I’ve been feeling a little foggy, a little lost in thought. Just as I feel as though I am getting into my groove here – truly feeling content with how I’m living, where I’m living, my friends, my host mom, and my over all day to day life – I also feel as though the count down until I return to the states has started. It sounds cliché, and most likely every study abroad student has felt this way, but I’m most definitely finding myself torn between wanting to stay here forever, and wanting to go home. For some reason the idea of leaving has hit home this week and I find I can’t even think about or discuss leaving my friends here with out choking up a bit. Coinciding with my increasingly normal bipolar behavior, these last two weeks have introduced some pretty heavy topics.
I started my internship last week working at Fundación Huesped. I work in a small office with four other ladies where they aid in legal advice and resources for those living in Argentina with HIV/AIDS – normally in Buenos Aires or the provinces. When these people call in, write, or visit, a form is filled out and comments are taken about their situation. My job is to take these documents from years and years of calls and plug them into the computer for data. The people I work with are incredibly nice, and we spent most of my first day sitting around drinking maté, eating medialunas, and talking – but I still left that day feeling a little cloudy. I never expected to be so up-close and personal with HIV/AIDS in Argentina. I got caught up in reading their documents, their dilemmas, and their data. As interesting as it was, it was almost a little too much for my first day. On the bus ride home I couldn’t help but feel as though all my tiny problems since I’ve been here, or in life in general, are so miniscule in comparison to some of the things people are dealing with on a daily basis. At the same moment, I couldn’t help but look around at the people on the bus and wonder if maybe one of their names was filed away in my NGO’s book of documents. Maybe an aunt, a best friend, or a sibling. Who am I to sit and judge – which, confession: favorite thing to do in public places and on public transportation – when they could be going home to something much bigger than anything I may ever face in my lifetime. I can’t seem to shake these thoughts any time I leave my apartment now, which is okay, maybe it’s something one should always have in mind, but I need to figure out how to enjoy my internship without taking the issues and the work home with me.
On another note: Last week the human rights concentration group visited ESMA (Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada). Being in my typical Argentine state of confusion, I was late to class the day they explained the trip, and I was late to the actual fieldtrip, so I assumed we were going to visit a museum. Per usual, I was completely wrong.
Quick history lesson: ESMA is where the Navy Mechanics School was located, then changed over to the Ministry of Marines in 1924. During the military dictatorship (also frequently referred to as the Dirty War. Fun fact: this is only a term used by other countries. In Argentina this period is termed Estado de Terrorismo, or Terrorist State) from 1976-1983 it was used as a clandestine detention center. During this time, activists, students, lawyers, their friends and families, or anyone who might pose a threat physically or intellectually against the military dictatorship, were kidnapped, used for inside information, and most often killed – or “disappeared”. Hence the name: “desaparacidos”. Those who were kidnapped were brought to ESMA. Another fun fact: the Catholic church supported the military dictatorship and their operations, and most, if not all, within the church were aware of the kidnappings and torture being performed at ESMA.
On our tour we followed the path of those who were kidnapped in their time spent at ESMA. We walked through the basement where the torture chambers and medical center used to be located. We learned that many prisoners were given a sedative upon arrival, put into the militaries private planes, and dropped over the ocean while still conscious. We took a look at the bedrooms of officers and more privileged prisoners. And then we made our way to the third floor and attic, where many prisoners spent years sitting in wooden boxes with bags over their heads, with nothing more to eat than some tea, bread, and scrap food. These rooms were cleverly called “La Capucha” or “Capuchita” (the hood, or little hood), since every prisoner had a bag over their head at all times. Taking this tour was one of the creepiest yet most interesting things I’ve done since I’ve been in Buenos Aires. It’s safe to say I was in a haze for a couple days after visiting.
I don’t want every experience I have here to be filled with sunshine and laughter, I’m very grateful for these once in a lifetime experiences I’ve been having, but I’m also hoping that maybe the next coming weeks I’ll have a break from such heavy, thought-provoking topics.