Abroad Blog

Hello new followers! I see that I’ve gained a couple of new followers from my last blog about my experiences in Buenos Aires so far. I actually posted that blog here accidentally because I’m a dork. If you want to follow along on my journey with me, I am posting semi-reguarly about my stay here at: http://aniowanabroad.wordpress.com  .

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My Impression of the Culture After Five Weeks

ImageI cannot believe that today marks five weeks since I arrived in Buenos Aires. I expected time to fly by, but not this fast! I really like it here and I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever experience the culture shock or severe homesickness that we were warned about as part of orientation. I have only felt homesick twice: the first night I was here when I had an “Oh my god what am I doing here?! I can’t spend five months this far from home!” moment, and the day that I got back from my trip to Córdoba, when it felt kind of nice to come “home” to all of my things, but it didn’t feel so nice to not be home home. Luckily for me, Dan is an awesome source of support; I skyped him both times and he cheered me right up.

Speaking of Dan, I was lucky enough to spend last week with him here! He arrived last Saturday, and we had the best time. It was so much fun! We crammed a lot of sightseeing and eating delicious foods into the week. At some point I will write more about all the awesome things we did in case any of you wants to spend a week in the city and want some suggestions of things to do (that’s a hint, by the way. I’m still here for four more months! Come visit me!). His coming after only a month was necessary because he had to come during a school break, and it actually worked out well because it was really nice to know that I didn’t have to wait long to see him if things started feeling hard, and now I’m used to living here so I feel confident that I’ll be able to make it through four long months in this crazy country! It was hard to see him go, but it was so awesome that we had this time together here. We will definitely reminisce about this week forever. 

Anyway, I think that part of the reason that I haven’t feel too much culture shock (yet at least) is that the culture isn’t that different from the United States, which is really surprising. The main difference I’ve noticed are: lack of punctuality (even my professors show up late), a seeming lack of any rules for drivers whatsoever, and pedestrians walking reeeeeeally slowly and not always on the right (which I assume is related to the lack of pressure to be on time places and a general sense of laid-backedness that I am trying to discover in myself). 
The punctuality thing doesn’t bother me; I’m starting to understand what I call Argentina time (as in: are we meeting at 9 o’clock, or 9 o’clock Argentina time?) which means show up places or expect others to show up around 30 minutes late. I am really neurotic about punctuality, so while others showing up late doesn’t bother me anymore, I am struggling to not leave my house too early for things because I’m kind of a freak. I was annoyed the first couple of times my professors showed up late, but now I’m used to it and am just considering it part of the experience.
The lack of rules for drivers took a little getting used to (you can’t just cross a street here and assume you have the pedestrian’s right of way. You will die.). Once in awhile it’s still irritating, like yesterday when I was crossing the street on a walk signal and a car laid on their horn and drove up really close to me. I mean, seriously? But I’ve gotten used to being extra careful crossing the street and now I’m almost positive I’ll make it out of this country without being flattened by a bus :)
The pace of pedestrians is the only thing here that I find really irritating, and I think it’s because this is one of my pet peeves from home. In the US, I hate it when people are inconsiderate and walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk or hallway, or walk in big groups that take up the entire thing, because life is so much easier for everyone if we all just walk on the right and try to keep some sort of awareness of others. I think that there isn’t that social custom here, though, because people walk on whichever side they feel like and often in groups three or four across, blocking the entire sidewalk. I am not sure if I’ll be able to overcome my annoyance at this here since I’ve never been able to at home, but I’m trying!

Besides those three things, I can’t really think of anything that’s too different from the US (besides language, obviously). Since BsAs is such a big city, it’s really easy to find anything I need, so I haven’t had to struggle without anything. I think you can’t buy peanut butter (I keep forgetting to look) but that’s no big deal to me. Except that I don’t think you can buy Reese’s PB cups either, and that is kind of a problem :). I had Dan bring me some Reese’s eggs to hold me over.

Next week I’ll write about the awesome cuisine here! 

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It’s Almost Here!

I spent today finishing packing and running some last minute errands in preparation of my trip to Argentina, which I leave for on Saturday! Dan was able to get tomorrow off from work so I wanted to make sure that I didn’t have to spend it packing.

So far I’m actually not feeling very anxious, although once in awhile the realization that I’m going to have to speak Spanish, like, I will really have to speak Spanish makes me feel like this:2q809r8jpg1I’ll be having imaginary conversations in my head in Spanish and think “Oh my god, I don’t know the word for stamps! What will happen when I need to buy stamps?!” Then I realize that I can just describe what I need or look it up (stamps is sellos, btw) and that everything is going to be okay.

Speaking of looking things up, I am flying a Brazilian airline and have a layover in São Paulo, so I looked up some travel Portuguese and printed out a little list because even though I’m sure they’ll speak English on the flight, seeing as how we’re flying out of New York, I don’t want to be that ‘Murican who has no awareness of other cultures. Plus I think the stewardesses appreciated my lousy attempts at German on our way back from Austria two summers ago, so I figured I’d go for it again.

Well, I’m off to make dinner and run one last errand (I can’t find my bathing suit top so I have to go get another one since I’m leaving this freezing winter behind!) before snuggling up with Dan until I have to leave on Saturday. It’s going to be a hard five months away from him, but I’m sure I’ll find plenty of things to do to distract me!

I have launched another blog to document my trip, and if you’re interested you can follow along here:

http://aniowanabroad.wordpress.com 

My goal is to update about once a week with lots of pictures and stories about what I’m doing, as well as my general experience with culture shock and other things like that.

¡Hasta luego!

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Winter Break

Hello there! I survived my semester and was rewarded with a three week trip to visit my family in Iowa. In the seven years since I moved to New York, I’ve only spent one Christmas with my family, the year I lived in Minneapolis. It was awesome to be there. Dan was able to come for the first time in a long time; he hadn’t seen my dad since our wedding! We had fun wandering around Mason City on the last day of his visit and talking about how nice it actually is (something I couldn’t really see until recently).

mason city

Sometimes I have a little fantasy about moving back to the midwest–usually when I’m writing out my rent check for my stupid little one bedroom. I don’t think we’ll ever do it because I really love living on the east coast, but damn would it be cheap!

Because we left four days before Christmas, flying was out of the question. It was just way too expensive. Instead, we took an Amtrak, which was several hundred dollars cheaper. I’m not sure how I feel about the trip. I will actually write a post next week about traveling by train because I know I was scouring the interwebz for information before I left.

After three wonderful weeks with my family, I headed home and began almost two weeks of sickness. A stomach bug that thankfully only lasted a couple of days (a little going away gift from my nephews and dad) and then a nasty cold that had me laid up on the couch for a week. I’m very happy to report that I felt 100% back to normal yesterday and I’m finally able to start exercising again! The new thing I like to do is 20-30 minutes on the elliptical and then 15-20 minutes of various strength training, such as push-ups, squats, lunges, etc. If I’ve learned anything from my girl Jillian Michaels, it’s that alternating between upper and lower body forces your blood to shoot back and forth (or something), making your workout more effective, so that’s what I did. It feels good to be working out again, it’s been awhile. Pair that with all of the Culver’s frozen custard I was eating while in Iowa (OMG it’s so good, there’s nothing like it), I’ve packed on some pounds. I’m not too worried about it, I’m getting back on track with my eating, although I find myself reaching for dessert a lot more than I should, and that plus exercise makes me feel pretty awesome.

So now I’m in the process of preparing for my semester in Argentina!! I’ve been cooking like a crazy person in order to fill our freezer to the brim with meals for Dan while I’m gone. I will post about that separately as well. I’m now in contact with my host mother, and she seems very nice, so it’s all becoming very real. I’m excited and nervous! I will be launching a blog in the next week or two where I will document my semester and talk about the whole study abroad experience, including the scholarship I was awarded, so keep your eye out for a link to that.

This weekend Dan and I are heading to Providence, RI for a mini-getaway together since it’s the last weekend we have alone before I leave for five long months. I am really excited to get out of town with him!

Lunch time!

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Weekly Roundup

Hello from end of semester hell! I have been barely keeping my head above water this entire semester, and like usual it’s only gotten worse as the semester wraps up. I gave my last formal presentation on Monday, so it feels good to have all of those out of the way (I hate public speaking!), but I have three final papers due next week; a 6 pager, an 8 pager and a 10 pager, all in Spanish. Writing 10 pages in English can be tedious, and it’s much harder in Spanish because my vocabulary is so much smaller. I just keep reminding myself that each week I’ve gotten all of my work done on time each week so far, so everything is probably going to be okay :).

In more exciting news, my study abroad process is coming along quite nicely! Two really exciting things happened in the last two weeks: I bought my plane ticket (!!!!!!!) and I was awarded a scholarship that covers almost half of the cost of the program (!!!!!!!!!!!!). I also have almost all of my paperwork finished. I got a physical on Wednesday, which was the last step required here, I filled out all of the paperwork for my scholarship, and I have almost all of the paperwork filled out for the university in Argentina, save a letter that I’m writing for a program called PAL, which pairs you with a local student who can help you adjust to living in a foreign country. I plan to finish that today and then take a huge sigh of relief. My anxiety about going abroad is nearly completely gone, and I’m getting really excited!

So let’s get to the roundup! I have been making a ton of repeat recipes lately for simplicity’s sake, but here are a few new ones:

Sweet quinoa breakfast casserole from Fit and Free with Emily: I made a few changes to this recipe: I used old fashioned oats instead of quinoa because I couldn’t find quinoa at the grocery store (granted, I was shopping on a weeknight after a long day of classes, so I gave up the second it wasn’t in the rice section, which, in retrospect, might not have been the actual rice section but the ethnic food section) and I didn’t have enough at home. I also only used walnuts because that’s what I had, I reduced the sugar to a scant 1/4 cup since I was using sweetened almond milk, and I left out the chocolate chips because I try not to have any sweets during the week. I was a little worried that the texture would be gross with oats, but it is not at all! This breakfast is awesome. It tastes so good, and I love not having to make a pot of oatmeal every morning. I just throw it in a bowl with a splash of milk and heat it in the microwave. I will definitely be making this each week until I get tired of it.
Soba noodles with Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce from Simply Reem: I’ve made this twice over the past couple of weeks. It is really tasty and quick to throw together, making it perfect for the nights that I don’t get home until after 6. I made it once with steamed broccoli mixed in, and once with some pre-cut stir-fry veggies, which pumped up the nutrition and made it more filling.
Copycat Pizza Hut Pizza from CDK Kitchen: Yesterday was Dan’s birthday, and he requested pizza for his birthday dinner. I had pinned this on pinterest awhile ago with Dan in mind because he loves pan pizza, and I busted the recipe out last night. I didn’t follow the recipe for the sauce, I just used my fave sauce (Contadina), but it was still really good and surprisingly similar in flavor to Pizza Hut. The recipe calls for nonfat dry milk, which I just replaced with regular milk (1/4 cup nonfat dry milk=1 cup regular milk), and this is the main difference between this recipe and my standard pizza crust recipe.

And one random link that I found interesting:
“But You’re RUINING The Language!” from xojane: I have a constant battle going on between my inner grammar nazi and my inner linguist. I have a keen eye for grammar mistakes in things I read, I really enjoy editing, and I cringe when I see mistakes (case in point, a slide entitled “Summery” during a presentation in one of my classes yesterday) (disclaimer: not claiming perfection here, you will undoubtedly find at least one mistake in this post). That being said, studying linguistics gives you a broader understanding about how language works (obviously) and the socio-political aspects that effect society’s perception of “correct grammar”. It also makes you realize that every dialect has its own set of rules and constraints and is therefore equally complex as the standard dialect, and that English’s spelling conventions are dumb and way outdated so you can’t really blame people for spelling mistakes. I just spotted this article this morning, and it was really timely because Dan and I were JUST arguing about these aspects of language two nights ago (me from a linguistic standpoint, him from and English teacher standpoint). Anyway, if any of this is interesting to you, this article goes more in depth than my summary here and you should check it out. 

And with that, I need to get ready for class. Today is going to be rough because I woke up at 3:15 this morning and have been wide awake since. I am not very prepared for either of my classes today, which is a mistake because these professors ALWAYS call on me. Thankfully I get out of class at 10:35, so I can (hopefully) nap when I get home, unfortunately I haven’t started any of those final papers due next week that I mentioned above, so I can’t exactly sleep the day away.

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Weekly Roundup

Howdy! Wow, this was a rough week! I haven’t gotten enough sleep, and probably because of that I got struck down with a terrible headache during my first class yesterday and had to miss my second and third classes. Today I have to go back to the dentist because my appointment last week was just a general exam to see what was going on with my tooth. Today I’ll be getting a cleaning and then we’re going to discuss what to do because my baby tooth is hopeless but my mouth and jaw are really small so apparently it’s going to be challenging to fix. But let’s not think about such unpleasant things and get on to the weekly roundup instead!

I haven’t cooked much this week because we switched our naughty night to Tuesday this week because we had to grocery shop and there was no time for cooking (we sold our old car and got a new one over the weekend [!!!] and had to wait until the DMV opened on Tuesday to register it so we could drive!) and Wednesday night in a famished daze I accidentally had too big a snack when I got home from class and wasn’t hungry for dinner. The two meals I cooked were awesome, though!

Veggie fried rice from Eating Well: This was so good and easy to make. I added diced carrots and peas. I didn’t measure anything, I just eyeballed everything and wound up with 4 gigantic servings. I reheated it the next night by frying it again and it was even better!
Cozy Millet Bowl with Mushroom Gravy and Kale from Oh She Glows: I made this for dinner last night and it was SO GOOD. Even better than I expected. I made some substitutions based on what I had in my kitchen: I used brown rice instead of millet, parmesan cheese instead of nutritional yeast, and spinach instead of kale. I also used a mix of crimini and baby bella mushrooms. It was very filling and satisfying; the mushrooms tasted so meaty. I actually thought mushrooms were meat when I was a kid, and I can totally understand my own confusion :). I will make this mushroom gravy for other things in the future for sure, like mashed potatoes.

I’d better get back to work! I am so excited for Thanksgiving break but also stressed because I have quite a bit of work due right when I get back, and I really need to get started on my final papers because the semester will be over before I know it. I have a super awesome break planned between seeing family and friends and a wedding on Saturday, so I need to get everything done before break so that I can just relax and enjoy myself.

Have a great weekend!

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What Balance Looks Like To Me

Recently, Andie over on Can You Stay for Dinner posted about cheat days while dieting. I responded in the comments, but the topic has stuck with me so I wanted to expand upon my thoughts here.

For me, being “on the wagon” with regard to eating well means that 85% of the foods I eat are healthy and 15% are eaten purely for enjoyment. Saturday at dinnertime through lunch on Friday I am eating healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners with lots of veggies and reasonable calorie counts. Friday night is either takeout or something that I cook that is higher in calories/has little nutritional value that I wouldn’t eat during the week for dinner. Saturday morning is something ‘naughty’ for breakfast, often pancakes and eggs, and lunch on Saturday is usually leftovers from dinner the night before. On Friday and Saturday nights I have dessert, and if there are leftovers of the dessert I’ll have some on Sunday, but if anything is left on Monday it gets thrown out.

So here’s how my diet breaks down, and this is why I consider it balanced:
Out of 7 breakfasts each week, six are healthy (usually oatmeal) and one is not
Out of 7 dinners each week, six are healthy and one is not
Out of 7 lunches each week, six are healthy and one is not
Dessert is eaten two to three times a week, the rest of the days I don’t have any sweets

For me, this is perfection. I really look forward to the ‘naughty’ meal I’m going to eat on Friday and enjoy it much more than when I’m eating takeout a few times a week; same with dessert. When I don’t have these guidelines in place, it becomes really easy for me to eat dessert every day (and sometimes also buy some candy out of the vending machine at school) and start getting takeout frequently because I’m too lazy to cook, but then I feel physically crappy. This way of eating seems to be some sort of sweet spot for me because as long as I am exercising regularly it is easy to lose weight and it feels effortless.

Some people would consider my diet, well, a diet since I’m counting calories, and they would consider Friday and Saturday cheat days since I’m deviating from the way I usually eat. I don’t consider the way I eat to be a diet, though, because to me diet implies something temporary. Over the years, I have gone back and forth from being completely mindless with my eating (and/or stress eating, which will have to be a post of it’s own) to this style of diet (and here I’m using the word to simply mean the foods I eat), and I always feel awesome when I’m doing this. I don’t feel deprived in any way, and it is a way of eating that I can imagine doing forever.

Because of this, I don’t think of Friday and Saturday as cheat days because they are just a part of my balanced week. Food is more than just nourishment, and even though the meals I cook throughout the week are delicious and satisfying, I don’t think it’s good to make any foods completely off limits. Sometimes I want some sesame chicken or pizza, and those types of foods can absolutely fit into a healthy diet. The key is, of course, moderation. The important part of figuring out what balance looks like to you is to find a way to eat and exercise so that you feel healthy, happy, and satisfied.

On the theme of healthy living, I’m happy to report that last week was a total exercise win! I even exceeded my goals. I woke up early Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday to exercise before class, I went for a long walk Friday night, walked for about two hours on Saturday and about the same amount of time yesterday. I know I said this on Wednesday, but I’m shocked about how easy getting up to exercise is. I honestly thought it would be miserable but I like it a lot and I’m glad I finally just did it!

Well, it’s time for me to get reading. In my Growing Up Latino class we had to choose one book to do a research paper on, and apparently we were already supposed to have read the book. Since we’ve been reading about 150 pages per week of the other assigned books since the semester started I’m not exactly sure when I would have read the book I chose, but I guess I’d better get on it!

Now it’s your turn:
What does balance look like to you?

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