2011-08-18

My Four Months as Volunteer in Buenos Aires

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By Sebastian Aristizabal (VG volunteer) Noting that I had never before seen an Argentine note when exchanging money at Heathrow Airport, I realised I knew very little about the country I was to spend four months living in. That was when I first fully took into account what a different experience Argentina was to be in comparison to any I had encountered before. I did my best to inform myself on Argentina once I had decided it was going to be where I would spend the second half of my year abroad, but even then, that was little over a month. When I arrived in Buenos Aires it was everything I had expected - a lively city with a thriving cultural scene - but what surprises me now, even after four months here, is what I am still experiencing in the city and how much I am still discovering about it. True, this can be said about all global cities like Buenos Aires, but as a Londoner this is not my first experience living in a city of this size, and there is something about this city which makes it very unique. I recently overheard a group of backpackers at a hostel saying that four days was enough time to spend in Buenos Aires. I realised however, to fully appreciate the city and embrace all it has to offer, can only really be achieved through spending a long amount of time here. The city has a great number of tourist attractions – (many of which can be seen during a short visit) - but what I now like most about this city, is the feeling of fulfilment you get from actually living here. Everyday I am overwhelmed by the amount of things there are to do in Buenos Aires. Working for Voluntario Global and Red de Turismo Responsable has also helped enrich my time here. The work I have done for the communications team has taken me to certain places allowing me to see a different side of Buenos Aires. Visiting a day-school in the impoverished villas on the outskirts of the city was a hard-hitting reminder that Buenos Aires isn’t all about fine dining and boliches. My work at the Red de Turismo Responsible taught me a great deal about what it means to be a responsible tourist. I even found myself thinking about it whilst travelling through Argentina, and enforcing responsible travel upon the friends who I was travelling with. It is not just about the environment but also about the people who are affected by the tourism industry,- including the locals. Part of responsible travel is to protect and respect the cultural heritage of the cultures which draws us to go and visit these places. Working for three months with the organization has allowed me to see many volunteers come and go. It’s interesting to see all the people who come here; people from all different walks of life and all volunteering for different purposes yet all having the common aim of wanting to work for a good cause. I feel very fortunate to of met these people. I left England with the hope that this experience would broaden my mind and teach me new things. As my time here draws to an end, I can honestly say that Argentina has defiantly met all my expectations and exceeded them. Buenos Aires now means a lot to me, and for this reason I intend to return some day. I would like to thank Voluntario Global and Red de Turismo Responsible as well as all the people I worked with and met during my stay, for making it such a wonderful experience. I finish with a quote of one of Argentina’s best writers, Jorge Luis Borges. “Siempre estaba (y estaré) en Buenos Aires”

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Voluntario Global helps local communities by being available to discuss anything that local organizations need, and offering ideas for further change and development.
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