Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cajeta is not just a flavor of candy in Mexico...

When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I was greeted by my ¨host¨ family who welcomed me with open arms. I was immediately brought into their home, where the mother continuously feeds me, asks me about my day and helps me every step of the way. It has been wonderful to be with a family and be taken care of, rather than being in a hostel without any support network. I am able to understand most of their Spanish, although some words are different, such as, cajeta. In Mexico, cajeta is a caramel candy made from goats’ milk, but after I talked about it with my family, my ¨mother¨ pulled me aside and explained that in Argentina, cajeta is a word often used to describe a woman’s reproductive organs. My first slip-up in Argentina!

I spent one day finding my way to the office of Mujeres en Igualdad (MEI), which lies in the outskirts of the city. Situated in a large house, the office is filled with light and open space to facilitate communication and dialogue between those working. In the back is a courtyard filled with trees and flowers. Aesthetically, it is quite beautiful and clearly demonstrates that Monique, the Executive Director, used to be a painter. While the project I will be working on has not been clearly defined, everyone was very warm and welcoming.

I then spent the next day visiting apartments and trying to find a home. I eventually stumbled across an apartment in Palermo that is owned by an actress. She wants to travel and thus rent out her home in the meantime. She seems slightly disorganized, but loved that I was a Sagittarius, that I had studied theatre and that I was in Buenos Aires to work with a non-profit. I am sure it will all turn out well, but there is always a risk when trying to find a place to live in a strange city.

As a dual citizen of Mexico and the US, I had been told that I didn´t need a visa to get into Paraguay, but because I arrived in Argentina and got my US passport stamped I had some trouble getting in to Paraguay. After talking to the ¨jefe¨, he was willing to let me through, but he would not stamp either of my passports.

And then I was off to Paraguay to attend the conference on Access to Information. This ¨encuentro¨ brought together women from Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. This area, known as ¨la triple frontera¨ is one of the poorer regions in Argentina. There is a lot of movement between the three countries and they seem to share more similarities than differences. The conference was very different from what I have gone to in the US, but it was fascinating to hear the women speak about what they work on in their communities, to share mate with them at all hours of the day and sing karaoke with them in the evenings. I didn´t participate too much, and instead found myself observing, having small conversations with people at mealtimes, and taking the time to think about what I could contribute over the next two months.

During the last session of the weekend, we talked about reproductive health and education and I shared about my experiences with Fenix and the power of peer education. They all found it useful to think of it as a tool to engage their young people, develop leadership and increase sexuality education.

On Sunday evening, we all exchanged email addresses and said goodbye and I began a 6 hour bus ride to Iguazu falls. So a not to make this entry too long, I will save my reflections for the falls until later this week. Suffice to say, this experience has already been incredible, causing me to both question and affirm various beliefs I hold. Having this time to reflect where I come from and where I want to go will surely help guide me over the next year at HKS and in looking for my place in the world.


  1. Great title. I loved the story behind it!

  2. Does your Argentine host family love you as much as your Japanese host family?

    I wish I was there with you.


  3. DZ! I didn´t know you blogged, how do I sign up?

    And yes, I think they love me as much. They haven´t started crying yet, but we´ll see at the end of the summer.

    I too wish you were here.


  4. Zara, it's great to be able to follow your journey through this blog =) I'm glad to know everything is working out for you and that you're engaged in this cause! Congratulations! I'm sad you won't be able to come to Brazil, though... Shame. =/ Hope to meet you soon, anyways. ^^ Camila (SWY).

  5. I love it... FENIX in Argentina!
    It is amazing to hear the stories from former FENIX staff about how the work continues in their lives. I just had lunch with True Apodaca and he commented that. Have a wonderful adventure. I look forward to more stories. Dance a Tango for me, please.

  6. I can't wait to read your next entry and she how your views of the world are developing!

  7. Dont forget to go to "La Bisteca" to have a good steak in Puerto Madero, Bs As

    Dany Bahar

  8. Zarita! Que aventuras!!!! It is grea tto be able to follow your adventures. Big hugs,Ame

  9. Im going to Argentina to live,too!! so Im looking for furnished apartments in Buenos Aires!! I dont know where yet, but I´ve heard about Palermo, as you, and Recoleta!! Where do you suggest me to go?? we can meet each other there to go out!