Wild animals, wineries, and waterfalls

Nilusha Jayasinghe is a student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County and an ISA Featured Blogger. Nilusha is currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the ISA Summer 2 program.

Buen dia todos!

8 weeks turned into 4, and 4 weeks just turned into 2. It hit me a week ago that I only have 2 more weeks left to enjoy this beautiful country, and sort of went into panic mode. I had always been thinking that there is so much to do in such little time here in Argentina, and when I realized how fast the time was flying by, I decided that I will not leave Argentina without doing as much as possible, so I got out my agenda and planned out the rest of my 2 weeks until I had somewhere to go or something to do/see almost every single day. It would be an understatement to say that with these plans, my most recent weeks in Argentina have been amazing. A few activities that I´ve done stand out in particular in my mind, and I have pictures to further help you understand why.

The first activity that I did was my trip to the Lujan Zoo, which is a zoo where wild animals like lions, tigers, and bears can be petted and fed by humans! When I heard about this, I knew I had to go. This was one of the greatest achievements of mine here in Argentina in terms of things I did, because it took me THREE times to finally make it there on time. The Lujan Zoo is located 2 hours away from the city of Buenos Aires by bus in the city of Lujan, and during my first 2 attempts at taking it there, I ran into bus problems in which I couldn´t find the right bus, I left too late to make it there before the closing time of 6 PM, or something else. But finally, I learned from my mistakes and I left very early in the morning with 2 other friends and spent the entire day at the zoo. I was able to feed lions, pet baby tigers, touch snakes, and ride a camel! Although it was very, very cool and unique to do all of this, a part of me definitely felt that it wasn´t right because these animals belong in the wild. Upon doing some research on the zoo, I found out that this zoo is a topic of much controversy because the zoo directors have been accused of sedating all of the animals to tame them. The workers have rejected those accusations and claim that the secret is in the art of raising the wild animals and training them as soon as they are born to eliminate their need to compete for food. I have mixed feelings about the whole issue because it is hard for me to grasp that wild animals are able to completely eliminate their instincts, but the entire experience was pretty priceless for me.
Next, I attended a cool graffiti tour through a company called GraffitiMundo which I would highly recommend anyone do if they are in Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires has a large street art culture which is pretty recent, and in some certain places public as well as hidden away are full of AMAZING art. This tour revealed the history behind Argentinian graffiti, showed us the coolest places in the Belgrano and Palermo areas of the city which have some very famous street art.

Finally, I committed to an out-of-town excursion with 4 other friends, and went to Mendoza! I had heard that Mendoza is a must-see place if in Argentina, famous for its wineries and view of the Andes Mountains. Although it was a 14 hour bus ride there and back, I was able to sleep like a baby in the semi-cama seats. The great difference between the hustle and bustle of the city of Buenos Aires and the tranquil environment of the city of Mendoza was immediately apparent, and it was a nice getaway. The first day there, we went on a wine tour in which I rode a tandem bicycle for the first time! Tip: don´t sit in the front if you won´t want to do most of the work. The second day, we visited the Mendoza park which is actually bigger than the city itself. From the park, we hiked uphill to a point called Cerro de La Gloria which is a very high point outside of the city where one can get a breathtaking view of the city and the Andes Mountains. There, we watched the sun sink into the Andes mountain tops as the sky took on many different hues. On my final day, I went paragliding for my first time over the Andes Mountains which was a pretty exhilarating experience. The paragliding folks told us that we picked an amazing day to do the activity because for a winter day, the wind and temperature were perfect and allowed us to get really high up in the air and fly for a long time. This was a trip full of firsts, and is memorable to say the least.

I can certainly say that my last month here has been better than the first, most likely due to being able to get away from the city and visiting some really amazing places outside of Buenos Aires. Without a doubt, the stress of getting my classes in order, adjusting to this new country, and struggling with the Argentinian variety of Spanish a little bit at first certainly made my first month a bit more of a struggle, but looking back, the entire adjustment period was such a learning experience. By July, I felt so accustomed that I felt ready to even settle down and live here. I found myself cracking jokes with the locals, giving Argentinians directions, and helping the new summer session II folks get to know the city as well, especially since I was just in their shoes a month before. Now I have one more big adventure to experience before I leave Argentina, and it will probably be the most memorable of all from what I´ve heard: the famous Iguazu Falls. I´ll be leaving in 2 days on that excursion with the rest of my study abroad program and upon my return, I´ll be sure to fill you in! Thanks for reading and talk to you guys soon!

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