Category Archives: Argentina

2019 October Read-a-Thon: Argentinian Adventures

My Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon continues! It’s a beautiful day outside, and the colors of leaves and fall-blooming flowers are just gorgeous throughout the neighborhood. So after lunch, I put on my earphones and went for a walk while listening to one of my chosen books. But now I am back inside and just finished reading a short book about a planthunter in Argentina

Argentinian Adventures: A Planthunter in Argentina, by John Lonsdale, is a series of essays about three of his planthunting trips to Argentina.

…from the author:

Argentina is a fascinating and endlessly varied country. This book accounts of three visits, the first of which was a three-month tour of the north of the country, collecting plants for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This first visit encouraged me to undertake two further visits while still employed by Kew Gardens. Because of these botanical connections, there is a wealth of references to the fabulous flora of the region. Flora can’t exist in isolation to fauna, and animal life is discussed whenever it is chanced upon. Several exciting episodes imposed themselves into what became increasingly eventful journeys.

I love reading about planthunters! It’s such an interesting combination of plant information, culture, and travel. I enjoy looking up the plants they find, names in Latin, of course. And I do enjoy the travel and cultural parts of these experiences. This was a fun one for me because I was familiar with northern Argentina and many of the places he talked about, although not the remote areas.  Here are some of the plants he mentioned in these essays.

 

Wanderlust

When I was 17 years old, I spent a year in Argentina as an exchange student, and after that experience I always considered myself a “Citizen of the World,” not just a citizen of my own country. But I’ll admit it:  I’m more of an armchair traveler than a real traveler, although I would love to visit many different far off places!  Books have always encouraged and mostly satisfied my wanderlust, so I will continue to read books from other countries and cultures.

There are many booklists online about books from countries around the world, and many blogging friends have put together challenges to encourage a broader range of reading. I love putting together lists, so I thought I would build this post with a list of the countries of the world so that when I read a book from or about that country, I can log it here. It’s the journey that calls to me, not the finish line.

I will read as many books in translation as possible. There are also many books for young people that provide wonderful stories and information about other cultures/countries, so I look forward to reading some of those, as well.  Since I’m starting in 2019, I will include books I’ve already read this year that qualify for this self-challenge and will provide links to my reviews.

It is important to me, as a “citizen of the world,” that I broaden my reading journey even more during this time of increasing nationalism. I truly believe the motto of the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs):

“Walk Together, Talk Together, 
O ye peoples of the Earth,
For then, and only then,
Shall ye have peace.”

  1. AFGHANISTAN:  Nasreen’s Secret School, by Jeanette Winter
  2. ALBANIA
  3. ALGERIA
  4. ANDORRA
  5. ANGOLA
  6. ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid
  7. ARGENTINA
  8. ARMENIA
  9. AUSTRALIA
  10. AUSTRIA
  11. AZERBAIJAN
  12. THE BAHAMAS
  13. BAHRAIN
  14. BANGLADESH
  15. BARBADOS
  16. BELARUS
  17. BELGIUM:  A Dog of Flanders, by Ouida
  18. BELIZE
  19. BENIN
  20. BHUTAN
  21. BOLIVIA
  22. BOSNIA and HERZEGOVINA
  23. BOTSWANA
  24. BRAZIL
  25. BRUNEI
  26. BULGARIA
  27. BURKINA FASO
  28. BURUNDI
  29. CABO VERDE
  30. CAMBODIA
  31. CAMEROON
  32. CANADA:  The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables, by Catherine Reid
  33. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
  34. CHAD
  35. CHILE
  36. CHINA
  37. COLOMBIA:  Waiting for the Biblioburro, by Monica Brown
  38. COMOROS
  39. CONGO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF
  40. CONGO, REPUBLIC OF THE
  41. COSTA RICA
  42. COTE D’IVOIRE
  43. CROATIA
  44. CUBA:  Island Treasures: Growing Up in Cuba, by Alma Flor Ada
  45. CYPRUS
  46. CZECH REPUBLIC
  47. DENMARK
  48. DJIBOUTI
  49. DOMINICA
  50. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
  51. EAST TIMOR (TIMOR-LESTE)
  52. ECUADOR
  53. EGYPT
  54. EL SALVADOR
  55. EQUATORIAL GUINEA
  56. ERITREA
  57. ESTONIA
  58. ESWATINI
  59. ETHIOPIA
  60. FIJI
  61. FINLAND
  62. FRANCE
  63. GABON
  64. THE GAMBIA
  65. GEORGIA
  66. GERMANY
  67. GHANA:  Emmanuel’s Dream, The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson
  68. GREECE
  69. GRENADA
  70. GUATEMALA
  71. GUINEA
  72. GUINEA-BISSAU
  73. GUYANA
  74. HAITI
  75. HONDURUS
  76. HUNGARY
  77. ICELAND
  78. INDIA
  79. INDONESIA
  80. IRAN
  81. IRAQ:  The Librarian of Basra, by Jeanette Winter
  82. IRELAND
  83. ISRAEL
  84. ITALY
  85. JAMAICA
  86. JAPAN:  Sweet Bean Paste, by Durian Sukegawa
  87. JORDAN
  88. KAZAKHSTAN
  89. KENYA
  90. KIRIBATI
  91. KOREA, NORTH
  92. KOREA, SOUTH
  93. KOSOVO
  94. KUWAIT
  95. KYRGYSTAN
  96. LAOS
  97. LATVIA
  98. LEBANON
  99. LESOTHO
  100. LIBERIA
  101. LIBYA
  102. Liechtenstein
  103. Lithuania
  104. Luxembourg
  105. Madagascar
  106. Malawi
  107. Malaysia
  108. Maldives
  109. Mali
  110. Malta
  111. Marshall Islands
  112. Mauritania
  113. Mauritius
  114. Mexico
  115. Micronesia, Federated States of
  116. Moldova
  117. Monaco
  118. Mongolia
  119. Montenegro
  120. Morocco
  121. Mozambique
  122. Myanmar (Burma)
  123. Namibia
  124. Nauru
  125. Nepal
  126. Netherlands
  127. New Zealand
  128. Nicaragua
  129. Niger
  130. Nigeria
  131. North Macedonia
  132. Norway
  133. Oman
  134. Pakistan
  135. Palau
  136. Panama
  137. Papua New Guinea
  138. Paraguay
  139. Peru
  140. Philippines
  141. Poland
  142. Portugal
  143. Qatar
  144. Romania
  145. Russia
  146. Rwanda
  147. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  148. Saint Lucia
  149. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  150. Samoa
  151. San Marino
  152. Sao Tome and Principe
  153. Saudi Arabia
  154. Senegal
  155. SERBIA
  156. SEYCHELLES
  157. SIERRA LEONE
  158. SINGAPORE
  159. SLOVAKIA
  160. SLOVENIA
  161. SOLOMON ISLANDS
  162. SOMALIA
  163. SOUTH AFRICA
  164. SPAIN
  165. SRI LANKA: Trouble in Nuala, by Harriet Steel
  166. SUDAN
  167. SUDAN, SOUTH:  A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
  168. SURINAME
  169. SWEDEN:  An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten
  170. SWITZERLAND
  171. SYRIA: Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, by Margriet Ruur and illustrated by Nazir Ali Badr
  172. TAIWAN
  173. TAJIKISTAN
  174. TANZANIA
  175. THAILAND
  176. TOGO
  177. TONGA
  178. TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
  179. TUNISIA
  180. TURKEY
  181. TURKMENISTAN
  182. TUVALU
  183. UGANDA
  184. UKRAINE
  185. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
  186. UNITED KINGDOM:  Cider With Rosie, by Laurie Lee  **  The Lost Garden, by Helen Humphreys
  187. UNITED STATES:  The Country of the Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett  **  The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck
  188. URUGUAY
  189. UZBEKISTAN
  190. VANUATU
  191. VATICAN CITY
  192. VENEZUELA
  193. VIETNAM:  Water Buffalo Days – Growing Up in Vietnam, by Huynh Quang Nhuong
  194. YEMEN
  195. ZAMBIA
  196. ZIMBABWE

Six Books

 

Me on the Argentine pampas in 1967.

Although this has been a difficult year for me in many ways, a year of loss, it has also been a year of reading. Since July, reading has been my solace and a way to honor the memory of my special reading mother.  I have read 91 books so far this year, unlike in1967 when I only read six books!

1967 was the year I was accepted into the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs) as an exchange student to Argentina. I spent a year there, which was an absolutely incredible life-defining experience. It was not an easy year, especially in those days before computers, cell phones, and instant world-wide communication with everyone you know!  Letters often took two weeks. Phone calls home were wildly expensive so I only made one call home during the entire year. I was far away from home and relatively isolated as I went through the inevitable culture shock and adjustments to my new language and my new family. But after four months, I could speak fairly well, began to dream in Spanish, worked hard to begin reading in Spanish, and became more and more fluent in the language over the year. It was an amazing experience, to state it simply.

But one of the most difficult things for me that year, as an avid/obsessed reader, was that I had little access to books (in English), and, of course, my reading focus needed to be on learning and reading in Spanish. So over that year, I only read 6 books in English. Those six books are seared into my memory because each one was like a little oasis in the desert of my reading that year. It was very hard for me NOT to be able to read much that year, and it made me appreciate deeply the freedom of my yearly reading experience ever since. However, giving up reading-like-crazy for a year in order to have the experience of a lifetime…was so worth it!

Here are those six books:

 

 

Connections

I am awake early this morning. Sadness woke me from a grieving dream about a friend who is moving away.

So I made some tea and opened a book of poems from the library. Poems by Ursula le Guin. I read her introduction and then a couple of random poems. Poetry touches me like music, going straight to my heart in a way that bypasses all my filters and protections. I was touched by her words — words that describe similar experiences and familiar feelings — we have shared common ground, the Poet and the Reader.

And then I found her poem called “Dos Poesias Para Mi Diana.” There, inside this poem, was an electrical connection!  Without knowing anything about the personal life of this writer, her words alone, without explanation or history, let me know that we have walked the same pathways, shared two far-distant places on this planet. I am thrilled, touched, overwhelmed momentarily by the synchronicity of this magical connection. And it’s like the voice of a friend from far away gently reminding me that distance, and time, are irrelevant. Our connections, our friendships, transcend time and space.

Good morning, my friends!

These Attacks of the Past

“I have them, these attacks of the past…”
~ The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

This week I have been listening to The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, and the line above really struck home with me. I have them, too, these attacks of the past. And I’ve been having them a lot recently because this is a significant year for me. It has been 50 years since my year as an exchange student to Argentina, a year that had a profound effect on the rest of my life. And since my father kept every letter I wrote home during that year, I have words from my younger self, as well as many memories, to help me revisit that experience. I hope to share some of that with you, if I may.

before-cell-phones-1967

Before cell phones!

50 years ago today, my hurried preparations were complete for spending a year abroad. In the 3 week period between receiving my acceptance letter and my departure, I got my passport and required shots, was tutored by the Spanish teacher at my high school (since I’d had five years of French, but no Spanish training), put together a wardrobe that I hoped would work for the year, and was almost finished packing it all into one large suitcase. I said goodbye to my school friends who would graduate before I returned. I had just turned eighteen years old and the longest I had ever been away from home was two weeks at Girl Scout camp. But I was over the moon with excitement and ready to take on the world!

DEPARTURE:

I wrote these words about my departure for Argentina in a post I published here in 2008.

In early 1967, I was chosen to be an exchange student with the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs). Looking back, I realize that the year I spent in Argentina was a “pivot point” in my life — that point where I stood still, poised to move in one direction or another. A photograph of me, at age 18, was snapped at the moment I hesitated at the top of the stairs while boarding the airplane to Argentina, looked back over my shoulder, and then began the forward motion of my life.

to-argentina

50 Years Ago: A Dream

my-destination

Destination: Argentina!

It started as a young girl’s dream: I wanted to be an exchange student!  50 years ago today, my dream came true. On January 25, 1967, at age 17, I received my acceptance letter from the American Field Service, (known today as American Intercultural Programs) and I began a journey that shaped my life in so many ways.

In 1963, I was inspired by our charismatic young president, John F. Kennedy, speaking to a group of American Field Service exchange students visiting the White House. (See the video link below of that speech.) His call for international understanding and his hope for our younger generation bringing peace to the world, touched my heart and set in motion my dream. 54 years later, his words still move and inspire me.

letter-from-afs-1967I can look back 50 years now to that January day and realize the full impact that letter of acceptance was to have on my life and thinking. That year shaped the young me into the adult I am today. That experience of living for a year in another country, completely immersed in another culture and language, shaped my view of the world and broadened my understanding of humanity. We all live similar lives and share similar hopes!

That year also shaped my beliefs about my responsibilities as both an American citizen and a citizen of the world. My experience as an exchange student is why I am so deeply concerned about the direction my country is taking under this new president with his hate-filled rhetoric and his closing of so many doors. But I realize that my experience of 50 years ago is also what gives me HOPE and direction.  I know firsthand that there are many good, kind, caring people in the world, from all different cultures, that are committed to and working diligently for peace and understanding among nations and for human rights everywhere. That is what I will continue doing, as well.

“Everyone who comes here to live and study — every American who goes abroad to live and study — forges one more link of world understanding and sympathy.” ~ John F. Kennedy

The Whispering Land, 2

While I was living in Argentina as an exchange student 40 years ago, my Argentine family took me on a wonderful road trip to the northern parts of the country.  So as I read The Whispering Land, by Gerald Durrell, I particularly enjoyed his chapter called “Jujuy,” (which is fun to pronounce: Who-Who-ee) and about his visit to what is now Calilegua National Park. His descriptions sparked memories!

…Then we sped round a couple of corners, down a hill and into the valley of Calilegua, and the vegetation changed, so suddenly that it was almost painful to the eye. Here were the vivid greens of the tropics, so many shades and some of such viridescence that they make the green of the English landscape look grey in comparison.  Then, as if to assure me that I was back in the tropics, a small flock of parakeets swooped across the road, wheezing and chittering.

I’ve always loved reading about animals, and Mr. Durrell’s stories about the animals he found in Jujuy were fun to read. His love for animals is reflected warmly in those stories.  Here are a few of the animals he wrote about:

The Whispering Land

Whispering_Land

During the last few weeks of school, needing distraction from tests and report cards but not having much time to read, I picked up a book that’s been on my shelf for a long time:  The Whispering Land, by Gerald Durrell.  I knew nothing about Mr. Durrell (although I recognized the name of his author brother, Lawrence Durrell), but this little book was about his travels to Argentina, and that caught my attention.  It turned out to be the perfect book to read during intense times!

From Penguin Books:

Durrell_statueGerald Durrell (1925-1995) was born in India, spent his youth on the idyllic Greek island of Corfu, and traveled the world, keenly observing the people and animals he eventually wrote about — the characters that make his readers laugh out loud. His works include a novel and several books based on his myriad worldwide collecting expeditions, including: My Family and Other Animals; Birds, Beasts, and Relatives; A Zoo in My Luggage; The Whispering Land; and Menagerie Manor.

Mr. Durrell was a wonderful storyteller, and the experiences he wrote about were fun and fascinating. I loved his descriptions of Argentina, and loved his stories of the animals and the people he encountered on that trip.

On every side of us the scrubland stretched away, dark and flat, so that you got the impression of being in the centre of a gigantic plate.  The sky had become suffused with green as the sun sank, and then, unexpectedly, turned to a very pale powder-blue. A tattered mass of clouds on the western horizon suddenly turned black, edged delicately with flame-red, and resembled a great armada of Spanish galleons waging a fierce sea-battle across the sky, drifting towards each other, turned into black silhouette by the fierce glare from their cannons.

Calilegua2

I’m quite fascinated now with Gerald Durrell after reading this book and learning a little bit about him, and I’d like to read more of his books!  Mr. Durrell was a naturalist dedicated to saving species from extinction. The zoo he and his wife started is still a charitable organization dedicated to that goal. This year, on July 12th, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is celebrating “Durrell Day,” their 50th anniversary.  It is located on Jersey in the Channel Islands, and wouldn’t it be terrific to go there for that celebration?

Two years ago on Masterpiece Theater, there was a very nice film based on his book, My Family and Other Animals. My husband and I ordered it from Netflix and watched it the other evening. It was fun to learn a little more about his family and Durrell’s early passion for animals.

Sir David Attenborough said of Gerald Durrell:

“He was responsible for changing people’s attitudes to zoology and changing their agenda. He showed them that small animals could be as interesting as apes and elephants. His work with endangered species was incredible in that he could persuade them to breed in captivity. He then returned them to the wild. He was a pioneer with a marvelous sense of humour.” –Sir David Attenborough

Gerald_Durrell2

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow I’m leavin’ on a jet plane to visit my mother. As I was packing and preparing for the flight tomorrow, that old song running through my mind, I was reminded of another flight I took 41 ago…

In early 1967, I was chosen to be an exchange student with the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs). Looking back, I realize that the year I spent in Argentina was a “pivot point” in my life — that point where I stood still, poised to move in one direction or another. A photograph of me, at age 17, was snapped at the moment I hesitated at the top of the stairs while boarding the airplane to Argentina, looked back over my shoulder, and then began the forward motion of my life.

Ombu Trees


Far Away and Long Ago, by W. H. Hudson, is the second book I read for Melissa’s Expanding Horizons challenge. I really enjoyed the book, and look forward to reading some of his other works, which includes the novel Green Mansions. I vaguely remember watching that movie ages ago, starring a very young and beautiful Audrey Hepburn.

Yesterday I posted about Far Away and Long Ago, his memoirs of his childhood in Argentina, and mentioned that Hudson’s birthplace was an estancia in Argentina named “Los Veinte-cinco Ombues,” which means “The Twenty-five Ombu Trees.” I had never heard of an ombu tree until I read this book, and I loved his description of them, so I went searching for photographs. What amazing trees!

The house where I was born, on the South American pampas, was quaintly named Los Veinte-cinco Ombues, which means “The Twenty-five Ombu Trees,” there being just twenty-five of these indigenous trees–gigantic in size, and standing wide apart in a row about 400 yards long. The ombu is a very singular tree indeed, and being the only representative of tree-vegetation, natural to the soil, on those great level plains, and having also many curious superstitions connected with it, it is a romance in itself. It belongs to the rare Phytolacca family, and has an immense girth — forty or fifty feet in some cases; at the same time the wood is so soft and spongy that it can be cut into with a knife, and is utterly unfit for firewood, for when cut up it refuses to dry, but simply rots away like a ripe water-melon. It also grows slowly, and its leaves, which are large, glossy and deep green, like laurel leaves, are poisonous; and because of its uselessness it will probably become extinct. Like the graceful pampas grass in the same region. In this exceedingly practical age men quickly lay the axe at the root of things which, in their view, only cumber the ground; but before other trees had been planted the antiquated and grand-looking ombu had its uses; it served as a gigantic landmark to the traveller on the great monotonous plains, and also afforded refreshing shade to man and horse in summer…