Iguazu Falls

I promise this entry is going to be mostly photos. If you’re an incredibly impatient visual learner or unalphabetized photographer, just scroll past the text and get to the good stuff!

Las Cataratas del Iguazú (Spanish) or Cataratas do Iguaçu (Portuguese) is now considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I decided it would be best to go while I live within a 1000 mile radius. AFS Jujuy took a trip to the falls in May but I was not provided with the information in time to go. Big surprise. Not. AFS Argentina and AFS Tucumán especially are pretty disorganized. So when I found out that AFS Córdoba was going a month later, I jumped. Getting a visa would be complicated, but I refused to miss the trip for a second time. After countless phone calls to the Consulate in Salta (I don’t think we ever found the right number), we got a response via email: we don’t give out visas here. So in the next week I’d have to: hope to get through to the Consulate in Córdoba, make an appointment, pay for bus passage there and back (650 pesos each way), ask permission to miss work (Mom) and cut school (me), 7 hour bus ride there, be interviewed, 7 hours back. Complicated. It would take a miracle. Or an epic coincidence: during the months of June, July and August of this year only, US Citizens do not need a visa to travel to Brasil. Why? The Olympic Games in Rio! I was disappointed in 2009 when Chicago didn’t get the bid for the 2016 summer games, but now I was pleased.

There was still an obstacle to hurdle. The money. It’s not that I couldn’t pay. I just couldn’t hold on to the cash. What do you do?

Take out money from an ATM a few weeks in advance to save for the trip, go to Jujuy with your host sister and spend it all buying gifts for your family, take out money from an ATM to replace what you spent in Jujuy, blow most of it on a winter coat because although the temperature is not that low, the cold is humid and it penetrates to your bones, get mad when you notice by the following day the coat has already lost two buttons even though you bought it at “el shopping” (as they call the mall, which typically has higher quality merch and prices to match), spend the rest of the cash on the pinny for your school’s marathon, find out you can’t go to the Marathon because AFS has an end-of-stay orientation, gift the pinny to your friend’s cousin, take out money from an ATM by your school to pay the travel company, deposit it at a different bank in center city, freeze your patootie off at the AFS camp despite wearing your cheap-@$$ coat, take out money from an ATM to use on the trip, decide to go paragliding and effectively spend half the money you’ve just taken out to jump off a mountain with a complete stranger, take out money from another ATM, buy bus tickets to and from Córdoba the night before the trip leaves, take out money from an ATM that morning, pack your bags, and go!

The food on the trip was super expensive. We stopped at several churrasquerías (Brazilian steakhouses) with buffets. The price ranged from 120-200 pesos. When you convert, it does not sound that bad (8-14 USD), but food is really cheap in Argentina and so it seemed like a fortune to us. The excursions/tourist-traps were also costly. The park entrances were more expensive for us seeing as we exchange students were not from countries in the MercoSur trade alliance.  AFS had advised us to bring 2500 pesos for the trip and it was not nearly enough. Each student dealt with the $ shortage with some combination of the following strategies: 1) not going on all excursions 2) taking out money in reales by our hotel (Brazilian currency) 3) eating a ton of Sandwiches de Milanesa and/or bought snacks from kiosks instead of lunching like a king at the steakhouses.

Minas de Wanda (Misiones, Argentina):DSC_0091DSC_0096

Crossing the border to Brazil:DSC_0104DSC_0109DSC_0110DSC_0114

Parque Das Aves (Foz de Iguaçu, Brasil):DSC_0133A seemingly innocent toucan chilling on a bench…

DSC_0128turns out to be a vicious predator! Poor amateur photographer from Los Angeles.

DSC_0137Skyland, the other Yankee on the AFS trip, holding a parrot.

DSC_0140You could say he was a little flighty (ba-dum-ch)

DSC_0143Vibecke from Norway, quite possibly the most beautiful human being I have ever seen in my life, looks awful in this photo and thus I must post it on the Internet.

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay:DSC_0147

Fun Facts:

Ciudad del Este was the world’s third-largest commercial city 15 years ago.

Some estimates put the city’s black market at five times the value of the national economy.

For every 300 meters you walk, at least 10 different walking vendors will ask you to buy socks.

Perfumes sold on the streets are composed of 100% water. From a natural spring, I’m sure.

All flash drives contain up to 300 GB of memory! Up to means they can have less. As in 300 gigabytes less. They’re useless hunks of plastic in fancy packaging.

One US dollar is worth 5,636 Guaraní (the Paraguayan currency). This ridiculously high conversion rate enables crafty technology shop owners to overcharging unsuspecting tourists by first giving the price in dollars, then adding an extra zero when they state it in Guaranís.

Yeah, you’ve got to be careful in CDE. The letters of their abbreviation may be in alphabetical order, but their business is anything but straight.

Crossing back to Brasil from Paraguay:DSC_0157In Latin America there is a street art movement called Acción Poética. This message appears in Spanish and Portuguese at the Paraguay-Brazil border near Ciudad del Este. The Portuguese reads “Nascemos de muitas mães, mas aqui só tem irmãos.” In English, that’s “We were born of many different mothers, but here there are only brothers.” In Street, that’s “we all brothas from anotha motha.”

DSC_0167DSC_0172This is the Brazilian side of the falls. I arrived at the lookout in the last moments of light and thus the photos don’t show the full glory of Las Cataratas, which I’d seen from the bottom an hour beforehand. We went on a river excursion where boats took us right up next to the falls. In theory we would stay somewhat dry with the help of rain ponchos, but in practice the water entered the collar of my jacket and went down my shirt and the arms of the poncho were short and so my sleeves were soggy, and the force of falling water took off my hood and my hair dripped for an hour afterward. Nearly arctic water blinded us. Contacts swirled. Girls screamed. Mouths closed suddenly. A few ounces of Iguazú were spit out and a few drops were swallowed. Cell phones were not ruined due to plastic cases hastily purchased at the park entrance. The captain backed away and everyone was a little relieved. We could breathe. Several meters away and we all had our necks craned, looking  back at the falls. The boat stopped suddenly. It turned around. Wait, what? We approached the roaring water again. Back for another round! Laughs and screams ensued.

DSC_0179

Here’s a better view of the border. On the left is Paraguay. On the right, Brazil. I’m standing in Argentina. Yeah, we crossed to see the Argentine side of the falls. Didn’t swim.

DSC_0183A spectactularly overexposed photo of me in front of the falls.

DSC_0189Look at the face of the girl to my right.

DSC_0191The best view of all… from behind! (Heehee)

DSC_0192 We asked him to move. He didn’t get the picture! (Get it? Because he’s still in the picture!)

DSC_0193There’s a single word in Spanish for falling off a cliff: desbarrancarse. This, right by the edge of Iguazu Falls, what you would see seconds before desbarrancándote. Well, there are lots of rocks and bushes and things to grab onto, so hopefully you would get a grip and not actually slip over the edge.

DSC_0198DSC_0201DSC_0208DSC_0218Overexposed again.

DSC_0221DSC_0225DSC_0226DSC_0227Double rainbow.DSC_0231God is a spectacular artist.

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