MENU

Las Cataratas del Iguazú

My final excursion in Argentina was an absolutely incredible way to end my program. Last Thursday I took a bus from Buenos Aires to the northern tip of Argentina, a place called Iguazú. The national park there is enormous and overlaps the borders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. I even got to see the place where the three borders intersect! The day I arrived, my group was taken into the jungle to visit a tribe of indigenous people called the Guaraní. When I learned about this part of the excursion, I felt a little uncomfortable about going into the jungle to look at the way a tribe of people lives differently than I do. I learned that they used to be semi-nomadic but now they live off tourism and selling their artisan crafts because they can’t travel and hunt anymore due to the development of urban society. While this made me sad, I decided I would rather support them in the only way that I could, so I went and learned a bit about their culture and bought some of their handmade crafts. The guide talked to us about their history and showed us the wooden traps they used to use to catch animals for food. He also told us about their system of government. They normally elect a new leader every 3-4 years, but the current leader has been in place for 27 years now and is responsible for providing the people with running water, electricity, elementary and high school, and most importantly, the title for the land in which they live. I do appreciate learning about other cultures that are different from mine which is why I travel. However, I still feel conflicted about visiting a tribe of people as a tourist. We didn’t go to where they actually live but watching the people that were there and being told to take pictures with them felt like I was visiting a zoo, which made me uncomfortable. These are people just like me, even if they do live differently.

On the other hand, the national park was amazing. Though I was only able to visit a small part of it, what I did see was incredible. There were huge waterfalls that spanned multiple kilometers and mist that made rainbows at almost every angle. In addition to the amazing scenery, there was an array of species of wildlife throughout the park. I couldn’t begin to count the number of butterflies that circled my group every step of the way. That was really cool because they were not afraid to land on our heads, hands, or shoulders. There were a couple of gorgeous blue and purple butterflies that stayed on my hand for about 20 minutes while I walked from the first set of falls to the river, where I rafted down to the next point. I also saw a toucan, a family of monkeys, and a ton of raccoon-like animals called coatis. Coatis aren’t afraid of humans at all, unlike toucans. They came right up to my group looking for food. They were pretty cute, but we weren’t allowed to feed or pet them because they can be dangerous sometimes. We saw multiple falls from multiple angles, each with their own breathtaking view. I’m really starting to realize that seeing things like that with my own eyes is absolutely worth traveling to the other side of the world.


Michael Panelas is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Spanish and Jazz music. Michael will spend the spring semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Spanish Intensive Program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Patagonia: El Fin del Mundo

In between the end of my first intensive class and the beginning of my second, my classmates and I were given a week off. Some friends and I took this opportunity to travel south of Buenos Aires to a part of South America called Patagonia, which includes the southern parts of Argentina and Chile. Our first destination was called El Calafate. It is a beautiful city in a valley with a lake that’s blue like I’ve never seen before. On the other side of the lake, there is an enormous glacier that spans almost 100 square miles. Needless to say, I have never seen so much ice in my life. The view was amazing, though we didn’t get to see many angles or walk on the glacier because the tours that would allow us to do so were very expensive. We stayed at a great hostel called I Keu Ken, which was very comfortable and where all the workers and guests were super friendly.

We took a bus from El Calafate to a smaller town called El Chaltén. This was definitely my favorite stop of the trip. All of the hikes there are free and the views were the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The day we arrived, we took a hike to a mountain called Fitz Roy. The trail was about 4 hours each way. The whole time we could see mountains with rivers in between. The water was even drinkable in all the lakes and streams! When we finally got to the “9th kilometer” out of “10,” we had arrived at the mountain. Half of my group wanted to turn back for fear of not getting back before the sunset, but my one friend and I were determined to go all the way. We had no idea what we were getting into, but we all started climbing, and I mean climbing. This was not like the rest of the trail we had just casually walked through. It took us another hour at a steady pace to finally reach the top. All along the way, there were people on their way down telling us how much farther they thought we had to go. None of them added up to the others, so it just confused us or gave us false hope. We were so exhausted, but when we finally reached the top, we saw a view that put all the others to shame. On the other side of the mountain we had just climbed, there was a taller mountain covered in snow and ice. In between them, there was a lagoon with teal water. This is what the locals call “la leche del glacier” or “the milk of the glacier.” Apparently, the ice has minerals in it that change the color of the water when the ice melts. Though I was extremely tired and had mildly injured my foot, it was absolutely worth being able to see that with my own eyes. Something I’ve learned from seeing real mountains for the first time is that there is no photo that exists that can do any justice to a view like that because it’s more than a view. It’s a feeling. When you look at something in real life, you can feel how big or how far or how high it really is in a way that is impossible to see in a photo.

Our last stop was in Ushuaia, a city at the very southern tip of Argentina. There we went on another hike in another national park that was also beautiful, but not quite as magnificent as that of El Chaltén. By that time, I was ready to go back to Buenos Aires and start classes again because one of the people in my group was starting to get on my nerves. Overall, it was an amazing trip and I am so glad I went. Being from Chicago, I haven’t gotten to see nature like that very often.

This is the view we had at the beginning of the Fitz Roy hike:

 


Michael Panelas is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Spanish and Jazz music. Michael will spend the spring semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Spanish Intensive Program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Carnaval in Gualeguaychú

The first excursion I took outside of Buenos Aires without ISA or any students from the program was to Gualeguaychú, Argentina. Carnaval had been approaching, and everyone else in Argentina had made plans much further in advance than the week of. There were some celebrations in Buenos Aires, but some locals had said that there wouldn’t be much and that the place to go was Gualeguaychú. Many of my friends wanted to go, but the problem was that all the hotels and hostels had been booked up already. There was some talk of people sleeping on the street or on the beach during these celebrations which did not seem safe to me. Some friends/classmates of mine (who were also from the U.S. but not ISA) decided that we could camp out in a site across the river. While this also didn’t seem very appealing to me at the time, I figured I’d rather camp out than miss the celebrations. We were just able to find bus tickets that would take us there in time to reserve a spot in the campsite. After getting on the wrong bus (which was scheduled for the same place, time, and destination as our bus, but by a different company) and almost missing ours, we finally arrived at around 10 pm and set up camp with the tents we rented. There was less than an abundance of space with 4 other people trying to fit in one tent, so I brought my hammock. This would have worked out perfectly for me because I didn’t have a sleeping bag or pillow, so the hammock was much more comfortable. The only problem was that it got very cold at night and I, having been sweating in 90-degree weather in Buenos Aires, did not bring a jacket nor a proper blanket. Every night, I started out in my hammock, thinking I would be okay this time. Each night, the wind chilled the marrow of my bones until I was forced to become the fifth person sleeping on the hard ground in a tent with no pillow.

During the day, we wandered around, ate, and wound up going to the beach. This was not a sandy ocean beach where you would sit and drink Piña Coladas. Gualeguaychú is on a river with muddy water and little sand. We still had a nice time sitting out and going in the water to cool off though. The most annoying part about it was that two of the guys we were traveling with were drunk the entire weekend, from the time they woke up in the morning, to the time they went to sleep in the morning. I wouldn’t mind this much if they weren’t acting so foolish and bringing even more attention to us on top of the fact that we were clearly American tourists. This wasn’t as big a deal at night though, because everyone was drunk and acting wild in the streets. They all had cans of foam that they would spray at each other called “nieve artificial” (“artificial snow”). I partook for a bit, but there were lots of men harassing the two girls that were with us, so we decided to call it a night at around 2 am. The next night is when we went to see the actual parade, which did have some pretty amazing floats. I suppose that was worth all the trouble and stress I had to endure in my long weekend there, though there were not as many people or parties as I had originally imagined. It was an adventure, and the highlights of eating lots of asado (Argentine short rib steak) and drinking yerba mate on the beach with friends were worth it.


Michael Panelas is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Spanish and Jazz music. Michael will spend the spring semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Spanish Intensive Program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

First Intensive: Complete!

It’s been four weeks since I arrived in Buenos Aires. My first Spanish intensive course is over. I had a great teacher that helped me solidify my understanding of how the language works, as well as taught me a lot about how people actually speak. I also have gone on a couple trips outside the city. The first trip was to a place called Tigre, which is just outside of Buenos Aires. It’s on a river and has absolutely no streets or cars. Everyone travels by boat. There are tours on boats, public transit on boats, and even the grocery store is on a boat that travels from house to house so that the people who live there can buy what they need. My study abroad program, ISA, took us to a resort with a small beach on the river where we could swim and lay out on the sand. It was a fun day trip that got me out of the city.

That same Saturday night, I went out to a dance club called Bayside. What you have to understand is that in Buenos Aires, the nightlife is not like that of the United States. Most bars or clubs I’ve been to in the U.S. close between 1:30 and 3 am. Here in BA, many clubs don’t even open until 1 or 2 am. It’s normal to go to a club at around 3 and then party until 7 or 8 in the morning. I arrived at Bayside at about 1:45 am. The girls I went with knew a guy that had some kind of password that got us all in for free, otherwise, I would have had to pay about $15. When we got inside, there was barely anyone there. This place was enormous. There was an outside area with a concert sized stage that had a large screen behind it. Also outside, there were several other sections, including a VIP lounge. The inside was just as large as the outside, also with a separate VIP lounge and an indoor stage. I mainly stayed inside because that’s where they were playing music I like such as reggaetón and cumbia. The club started to get crowded by about 3 am, by which time I had lost my friends and there was no chance of finding them. Just to be sure, I took one turn around the entire club to see if I would run into them. This took me about 30 minutes, and by that time, I had lost all of my energy and given up hope of finding the people I came with. I decided to take a taxi home. When I left the club, I would guess there were about 500-600 people there. When I came outside, there were at least another 500 people waiting to get in. Remember, this is 3:30 in the morning and the night was just getting started. I had never seen anything like it before. I was exhausted, so I hailed a taxi and went home.

That week, some classmates and threw together a trip at the last minute for the following long weekend for the famous holiday Carnaval. I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured I’d rather be in a place where they were really celebrating than in Buenos Aires where there were surprisingly few activities. I’ll talk about that trip in my next post.

Here is a picture I took in Tigre! (The water is dirty from soil but not from pollution)


Michael Panelas is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Spanish and Jazz music. Michael will spend the spring semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Spanish Intensive Program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The End of the Beginning

I am at the end of the first part of my journey. I have traveled from Chicago to Mexico City, to Lima, Peru, to Cusco, Peru, to Santiago, Chile. I have stayed in 6 different hostels and was almost left stranded when I got to Santiago at 5am because one hostel lost my reservation. Tomorrow I will fly to Buenos Aires, the place that I have been waiting to see for almost two years now. Traveling has been stressful at times and so it will be nice to finally settle in this weekend and not have to share a room with nine other people. That isn’t to say that I haven’t been having a great time. The past two weeks have taught me so much about Spanish, cultural differences, traveling alone, and that I have to remind myself that this journey is not about having fun 24/7. It is about learning and discovering new things about the world as well as discovering new things about myself. I have learned about myself that when I come to a new place where I don’t know anyone, I often want to lock myself up instead of venturing into the unknown. Then I say “Michael, you know you didn’t travel to the other side of the world to sit inside and not talk to anyone.” That’s when I kick myself into talking to random strangers who usually wind up becoming good friends with whom I spend most of my time in that place. There have been ups and downs all throughout my trip thus far. I have met and connected with so many people and it has only been two weeks. I am so excited to learn about Argentine culture and dialect, which I hear is quite different than that of the rest of South America. All I can do is stay positive and learn as much as I can while I’m here. The rest is unpredictable.

Here’s a picture of me at Machu Picchu! It was amazing!


Michael Panelas is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Spanish and Jazz music. Michael will spend the spring semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the ISA Spanish Intensive Program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.