Ella in Buenos Aires: A Weekend in Salta

June 25, 2018

Hello!

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Things have been getting kind of crazy here since finals are coming up! This week I wanted to write about my amazing trip to the provinces of Salta and Jujuy, Argentina. I went with four of my good friends that I met here in Buenos Aires at the Universidad Católica Argentina.

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First we traveled to the cities of Humahuaca and Tilcara, which were absolutely incredible. The mountains were breathtaking.

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Next, we went to Purmamarca, and to the Salinas Grandes, or salt flats, which went on as far as the eye could see. We learned that the government harvests the salt to sell! I had never seen anything like it in my life. We thought our car looked cool against the barren landscape.

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Last, we went to the city of Cafayate, which is kind of off the beaten path. None of our friends had been there before, so we weren’t sure exactly what to expect but we ended up having such a great time. The bodegas weren’t all open since it is the low season in terms of tourism, but the ones that we found were so cute and nice. I think this is my favorite city I’ve been to in Argentina outside of Buenos Aires. I can’t tell you how calm and relaxing it was! Also, the people we met were so nice and friendly.

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The whole trip was an incredible experience, but the highlight was definitely the hike that we went on in Cafayate. Our guide took us all the way to the top of steep mountain, where we could see the whole city below us. On our way up we saw five different waterfalls, and a whole herd of wild mountain goats!

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Now that I’m back in BA, I really have to hit the books this week so that I’m ready for finals!

Chau for now!

Ella


Jack in NZ: Alkaline

November 21, 2016

“Don’t feel bad for me. I think I’m, like, so pretty.”

“I am a hot-blooded fire and I am fearless.”

“It’s been a life-altering year. But I guess every year for everyone is a life-altering year.”

– Amy Schumer

After literal weeks of trying to come up with a post-abroad blog post, I’m taking my second copout. I’m still trying to make sense of the whole semester and tie a pretty little literary bow on the whole thing. Rest assured, it’s coming. But in the meantime, I need to publish something. And I’m running out of forms to experiment with. The one, of course, that I haven’t touched, is the blandly positive stereotypical travel blog. I’ve resisted this one all semester, agonizing over my posts, trying as best as I can to make something meaningful that I can be proud of. Now, I relent.

And my goodness was it enjoyable. There’s no literary risk involved, just relating my experience as simply as possible. No flourish, nothing over which to feel self conscious, nothing over which to agonize. It was easy, it was fun, it was positive.

And here I think lies the first lesson I’ve learned while abroad: basic stuff is kind of fun. Polo shirts are comfortable, Ke$ha is talented, Amy Schumer is funny. And more importantly, the people who like these things aren’t suffering from some sort of aesthetic-appreciation affliction, they’re just people, enjoying what life has to offer.

This is the Katy Perry of my blog posts, my Abercrombie, my Kevin Hart. And while any respectable critic would (rightly) dump on it, it’s upbeat and it’s fun and it’s positive, and who wants to disparage that?

Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean other people can’t enjoy it:

Finals were kind of hard. I had to cram for them in the two days before I took them because I procrastinated studying for basically the entire semester. My first final was for my environmental chemistry class. Because I did pretty well on my course assignments (my labs and homeworks and stuff), I only needed a 28% on the final to pass the class and get credit for the course. The format of the test allocated 20% of the possible points to each of the five sections of the class. Instead of studying all the material, I concentrated on the two sections I had taken notes on at the beginning of the year, because I thought that was a more efficient use of my time. When I got to the exam, I was relieved to see that the questions for those two sections represented what I had studied pretty well. I was even able to do some of the questions in other sections, because the chemistry involved was relatively simple and the problems didn’t require the specific knowledge I neglected while studying. I was confident I got the score I needed, and I even got to leave the exam a little bit early. What a relief!

After I took my environmental chemistry exam, I headed back home to relax for a little bit and have a cup of coffee before diving into the study materials for my conservation biology class. For this test, I needed to get about a 50% to pass, so the stakes were much higher. I studied for a few hours, and mostly concentrated on big picture conservation priorities, as well as something called PVA. PVA stands for population viability analysis, and I knew there was going to be a question about it on the exam, so I studied it extra hard. I went to bed pretty early, so I could get a jump on studying before I took the exam the next afternoon.

The next day I woke up and went to the library. I managed to find a desk, and my friend Amy came to join me. Amy was in the same class as me and we helped each other study. Thanks Amy!

After reviewing our notes for a while, it was time to take the test. Now, I should mention, the university where I studied releases past exams, so students have a rough idea of what the questions will be. Every year the last three questions are pretty much the same (there’s one for each of the major sections of the course), which makes it easy to study for the exam, but the first question has more variation. The previous exams had first questions that were mostly about how to prioritize protected areas for animals. Because we really focused on marine protected areas in class, I was pretty sure that the question would be about them. There were also questions on what to do about specific conservation problems, like an oil spill, or what to do about the endangered yellow-eyed penguin. I thought (because they used the penguin question last year), there was no way they would use it again this year, so I didn’t really study for it.

Boy was that a mistake! When I opened up the exam, the first question was about the cheeky aquatic birds. Oops! Thankfully (because I did a lab report on the big problems facing the species), I was able to do well enough on the question. I also was able to answer the PVA question pretty well, all my studying sure paid off!

The last question was about how to attract local species to a town. I don’t think I did so well on that one. I knew the ‘what to do’, but I don’t think I explained the ‘why to do it’ enough. Hopefully I’ll get a good enough grade to pass!

Finals were pretty stressful, but after I finished I felt so good. I packed up all the stuff in my room, and gave away the things I couldn’t take with me. Then I made a tasty dinner with a steak from my freezer I’d been procrastinating cooking for a few months. It was a great last meal.
Then I bought some nice New Zealand craft beers from my local shop, and went to hang out with the best friends I made while abroad.

We didn’t do very much. I played a game of chess with my friend Noah, and talked with Amy and Sarah. We drank the beers and ate ice cream and had a relaxing time. I left around midnight after hugging them each goodbye and promising to stay in touch. That should be pretty easy with Amy and Sarah because they both go to Richmond. For Noah it will be more difficult, he goes to school up in Boston. We both said we might visit each other’s schools, but we didn’t make any firm plans. I went to bed feeling pretty excited for my trip the next day.

I had to get up really early to catch the airport shuttle, but it was worth it. All my transfers went smoothly and I was on the plane to Singapore in no time.

So long New Zealand! You were OMFG awesome!


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