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.