I understand. The city centre where I live is very city-like, with cars and people all over the place. Some houses are a bit run down, some are nicer. My mood and everything around me up until this point has been a bit grey and then we step into the cathedral. It's a beautiful church and my eyes actually tear up. (98% because of the tiredness and the emotional turmoil of being on the other side of the world, probably)

Cathedral and streets

1: My door 2: My street, right in the centre 3: The founder of Cordoba 4: Plaza San Martin


There is quite a lot of grafity with political messages. The projects abroad-guy recommended I don't bring up politics when talking to locals. He told me the allegory about giving a person a fish vs teaching him how to fish, and then told me how one party was all about throwing fish around and the other party did neither and just took all the fish themselves. So I guess I'll just avoid the subject - politics, and possibly fish too.

Other fun things about Cordoba is the fact that the doors of the bus open before the bus has stopped, and close after the bus starts driving. Also there is no timetable for the buses, but "they go regularly, so don't worry". "Leave some extra time if it's important that you arrive on time." When the house numbers of a street reach 0 the street changes names. So if you're walking straight and find yourself on a different street, you haven't gone mad. Good to know.

The third day is splendid. I'm introduced to the place where I'm working which is a equine therapy place, horse therapy. Children with different physical or mental challenges - everything between autism and Down's syndrome to excessive shyness or negativity - come and ride horses as a kind of therapy. My job will be to maintain the stables, horses and participate in the therapy sessions. The rest of the day I explored the city - churches, museums, streets.

This is just a selection of the church supply of the city

Below: 1: What they call a "river" 2,3: Things at the science museum

The sculpture below celebrates the freedom of expression. The pictures on the right are from a concert hall.

On Saturday I meet up with other volunteers and we go to Miramar, a beach by a big lake. There were flamingos.

Fun facts about the pictures underneath:
Left: The painter of the ceiling paintings in the cathedral was afraid of hights, so he painted down on the ground and then they put the paintings up. Also he didn't sign it with his name. Instead he signed it with a self portrait. He's the guy at the bottom with a brown hood.
Right: There is a building that's only 3 m deep. Why? The back ends at the border between two brothers' land. There wasn't any more room to build a house by the road. The brother who owned the land behind where the building is refused to allow his brother to build on his land, and as petty siblings do, the other brother was like "well then I'll just build this super thin house."

Hasta luego! I leave you for now with a picture of some tired street dogs.

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