Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wrapping Up and Looking Back

I've failed several times now to express in Spanish how glad I am to have been a part of Fundacion Cruzada Argentina this summer/winter. I already know that I'll fail in English, too, if I try. I just want to point out some of the small things that made the experience more fulfilling than simply handing over a deliverable as a volunteer grad student.

First, it was just us four girls in the office this summer. As women, we were of course naturally motivated to carry out our responsibilities effectively and efficiently;) But we also found time for some female bonding time in between. Hearing silly stories about Ro's little girl and watching videos of Dan's sobrinitas (nieces) on her Blackberry actually made me miss the little monsters I've cared for in the past. Listening to Marian's stories of being in Washington D.C. and telling her about my own tourist adventures around Buenos Aires was a fun culture swap. The best regular cup o' joe here in BsAs was the coffee in our office. Even better...sharing our dunking cookies for a morning snack-time break and soaking them in said cup o' joe. Even BETTER...afternoon snack-time breaks that entailed a trip to the grocery store next door and ended munching on Milka chocolate bars or Tentacion cookies. You think it can't get better than that right? Wrong. The last week of work, Daniela brought mate and yerba to the office and we sipped on it all day long, passing it around like it is done traditionally - more or less. At week's end, they bought me my very own mate gourd (red, like the color of FCA) and broke it in with me.

Lunchtime was always a fun time too, and great for practicing my Spanish. Again, just us girls - this time all  6 or 8 of us that work on the floor, depending on the day. I learned a lot about Argentine politics, the best-looking futbol players, how to cook a mean milanesa, and what sights to see around town. I joined in the complaining about public transportation and incautious drivers, and they listened as I told them stories about Arkansas, my own cooking attempts, and American culture in general. I'll miss my ladies' lunch group for sure.

FCA got lucky, I think, with some of its board members, too. I met Tim for the first time in the beginning while I was still adjusting to the Spanish here...it wasn't too long before I realized he was Canadian, phew! Jaime and Alejandra visited regularly to help the staff out with office business, but they often stayed to chat awhile as well. That's probably the reason why I felt so comfortable in the meeting for my final presentation today. It was nothing new...just sitting around and chatting about the day's business, except for the bigger room and the fancier table in between us all.

That's not to mention my few, but very profound conversations with Eduardo, who regularly visits FCA schools to take them supplies like donated food, clothes, and computers. He's one of the founders and taught me quite a bit about the bygone ways of Argentine life and what conditions are like now in the rural provinces.

Looking back on the last three months, I've had a very productive off-season, digamos (we'll call it), and am quite proud of the work I accomplished. The staff and board of the Foundation seemed happy with my work, too. I'm leaving the organization and, in 10 days' time, the country, but for all the reasons I stated above, I don't think I'll be able to clap the BsAs dust completely off my hands and call it a summer. I know that it will soon feel worlds away once I'm back in Arkansas embarking on my third and final public service project for the Jones Center on behalf of Clinton School and my degree. However, I certainly feel more connected to this project and this group of people than I expected after a mere 11 weeks, and I thank them for all the good times and the buena onda!

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