Kristina Baier - Care, Care & Spanish in Argentina
The road not taken is the one you learn the most from. That is how I found myself in Argentina. It was a dream of my grandfather’s to travel to South America, to walk its streets and move to the beat of the tango music. Unfortunately, he never got the chance. I wanted to honour his dream and there I was boarding a plane, followed by two connecting flights.
I remember being in Canada, passport in hand, looking up, nodding to my grandpa, realising that this was it. In 24 hours, I would set foot in a country filled with people that would change my life forever.
My Argentinean host family
The Luque family welcomed me with open arms and treated me like a daughter. Elena, my host mother and the perfect definition of a mother, woke up early every morning to make sure that breakfast was on the table and that the dulce de leche stock was adequate. She made sure to cook all the Argentinian dishes, so that we could experience the Argentinian culture in our placement and taste their wonderful cuisine.
Pepe, my host father, was what a father should be. He made us laugh at the dinner table and told stories with lots of sound effects. Emma, my host grandmother, was in town visiting and she was your typical grandma. When we came in, she would ask if we were hungry or cold. If we were, she would make sure we got food and another sweater to wear.
And then there was Camila, the family dog. She would follow you around with her plastic bowl when she was hungry. It would make us laugh every time.
The dinners were the best. We would all sit around the huge dinner table, eating until our hearts were content and laughing until our stomachs hurt.
My Projects Abroad support network
Being alone for the first time in a foreign country and speaking only a bit of Spanish was intimidating. That intimidation quickly dissolved when I was greeted by Projects Abroad staff. There is nothing like the cultural kiss on the right cheek to make you feel right at home.
Jean, a member of the Projects Abroad staff, was a real gentleman. He drove in the taxi with me and made sure that I got to my host family. Inés, another staff member, was a gem. I had a few concerns regarding my anxiety, but she had a solution for everything. Ansa, who flew down from Toronto with me, was one of the nicest people I have ever met.
Chester, my placement supervisor, allowed us to get the most of our experience. He asked us for our input with regards to activities and was an excellent translator. Moreover, he answered every single one of our questions! I remember riding in the bus one day and I noticed a street sign that was named after a particular revolution. I asked him about it and he told me he would do some research and give me an answer the next day. Sure enough, the following day, on our bus ride to the placement, he had the answer!
Diana, my Spanish teacher, was so encouraging during our lessons and went out of her way to help us. On the last day, we all went to the café across the street from the office, the Caseratto, and enjoyed a few desserts and a submarino, a glass of warm milk with a melted chocolate bar in it. We sat like old friends at the café, enjoying each other’s company.
All the members of the Projects Abroad staff are incredible at what they do and they truly exemplify what it means to care for foreign volunteers.
The weekend trip
On the Saturday, we went to visit the childhood home of Che Guevara. I was lucky to be there when one of his childhood friends stopped by. This man was incredible to talk to. He told me about the poverty when they were growing up. We visited the German village of General Belgrano, which resembled a small village in the mountains of Southern Germany. Their incorporation of German architecture and culture was beautifully done.
On the Sunday, we went zip lining. Being slightly intimated by heights, I knew this was going to be a challenge for me, especially with the longest line being 500m. I took the lunge off the rocks and flew through the air. When you feel the wind on your face and the serenity of the area, you no longer feel intimidated. You feel free. And it was absolutely incredible to share this experience with other people from all over the world!
My care placement
The kids I met at my placement quickly became the definition of the life I want to live. They showed me that living, laughing and loving create the best possible life. We were told before arriving that we were going to a poor neighbourhood. To be honest, it was one of the richest places on Earth! It is not the money that makes a place rich; it is the humanity in its inhabitants.
The younger kids called me seño (a term showing respect for a teacher) and the older kids introduced me to their friends as Kristina con ‘K’ (Kristina with a ‘K’). They always smiled and you could hear them laughing from a mile away.
It is that road not taken that leads you down a path to discover who you are. I wanted to go and change lives, but these kids changed and inspired me. If I could sum up my trip into one word, I would not be able to because it is a string of memories that you look back on for the years to come. So, take that untaken road. When you come out the other side, the view is spectacular!