During Fall 2015, Sarah interned in Argentina with Child Family Health International (CFHI): Primary Care and Social Medicine where she quickly learned that her daily routine is far different from her usual routine in the United States.
After a few weeks in Argentina, I can now say that I am finally acclimated and now I have my daily routine. I wake up and get ready to go to the hospital, I usually drink some coffee or water with a croissant (medialuna) or another sweet bread. It is customary in Argentina to have a light breakfast, much different than what I am use to in the United States. Typically I eat a heavy protein filled meal that may include eggs, bacon and toast. The first couple of days I was worried that I would be hungry after such a small meal and I was, but eventually I got accustomed to eating a light meal and no longer craved a heavy meal in the morning.
I then walk 5 minutes to catch the bus which, luckily I can take five different buses that all go to the hospital so I usually catch a bus within a few minutes of arriving at the bus station. When I first arrived in Argentina, one of the things I was most anxious about was if I was going to be able to figure out the transportation system. I was worried I would get lost and not understand the bus system, but it is extremely organized. People stand in lines at the bus stops waiting for their bus and if their bus arrives then they step forward from the line and get on the bus. Everyone enters from the front of the bus and exits from the back. Buses are on time and if they are too full then they won’t stop at the bus stop. People are really polite and if there is an older person or a mother with a young child most people in the front seats will move, as those individuals have priority.
When I arrive at the hospital I check in and then go to the department I will be in for the day. In every department I have been in, all of the doctors start their day by drinking coffee or mate (a tea) while eating bread. This is the part of the day where they talk to each other about work or just to see how each other is doing and what they did over the weekend. I really like this cultural aspect because it is important to get to know your coworkers and to start off your day on the right note. I think it helps the doctors work well as a team because they know each other. Once they are done with breakfast they start bringing patients in. Typically I observe one doctor the entire day and I ask them questions and observe how they interact with the patients. I also get to see what diagnosis methods they use as well as what they recommend for treatments.
I get done around 1 pm and I go to lunch with other students I have met who are also volunteering at the hospital. I have met students from Holland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the U.S. which is great because I enjoy going to lunch with different people each day where I learn a lot about them. I learn about why they decided to come to Argentina and what goals they have for the future. It is also a time where we talk about places we have traveled in Argentina and give each other suggestions on what excursion to do or places to see. For lunch, I pick something that looks or sounds appealing on the menu of a restaurant I have chosen to go to. Lunch is a much heavier meal than breakfast and usually consists of meat, pasta or bread. I’ve had empanadas, smoothies, steak, potatoes, cake, and pizza just to name a few meals.
After lunch, I go home usually around 3 or 4 pm. I take a nap for a couple of hours. It is common to take a nap (siesta) every day. At first I didn’t take a nap, but after a long day in the hospital I started to need it! I have gotten used to taking naps every day and it has really helped me get through my days. After I nap, I talk to my host family for a little bit and then I go explore the city. I walk around and see the various buildings because the architecture here is absolutely beautiful. I sometimes go to museums or go to events that the city is holding. The newspaper that comes out on Sunday (El Diario) has a cultural section in which it has events for the upcoming week. I pick a few events to go to and plan out my week based on that.
One event that I really enjoyed was a free concert in Nueva Cordoba (neighborhood where many college students live). The concert was an Homage to Gustovo Certai, a famous Argentinean rock star that was in the band, Soda Stereo. There were people of all ages at the concert and you see how people admire him. There were people singing along, dancing and cheering when they would hear a song he use to play or sing. It was a good experience for me because I got to see how Argentinians are proud of their musicians and music is an important aspect of their culture.
After exploring the city I go back home and I hang out with my host family and help them set up for dinner. Dinner in Argentina is between 9 pm-12 am. This took me a while to get use to because back home I usually eat around 7 pm and I am sleeping by 11 pm. Between 5-7 pm my host family has a snack (merienda) that can be bread, cheese, salami or bread and jam. The snacks help because you are not hungry in the evening and by the time dinner time rolls around, you are hungry again. For dinner we have had pasta and bread, baked chicken, tilapia and rice, and my favorite, asado. An asado is an Argentinean BBQ that includes ribs, sausage, liver and other meat. One week I had three asados, which makes it easy to say that I love meat! Like back home in the U.S., dinner is time to talk about your day and spend time as a family together. I really like this meal time because I get to know my host family better and really get to experience how the family dynamics are in Argentina. I love how family is important here and even if parents go out to eat, they always take their kids.
Overall each day brings a new experience and I am really enjoying my time here in Argentina.