Reviews from Past Volunteers

Reviews from Past Volunteers (225)

Rose Garden in Palermo

Where the Grass is Greener: Parks and Gardens of Palermo

Though my decision to embark on this journey to Argentina involved little hesitation, the months leading up to my trip were certainly not without worry.  My impending life abroad caused for an endless list of questions.  How well would I cope with the major lifestyle changes that lay ahead— the language barrier, the homesickness, the daunting distance standing between me and any half-decent Mexican food?  I suddenly found myself scrambling to take in, and in some forms, utilize the many aspects of California life I had long-taken for granted: its beautiful beaches, winding canyons, the overwhelming accessibility to all things organic.  And while I knew I’d survive a few months without free-range chicken and pressed juice,  I was sure I’d miss the scenery. Aside from one very unfortunate, fruitless quest for hot sauce, Buenos Aires has been graciously accommodating. The lush green parks and gardens scattering the city seem to taunt my preconceived notions of living in this big city.  Unlike California, the concept of a drought remains intangible, and trips to the park never require a trip to the gas station. It’s now been two months since my arrival, and I can confidently say that the tables have turned. Need proof?  Here are three breathtaking parks and gardens of Palermo that will never fail to please.

EL ROSEDAL (The Rose Garden) Avenida Infanta Isabel & Iraola

El Rosedal lies at the heart of the expansive Parque Tres de Febrero, otherwise known as the Bosques de Palermo (Palermo Woods).  The park is home to over 1,000 species of roses, lining its many winding walkways leading a diversity of guests towards numerous gazebos, picturesque bridges, and a charming lake equipped with paddle boats and gaggles of geese.  If you’re into literature, make sure to check out the Poets’ Garden— one of the park’s main attractions, due to its large collection of statues depicting various renowned writers from around the world.

JARDÍN JAPONÉS (Japanese Garden) Av. Casares 2966

The Japanese garden has become a symbol of intercultural relations in Buenos Aires.  It’s one of the largest of its type outside Japan.  Apart from overall beauty and serenity found inside its gates, the garden also offers a number of attractions, including a large cultural center housing various exhibits and artisanal classes, a greenhouse containing an endless array of bonsai trees, flowers and plants for purchase, a traditional Japanese teahouse, gift shop, and much more.  You can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant, or even feed the brightly colored carps inhabiting the lake. With its long list of activities and masterful landscaping, the Jardín Japonés can be found enjoyable to all.

JARDÍN BOTÁNICO (Botanical Garden) Av. Santa Fe 3951

This has easily become my favorite Buenos Aires hideaway.  The 17 acre haven holds approximately 5,500 species of plants, trees and shrubs, as well as a number of sculptures, monuments and greenhouses. If that doesn’t impress you, the garden serves as a great place to escape the heat with its plentiful shade and refreshing scent of nature, all the while blocking out the bustling city sounds which encompass it.  Whether you’re looking for a romantic outing with a significant other, or merely a quiet place to read and reflect, you’ll be sure to enjoy the visit.

Volunteer in the kindergarten

The Power of Music as Universal Language

The intricate soundscapes of Buenos Aires are nearly impossible to ignore.  Take a walk down the street, or merely crack open a window at any given time or day, and you’ll be sure to hear the city’s song: a unique blend of birds chirping, cars honking, followed by the occasional profanity or echoes of a rowdy celebration in the distance. 

For the less observant, it’s not uncommon to come across the more literal form of music as well.  Your cab driver cranks up his favorite Beatles’ classic on your way to a local bar, where you’re fortunate enough to witness a couple brave gringas belt out their versions of Shakira.  Music has become a binding bridge here in Argentina, as it has throughout the rest of the world.  I came face-to-face with this notion shortly after my arrival in Buenos Aires—turns out, scoring concert tickets to the Stones’ may prove virtually impossible in both hemispheres.  While this realization begged itself more bitterly than sweet, my recent trip to one of Voluntario Global’s kindergartens in Barracas quickly restored my faith in the power of music as a universal language.

On the bus ride over, our Parisian volunteer, Elise, shared some of her experience working with the four-year-old students in Barracas: “They ask me why I talk funny,” she said smiling bashfully.  Despite the aforementioned language barrier, she’s instantly greeted by a swarm of giddy beaming children, each one fighting for their chance at a hug.  I later watch in awe as Elise and the teacher somehow manage to help nearly twenty rowdy students transcend chaos into chorus.  The class greets each other with their routine welcome song, “El Mono,” followed by a quick rehearsal for their end-of-year show—ironically enough, singing the Spanish rendition of Frozen’s “Let It Go.”  By the looks of it, both Elise and her students allowed the gift of song to supersede whatever premonitions might have stood in the way of integration.

However anecdotal this account of my trip to Barracas may have already seemed, I’ll humbly offer the following advice to any prospective volunteers, whom, at some point, may find themselves disillusioned by the cultural differences in their path, be it language barriers or sold out concerts: before you turn back in defeat, take a walk around the block with open ears, an open mind, and merely listen for your familiar song.

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Voluntario Global helps local communities by being available to discuss anything that local organizations need, and offering ideas for further change and development.


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