Victoria Walter

Argentina

Hometown: Tampa, Florida
School: Home School
Sponsor District: 6890
Sponsor Club: New Tampa
Host District: 4845
Host Club: Formosa

 

My Bio


¡Hola! My name is Victoria, and I will be traveling to Argentina for the 2016-2017 school year. I am honored to be a part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. Currently, I live in the suburbs of Tampa. I have four brothers and two sisters. I love practicing violin, learning language, and traveling abroad. I have been playing classical violin for five years. I look forward to improving my skills on this instrument. Learning language is another one of my favorite pastimes. I have now taken two years of French and have loved it! I hope to continue learning language in college. Another activity that I enjoy is travel abroad. I lived overseas in the country of Jordan for eight years, where my dad was the director of an Arabic language school. My family moved back to the USA when I was nine. I hope that my experience as an exchange student improves my language acquisition, enhances my education, and gives me an opportunity to serve others. I am looking forward to learning Argentinian Spanish and experiencing a new culture. I am excited make new friends, and see what awaits me on the other side of the globe! ¡Gracias! Victoria


My Host Dad's Birthday with the Family

My Host Dad's Birthday with the Family

Patagonia Vista

Patagonia Vista

Penguin

Penguin

Journals: Victoria – Argentina 2016-17

  • Victoria, outbound to Argentina

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    The month of March has brought few surprises, and I have begun to settle into a daily routine. I wake up when the sun is high in the sky, and begin the process of motivating myself to roll out of bed. I usually go downstairs to say hello to the lady who helps around the house, and then I busy myself with what I like to call "independent learning". This includes a variety of random activities that I find keep my brain active and my hours filled. I may read some history, continue learning Spanish, crochet, draw, or organize my room while enjoying some music. At around 1 pm I lunch on Argentinian fare which consists of a salad, meat, and a starch, followed by a dessert of fruit or jello. My afternoons are occupied by more "independent learning", violin, and getting together with friends. 

    I have truly been enjoying my friends lately. Three of my four best friends from Argentinian high school have left for college, but I am very close to the one that is left, and we get together very often along with the exchange students. Since I now live one and a half blocks from the river, and I have a pool, my home has become a popular place for my friends to relax after walking along the Rio Paraguay. I live pretty close to the center of town and a nearby ice cream shop. Since the ice cream in Formosa is cheap and delicious, the other exchange students and I have spent many summer days licking cones and chatting. 

    Unfortunately, summer is ending. I will soon begin studying again, though I am not exactly sure where yet.

    I am looking forward to an exchange student camp that will be happening late this month in Misiones, a region of Argentina famous for it's gigantic waterfalls. I think (hope) we will visit the falls.

    Until the next adventure,

    Victoria

  • Victoria, outbound to Argentina

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    Since my last journal entry (which was published an embarrassingly long time ago), two absolutely unforgettable months have passed. Four occurrences are etched in my memory forever. Two are trips I took that offered stunning vistas, exotic animals, unique people, and historic structures. These are pleasant memories that I will cherish. The two other occurrences are what I would describe as painful, and intense. I have, however; been able to hold on to hope the whole time. More on that later.

    I shall start with the happy memories. The first is my trip to Patagonia. Patagonia is a dream location for any vacationer in search of towering snow-capped mountains, seemingly bottomless lakes, and majestic glaciers. I was fortunate enough to visit all of the prime locations in the vast Southern expanse, along with 39 other exchange students from all over the world. My trip started at one of the last terminals in the small and almost empty Formosa bus station. My host family along with my best friends from school came to say goodbye. I remember how my host family all gave me the customary two kisses before I left. My host mom kept me a little longer than the rest. Sometimes you only realize how much you love someone when you say goodbye. We all clambered into the double-decker bus, and found seats in the top front row. But no matter how comfortable bus seats are, they will never stay that way with over 100 hours of driving with 39 other teenagers, as I was to find out. After an ete rnity of sailing south through the short shrub and grass terrain called Las Pampas, we arrived in Puerto Madryn. This is a rather isolated city settled on the Atlantic Coast. After visiting the beach, and admiring the boardwalk, we traveled a little ways outside the city to settle down and do what we had really come for, whale watching. The day was exceptionally hot, and everyone was sweating in their oversize life-jackets, as the boat slipped into the calm, clear waters of the bay. No one complained, however, when we were rewarded by the sight of two obscure humps in the water that we were told were whales. Cameras whipped out and ready, the noisy crew of students settled down to capture the special moment. When the whales breached, a gasp of air would shoot out of the blowhole. After about thirty minutes, we let the giants slip out of sight, and we returned to shore.

    The next important stop we made was dedicated to a small animal that I have only ever known in story books and movies - the penguin. I always assumed that penguins resided on ice, however the penguins we visited lived on the beach and the surrounding sandy hills. As we walked along the designated path, we discovered penguins sleeping in holes under the shrubs, some with babies. The penguin population lives in harmony with another animal called the oanaco. The oanaco is much like a llama, but with burnt-orange color fur.

    The next leg of the journey took through mountains. Although it was summer, there was still snow on the peaks in the distance. Our destination was a small tourist town called Calafate, situated on the banks of a deep, turquoise lake. One of the many memorable excursions in Calafate is the glacier trek. It's not every day that you take a boat ride across a river dotted with ice chunks to get to a glacier that is the world's third largest fresh water reserve. To top it all, I climbed on the glacier using crampons, the attachable shoe-spikes that you only usually hear about in accounts of Mount Everest treks.

    Next, we crossed the Straight of Magellan in ferry to get to Ushuaia, the supposed "southernmost city in the world". It had the feel of a fisherman's town that has been battered by years of brutal winters, with towering mountains in the background.

    After exploring the cafes and shops in Ushuaia, the rowdy bus of students turned North to the party town of Bariloche. For me, the best part of Bariloche was the breathtaking scenery. The woods consisted of giant trees, and kilometers of purple and yellow flowers. Lakes with a backdrop of mountains completed the picture. I honestly would have been happy if someone dropped me off on the side of the road and said, "Explore." It's seems as though the others had a different idea of fun. They spent their energy drinking, dancing, and carrying on late into the night. Bariloche was the last destination of the tour. Then we turned our sites to home.

    I am blessed beyond measure to have seen the famed Patagonia, but I was surprised when I was offered a trip to Buenos Aires. After Christmas, my host sister asked if I wanted to stay with her in the house of her aunt and uncle in Buenos Aires and I said of course! I only had five days to explore, so my time was jam-packed. The aunt and uncle have one daughter who was kind enough to be my tour guide. I visited most of the famed ancient sites of Buenos Aires. One of these sites was a huge cemetery called Recoleta. Instead of gravestones, large stone boxes are used. They are taller than me and have windows and a door. The grave "boxes" are elaborately carved with statues and crosses. I strolled with my host sister in front of the Casa Rosada, which is the homestead of the president. I stood in front of the Obelisk, which is a tower in the center of the city that resembles the Washington Monument. I walked on the widest avenue in the world, July 9th Avenue. I visited the Boca n eighborhood, a colorful maze of houses and the heart of the Tango. All of these memories I will treasure.

    Now for the rough part. I know that life throws us curveballs sometimes and I never expected the one that was so suddenly thrown at me. The memory of Patagonia will always be accompanied by the stinging memory of an urgent message from my parents in the USA saying my host mom was in the hospital having suffered from a stroke. I was nearing the end of my trip, and asked the coordinators if I could go home early. It wasn't safe to travel alone on a bus for two days, and I would be going home soon anyways. So I stayed with the group. I was on the road, and did not have wifi until I arrived at the hotel that night. At soon as I had settled into my hotel room I received a call from my parents. My host mom had passed away that day. I've never wept so much in my life. The next morning my host sister called me and told me the same. The bus ride home was long and I was nervous about meeting my family when I came back. When I arrived at the bus station in Formosa, I gave a hug to each of my family members, and we drove home in relative silence.

    Christmas passed, so did the New Year. The extended family gathered and made the holidays a bit easier for my host family, but of course there was someone missing.

    That has to be the hardest thing that's ever happened to me as I was very close to my host Mom. The second thing that happened that has been difficult is that I switched families rather abruptly. Although the change was sudden, my new host family is kind and accommodating, and I am thankful for their hospitality!

    So why am I OK after losing the ones I love the most? What can I hold on to? What never changes and is always there for me when everything else fades away? Who understands when my heart is hurting? Who hears me when I cry? God does. I am a believer in God and I am a Christian. I know that He sees my life and has a plan for me that is wonderful. I know that he allows difficult things to happen to me to change and refine me as a person. As I read the Bible I learn more about God and how he works in the lives of Christians like me. One verse in the Bible says: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know

    that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 (ESV) For me, God is not an abstract idea, but a close confidant, an advisor, and a friend. My faith has given me the ability to be joyful and get the most out of this year abroad.

    I have learned so much these past few months, and I will continue to learn! Spanish is going well, although I would like to expand my vocabulary and knowledge of grammar through some kind of online course. In the lazy days of summer I find the pool an increasingly pleasant place to spend time with my new host sister and her friends.

    In a few minutes I shall go on a jog along the river, from which I am now only a block and a half.

    Until next time,

    Victoria Walter

  • Victoria, outbound to Argenta

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    Hello from below the equator! It has been two months since I landed in Argentina. I remember gazing out the window of the airplane that was taking me to my new home, and letting the overwhelming beauty that lay before me sink in. The rivers and swamps connected like a giant web with thousands of palm trees surrounding. The wild tropical terrain made me wonder where a city could be in all that nature. At that moment I was not thinking about all the family and friends that I had left behind in Tampa. Rather, I was mentally preparing myself to meet my new host family, and to greet them in Spanish. As we landed on the small strip of tarmac, I noticed a woman beside me begin to tear up with emotion. This city was special to her, and was probably her home. It was my home too now. 

    All of my prepared formalities (hand shakes) were blown away as I received the customary two kisses, one on each cheek, from each one of the family members. I was confused at first, because there was a small crowd that had gathered to greet me, and I wasn't sure who was who. But I found out later and am now semi-aware of the many uncles, aunts, and cousins that I have acquired. The drive home was tranquil, due to my lack of the Spanish language. I sat in the back of the car with my host sister (and now amazing friend), and my host parents in front. 

    My home is in a well known barrio (neighborhood) near the center of Formosa. The design of the home is narrow and long. In the very back is one of my favorite spots, the garden, which has a lemon tree, a mango tree, and flowers of many kinds. The inside of the home is decorated with family photos, paintings, and crochet work. My host mother has graciously taught me how to crochet, and it is a favorite pastime. 

    I dress in a plaid skirt and collared shirt every day to go to school. My classmates are happy, kind, and very helpful to me. It seems like they enjoy helping me with my Spanish, and I am certainly grateful for that! The teachers are curious about me as well, and I have been assigned several assignments that have something to do with the culture of the United States. 

    I end school at 12:30, and I always have an amazing lunch to look forward to when I return home. My mother is an amazing cook! There is almost always some kind of meat prepared with rice or potatoes. I have been able to learn how to prepare some of the food here. A specialty dish here is empanadas, a pastry pocket filled with beef, ham, eggs or cheese, or a combination of these ingredients. 

    I almost always have some sort of invitation at the end of the week. It may be a birthday party, a dinner, or a walk along the river with some friends. I have noticed that in Argentina everything is done with other people. 

    The language is not terribly difficult, and I can understand almost everything if it is spoken clearly. My spoken Spanish needs some work, but I am hoping at the end of nine months I will be fluent. 

    I am also now gearing up for the legendary Formosa summer. I'm not sure if there is a rainy season in Formosa, but if there is, it's now. Tormentous weather has a way of springing up suddenly. Water has crept into the house several times when it rained extra hard, and the electricity clicks off on occasion. 

    There weather this morning is cool and calm, with the sounds of happy birds filling the air. 

    I too am a happy bird, waiting to launch into the next adventure. 
    Chau, 

    Victoria

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