Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Divorce, Christmas and Fireworks… Oh My!

Despite the recent looting, protests, strikes, and civil unrest, the Christmas spirit was in full bloom in Cordoba, Argentina. 
For a country that is considered to be in an economic crisis, people sure were spending an awful lot of money. The nice thing is that people in the province seem genuinely happy… for the most part. 
Last year was tough for me because it was my first Christmas in Argentina, and my spouse Zach was in New York. This year I had the fortune of spending the holidays with him, but it was bittersweet. After twelve years together, of which we've spent a year and 9 months legally married, we’ve mutually decided to end our marriage. The stress caused by living abroad, and the financial and emotional consequences that came with it, has forced us to make this painful choice. We have, however, remained friends and will continue to live together. We still care very deeply for each other and we will continue to support and look after one another as we try to adjust to life in Argentina. 

We enjoyed a quiet Christmas Eve meal with our friend, Brian. We decided to avoid making a big production like we did during Thanksgiving because of our budget, and also our recent breakup, but we still had a great time. 
After dinner, we sat in the living room and watched a few films. We’re basically three huge sci-fi fans, so we watched "Terminator Salvation" and "Pandorum" on my Blu-Ray player. 
We went outside and watched the fireworks. People in Argentina light these up as if it was New Year at the stroke of midnight. I took some video footage and added it under the photo of the fireworks. 
With most of our friends either visiting their families in the States, or in nearby provinces, I expect New Year’s Eve to be uneventful. I’ll admit that I can’t wait to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014.

I hope all of my friends, both in the States and in Argentina, and of course, my readers from all over the world, had a fantastic Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Jesuit Crypt – Exploring a Piece of Cordoba’s Past

The Jesuit Crypt was built centuries ago in the province of Cordoba. It was originally designed to serve the Jesuits, but was later converted to a crypt and a crematorium. The Jesuits were a society of Jesus Christ followers within the Catholic Church. Some say, that the crypt was used as a training area for Jesuit followers. It was eventually abandoned after the Jesuits were expelled. 
Original entrance into the crypt that was buried by construction long ago
Over time, urbanization of the city caused the crypt to be buried and forgotten. It wasn’t until 1989 that it was accidentally unearthed. The city immediately began restoring the crypt and turned it into a historical site. 
Modern day entrance into the crypt
I must have passed the Jesuit Crypt dozens of times since my arrival in Argentina, but I never considered going into it. I was probably reluctant because I am not a God fearing person. However, Brian, a fellow expat talked me into exploring the museum and I agreed out of sheer curiosity. 
3D Map of the crypt's interior
Walking underneath the city into this museum reminded me a bit of what it must have been like to enter an Egyptian tomb. There wasn’t a whole lot to see or do, but it was still quite fascinating. There were ancient artifacts displayed behind a glass case. I was also able to see the original entrance to the crypt, which was sealed off long ago. 
Recovered artifacts
It felt amazing to be standing on such a historic site. Imagine the history in these walls? I could almost feel the presence of those old souls who occupied the same space I was standing in. 
It only took me 15 minutes to tour the entire underground crypt. Then again, it only cost 5 Argentine pesos (80 U.S. cents), so that wasn’t too bad. Whether, you’re a fan of history or archaeology, I highly recommend you take a moment to visit the Jesuit Crypt. 

Decomposition chamber where the dead were placed and covered with quicklime to mask the stench and speed up the decomposition process

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All Hell Breaks Loose in Cordoba, Argentina

On December 3rd, 2013, all hell broke loose in the province of Cordoba! Vandals looted supermarkets, stores, and mom and pop shops throughout the city. While some thieves were interested in food, most of them focused on stealing alcohol and electronics. 
So, what caused this crime spree that made the L.A. riots look like Disneyland? The police force! Only a month after a drug scandal broke out, the cops in Cordoba province demanded an undeserved pay increase. But they went on strike as soon as the government failed to meet their demands. 

For over 24 hours, Cordoba had no police protection whatsoever. People of all ages, skin tone, and gender began looting. Some store owners took to firing guns to warn vandals to stay clear of their properties. It was like the freaking purge! 

The real tragedy is that some of the teens and young adults boasted about their criminal activities on their personal Facebook page. Aside from the fact that this is probably the dumbest thing you could ever do, it shows a lack of remorse for their actions. I worry about what the future holds for Argentina if these are our future governors, teachers, etc. 

I took to social media to protest the actions of the vandals. For the most part, the general consensus of the Argentine people was the same, they were all ashamed and disgusted by the actions of these thieves. Some people even took matters into their own hands to stop the vandals.  
People beat the crap out of this looter

Sure! Cry all you want! You should have thought of it before you started stealing
Some people blamed the government, while others blamed poverty, but it’s my opinion that these things are not acceptable excuses to behave like criminals. I don’t need the police, or an alleged sacred book to keep my moral compass in check. As a civilized society, everyone MUST respect each other, their property, and their city

By Wednesday afternoon, the government gave into the demands of the police and cops went back to work. Order has now been restored… for the most part, but there were over 60 injuries and at least one death in all this mayhem, not to mention that over a thousand stores were damaged.
On Thursday I walked the streets of Cordoba Capital and noticed that life had returned to normal. There didn’t seem to be any indication that anything had ever happened. 
I’m told that while protests are nothing new in Argentina, this type of chaos has not been seen in the province of Cordoba in nearly 30 years. I can only hope that this is an isolated incident or that the government responds to any future threat in a more timely and efficient manner. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Majoring in Psychology at the National University of Cordoba

It's taken 14 months, a lot of traveling, tons of paperwork, major headaches, and over 15,000 Argentine pesos, but on December 2nd, 2013, I was finally able to officially enroll as a psychology student at the "Universidad Nacional De Cordoba (UNC)". 
The first thing I had to do was buy my "Libreta de Estudiante", which is basically a student's personal grade book. It also serves as a student passport of sorts at the university. It only cost me 20 pesos, which is super cheap. 
The line to buy the "Libreta De Estudiante"
I thought the line to get my "Libreta" was long, but it turns out that the line at the psychology building was longer! There must have been hundreds of students waiting in line, and we were all waiting for an assigned registration number that they would begin calling at 11:15 a.m. 
The line to register at the psychology building
The requirements I had to represent were: 
  1. A copy of the D.N.I. or passport 
  2. 2 photos (the size of those used on passports) 
  3. A printout of the online application completely filled out 
  4. Libreta De Estudiante 
  5. High School Diploma and Transcripts  
After a good 40 minutes, I was called to the front of the class to turn in my paperwork. I had to present copies of my high school diploma and transcripts with the apostilles, notarization, translation, legalization, and finally the validation from the Ministry of Education, which I got from Buenos Aires a month ago. There was some confusion at first because they didn't know how to handle the fact that all of my education was done in the United States, but it didn't take too long to get everything cleared up. 
The classroom where we registered
They stamped my "Libreta De Estudiante" and told me that I was done. Now I have to wait until December 28th to receive my schedule for the "cursillo" online. A "cursillo" is like a prerequisite course that all students must take before beginning their first year in the career they've chosen. I'm told that the "cursillo" will deal with two topics, the history of the university, and the psychology career, which I've picked. The "cursillo" semester begins in February 2014 and will last about 7 weeks, at which time I'll have to pass a final exam, which they call a "parcial", in order to begin with year one of my psychology career. 
My "Libreta De Estudiante"
If all goes well, I can graduate in 5 years with a "Licenciatura en Psicologia", which is the equivalent of a Masters in Psychology back in the States. People can practice as therapists with this degree in Cordoba, Argentina, which isn't something you can really do with a Masters degree back in the U.S.

After everything I've gone through to get this far, I finally feel like I've accomplished something... and I'm happy. 
Now all I have to worry about is getting the house ready for the holidays!