Stories from my 14-month study abroad in Buenos Aires, my 16-month post-college move to Miami, and my get-me-the-hell-out-of-Miami move to Denver

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Hey everyone,
Sorry for not writing anything appealing for a long time, but I´ve been busy doing Colombia. Here is what I have been doing with my time in Colombia. I will post many pictures and funny stories when I have more time, so this is just a teaser post.

A brief synopsis should suffice:

I spent a week in Bogota with Adrians, my brother in law, family. I mostly just hung out and helpèd at the family fruit stand and chilled with everyone. I also ate copious amounts of Colombian food, namely rice and beans. I didnt do many big tourist things because I wanted to keep all the big things for when my friend arrived.

A week later, my friend from Buenos Aires Jimmy arrived. He was fed equally large amounts of food and we did some really fun things. We went to the nationwide march against the FARC in Bogota, we went to a lookout point over the city, we went to some natural, but not so thermal, pools, and partied with Adrians family a lot.

After another week in Bogota with Jimmy, we headed off to Risaralda, where some of Adrians family has a coffee farm. INSANE!!! Mountains, cofee, and platanos for as far as the eye can see. Very relaxing and enjoyable. Learned how to pick coffee and cut down platano trees. We spent four days at the coffee farm being true outdoorsmen...except for the one day where Jimmy and I lived in the bathroom puking and pooping. Drank some bad water or ate some bad food. Not really sure. Either way, neither one of us can even look at rice and beans without gagging now. Guess out stomachs aren´t so strong. However, we did kill chickens...with machetes...and we have video and picture proof which will be posted later.

Flashforward to today, I´m currently in Pereira Colombia with my friend Jimmy and Adrians newphew Luis Gabriel. We are going to hang out in the city all day, and then Jimmy and I are flying off to Cartagena for a week of snorkeling, mopeding, white sand beaches, and more fun.

All in all, everything has been going really well. Adrians family was absolutely amazing and I´m really glad I came up here. Every day is something new and I´ve taken over 800 pictures to prove it.

Keep your eyes peel some the next posts, and while you´re at it, enjoy this great music video. The horse has the special gallop!

With love from just north of the Equator,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Real South America

The more time I spend in Bogota, the more I realize that Buenos Aires is not very South American. Buenos Aires is like living in Chicago or New York City or Las Angeles, expect they speak a different language. It´s a large metropolis with millions of people, intermixed between harsh poverty and absurb wealth. It seems like I´m living in the USA sometimes, except for the whole spanish thing. Not to say I don´t like it, because I do. BsAs is a great place.

However, it doesn´t have that South American feel like I thought it would, and that Bogota definitely has. Everything that I pictured in South America, exists in Bogota. There are men sitting in shabby corner stores/markets, drinking beer into the late night hours. There are kids playing marbles on the dirt streets. Love ballad Ranchera music can be heard at all hours of the day, usually coming from a car with all of its doors open and five guys hanging out around it, talking. Stray dogs dodge in and our of the streets. Small, rural areas have cows grazing in the yards of the houses. People buy whole chickens, freshly killed and plucked. A guy sells live roosters outside of Lida´s house.

I don´t know if it´s a stereotypical image of South America that I have, but that is what I thought before I came down here, and I´ve just found Bogota.

My Day at the Market

So today I got to go with Lida to the HUGE fruit/veggy/meat/fish market called Carbasto. Lida and I got up at 3:30AM and Jorge was outside with his truck a couple minutes later. We headed to the market, and picked up another friend along the way. All four of us packed into the little cab of the truck, listening to ranchera/love ballad music the entire time.

Once we got the market, I could barely believe my eyes. It was still dark out, and there were thousands of people running from building to building, buying and selling their goods. The delivery men carry box upon box on their shoulders, running to the parking area to drop off the products in the buyers trucks.

Today is the Dia del Virgen, so some people we also shooting off some big fireworks in the parking lot/loading area/hangout area. I´ve come to realize that large scale, explosive fireworks can be used for everything in South America, be it the start of a fútbol game, a workers demostration in the streets, or a holiday.

Each building contained something different, carrots in one, pototoes in another, mangoes and tropical fruit in one, and so on. If you wanted to buy ANY type of fruit there, you could

I followed Lida around for about an hour, watching her mingle with sellers and figure out who has the best prices for everything. It´s interesting to note that no one uses there names in the market. Every buyer uses initials or a code for their name. This code is what the delivery people use when they drop off the goods that she purchased. Lida´s is AP, the initials of her late husband. So, as we´re walking, you could hear people yelling out "Ah-Peh!!" trying to get her attention. Lida doesn´t exist at the market, only AP does.

After we did some buying, we decided to do some whiskey shots, with a nice vendor that Lida knew, to warm up. We did three little whiskey shots each and had hot coffee, all at about 4:15AM. After the whiskey, we continued our journey buying all the things that she needed. She knew exactly who had the best deals and she was sure to chat up people and was always really nice. She introduced me to everyone, and it was definitely obvious I was a foreigner. I was snapping pictures left and right while people we working all around me.

Once we were done with all the purchases, we went to a little coffee/liquor stand, and had some coffee and empanadas. Lida´s friend Nelson showed up and we decided to do a shot of Aguardiente, a liquorice flavored liquor. Well, once you start doing shots, you don´t stop. Everyone was buying us shots and we probably did 4 in total. Good stuff.

At the coffee stand, Nelson and I had a really good conversation about Colombia´s world image, among other things, and how their president Uribe, is going a great job at promoting the country and all it has to offer. He was telling me about how when he is introduced in the US or Panama as a Colombian, people get really nervous and tense up, while when you introduce a foreigner(like me) to a group of Colombians, the Colombians are amazingly kind. When Lida introduces me as a student from the USA, they people are alway so intriuged about what I think of Colombia, the food, the women, and everything in between. They´re proud of their country, and they want to know what we think of it. They are also very impressed that a young US student is traveling in Colombia and came to see family and just hang out.

All in all, I had a great day. It was really fun to see what goes into running a fruit stand. I had a good time doing it for one day, but I don´t know if I could do it every day for four years. It´s definitely hard, respectable work. I´m becoming really comfortable with the family now and I´m really happy I came. I was really nervous before I arrived, but now it´s like I´m hanging out wiht my own family.

More To Come!


Music Video Breakdown

Hey You! Yeah, You! Have you ever wanted to become a Colombian music video producer?!? Well, it´s your lucky day, because I´m offering my world renowned course, "Ranchera Production 101" FREE, that´s right FREE, for today only. Enjoy!!!

To make a good Colombian ranchera music video, you only need to follow this simple guide, and music video production greatness is in your hands!

1. Enter with the triumphant blast of two trumpets in harmony.

2. After trumpets, it´s best to show a clip of a man, presumably the video´s protagonist, riding a horse through an open pasture. Make sure the horse can do that special horse prance with the high hooves action.

3. Pan out to a group of 5+ gentlemen, all dressed in the traditional Colombian Ranchera outfit, swaying back and forth in unison.

4. The aforementioned group must include at least two trumpets, an accordian player, an older gentleman playing a vintage acoustic guitar, and his young protegé playing an acoustic guitar as well, a younger gentleman playing an electric bass, a keyboard player playing without the use of extention cords, and the lead singer, standing at least 10 feet in front of the rest of his group.

5. The song should be about loving a women, hating a women who has cheated you, which means it can also be about drinking, living in the countryside, having a girlfriend and a lover(Dos Amores-Jhonny Rivera) and lastly, if you´re the famous Sr. Rivera, it can be about being a taxi driver who loves women.

6. After the introductory verse, there should be a couple random shots of girls in bikinis or similar clothing, preferably entering a bathtub, entering/exiting a pool, or by chance, pampering the lead singer from all sides.

7. Enter the accordian solo. This must be quite intense for it is his time to shine. He has two options here: Play while cheerfully looking into the camera lense OR play while gazing at his accordian with a yearning expression.

8. Second verse of the song should be the lead singer discussing the problem with friends or maybe, if you´re lucky, a intimate moment between the camera and the leader singer.

9. Pan back to the musicians and they continue the sweet ballad.

10. Slowly fade to darkness, and maybe toss in that same prancing horse again, just for good measure.

There you have it folks!!! You´re now ready to attack the world of music video production. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hola de Bogota!

I´m in Bogota, Colombia!!! Just thought that I should get that out of the way. I honestly can´t believe that I´m in writing a post from Colombia right now.

First off, a little back story as to why I´m here. Lindsay met Adrian, her then boyfriend, when she was studying abroad in Spain. Adrian, un Colombiano, left Colombia to work in Spain and was Lindsay´s neighbor in her apartment building. They dated while she was in Spain, dated for a year internationally, and then decided to get married. They were married in January 2008 and the rest in history.

So, while I was in Buenos Aires, I was thinking about what I would do during my month long break between semesters. I had the idea of going skiing in the south of Argentina, but then Lindsay suggested that I go to Colombia to see Adrian´s family. After thinking about it, I jumped on the offer, and that leaves me where I am today...Bogota, Colombia.

This is just a teaser post though. I have a lot to write about, and I´ll definitely get around to it sooner, but right now, I really want to go to bed. I´m actually being forced to speak Spanish 99% of the time, and my brain is really tired. I´´ll lay some down good writing from a locutorio tomorrow or the next day.

Much love from NORTH of the Equator,

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

All Finished Up!

I know this post is coming about a week or so late, pero mejor ahora que nunca.

I've successfully completed my first semester in Buenos Aires and I'm extremely excited for the second. I wrote around 35 pages of essays and had to take some difficult exams, but I did very well. I also wrote, what I think, a really great research paper on the International Monetary Fund's influence on Haitian rice growers. Thanks Holly for giving me that idea. Classes were definitely tougher than expected and the last two weeks was probably my most antisocial period of the entire time here. I was consistently in the library researching or writing a paper. However, this semester is all over, and now I have a month long break which I will be utilizing while I'm in Colombia! Next post.

It has been quite the experience so far. I really didnt have the intention of making a large group of American friends while I was down here, but, against my expectations, I made a group of amazing friends. Everyone is experiencing the same culture shock and feelings, and I think that because of this, stronger relationships are formed much quicker. Everyone is leaving or has left, and it's kinda sad not having my crew and thinking that I might not see any of them again. This next semester, I'll be able to concentrate on hanging out with my Porteno friends and speaking spanish, because I won't need that 1st semester safety net. On that note, I can't imagine having to leave Buenos Aires right now. I feel like the first four months were a nice introduction period. I feel very comfortable living and functioning here. I know how to use the subte(subway) and the collectivos(city buses). People can reference barrios(neighborhoods) and I know where they are talking about, and how to get there using several different modes of transportation. Exactly as Holly and Lindsay (my sisters who've both done study abroads) said, staying for a year in the only way to go. If you really have the ganas(desire) to learn about the country and learn the language, staying for two semesters is the only way to go.

All in all, it has been a great learning experience, and I'm sure it's only going to get better as I start my second semester.

Te mando un abrazo

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Just a Rich College Kid

Being from the middle class of the United States, everyone has a chance to go to college, tech school, vocational school, etc, and go out there and make something of themselves. It might be expensive, but you just take out your loans, do your schooling, and one day, pay them off.

I can't help but feel like some rich college kid, just spending some time in Buenos Aires; partying, drinking, learning Spanish, etc. I'm currently staying with a friend who's house-sitting a nice house in the suburbs right now. I've been talking with the maid, which every middle class and higher family has, and just chatting. She was a teacher in Peru, but moved to Buenos Aires to be with her siblings, who moved here, and to find better work...she's currently a maid. Maids, on average, make about $6 pesos/hour here. That's around US $2/hour. I'm going to be spending a month in Colombia pretty soon, and I'm sure I'll be spending around US$1,500. That's an unbelievably large amount of money here...and I'm just going to Colombia to hang out and travel. When I'd talk with the maid at my homestay(I've moved out now), it was hard to talk about the stuff I was planning on doing, and the places I wanted to see. I'd talk about jet setting to Colombia, or spending a weekend in Mendoza in the wine country, and she would just happily listen and smile. I could financially afford all of them, but the 55 year old maid can't financially fathom spending ARG $300 for a bus ticket, which is CHEAP to Americans. She's helping support her family on US $2/hr, and I'm out blowing a week's worth of her salary in one night drinking with my friends...and not even batting an eye. It's saddening. I don't know if I should feel lucky being from the US and having the opportunity to do this, or sick because I'm doing things, at 21 years old, that the majority of this country can't even imagine.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina