As my 4th month says goodbye, I think I’m more excited than ever about my exchange and what lays ahead which maybe sounds odd, I mean why now? To be honest I don’t really know, but I like the feeling J May was a month very different, from the others which came before it. It involved a car rally, my first family change, a difficult moment and a north trip of Argentina which pretty much took up the rest of the month, and now I’m back in my town here to try and fit it all into a few pages. (If that didn’t get you hooked, there really is no hope for me)
I’ll start with the Argentinian Car Rally. Which was great fun, though I suffered a little from over expectation-itis: a disease which really can affect the way one views an experience. All my friends, my host dad, the town had been hyping it up ten-fold, and so I went into it with this preconception that it was the best thing in the world. Of course I still had an awesome time, and it was an awesome way to bond with my school friends. After not seeing them for the whole week, as I was in Callafate, it was really nice to see them all again. We left Jesus Maria at 1am and got off the bus at around 4.30am, in nice sub 7 degree temperatures we carried our stuff up a few km’s, only to find the rest of the route was blocked till 8.30am so we waited with the wind. 8.30am we started walking, finally at 11.30am we were settled in. If you want to know the reason for such a long time between setting out and arriving ask the stupid 30kg chilly bin I decided to carry J. The rest of the day was quite chill, we sat around ate some food, drank some drink, banged out some music. And then from there on the day was pretty low key (tranquilo as they’d say here). It wasn’t until the next morning that the Rally Cars popped in to visit, ridiculously fast, I got pretty close up which was pretty spectacular. Of course after being told by practically every adult I had told about the rally, to not go to close or stand on corners, I took necessary precautions.  After the first 15 cars people started to lose interest, and I went up and started chatting with a really lovely group of people and I think 2 hours passed and then it was time to go. We tried to take a short cut back, and ended up 5km down the main road where the bus was. A few went to fetch the bus while the rest of us improvised a bit, doing crazy dancing and giving the passing cars a real show, that is until we
gave into our shattered bodies and had a roadside siesta. 2 hours later we were on the bus and soon enough in our beds out for the count.

I can now talk a little about my family change, initially I have to admit it was a little difficult. I felt a part of the family which I was of course was very cool, I think the trip with them definitely helped that, but what I didn’t anticipate was the difference between holiday life and everyday life. Holiday vibes were as you would expect chill and happy, with nothing to worry about, whereas I guess in everyday work, school, social life there are a few more complications. Like when my friends invited me somewhere I felt I shouldn’t go given that it was my first week with my family and I should spend all my time with them. Well I felt that way because Nico and Emi (my two host siblings) were always at home, so it felt almost rude to leave if they weren’t going out. The second thing is my host brother, we get on most of the time, but he always has something negative to say about me, most of the time in front of other people. It can be very difficult to take and say nothing sometimes. Thirdly, for this reason I need time to myself away from him, we share a room after all. And so when I wanted to go see my school friends I felt pressure to invite him from my parents, for example they would ask him if he was going with me in front of me, like almost inviting him. (I do understand it from their perspective, it’s their son after all, it was just a little frustrating as I did want time with my friends alone)
 
BUT… I have returned from my trip - which I will discuss in a tic - and things are better or maybe I’ve just toughened up a little to Nico’s criticisms and now I’m not afraid to throw one back (and laugh of course, it’s only a joke after all J). And the rest of the family I feel very close to, we always are cracking up at dinner, usually at my expense hahahaha I really can be such a Ning Nong sometimes. I’m actually in a very good state at the moment, I thought that after the trip I would go into a post trip blues kind of feeling, but seeing the way my school friends welcomed me back after the trip, I felt missed which changed my whole mind set and I would say I feel closer to them for it. I now am going to the Gym with two classmates Francuello and Toledo at least 3 times a week, and on the other days we all try and get in our game of football. On Wednesdays I’m now going to go to guitar classes which I’m very excited about, and also outside of school I spend a lot of time with the Belgium girl, Astrid, who I have become very close with. Her and Francuello I’d say are my two best mates here. It’s absolutely freezing right now, 0 degrees most mornings and nights. But I’ve found this desire to cycle to school, much to the horror of my host family. I actually found that I love the fresh air in the morning, it wakes me up and also gives me a bit of a rush, a perfect way to start the day.
 
So the trip, North Argentina, it was absolutely stunning. The other exchange students were a blast, the rotary people who came with us were crack up and really chilled, and the places we visited were unlike anything I’d seen. I can’t really go day by day tale of the whole trip, or we’d be here till Christmas. We first had a huge Argentinian conference, and then set off for Iguazu Falls. Which I was very excited for and, it didn’t let me down. We went to both the Argentinian and Brazilian side. Both were incredible but for me the Argentinian experience pipped it. Without patriotism, may I add, for my host country, I just loved how close we got. We were literally over the falls, looking down into a chasm of death. A very beautiful one at that. Although all the girls said the Brazilian side, and I figured out it was most likely because the photos were better on the Brazilian side so their instagrams and facebooks could prosper, WHAT EXCITEMENT! On the first bus ride I became really good friends with two French boys called Benja and Nils and with Marianne from ‘Down Under’ (our neighbours) we formed a group, which stuck for the trip. I have to admit I was a little surprised as I always thought I was going to be really good friends with Noah and Erik, but as Harry always says: ‘the future isn’t there to be predicted, it’s there to be discovered’. Not bad.
 
We then went up to Tilcara which I’d describe as a cactus and cobblestone town surrounded by mountains. Very beautiful - and cheap - I decided to use the free time we had in the afternoon to go for a run, cause eating heaps and then not moving on a bus aren’t the best two combinations. Anyway I claimed to Benja, Nils and Marianne that I’d get to the top of the mountain, I got about 1/4 up a mountain and then I fell on a cactus, and walked back in a terrible amount of pain and with my tail between my legs. We watched an awesome show with dinner and then stayed up late chatting, well that was pretty much every night, sometimes with everyone, sometimes just Benja, Nils and I in our room.
 
Next destination on the list was Salta, the most northern place we visited. On the way we had one of our overnight bus journeys, and that night was one of my favourite nights. There is this Argentinian card game called Truco, it’s a brilliant game similar to poker in the way you bluff and play the man and yeah it’s probably my favourite card game I’ve ever played (bar Gerroovy), evidenced how that night I played for 7 hours straight till 5.30am and never once got bored, in fact I was in hysterics half the time, mainly due to the people I was with too. Anyway we arrived in Salta, and the hotel was niiiiiiiccceee, as was the city, we stayed there for 2 nights. We went on a city tour, to an old museum, took a gondola up a mountain … and walked back down :/ and in our free time explored the city ourselves playing a hilarious game of what’s the probability. That kept us entertained. We also played a bit of ninja in the middle of the plaza to show off our international kung-Fu skills, naturally. The second day we also were able to visit these stunning salt plains. Naturally I went barefoot. Best part was having a competition to see who could leave their feet in the ice water the longest. I shouldn’t need to tell ya who won, after all kiwis don’t lose when barefoot.
 
We then started our descent of the country to Mendoza, a beautiful city close to Chile which produces some top notch wine. When we arrived we played a game of footy, well actually it was the 2nd game of the trip the first was our 4th night of the trip, and it was a very cool feeling playing both games. Especially the first game, where I think their expectations (like the Argentinians) were that I’d be a little on the crap side, when you compare little old New Zealand, who aren’t in the world cup, to France, Belgium and Germany we do come up a little short. But in the mud and rain, I had such a good time I couldn’t stop smiling, especially after seeing their faces after an outside of the box side foot volley Golassssooo. Nah but it was also a really good way to bond and get to know them. Sorry haha fond memories. Back to Mendoza. We went to a vineyard the next day, tasted some fancy wine and learnt how to drink wine ‘properly’ which from what I observed was more a way to drink ‘pompously’.

Finally we headed to Buenos Aires, my 3rd visit to the city, although I was anticipating us doing the same things as I did on my trip with the other NZ exchange students before my exchange, thankfully there were only a few things the same, the really interesting cemetery and La Boca. The rest was different, like the Zoo called ‘Temaiken’ which was awesome, such amazing birds, there was a white tiger, weird as pig, hippo of course (Mums favourite), zebra and all that jazz. I love walking the zoo alone in my own time and watching the animals, so walking with lots of loud people was a little strange, but still a good time, it being one of our last days together I’m glad I got to spend it with them. Both nights the food was delicious, in fact the whole trip had good food, the grand buffets were my favourite yet at the same time I hated them as it meant I didn’t stop eating. It was soon that we were on our way back to Cordoba, many crying as we hit a few drop off points. Being the heartless person I am I didn’t manage to cry. Though, taking the idea from many others, I decided to get all the people I could to write in my little notebook, a mini letter to me. And then when I got back I read it on the toilet J. My emotional safe haven.
 
It was an amazing trip and I feel very lucky to have met all the other exchange students, they were all so welcoming to me ‘barefooted weirdo’ I’m sure will be how they describe me to others. It’s odd to think they all will be going and Marianne and I will have a whole other group of exchange students the second half of the year. We have it lucky there. When I go to Europe, I’m looking forward to travelling cheap. Accommodation ticked off already!!!
 
Finally, lovingly pointed out by my grandpa, I haven’t given too many updates as to how I am going with my Spanish. It’s improving, I’m at the level where 80% of the time if someone is speaking to me I understand them and can respond with reasonable speed. However if my classmates are talking amongst themselves, I often only understand a little, and would have to ask clarification from one of them. Though I’m looking to work a little harder in school now, because I feel I will learn quicker, like grammar and all that. This will also be a huge help when it comes to the Spanish examination I want to sit at the end of the year, so that I have something to show that I’m fluent in Spanish, and this exam I obviously want/need to ace.
 
Lordy lordy, every time it gets longer. Hope you all had a lovely month, full of adventurous work tasks and ploppy rain. Ciao for now!
 
Harry
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