After a long day 36 hours en route, I finally arrived safely back in Michigan at 8:00pm Monday evening.   Unfortunately, due to a cancelled flight, I had to fly into Grand Rapids Michigan instead of Houghton, and my flight was an hour late.  Additionally, all three of my checked bags were lost.

I filed a claim for the lost bags, but when they were not found within 24 hours, I took matters into my own hands and personally called the Houghton airport, where I suspected the bags were.  My bags were indeed there, and I received them yesterday afternoon.  When the bags arrived, I was glad to find nothing in them broken, although my new carbon fiber wheeled luggage piece had a seam torn and the base broken off of it.

In spite of all the trouble I have had with American Eagle airlines, I am glad to be back safe (if not in the right destination or at the right time) and to have finally received all of my luggage (which I was sincerely beginning to fear I would never see again).

Today is my last day in Malargue, and I have had a wonderful time here. 

This morning I enjoyed mate with three english students, Mari Tenuta, Natti Munoz, and Dayi Zagal.  It was fun to talk with them and their English is very, very good (especially compared to my Spanish).

After returning my bike to the rental shop, I met Susana for a lunch of the chef Martin Soria’s delicious empanadas, and some Argentinean ice cream.  On the way to Susana’s house we stopped by Stella and Dario’s house to deliver some peanut butter that I had promised to bring them earlier in the week.  Stella was working at the radio station (eolica) behind the house, and when we stopped she offered to give me a short interview on the air (in Spanish), which went very well.

Afterwards, Adrian picked Susana and I up at the ice cream shop, and we went to spend the afternoon with a group of Eskouts (boyand girl scouts) Adrian volunteers with.  Spending some time with the scouts was very fun for me because I was a girl scout in high school and earned my Gold Award, and my younger brother earned his Eagle rank earlier this summer. I played some games with the younger scouts, and spent some time talking with some of the older scouts- Martin Munoz, who has studied English for nine years and hopes to apply for the scholarship to Michigan Tech, and a group of girl scouts (with whom I was able to practice my Spanish).  The scouts were very hospitable, and I enjoyed a merienda (or afternoon tea time snack) of cookies and mate cocido with them.

Later this evening (after I finish packing) I plan to attend a penia, which is a traditional outdoor music and food festival, with Susana before leaving on a bus for Mendoza city to start my journey home.  I was told the Eskouts will be selling foods to raise money for a trip to the national jamboree celebrating the founding of the Eskout program in Argentina next year, and I hope to show my support by buying and sampling some of their foods.

This afternoon I visited the Granja Educativa one last time before I return to the United States tomorrow evening.   I brought colored cord and beads with me, and the students and I made friendship bracelets or “pulseras de amistad”.  I had a lot of fun working with the students, and I was surprised at how quickly they learned to make the bracelets and how beautiful some of their bracelets were.  While I was there, I gave brief presentations to the students about the scholarship to Michigan Tech offered to students from Malargue, about the water purification project in Bardas Blancas, and a out how to use websites and Facebook to sell handcrafted items.  I was pleased to see the students were interested in the presentations, and I thought it was amusing that one of the students finished both a bracelet and a ring, and was offering to sell them as a matching set after I finished the presentation about selling craft items online.

For dinner this evening I was treated to a farewell dinner by the Municipality of Malargue in the Rio Grande Hotel.  I was very excited to be invited to the dinner and to try some of the local trout, which is one of my favorite foods (and a special thank you to Juan Jose Narambuena for arranging the menu for this evening).  After we finished our dessert I was speechless to be presented with some final beautiful souvenirs of my visit- a rust colored poncho from the mayor, and a white and grey poncho and beautiful handmade mug from Graciella on behalf of the entire team at the PEM office.  I felt extremely spoiled to be receiving such wonderful gifts from so many distinguished people.

Tomorrow I have several activities- mate in the morning with some local English students at the apartment (which is finally clean), a meeting with Adrian and his boy scouts in the afternoon, and a visit to a penia (dinner) the boy scouts are hosting to fundraise for their activities and trips.

I have had a wonderful time in Argentina, and I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people here in Malargue.  Today reminded me of how lucky I really am to have had this opportunity- on campus, I am just an ordinary student, and my experience here has been extraordinary.  Thank you to everyone I have met and worked with here- it has been the experience of a lifetime, and I truly hope I have the chance to return to Malargue again someday.

Yesterday afternoon I went to visit the English school at the university satellite campus in Malargue.  I had brought some engineering and Shakespeare books donated by Michigan Tech, so my first stop was a brief visit to the library at the university center to formally present the book on behalf of the Pavlis Institute.  I was glad that the library appreciated the books, and particularly glad to get them out of my backpack, because they were rather heavy.

After dropping off the books, I joined an intermediate level English class to give a short presentation about foods from the different parts of the United States and about popular games and sports in the United States.  After my presentation, I was treated to two presentations the students had prepared for me- one about traditional mud ovens and how they are made and used, and one about traditional weaving and weaving materials from the area.

When the students were done with their presentations we had a snack together.  I brought in chocolate chip cookies (OK, on GIANT chocolate chip pan cookie) and peanutbutter for the students to taste, and the language school had prepared hot chocolate, churros, and tortitas for me to taste.  The foods were very delicious (“muy rico” en Espanol) and the students liked the chocolate chip cookies but were surprised that peanutbutter is so salty compared to the traditional dulce de leche spread people use here.

Shortly later in the evening, I gave a presentation at the convention center (in Spanish!) about Michigan Tech and a  full-ride scholarship offered to local students from Malargue for the University.  The event ran a little long as there were several different speakers, including a Skype call with a student from Malargue currently attending Michigan Tech, but it was well worth it, and many students asked me questions and thanked me for the presentation afterwards (including some I had seen an hour before at the language school).  I sincerely hope to see some of the students from Malargue at Michigan Tech in the future, and I hope that if they win the scholarship they look me up when they arrive!

Today Adrian, Susana, and I went back to Bardas Blancas for the inaugural ceremony for the water purification system we built there.  We planned to arrive a little early, and with our spare time we reinforced the structure for the roof for the system.

Next, we went to the ceremony.  There was an official plaque commemorating the project placed at the school, and Susana, the mayor, and I each gave a short speech.  Susana and I had also prepared a PowerPoint presentation, which we played.  After the presentation, we formally presented an instructor from the school with the projector.  The projector was a generous donation from Michigan Tech as as the boarding school did not previously have a projector to use.

After the ceremony, Susana and I gave a mini-tour of the water purification system, how to use it, and showed off the repair work we accomplished on the well.  Everyone was very supportive, and pleased to see that the water, after being treated, did not smell like sulfur anymore.

When we had completed guiding the mini-tour of the water purifier, we enjoyed a delicious celebratory asado, or outdoor barbeque, that Kico organized.  The food was very good, and I finally got to taste “chivo” (goat).  I gave it a try, but the meat was a little too tough for my tastes.  During the asado, we also presented the students who were at the boarding school with the Pavlis Institute Yoyo’s I brought with me for them.  The students were very pleased- and so were the adults as well.  Even the mayor gave the Yoyo’s a try- who would have thought we would have had so much fun with Yoyo’s?

After our visit to Bardas Blancas, Susana, Adrian, and I took a quick detour to take pictures at another project site- the village of El Manzano.  During the ceremony, I had the opportunity to talk with the chief of the village, and she said she would be very interested in working with a future group of Pavlis students to complete a similar project in her village.

Then we had a long drive back to Malargue from El Manzano, which was close to two hours long.  Once I had cleared my head of a little motion sickness from the winding mountain road, I went out in search of supplies to make fudge to share with the students at the English school tomorrow evening as part of a lesson I am teaching about foods and games from the United States.  I could find all of the ingredients but one- marshmallows.  No one in town seemed to have marshmallows for sale, and some people didn’t even know what they were.  After a quick brainstorm, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies for the students instead, and I am going to bring the remainder of my coveted, 10oz. container of Honey Roasted Skippy Peanutbutter for them to sample as well.  Being the lazy person that I am, I opted to make one GIANT cookie instead of baking 2 or 3 pans full.  I’m really excited, and I sure hope the students like it!

This morning I met Susana for an exciting shopping trip- we bought some shiny metal supports to use to make the roof for the water purification system stronger when we return to Bardas Blancas on Wednesday, as well as some special screws to use with the metal and some blank CDs to distribute copies of a presentation and photos of the project.

After my morning with her, I returned to the apartment to find the internet fixed after the snow storm we received late last Friday.  I was very excited to be able to do work again, and started to translate a speech to to with the presentation of the Bardas Blancas project (right after I answered my emails).

This evening, I went to the PEM office and asked Graciella and her assistants about projects future groups of Pavlis students can complete in Malargue and the surrounding areas.  I am excited about some of the projects we talked about, and at least two of them will be very feasible for future groups to undertake.  While I was visiting the PEM office, I met Stella, Dario’s wife (in the picture above), who offered me tortitas con chicharrones, which are a type of fry bread with cooked meat in the dough.  Stella works at a local radio station, and speaks some English, and she asked me about some of the other foods I have tried here.  When she found out I had not yet tried dulce de batata (sweet potato jam), she left and returned with some of the jam, Swiss cheese, and homemade bread.  The photo above is of the traditional dessert Malarguinos make with the bread, cheese, and jam called Vigilante.  The jam was very good- smooth and not too sweet, and I was surprised to see that it came in a brick and that it could be cut with a knife.

The last picture is of the planetarium during said snow storm last weekend.  The picture was taken by Andres, who works with Graciella at the PEM office, and I think the colors in the picture are beautiful.  Even if the snow in the picture was responsible for my lack of internet the last few days, seeing how pretty the town is after freshly fallen snow was worth it.

This past weekend the three of us who worked on the Bardas Blancas project took a few days of rest.  Personally, I was very grateful for the chance to take as many warm showers as I wanted, and I worked on some presentations for this week- one about the completion of the Bardas Blancas project, and one about Michigan Tech and a scholarship local students here can apply for.

Yesterday morning I awoke to find that the internet in my apartment was not working, and as I was tired of staying inside I went for a walk around town.  First, I went to the supermarket and bought some sandwich fixings and candy to take back to the United States with me.  Next, I walked to Susana´s apartment to return a coat I had borrowed from her the night before.  Afterwards, I walked to the museum and was lucky enough to have just enough time to look at the exhibits and the shop of locally made crafts there before they closed for the day.  I was very excited to make my one big selfish purchase of the trip- a hand woven purse to use when I return to the United States.

On my way back to my apartment I stopped to take a picture of a snow man on the main street, and met Pedro, one of the employees at the ski rental shop the snow man was in front of.  He told me he plans to visit Colarado, and while he did not know much English, I enjoyed talking with him and I am sure he knows more English than I know Spanish.

While walking back, I also saw Adrian and Dario driving.  They both waived at me, and it reminded me of home, as I am from the small town of Caledonia, MI where everyone similarly knows each other.

Yesterday (Friday) we started work on the project at about 9:15am.  First, we emptied the system of the water we had left in it over night, and then we proceeded to repair the few leaks we had in the system.  While the water was draining, several local men also helped us to bury the majority of the insulated pipes for the system as an additional measure to prevent freezing.

After we had repaired the leaks in the system, we finished insulating the system by insulating the pipes near the barrels and shower heads.  Next, we built a metal skeleton to support the roof over the system, and fastened heavy black plastic over the structure to prevent things from blowing or falling into the barrels.  We also added a few supports to the section of pipe from the well to our pump to help minimize the pressure on the joints in this section.

At Kico’s suggestion, we added a gate device which can be inserted into one of the pipes out of the pump to raise the water level in the well to an appropriate height to use our pump as a finishing touch.  After lowering the gate device to raise the water level, we once again filled our system with water, but this time we treated the water in our barrels with chlorine.  We packed up our tools and remaining supplies, and finished our work for the day at about 1:30pm.

Before leaving to drive back to the town of Malargue, we took samples of the treated water to send in to be tested.  The drive back was slow going as the winding dirt road was very icy, and we had two close calls in the snow- once when we got stuck, and another time when the truck we were riding in slid off the road and into the ditch.

We arrived back in Malargue at about 5:30pm, and stopped by the PEM office to visit Graciela and to thank all of the employees for their help and support with the project.

When we woke up Thursday morning, we looked outside and our hearts immediately fell.  The weather was extremely cold, windy, and rainy.  We delayed starting to work on our project for about an hour.  At that point Kico came to visit, and warned us that the weather would most likely get worse throughout the course of the day, so we should go out and try to accomplish as much as we could while the weather remained workable.  We reluctantly walked to the project site at about 10:30am, and luckily by the time we got there the rain had stopped (although the wind remained).

We started to work on connecting the piping, and we set up the barrels with the shower heads and supports.  We also mounted the pump on it’s cement slab, and connected pipes to it.  After we had the pump oriented correctly, Adrian worked to place a protective box he had made over the pump to protect.  The box for the pump can  be locked to prevent people from tampering with the pump. 

After we connected all of the piping, we filled the barrels with water and to see if there were any leaks in our system before we insulated it fully.  There were a few small leaks, but nothing major.

When we finished working for the evening (At about 6pm) we had all of the piping connected and a good portion of the system insulated.  Thursday evening we joined Kico once again in his home, and he treated us to homemade empanadas (which are rapidly becoming my new favorite food).

First of all, here is a slightly belated picture of Oscar, who helped us to buy supplies for our project last Friday.  I am sorry to say I did not have a good picture of him at the time to post, but I have one now, and he certainly deserves recognition for his hard work and dedication to the project.

Wednesday I woke up early and took a taxi to Adrian’s house, where I met him and Susana.  We packed two trucks to go Bardas Blancas- a dump truck with all of our building materials, and a pickup truck for our personal belongings and tools.  The dump truck left a few minutes before we did, and the three of us traveled in the pickup truck.

When we arrived at Bardas Blancas a little over an hour later, we were surprised to see that the truck with our building materials had not arrived yet in spite of it leaving before we did.  About a half an hour later the dump truck showed up- the driver had to drive slowly as the road was very windy, and had to stop once to make sure none of the things we were bringing blew away.

With the help of some local people, we unloaded our supplies, and started working at about 11am.  First, the men started cleaning out the well so that it could be prepared.  While they were working on that, Susana and I made measurements and marked where the base for our purification system should be.  When the men finished cleaning the well I was amazed- the water was clear and the well looked completely different.  Next, we repaired the holes in the well with cement, and laid a brick foundation for the tanks for our system to sit on.  While this was going on, Adrian and Kico (one of the men who was helping us- he is the one wearing the bright orange suit) laid a cement foundation to set the pump for our system on.

We worked until about 6pm, and after we finished for the day, we visited Kico in his home for some warm Mate and homemade bread.  Kico was a very gracious host, and showed us some hand crafts he makes- casts of local fossils he sells to tourists, and some postcards he had printed of local photos.  He was very hospitable, and made sure that before we left the three of us each had a postcard of the city and that Susana and I each had one of his fossil casts.

Later that evening, Susana, Adrian, and I were invited to the Bardas Blancas school to give an informal presentation on Michigan Tech, a full ride Michigan Tech scholarship available to students in the area here, the Pavlis institute, and our water purification project.  While we were waiting to set up, Adrian and I played ping-pong with some of the students.  After Susana helped me to speak to the students, several of them asked questions about our project and about Michigan Tech.

We spent that night at Juan Carlos’s home, as the original accommodations we had arranged at the school were not available due to the delays we had with our project.  Juan Carlos had to travel to Malargue Wednesday evening, but Kico came over and the four of us watched a movie together before going to bed for the evening.

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