TY Argentinian Exchange – Declan Kinahan

Last Easter I was lucky enough to travel with two good friends David Power and Jack O’Mahony across the globe to the sunny city of Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina. This was the final term of our Transition Year course. A year most certainly to be remembered. IMG_2980.JPG
We set off from Dublin airport on Friday the 11th of April at 9.05am heading for our stopover in New York with only an underestimation of how much we would experience over the next 7 weeks.
As many would expect we were nervous about setting off on a trip that would lead us 11,000 miles away from home, to a country with a culture we had never experienced, people we had never met and a city with a crime rate 20% higher than Dublin’s. Nevertheless we went with the good aul irish saying “ah sure be grand” and boarded our flight to New York, not before snapping a quick selfie.

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After touching down in New York some 7 hours later we were still quite a long way from Buenos Aires but we were delighted to be able to stretch our legs, get a proper meal and freshen up. All of that took the best part of an hour. “How long till our flight?” Asked Jack to which David responds “only 11 hours”. And so the wait begins…
After a painfully boring day waiting in terminal 8 of JFK International Airport it was finally time to board our flight down south. We managed to get 3 seats together at the back of the plane but eachother’s company was trumped by the option to sleep and we all conked out for the best part of the 14 hour flight.
Eventually we woke up and we looked out the window to see the South American country side, with some of the widest and most meandering rivers in the world. Some time later we were off the plane and on Argentinian soil. Then, it was our turn to make our way through the arrivals door. We hauled our bags through and it wasn’t long until we spotted Fernando Carro the coordinator of this trip and a great friend of Glensal Abbey’s along with three families looking just about as anxious as we were.
We introduced ourselves and greeted with them with a handshake. Our first mistake. Argentinians kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting. This lead to a rather awkward situation where we thought they were coming on just a little bit strong! Soon enough we were all split up and whisked away to our new households. Driving through the suburbs of the city I got a real taste of just how different this place was. Shanty towns on both sides of the motorway with boys playing football barefoot and with only two paint cans as goal posts. Maximo who is brother of my exchange Jonas, tells me that this is where the best footballers come from such as the great Kun Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, Carlos Tevez and many more. Maximo is keen on his football and I could envisage some great games between us over the 6 weeks.
We swung around a corner and pulled into my new house in a much nicer part of town, a safer area but they still have all windows covered with iron bars and maximum security systems. I put away my clothes and got ready for my big first day at school, feeling like a junior infant again.
7am the next morning and I’m putting on the uniform of Colegio Aleman. My adopted school. I had my first experience of what can only be described as the best traditional breakfast (next to an Irish one of course) in the whole world. They have sugary cereal bars, and toast with a topping called “Dulce de Leche” which translates to “the sweet of milk”. It’s basically sugar and burned milk. Fernanda (my argentine mother) says you need a kick start of sugar to begin the day and hey, I’m not going to argue with my new mom now am I? We hopped in the car and set off to school. From now I shall share with you through photographs, the best memories I have from the 7 weeks.

 

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Upon arrival in Buenos Aires airport. (Left: Ramiro and Jack. Centre: Myself and Jonas. Right: David and Nicolas.)
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On my first weekend, Jonas took me to see Buenos Aires city centre. This photo was taken outside the government building of Argentina.
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The harsh reality of the living conditions for some in a country stricken by corruption.

 

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We went on a class trip to see some of Buenos Aires’s finest tourist attractions.
These photos were taken en La Bocca the small town home to the infamous Boca Juniors football team.

 

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One of the most memorable nights of my life came a couple of weeks into this trip. We were taken to see Riverplate, Argentina’s number 1 football team play a home league game. Football is a passion in Argentina and we were fortunate enough to experience this passion first hand as the fans sang from the first to the last minute of the match.
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For one weekend of my trip my host family took me on a 4 hour car journey down the coast of the country to a place called “Mar Del Plata”. This is a seaside city much like Buenos Aires but in Mar Del Plata the water is clean and safe to swim in. There are no beaches in the capital city and water is fairly polluted.
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The highlight of my trip was when Pablo my exchange’s father took me on a two day trip to the North of Argentina to a place called “Igazu” on the border between Argentina and Brazil. Igazu
is home to the famous “Igazu Falls” and specifically the waterfall known as “The Devils Throat”. This was an adventure into the deep jungle, a place almost as exotic as my native “Ogonnelloe” in the heart of east Clare.

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Although, the places I saw, and the experiences I had in South America were incredible I think it would be a crime for me to go without mentioning the number one component that made the trip so special. The people at Colegio Aleman, our host school, host families and now true friends, who welcomed us from day one with open arms and from this hospitality we saw what was the true essence of Argentina… It’s people. Colegio Aleman is now an exceptional connection for Glenstal and I look forward to giving the boys a Glenstal welcome on their arrival in Ireland next month.

To conclude this piece I leave you with some photographs of our time in Colegio Aleman.

 

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