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Argentine Asado

Argentine Asado

From what I've seen, potentially nothing is more authentically Argentine than a Sunday asado. An asado is a gathering of friends and family with its key component being meat roasting over a fire.  They love their beef here, and for good reason. I mean the country has more cows than people. Along with ample amounts of slow-roasted dead cow and pig, you'll find baguettes for making sandwiches, provoleta, picadas, and usually a nice Argentine malbec to wash it all down. For many around the country, it's a weekly tradition - rain or shine, and something they take very seriously. 

National Asado Championship

Yesterday, the city of Buenos Aires hosted the first official Asado Championship in the city center. There were representatives from each of the 23 provinces as well as from the capital city of Buenos Aires. Blessed with a beautifully sunny 70 degree day, the festival was packed with thousands of people. Along with the competition, they had street vendors, live music, and many different grilled meat options for consumption. I went with a tapa de asado sandwich (meat, bread and sauce - straight to the point). The team from the province of Mendoza emerged victorious, but, honestly, no one loses on a day like that.

And now I'm hungry.  

A Milestone

A Milestone

Halfway to the Halfway Point

As October starts, it means I've been abroad for two months and I have two months left until my first trip back to the States. It's weird because you want to say time flies, and at times it does. But at the same time, when I reflect back to my first week here, it seems like forever ago. I imagine it's because it has been more than just a two month span; my knowledge and comfort level of the city, lifestyle and culture has grown considerably. I don't feel as lost when hopping on a bus or train. I don't feel as timid when asking for help. And I continue to look forward to additional progress.

I love it down here and don't regret a single thing, but there are certainly times when I miss home, and this weekend had plenty of them. The Ryder Cup was amazing, but it would've been better celebrating with other Americans, chest-bumping and drinking Budweiser. I love seeing photos of the annual Appleton beach trip, but I hate not joining in on the laughs. Or even the simpler things like seeing a dog that looks enough like Chloe, or speaking with someone back home who needs a hug and not being able to give it to them. I embrace every new day I have here, but I will also try not to take for granted the special parts of life back home.

On that note, I've purchased my plane ticket back to the US for my halftime break. I'm flying back on 11/29 and will stay through 12/14 before embarking on the second half of my journey. 4 of those days will be spent in New Orleans, because apparently one trip this year wasn't hard enough on my liver. Outside of that, I hopefully will get a chance to see many friends back home along with plenty of good old-fashioned family time. 

Chau!

La Boca, TEGOBA, and Politics

La Boca, TEGOBA, and Politics

La Boca

The Buenos Aires government has a really nice offering of free walking tours around the various barrios of BA, and I finally rolled out of bed early enough to make it to my first one last Wednesday. Well, kind of...I got there 15 minutes late but it's completely the bus's fault and not mine at all. Luckily, it's easy to track down a tour guide in a bright yellow jacket surrounded by Gringos (they hadn't gotten too far). 

La Boca is very different from many of the other barrios around Buenos Aires, at least ones that tourists might visit. It started as a shipyard many years ago, mainly due to the location on the mouth of the Riachuelo River. In the mid-1900s, upon his return from Europe to Buenos Aires, artist Benito Quinquela Martin devoted his time and money to improve his boyhood home of La Boca. He added vibrant colors to many of the buildings, as well as built a school and a dental hospital for the children of the neighborhood. Due to his paintings, La Boca is easily identified by the colorful buildings and outdoor murals. It's also home to Argentina's most famous soccer team, Boca Juniors. We walked by the stadium, but it's hard to really get a good look. I definitely plan to return for a game if possible. Today, La Boca is a very working-class neighborhood with a lot of petty crime. It wouldn't be a place where any tourists or expats would want to live, but it's a nice visit during the day to see a different side of Buenos Aires

Another Weekend of Late Nights

Friday I met up with TEGOBA (The English Group of Buenos Aires). I was introduced to them by a friend from my Tuesday group, which has some overlap. It was nice to meet some new people (especially several local Argentines who have been going to the group for years as a way to socialize and keep their English fresh). We met at a local cafe, went for dinner around 11, and stayed out til 2:30 or 3. They were a really fun group, and I look forward to meeting with them again. Saturday was another night on the town with my roommate, and when we left the bar the sun was coming up. Obviously this means I logged about 30 total minutes on Sunday not laying in my bed. Everyone needs an occasional rest day.

A Few Things To Come

A question I am asked often - "Trump or Clinton". I usually simply laugh, to keep from crying. But I've had a few discussions with Nestor about American politics, and I'm excited to let him see the circus firsthand as we watch the debate tonight. It will be interesting to hear his first impressions. 

I'm also in dire need of a haircut. I've held on as long as I can, but it's getting a wee bit mullet-y for my tastes. Since my listening comprehension in Spanish is still a struggle, I have a few options - A) I can walk in with a picture of what I want, or B) I can just tell them to surprise me. Leaning option B. If I see her pull out the trimmers I'll get nervous. Updates to come later this week. 

Lights, Beer, and Football

Lights, Beer, and Football

I've been slacking a bit on my posting frequency; I shoot for at least once per week but I let it slip a bit. IT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN.

Church Rave

Last Saturday, I had an a true Buenos Aires night out. My roommate is pretty big into electronic music so I went with him and two other people from our old hostel to a rave in an old abandoned church turned bar. In typical BA fashion, the doors didn't even open until 2 AM, and we got home around 6:30 in the morning. Four hours of DJs and strobe lights would've been hell on an epileptic, but it was an absolute blast. As expected, I was completely worthless the next day; I have no idea how porteños do this on a regular basis. Years and years of practice I reckon. I suppose I'll have to remain dedicated to the cause, ya know, for personal growth and what not. 

High Quality Cold Beer

I had several different people recommend I check out Antares, an Argentinean craft brewery with a few locations in town. I finally checked it off my list last Thursday. The last time I walked past their Palermo location, it was packed with a line out the door. One of my teachers told me we needed to get their right as it opened to get a seat, so my buddy Clinton and I did. It wasn't quite that dramatic but it filled up shortly thereafter. I've drunk my fair share of Heineken, Stella, and Quilmes (Argentina's version of Bud Light/Coors Light/Miller Lite) so I was looking forward to enjoying some beer with some depth to it. Combine that with some quality bar food for a good price and it's safe to say I will return. 

Tigre

The following afternoon I took the train to Tigre, a suburb of Buenos Aires set along the convergence of three rivers. It's an effortless hour-long train ride from BA, which makes it an easy and pleasant day trip. With the weather finally starting to look up, I thought it'd be a great way to spend a Friday. The clouds wouldn't retreat for an extended period of time, so I decided to hold off on the river cruise for a subsequent trip, but I was able to check out the market, take some great pictures, and enjoy some beer and ice cream along the river. I'll certainly visit again, and would recommend it for anyone visiting Buenos Aires as well. 

Finally Found the Football Bar

Another Saturday, another opportunity to find The Alamo, the ever-elusive football bar. After realizing that the bar had just changed names, I locked down the coordinates and set out on my quest. I arrived just in time for the start of the 3:30 CBS kickoff, and watched it in between a Bammer and an Ole Miss fan, which made things fun. The bartender explained why they changed names; apparently they have do it it relatively often as they attempt to "bend" the rules set upon them by the Buenos Aires government, and need to avoid repeat fines and getting shut down. You gotta respect the hustle. I convinced them to change one TV to the Auburn game and boy, what a joy that was! Looks like I'm in for another season filled with disappointment. I've decided I'll just find out whatever Argentine soccer team is the best and start rooting for them. I have no shame - I just need to see some wins this fall. 

I've just spent today streaming some NFL games and nursing the wounds that come along with staying at a bar for 8 hours. But I had fun and met some cool people, so I continue to have a lot to be thankful for. 

 

My New Home

My New Home

Home Sweet Home

Yes, last Thursday, my roommate Nestor and I finally moved into our apartment, which we will have for the next three months. While the previous AirBnb I inhabited was great, and the host was very helpful, it's nice to have a place to actually call your own. Settled in the cozy Palermo neighborhood (closer to the Recoleta side), it's a nice two bedroom apartment on the top floor of a 4 story apartment building. We have a really large balcony that will be perfect once it finally warms up (and God I hope that's soon...I hate the damn cold rain). It's not completely perfect...there are a few features I wish we had. There's no washing machine, so I recently googled how to hand-wash clothes (For those wondering....it's wash/rinse/dry). While the kitchen is nice, it's missing a microwave. And the shower leaves a little to be desired. But all in all, we found a nice, clean place, capable of hosting a few fiestas, in a safe neighborhood with plenty to keep us busy.

School's Out

Friday was my last day of school, at least for now. I've got a good bit of material that I can work on reviewing over the next few weeks and can go back for one-off lessons if I feel like I need to. They even presented me a fancy certificate (all in Spanish, big words, some sort of sick joke).  All in all, I'm pretty happy with the decision to take the classes. I learned some things that would've been much more difficult on my own, and it probably accelerated the process a little as well.  

Quest For Football

And finally, Saturday came and college football season was here again. I had heard there was one expat bar here that showed football (both college and pro). I was a little bit skeptical, and i'm very particular about how I watch my Tigers, so I decided to head over for some of the late afternoon games and if I didn't' like it I could leave and stream it at my house.  Well I get to where Google maps says it is and it's not there; it's a different bar name. I search again and there's another bar with a similar name a few miles away so I take a bus over there, to find the place closed. Obviously not it. There's another bar labeled as an American bar somewhat close (Sugar Bar) so I decide to give it a shot. When I walked in, they had baseball on the TV which gave me some hope since they were showing US sports. But when I asked them to change it to some football, they said they couldn't get it. At the very least, this 'American' bar sold Budweiser on tap, so I took down a couple of those with my burger for old time's sake. After dinner, I gave up and returned to my apartment to watch the game. 

I caught up with one of my friends who originally told me about the bar this week, and apparently it was the first bar I stood outside of, they had just changed their name. Thanks for the heads up. I guess next time I'll learn to actually walk in. I'll give it another shot this weekend. 

Just as the weather is starting to get nicer, I've come down with a nasty cold. I need to rest up and get better before Saturday comes...

 

 

A little dancing...well...a lot of dancing

A little dancing...well...a lot of dancing

For me, at least. Last Thursday I met up with my friend Monica, another member of the weekly expat chat, and her 4 international students. We went for some dancing lessons at La Viruta, a local milonga. We started with the beginner tango class, which was similar to the one I took part in a few weeks ago. And I do fine, until the teacher yells at me to stop looking at my feet. THAT WASN'T PART OF THE ORIGINAL AGREEMENT, JULIO. After tango was over, we took a short break, where I drank a beer and the rest drank coffee or coke (I forgot this was an actual school event for them ...oops). After the break started the salsa lesson, which requires just as much coordination, but with a faster rhythm as well. Ideal. Looked like a fool for a while but it was fun to get out and move a little bit. As my stepmom Debbie used to say, "You're either the one having fun, or the one watching somebody else have fun". 

The weekend was fairly low-key; it poured rain Saturday which brought in the cold weather so I hibernated for most of the time. Monday, I met up with Mary, a girl I met in Santiago and has made her way down to BA. We, along with a few others from her hostel and some other Argentinean friends, went to a show by La Bomba del Tiempo. You may have seen the video on Instagram, but they're an 18-man percussion group. They're self-directed, each member rotating in as leader, and it's led entirely by a large collection of hand signals. Not sure if it was the beer talking or what, but by the end, I was pretty sure I knew most of the signals and could've joined them on stage. Next time. We went to a bar down the street afterwards (I'm still not sure how it was chosen) to grab one last beer or four. Luckily as we walked in, the band was just starting. What band, you ask? Well, a 3-piece Israeli polka band, of course. After a while we moved up front to get a good look, eventually joining in on whatever dance they were jigging to (I just spun around in circles a lot). And their was free pizza too. Good times. 

Nestor and I found an apartment finally, and we move in tomorrow. It's been a good stay at Tomas' house, but it'll be nice going somewhere I know I'll be a bit longer term. I'll be sure to give an update about the place when I get settled in. 

Getting out and about

Getting out and about

I've had a nice week since the last time I updated so I'll try and hit the true highlights, while trying to avoid telling everyone about every time I aimlessly walk around the city. Tomas, the guy who lives at my AirBnb, returned to the city on Friday (he works in the country during the week). He kindly invited me to join him and his friends for dinner that night. Dinner was great – one of the weirdest collections of foods I’ve seen at a dinner table in one sitting – chicken tenders, meat and cheese plate, guacamole, sushi, sardines…I think the avocados make it a healthy meal, right? Tomas’ English is pretty strong; the other three guys, less so (a common theme for me nowadays, as expected). So I did a lot of listening, but I picked up on the highlights, including one of the guys Martin expecting a new child and moving to Chile. Which probably explains why he brought 4 really nice bottles of wine. It was my pleasure to celebrate on his future child’s behalf. After I had my first experience with Fernet Branca, a liquor popular amongst Argentinian youngsters, we called it a night around 3.

I’m starting to get back into a workout routine, but without a gym, I’m having to get a bit more creative. The running part is easy -  there are tons of parks nearby my AirBnb for me to burn off the extra empanada. Strength training is a bit trickier. I’ve found a park nearby that has a pull up bar and a few other apparatuses so that is now where I work on my form. Now you may be thinking the same thing I think regularly…that I’m not exactly what you picture when you think ‘guy who works out in public parks’. But you make do with what you have. I’ve found that letting out a good grunt occasionally helps earn people’s respect.

Last night I attended my first Mundo Lingo event in town. Mundo Lingo is an organization which puts together language exchanges for people from all different backgrounds to come together and practice speaking in their non-native tongue (and where the flags in the picture come from). It’s a bit like speed-dating, except the first priority isn’t se..err...finding true love. I had a halfway respectable chat with a Colombian hombre in Spanish for a while and enjoyed a few brews. Ended up weaseling into a conversation in English (whatever, it was a moment of weakness, sue me) between some American kids who just came down for an exchange program and a few Argentinians working on their English. One of the girls in the group encouraged me to finally stop being a coward and helped me take my first bus ride in the city (didn’t have a ton of other options anyways as the subway had stopped running). But it was harmless and it was nice to check it off my to-do list.

And finally today, I met up with Graciela. She’s great. Graciela is a woman I met at my weekly Expat group meeting (at Starbucks no less, how very Expat of them). She’s probably in her mid-60s, and was born in BA but moved to San Francisco for many years before moving back here in 2005. I was mentioning to her at our last meeting how I couldn’t get anyone to break my 500 peso bills, which is all the ATM was giving out, and she offered to go with me to her bank to help me break them. She said while we’re at it, I can show you around my neighborhood to see some other banks that would give out lower denomination bills. It turned into a 3-hour crash course in how to be a more effective gringo in BA. I learned not to buy fruits, veggies, and meat at supermarkets. She showed me the best supermarket to go to (the one I’ve been using is “crap”, apparently). But we walked probably 50 blocks, had a lovely chat, and I learned a ton. I’ve now deemed her my adopted Argentinian mother (not to her face…yet). She always warns me about very motherly things, like how to not get pick-pocketed, or to not eat the Chinese food with extra MSG. She’s actually going back to the states in a few weeks, but it’s so nice having someone with experience here and is so willing to help.

I’m researching on the easiest way to add a comments section to the blog, but until then, I welcome anyone’s feedback – comments, questions, things you’d like to hear more about, things you’d rather never hear again, etc. Email me at jryanappleton@gmail.com or any of the social media networks. I’d love to hear from you!

Chau!

Mini Vacation is over

Mini Vacation is over

As of yesterday, Ken has left to return to the real world, which sort of marks the official start of my solo voyage. It really was great to have a friend along the way as I got settled, greatly reduced the number of panic attacks I'm sure. Weekend was great. Ken and I befriended several South American bros from the hostel, pregamed til about 3 in the morning then went to get hogwild in da club. We needed to stop at the ATMs to get some cash, which as it turns out, is a real problem in this country. They run out of pesos a lot. Of course that night was no different. I borrowed enough from my Chilean buddy NoNo to get cover, hoping to buy drinks with cards inside. They didn't take cards (which honestly was probably a good thing at this point), so we took a lap or two to check the place out then went back to the hostel. The night ended probably around 5:30 or so, which is fairly normal down here. I'm not built for that type of schedule without an adjustment period. I felt the consequences of that night for several days, but it was a hell of a good time. And as a nice cherry on top, one of my new friends from the hostel needs a place for the same time as I do, so we can look for a shared spot, save some cash, and actually have some camaraderie at home. As Michael Scott says...it's a win/win/win situation. 

On Monday night before Ken left, we took in a complete Argentinean tango experience. We started it off with a quick 30 minute group tango lesson to learn a few basic steps. The instructors were great, but I could tell by the end of the 30 minutes he was pretty nervous of how quickly I picked everything up. Understandable. This was followed by a candlelight dinner (very romantic) where I finally took a break from eating beef. The night was capped off by a 90 minute professional tango show with live music, singing, and dancing. A good send off for Ken and a great introduction to the tango culture for me. 

As of yesterday, I've moved into an AirBnb and out of my hostel for 2 weeks until Nestor and I find a place for longer term. You really take things for granted like sleeping in a queen bed without 5 roommates until it's gone. It's so refreshing to have some space to spread out and sleep comfortably. The guy who owns the joint is out of town on business, so his parents, who are staying here for two days, let me in and welcomed me with open arms. While their son speaks good English, they aren't as fluent. But they're such nice people. We'd speak in Spanish, and I'd get the gist of our conversations. But two things were consistent: 1) every time the mother would come home, she'd give me a big 'HELLO!' in her best English and 2) our talks would always end in a smile. Somehow a language barrier has the ability to bring out the true kindness in people. When communication isn't easy, it forces you to become a better listener and put forth the effort that you may otherwise not give in a common conversation. The experience is certainly impactful for me, and hopefully I can make an impact on others as well. 

Settling Into Buenos Aires

Settling Into Buenos Aires

Getting to the end of the first week and the comfort level is rising. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a lost little puppy at times, but now it's more like a lost puppy who can get back to a street he knows and find his way again. 

I'm starting to appreciate the importance of decent conversation. While I'm working on my Spanish (more on that in a bit), it'll be important for me to keep in touch with some English speakers to stay sane. I've done a decent job of that this week. I met up with an Expat group on Tuesday which I found online. A collection of ~15 people who have moved here from around the word and speak English. The crowd is generally a little bit older than me, but seem to be good people that could be very helpful for me on this journey. One lady, who is the dean of a program for international students, mentioned helping me get involved with some of the events her students do. Another guy has a lead on a place to stay. So it will definitely be an event I attend on a regular basis to continue to learn. 

Last night, I met up with a friend of a friend who I was introduced to, a good Australian bloke (sorry I can't help it I become Australian pretty quickly) and we had a few beers. A younger guy, he's gone through the same things I'm going through now so he had some good insight, and was an all-around good mate. 

I've also done my fair share of wandering, just getting the hang of where everything is, the different neighborhoods, finding decent affordable restaurants, etc. When you're traveling alone in a foreign country with no real schedule, your to-do lists change quite a bit. Wednesday, for example, I wanted to walk to Puerto Madero (the nice district right on the water), about 5 miles away with the route I was taking, check it out, and then buy a metro card and take my first journey on the BA metro.Well I go in to buy a pass and the guy asks me for my passport, which I obviously don't have on me. So my 5 mile luxurious stroll turned into about an 11 mile march out of pure stubbornness.  But damn did that pizza and beer at the end of it taste delicious.

And as I mentioned in an earlier post, my Spanish just isn't where it needs to be. So Thursday, I went over to a Spanish School and met with the academic director to discuss classes. This led to a proficiency exam on the spot with fill in the blank and a paragraph to write at the end. I had the same nerves I haven't felt in 10 years about not studying enough for a test. Whatever level my bombing of that test put my into, I'm apparently the only student in it next week. So instead of 4 hour daily group classes, I get 2 hour daily personal sessions until someone else enrolls at my level. Shit's about to get real. It isn't super cheap, but I believe a very worthwhile investment. 

Now the weekend is here, and I'll experience BA nightlife (which is supposed to be absurd) for the first time. I'm going to find out what this town is made of. More likely, it's going to find out what I'm made of. 

Hell of a last week

Hell of a last week

Starting from last Monday, it's been a bit of a whirlwind for me. I've been so busy getting everything ready that it didn't really give me the time to get nervous. Probably for the best. But when you combine the stress of selling a car, moving out of a house, and packing for a 4 month stay, safe to say the stress builds. But I made it to Thursday. I had one final dinner with mom, got to the airport in plenty of time, grabbed a beer with my buddy Ken, and took a deep breath.

We got into Chile early Friday morning and hit the ground running until I left this morning. It wasn't a city with a ton of major tourist attractions, but we got in a good mix of in-town hiking, sightseeing, and patio day-drinking. It was nice having Ken there to kind of ease into this solo travel, instead of jumping in head first. He left Sunday to go check out a few other cities before meeting back up with me in BA on Saturday. 

Arriving down here has also made me realize that my Spanish has a long way to go. The Chileans were really cool with it but I'm definitely limited. Best example: Yesterday I ordered some mystery meat (chitlins?) sandwich by accident. But to be fair, I think the gentleman was trying to tell me I wouldn't like it. I think. Anyways...I at least made it 3 bites in. Oh well, chalk it up to experience. 

Just got to BA this afternoon and am able to relax a bit. I'm in the Eco Pampa Hostel for a week before heading to my airbnb for a few. The Eco Pampa has been a really nice stay. The staff speak many languages and are very helpful with recommendations or booking reservations if Spanish is not your native tongue. They also have a cool patio and herb farm on their roof for enjoying some fresh air and getting a different view of the city. Check them out!

A Proper Send Off

A Proper Send Off

Yesterday was fantastic. I had my going away party with my friends and had an absolute blast. Started at Monday Night Brewing at 1:30 and didn't stop until midnight. It was an All-American theme, so I tossed on a red shirt and was planning on getting accessories when I got to MNB. Little did I know, my buddy Harper had different plans. And when a friend presents you with an Uncle Sam costume, you can't turn it down. So one quick trip to the bathroom and I had morphed into a true patriot. I certainly turned some heads, and on the bright side, it made it very easy for people to find our group. 

We went from Monday Night Brewing for some food and beverages at Krog Street Market, then walked over to Ladybird where the shots began flowing. The hazy nightcap at MJQ was a great way to end it...I'd love to see video of Uncle Sam dancing the night away. 

I drank entirely too much beer and am paying for it today, but with such a great group of people out with me I didn't want it to end. I will certainly miss these people when I'm away. I look forward to meeting new friends abroad, but they will have some tough shoes to fill. 

Transporting Kayaks

Transporting Kayaks

Mark that off the bucket list. I finally got the chance to do it. I took a kayak on an 8 hour drive to its (hopeful) final resting place.

When my mom said she wanted to take it down on her car, I laughed. She drives a Mazda 6. It's built for hauling soccer balls, not watercraft. She said "Don't worry, I saw on the internet where you can make a rack out of a pool noodle and some ratchet straps". Oh. Good. She's got it all figured out. 

So I showed up at her house yesterday at 10 AM, and well, we were on the road by 12:30. Two noodles, 4 straps, and countless offers of help from Mother later, it was on there. And I'll be honest. I was proud. That baby wasn't moving. 

My pride was short-lived, fading approximately 1.5 miles away from her house. The first time the car exceeded 40 MPH. That's when I heard it. The steady, constant, loud hum. Like bees. Lots of them. Aggressive stubborn bees that never retreat. I thought maybe it just takes a few minutes to settle in. Nope. Then you get on the highway. Louder. I made the completely unsafe decision to wear both headphones and listen to podcasts. Maintaining my sanity was worth the risk. But really all that did was make me think make me hate the kayak and the podcast. 90 minutes in, as we stopped at a rest stop, Engineer Appleton kicked in. I realized couldn't last 8 more hours. I went to school for this, damnit. And I had the perfect solution. Put a towel in the door crack. TADA!

Confidently, I start the car up again and cruise out of the rest stop, wondering if people truly appreciate the creative masterpiece they just witnessed. Then I get to the on ramp and the tears start to well up. It's back so soon. but now there's the added sound of the towel whipping against the door - I made it worse. What an idiot.

Two hours later, as I stared ahead a beaten man with no hope, I threw the hail mary. I phoned a friend. Google. My search history now contains "kayak on roof LOUD NOISES MAKE IT STOP". And of course, the first damn link has the simplest fix known to man. And this is the reason I make this post. If you take anything from this, just remember: When attaching a kayak to your roof with pool noodles and ratchet straps, apppppppaarently you need to put a simple fucking twist in the line where it isn't flat on the kayak or the car. That's it. One twist in the the strap and the sound is gone. I can comfortably say it's single-handedly the best thing the Internet has ever given me. So please learn from my 3 hours of Hell on Earth. And spread the word. 

Mending Injuries

Mending Injuries

Yesterday I got my 3rd and final epidural shot in my back, conveniently only 2 hours after the actual appointment time *deep breaths, Ryan, let it go*

The shots definitely do provide some relief. And I'm not sure how weird this makes me, but there's something intriguing about watching them give you the shot through the x-ray machine. The length of the needle can be a bit bothersome, but it's cool watching the medicine flow exactly where they want it to. But when doc starts saying "Ok, tell me if the pain shoots down your leg...", that means the pain is about to shoot down your leg. Just a heads up. 

When I first went to the doctor in January, I would've said you were crazy if you told me this issue would still be lingering 7 months later, but alas, here we are. I can say it's definitely gotten better - I don't fear sneezing anymore, which is nice. It's really just developed into more of an annoyance. I was worried it would bother me in Colombia, and it really never impacted me. All I can do now is take my meds, get my stretches and work outs in, and let it work itself out. 

 

Life Without Work

Life Without Work

Well my life without a job has officially started. Definitely a weird feeling. But first I should reflect back on where I left. When I think back to my last semester of college, going through the interview process, I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I wanted a job. A job that paid a good salary so I could pay my bills and buy cool stuff. A job in a big city in the Southeast, preferably Atlanta. 

I interviewed with several companies, some ending better than others. And then I went into the Home Depot interview process (with something like 25 other developers from other colleges there) and thought I crushed it. But I still didn't really know what I was interviewing for (a generic IT Developer position). Turns out, I did crush it, enough at least.  I finally got the offer (the only offer I ended up getting that cycle), I was excited but more so relieved. I checked the boxes...I got a gig in Atlanta with a good salary so I could pay my bills and buy cool stuff.

I started working on a software I had never even heard of, but somehow managed to figure it out, mostly due to having a very helpful and patient manager. Through out my years at HD, this pattern continued to repeat...meeting and working with amazing, helpful people. It's what allowed me to be successful. My strength has always been building relationships with good people and learning from them as much as I can, and Home Depot was no different. But beyond that, I met so many people that I can truly call friends. Maybe I initially thought that work friends were just for keeping me sane while at work. But I'm as close to these people as I am anyone. I've laughed with them, traveled the world with them, and had way too many beers with them. It's what made leaving last Friday tough. But I find comfort in knowing regardless of where any of us are working in the future, we'll always remain friends. 

Now back to the present. I'm doing my best to make these 3-4 weeks before leaving as productive as they can be. There's always a fine line between being productive and being busy. But there is a difference...I want to do more than just 'not sit around', time spent needs to be focused on accomplishing a goal. My two current goals are: get as prepared for my trip as possible, and spend as much time with friends and family as I can. I feel pretty good about what I've accomplished so far, but it's still only 2 days in. I'm also working on developing a morning routine, but I'll post about that later.

That's enough for now...until next time, I'm logging off. 

The Beginning

The Beginning

Well I've gotten to the 'Set Up Blog' item on my To-Do list, so here we are. I wanted to set up a blog to document my experience abroad for several reasons - to serve as a helpful resource for would-be future travelers, to keep friends and family at home apprised of my whereabouts, and to have a portal to share any life lessons I pick up along the way with people who don't have the good fortune to go on a life-changing trip such as this. 

Speaking of to-do lists, my current one (or three) give me a fair amount of anxiety. It's like that feeling you get when you're packing for a weekend getaway and you can't remember if you packed your bathing suit. Except you multiply that by 4 months, and instead of going to Destin you're going to a Spanish speaking country 5,000 miles away.

The to-do lists really break down into two categories - shit to do and stuff to bring. Luckily there isn't much that I could forget which isn't replaceable or unnecessary. I don't plan on taking many things...clothes and electronics mainly. I've tried to become less reliant on "stuff", which is far easier said than done, and I don't always practice what I preach. But the less time I spend on materialistic things, the more time I will have to fill with new people, new stories, and new experiences. 

But I still feel like I have so much left to do before I leave. Luckily, after next week, I'll have 40 more hours per week to get stuff accomplished. Get my house ready to rent, find lodging, find work, sell my car, figure out health insurance, pack up my stuff, move my stuff...the list goes on. All the while still wanting to take this last month and spend time with friends and family that I'll miss dearly while I'm gone. 

It's a lot to remember. But have no fear...I have to-do lists.