By April Bohnert I arrived in Buenos Aires at the beginning of January, excited and unsure of what to expect. I had come to travel and explore, improve my Spanish, and of course, volunteer, but what exactly I’d be doing or what it all would mean to me, I didn’t know. Upon arrival to the volunteer house, any anxieties or apprehensions I may have had, vanished. Each new person I met was friendly and welcoming. There was, distinctly, a buena onda, or good vibe, to this place. In a matter of a couple hours, I was out with some fellow volunteers, exploring the famous Caminito in La Boca and getting to know one another. Now it is nearly three months later. My time in Buenos Aires has flown by so quickly it hardly seems real. In that time, I have met so many wonderful people and experienced so many incredible things. So for my final blog, I want to look back on these past few months and share a bit about the life of one volunteer in Buenos Aires.
The Volunteer Work: Working with and getting to know everyone at Voluntario Global has been such a rewarding experience. The people here care so much about one another, about the organizations that we work with and about the people that we help. In the few months that I have been here, I’ve come to feel like part of a big, diverse family. My particular position has been in the communications team at VG, working to improve and promote the organization. I was immediately drawn to this placement because I had just recently graduated with a degree in journalism, communications and Spanish. Foregoing the job hunt awhile longer, I wanted to travel while still doing something meaningful. Working on the communications team has given me a glimpse into the public relations and marketing world, has allowed me to continue developing my writing and editing skills, and has given me the opportunity to continue working toward my goal of Spanish fluency. All of these have been valuable experiences for me both personally and professionally.
The Experiences: Of course, my time here has not been all work. My volunteer schedule has been flexible enough to allow plenty of time for play as well. In my free time, I have thoroughly enjoyed all that Buenos Aires has to offer. I’ve hit all the main tourist attractions; from the many famous parks, plazas, and palaces to the cemetery in Recoleta and the Obelisco. I’ve also frequented the bustling artisan markets and the amazing parillas, where you can eat steak like you’ve never tasted (pairs very nicely with malbec and good company). Additionally, the nightlife in Buenos Aires is unbeatable. I’ve spent many nights dancing until sunrise at one of the local boliches or tucking into a quiet, dimly lit bar for some good cocktails and conversation. In the past two and a half months I have also traveled to the stunning Iguazú Falls, saw the beginning of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, wandered the historic cobblestone streets of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the nearby delta town of Tigre. Now, as I end my time in Buenos Aires, I’ll be setting off on a month-long journey through Patagonia.
What I Wish I’d Known: Buenos Aires is a massive city by any standards. With well over 13 million inhabitants and an endless list of things to do, there’s never an excuse for boredom. The city can be overwhelming though, and getting to know your way around takes time. Looking back, there are a few things I wish I’d have known when I first arrived. - First of all, carry a map with you everywhere you go. A good city map can easily fit in a purse or wallet and, I promise, will come in handy on more than one occasion. It will not only save you a lot frustration but also a lot of time wandering around. - Mapa Interactiva is one of the greatest resources for navigating public transportation in Buenos Aires. As long as you know where you’re going and from where you’re leaving, this website will give you step by step instructions on how to get there. It also lists the many bus and metro options and even tells you how to find the stops and stations. -Guia Oleo and Whats Up Buenos Aires are two great guides to culture and dining in the city. Look here for ideas and reviews on restaurants, bars, concerts and events happening around the city. The best part of living in Buenos Aires is experiencing the culture here, and these are a couple good places to start.