Randolph Exchange Student Explores Argentina

Communities / Mar. 28, 2013 11:18am EDT

By Tiffany Gast

Tiffany Gast, a 2012 graduate of Randolph Union High School, is currently halfway through a Rotary Exchange visit to Argentina. She left Vermont August 27 and is scheduled to return in June. She sent the following report and photos special to The Herald. I with no other exchange students in my city, I was forced to speak Spanish all the time and learned quickly. After a week I noticed an increase in my level of communication, and on my second week I started school and was able to understand a little more.

Trip to the South

I was sitting, just one year ago, at the white covered tables at the women’s auxiliary in Waterbury, eating pie for breakfast with my mom. We were both anxiously waiting to find out where the next chapter in my life was going to be starting.

They finally called my name. As I walked to the front of the room, my whole body was shaking from excitement and nerves. I pulled the paper out of the white folder searching for the words I had been waiting for: A-R-G-E-NT- I-N-A!

At the end of August the journey began. Being a 17-year-old girl flying alone for the first time was just my first step. After about 28-30 hour of travel, I finally made it to Bahia Blanca, Argentina, my city.

There I was greeted by the smiling faces of my first host mom, my second host family and my councilor along with a nice cold breeze that did not agree with the black shorts I was wearing. The first night and couple of weeks with my new host family was great, but I felt trapped inside a big game of charades as I tried to communicate. Having studied Spanish in middle school and all of high school, I thought what I had learned would help with my communication to start off, but I was wrong. Here they speak Castillano, a type of Spanish which is faster, and has different accents and words than I had learned. No English was spoken in my host family’s home, so we communicated a lot with our hands and Google.

This was actually a great experience because,

After about two months of going to school, learning the language and experiencing strikes, I had a trip with other Rotary exchange students to explore the south of Argentina for 17 days. We saw such a wide variety of things, from penguins and whales, to national parks. We went to the furthest southern city in the world (the end of the world), and we walked on top of the fastest growing glacier in the world. All these places were so beautiful words cannot do them justice.

Being together for the first time with many exchange students was fun because we spoke in many different languages and all had different thoughts on things. But the one thing we all had in common to talk about is how we all have gained a couple pounds due to the mouthwatering food we have here in Argentina.

One of the foods that I love is the empañadas. The outside is like pizza dough and on the inside there are many stuffers, depending on your preferences. I also fell in love with asado, the most common meal for a Saturday night. This is meat of all types cooked on an oven/grill outside made of bricks. The meat is so rich and juicy that you can’t wait for that Saturday to come around again.

Christmas, New Year

It was raining so I did not have a white Christmas this year, but it was still beautiful. We went to my older host sister’s house to celebrate. We starting eating around 8 p.m. with finger foods and then moved to a cheese spread, and ended with the main meal, which was Asado and potato salad.

After eating and chatting for about two hours we had dessert, and in the middle of dessert, Papa Noel (Santa) came, so we all went into the room and opened the presents that he had placed in the chest next to the tree. We all continued to talk and I helped my host sister’s son work on his new Legos. At midnight we cheered and gave cheek-to-cheek kisses to celebrate.

About a week after Christmas I changed to my second host family, and for New Year’s we went to their beach house, where we spent the weekend relaxing. For New Year’s Eve we went to their grandma’s house, sat around a long white table and chatted until the food came out. This time it was chicken stuffed with eggs, ham and cheese. Finally it was midnight and we cheered and again gave cheek-to-cheek kisses to everyone.

Lots of Beach Time

After New Year’s I returned again to Bahia Blanca, but because the summer vacation extends until March, I have been going to the beach every weekend. We have a beach house, so I get to take walks on the beach at night and watch beautiful sunsets that just take your breath away.

In the past six months I have learned so much about Argentinian culture and can now have a conversation with anyone, simply allowing the words to just flow off my tongue. I have learned a different way of greeting people, eating, living (taking naps during the day, staying out late at night). Every day that I am here I learn more, whether it’s a new word or a new tradition.

I am more than halfway through my exchange now, and I plan to make the most out of what is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. I will soon have the opportunity to travel to the north of the country. I am truly grateful for this opportunity that Randolph Rotary Club has given me, to expand my awareness of the world and expand who I am as a person.

I invite anyone to visit my blog http://argentinatiff. blogspot.com.ar/ to share this adventure with me.

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