I am a Promise, I am a Possibility

This is probably the hardest blog post that I have ever written because there are absolutely no words to describe the things I saw in Jamaica and how difficult it was to return. I will forever be a different person because I have learned the power love. The purpose of this mission trip was to spend 10days in Jamaica serving others. At the end of the day, I know that the work that I did will never compare to the imprint that they left on my heart.

Here are some of the highlights of my trip:

Hugs and Smiles:

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When we first walked through the gates of Jacob’s Well, we were greeted with a plethora of hugs and hellos. One thing that I learned during this trip was the power of a simple smile and how meaningful a hug can be. Love is one of the most powerful things that you can offer to another person.  ❤

Ms. Cambell:

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Photo credit: James Marafino

I ended up spending a large chunk of my morning at St. Monica’s with Ms. Cambell. She is blind and partially deaf. She has this Carebear doll that sat on her lap all day. I spent most of my time with her holding her hand and letting her rest her head on my stomach and arm. Every once in a while, she would kiss my hand or ask me something because she thought that I was the nurse. For a while, she either thought that I was her daughter or she was talking about her daughter (I am not really sure). But having the opportunity to just be there with was enough for me because I know that she probably doesn’t the attention and care that she needs.

Riverton:

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Photo credit: Meghan Twomey

I am not really sure what kind of help we offered to the teachers of Riverton; but, I am glad I had the opportunity to spend the day with these kids. The afternoon on playground and in the classroom reading books to the kids was a reminder of how alike we are. Our circumstances -financial, educational, and social- may be different; but, we are all human and have a lot in common because of that. The most shocking part of our visit was probably related to the fact that this school is in the middle of the slums. And each of these children is from the slums and will probably never have the opportunity to get out.

Homeless food run:

Photo credit: James Marafino

Photo credit: James Marafino

During our first day of volunteering with the Missionaries of the Charity, a few of us volunteered to help the sisters during a homeless food run. They took two vans out into the city and the homeless lined up with the hope that the sisters will have enough food to offer them a meal. One of the craziest parts about this little adventure was watching the system. The homeless knew that they van was there to serve them a hot meal and the line started as the homeless put their hands on the back of the van and began to follow it as the driver drove onto the curb and put the vehicle in park. At the end, the sisters saved a few meals for the homeless, who they knew were physically unable to get to the line. So they drove around the city, personally handing each of them a meal.

Owill:

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Owill was a resident at the Missionaries of the Charity and he was in a wheelchair because of a fall that ended up resulting in him injuring his spine. While he was in a wheelchair, I have never meet someone who was more culturally aware and offered such good advice. There are no words to describe how grateful I am for the opportunity that I had to talk with him. He really made me think and reflect on who I am and where I want to be in life. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from our conversation:

“Your mind is greater than your heart because if you don’t have no mind, then you don’t know what your heart is saying.”

“The one who says they will stay until the end, never come. Give praise to the one who is around now.”

“Everybody is good. But what makes you good?”

Beach: 

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I did not believe Caribbean blue water was actually a thing until I saw it. While I thought the water was beautiful, I must warn you it was salty. The water was so salty that it burned my eyes. The beach was beautiful and a great ending to a long two weeks of hard work and service. Since it was a locals beach, we had the opportunity to interact with Jamaicans and I still cannot get over how friendly, talkative, and helpful everyone we encountered was. 

Coming home: 

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The hardest part of being home is knowing that no one here understands. I can continue to tell my stories; but, you will have no idea what I am talking about until you have experienced something like this. It is also hard to continue with my old routine knowing that there are so many people who have just as much potential as me, if not more; but, the difference between us is that I am in a place where I have the opportunity to succeed. What will happen to those kids that we meet? Will they always be living in poverty? Why do I have all this? Why do they have nothing? Why would God allow this to happen? Will they remember us? because I will remember them for as long as my memory will permit me.

The Team: 

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I am so grateful to have spend my 10days in Jamaica with these amazing people! Each of them is unique and wonderful in their own ways!

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The Mission

Every trip has a purpose. For this trip that purpose is a mission. It is a mission to do great things, to redefine the way I view the world, and to reconsider the meaning of life. This mission for this trip is to:

Number One: The mission is to keep to my promise and to share my experiences abroad. This is my way to share with you the adventures I take but also my way of remembering and reliving the opportunities that may only come once in a lifetime.

Number two: The mission is to avoid stress. I will need a lifetime away from school and craziness to completely avoid; however, this trip will be a great opportunity to focus on something else.

Number three: The mission is to avoid packing and moving. Well this might be an issue considering I still need to repack my suitcase. However, I am so ready to arrive because it means that for a few days, I can settle into one place and not think about moving. Can you tell why I am stressed out?

Number four: The mission is to reflect on the Human Experience. What does it mean to be Human? What is life about?

Number five: The mission is to avoid technology and all the pressure that is causes. Why talk to the outside world when you can spend some quality time with a great group of people.

Number six: The mission and true purpose of this trip is to serve. To see and understand what poverty truly is.

So the stress of the end of the semester are finally over and a copy of a round trip ticket is sitting in my inbox, yet I cannot even begin to imagine what Jamaica is going to be like. I have heard the stories, participated in the retreats, bonded with my group, and endured a class that analyzed the principles of an international mission trip; but, does all of this qualify me as ready to witness the poverty that exists in Kingston, Jamaica?

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Mother Teresa

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Just me and my college dorm

I know that I said that I would turn this into a travel blog; but, this is kind of travel related.

I have one big question: Does the desire to visit my study abroad destination ever end? Right now, I am convinced that this post- study abroad slum will never end. The other day, I got frustrated with my homework and to relax for a few minutes I decided to look up prices of plane tickets to Buenos Aires. Long story short, what should have been a short distraction end with me crying on my couch. I am assuming that this is not normal; but, right now, “returning to BsAs” is on the top of my bucket list. 

I feel like this is one of those experiences when you once you get a chance to see how green the grass is on the other side, will never lose the desire to return. Argentina is my greener grass. I cannot imagine who I was before study abroad; but, I wish never to return. Argentina definitely changed me for the better. All I want is for one more chance, a chance to fall to in love with a country again, chance to travel, and a chance to do all the things I missed the first time. What I really want is a chance to say a proper goodbye. I want a few last days to walk the streets of Buenos Aires in the hopes of rediscovering and redefining my future. 

 

“And now you’ll be telling stories of my coming back and they won’t be false, and they won’t be true but they’ll be real”

                                                          Mary Oliver

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The End

When is my study abroad experience over? Does it end after my last class, after the last party, after I say goodbye to my friends, when I get in the cab to the airport, when I board my plane at EZE, when I arrive in Atlanta, when I get to JFK, or when I get home? For me, the end was the moment I boarded my plane in Buenos Aires’ International Airport (EZE). The plane had not even pulled away from the gate and I was already crying.

I came to Argentina with a bucket list and very few expectations. While staring out the window of my plane and watching the airport crew prepare the plane for departure, all I could think about was, “This is it. My semester abroad is over.” I have completed all but a few things on my bucket list. I have learned an incredible amount of spanish. I have travelled to places that I can’t even describe. I have made a ton of friends. And now it is all over. The hardest part was saying goodbye because while I know that I will probably visit Argentina again in the future, I know that it will not be the same. It will not be the same without my host mom, my friends, my professors, and the amazing IES staff. 

Saying goodbye has been the hardest part. Yesterday, I couldn’t imagine not waking up in Argentina and not seeing my friends everyday. How do you say goodbye when you can’t accept reality? How do you say goodbye when you’re not ready to leave? I got home this afternoon and while I am glad to be back, I don’t feel like I should be here (I want to be back in Argentina). Maybe not saying a proper goodbye to Argentina and my friends is a sign that one day we will all be reunited.

So my last two days in Argentina were the best and the worse. Thursday I took my spanish final, finished packing my suitcase (which weighed exactly 23kg = 50lbs), and attended my last Literature and Politics class (it was a weird last class, especially since I was one of the few sober people in class). Thursday night was spent with friends celebrating our friendships, Argentina, and the end. The night started with a get together with our program at a bar in Palermo. My language partner attended this event, which was really great because I had not had the chance to say goodbye to him. He bought me a goodbye gift, a few books written in spanish. After saying goodbye to my language partner and the IES staff, it was time to go home and get ready to head to a boliche. Brianna and Jenna came home with me. Brianna and I decided that there is no time like the present and this should be our last Britina day. I got ready super fast, we took a few pictures on my balcony, and then headed to Mindee’s parents apartment for a previa. A few of our Argentine friends joined us at the previa and once we were ready to go, we headed to the hiphop culture club to meet everyone else from our program who was going. (Supposedly a few of our program staff members attended too.) I ended up leaving the boliche around 5 or 6am and went to McDonalds for breakfast with a few friends. The next step bed and then goodbyes. After goodbyes and checking to make sure I packed everything, it was time to head to the airport.

I really cannot believe that this semester is over. I have experienced everything that I would hope to get out of a study abroad experience and more. I could not have asked for a better semester. And I know that the only thing I am going to regret about this semester is it ending.

Well, I guess this is the end of my study abroad blog. Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! Maybe, hopeful sometime soon, I will be back to blogging about my next travel experience.

Chau!

“Don’t cry for me Argentina/The truth is I never left you/ All through my wild days/ My mad existence/ I kept my promise/ Don’t keep your distance”

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I Never Though a Countdown Could Be So Scary

Note: This blog post was written with a box of tissue and many tears.

A little less than a year ago, I decided to study abroad in Argentina. Four months ago, I boarded a plane to a country I knew very little about. Tomorrow, I will say my final goodbye to Argentina and I will board a plane to JFK. In four months, I have learned a lot about Argentina and myself. During my time here, I have learned and practiced more Spanish than I thought possible.

You don’t realize how scary a countdown is, until you have one day left in your study abroad journey. There are so many emotions right now. I am excited to go home and see my family; but, I am also dreading saying goodbye to my host mom and IES and Argentine friends. I miss America; but, I have come to love Argentina and I am not ready or prepared to say goodbye tomorrow.

I have made so many great memories here in Argentina and I am not ready for them to end. I want the friendships, the traveling, and the good times to continue.

Argentina has changed me.  I have been forced to step outside of my comfort zone. I have fallen in love with in a new culture. I have learned how to communicate in a second language. I have come to embrace the fact that I love a good adrenaline rush. I have accepted the fact that being impulsive makes life more fun. I have seen things- like Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu, the Amazon, the Salt Flats, the Andes- that no words or pictures could help me describe to anyone. Argentina has given me the travel bug.  Argentina has shown me what life is all about. Argentina has made me into a better person.

The idea of going home, seeing my friends and family, and eating my mother’s cooking is exciting. However, I also know that going home is going to be one of the hardest things that I will do. I know that I will be leaving a piece of me behind in Argentina. This country has changed me, it has made me realize how beautiful life is. Argentina has taught me to appreciate the little things and to do as much as possible with the little time I have. I know that when I get home and twenty years from now, I will not regret this semester. And right now, I would happily sacrifice anything just to relive this semester.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

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15 Things I am Going to Miss About BsAs

There are 3days left; 3days of studying, packing, and saying goodbye. When all is said and done, I know that I will not regret a single thing that has or has not happened this semester. However, I am becoming well aware of the things that I am going to miss.

Here are the 15things I am going to miss the most:

15. Having someone else do my laundry: It might cost me but it is all worth it because I do not have to waste an entire afternoon fighting the washer and the dryer.

14. The taxi drivers: Maybe this is just me; but, I always seem to end up in the cabs with the nicest drivers.

13. The weather: It is warm here and cold in NY and DC. I don’t like the cold.

12. My host mom: I love my regular mom; but, my host mom makes me fresh squeezed orange juice every morning.

11. My jogging route: I love running past the flower, through a few parks, and up the law school steps.

10. The Cafes: I am going to miss being able to take advantage of these great study spaces.

9.  Asado: It is better than American Barbecues.

8. Dulce de Leche: Even though it is making me fat, I still love spreading it on my favorite fruits.

7. Traveling: I have caught the travel bug. All I want to do is pack my suitcase and take a weekend adventure to somewhere new.

6. The ferias: They might be the best and worst ways to spend money

5. Being of age: The nightlife is so much better. And you know what sometimes I just want to have a glass of wine with dinner or enjoy a drink with a friend.

4. Britina Days: Who else is going to force me to fun cultural things?

3. Empandas: 1. They are amazing. 2. They are so easy to find. I am going to miss having them at my disposal.

2. Alfajors: Who needs a bar of chocolate to cure a bad day or stressful afternoon when they can have an alfajor?

1. All of friends: Argentina would not be the same without all them and I truly hope that we all stay friends after we leave.

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El medico

I am convinced that it is bad luck that I had to fall ill my last weekend in Buenos Aires. All I want to do is spend time with my friends and take advantage of the city for one final weekend of exploring. Instead, I am at home crawled in bed questioning why this cold had to start this weekend. Why couldn’t it wait another week?

The only good part about being sick is I get to say that I got experience Argentina’s health care system first hand (and this is not even that exciting). So this morning, I woke up at 6am coughing my brains out, which was extremely painful since I have the worst sore throat. At around 9am, I decided it was time to start waking people up so I made a phone call to the 24/7 IES Student Help Cellphone. And I am about 95% sure I woke up the staff member who was on call. After he made a few calls and a few other staffers called me back I was told that they would make an appointment for me.

I think there was a little miscommunication during this conversation or Vital (our health insurance provider did not contact me like they were supposed t0). After 4hours of suffering, fighting a small fever, and a 2hour nap, my housemate returned home and came to my rescue. She used her amazing spanish and called Vital again for me. Twenty minutes later, Host Mama return home after her golf game to find me in a semi dying/sickly position on her couch. After about an hour and half wait, Vital doctors rang our apartment buzzer. Yes, doctor’s in Argentina make house calls. I vote that America start using a house call system because lets be honest who wants to find their way to the doctor’s office when they would rather just lay in bed and have the doctor come to them?

Anyways, after quick consultation and another language barrier struggle. Teachers don’t teach you enough spanish to understand everything that doctors ask you. So I know how to say I have a cough and tell them what hurts; but, I was not prepared to try and understand the question how is your pee? (They wanted to know if my pee was normal.) Or I am going to use a stethoscope to check you chest can you lift up you shirt?

Once the check up was finished and my temperature was checked, I was told that NO, I did NOT have strep throat or any other sickness that would require antibiotics. Instead, my lungs are clean and my throat is just a little inflamed. The solution: take two of the Argentine version of Advil every 8hours. And I should be back to normal by Wednesday.

The only down side of all of this is that while I would prefer to be lying in bed hydrating myself with water and gatorade and sleeping, I must also study for finals because this horrible cold is not a good enough excuse to postpone my exams.

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