Marianna Mylchreest - Care & Spanish in Argentina
My three flights and layovers meant I travelled for a total of 23 hours. By the time I got to Cordoba, I was tired and in need of a shower but still very excited. Upon arriving at the airport I was met by my coordinator and it turned out there was another volunteer who had also been on my flight. We then took a taxi to my host family’s residence which was about a 20-minute journey from the airport.
I had studied Spanish in school for four years so I thought I would be fine - until I heard the Cordobese accent! Coming from the UK, we learn Spanish with a similar accent to those who live in Spain, not South/Central America so words were pronounced a little differently and I did not understand the first few times.
My host family
My host mum, Viviana, was absolutely amazing - she lives in a really large house along with her mother and dog. She hosted five other volunteers as well as me and we were all in the same project which meant we were together 24/7 for a month. I loved each and every one of my ‘siblings’ and remain in contact with most of them even now. Our boxer dog, Uma, was awesome, I do not have a dog at home so I was really happy to have one there, even if just for a month.
Local food and meals
Breakfast was very different to what I am used to in the UK. At home, I usually have cereal, toast, porridge or pancakes and some fruit plus a glass of juice. In Argentina, it was a very light breakfast - not meant to fill you for the whole day. They would eat a tiny bowl of cereal or a slice of cake with dulce de leche (caramel sauce). My host mum generally didn't have much breakfast as she was quite satisfied with a few biscuits and her beloved maté, which is a typical drink that the locals drink at any time of day!
Lunch was made by our host mum and we ate it at the Projects Abroad office each day before our Spanish lessons. This is usually a large meal. It varied for us from pies to pasta to lentil stew to potato dumplings and many other amazing meals - even homemade empanadas!
Dinner is probably the biggest meal, not just the food but also the company - often we had various members of Viviana's family join us for dinner and twice our coordinator joined us too. It is a very sociable time and even though it is very late (after 9pm) in comparison to my normal dinner time, I didn’t feel too hungry in-between meals.
Why Care in Argentina?
The timing of this project was great - I knew I wanted to do a four-week project as I had previously done a two week one and felt it wasn't quite long enough. I was only free in June and a bit of July so this fit in perfectly. Furthermore, having studied Spanish at school I thought it would be a great opportunity to practice and utilise it more than I have been in my year out of school. The other project I did was a Care Project in Cambodia and I loved it so much which is why I decided to do it again. In addition, South America has always fascinated me so all of this helped me decide on the Care Project in Argentina!
Free time in Argentina
We had several weekend activities including day trips to La Cumbrecita and Villa General Belgrano, Alta Gracia, La Falda and one day in the countryside listening to typical Argentinian music and eating asado and empanadas. Activities during the week included bowling, dinners out, karaoke, dinners out with our host family and several dancing lessons (tango, salsa and folkloric).
What I learned
In Argentina the people are remarkably friendly, I had heard this before going but it really is true. All the taxi drivers I spoke to were lovely and only too happy to have a chat; shop keepers are the same, very helpful; the teachers at the placement were amazing, we still talk on WhatsApp now! My only advice is quite simply, say YES and smile. A smile really does go a long way and it is so simple. The people I met on this trip were all phenomenal and there is a good handful I speak to on a daily basis. They really are my family and I love them to bits.
Heading back to the UK
Heading off to the airport on Saturday was possibly one of the saddest experiences of my life. You do forget how hard it was to leave these wonderful people because you know you will meet again. In the meantime, there’s FaceTime! I really could not recommend an experience like this more.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.