Finally I have arrived in Buenos Aires and I have had time to sit down and write this blog post! Yay! Thank you everyone for your patience. Things have been a bit crazy, and it’s hard for me to even know where to begin!
In case you don’t know what I’m doing in Argentina, I’ll start by explaining why I’m here. I am currently studying abroad through SIT in a Social Movements and Human Rights program in Buenos Aires (however, we are going to go on a couple excursions outside of Buenos Aires as well). This study abroad program will fulfill some of the requirements for my Latin American Studies major (the big one being that we are required to study abroad). I chose this specific program for many reasons:
1. I love learning about social movements and human rights. Just as social movements drew me to Cochabamba, Bolivia, social movements have led me to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The history of Argentina is filled with fascinating accounts of the people fighting for their human rights, and even adding to the international definition of human rights. When I first read about this program, I became extremely excited about having the opportunity to get to know people who are part of this strong culture of social activism.
2. Homestays! This program offered the amazing experience of individual homestays which I felt to be a crucial part of my stay in Bolivia last summer. The homestay really forces you to immerse yourself in the culture and gives you someone who can offer you support and advice from the local perspective. (Also! Fun fact: my host mom here in Argentina KNOWS POPE FRANCIS. Yes, I fangirled for a little bit when she told me. I am officially one degree away from Pope Francis. Boo Yah!)
3. The research component. After years of science fair (which I don’t regret at all and have many awesome memories from! I just have to put that in there before what I’m going to say next), I got kinda burnt out from research and decided that that was definitely not what I wanted to do with my life. For that reason, I avoided it for most of my college career except for the required labs, some more bearable than others. However, when I started thinking about the type of research that I could do within social movements and human rights, I got really really excited. Volunteering in Cochabamba, Bolivia was an intense experience that had a great impact on me and my life’s direction (to read more on the ups and downs of that experience, see http://lbingmanloewenstern.blogs.rice.edu/). After returning from Cochabamba, I felt a bit lost. I felt helpless. I felt this need to do more, but I felt so powerless to do anything. After talking with my wonderful Loewenstern advisor, I realized that one thing I could do is research more on the topic of childcare. Having the opportunity to return to Latin America and conduct some sort of research regarding childcare, from children’s health to education to the system itself, is something that I am really excited to do.
4. Community service. In the description for the program, they emphasized the importance of community involvement and service to the community. I’ve already talked with the director about it, and she said that she would help me find out how I can volunteer in an orphanage here. I’m really excited to get the opportunity to work with children again and to be able to compare the system here in Buenos Aires to what I experienced in Cochabamba. It might be a little tight to fit into my schedule, but I really want to be as active in the community as I can be. This is especially important to me since I am planning on doing my research in this area. I don’t want to just be the random North American who bops into an orphanage for a couple days to do some interviews and then leaves. I really want to try to get to know the community well, to know them on a personal level that will not only help me have more perspectives to draw from in my research, but it will also be more respectful than simply barging in one day and asking un montón de (a bunch of) questions.
There are many other things that ultimately influenced my decision, but those are the main ones.
Rather than going through my schedule from the past week, I’ll just end this first blog post with my favorite part of Buenos Aires culture thus far: the closeness of the people. By that I don’t just mean literal closeness, although the subways and buses can get pretty crowded. I actually mean the affection between the people. From the friendly kisses on the cheek to people’s willingness to help a poor extranjera (foreigner) with directions to the familial love that is so strong, Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) have a special closeness about them and the way they interact with people. Apparently it’s really common here for people to live near their parents once they move out so that they can still participate in family functions. Sundays are evidently days of family reunions where everyone comes together and has a barbecue that lasts until 4:00 PM which gets them so full of love and food that they are too stuffed for dinner. This weekend, my host mom has actually invited me to go to a barbecue at her daughter’s house, and I am super excited to meet everyone. As soon as I got to the house on Thursday, my host mom sat me down and showed me all of the pictures of her family on facebook. You can really tell that her life is driven by her love for her family which is something that I really appreciate and admire. And that’s not something that’s unique to my host mom. It’s something that I’ve seen so much of already, and I’ve been here less than a week. I’m really excited to start classes next week and get to know the people and culture even more!
That’s all I will put for now, but don’t worry, there is plenty more to write about! Thank you everyone for all of your thoughts and prayers. Know that I’m thinking about and praying for you as well :)