Meghann in Argentina: A Mix of Cultures

August 14, 2017

Orientation is over and classes have finally begun, which has given me the chance to start meeting other exchange students from all over the world—on only the first day of class, I spoke with people from countries like Japan, Colombia, France, and Norway, to name a few. It is awesome to not only be able to immerse myself in Argentine culture, but to also experience and learn about parts of other cultures from friends and students in class. A couple of German friends from my pre-semester Spanish course have been teaching me a German word a day—leaving Spanish class just to be taught bits of German is a perfect example of how much I have already learned about cultures, languages, and life in other countries I previously knew very little about.

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When cultures mix: some of my first random German words at the bottom of my Spanish homework.

I really enjoy the idea of being able to learn about and adapt to living in Argentina with other foreigners because it provides the opportunity to both find out about life in other exchange students’ home countries and share about my own experiences in the United States. For example, a long wait for the bus outside of campus led me to talk to an English girl about how different commuting to university in England is in comparison to living on campus in the U.S. I am also excited to take the PEL (Programa de Estudios Latinoamericanos) classes that UCA offers for exchange students, as many of the subjects will likely be even more interesting given that the classes are comprised of student perspectives from all over the globe. I am the only American in my Arte y Arquitectura en America Latina class, and I think it will be a great experience to learn about such an interesting topic that is taught in Spanish and coupled with the views of students from several different continents and many distinctive backgrounds.

 

I definitely did not expect my experience in Buenos Aires to be so wrapped up in other cultures (besides that of Argentina, of course), but I am very pleasantly surprised that my experience has turned out this way; there is so much to be learned when you are surrounded by great diversity.

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A group photo of all of the UCA International students that are here this semester.

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Naomi at Akita Week 9: 漢字漢字漢字

October 31, 2016

This past week has been pretty slow. People are getting sick and wearing masks to avoid the sickness spreading. It’s getting super cold. I ended up facetiming my mom who was sleeping in my room. I asked her why she was in my room and she told me the AC works better there…I almost jumped out of my chair when I heard that. She’s still using the AC while I’m over here freezing my butt off!

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I went for a walk after my classes since I had some free time. A couple of my friends told me that there was a dam about a 20-30 minute walk away so I decided to go find it. I listened to music the entire walk. Only about 5 cars passed me. I ended up finding the dam but didn’t take pictures, as it was already getting dark. There was a small green frog chilling on the fence blocking the dam.

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You know how Patrik always gives me coffee in those cup noodle containers? Well, I went to AEON (the mall) this past week and ended up buying some paper cups from DAISO (100 yen store, basically the dollar store). I also bought my own mug since I get coffee from him that often. I went to his room about 5 times this past week just for coffee. While we waited for the coffee to brew, we showed each other music that we recommend. Me with my hip hop music and him with his metal core music. It’s funny how close we are but how different we are, especially when it comes to music taste.

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I forgot to mention but last week, Patrik was showing me some Japanese music he listens to and he ended up playing a song by a band named FAKY. I started freaking out because my friend, Diane, the girl I recently visited in Tokyo, used to be in that band. She ended up leaving it because she wanted to do something else I showed him one of their music videos and pointed out Diane and he started freaking out. We both started singing along to the music video and wow, it was such a surreal moment. If you want to check out one of their songs just type in “Better Without You FAKY” and you’ll see Diane with her long red hair.


There was a Halloween party at the Student Hall Thursday night. Isabella and I decided to stop by because my friend was performing. We thought we were going to be late so we ran all the way to Student Hall but ended up being early. We watched the costume competition and two guys dressed up as Cup Noodles won! Patrik was there as well with his skeleton face paint. Jay ended up performing and blew us all away. It was Isabella’s first time hearing him sing and “wow” was all that came out of her mouth.


Most of us went out Friday night for a Halloween party and ended up pulling an all-nighter since we were unable to get back on campus till the next morning as we had to wait for the trains to start running again. We slept all of Saturday and woke up around 4pm! Since we practically wasted the day, we decided to all cook dinner. Isabella and I went to AEON first to get the ingredients. She bought spaghetti and Carbonara sauce. I decided to make Goya Chanpuru, an Okinawan dish, since my mom sent me Spam in that care package she sent me last week. I bought tofu, eggs, and goya. Isabella already had salt and soy sauce so I was set. I had to call my mom before I started cooking to make sure I was doing everything correctly. She also sent me jushi, Okinawa style rice seasoning with vegetables and meat, so I had to make sure I was using the rice cooker correctly.


We had so much food. I made rice and Goya Chanpuru, Isabella made her spaghetti, and Annabelle and Kevin made chicken with some sweet chili sauce. Patrik was the only one that actually enjoyed the Goya Chanpuru; everyone else thought it was too bitter, which didn’t surprise me. Tristan actually said that we should all eat a mouthful of just Goya. I didn’t do it because I didn’t count, as I enjoy the bitterness. So, Tristan, Isabella, Annabelle, and Patrik all took about 5 pieces of Goya and stuffed it in their mouths. It was great. Annabelle made the weirdest face and immediately ate chicken afterwards to get rid of the taste. This makes Goya Chanpuru sound bad…I promise it’s actually delicious.

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This upcoming week, we have to give a 3-4 minute speech in Japanese class. We can’t have any notes or anything so we basically have to memorize our speech in just Japanese. I’m actually pretty nervous. For this speech, we had to decide to talk about either something that surprised us, saddened us, or excited us about Japan. I wrote about the vending machines in Japan and how the abundance of them surprised me.


I’m not kidding when I say you will find at least three vending machines on every street corner in Japan. It’s unbelievable really. They have vending machines with hot foods, like hot dogs and cup noodles. They’re everywhere. Back home in Okinawa, right outside of our apartment, there are seven vending machines lined up outside, side to side. Even outside of convenience stores, they have vending machines lined up outside, despite the drinks they have right inside the store.

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I appreciate it though because these vending machines sell iced black coffee. It’s a struggle for me when I go back home to the states because the only way to get iced black coffee is if you go to Starbucks or to some other chain store. It’s not as easy, common, and cheap as Japan.

img_0927In addition to the speech I have to memorize, I also have a 漢字 (kanji) midterm to study for and its just line after line after line. I’m even studying for it right now. I’ve been doing well in the class so I’m not too worried about it but this is an exam on ALL of the 漢字we’ve learned so far this semester…wish me luck!


Naomi at Akita Week 7: 肉人参

October 24, 2016

On Thursday, Patrick and I decided to go on a walk since I was stood up for my date. Just kidding, not date. I’m an LDIC (Language Development and Intercultural Studies Center) conversation leader. The LDIC is a self-directed language-learning center that provides several resources for students trying to learn a new language. They provide several computers and you can check out movies or TV shows. For example, they offer the entire series of Friends with subtitles for any student trying to learn English (I love Friends). I volunteer through the Foreign Language Conversation Support meaning any student can sign up with me to talk about anything in order to improve their English speaking skills. I had two appointments and my first one didn’t show up so Patrick and I went for a short walk before my next appointment. It was such a beautiful day but, unfortunately, our walk lasted only 20 minutes. Patrick asked to borrow my earphones so he could listen to music and continue walking while I headed back to the LDIC for my next appointment. You wouldn’t believe this but my second appointment didn’t show up either…いいね〜

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This weekend, my high school friend from Okinawa visited me. Her name is Ami and she’s currently a senior at Osaka International School. She arrived Friday afternoon, so we both ate lunch at the school cafeteria then went on a walk to a shrine near campus. Unfortunately, it was raining but we took some umbrellas from Komachi lobby (one of the dorm buildings) and headed over. The shrine seemed randomly place and was very secluded. We had to walk up several stairs just to get to it. Ami and I bowed at the entrance, gave money to the shrine, clapped our hands twice, and prayed for a bit. Afterwards, we headed back to campus and took the bus to AEON mall. We shopped for a bit before Patrik joined us. He was very enthusiastic about going to the arcade and finding Dance Dance Revolution. I didn’t think they would have it but we ended up finding it and “dancing” for a bit. Ami played once and refused to continue so Patrik and I finished up our turns then we all headed to dinner. I forgot the name of the restaurant but wow…the food was delicious. Ami speaks Japanese fluently and knows the dialects of both Okinawa and Osaka so we talked about that for a bit, as Patrik was very interested. Ami actually thought the way people speak in Akita was very weird; apparently, understanding people with an Akita dialect is difficult for people outside of the prefecture.

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On Saturday, we headed to a beer festival in the city. We took the bus from campus to Wada Station then the train from Wada to Akita. On the train, Ami interviewed Patrik for her article. She writes for her school newspaper and wanted to write about her visit to our school. While she was doing that, everyone was staring out the window at the passing rice fields and I was playing Sudoku on my phone. We actually ended up skipping on the festival because it was very small and expensive and instead we just hung out at different spots in the city. For lunch, we went to Lawson’s (convenience store) and bought riceballs/steamed buns/ramen. It’s common for people to buy cup noodles and eat it right there. Lawson’s actually provides hot water for you, so Ami ate her noodles on the street while we were all talking and hanging out.

On our way back to campus after hanging out in the city, we had an hour at Wada station till the bus arrived. So, naturally, we had a photo shoot…meaning, I took several pictures of Ami while everyone else sat on the side and snacked on pizza flavored chips. These are some of the pictures I snapped. She looks like a monkey in the one of her hanging off the pole. We ended up playing music out loud and dancing freely since there was no one in sight.

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I forgot to take a picture so I had to screenshot from Isabella’s snapchat story but later that night, Isabella invited us over for dinner. She made 肉じゃが (nikujaga) and we ate it with rice; it was her first time making it but it turned out amazing. Nikujaga literally means meat and potatoes; this is a common Japanese dish of meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, and konnyaku noodles. Isabella only had two potatoes left so she actually apologized to us because it was more of 肉人参 (nikuninjin), as in meat and carrots.

Sunday was Ami’s last day so we woke up early before she had to head to the airport at 12pm. We woke up and immediately went for a walk around the park near campus before even changing out of our PJs. She has a set pair from Uniqlo and I thought it was the cutest thing. She only brought one pair of socks with her (she forgot apparently), so she had to wear my socks. She also stole my shoes that morning so she was pulling off the typical Naomi look, as in mismatching with the striped socks and checkerboard shoes. Ami said it felt like Christmas with all of the green trees and her red PJs, so she ended up playing Christmas music; Mistletoe by Justin Bieber was played. Afterwards, we headed back to my apartment to change and went straight to the convenience store near campus to buy breakfast. Then, I gave her a tour of the campus. It took less than half an hour, as AIU’s campus is very small. She was mostly impressed with Nakajima Library, as is everyone. Our library was actually voted to be one of the nicest libraries in Japan, I believe. Whenever our school is written about in an article or posted in a handout, our library is always shown because of how beautiful it is. After the tour, my friend Toshi took us to the airport. Ami bought some お土産 (souvenirs) for her family and friends back in Osaka. I wasn’t too upset when I said bye to her because I plan on visiting her in Osaka one weekend before the end of my study abroad.

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After dropping Ami off at the airport, Patrik decided that we should go on a walk to another shrine near campus. Instead of a 20-minute walk, like the shrine I went to with Ami, this shrine was a 55-minute walk away. We had no plans for the day and it was so beautiful outside so it was no problem. We walked through villages that were completely surrounded by trees and rice fields. There were several elderly people working in the fields and in their gardens. We saw two older men stacking huge bags of something (we couldn’t figure out what it was) and Patrik went up to them and asked if he could take a picture in their tractor. He’s not shy at all! When we finally made it to the shrine we gave some money and clapped our hands twice then prayed. The name of the shrine was八幡神社 and, unlike the other shrine I went to with Ami, this shrine was right next to the road and not as secluded. After our visit to the shrine, Patrik told me there was a river near us so we walked even further. The water was so peaceful. We saw someone canoeing in the distance. Also, while walking near the river, we both looked up and saw at least…AT LEAST 100 dragonflies just swarming around; I’m not exaggerating. After the river, Patrik said there was a temple nearby as well, so we walked even further than intended. On our way back to campus, instead of walking on the sidewalk near the streets, we walked on the pathways in the fields (there was a lot of poop). Our walk ended up being four hours and we got back on campus as the sun had set. It was a good time but our weekend ended with us heading to the library to work on our 作文 – essay for Japanese class about the AIU festival last weekend.

 


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