España #3

Pues…hace mucho tiempo desde el último “update.”  And it has been a crazy month and a half.  I haven’t updated because I always want to give thorough updates.  So here we go…lots to tell you.


As I alluded to in my last updated, I did go to León, Spain, to visit a good friend of mine and to see the city.  I really enjoyed it as it was a very relaxing weekend.  I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful cathedral and just walking around the city.  It was the perfect getaway!El león en León

I also took a day trip to Avila, Spain, which was a lot of fun.  I went with three of my friends from the University.  It also was relaxing.  We had a good Spanish-style lunch, saw the Avila wall, and the cathedral.  It is the smallest city in Spain I’ve visited, which gave me a different feel for Spain’s culture.

Avila’s Wall

Finally, just three weekends ago, I traveled to Lyon, France.  We then took a train and bus to Taizé, France, where I had the amazing opportunity to go on a Taizé retreat.  At that point, I was so overwhelmed- especially with school.  A relaxing weekend (are you catching the theme here haha) was exactly what I needed and exactly what I got.  I was able to clear my head and, thus, think more effectively.  As well, I was able to enjoy the beautiful nature trails on the Taizé grounds

.Taizé Retreat

My traveling is not finished either.  This coming weekend, I will be going to the south of Spain.  I’ll be sure to update you after.

Madrid life:

Life in Madrid is great.

I’ve been very busy with school.  I’m finally caught up with all of my school work…which I got majorly behind on because of having to return to the States.  So it is a nice feeling to be more caught up.  But unfortunately because I’ve been working so hard to get caught up, I haven’t worked much on many of my big end-of-the-semester research papers, projects, etc.  So I have to work extra hard to keep from falling behind again and missing deadlines!

I’ve been having a lot of fun too though.  Madrid is such a great city…I still have so much to do in these next three weeks before leaving.  But here’s what I’ve been up to since the last update- going: to tapas bars, for chocolate con churros, to bars/clubs, to malls, to El Rastro (the huge flea market in Madrid), ice skating, to plays (my school performed Rumors, which was hilarious!), to Retiro Park, etc.

Thanksgiving Abroad:

Additionally, I think I should mention a bit about my unique Thanksgiving experience.  I was fortunate enough to have my brother, Eric, and his friends, Jacob and Daniel, over here from last Sunday until yesterday.  I had fun showing them around Madrid and spending time with them.  Thanksgiving Day here was quite interesting.  First of all, this was my first Thanksgiving of not being off school…I had classes.  But my University made up for it by having a Thanksgiving lunch buffet with turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, cranberry sauce, etc.  It was super delicious and special to share it with family and friends.  But I think the funny thing is what we did for Thanksgiving dinner- we went to an all-you-can-eat Japonese restaurant.  hahaha  It was good, but I think I would have thought you were crazy if you had told me I’d be eating Japonese cuisine on Thanksgiving- it is hard to imagine any Thanksgiving meal without the American standards.  Eric, Jacob, and Daniel had a really great time in Madrid and really enjoyed the city.  I think they’ll be interested in studying abroad in college themselves.

Thanksgiving abroad with my brother, Eric!


As I mentioned before, next weekend marks my trip to the south of Spain.  Today, I’ll be working “muy duro” (very hard) on homework- an international finance project and my SPAN 416 international financial terminology dictionary.  This week I’ll be continuing with that Spanish project as well as tackling my two honors research papers…yikes!  The following week, I’ll continue working on the essays and study hard for exams.  My first exam is International Finance, which is on the 12th.  Then I have a little gap, where I’ll go visit some of the art museums-like El Prado-and see things in Madrid that are still on my To Do List.  Then on the 18th, I will have my International Business and Español para negocios exams.  And the morning thereafter, I’ll be on the airplane home to the States.  I can’t even believe how quickly things have gone…and how much quicker they’ll go!

I’m going to miss Spain so much, but I am excited to see my family and friends back home.  I know that it is important for me to be at home with my family at this time in life.  So as to be home more often if need be, I have scheduled all of my classes next semester for Monday and Wednesday.  Here’s my schedule:

MW 9:30-10:45 FIN 433-01 Preece
MW 11:00-12:15 CIS 300-03 Thatcher
MW 16:00-17:15 SPAN 524-01 Wagner
M 17:30-20:15 COMM 111-75 Barr
W 17:30-20:15 MGMT 301-77 Myers

Well take care, and I’ll look forward to updating you soon.  Also, I promise that I’ll be updating some more upon my return to the US.  I feel I can better highlight the culture shock and reverse culture shock of studying abroad.

¡Nos vemos!


A little SLICE of home & my super-culturally-involved roommate

This place is just 3 blocks in my house, and there are at least 2 others in town.  As I said in my previous post, in Buenos Aires, they KNOW what color Kentucky is – and that’s red -  apparently since 1942.dsc016071.JPGdsc01605.JPG


Also from my previous post, my roommate organized some local (as in Buenos Aires) independent filmmakers to show independent films about Bolivia on our roof!!  One was about the violence and crisis in Sucre this past Spring (our Spring, their Fall), the culture of the chola woman, and the best one Yerba Mala Cartonera, a film about independent book makers who print and publish their own books and bind them at regular fairs and comment on literature and access in developing countries.


¡Promocioné! At least in one class so far….

One down…two to go.  I completed International Economics yesterday with a high enough grade to skip out on the final; it’s called being promoted.  Prof Soltz – he goes by Hernán to his students – told me he had some doubts about me at the start but my level of Spanish saved me and surprised him – and that I helped soften his bias against international students taking his course since no others have ever finished.  Why he didn’t warn me from the start, I don’t understand.  (To be fair, most of his international students have been German, while I had the benefit of being able to obtain some of the original articles in English.)  I still have Economic Growth and Economic Development to go.

I am so happy and proud to have passed one “materia” so far!  I really am proud; this has been such a challenging experience personally and academically.  I worked so freaking hard.  This sounds ridiculous to my friends who know me as a very good student….but for me it has just-been-a-victory-to-survive in this university!  I am the only visiting American student here at UBA’s College of Economics, and there are 50 international students – mostly Colombian, German, French, and Austrian – out of 40,000 students in just the public College of Economic Sciences.  I feel proud to represent and contradict over and over some biases my fellow students have about Americans.  Only a couple or three weeks ago, I received the results of our midterms.  I survived my 3 midterms without needing a recuperatorio.  You can retake and makeup one exam here, which sounds great, until you realize that because of that, it is not too difficult to fail with 3 questions, open response, 2 hours.  In all of my classes, I was the only, that is ONLY international student, non-native speaker to not FAIL my exams (Um, culture alert: they read your test grades OUT LOUD.), except for one other in Desarrollo who barely passed with the lowest possible score.  What I mean is we get no hand-holding for not speaking Spanish as a first language.  Actually, at such a huge public university, Argentine students get no hand-holding either. This is the big difference between the public and private universities here.  While the atmosphere breeds responsibility; still, the serious lack of student development programs and academic support also has its definite negatives.  All the students who come here have to be independent and mature, do their work, or face failing; I would say at least 1/3 of the native Argentine students in my course, or more, failed their midterms. 

I am skipping family Christmas, and so I look forward to finally getting to travel after exams until next semester begins because I haven’t gotten to do that yet much.  I have gotten to know – a little too well – Harrod and Domar and Ramsey and Romer and Stiglitz and Krugman and Shell and Dosi and Solow because I directly enrolled at an Argentina university, instead of opting for a regular program which do factor in the importance of outside excursions.  But that’s the exciting thing about study abroad – is that you can opt to study in places you have only dreamed of visiting and in a program that meets YOU where you are as a student and as a person.  Because I live on my own with a group of gals from Chile and Argentina and Mexico and France and not with Argentina “parents,” last weekend, I connected into the local cultural scene (which is amazing) when some guys estrenaron in Buenos Aires independent Bolivian documentaries on our rooftop terrace to an audience of 50, while earlier in the evening I made homemade ceviche from scratch with my Peruvian friend and her daughter last weekend.  I don’t have much free time, but I take time for culture, just mostly I’m studying economics. 

I leave you with some photos of the documentary event 3 blocks from my house…note that Pizza Kentucky knows what color Kentucky is about – that’s RED!  ¡Besitos argentinos!


If you come to Germany, you need to definately visit Berlin.  Berlin is amazing.  There is so much history in this city.  The Berlin Wall, German Parliament, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust Memorial, DDR Museum were just some of the exciting things we were able to see. 

Throughout the whole city there is a brick line inidicating where the Wall used to be and you can walk the whole wall if you wanted.  Walking the Wall will lead to Checkpoint Charlie which is a point along the Wall where certain people were able to cross form East Germany into West Germany. 

The Holocaust Memorial is a very moving and if you have time there is a sort of musuem under the memorial that cronicals the life of some Jewish families during the Holocaust.  And not too far away from the Holocaust Memorial is the place where Hitler burned all the literature that could threaten his rule.  You can actually look down into the old library and see all the empty shelves. 

The last place we visited was the DDR Musuem.  When you walk in you are in the old East Germany.  The musuem has replicas of an apartment, the clothes and fashions, the car the everybody drove, and the toys and cartoons of East Germany.  It was very interesting to see the how different two parts of the same city were.

So once again, if you come to Germany definately make of stopping in Berlin.  Just walking through the city, you can feel the amazing history that took place there.

Looking for trouble–Monday, one day before Election Day

Walking back to the hotel from AP headquarters after dark, you see the Empire State Building looming over 34th Street, its peak bathed in red, white and blue lighting. It’s a dramatic shift from the orange and white color scheme projected just days ago for Halloween. Quite a sight on election eve. We spent the day reviewing reports, studying poll data, scanning breaking news from hundreds of hometown papers, and testing the multitude of vote tabulation screens available to us on election night.

Since the Associated Press is the only organization to tally the entire national vote on election night–as well as every individual contested race in every state–there’s a huge challenge in not screwing things up tomorrow.

So our job as QC analysts is to look for trouble on election night. We look for numbers that have been reported by thousands of stringers, clerks and election professionals that look questionable, scary or just plain bad, and initiate investigation of them.

What’s a bad number? A high vote total for Obama in a county that skews high in GOP registration. A vote total too high for the number of precincts the report represents. Any large vote for a third party candidate not in his or her home county. A race that shows nearly identical totals for two candidates in race where one was clearly favored by polls and other data–although it’s possible early in the evening, when only a few precincts are counted, that candidates who will ultimately win can trail badly.

Each state is assigned a team of analysts who scan the vote totals as they are published and released to electronic and print media. Even before the votes are published, they are run through checks based on information gleaned from each county in the country–how many voters are registered, how many voted in the last three or four elections, how many voted absentee, how many voted GOP and how many voted Dem or third party. Parameters for each county in the nation are built into the software accepting the votes so anytime a vote report violates a historic trend or exceeds the possible specifications for the county, it’s held until it can be verified by the reporter calling it in or the county official releasing it.

The bottom line, no one person, or even a team of individuals, could cook vote totals without bells and whistles built into the system firing, or other individuals with personal or researched knowledge of the state raising question about accuracy. A bad total may make it onto your TV screen at home, but probably not for long. When that happens, a C flag is set for that state–the C meaning caution–which tells all the decision desk experts that there may be issues with the tabulation, and no calls should be made for that state until the C flag is removed, which only happens when the correct number(s) are confirmed.

Still, over the course of an evening, questionable votes can creep into the system, or trends can slowly emerge that challenge expectations. With record turnouts expected in virtually every state, traditional limits on vote totals have been expanded to accept more than 100% of previous totals, but the ceiling is not unlimited. So wherever possible, QC analysts are individuals with hometown-type knowledge of the states they’re assigned, or they have worked the state in previous elections.

Besides obama and mccain, candidates getting a lot of attention are the Mitches in KY and IN (senator and governor, respectively) and Al Franken. If either or both Mitches run badly in these two states (which are the first to close and post vote totals) it will indicate a long night for GOP loyalists. If both win, McCain still has a shot at winning. And a lot of folks would like to see Franken win just to hear his victory speech.