Connecting with the Country Through its People

July 17, 2013 | Elizabeth, Intern, Canadian Embassy, Argentina

My internship at the Canadian Embassy in Buenos Aires is going well. At work, I am enjoying the challenging tasks assigned to me to research and report on commercial activities between Canada and Argentina, support open governance initiatives and strengthen our education ties. There is always so much going on and I’ll often come in early and stay late because I love the work. I could definitely see myself working at an embassy on a permanent basis. At home, my host family has been wonderful. They have welcomed me in with open arms as if I was their daughter. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay. I look forward to keeping in contact with them in the future and hopefully coming back to visit them here. They have also talked about coming to Canada to visit me. I think that would be wonderful. I have had some time to visit the country outside of my minimum twelve week stay. Combined with the holiday stretch I was able to visit the north, the northwest and the west of Argentina. I took a seventeen hour bus all the way to Misiones province and Puerto Iguazu in the north east on the border of Brazil and Paraguay and spent two days at Iguazu Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world. The Falls are humongous, or like three Niagara Falls put together. Pardon the pun, but these falls blow Niagara right out of the water! While I was there, the Falls were twenty percent higher than normal, making the speed and amount of water quite a staggering sight. There is an intricate set of upper and lower trails and bridges directly over the Falls. I walked the trails while the Falls came crashing down around and below me. I felt like Indiana Jones would pop out and join me at any moment. I flew to the northwest into the province of Salta. The two hour flight was comfortable especially since the other option would have been to take a twenty-seven hour bus ride. The city of Salta is beautiful. It lies in a valley surrounded by the gigantic Andes mountain range. The architecture in the city is lovely. It is one of the few places in the whole country where the colonial architecture has been preserved. The designs are intricate and the churches are even multicoloured. It really is beautiful. I walked the streets with colonial architecture, visited the blue, red and pink churches, strolled through the park with a man-made lake. I even managed to find leather Argentine boots (a welcomed purchase since my runners were still soaked from Iguazu). I also felt quite safe there since there were police men sitting on stands like lifeguards in the middle of the pedestrian streets. The only downside was the lack of stop signs at the intersections, making crossing the street a confusing process. The province of Salta is even said to have the best empanadas in all of Argentina. They may be right. The homemade empanadas at my hostel were out of this world! Around Salta, I visited the Andres to Campo Quijario, Santa Rosa de Tastil, San Antonio de los Cobres, the Salt Flats, Purmamarca, Volcan (volcano) the province of Jujuy and back to Salta. In the Andes, the fauna and flora changed rapidly in relation to the altitude. At lower altitudes there were cacti across the mountains. The cacti were sometimes short with one arm of two and other times they were twice or even three times my size. Since cacti grew by three inches every year, the tall cacti were hundreds of years old. There were different types of llamas and donkeys in the hills. There small towns scattered within the mountains that grew from camps of workers who built the railway back in 1855. Nowadays though only 8% of the railways are used. I’m sure that the lack of rail transport available makes it difficult for these small towns to survive. I also saw changes in the colours of the mountains. It was amazing. Some mountains were blue, others green, purple, pink, red, or even multicoloured. The highest altitude that we drove to was 4,170 metres or 13,681 feet. Then I tried llama for lunch. Quite the change after seeing them in the fields, but it’s the common meat for the area. It tasted like a mix between chicken and pork. I thought that it was actually pretty good. At the Salt Flats I was blown away. It’s a sea of salt stretching far and wide with the Andes around us. It’s enormous. The ground is hard and as cold as ice with thousands of small cracks running along it. Further on, there are sites where workers excavate sections of the Flats and collect the salt. It was an incredible sight. Then I visited Purmamarca, which is a town that sits beside “The Hill of Seven Colours”. The hill looks as if it has been painted. The town was quaint and lovely with women dressed in traditional clothing. The women there were dressed in traditional dress. They were beautiful. I did not take photos of them as the people of Purmamarca believe that the shot of a camera takes away a bit of their soul. I took many memory shots though because it was a magical place. I also went further south to Cafayate, home to the Argentine white wine, and later to Mendoza, home to red wines like Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was amazing! Yanina, who I toured with, was an extremely kind and interesting Argentine. We shared our cultures and had many lengthy discussions about everything under the sun: political, the economy, history, health, etc. I hope that we will be able to see each other again someday either in Argentina, Canada or someplace far away. This internship experience has really been a wonderful thanks to the people I’ve met along the way. The Argentines are thoughtful, passionate, caring and hilarious. Just last Saturday I went for dinner with a ninety-two year old ballerina who was a dancer for the nation’s Teatro Colon (a world renowned theatre). We had a lovely time! It’s these relationships that have made me feel connected to the country itself. It’s made all the difference.

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