40 hours of Spanish in Mendoza

Trip Start Jul 07, 2011
Trip End Oct 04, 2011

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Where I stayed
Casa Pueblo Hostel

Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I was really looking forward to the bus journey from Santiago to Mendoza, but for days the pass had been closed and I couldn't waste days waiting for an opening. The journey is through the Andes, it's relatively cheap and takes around 7 hours. 2 are spent at the border, the rest is going over the Andes, pretty spectacular I'm sure - but I had to get to Mendoza for my course, I was already a day late so I had to take a flight (at great expense).

I'm not usually a fan of roller coasters, something about motion sickness, but I can honestly say it was the most fun I've had in a plan (not all that hard) - and the best roller coaster ride ever too. The turbulence was on the good side of insane! The view of the Andes at times was spectacular, if not as close as I'd hoped by bus, but the turbulence definitely made up for expense, I'd definitely recommend it if you get a chance ;)

Mendoza is a nice place. It'd been virtually leveled by an earthquake years ago and has lost it's old buildings, so it's got a very modern look and feel. The main attraction in Mendoza is the wine industry, there are plenty of bodega's nearby but I was here to learn Spanish, two weeks of intensive lessons, 4 hours a day.

I'd researched Spanish courses online a week or so before and came across a tutor with glowing reviews. It felt like the right time and place for me to learn Spanish. In Colombia I'd felt pretty disjointed without the language skills and thought it was an excuse for me to not do some things, in reality I doubt it did stop me from doing stuff but I was up for it and justified the reasonable cost for it - plenty of time to go, I could make use of the language and maybe get a taste for it learning more, or even working in a Spanish speaking country in the future.

To help me get more immersion, I opted for a hostel my tutor had noted in our correspondence. It's run by a family and is mostly Spanish speaking, which was great and helped me put my new skills to practice, get used to hearing more Spanish being spoken around me. Argentine Spanish is different from what I'd been hearing in Colombia, more difficult to pick up but it's like being in a different part of the UK really, your ear gets used to it after a while - the speed they speak at something new too, not so easy...

So my weeks consisted of an early start, bus ride to the other side of Mendoza, for a 9am start. 2 hours straight until 11am, a half an hour break and then another 2 hours for a 1.30pm finish. All aided by lots of fresh coffee and nibbles, to keep me sustained.

In Mendoza they're into their siesta's, so at 2.30 ish the shops shut and nothing picks up until around 6pm. So I'd have time to do my homework, mill around town and catch up with the other hostellers and owners, but it kind of cut my afternoon out. Plus with my brain in overdrive it was pretty tiring, frustrating at times as I'm no spring chicken and language skills aren't my forté - but there were a few highlights to my stay (other than the wonder of a new language unfolding in front of me... well, kind of).

There was an Argentinian dude at the hostel who makes wine for bodega's, he had a range of samples that he kept offering around during my stay and it was really good wine (I shouldn't be surprised...). He cooked my first parrilla (Argentinian name for BBQ) on the friday and showed he knows his food too, went to various places around town to get the best meats and cooked it really well - the best food I've ever tasted.... Sausage, blood sausage (more squidgy than in the UK but the same really), asado ribs (asado LatAm for BBQ) and pork (the pork here is from another world - insanely good, thick and lean).

I also went to another parrilla that my tutors' friends arranged the following week. The elections were on and to help the mandatory turnout they close the clubs and stop selling alcohol in shops from 8pm the previous night - so it seems everyone just stocks up on food and drink they make their own party.. awesome. So I got to meet a load of locals, try my Spanish (fail) and get a feel for what the locals get up to, it was great.

The rest of my time in Mendoza was pretty unremarkable, I think I toned it down a lot anyway as Santiago and the late notice flights has cost me a load, so I was enjoying the downtime...

I missed out on the bodega's, I've since heard great stories of people cycling around the bodega's drinking loads and enjoying themselves. There's also lots of other stuff to do, but I'll have to come back someday to do it all...

I loved learning Spanish though, Ana Maria Tronocoso was so helpful and patient that I'm really glad I chose her and I hope I do her justice when I speak to her fellow Argentinians!
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