El Año del Caballo


My father passed away in December of 2005. I was a sophomore in high school, my sister was in her first year of college and my mother, a recent widow, began  contemplating joining the Peace Corps. That spring I, too, began contemplating leaving my home town to live abroad. Eventually, I applied, and was accepted, to a cultural study abroad exchange program. I had chosen Argentina and was granted my choice. A few weeks before my flight was scheduled to depart from our quaint little Dayton airport I received my host family assignment.

I remember being in Minneapolis, MN at Macalaster College on a college visit when I received the email. We had just gotten back from Dan’s, my host, theater class and I asked if I could check my email. Upon opening the email and reading where I would be living for the next year I immediately  opened a new tab and  copied the name of the city where my host family lived, Rio Gallegos, and pasted it into Google. Google shot back from Minnesota zooming out and then spinning the globe upwards as it began to zero in on South America, then Argentina then Patagonia and then Rio Gallegos.Rio Gallegos is the southern most city on the mainland of south America, almost the southernmost city in the world, only out-southed by Ushuaia which serves as a launch pad for expeditions to Antarctica. My host family, a middle-aged couple with two sons around my age, lived in Patagonia, southern Patagonia.

Meanwhile my sister, now a second year in college, had gotten herself into a college-level study abroad program in Mexico. There was a brief point of time where it looked that all three of us, just a little over a year after Peter’s death, were bound for foreign ground. Eventually my mother would decide that the Peace Corps was not for her and would remain in our home town while my sister and I flew south.

I’ve never asked my sister whether or not her decision to study abroad was driven or influenced by our father passing. I know that mine was even if, at the time, I tried to deny it. I think even before my father’s passing I was ready to leave home and strike it out on my own. The death of my father allowed me to leave. I couldn’t have left while he was still sick so once he had died I felt free to leave. What I did not realize and would not realize until both my sister and I had returned a year or so later was how hard it must’ve been for my mom to be completely alone. Every time I think about her alone in our house for that year I feel awful, inconsiderate and selfish. How could I not realize how difficult it would be for her to be completely alone after the loss of her husband. I know I was young and I shouldn’t be hard on myself but I am going to be so get over it. Honestly, I think it just shows how self-consuming grief can be.

So you may be asking yourself “what the hell does this have to do with anything?” or you may just be asking yourself “I wonder how late Aguas Tortas is open cause I could really go for some horchata right about now.” Either way I’m gonna tell you what all the hubbub is about.

My study abroad program lasted 11 months, starting in February of 2007 and ending in January of 2008. Throughout my time in Rio Gallegos I kept what some might generously call a journal and what would be more accurately described as meticulous notes on what it means to be an idiot American in a non-English speaking country.

There it is. This is the intro to posts about the writing I did while living in Argentina as a 17-18 year old from small town Ohio. The entries that follow I promise will be funny, depressing, hopeless, boring, amusing, nonsensical (at times) and above all else exceedingly mundane.

Enjoy, I’ll do my best to include songs, photos, maybe even a video or two, as this thing unfolds. Also, don’t get too excited because I might just flake out and never write again, in which case I’ve saved you valuable time you can spend strolling through someone else’s mind.n

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