As you welcome spring in the Northern Hemisphere, I am saying goodbye to an unforgettable summer here in Argentina. This is my 7th month living in Argentina and my experience so far has been unbelievable.
I left off my last blog anticipating the World Cup Final between Argentina and France. This past World Cup played out as perfectly as a movie script. Argentina, the favorites to win it all, lost their first game against Saudi Arabia, shaking everyone’s confidence in the team. Then, Lionel Messi led the team on an unbelievable run to take them all the way to the final. Messi has had a historic career, but there was one accolade, one trophy, that he had always come up short on. That was the World Cup. On December 18th, he found himself one game away from being crowned world champions. The energy in Argentina was electric during all of the previous games of the World Cup, but in anticipation of this final, you could tell something was different. They knew that this was it, this was Messi’s chance to finally cement his place as the greatest of all time, the goat. This game was going to be extra special for me as well. On the eve of the final, my brother from the US arrived at my host family’s house. He was the first family member I had seen in almost 5 months since I moved to Argentina, and we were about to share the experience of watching one of the greatest World Cup finals in history.
I think watching the game took at least 5 years off my life. Argentina played a very solid first half and started the second up 2-0, and everyone was feeling a little more relaxed but not entirely, knowing how long the next 45 minutes would be. It was the 78th minute, and for me at least, I could feel the win coming and let myself think of how in about 15 minutes this whole country would flood into the streets, world champions. But Kylian Mbappe was not going to let Argentina celebrate so fast. Within 3 minutes of game time, he scored 2 goals, tying the game.The air was sucked out of the room. I could feel my host family ache, scared that this was going to be another time when Argentina just barely falls short, a feeling they know all too well. Messi found himself in a similar position in 2014, when Argentina faced Germany in the final and ended up losing 1-0. It seemed like the players let doubt creep into their minds as well, they were playing scared. They survived the last 10 minutes of regular time and then began the 2, 15-minute halves of overtime. In the last minute of the first half of overtime, Messi put Argentina up 3-2. But this lead didn’t last long. Not even 1 minute into the second half of overtime, Argentina gives up a penalty and the game was tied again. As the next few minutes played on, most people accepted that it was going to come down to penalties to determine who would take home the World Cup. Everyone’s heart dropped in the final minute of overtime when France had a 1 v 1 with Argentina’s goalie, Emi “Dibu” Martinez. Dibu made a heroic save and then it was time for penalties. My host parents couldn’t take the stress of watching the penalties, so my host dad put on headphones and started cleaning the house, and my host mom sat alone at a table in the other room. They returned to celebrate with us after Argentina won the penalty shootout, 4-2, and was crowned world champions. My little host brother was crying since the first successful Argentina penalty. We watched the presentation of the World Cup and then joined hundreds of thousands of other people in Córdoba by celebrating in the town square. This was a feeling like no other. Everyone crying, hugging, and singing songs to celebrate the country’s third World Cup, but perhaps more importantly, Messi’s first.
After the World Cup, I was lucky enough to spend the rest of my summer traveling around Argentina and Chile. I spent a week with my host family in Monte Hermoso for New Year’s on the beach and then met up with my brother for a short trip to Buenos Aires. We made stops in the “La Boca” neighborhood (the birthplace of tango), the Casa Rosada (where the president works), and the historic Teatro Colón, we even rode kayaks through the river delta.
I then spent time hanging out with friends in Córdoba and enjoying the last weeks with my host family. One requirement of my exchange is that I live with 3 different host families. At the end of January, during my last week with my host family, we went on a vacation to Mar Chiquita, in the province of Córdoba. It was a nice time to reflect on all of the memories we made together over the previous 5 months.
That following weekend, I moved only 15 minutes away from my original house to my new host family’s house. I only spent a week getting to know my new family before I left for a two-week trip through Chile with my dad. I went to Santiago three days before my dad to see one of my friends who is living in Santiago for her gap/exchange year. I stayed with her host family and they showed me around the city and I got to meet more exchange students who are living in Santiago. Her family also took me to the beach town of Viña del Mar for a day.
I then met up with my dad and we took a guided tour of Santiago. It was really exciting for me to see him after 6 months. We only spent one day together in Santiago before flying south to Punta Arenas and taking a bus from there to Puerto Natales where we spent 2 days taking in the beauty of Torres del Paine National Park.
We then traveled to the North of Chile to San Pedro de Atacama, home to the driest desert in the world (other than the poles). This incredibly dry climate makes for some of the best stargazing in the world. We spent 3 days visiting parks to see the red rocks, Geysers, and even flamingos.
We then traveled through Santiago, back to Córdoba where I was able to show my dad around for the weekend. I was able to introduce him to some of my friends, hike in the mountains outside of the city, and show him around my school.
The time with my dad went by so fast and I was grateful to spend the time with him. I took him to the airport and after saying goodbye got ready for my school’s “last first-day” party. It’s a tradition here in Argentina, that before your last first day of high school, you spend the whole night partying with your classmates before showing up to classes in the morning, welcomed by silly string, drums, and the cheers of the underclassmen. I will continue going to high school here until June 7th when I fly back home to the States. Before I leave, I’m looking forward to a trip with my exchange program through the north of Argentina and Buenos Aires, so stay tuned for updates from that in May!