Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Adventures: Argentina Chapter

"You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you." ~Frederick Buechner

Hello everyone!

This is my first post. I thought I'd start a little before I left (I'll be in Argentina in 17 days). Since it seems that it's a tradition for students studying abroad to keep blogs, I thought I'd keep one too.

First, let me tell you how I've gotten here.

I have always wanted to study abroad, especially in the British Isles. Why did I not go there then? There are two main reasons: 1) It's too expensive. 2) I don't have enough time left at Knox to study there. Because I have the motivation to go there, I know I will, probably in graduate school through a fellowship. Since my academic career will likely center around Goddess worship in that area, I don't doubt I'll be going there often.

Most of you know I traveled through Japan to Hiroshima, Tokyo and Kyoto for 16 days in the months of November-December 2008 with a Knox student group, but you probably don't know that it solidified my decision to study abroad. I had only taken a term of Japanese, but with the help of my friends, this seemed sufficient. That's why I know that after 6 years of taking Spanish, I will be alright. I truly treasured every moment I stayed in that country, and I miss most of all the politeness, the food, and the beauty. It transformed my view of the world. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life, and I realized that I would be emotionally okay if I studied abroad. That's a big deal for me.

So, you know about Japan now. Most people don't know I also went on a cruise to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands when I was 16, which was nothing short of a dream (I still remember it in a sort of hazy fashion). I've also traveled to Honolulu, NYC, Cape Hatteras, Lake Mackinac, Orlando, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and all the places in-between. I've also been to Ontario twice. I think the difference between the LA and Hawaii trips and all the other trips were that I didn't have my family or friends around to help me; I had to fly on my own, figure out the transportation system, manage my own money, and find time for research. I think a lot of my confidence came from living near and working in Chicago.

If you don't know, I moved from my little town of Winona, Minnesota to Wilmette, Illinois (northern suburb) last summer to take two job offers I had received. One was a Planned Parenthood internship in Chicago, and the other was at National Safety Council in Itasca (a western suburb). Thankfully, I received a stipend from Knox for $1,500 to work at PP and I also earned $12/hour at NSC. That was when I started working in a professional capacity, and I was using my head to solve problems instead of the same routines that my library or Subway jobs had me do. I had to quickly master the subways and the fast-paced life of the city. Of course, none of this would have been possible without Michael or his father letting me live with them, and for that I am eternally grateful. Chicago will always have a special place in my heart, but I think I want to live somewhere more challenging in the future. :)

For the Knox people out there, you might not know that I'm not going on the Knox-Argentina program. The main reason for this is that I don't have any professional interests in Spanish, and because of this, I have not studied it nearly as much as other people going. (My major is creative writing with minors in history and gender and women's studies!) I'll be able to get around, but I didn't want to take classes in Spanish, which is how Profesor Ragan found the ISA program for me (I actually met her on the Japan trip, coincidentally). My classes will be in English, which will be much less stressful for me, and I'll get to meet people outside of the Knox program. I'm really excited about that.

So, if I don't want to learn more Spanish, why am I studying in Argentina? This is what I wrote in my study abroad essay:

...My love for Isabel Allende’s works, which I had found in high school, grew, and while these novels and short stories were based speculatively in Chile, they accounted for much of the horror and disappearances the rest of Latin America had seen. This curiosity met and mingled with my love of writing, and when enrolled in Beginning Fiction with Professor Hache Carrillo, this curiosity turned into diligent history digging and writing in a character’s head totally removed from my own, in surroundings totally different from mine, and with traditions that could not always correlate. Writing about the disappeared not only forced me to understand Argentine consciousness quickly, but it ignited in me a profound desire to spread the word about these grotesque injustices, often indirectly caused by the USA, my own home country.

When I enrolled in Latin American Women Writers with Professor Magali Roy-Feguiere, I not only read more Allende, but I encountered the works of Elena Poniatowska, Rosario Castellanos, Luisa Valenzuela, and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. These writers opened up even more portals for me in the way of Latin American history and literature, and cemented my own passion for telling others about the disappeared. Reading first-hand accounts of these atrocities forced my pencil to write stronger, so that when I enrolled in more fiction and poetry classes, the themes inevitably showed up in my work. I have written stories about Chile’s dictatorship and poems about Argentina’s tortures. I even performed these works at open mics, drawing me closer to the people that call themselves Latin American, and if I may say so myself, people were blown away by the content.

I decided to put on a film screening in 2008, in collaboration with Spanish Club and Estudiantes sin Fronteras, about Chile’s disappearances. The film was a documentary taken over the recent decades with much care, and followed Judge Juan Guzman as he converted from a Pinochet supporter to one who demanded that his crimes during his military dictatorship be tried in the court of law. I wanted to raise awareness about these issues at Knox, especially because it has now been proven through records released by the CIA that show America’s participation in the Dirty Wars, and in other events to produce unstable economies in Latin America, and I thought it was important in a world where prisoners, under American watch, were being tortured in Guantanamo Bay. I still do not think we will know the full scope of the atrocities of the Iraq War until many years after it has ended. About 30 people attended the film viewing, and I was happy to start a dialogue with students who were interested in the subject, especially former students of the study abroad program in Argentina.

So that's the professional version of it. I can't wait to learn Argentine history and literature in an Argentine school. Not only do I pay Knox directly for my tuition, but it's actually cheaper to study abroad there!

It's been a long road getting here. I had a tramatic childhood to say the least, the effects of which I'm still dealing with today. But thanks to my friends, especially Michael, my siblings Michelle and Bryan, and Knox--which has given me everything--I think I'll be alright studying abroad in a place completely separate from my own.

I really think the quote at the top is true, and it's equally true if you replace "world" with "home." It's funny because I've called Knox my home, Michael's house my home, and my Winona house home. My sister even asked me when I was going home the other day (i.e. to Michael's). I think that's why this quote rings so true to me: it doesn't matter where you are, as long as you have yourself and your loved ones in your heart, mind and stomach.

Wish me luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment