A Travellerspoint blog

The first days of work

sunny 30 °C

iiHola boludos!!

I feel like it’s been a while, living without internet (so spoiled at home). Two days ago we moved to Leo’s place, where everything is more modern and spacious. And of course not to mention, we have a balcony and an amaaazing pool!!! We just need to find internet and a bike to get to work (a few kilometers from here).

Talking about bikes! On Monday I had my first day of work: a bike tour around the different bodega’s of Maipú. The hostel offers tours around 3 of the main wine regions of Mendoza: Maipú, Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley. Maipú is the most traditional one. We left the hostel at 10 in the morning with 3 tourists, 2 English girls and 1 Belgian boy. The guide of the day was Juan. We obtained the bikes at Mister Hugo, a very charismatic older Argentinean who gives kisses to every tourist he meets. Even though the bikes quality-wise would never really be approved by Belgians or Dutch people, I think there are few tourists leaving Mister Hugo’s unhappy, just because he treats his clients so warm. And, as for a lot of things here, you always have to keep in mind: I am not in Europe!

It was so peaceful riding the bike between the trees and vineyards, with the sun on our faces (pretty hot day, about 30 °C). We stopped at 3 different wineries where we got a short tour and a tasting. Most of the wineries here are family businesses and the equipment is older than in the other regions. They mostly produce red wines because white wines are produced in the higher areas. This is because those grapes need a lower temperature during the night. After the 3 wineries it was time for lunch, mini pizza and of course empanada’s, in a modern bodega with a magnificent view over the vineyards with the (snowy) Andes on the background. Accompanied by more wine, of course!

After lunch we continued our trip to “the beer garden” where they sold homemade white, dark and red beer. I was surprised that our guests weren’t throwing up yet, being in the sun all day and drinking and mixing that much. We even continued our trip to another place where they let us try red absinth and liquor. Surprisingly, nobody had more than a sip and an extremely funny face :) We also got to try homemade chocolate and marmalade, I tasted one with pumpkin and cinnamon which I am definitely taking home!

Back at Mister Hugo’s everybody was wildly enthusiast about the day, saying they would recommend it to all of their friends. For those who are interested, the tour costs about $470 which is €72,30. This includes pick-up at your hotel in Mendoza, a bottle of water, the bikes and helmets at Mister Hugo’s, the tours in the wineries and the various glasses of wine, beer, absinth and liquor and the lunch and other artisanal tastings and of course the guidance by one of our super nice Mendoza Andes- guides. The price is a bit higher because the tours are done in small groups and can always be adjusted to the group’s wishes.

Back at the hostel I spent a whole lot of time doing nothing in particular, because it’s so easy to get into conversations with guests at the hostel and just hearing about their trips around South-America. I also received my working hours. For my dear friends and family: I won’t be available between (Belgian time!) 21h and 4h on Monday – Tuesday – Wednesday, not between 14h and 21h on Friday and not between 19h and 2h on Sunday. Thursday and Saturday are my off-days. As you see, I am working until midnight 4 days a week. I will have to get used to that! But on the other side, I can swim in the pool all day because I only start working at 17h (and Sunday at 15h)!

Yesterday was my first day in the office. To start with, Claudia explained all of the tours, the pricing and the combination possibilities. We also offer wine tours by car, high mountain tours, photo safari, gaucho days, nature trips and mountain tours in combination with cooking or wine tasting. Next to that, we cooperate with other companies to extend our offer. These companies offer for example rafting, horseback riding, paragliding and even spa days (definitely will try that one :D).

The rest of the “work day” (17h-24h) was pretty calm. At least it seemed like that, because one of the main tasks is just answering to the questions and needs of the hostel clients. They are always nice and interesting so it’s a very nice job. Of course there were some differences with Belgium. For example we started working around 17:45. Before that I was just sitting a bit, waiting until they would inform me about what I should do. On the other side, Kati had to work about 20 minutes longer because at the last moment one of our bosses asked to send a few more e-mails etcetera. I guess it compensates. If I see what I’ve learned the first day it also wasn’t that much, but I must admit I didn’t push to let them explain some more because I was feeling very woozy because I had been sitting next to the pool all afternoon in the burning sun (poor me, right? haha). Today Kati won’t be working, so I think I’ll have a bit less fun and I’ll be a bit more working!

Sorry guys, have to jump in the pool again! Talk to you soon ;)

Besos :)

Helen

Posted by ElenaMaria 15:58 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

The arrival

sunny 27 °C

iHoooola!

I have safely arrived to Argentina!

Where will I start? Maybe first I will tell you about my airplane adventure. The first flight to Madrid was over very quickly. Once in Barajas I had to take this awesome metro inside the airport to get to the next terminal. It must be huge! I had left the house at 16h, and got on the plane to Santiago de Chile by midnight. The flight would take about 13h30. I was impressed by the huge plane.. It’s the first time I got on a plane with different classes and I think it was about twice the size of a short distance plane. We also got blankets and pillows :) Once we took off they served us dinner (at 2 in the morning). When we finished they turned off the lights and there were 3 big screens where they played movies that recently played in the cinema, like Life Of Pi. I was so excited about what was going to happen and occupied with the movies I barely slept, haha. Right before we landed the captain pointed out that we could see the Aconcagua underneath us. Too bad I didn’t have a spot next to the window! Arriving in Santiago was sooo exciting. I was immediately searching for differences but actually it looked pretty much the same as any European airport, even though maybe a bit less modern, and besides the fact that we had to wait for a very, very long time to get on the airplane because they seem to be extremely slow and unorganized (shocker!).

Finally I arrived in Mendoza! At that time it was about 17h30 Belgian time. It took me about another hour to get through passport and luggage control and out of the airport. There an (xtrmly gdlckng) Argentinean addressed me and said Luc (my boss) asked him to come and pick me up. After 20 minutes we arrived at the hostel. Luc presented me to the whole staff who look like absolutely amazing people. I also met his wife and little Jamaica of 2 weeks old. She’s so tiny :)

A day before I left home I got a friend request on Facebook from Katrien, my new roommate. I didn’t know it before, but she said I was going to stay in a room with her. I was very happy because we immediately had a great click. The click with the room unfortunately was a bit less great since it’s about 4x3 meters big and you have to go outside for the shower and toilet. The outside area with pool and bar is really beautiful by the way. The hostel has an amazing homey vibe. Back to the room, I was afraid to give any comment about it since I think I should adjust to the circumstances, until Katrien started about the topic. She told me that there might be a solution for us since everybody agreed that it was not a good thing working and sleeping in the hostel at the same time. There is no space to get up in pyjama’s in the morning and the kitchen is shared with 40 different people when the hostel is full. Besides that, the room is situated right next to the bar. You can imagine I was quite happy when she proposed we could stay together in a room in the apartment of Leo, our co-worker (the executive boss). We immediately jumped in the car to check it out. It’s a very modern apartment with a balcony, a nice garden and even a pool. Katrien was almost jumping in the air (she had been staying in the hostel for about 1 week already). I also think this will be much better! The only thing is that it doesn’t have internet, so I hope I can find an operator which allows me to use internet on my phone.

The typical thing which is always a shock arriving to another country is the first trip to the supermarket. This time no different! First thing that I noticed was: they have about 100 products of the same thing. The point of that, no clue, because the store wasn’t filled with people at all and they were all buying about 5 things and looked at me like I was crazy for buying a whole basket. They also had a funny aisle filled with powder-packages to mix with water to make lemonade. By the way, here it’s not piña but ananá, not melocotón but durazno and not fresa but frutilla. In the beer-part I discovered the only Belgian beer they have is Stella Artois. The price for a 1,5 L is 21,65 pesos or 3,10 euro. The most exciting (in a negative way) for me was of course, for people who know me well, finding soy products. Which I didn’t… I asked the supermarket guy and he said something like “you are complicating things”. Haha! Thanks. I am well aware of that… :(

Back at the hostel Luc, Leo and Katrien threw me a small welcome party in the bar! I met with little Diëga (Luc’s daughter) who is a real showstopper. She is so sweet! After that we decided to have a drink close to Plaza de la Independencia which always has these cute stalls with artisan products and entertainment. I had another funny fruitdrink and went back home, midnight in Argentina, already 4 o’clock in Belgium, which meant I hadn’t really slept about 43 hours. A bed never felt so good!

At about noon the next day (today) Katrien and me woke up. Me with a serious headache, which fortunately was quickly gone after taking a pill. The sun was shining, the weather was sweet.. It was amazing waking up here. After taking a shower me and Katrien went for breakfast where we ordered some facturas, which are Argentinean pastries. Something typical are the media lunas, half moons, which are a bit like croissants. It was delicious.

At three Katrien had to start working, so I started writing this blog. I quickly decided though I had to go out and see the city. One of the guests, a 24-year old Argentinean from a bit further in the province would accompany me. We went to see a few of the different squares (because there are many) and walked through the elegant lanes. The thing that stands out most here are the trees. They are everywhere! It must be the greenest city I’ve ever seen. It’s also a pretty small city of course, and it doesn’t have much old buildings at all. They have told me though that there is an old city center too, probably a part that wasn’t destroyed by the big earthquake of the 19th century. It was funny to see the fountain water colored red in some places, a sign that they are celebrating the Vendimia (harvest) festival. Of course I felt most at home at the Plaza de España :) Yesterday, by the way, they crowned the Venidmia queen. Unfortunately I discovered too late that you have to pay to see this show, because I think it would have been amazing. During the day I also caught a glimp of a parade while we were driving to the hostel.

When we came back home Amadeo, the Argentinean guy, convinced me to try some mate. This is very typical herbal tea. You put the herbs in a small goblet and add sugar and eventually water. Then you use a straw made of metal to drink it. Each person needs to drink the whole goblet (like a small cup) before he passes it to the next person. Every time they fill it up with new hot water. I was a bit scared it would make me feel bad afterwards because Amadeo was telling me, while I was eating an empanada, that it’s bad to mix unhealthy food with the mate, but fortunately it didn’t. Still I must admit it’s true what they say: you have got to learn to love mate!

Here I am, midnight again, finally ending the story of my first two days. Tomorrow I will know more about the new place and everything will probably change again. Tomorrow I will also have my first day of “work”: a wine tour by bike. This will be so much fun. The only worry is not to get a sun-burn. What a luxury, right! ;)

A very big kiss,

Helen

Posted by ElenaMaria 19:33 Archived in Argentina Tagged argentina mendoza culture_shock internship wine_tourism adventure_tourism Comments (0)

Crossing the Atlantic

I am so ready!

all seasons in one day 5 °C

Holaaaa mis minas y chabones!!

These are the names for boys and girls I will probably be hearing a lot the coming 3,5 months, because as most of you know: I am leaving again! YESSS! As everything went pretty well surviving in wonderful Spain, I decided to take a bigger risk now. I am going to Argentina!

Why am I going there? I have finally got to my last year of college, and all students have to complete 15 weeks of internship. I’ve been thinking about Ecuador, Portugal and Mexico but eventually I’ve found this great offer in Argentina, thanks to my international coordinators and previous students. I will work for a Belgian man who has been living in Argentina for about 5 years now (I believe) with his Argentinean wife and 2 children (2 beautiful daughters of whom one brand-new-born on February 18th!! So exciting!!!). He owns a hostel, a local travel agency where he sells tailor-made excursions and also a B&B (where I won’t work).

My first task will be learning everything about the hostel. The next step will be getting to know the offer of excursions and selling them, off-the-rack and tailor-made. For me personally this is the most interesting part: I like planning and creating unique trips. I am grateful though, that I found an internship that covers so many aspect of the tourism industry. I can only get benefit out of it.

So where exactly am I going? There is probably only one city which most of you think about when you hear Argentina. Buenos Aires. But I am not going there! In fact, I am going to the other side of the country, to a beautiful city called Mendoza. Mendoza is known mostly as the capital of the wine industry (the biggest of Latin-America). It is also the capital of the province of Mendoza and the 4th city of Argentina. Next to the wine tourism it’s also a much used stop for travelers on the way to the Aconcagua, the highest mountain of the Americas. Due to the landscape many adventure sports are popular outside of the city such as horseback riding, mountaineering, rafting, hiking and skiing during the winter. A much practiced tourism-trip is following the trail of the gaucho's (on a horse), which are the Argentinean cowboys. For those who haven’t thought about it: seasons are obviously opposite in Argentina. I will be arriving to Mediterranean September temperatures (25 degrees) and leaving at the beginning of the winter (+/- 10 degrees). A bit further in the province (in the higher areas) the first snow will probably start to fall in June. By the way: Mendoza has an average of sunshine and blue sky of 330 days a year! For I’ve been told fall is the most beautiful season to visit Mendoza because of the changing color of the many trees in the elegant lanes. By the time of my arrival the people of Mendoza (mendocinos) will be celebrating the harvest of the grapes: the famous festival “La Vendimia”.

What do I know about Argentina until now… Argentina for me now is known for football, tango, lots of meat, Evita, dramatic soaps and fake blondes (as Juan said.. oxigenadas). What I’ve learned by reading the culture shock book of Argentina is that Argentinean people are extremely occupied by their looks and figure. Buenos Aires is also often compared with Paris, calling it the Paris of Latin America. Apparently every Argentinean (above all in Buenos Aires) goes to a shrink, and plastic surgery is a common birthday gift. The fact that appearance is so important can also be found in the fact that the favorite pastime of the Argentineans is flirting. I could have guessed this one after I asked my boss “Are there any vaccinations I will need?” and he answered “Against what? The Argentinean men?”. Last but not least Argentina is also supposedly the most Western country of Latin America, even though I’ve heard the economy in for example Chile is growing faster (this could have something to do with the remaining influence of Spain, but as you may or not know I suck at economy, so don’t trust my analysis).

A special fact about Mendoza is that it has a high risk of earthquakes. The whole city was last destroyed in the 19th century and there have been 10 more since. That’s why the city has all relatively new, strong buildings with big squares in between the lanes. Everybody is supposed to know the evacuation plan. A bit scary!

I will certainly make a trip to Chile, I’ll be at about 3,5 hours from the border. Of course I can’t leave without visiting Buenos Aires, which is at a distance of 13 hours by bus. I am secretly hoping to be able to combine this trip with a visit to mis uruguachos locos in Montevideo, Uruguay since it is a boat trip of only 3 hours. Last but not least I would love to see el Parque Nacional de Iguazú which is most famous because of its impressive waterfalls. It’s exciting though, I know about 2 people (+ my boss) in Mendoza and 3 in Buenos Aires I can meet/stay with, but for the bigger part I still need to meet my travel companions...

I am all packed while uploading this first blog. Tomorrow I will be leaving for a 24-hour trip from Brussels to Madrid (2h), from Madrid to Santiago de Chile (13h) and from Santiago to Mendoza (1h). Not looking forward to that at all, because I am flying with the cheapest airline possible (which by the way was not even cheap) which from what I’ve heard offers very little space, even during a long distance flight. By the way: IT IS MY VERY FIRST TIME CROSSING THE ATLANTIC!!

One last note: the hour difference CET – Argentina Time is 4 hours. It’s gonna be difficult not to be able to call mom every second I need cooking-advise, haha…

Let’s close off with some funny Argentinean vocabulary!
You (singular) = vos (Oh my god! There is really no escape now!)
Boludo/a = (literally big-balled); means something like twat or asshole, affectionate or aggressive form of address, depending on tone of voice
Chabón = man, bloke
Ché = friend, mate, hey you (greeting someone)
Encurdelarse = getting drunk
Estoy en pedo/tenía un pedo = I am/was drunk
Mina = girl, in tango-literature it describes a gangster’s moll, now used for all young women
Potro = a cute guy (very useful)
Fifi = fashion-conscious man
Trasnochador = someone who stays up all night (like a lot of Argentineans)
Viejos = parents

I love you all!!!! Big kiss!

Helen

P.S.: Maybe some of you wonder why I am writing in English, this was requested by some of the friends I’ve made in Spain. I will do my best to write in proper English!

Posted by ElenaMaria 19:10 Archived in Belgium Tagged argentina mendoza culture_shock internship wine_tourism adventure_tourism crossing_atlantic Comments (0)

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