When I read in Germany about the American Mosaic in the Dickinson homepage I was fascinated. I liked the thought of participating in field research and talking to real people about their life stories in order to record oral history, even though I did not know much about oral history. I had done some interviews already in Bremen, Germany for a research project in which I was particularly interested in multicultural studies and immigration.
When I heard about the Patagonia Project I was very interested. Not only do I love traveling but also the whole project sounded like a great opportunity and experience! I planned to stay during the Christmas break and had to make travel arrangements.
Looking forward to going to Argentina, I became aware of my situation as an exchange student from Germany, participating in a field research abroad in Argentina. Our group consisted of a bunch of interesting and diverse people with different cultural and multilingual backgrounds. I felt like an experienced traveler but excited to go for the first time to the other side of the world, changing from winter to summer.
Arriving in windy Comodoro Rivadavia we were welcomed by a line of cheek-kissing, friendly Argentines. My guest parents had prepared a late midnight-dinner for me. My guest father, Albert Mueller, spoke Spanish and German. He was born in Argentina to German immigrants. He is the president of the German Association of Comodoro Rivadavia. His wife, Naomi Mueller, spoke Spanish, Italian and a little bit of English. Because I did not want to be impolite I spoke my broken Spanish in order not to exclude one of my parents from the conservation. In the beginning my Spanish was especially poor but after a few days I was at least able to produce some kind of sentences. Speaking in three languages -German, English, and Spanish-, I became confused and often spoke to the wrong person in the wrong language. “That sounded really nice, Kirsten! But I have no clue what you were talking about – was this German?” I learned to communicate with hand and facial expressions. But even though I often did not understand what they were talking about, people seemed to like me. Calling me “Kris,” Ernesto Allende of the Barrio San Martín showed me proudly his mother’s little garden. I filmed his mother’s collection of elephants and tried the redcurrant he offered me.
Returning to Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, it took a while to process the overwhelming experiences we had in Patagonia. For sure it was a unique experience! It was wonderful to meet so many fascinating people and to see sides of Patagonia a normal tourist would never see.
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