Mis amigos: Los perros de la calle

My friends: The street dogs

One of the great things in my time here is that I’ve gotten to meet many dogs, mostly street dogs. They are very friendly and are generally in pretty good shape since people feed them. Some of them have names or I’d give them names. Of course I can’t adopt one now being in college, but maybe when I come back I will. However, if they have other friends I’m worried about taking them away (also not owners use collars). Moreover, they get to roam around at free will, not live cramped in an apartment. Oh the dilemma!!

There was a spay/neuter program a few years back in Córdoba according to my friend, but there still continues to be a problem of too many babies that sometimes will get abandoned in boxes. There doesn’t really seem to be a shelter so individuals or a couple of organizations/networks take up the effort to care for and search for homes for the abandoned dogs/cats. Reflecting on overflowing shelters in the US that euthanize, in a way, if the dog can look after itself on the street, perhaps this is a better alternative…

Anyways, I want to share some photos of the many doggy friends I’ve made that always bring a smile to my face.

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Trekking aka hiking


I’d like to share this time about an activity I’ve been participating in this semester, Montañismo Trekking! The UNC, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (where I’ve been studying this semester), has a sports center where students can make their lives healthier by joining a sports activity. They have a wide variety, including canoeing, archery, and trekking(!), and levels for more popular ones like fútbol (soccer), though I hear fútbol is pretty competitive at all levels. The sports center (not fancy like you’re thinking) is mostly fields, but there’s also places for yoga and boxing. Also, there’s medical offices, where you have to do several exams to participate, for example an ergonometric exam (measuring your heart rate while bicycling). Make sure you sign up quickly because it takes awhile to get all the exams done! However, it’s definitely been worth it!!! I’ve made friends and had the chance to go on hikes outside of the UNC program with the friends I’ve made as well!

I’ve noticed some differences between trekking in the Sierras (mountain range) of Córdoba and hiking in the US. There the trails are well-marked and almost always have signs, here the trail isn’t always clear and signs are more infrequent, unless they are in a well-known park. To do longer hikes here, especially in an unmarked area, you need a guide. The trails and sign use probably also relates to the land use and ownership. Here there are some national parks and municipal reserves, but there are also trails on other land that is sometimes private farms. The municipal reserves have different regulations because there’s still houses and farm animals roam freely to graze. Walking along rivers is very common here, and I often find farm animals, especially cows (the smell of cow patties is inevitable)! Overall, I feel a lot more disconnected from civilization when trekking here since there usually aren’t many other people with a less-developed trail system. However, I’m sure that when I go hiking in Patagonia at Fitz Roy in December it will be probably much more developed because they receive so many visitors. I’ll have to wait and see!


Since my arrival to Córdoba, I already was noting the differences in the treatment of the environment, the pros and cons between my home and host countries. There’s enough analysis for a blog post, so why not share about it?

One of the first things I noted was the lack of recycling options. Recycling is uncommon, but I discovered that most plazas have a large recycling receptacle (kind of looks like a cage) where you can bring plastic containers. The organization CEIPOST runs these and also has a new special collection spot by the National University for glass, metal, and carton too. After a weekend, the glass collection is overflowing with alcohol bottles and the plastic bottle collector too, so there’s clearly a need for more collection! Unfortunately, the majority of people don’t partake in these options, and there are plenty of plastic bottles in trash cans. I taught my host family about recycling and it’s easy because we live close to a plaza. They already reuse quality bottles and containers because of the lack of recycling options. Some places at the University recycle paper and I have seen workers that collect cardboard on the streets, but otherwise paper recycling isn’t available. Mostly it comes down to education of people! Education is also important in the US so that recycling can be used to its full potential. Also, it depends on the city or town, because the infrastructure can widely vary.



Plastic trash bins with lids aren’t widely used in Córdoba, so a lot of trash is in small open metal cans or in a suspended metal cage where the wind can easily sweep the trash away. Also, littering is more socially accepted. Most trash is put out on the curb and sometimes it’s not bagged well. Although all of this isn’t visually appealing, it’s good for the street dogs. The dogs already get fed by people, but accessible trash helps if they don’t get enough food. In front of the vegetable/fruit stores, I noticed the old fruits and vegetables (edible but not sellable) stacked on the curb so I decided to talk with the owner of the shop where my host family goes about food waste here. It was really interesting, apparently taking food out of trash containers is not allowed, so having it out on the curb allows people to pick through it if need be. Sometimes he does have an organization that feeds the hungry get food from him, but it’s typically fresher stuff, not what he wouldn’t sell anymore. Also, I learned about how the fruit/vegetable distribution in Córdoba is from one central location and for example one company distributes to all the schools. We discussed the lack of government programs to feed the hungry (something I talked about in my Socioeconomic Problems class) and how multiple interests cause this problematic lack of distribution. In the US we have a lot of food waste too. It’s a systematic problem worldwide and a lot of it could be used to feed the hungry.

Another interesting thing is that there isn’t much used clothing to buy here. There’s a few shops around the artesian market, but they’re usually small. However, behind this is a good reason, that Argentinians don’t seem to buy that many clothes that often. Clothes are expensive because imported goods are highly taxed to protect the Argentinian economy. They use their clothes for a good while and then pass them on or throw them out. In the US, the clothing industry is a huge polluter and energy user (cotton!) and it’s cheap so lots of clothing gets bought with a high frequency. Yes, we have a large used clothing industry, but a lot of it also gets sent off to ‘developing’ countries where local producers get hurt. It’s just way too much clothing anyways.

A great thing Argentinians do, unlike in the US, is save energy, a large contributor to the fact that US is one of the largest polluters in the world. Energy is expensive so turning off lights and taking not-too-long showers are important. The gas oven that you light with a match is cheaper than using the microwave. Also, they have smaller washing machines and drying machines don’t exist, drying the clothes is done on drying racks. It does mean you might need a lint remover, but imagine all the energy you’re saving!

I did go to an environmental conference at the university and although I already knew about many of the topics, it was great listening practice and revealed to me the growing environmental awareness in Argentina. An important issue in Córdoba is the loss of the bosque nativo or native forest. There’s deforesting without replanting, which causes erosion and in a large storm a couple years back, whole houses were swept away by rivers in the province. At the conference speakers discussed renewable energy, teaching kids about their local environment, and local political activism.

It seems to me that Argentina is doing well in some environmental areas, but more so due to the need to save money, not because of environmental consciousness. The US seems to have more of this environmental consciousness with a history of environmental activism, but many people still don’t do enough with the cultural norm and typical infrastructures focused on large energy use.


Wow, what energy and pride the Argentinians have for their fútbol (soccer) team!! To qualify for worlds, first they had a tie, so they needed a rematch. They played against Ecuador and boy was it an experience! I didn’t watch much, but with the amount of yelling, sounds, and car honking reverberating from the apartment next door and from the ENTIRE STREET OUTSIDE, it could not be missed. There was quite the ruckus when I assume the other team made a goal, lots of shouting and booing! It seemed like our neighbors were gonna break through our wall! When Argentina made the 3rd goal, for a difference of 2 with Ecuador and not much time left in the game, the noise of knowing they’d almost won was incredible!!! When the game ended, people went out on their balconies and played trumpets and yelled Viva Argentina! There was cheering from the bars and cafes below, and the joy was everywhere. The streets are very empty during games, but they come back to life afterwards. I know we have the Superbowl in the US and although each city has their own pride, it’s not to this level, nor so communalized as it is here. Also, here the outcome of a big fútbol match can influence the elections coming up. So I think all around it’s just a much bigger deal since their team is world-renowned.

Since I can’t upload my video of the reactions outside at the end of the game, here’s a video with the historic goal near the end:


Montañas y Mar/ Mountains and Sea

…Just what I was looking for and needed!


That’s actually Lake Nahuel Huapi, not the sea in that photo, but with the rocky beach and wind coming off the water, it almost could have been the sea; it only lacked the smell of salt water. I felt like I almost was in Seattle…


And that is the sea on the edge of Puerto Madryn, and a beach of many pebbles, with the soothing sound of water gently moving stones. I almost felt like I could have been on Whidbey Island  in WA state…

Clearly, I missed a familiar environment of rocky salt water beaches and snow-capped mountains. A trip to southern Argentina was just what I needed. And it was splendid! Such beautiful vistas…


A plane ride to Bariloche was only a bit more than a full-cama bus ride, so I chose the plane. It was totally worth it with the views of the snow-capped mountains!P1010333

And there’s the city of Bariloche up against the mountains and lake!P1010338

Bariloche is also known for its Swiss Alpine architecture (like Villa General Belgrano and La Cumbrecita in Córdoba’s Sierras).  However, it’s a much bigger place (city not a town) and is experiencing sprawling development with it’s outdoor tourism draw. Sometimes the architecture appears odd at front with some moderner structures, but most new buildings also have an alpine touch.

There’s also these big WEIRD buildings that literally go up the hillsides like stairs with their different levels!!! I was totally goggle-eyed upon first sight of such things, and I’m still not sure what I think of them…


I was going to Bariloche in winter  (remember Southern and Northern hemispheres have their seasons reversed) to meet my goal of skiing while I was in Argentina! This was part of the reason I chose my hostel, because I wanted to have a nice wintery, rustic wooden, mountain lodge feel! Of course, it was actually close to the city center, but I also liked my hostel for many more reasons. Periko’s!!! Named after the dog that originally came with the property when the hostel got started, Periko’s has a great kitchen where everyone gets to know each other, and Charli at the front desk gave great suggestions and directions about the local attractions! I highly recommend it!!


Anyways… skiing!!! While Las Leñas up in Mendoza is known for being word-class ski resort in South America (and their season was over), Cerro Catedral in Bariloche used to hold that title and has MUCH better views. Need I say more…



And I met this guy Emanuel from Neuquén on the bus ride up from town and we ended up next to each other in the lift line so we spent most of the day together.


Boy, was the sun fierce!! It wasn’t super cold and although I put sunscreen on my face (and with snow and a high altitude), I ended up burning the skin around my lips, ouch! Good thing I rented those ski goggles! I ended up enjoying the views more than skiing really, but it was still a nice experience. Unfortunately, at the end of the day when I was heading back, I didn’t feel that well. I thought it might be dehydration. Later that night, I ended up feeling worse and upchucked my lunch :((( It was probably a combination of sun, dehydration, and something I ate or drank up at the Refuge on the mountain. I will be eternally grateful to my roommate Alba from España who calmly dealt with it all, and Charli at the front desk, too. Anyways, I won’t delve more into all that, but all in all I spent the night and the following day feeling terrible and mostly bedridden. ;_( What a trip!!! Hahaha, but really it didn’t dampen things too much, just one day lost and that I didn’t have the energy to go hiking. I managed to make it out of bed and the few blocks into town for simple food and to buy a tour ticket to La Ruta de los Siete Lagos (The route of the 7 lakes). Man, did I lack appetite! Soup, crackers, and bananas was about it!

The next day was a bus tour through La Ruta de los Siete Lagos to the town of San Martín de los Andes, so it didn’t require much energy. And oh the sights!

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But I didn’t have much energy or appetite so I ended up spending most of my time in San Martín de los Andes lying on the beach enjoying the view, the soft lapping of waves, and the sun since it was nippy outside. I managed to eat part of a tostada (not toast, but a toasted ham and cheese sandwich without crust that you will find everywhere in Argentina), and got the rest as take-out. I ended up feeding most of it to one of the beach (instead of street) dogs that was timid (I think he’d been abused), but needed food underneath all that black fur. There were other beach dogs but they seemed well-off. Besides, I always have a soft spot for black dogs. 😉


My final partial-day in Bariloche I spent going to see the famous Llao Llao Hotel and Capilla (Chapel) San Eduardo. It was like a scene off of a postcard, need I say more…!!!



Also, look at these cool birds!


It was quite the memorable visit with the weather trying to spit rain and wind moving the clouds about. It reminded me of the weather of Thanksgiving at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, WA. Good thing I slipped my earwarmer and gloves into my backpack last minute!


I didn’t want to leave, but I wanted to go to Cerro Campanario before leaving Bariloche. I caught to bus to the base of the mountain and got on the aerosilla (literally air-seat, but basically a chairlift except that there’s nowhere to ski hahaha). Once again, gorgeous views!!! And so much wind that I couldn’t stay long without freezing.

And even though it was freezing, I had to buy the famous ice cream of Bariloche! It was super good; I got dark chocolate!

Soon after I went to the bus terminal and boarded for Esquel/Puerto Madryn. I got to see more gorgeous views of the mountains as the light slowly faded from the sky. We passed through El Bolsón, which I’d like to visit in the future. I also was looking at google maps on my phone afterwards because the Cholila Ranch of the US outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (aka Harry Longabaugh, a very distant relative) was hidden on the other side of the night-obscured mountains. I wanted to visit, but it’s hard to get to and public transit is only during the summer. I really enjoyed the dinner on the bus, but with my recent stomach upset, unfortunately I could’t eat it all.



Now to the ocean!!!!!!!!!!

I arrived in the morning to Puerto Madryn and after dropping my stuff at the hostel, I went to walk along the boardwalk. Near the pier, I had my first view of a Ballena Franca Austral or Southern Right Whale! It was spouting and hanging out near the surface. It was kind of far, but I’d have more opportunities to see them. I went to the Museum of Oceanographic and Natural Sciences that is in a prestigious house looking out over the town. The exhibits covered the Ballena Franca, preserved marine species, and the cruel history against the indigenous people, but the building itself was also pretty and they had a video on its preservation (right up my alley!).

Afterwards I headed back over to the pier, the sun was out and with some wind. I got great views of a couple whales hanging out and splashing around a bit.


Then I headed down the beach to go to the EcoCentro and I met a perro de la playa (beach dog instead of street dog) and few young girls from Buenos Aires who were playing with him until he got hurt by another dog, which captured my attention.


Then close to the EcoCentro I found a small historic park to the first Galeses settlers who made caves in the beach cliffs. There also was a lookout to the town with flags and a monument to the Indigenous people.P1010763

The EcoCentro was well-made and its whale exhibit had rope hanging from the roof you had to pass through like the baleen of a whale. However, because I’ve been to many ocean-animal education centers before, it wasn’t terribly exciting. I also bought a book about the North American Outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 😉

P1010829Outside I found the calm beach (second photo in this post) with a whale a-ways off and then heading back I got to see gorgeous sunset over the town. Walking back along the beach in the dark I got to hear the beautiful whale sounds not far from shore.


The next day I went on my tour to the Reserva Faunistica (Wildlife Reserve) and World heritage site on Peninsula Valdes, northeast of Puerto Madryn. Just north of the town, before reaching the Reserve, there is a beach called Playa Doradillo with a steep dropoff that allows the whales to be seen VERY close to shore (however this also means that occasionally a baby whale dies beached on the shore). It was SUPER cool to see and reminded me a lot of Admiral’s Cove on Whidbey Island in WA State.


After entering the Reserve, we stopped in Puerto Piramides so that most of the tour could go on a boat tour. I opted not to do that to save money and because I don’t really support seeing whales from boat tours. Instead I got to see lots of shell fossils in the banks above the water and I still got great views of the whales from shore, splashing a lot. I also got to walk along the beach and meet the locals’ dogs of course!



It was a long drive to our next stop so I slept, but I did get to see one of the salt flats on the peninsula that is actually below sea level. Our next stop was lunch and seeing Elephant Seals! They shed their skin and the males get REALLY big and possessive.


Then we went to the Caleta Valdes, which is where there’s a inlet of water where the Orcas come to hunt. The opening is always changing and actually a baby orca got trapped their recently, but luckily the currents opened the channel again to its parents. We went over to see penguins and I was thinking it’d be nothing given that I’ve seen them in zoos, but no… They were so cute and were SO close, some less than a meter or few feet away!! Most of them were the males who arrive first to prepare the nests. Only two females had arrived. They were resting in the sun or waddling like one was up the hill!! It definitely was an awesome experience!

On the way back we also saw burrowing owls, maras (type of hare) with babies (!), and guanacos!!


I finished off my night with a delicious seafood dish!! It was very rich. A kind Porteño family invited me to talk with them after since I ate alone and I enjoyed their company.


Before I caught the bus the next day back to Córdoba, I walked the beach once more and of course met more doggy friends! What a great trip!!! The ocean and mountains were just what I needed.


Halfway through?!?!

Time is flying by, I’m already halfway through my time here, yikes! And yet I had to write a “first week” reflection for my university back home… (Hmm I don’t think they’re on the same page for the timeline of the AR program)… At first 5 months seems like a long time, but with classes and traveling (and 3 day weekends), it sure flies by quick! I’m sure I will still learn a lot more, but I definitely have already learned some great lessons in my time here.

Be outgoing and meet lots of random people, aka strangers, yes people you don’t know. Really, there’s nothing to loose, and how else are you gonna learn and have a more interesting and fulfilling life? Yes, the people are really friendly here so that helps, but I’m sure someone else on the bus in the US would find a conversation with you more interesting than their excuse of a smartphone (because they don’t know what else to do when they’re bored). Speaking of which, people don’t whip their phones out so quick here. Yes it prevents robberies, but they generally just seem to respect time with one another more. Which leads me to the next lesson…

Take time to slow down and spend more time with friends just talking. The time for mate (communal drink) and merienda (afternoon snack) here are invaluable. It provides a time to relax when most everyone just enjoys sharing the presence of one another (and mate!). Even with your busy life and that list of things to do, you have the time, really you do. What’s going to matter later in life: the memories and connections you made with friends.

These are both invaluable lessons I’ve learned here and I hope to keep using them when I return, as well as teach them to my friends back in the US because there we’re always so busy with work and absorbed into our smartphones.

I’ll fill you in on my travels to the south (Bariloche, Puerto Madryn) soon…


Viaje al Norte! Trip to the North!

After Irish music lessons in the start of August, I left for Jujuy and Salta in northern Argentina with my mates John and Jack! I was in need of some relaxing vacation time (after spending my month of July ‘vacation’ in class instead of working at a summer camp), as well as some amazing nature, and of course exploring! We took an overnight semi-cama (part-bed) bus to San Salvador de Jujuy and discovered that long-haul bus travel is better than planes (dinner included, huge cushy seats with leg rests, music/movies), but that semi-camas don’t give you the best sleep. :/ From there we took a bus to Tilcara where our wonderful hostel Casa Los Molles was located! It sits above the town but is close to the plaza, and feels like a community with an owner that loves life (didn’t actually meet him since he was hiking in Calilengua National Park), and there are awesome murals everywhere. There is also a great view of the town and the mountains from the patio (and from the kitchen when eating breakfast). See, isn’t it wonderful?!?

After settling in to our rooms (the staff was totally chill with us arriving a bit early), we heard about the Garganta del Diablo (which was in my Lonely Planet guidebook) and decided to set out on a hike to this natural formation. We reached the edge of town and searched for the trail. Once upon it and finding the start of the trail to be quite steep, I felt quite the exhaustion in my calfs. I know I hadn’t danced in awhile, but this seemed excessive, but then I remembered the altitude… Tilcara is located at 2465m above sea level, which is about 8000 feet above sea level!!! Phew, I’m not just a weakling! All that walking back and forth to UNC every day must have helped too! The trail leveled out some and we saw lots of Cardón cacti, plus a beautiful view behind us!


At the entrance we paid a small maintenance fee and descended into the Garganta del Diablo… don don doooooon! There was also a Cascada (waterfall) that we walked to along the riverbed. At the waterfall I tried to memorize the site and sounds to bring myself inner peace, as well as to return to in the future. Eventually we went back to the Garganta and walked along a skinny path (with rails of course!) above it. There was also a system for collecting water and taking it to the indigenous community that ‘owns’ and cares for the Garganta. The rock formations and mixture of types of north are really interesting too.

That evening we ate some local rico (rich/yummy) comida (food) with our dorm-mates. As a before-dinner snack (because dinner is eaten late), we bought tortillas de jamón y queso (ham and cheese tortillas), which are big corn dough turnovers, that are MUY rico (very delicious)!! I had a stew with lentejas (lentils), local potatoes, and LLAMA. It was very delicious and the llama tasted like carne de vaca (cow meat), but with it’s own unique flavor added.

We made friends with the cats at the hostel (at one point I had one crawling over me) and it made me want to adopt an animal even more once again. The orange cat didn’t even belong to the hostel, it was a friend of the cats that was sticking around for too long because it had humans to love it and feed it, hahaha!

The next day we set out to Pumamarca to see the Cerro de Siete Colores and head over to the Salinas Grandes (2nd most impressive salt flats, the first are in Bolivia). These were a must-see on our list! Purmamarca also has lots of artisanal/cultural goods for sale in the mercado (market) and shops. After a stop at the tourist office, we went a few blocks to the main lookout to the Cerro de Siete Colores. It is indeed very pretty, but I’d say it looks more impressive in the photos (also apparently a lot of those photos are taken in the summer).


Then we took a remis (hired taxi) tour to the Salinas Grandes, where we split the cost between the three of us and another guy Agosto. Our driver and tour guide Esteban was really awesome and explained a lot of things about the geography as we went. We stopped for a view of how much altitude we had gained and also at the highest point in the road, 4170m (13680ft) above sea level!!! I had to get a souvenir us this! Well it turned out to be two… hahaha We also got to see some vicuñas (kind of like llamas)! Then we descended down to the Salinas Grandes.


See! Look! There they are! Just waiting beyond the mountains! We saw lots of trucks taking salt to Uruguay and the salt companies with their pools for extraction and piles of salt. We stayed for an hour to take pictures, buy salty souvenirs, and eat tortillas of course! The second tallest mountain in Argentina, Chañi, is in the background.

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I decided to stay another night relaxing at our lovely hostel, while John went to San Salvador de Jujuy and Jack headed back to Córdoba. The next morning I went to the ruins of Pucará in Tilcara that look out over the valley. It’s a little weird because the original archeologists constructed a pyramid to themselves and never finished the one to the people of the ruins…. There were tons of cacti and even a botanical garden identifying different types of cacti! And llamas… a BABY llama!!!P1000918


I grabbed some more tortillas for lunch (last chance!) before getting on the long bus ride to Salta, of course! In Salta I walked alongside the park on my way to the hostel, resisting the temptation to buy the delicious looking dulces (sweets) and pan (bread). Because only every OTHER street intersection had street signs, I ended up overshooting to get to the hostel and got a little lost, so it took forever to get to Hostel Salta Por Siempre, but eventually I arrived. John arrived on his bus and got lost too, wow we are skilled… He realized he had to return for his integrated class and take a bus back that night, but we still got dinner and saw the beautiful Plaza 9 de Julio and the main Iglesias (churches) nearby.

The next day I went to the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña (Museum of High Mountain Archeology), which has three mummies of Incan children uncovered from the top of the volcano Llullaillaco.  They are in pristine condition because of the cold, low-oxygen climate they came from. These children of high status and beauty took part in symbolic marriages and then were given sedative drinks before buried beneath the earth. It was believed they continued living as they communicated with their ancestors. Glad this isn’t a thing anymore…!!!

Then because I hadn’t made solid plans that day, I went through the park to the Teleférico (Tram/Gondola) that goes to the top of Cerro (hill or mountain) San Bernardo. At the top there was a view of the city (and the mountains beyond a bit too) and a beautiful waterfall sculpture! The sound of water was SO soothing! I bought a one-way ticket to hike down after, and it turned out the guy I shared the gondola with also did, and also was staying in my hostel, so the descent of many stairs went much quicker!


My next and final day I went on a tour of the Quebrada de Cafayete with Altro Turismo. They were recommended in my Lonely Planet guide and also turned out to be cheaper than all the surrounding tour companies. The guide was a cheery man that told us about the surroundings and played local music to learn about that too, but he wouldn’t let us nap on the way there! Haha, I had to get up really early for the tour! We went through the mountains as the climate and fauna changed from more humid to dry, and the mountains/rock formations changed too. Closest to Cafayete are the really interesting red rock formations. We had lunch in the town of Cafayete, unfortunately the parilla (grilled meat) wasn’t gonna be ready in time. But afterwards in the plaza I got to pet some really friendly dogs and watch them try to run off the burro (donkey) in the plaza! The wind picked up in the afternoon so unfortunately on our way back we didn’t want to get out of the van that often; besides the photos wouldn’t have been that good. We all got to snooze then though! It was sad to say goodbye to everyone because they were so welcoming.


I got let off last at the bus terminal and found out my ticket was for a full cama (bed) seat (the seat reclines full 180 degrees)! I slept SO much better this time, it was worth the little bit extra money!! I also got to watch Hacksaw Ridge or Hasta El Ultimo Hombre, an inspirational (but bloody) movie, because we had individual movie players! It seems like US and British war history movies are popular here (I saw another one in theaters). Originally I wanted my vacation to continue, but I was happy to get back by the end of this trip. Until next time!