Katherine Taylor is a student at the University of Denver and an ISA Featured Blogger. Katherine is currently studying abroad in Valparaiso, Chile on an ISA Fall 3 program.
At the end of October, my friends and I had a long weekend because Monday was a holiday. So we decided to take off for Mendoza, Argentina. We had heard wonderful things about the city from other people and the city is only a bus ride away, so we figured why not? Let’s put another stamp in our passports!
The trip there was easy. We hopped on a bus and rode it all the way to the border of Argentina. There, we waited in line forever and took cheesy tourist pictures with the various plaques saying obvious things such as “entering Argentina.” Or, “leaving Chile.” Obvio, po.
After we made it through customs with no real hassle, we hopped back on the bus. At this point, I have become the MASTER of sleeping on buses. Chile loves their buses, so now I have perfected the art of sleeping in a semi-reclined bus seat. It’s all about the placement of your jackets under your head and over your face. I have been told it looks rather strange. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
When we made it to Mendoza, we were delighted to find that our hostel was a cute little hole-in-the-wall joint with random items cluttering the walls and dulce de leche crepes for breakfast each morning. Kassi and I sprung for a private room and it was so worth it. We had a cute little balcony and our own bathroom. It was like being on vacation!
We didn’t do that many planned activities in Mendoza. On Saturday, we took a winery tour by bike. I recommend Maipu bikes. The bikes were in good shape and the owner was very helpful. She even gave us juice when we got back! Mendoza is relatively flat, so this made for a pleasant ride down streets that made me feel as if I was in a small town in Tuscany.
One winery that we stopped at was a museum tour of sorts. Another place had a restaurant and so we stopped here to eat. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the delicious food with actual flavor!!! REAL SPICES PEOPLE!
On Sunday, we split up as some people wanted to go to the hot springs while some of us wanted to just relax. A small group of us ended up walking quite awhile to the biggest recreational park in South America. They weren’t kidding. This place was huge and European.
There were beautifully pruned roses and white columns everywhere. We got some of the biggest hamburgers I’ve ever seen and I of course got properly sunburned. It was a relaxing day.
Sunday night, some people signed up for a horse riding, asado adventure in the mountains. I passed and rather had a relaxing night eating way too much pasta with my girlfriends at a cute place called 390 Pastas. Each person ordered a dish and then we all took a portion. We had fun conversation and it was one of my favorite nights in Chile. Good old-fashioned girl time.
Unfortunately, Monday came very quickly and we were back on a bus to good ol’ Viña Del Mar. Customs coming back into Chile took FOREVER and we were exhausted. It felt good to come home.
So that was my weekend in Mendoza! Short and sweet. However, I also am going to list some interesting differences I noticed between Argentina and Chile while in Mendoza.
1.) The buses in Argentina are WAY more efficient. You get on, swipe a card with money loaded on it or put coins in a little box and then sit down. No interaction with the driver. No trying to figure out how much the driver wants while he is driving away and you still have one foot outside the door. The buses are bigger, slower and easier. However, I kind of missed the crazy micros. You grow fond of them.
2.) Argentinians are much easier to understand. Their Spanish is clear and slow. Just the way I like it. I felt like I could talk to everybody! Every time we were in a taxi, I was rambling at the driver just because I understood what he was saying back. No random po at the end of the sentence. No cachai. Once again, it was nice, but I missed Chilean Spanish. It’s so quirky and fun. Like a puzzle you have to take apart and put back together to fully understand. I even caught myself saying “obvio, po” or “porfa.” At one point, I told a taxi driver “Si, necesitamos ir a el hostel, cachai?.” (We need to go to the hostel, catch what I’m saying?) He did not catch it.
3.) Argentinians look very European. My blonde friends did not stand out nearly as much as they do in Chile. Now granted, many of the Argentinean women are not natural blondes. Still, there are many more light-eyed, pale women in that country. We drew much less attention there.
4.) BUT, when we did draw attention, the cat-calling was aggressive. Argentinians are much more outgoing. Chileans tend to be more withdrawn. When a Chilean man, besides construction workers, wants to tell a woman he thinks she is beautiful, he says quietly as she walks by “ohh, que hermosa.” Argentinean men yell after you. They will yell from 5 blocks away.
5.) As I mentioned above, the food in Argentina is tan rico. (very rich). My grammar professor explained that the cows in Argentina have more flat land to walk on, and therefore are not as muscular as the cows in Chile who have to climb around on mountains. She said that this is why Argentina is known for its meat. We had an asado at our hostel on Saturday night and the meat was some of the best I’ve ever had in my life. If you go to Argentina, do not miss out on the pasta or the beef. They have a lot of Italian influence in their cooking and compared to the bland Chilean food, it was heavenly.
Argentina is a beautiful country with wonderful landscapes. Mendoza was very relaxing and I enjoyed my weekend there. However, when I came back to Chile, I felt at home. As I walked around the streets of Mendoza, I knew that I made the right choice in studying in Chile. It is hard to explain exactly why, but Chile has stolen a piece of my heart. I am thankful that I made sure to research and talk to former students or friends before coming to Chile. Doing your research before picking a country for study abroad really does pay off. If you pick right, you may even find yourself falling in love with a country. Chile, mi amor, gracias por su vida maravillosamente extraño.
I liked your post and I though my blog might interest you. I, myself, am an exchange student, originally from Germany and I compare some very particular things between the U.S. and Germany.
Nice post — falling in love with a country is always a great adventure!
I wrote about my Mendoza hostel adventure on my blog: