This should make up for a few posts. Highlights of the trip all in one Pdf!
I have started to make a poster for our experience in Cordoba! It should be pretty cool as I will talk about the group members and the conversations we had while working together. They do some really cool stuff!
Coming back from the trip I realize how important it is to enjoy the time traveling. Ever since we got back I have been working full time and trying to find time to enjoy myself and reconnect with friends. It’s not been easy but I think I have finally readjusted. It isn’t my second nature to continue blogging or to blog at all since I would rather be doing new things than remembering the old but I do think it is important to share with others. Hopefully that attitude continues as I begin to comb through my photos and you will see more soon.
Today we woke up with the intention of walking up to see Incan ruins at the top of the mountain. Once we had navigated up to the entrance, we realized that it would cost $23 to go into the park, so we kept walking up the hill until we couldn’t go any farther. What we found was a local festival where the children were reenacting a ceremony with traditional clothing and music. We just happened to stumble upon the most authentic event happening in a touristy town. It was interesting to see how people were continuing to celebrate their heritage in the mountains. If we wouldn’t have randomly walked up, we wouldn’t have ever known it was happening. On the way back down we asked how to get up to another monument which was a statue of Jesus at the top of an adjacent mountain. A group of three Israeli students was also trying to get there so we walked together. It was really interesting to talk to them and get to know about their culture and country. There were two guys and one girl, each were getting out of the military and traveling for four months in South America. The oldest guy was 24 and voluntarily did 1.5 years additional time after the mandated 3 years. The other guy and girl were 21 and about to enter into their first year of college. They are going to study law, economics, and political science. I was surprised to see how similar they were to American students since Israel seems to get only bad press. They actually joked about not trusting CNN, sky news, or any of the other major news stations. Their families all moved to Israel seeking safety from persecution in European countries in the mid twentieth century. The three all proclaimed to be Jewish, which makes sense if their families were seeking refuge during this time. One of the guys spoke Hebrew, English, German, Russian, and a little bit of Spanish. This was very helpful when we needed help finding directions. The path we took was much more difficult than I expected. The stairs were like dirt steps with an occasional stone and much of the path was overgrown. The statue is at about the same elevation as La Paz, so when we reached the top it we were exhausted and it was hard to breathe. Once we had sat for a while, we followed a path down to where we could see the Incan ruins for free. The whole experience was nice because I not only got to see the traditional culture, but also got to learn about Israeli people and their lives that was completely unexpected.
Final day in La Paz was by far the best. Almost everyone was feeling better, plus we got to experience the city from above. The city has multiple cable car routes that lift you above the city and make it easier to travel from the top of the mountain to the bottom. The system was one of the newest things we saw in the city. Besides being fun to getting to ride instead of walk, it was interesting to see how a city could be integrated into the mountains. Kristy mentioned that La Paz is at the highest elevation of any city in the world. That wasn’t hard to believe when we were in the cable car and looking at the nearby snow capped mountains. The city has a density that is hard to experience when we were on the streets. I didn’t realize how many high rise buildings were in the city until we got the new perspective from the overlook point. The city was also much denser than many of the other cities we have seen on the trip. The hill must allow for a different type of construction where buildings can be built together with their neighbors. If we could have gotten a helicopter to take us up and give us an aerial view, it would have been worth it. La Paz is a very interesting city no matter how you look at it.
Yesterday we landed in La Paz, elevation of 12,000 feet. Getting off the plane, the weather was much cooler than what we experienced in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The bus ride to the hostel was beautiful and we got to see all of the lights of the city at night. I didn’t realize that La Paz was a mountain city until we arrived. The views at night were spectacular and they got me really excited to spend two full days exploring. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the toll that altitude would take on everyone’s bodies. Headaches, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate kept everyone from having the awesome day they expected. It hit some people harder than others, and I was fortunate to not feel bad until later in the afternoon. This morning we got up and got breakfast. This was where we were supposed to figure out what we were going to do for the day. We quickly realized that we needed to take it easy so we rested for a while and then set out to see a church we had seen the night before. The church was nice, but we quickly moved on to see the market areas where there were many stores selling alpaca clothing and garments as well as some voodoo type goods. The market is called the witches’ market which makes sense after seeing the shrunken llamas and different animal parts. After walking around the market, we got food at a cafe. I tried a llama sandwich which wasn’t the greatest because the meat was really tough. After lunch Zach and I set off on our own for a while and went and saw a stadium and a park. It was nice to be able to walk around the city and to see some of the stuff that we wouldn’t have otherwise. This walk also helped me to realize there is no level ground in the city. You are always either walking up or down the hill. At this elevation that’s much harder than it sounds. Even a slight incline can have you out of breath if you take it too fast. It was a few flight ps of stairs down to the park from the plaza level that we were meeting up at afterward. A bridge connected the stadium area to the park which was nice since we didn’t have to try and cross any streets. The bridge also elevated us above the city so that we had spectacular views of the other side of the city and the distant mountains. We met back up at the main governmental plaza of the city before heading back to the hostel to rest, which was a necessity. I was exhausted by 4 pm.
Today is another day of travel to Cordoba where we will be doing the charette with the students. I am excited to be having this experience and will be creating some posters and additional materials that will take the place of one of my Honors Colloquium courses. In the honor’s college it is required for students to take two special interest courses called Colloquiums to enhance their education. When I learned that I had the opportunity to go on another study broad, I realized that I could get an additional credit for this course. I saw the trip as a way to create a much more interesting piece of work since I will be able to talk to and work alongside students from a completely different culture. As a student in America, we don’t learn how students elsewhere in the world are being taught, and there is no possible way to know how they learn. As an architecture student and designer, there is a common language of drawing, but there are different needs that the designer has to react to. From what I understand right now of the project, there will be 8-10 different groups of students from the National university in Córdoba. Each group will have one or two students from Ball State join them to help solve the problem. Most students at the university level here have a basic understanding of English so hopefully the language barrier is not too much of an issue. I look forward to meeting with the students later today and hope that the entire stay here is successful and worthy of documenting through the Honors College.
Visiting the falls made me realize the massive task it is in Architecture to create a building that people actually go out of their way to visit. There needs to be something unique and inviting that people can’t get anywhere else. Iguazu has the largest stretch of waterfalls in the world that result in a familiar element that is unlike anything people have ever seen. Everyone knows what water is, they see it everyday. Water is a part of nearly all living things, but Iguazu makes it different. There needs to be multi-sensory stimulus to add complexity to the place. If there were only the falls with no sound, people wouldn’t need to visit at all. They could look at a photograph and see everything they would if they were to visit. This would save people a lot of money. If there was nothing to see and only the roar of the water, then it would be the same thing and people save their money. What’s nice about Architecture is that it can have the same effect on people as these natural wonders like the Iguazu Falls. There are the seven natural wonders if the world and the seven wonders of the world. These two lists represent most of the most amazing natural and man-made elements that exist anywhere on earth. I’m not assuming that all of the man-made elements need to be considered Architecture, but in the future I believe architects need to be at the forefront of creating the most important experiences for people. It is not easy to get to the middle of the jungle on the Argentinian-Brazilian border to see the waterfalls, but it is easy to go to the center of the city to a museum or a city hall. Buildings can connect people to nature if they are designed well and can help people to understand our reliance and undeniable connection to nature.
The Iguazu falls that we visited yesterday were incredible. The morning started very earlier at 330 when a bus came to pick us up and take us to the airport. Once we got to the airport we learned our flight had been delayed 3 hours because of bad weather. After waking two hours, they pushed the flight back another hour. This waiting time was frustrating but we were able to play cards and talk to some different people. One man that I was sitting next to saw that I was drawing on my iPad and wanted to know what I was doing. He must have overheard me talking with some other people because he was speaking English. Turns out, the man has been to 15 different national parks in the U.S. and has spent a lot of time with his wife in America. Another traveller we met was originally from Mexico but had gone to school in the United stars, Germany, and Argentina. He was also very friendly and spoke English well although he was also frustrated with the plane situation. The reason we were told for the delay was bad weather, yet another plane left on time at 9 am to the same destination. Once on the plane everybody in the group seemed relieved since we weren’t sure if we were even going to get to the falls. The service on board the flight was much better than the normal experience in the US. We got three good sized snacks along side the typical coke.
When we landed our tour guide was there waiting for us. The airport was the smallest I had ever been in so it wasn’t hard to find her. She led us to the bus that took us into their national park and dropped us at the entrance to the trail. The park is a rainforest that looked incredibly dense with vegetation and wildlife. A train took us to the “trailhead” which was actually more of a long series of bridges elevated above the marshland/river. There were hundreds of butterflies flying around and I wish I could have taken a picture but it was difficult to do so. When we were walking up, we could hear the falls from a good distance away. As we got closer, the noise turned into the monstrous roar that you would expect. This first place that we visited was called Devil’s Throat. The waterfalls were quite impressive but after taking a couple of pictures, it was time to move on. During even the shortest of stops next to the falls, we were all sufficiently wet. It didn’t help that a storm came through while we were there that continued to sprinkle on us for the remainder of the hike.
Once we left the Devil’s throat area, we took the trail back to the lower trail head where we grabbed a quick, overpriced lunch. The trail wasn’t very long, but it led to several lookout points where we could see the Devil’s Throat falls from a distance instead of being right on top. It also allowed us to get a wider view of the entire falls. I did not expect there to be so many waterfalls in one place. It seemed like everywhere you looked you could spot another small waterfall. The final lookout gave us a view of where they took the people on boats to literally go through the falls. I had considered doing it but decided it wasn’t the best idea since it was expensive and we would get soaked anyways. The scale of the falls left me in awe as they were, so no need to go through them. After visiting I can see why they are considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The one weekend of the trip that we are spending in buenos aires just happens to fall on the biggest celebration of the year. Since Thursday, major roads leading to the main Plaza de Mayo have been closed with tents set up for people to sell things, places to sit and eat, installations showing national pride, and pretty much anything you could ever want. Yesterday we visited three different places in the city where everyone was at a street fair either selling or buying something. My favorite street market was in San Telmo where I was able to see a lot of different local art and get some good local food for very cheap. Recoleta and Palermo were the two other neighborhoods that had a Sunday morning street fair that drew a huge crowd. In the United States, we are used to farmers markets or artisan street fairs that may last a couple of hours. Argentinian markets open early in the morning and go until 730 or 8 o’clock at night when people start eating dinner.
What was nice to see in the abundance of people in the streets was the sense of community. Everyone wanted to be out and about and talking to people. Argentinians seem to notice the importance of supporting and buying local goods.
The streets here are alive like no other place I have ever been. Right now, there is a parade running in front of the hostel. The drums and crowd noise have been constant for the past hour. When we were walking earlier, we saw dozens of empty buses of people that had been transported to the center of the city to partake in the festivities. Buenos Aires is very loud and crowded to celebrate the independence of the country.