Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pictures while you wait...

Now that my technology issues are sort-of-mostly solved (I will still have to take my computer back to get them to fix the fan...which caused the problems in the first place...but they didn't bother to fix it), I can catch up on catching you all up on what's going on with my projects!

But, until that happens, here's a link to all of the pictures I've taken on this trip.  You can see penguins (!!), sea lions, Buenos Aires, Che Guevara's house, and so much more!  I would love any and all feedback/opinions/thoughts on my pictures.  Here's the link:

DISCLAIMER: I simply dumped all of my pictures onto here, so you get the good and the bad.  So don't judge the bad ones too harshly!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tech Support

Lesson of the week...never again complain about tech support in the United States. 

My computer is currently broken (I'm using a friends to quickly write this explanatory blog for why I won't be writing a real one) and Argentine tech support will make anyone sick with frustration. 

First, I had to spend 3 hours on the phone with tech support in the United States.  Then 2 hours with Argentina.  Then another hour with the US.  Then 3 days of exchanging emails, copies of my passport, copies of my visa, etc (all without actually having a computer at my house to do it on...since mine's broken...I still don't understand why a computer repair service would try to use email...but that's a side discussion for another day)  Then another hour on the phone with Argentina tech support.  Then finally 2 hours in the store that was supposed to repair it. 

After a week of waiting, they called me yesterday to tell me that my computer is finally ready and I can pick it up today.  I checked their offical letterhead for their hours and called them and had these hours varified by their answering machine.  Then I went there...only to find that they are actually not open today.

I'm continuing to call and am hoping they will finally decide to open (because in Argentina, nothing actually happens when it is promised...despite declarations and contracts that it will be so).  But I will probably not have access to a computer long enough to watch the videos and post a real blog until Monday.

Everyone abroad--start praying and crossing every part of your body that your computer doesn't break and you don't have to experience the same thing. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My first video!

Here's my first attempt at movie-making...please please give me all of the constructive criticism you can before the real things!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Helpful Hint for other CLAMmers

Hey all!

If anyone else is having problems with your video stalling while you try to work on it in Movie Maker or Flip or any of 6 other video editing softwares (I'm not even exaggerating), the problem is probably in the type of movie file you're using.  Mine were MP4's and the program just couldn't keep up.

I downloaded this converter ( from a safe website and converted to AVI formatting and now everything amazingly works.  Just thought I would pass it on to save others my intense frustration!

Very excited for everyone's movies!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

First, apologies for this blog being so behind.  I was extremely indecisive last week in deciding what to do my projects on and then went on a trip with the Clemson group to Buenos Aires for the weekend and didn't have my laptop.

Second, here go the ideas as they are right now.  I need lots of feedback (and am about to do the same for all of you classmates!).

Personal:  I am planning on doing a comparison between my life in the States and my life down here.  The city, th the country surrounding, the people, etc.

Cultural:  I am going to focus on student social movements.  It is an extremely interesting culture with protests, graffiti, all sorts of things.

Professional: My dream for the future is to work with policies that affect women in poverty in Latin American countries.  To begin gaining experience in the true needs of these women that have stolen my heart, I am doing an internship with a health clinic that serves women and families that live in the outskirts of the city.  This movie, I hope, will have a direct focus on the women and their lives.  Not exactly a traditional look at a professional job, but it ties in with exactly what I want to do.

What do you all think?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Not quite what I was going for...but I like it!

As I started going through the pictures that I have taken so far on this trip, I realized that most of the time what I was actually trying to show didn't exactly work, but was replaced with a completely unexpected, but often better story that I had missed the first time through.

I this picture, I thought it would be a great way to show the landscape through the door but give it the context of being on a farm.  However, I feel like it actually speaks wonders to the interesting combination of modern farm tools and, for those of us living in the United States, more outdated construction.  The shadow falls over the modern and further highlights the building and scenery which gives more importance to the history and setting than the lawnmower.

This picture at first had disappointed me when I pulled it up on my computer.  I thought weird lighting had ruined it.  However, when you put it in the context of its location, it actually has more meaning than I probably could have planned.  This is from a Jesuit cathedral in downtown Cordoba.  The Jesuits used lifelike images to help with their efforts to convert the indigenous people to Christianity.  This picture gives the painting an almost lifelike quality that I think the original creators would have appreciated.

The other pictures, I feel, have a little bit less of a hidden meaning within them.  This, however, isn't necessarily a bad thing.  You don't need to always fill everything with so much symbolism that it takes explaining for someone else to be able to understand and appreciate it.

This picture of a man with his guitar captures a pure joy.  It doesn't show what's causing him to smile, simply that he's enjoying that moment of his life with all of his heart.

The pictures of the cow and the farmer milking the cow both capture the personalities of the individuals in the picture.  My favorite aspects are the glint in the cow's eye and the face expression on the farmer.  The personalities are the focus and there isn't really anything else included in the frame.

While not exactly what I had in mind for any of these pictures, I love what they capture and share.  Pictures should share a story--and I hope these to do others than just me!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Tropos of Argentine Internet

I had written my entire blog and was proofreading it when BAM the power went out and deleted everything.  Therefore the fact that this blog won't be completed until tomorrow speaks wonders to the culture here.

Something's not done on time?  Oh well, just leave it for tomorrow.

The power went out and messed up the internet and your blog post?  Don't be upset, just make some tea and wait for it to fix itself (since blogs can do that...)

You had spent how much time picking out which pictures and descriptions to use?  Over an hour because you couldn't choose?  You probably need to eat something sweet to calm down while we wait for the power (that is now off again) to come back on.

Yes, this photo-less blog that was written quickly to hopefully avoid another power outage speaks wonders.  There will be pictures and a real blog post written from a more reliable location tomorrow morning.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where do you draw the line?

This week, I've realized that taking pictures is an interesting process.  Usually the point pictures is to remember you wonderful experiences.  However, when trying hard to take a "perfect picture" it becomes easy to focus on picture taking and not living.  This has been a challenge for me to balance as we've had our new experiences over the past week.  Here are some of my best shots (and what I was trying to do!).

This is pretty self-explanatory, a close up on the face of a cow.

Our entertainer for our asado (kind of like Argentine barbecue) in the country while laughing at his father's descriptions of what they were going to sing next. 

The countryside we spent the day in.  I LOVED the tree on the left hand side.

A close up on one of the farmer's (gauchos they are called) as he milked a cow.  I left the cow out, because I was trying to take a "tight" picture as described in the video.

A picture of the distant mountains, vegetation, and farm tools all through an off-centered door. Originally I was trying to use the rule of thirds, but it's a little off.  I still liked how the picture turned out.

I love how the light sets of the Virgin Maria in this picture in a Jesuit Cathedral in downtown Cordoba.

A slightly off-center close up of one note out of thousands that were taped to the walls in a local student hang out.  When translated, this quote basically says "Don't focus completely on the road you are traveling down or that will be all you find."

I tried to keep the rules in the back of my mind this week, but to not be a slave to them.  Everyone's eyes see things differently (that's what makes photography an art and not a science or something regimented!) and mine are no exception.  I hope that others can appreciate these pictures as much as I do.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why doesn't this feel like home?

When you see the golden arches across an unfamiliar street in a new city, it’s almost as if it’s a reassurance that you haven’t somehow managed to land yourself on a different planet.  It sounds kind of pathetic when you say it out loud, but for those of us that have grown up with the McDonalds brand, deep inside it is true. 
Some of my fellow Clemson students were kind enough to go with me on my McDonalds adventure.  We were taking a break from Spanish and going into the restaurant made us feel very much more like outsiders to the culture.  We had, for a brief moment, become “those typical Americans” that needed our food and were speaking our language.

 Even though the food was mostly the same, we felt strangely uncomfortable in the McDonalds.  There was almost no one else in there, and that said a lot.  There are quite a few McDonalds in Cordoba, but they’ve never appeared crowded.  It’s just not the desired food here (which is good because most of the typical foods of Cordoba are INCREDIBLE!).

**Here was supposed to be the picture I took of the menu, but in true Argentine fashion, my internet instillation date keeps getting pushed back.  I have now been promised Tuesday.  It looks almost exactly like the menu of the McDonalds in Clemson, however**

I think that McDonalds is doing all it usually does in a foreign country to market the brand to the people of Argentina, but they aren’t buying it.  I think it might have something to do with their lack of interest in becoming like Americans.  Argentina looks to Europe for its role model, not the states, and you can tell after even only being here for a little over a week.  Even their website doesn’t take the time to convert to Argentine Pesos; they show their philanthropy amounts in United States dollars.

This says “A big thank you, the aid we have all given is already in Haiti”

A final thought, a close friend has told me more than once that America has never declared war on a country that has a McDonalds.  What does this say about us as a nation?  That we only will support countries that are striving to adapt to our dominate culture?  This really bothers me, anyone else?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Talking through Screens

Information transfer is a funny, funny thing—especially when you are witnessing it through the eyes of a different culture.  In the United States today, the vast majority of people, with only the major exception being the oldest generations, are “screen literate.”  They use the internet to pay bills, find restaurants, communicate with people worldwide, watch television, and so much more.  They have phones that they take with them everywhere so that they can communicate through text messages.  Many even have smart phones that allow them to further indulge not just their capacity for, but their need for, on screen communication. 

Here in Argentina (yes, I finally made it!), the transition hasn’t yet been taken quite as far.  The younger generations all use computers with email and facebook, but they aren’t as dependent on them as those of us from the States.  While we, the students from Clemson, frantically use our computers during lunch, the Argentine students are content to simply eat and enjoy the company of those around them.  Also, BlackBerry’s (how I miss mine!) and iPhones are available, but aren’t used except by people in the business world.  It is very unlike the states where all of my friends return my email within 30 seconds of their reading it through their phone. 
There are many reasons that the transition is not as extreme here.  The main reason, of course, is money.  Argentina isn’t a struggling nation compared to many, but it definitely does not have the affluence of the United States.  (Just to give you an example, most houses don’t have air conditioning or heat or wireless internet—because all of those things are on the same comfort level for me!)  Because of this, technologies that lead to the transition in communication styles are slower to catch on.

The more I think about it, the more torn I am on my feelings regarding this transition.  One the one hand, I am part of the driving force of the transition.  I live my life with computer, television, iPod, and BlackBerry screens.  One the other hand, however, I am again experiencing the value of living in a culture that has not fully entrenched themselves in the movement toward a screen culture, that is, as a result, at a much faster, connected pace.  While my extreme type-a personality is sometimes crying inside with frustration, part of me enjoys taking the time to physically and verbally great every single person in a group when leaving or arriving. 

I wish that there was an easy way to find harmony between the communication cultures of the past, but I don’t know that there is.  We have already lost much of the verbal culture and soon will have also begun to forget about the special, important aspects of the written communication culture of the near past.  Where are we going with all of this?  Will we become so caught up in ways to virtually communicate that we won’t take the time to talk face to face?  Will the cycle be cyclical and lead us back to a culture based on verbal communication?  I guess, as always, time will truly tell.

**The internet connection I am currently using is taking forever to upload pictures, so when I find a better connection (there should be one in my house next week!) there will actually be pictures in my blogs!!**

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Your people do what?

**Disclaimer:  I have started and restarted and restarted this blog.  It has been hard for me to choose only one group of "my people" with which to identify.  I pride myself in not being condensed to one box, lifestyle, or way of thinking.  For that reason, I have finally decided to not pick just one.  Each paragraph will briefly and critically summarize cultures that make me who I am for those who may have never experienced them for themselves.  This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but it would definitely provide a good introduction for someone trying to understand or live my life for awhile.**

I am an IDEALIST.  Idealists believe that perfection is possible.  They believe that with everyone working together, the world can be improved to become a place where everyone has equal opportunities to live healthy, productive lives.  Idealists don't like others pointing out their tendencies to have idealistic (and sometimes unrealistic) perspectives on issues, so this should be avoided if possible.  Simply acknowledging that it could happen in a perfect world is the best way to handle an idealist's positive, and somewhat wishful, thinking.

I am a CHRISTIAN.  Christians come in many varieties.  The group with which I identify are reformed Christians.  They believe that the Bible was written for certain people in a certain situation at a certain time, but that it has lessons and overarching themes that are still relevant for living one's life today.  Acceptance and service are key themes within their theology.  They should be approached with an open mind and heart.  Don't worry about being judged by your actions or called upon to instantaneously become religious.  For them, faith is a journey with highs and lows, so come as you are.

I am a FEMINIST.  Feminists believe that all people, no matter their gender, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or level of education.  They believe that until everyone has the opportunity to use their whole persona and talents, then everyone else is missing out.  One should use caution in dealing with a feminist, particularly if you are a male dealing with a member of the female sex, as they tend to point out exactly what you are doing to assert your patriarchal dominance over them at any given opportunity.  There is absolutely no way to convince them that power hierarchies are acceptable, so trying is fruitless.

I am LIBERAL.  Liberals believe that government exists to improve the lives of its people.  Therefore the government should help to provide for those who find themselves in situations for which they did not plan or from which they cannot pull themselves out.  They also believe that people are inherently good.  To keep from upsetting a liberal, one should avoid topics such as economic realities and the benefits of having rich and poor people in a society.

I am a HONORS STUDENT.  Honors students are very driven to achieve the highest possible grades and spend as much time as necessary on school.  School and classes are the most important parts of honors students' lives.  DO NOT interrupt their productivity or you will potentially find your life of a shorter length than previously.  Engage them in intellectual debate or conversation and they will adore you, and possibly will never end the conversation.  Don't worry about their often type-A personalities and off-beat senses of humor, as you'll soon learn how to handle it.  Also, honors students are great people to have around when one needs help studying or with an assignment--they absolutely adore the opportunity to learn and help others find their same, somewhat nerdy, passion for education.

I am SOUTHERN.  Southern people are stranger than strange to understand.  They live in a world where problems do not exist on the outside and where every problem can be solved with a home-cooked meal.  Manners come before cleanliness which is, of course, next to conservative values and Godliness.  They are some of the most friendly people you will ever encounter.  Don't be afraid when they smile, wave, and begin conversations before having ever met you.  Simply return the greetings or risk offending them.  While in the presence of Southerners, avoid discussing politics, religion, or money.  Sticking to conversations regarding football (which is just as important as religion, sometimes more) or the food one is undoubtedly consuming is your safest bet.     

I am part Yucatacan (in culture, not in blood).  People of the Yucatan rival Southerners for being the most hospitable people ever to be met.  They do not concern themselves with time, everything will happen eventually (and, for the record, they do not like to be pushed to complete a task by the aforementioned type-A honors student).  They believe that family and community come before all else.  They can take an hour to walk 100 feet up the street because they stop at every single house along the way to have a conversation.  When in the Yucatan, one must eat everything they are given (even if you have absolutely no idea what the "interesting" meal before you is).  You must also say goodbye to every single person around before you take your leave with a single side-kiss.  Just put on a smile and be ready to converse and you will be fine in dealing with people of the Yucatan.  

I am soon to be part-Argentine. I have absolutely no idea yet what this truly means, as I have not yet arrived.  So far, I can tell you that the eat a lot of red meat, make some of the best red wine in the world, and host some of the most beautiful landscapes one will ever see.  Hopefully I won't spend too long here being "the other" (though with my soon-to-be short, very blonde hair this could be a different story!) and will be able to fully embrace and become part of this culture as well.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Finding Family Worldwide

When living in another place, finding a family of sorts has been my comfort and the easiest way for me to become culturally literate.  Even in my "real" home, my family was my main source of cultural development and knowledge.  They taught me English, manners, and every other little thing that helped me to fit into the world around me.  

When I left Maryville and moved to Clemson, my new group of friends were the ones who taught me how the world of college works.  They helped me survive classes, learn the "lingo" of campus, and social foux pas.  They became my new family who helped me navigate the new world I found myself in.

Living in Mexico was another experience that brought the need for another family to help me learn the ways of the world in which I was to spend the next few months.  They introduced me to new foods, attitudes, and means of transportation (never before had it been normal for fifteen people to ride in the back of a truck!).  This family helped to keep me safe and successful by avoiding the creation of too many waves within the culture.

In short, family has been the major means of developing cultural literacy for me.  As I go to Argentina, my new host family will hopefully also be a vessel of education into the workings of the new situation I'll find myself in.  It has always been a great comfort for me to have a family around--even if not of the traditional sort.  They help you to fit into the world, as well as provide the necessary support as you learn and transition.  The added bonus of families around the world is always having somewhere to stay when you travel :) 

Friday, January 15, 2010

Facebook and Google and Twitter--OH MY!

It's looking as if this blog will be updated every Friday (unless my schedule changes once I arrive in Argentina) and I think I like it that way.  Not that it's last minute, as that's definitely not my style, but that it gives me an opportunity to have an entire week's worth of activities to pull from in posting.

For those of you that want more of a "here's my daily life and happenings within it" blog you can find that in my personal blog here.  I'd love people to follow and share their thoughts, insights, and anything else that comes to mind!  (Disclaimer-as of this very second in writing there is nothing posted in the aforementioned blog, but that should change as soon as this one is done!).

Back on topic (dear readers, you'll learn that I think very parenthetically and therefore blog the same way so I apologize for it in advance!).  It's very ironic that the topic for this week is online communities and collaboration. As my five months abroad inch closer and closer (19 days-eek!) I have been somewhat frantically working on ways to stay as actively involved as possible in the lives of my friends and family, as well as with the organizations and groups that I am passionate about.  The clear solution in how to handle this separation of distance, time, and wireless networks (Verizon's international plan believes that charging $4.99 a minute to use one's Global Blackberry in Argentina is completely reasonable--however much my bank account disagrees!) has become remedied by taking advantage of online communities and collaborative media.

Facebook, of course, has provided me a location to network and keep track of my friends across the United States and world.  It has also proven to be a great location to promote organizations that I am passionate about and events involving them.  It's also an easy way to share pictures with people who don't (or won't!) take the time to read my blog or look at my picassa website (to be here for those interested--like the other blog it exists but isn't quite in use yet!).

Twitter as well is becoming a wonderful online community that I had previously refused to join.  It's an easy one-stop location for me to follow news events and the goings-on of some of my friends.  As my internet time will potentially be limited in Argentina, I've found that this community will help me very quickly keep up with life in the United States.

Finally, Google is becoming yet another social medium to use.  With the existence of calendar event sharing, it's easy to set up Skype dates (or online calling for those of you not in the know--especially if you're abroad and haven't heard of it...check Skype out here--it's easy and somewhat free!).  Google documents is allowing me to stay involved in my creative inquiry (which is undergraduate research at Clemson--this particular one is on women's leadership).  We can all edit and add to our outlines and research whenever is convenient for our schedules.  Google wave is also appearing to be a different type of online community, though I am just learning how to use it.

In short, I'm becoming more and more dependent on online networking and media sharing locations.  At times it worries me because I know our generation is moving somewhat away from traditional face-to-face interaction and relationship building, however I am also extremely excited about the many doors it opens for us in this rapidly shrinking world.        

Friday, January 8, 2010


I am thoroughly excited be embarking on this new adventure of blogging.  Thanks to the CLAM program (Cultural Literacies Across Media for those of you not in the know) at Clemson, I will be both learning how to blog and to communicate through other forms of technology.  Those that know me understand that this is indeed a challenge for me--my technology skills stop somewhere very soon after sending emails and making PowerPoint presentations.

However, despite the frustrating challenge it might become, I cannot wait to begin.  I will be spending 5 months between February and June in Cordoba, Argentina to study abroad.  This blog will describe my experiences though means that I might not have created on my own.

Adventure awaits!