Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bienvenidos a Argentina!

It is official. Argentina was worth the wait. After many hours of packing, unpacking, repacking, unpacking again...and FINALLY determining a way around packing only five shirts for a ten day trip (thank you to the makers of Febreeze), I set out for Argentina.

With Starbucks in hand, I boarded the plane for my 9 hour flight to South America. Despite my broken speaker for the television (I won´t lie. I was a little upset that I couldn´t watch "The Social Network" in Spanish translation) and the lovely plane food that requires chewing as fast as humanly possible so as not to taste the soggy chicken and faux grilled veggies, it was quite the enjoyable ride. In fact, I knew that our trip to Argentina was off to a good start when the entire plane clapped after landing- is that a ¨Latin¨ thing or an ¨Aerolineas Argentina¨ thing? Not sure. For the sake of my own conscious when flying back on the same airline, we will stick with "it´s a Latin thing".

And with that, we were in Argentina. National FFA had previously equipped me with a knowledge of Argentine people (No worries. I will not be passing the salt directly into someone´s hands- it´s a sign of bad luck). With this newfound knowledge came excitement for the days to come. We started with a visit to a local farm. Here, I found that American and Argentine farmers are not so different. Senor Calderon even ignored his ringing phone the exact same way that any rancher I´ve ever met would have done: the phone rang, he looked at it for a loooonnnngggg time, he slipped it back in his pocket, and he resumed talking about the weather, his crops, and the government.

The difference in our farmers and theirs lies in two simple facts. The first of which is our government. Despite the many things we could argue about our national agricultural policies or even lack thereof, I have yet to hear an American politician (let alone, the President) refer to soybeans as a "weed" as they do in Argentina. Frustrated as we may be at times, at least we have something in place to protect our farmers and ranchers. The efforts made by those in public office may not always be what we wished for. They may not be what we had in mind. At the very least, though, they are something...and some effort is better than none at all.

The second separation lies in the poverty that exists throughout the country. Let me begin by saying that Argentina is the most beautiful place that I have ever been. There isn´t a single patch of grass that isn´t lush. The buildings are breathtaking. Even the slums- which are too sad to even describe- envelope a quiet, peaceful kind of beauty. Despite all of this, though, it is hard to ignore Argentina´s status as a third world country. In all of its natural beauty, this is still very evident. Naturally, this fact affects all aspects of life, especially the agricultural market. Rather than paying up front, farmers simply make vows to pay back fertilizer companies with projected crop yields. Now imagine that taking place in the United States today. It´s hard to even fathom.

I must admit, though. My favorite part of my trip so far was the son of Senor Calderon (Don´t worry. He´s only 11, so I won´t fall madly in love and never return home). He spoke zero English, but he knew what Texas was and proudly sported his favorite Texas Longhorn t-shirt. I will forgive the obvious mistake in schools for the giant hug he gave me when learning I´m from ¨Tejas!!¨ What can I say? Even Argentine chicos know a good thing when they hear about it.

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