Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Can you believe how much time has passed since we were all in Argentina together? I can still imagine those flaky medialunas in the morning and all of that yummy Freddo ice cream that we shared. Often times, it seems like yesterday that we were stomping in the mud, laughing on the bus and finding new purpose for old plastics in the form of ecoladrillos . We know that you’re probably back in school (or starting college!) but we wanted you to know that, here in Buenos Aires, we are still thinking of you and the impact we made together, last summer.
Our time spent here together truly did make an impact. You should all know you left Buenos Aires a better place than when you came. The adobe classroom and garden beds we built will continue to serve local communities for years to come. And more importantly, the experience and knowledge YOU gained on this trip, will serve you and your communities for the rest of your life! We now know how harmful plastic is to the environment, and some ways to reduce our consumption and reuse it in order to protect our planet. We discussed the concept of meaningful service and how to select impactful projects and organizations that are truly making a positive change.
Another thing we won’t forget, is how much fun we all had together! You guys were truly what made this trip such an amazing experience (as you may recall from our rap). We immersed ourselves in the culture by learning to tango, drinking mate, making traditional Argentine chocotorta, stuffing our own empanadas and meeting real life gauchos on an Argentine estancia. We loved watching you embrace these experiences, form new friendships and step up as leaders.
We worked really hard and also had a blast together. We are so grateful that we got to experience this amazing place with amazing “aventureros” such as yourselves. We’ll never forget the breathtaking views at Iguazu Waterfalls, our kayaking adventure, the crazy 19-hour bus ride or zip-lining through the trees together. Even the small things were fun with you guys around. Whether it was playing cards at night, listening to Amanda’s anti-jokes, painting each other’s faces with mud during service, or exploring new places together, it was that much better because we got to share it with all you guys, the 2016 GLA Argentina group! Thanks for helping to make these special memories in this beautiful place. Aujevete!
10 special moments from our trip:
Learning about ecoladrillos and making an impact by recycling used plastic into the building blocks of our service projects.
Watching the wall of the classroom grow as we applied the adobe we had made.
Stumbling through the blind maze and rocking the other leadership activities at Isla Caribeta.
Practicing Spanish with David and taking way too many selfies with him.
Exploring a Guaraní community, listening to traditional music, trying the local fare and buying some awesome hand-crafted souvenirs.
Protecting our lunch from the coatis and experiencing Iguazu falls up close and personally on our boat tour.
Exploring the city of Buenos Aires and having an asado feast (and a collective food coma) there.
Teaching local kids how to make ecoladrillos and banquitos. We’ll never forget dancing together and the endless piggy back rides at recess.
Learning about Permaculture from Gustavo and Flor at Sembrando Caminos.
Cracking up together at the talent show and getting sentimental at our farewell dinner.
Summer Blog Posts
July 17, 2016
Today was a very successful arrival day in Buenos Aires! Our 17 aventureros and their luggage made it to safely to Ezeiza International Airport in the morning with no major setbacks. Once all of the flights were in, we loaded on to the shuttle, eager to get to know each other better and to get acquainted with the place that we would call home for the next three weeks.
After about an hour of transport time, we arrived to Tigre, the site of our home base. With bellies full of delicious Argentine empanadas, we set out to explore our new neighborhood. We played some name games, learned about each other and reviewed house rules. We also talked about how excited we were to be immersed in Argentine culture and about our upcoming excursions and adventures. We struggled to outlast the jetlag and start adjusting our sleep schedules but, by the time dinner was over, we were having a hard time staying awake. Some of us headed right to bed and others enjoyed a heated game of cards before finally crashing out. We can’t wait to learn more about our service projects tomorrow and get things started. ¡Hasta pronto!
July 18, 2016
After a good night of sleep we all recovered from our long flights to Argentina. For breakfast we had pastries and then began our day of work. We had a little intro about the service that we would be doing and then had a small break where we bonded over playing spoons. Fundación Chacras came and explained how to build sustainable housing out of plastic bottles and materials (aka trash). We enjoyed a quick lunch and then started creating our first “ecoladrillos”, or ecobricks, by packing plastic bottles with various types of discarded plastic. We also listened to a playlist of everyone’s favorite songs. After working hard we got to relax and try the local argentine tea, Yerba Mate. You fill a traditional mate cup full of the mate leaves and pass the cup between the group. We also had a chance to head to the local market before dinner and grab a few snacks. After dinner we had some time to hang out with each other before heading to bed.
July 19, 2016
Blog by: Tristan Burton
Today after a two hour bus ride to the site, we started our service in Argentina, building the eco-brick and adobe houses. We first met the people we were working with and played futból until lunch was ready. Then the real work began making the adobe. It is a real struggle and requires a lot of man power to be able to make it successfully.
Thankfully, we had Fundación Chacras along with our advisers to show us the ropes. The fun part is putting the ecoladrillos and adobe together to form the wall. A few of us got mud everywhere. After finishing a large portion of the wall, we had to clean up for the return journey so we would made it back on time for dinner (and there was no way we were ever going to be late for dinner).
After dinner we had some free time which was spent playing playing a very competitive game of cards, per usual. Today our new Argentine friend, David joined us. Tomorrow we will be doing some more exploring around our new neighborhood and working on more ecoladrillos to be used in later construction projects.
July 20, 2016
Today was a bit unconventional, in that our group was surprised with a little game of scavenger hunting! We all woke up not knowing what to expect as we headed to breakfast where we enjoyed croissants, cereal, oranges, and of course dulce de leche. After breakfast we joined the mentors and they gave us guidelines for the scavenger hunt that was yet to come. Our two separate groups lined up at the gate of the hotel, prepared for the competition with lists of what we must take pictures of in hand. We had an hour to find each item on the list and every person in our groups must be in the photo. Once we finished the game, Great Green Gauchos reigning true; I say reluctantly from the opposing group, good game. After a delicious lunch we enjoyed a game of capture the flag and packed in some additional time with the ecoladrillos (plastic bottles filled with “materials”(trash)). Overall, sharing this day and making new memories with all these new and wonderful people is a great experience and I am looking forward to spending more time with each and every person in GLA!!
July 21, 2016
Today after about a 2 hour bus ride we made it the Estancía, an Argentine ranch located in San Antonio. When we first got to the ranch we all went horse back riding and got to see the beautiful farmland around the area. Afterwards we sat down together and ate a big Argentine asado.
We got to see the Gauchos perform a traditional horse show.
The Gaucho and his horse trusted each other so much that the horse let the gaucho crawl underneath him, lay on top of him, and even stand on top of him.
After the horse show some of the kids went horseback riding again, this time we got to go a little bit faster. Before getting in the bus to head back to the home base everyone filled up on delicious tea, coffee, and pastries.
Today, the group woke up an hour later than usual, rejuvenated and excited for the events of the day. Anxious to leave for Isla Caribeta, we hurried through breakfast, organized our luggage, and played another epic round of chain tag. After a delicious lunch of pork and mashed potatoes, the mentors announced it was time to leave for the boats. We got to the port and set sail for Isla Caribeta.
Isla Caribeta resembles a luxurious tree house, with quaint little cabins at the end of each walkway. After a warm dinner, we played an activity in which we were blindfolded and led to a string, which we had to follow to get to the end. However, the way out of the maze was to just raise your hand when you needed help. This was a metaphor representing how sometimes when you’re a leader, it’s okay to ask for help when your lost.
Today was exciting and a fun filled first day to our first excursion!
July 23, 2016
Hey my dudes,
Today was another day full of leadership activities that helped each of us understand different traits a “good leader” needed.
After races for the delicious medialunas (croissants) at our new home base, we jumped right into an activity: crowd surfing. Of course it was a lot more coordinated than the average Rock and Roll concert would have you thinking. Through the amount of times we almost had people fall over, we learned the importance of putting in as much effort as everyone else.
Then, it was free time which meant trying to shower from the the little hot water available, very competitive card games, and swinging in the hammocks by the river bank.
We were taught some volleyball passes and even had the opportunity to practice our new skills in four on four matches. The latter proved to be a lot harder than expected.
We headed to an intricate web made of string Kelly, an advisor, had weaved between two trees. With he objective of making it through the web without touching the string and using each of the 16 holes in the web once, we learned how important it was that every voice was heard. The collaborative effort of lifting people through the different holes led us to triumph.
My favorite part of the day was the cooking lesson. Gimena, the owner’s daughter, taught us how to fold empanadas and prepare a traditional argentine dessert: chocotorta.
Alicia ran through health checks with each of the students; this gives them an opportunity to tell her if there’s anything wrong with their health and talk about their experience so far in the GLA program. And for the other students not talking to Alicia, this meant more free time.
That’s the small park in the middle of Isla Caribetá.
We ended the day with a bonfire. Scary and not-so-scary stories were told in the circle that surrounded the only source of heat.
July 24, 2016
Today we woke up at Isla Caribeta and got to sleep in until 8:30!! After a delicious meal of croissants, French toast, and fruit, we split into our mentor groups to play a teamwork game. As a reward for working together, we finally got wifi! Everyone spent about an hour catching up with friends and family. Then, the group split into 3 smaller groups to continue leadership activities. We found quotes, journaled, and played a game similar pictionary to work on communication skills. After lunch and time for packing, we took 2 boats back to our home base in Tigre. When we got there, we switched roommates, settled in, and collected our laundry. Everyone spent the evening at a market and got time to explore and buy souvenirs or Argentine snacks. Half of the group went back to the home base in taxis and the others walked. We finished the night with dinner and free time to relax and hang out together.
July 25, 2016
On Monday, July 25th, the GLA Argentina group woke up and started their day with building “eco-bricks” or empty plastic bottles filled with clean garbage and discarded plastic. We also built banquitos, “little benches” for the children at the school where we are building a classroom. They are made from eco-bricks and paper mache. Once we finished, we set off for a 2 hour bus ride to the school where we build adobe and ecobrick school buildings. Once we worked for a couple of hours, the adobe would not stick to the wood due to the violent rain storm that was occurring. We left soon after because of the poor weather. Before we left that town, we visited a finished adobe house and it was really cool! There were colored glass bottles for the windows and it was really nice inside. It was great to see what a finished building looked like so we can know what we are contributing to. My favorite part of the day was getting so muddy that I abandoned all hope of getting clean. It was a great experience all around and everyone got very muddy and had a lot of fun.
July 26 and 27, 2016
This morning we packed for our excursion to Iguazú falls and played cards. We stopped at a nearby store to stock up on snacks for the 17 hour bus ride. After, we trekked through the wind and rain to the Museo de arte but unfortunately it was closed. Half of us went back to home base to dry off and the rest went out in search of ice cream and coffee. Then, we all met up for lunch at the home base and had tango lessons with Gisele. Despite some smashed toes, we successfully learned to work as partners and resemble a tango. We said goodbye to our home base and boarded a train to the bus stop. After some empanadas we loaded the bus for our 17 hour journey.
Once arriving at Iguazú mid afternoon, we had lunch and explored our hostel. Soon after, we visited an indigenous village. We learned how they greet people which is by waving two hands and saying “aujevete.” We saw some armadillo, jaguar and deer traps before being serenaded by traditional music from people in the community. Afterwards, we were lead to a craft market where we bought some bracelets and wooden souvenirs. Continuing our exploration of Iguazú, we drove to a spot where you could see Paraguay and Brazil from Argentina. We did some shopping before returning to our hostel for dinner.
July 28, 2016
So today we had an early start, as we were getting ready for our day at Iguazu Falls, that we had been anticipating for a long time. We first went on a bus that took us to a train station, that had tiny green trains which led us through Iguazu National Park along the river. As we arrived we walked for about twenty minutes on a bridge that took us to the falls. When we got there we finally understood how exceptional Iguazu Falls was. It was truly amazing and breathtaking, some of us got a bit wet. At that point we were watching the main falls, so the biggest ones of them all and we got time to take a thousand pictures. As we headed back to the train station before starting a new trail, we were greeted by coatis, tiny little brown animals who eat everything they can find. We also saw monkeys!
The second trail we took was along the lower part of the falls, it just got better and better, the water was so clear and bright.
We then had a quick lunch accompanied by coatis before heading to the lower part of the falls in the afternoon. Over there we took a speed boat that took us right under the falls. We had so much fun and got soaking wet, the water was freezing cold but it was worth it. The scenery was exceptional, and we got to see Brazil and Paraguay as Iguazu falls is the border of theses three countries. The boat ride was probably the best part of our day.
After this fun day some of us were rewarded with ice cream (mostly Dulce de Leche), coffee and empanadas, just before we headed back to our hostile. We had a quiet evening just playing games and enjoying the wifi while we could still get it.
Well that was it, another great day in Argentina.
July 30, 2016
Following a jam packed day at iguazú falls, we woke up at 7am to go on a few more adventures. After breakfast, we loaded onto a safari truck that took us through Iguazú forests where we first stopped to go rappelling down the side of a small mountain. We went down the mountain as individuals but worked together to cheer each other on and create a support system both at the top and the bottom! On our way back up to the truck we got to take pictures in front of a breathtaking hidden waterfall. The next stop was zip lining!! After our guide debriefed us we grabbed helmets and gloves and walked up the stairs to the first line. The zip line was 20m high and 800m long broken into three lines, the first line being 400m, and the following two 200m. We went one by one flying through the canopy like Argentine birds! When we finished zip lining we took the truck back to our hostel, packed up and checked out of our rooms, and entertained ourselves by playing games, listening to music, conversing, and trying to post as many instagrams before we lost the wifi! We had lunch and then boarded the bus- back with our first Iguazú tour guide Marcos! We visited a reptile center where we saw snakes, turtles, crocodiles, and butterflies!! After, Marcos took us straight to the bus station where we bought ice cream and snacks at the market and around 4:00pm our bus arrived and our 17 hour journey home began! That night we had a “choose your own adventure” option, and have of our group went to Puerto de Frutos, a fun market with great food, some went to San Isidro, a new part of town that we wanted to explore. We ate ice cream and empanadas and explored a beautiful church.
July 31, 2016
Today was a service day and it was great. We woke up at 8 and we had a wonderful breakfast at 830. After breakfast we all got ready for our big day, loaded up the bus, and headed out at 10. Our service site was Hospital Borda, a hospital for people with mental health issues. When we arrived the sky was dark with clouds but we began to work, but just as we were getting into our work rhythm it began to pour forcing us to move inside the cultural center. The cultural center was a beautiful building filled with amazing artwork created by the patients. As we waited out the rain we explored the building and ate a wonderful lunch. As the rain began to ease we went back to work. Our objective was to creating a garden bed for the cultural center. We worked throughout the rest of the day and at around 4 we packed up and headed back to home base. We cleaned up and then had a fulfilling dinner. After dinner we played a few games and we all went to bed. It was a great day and we had an awesome time at Hospital Borda.
August 1, 2016
Today everyone woke up bright and early at 8:00am and then had a filling breakfast. Shortly after we left the home base for our second day of service at Hospital “Jose T. Borda”. The group quickly got to work completing various tasks. Some people gathered fibers for the adobe and mixed the adobe while others shoveled dirt for the adobe and sorted the ecoladrillos. After about two hours of work we took a break for lunch which consisted of delicious chicken and rice empanadas. After that the group got right back to work, and began constructing the wall and garden bed; as well as gathering wild onions to plant. At around 4 we proceeded to clean up and head back to home base. After arriving and unpacking the shovels and boots everyone took showers and rested for a bit. Then the group wrote in their journal and did an activity until dinner which was ribs and mashed potatoes. Following dinner was a trip to the supermarket where everyone restocked on yummy goods. Afterwards there was a bit of free time filled with cards and games. Finally after a hard day of service the group went to bed.
August 2, 2016
We started our day at 8am and set out for the city soon after. Our first stop was Paseo El Rosedal, a park in the neighborhood of Palermo. Our next stop was el cementerio de recoleta, which reminded me of mini homes. Each grave was very architecturally different and intricate. Wealthy families could buy plots so their whole family could be buried there. Next the bus dropped us at La Boca, which is the original harbor in Buenos Aires and where the tango was created. We walked through the artisanal stands and buildings that were painted beautiful bright colors. With souvenirs in our hands and empty stomachs we headed to Siga La Vaca for lunch. We feasted on every type of meat imaginable and an awesome salad bar. After lunch we set out on foot through the newest most modern neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Puerto Madero. Our walk took us past the pink house where the president of Argentina works. After many sights we headed towards the train station and passed the obelisk which marks the 4th century of Buenos Aires as a settlement. Before getting on the train we stopped at Starbucks for a caffeine fill. It was a wonderful day of history, sightseeing, and yummy food.
Today the group journeyed across the streets of Tigre on a clear Wednesday morning. Starting off the day was a wonderful kayaking journey through the Tigre river. After a tiring journey of paddling and laughter we were welcomed with hot beverages on an island. Once our spirits were blessed with warm tea and coffee, we confidently trekked back towards Tigre. One pair of students (Jimmy and Hanna) paddled too confidently and had tipped over their boat. They had to be rescued by our kind guide Diego who brought them back onto their boat.
After our wet adventure we took an hour to fill and clean Eco bottles. Our second activity had yet to come. To reward our dedicating work to ecobottles, our counselors took us to the Museo de Arte Tigre; where we saw countless paintings created by various artists. But like the teenagers we are, in addition to marveling at the art and beautiful views from the balcony, we sat on the benches and leeched off the wifi. On our way back to home base we decided to end the exhilarating day with a sweet treat at Daniel’s Helado.
Today we woke up at 8:00 and got ready for breakfast at 8:30. After we had a delicious breakfast we got ready to go to service by finishing up the ecoladrillos (eco bricks) and grabbed the shovels and boots to put on the bus. The ride to the service site was about 45 minutes. Once we got to Fundacion San Jose Providente. We got to meet all the kids and start to make banquitos and get to know all the kids! We taught them how to put the 7 bottles together in a circle and tape and decorate them to be “little benches” for them to sit on. After we finished either the first group of kids, we went outside and played games with them. We went back into the dining hall and had an amazing lunch that included rice, meat, cheese and and sauce. The typical Argentine meal. After lunch we went back outside to play with more kids! We played soccer and basketball, some of us danced and gave the kids piggy back rides. We went back inside the classroom with the next group of kids and made more banquitos and did some ice breaker games! Once we finished the last of the banquitos we went to the public park that is right outside the school to clean up trash and pick up leaves. We then played chain tag and soccer with all of the kids that were 11 and up! We said our goodbyes and headed back to home base. Dinner was soon after and we had tacos and cherry jello with bananas! Soon after we started the talent show. The show was super fun, filled with singing, dancing, and comedic acts. We went to bed soon after.