The View- Maggie Mahfood

It is hard to believe that in less than 48 hours we will be back in Texas. We have each had very unique experiences and been taught lessons that we will continue to learn from and reflect on for the rest of our lives. Before I left home someone said to me, “You are going to have an experience that many will only dream of.” This has been undeniably true. Last night we all gathered to have a final dinner together before we leave this place we have grown to love. We each took turns reflecting on the lessons we have learned and sharing memories with each other. It was so hard to specifically define the best moment of this incredible adventure, but after giving it some thought, I knew which experience had been the most impactful for me. Halfway through our trip, we left Florence to spend three days in Rome. On our second day we had the entire morning to ourselves. At this point in the trip, exhaustion was setting in, emotions were high, and morale was low at 6:30 in the morning. However, five of us managed to drag ourselves out of our blissfully air conditioned hotel room and trek to St. Peter’s in Vatican City

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Early morning breakfast before heading to St. Peter’s.

We were determined to be some of the first people in line to climb to the top of the cupola on St. Peter’s Basilica. The temptation to complain was high as we climbed 300 steps and had only made it halfway to the top. We completed our climb within a strenuous half hour. Upon stepping out of the stairwell, my breath was taken away and I felt tears of awe fill my eyes; the climb was more than worth it. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life, and pictures cannot do the view any justice.

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An attempt at capturing our view.

Regardless of a person’s religious affiliation or background, the sweeping magnitude of Vatican City is inspiring. It was at the very top of St. Peter’s that I remembered someone telling us that people never asked “How much?” or “How long?” when building the beautiful, historical places of worship that we have seen throughout Italy. The construction of the beautiful churches took resources that, at the time, were scarce and many, many years to complete. It was in that moment that I was amazed at man’s ability to pour out energy into something greater than himself. On top of St. Peter’s in Vatican City, I determined that I would never again ask “How much?” or “How long?” when it came to being a part of something bigger than myself, something special. That bigger thing is different for all of us. If I have learned anything on this trip, it is that people are to be loved and cared about, even when it’s not convenient. Life is to be lived to the fullest, even when we are exhausted. Joy is to be sought after every day and risks are to be taken. We can never hold back and never ask “How much?” or “How long?” when trying to make our world a more beautiful and loving place.

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Post climb | Full of joy

The Firenze Bell Tower- Steven Hullum

Yesterday I climbed Giotto’s Campanile, more commonly know as the Firenze Bell Tower, and I have to say that it was quite amazing. First, one is struck by the sheer height and perfection of the structure itself. It thrusts upwards seemingly out of no where, and if one stands at the bottom, it appears to extend all the way to space. This is the first awestruck moment I had during my experience at this amazing structure. The line was quite short to enter the Bell Tower, so that was a big bonus. When one enters the Bell Tower, it seems impossible to imagine that the building extends upwards for 255 feet. But once one starts climbing the stairs it becomes a reality. The way upwards is quite narrow, but there are several landings that allow one to examine the city and its people while one stretch one’s legs. On one floor, there was a large metal grate that one could look through and see every other floor below, so it was an interesting, yet slightly scary experience to lay on the grate and take a photo. Once you make it to the top, one finds them self in a covered area which is sometimes blisteringly hot because of the beating sun and poor ventilation, but once one steps out onto the roof line one is hit by one of the best breezes in human history. The marble work that rings the rooftop sucks the air through as it pushes up the side of the building, and I have to admit, it feels quite heavenly. After cooling off and ringing the sweat out of every article of clothing, one gets a chance to admire the city from the second tallest point in the city. People look small, the skyline is laid out before one, and the mountains can finally be seen properly in the distance. It is a truly breath taking, jaw dropping, experience. One can walk around the entire Bell Tower and see Firenze from all angles, and it is Flawless. It will certainly be one of the crowning moments on this wonderful trip abroad, not only because of the sheer beauty, but also because I had the ability to experience it with my close friends and fellow GATE students Rebekah Provines, Erin Hicks, Maggie Mahfood, and Diego Loya. The ability to admire and share experiences like that with people like them is something that I hope I never take for granted. I will always be able to cherish and remember that wonderful day in the city of Firenze with friends.


Steven Hullum

Pura Vida

So this is it. The classes have finally come to an end and our beautiful South American adventure is drawing to a close. Yesterday we finished the last round of persuasive speeches for which we were allowed to pick any policy claim as long as it dealt with culture in Argentina or Brazil. There were a range of topics, from “the bus systems in Argentina should be improved” to “Brazil’s favela tours should only be led by favela inhabitants”. There was dramatic improvement shown in the speeches even though this was only our second delivery. I couldn’t be more proud of my classmates, who delivered very professional and passionate speeches based on things that were important to them. For many, it was also a time of vulnerability, and I believe that the speeches knit us closer together as a group.

Today we finished both of our final exams, which took most of the day. Being in a celebratory mood, we went out this evening to see a mind-blowing performance by the acting/musical/acrobatic group known as “Fuerzabruta”. I can’t help but gush about them, so I should see if I can receive payments for contributing to their marketing campaign. We were packed like sardines in a tight space, which gave a lot of energy to the crowd.



The performers used a variety of mediums—lights, strobes, musical instruments, water, harnesses– to create a truly unique theatrical experience. It was such a great and energetic way to say goodbye to Argentina!

Blog-10Blog-9Blog- 11-Post by Laura Lee Hoyt



Today was a great day. It was bittersweet. We started off today by finishing out our last day of history lecture along with our last speeches for Dr. Eidenmuller, which just happened to be presented profoundly well today. Once finished with classes we departed to take care of separate things and came back together for dinner at El Cuartito Pizzeria.

El Cuartito

We gathered inside of this well decorated, famous pizza parlor that people like Anthony Bourdain have raved over. In fact, it is so well known that when we left the line was out the door and down the street. The welcoming CEA directors Veronica, Gabriella, and Blake along with all of the GATE 2014 students and directors Londa, Dr. Snider and Dr. Eidenmuller came together with other CEA students to dive into the handmade, cheesy, and more-than-delicious pizza.

Blake Hendrickson, sporting his GATE gifts

Blake Hendrickson, sporting his GATE gifts.

Our fearless CEA leader Veronica with Speech teacher Dr. Snider

Our fearless CEA leader Veronica with History teacher Dr. Snider.

From left to right, Gerardo, Lacy, and our favoritest GATE director Londa.

From left to right, Gerardo, Lacy, and our favoritest GATE director Londa.


Out of all the nights here, this was one of my favorites. Sitting by Dr. Snider was of course very interesting, but CEA director and professor Veronica didn’t miss a beat. She has taught me that learning a culture and different views does not come easily. While it can be stressful and a frightening new adventure, it’s one that is only as great and memorable as you are willing to make it. Different is not good or bad, it is just that, different. Embracing these differences, such as the food (especially all the grains and red meat), the closeness in relationships, and polychronic time schedules makes one realize what you are thankful for in your own self and own culture and what you aspire to change within your own personal life back at home. For example, I know many of us, because of this trip, appreciate one-on-one time with people a lot more than we even considered before. The direct eye contact and lack of fixation on personal technology in this culture has been refreshingly personal.

Being someone who had never traveled abroad before this trip (except for on cruises!) I honestly had no idea what to expect. We’ve all had a life where we’ve worked very hard to get what we have. Coming here I think has led us to see how growing up can be an adventure that is only as restrictive as you make it. Whether we can travel more or not after this trip, I believe we all feel blessed to have grown more independent on this trip through the support and integration of relationships alongside culture. I can state for a fact that we all feel blessed to have come together in this life-changing trip with amazing leaders to guide us along the way. I can never express to the administration and other GATE students how lucky and thankful I am, as we all are, to have had this opportunity with this group of amazing and inspiring people.

– Post by Meagan Fischer

Some of the gang, lookin' purty.

Some of the gang, lookin’ purty.

I am Nathan Herman. This is my story.


Visiting Argentina has been one of the best, if not the best, experiences of my life. This opportunity has allowed me to enjoy many incredible interactions and events that I never thought I would be able to witness. Even on a Wednesday as uneventful as today, I look back and realize how much fun I am having. The GATE class has been delivering persuasive speeches all week; each time a speech is presented I am able to learn more about the surrounding culture and about the students with whom I have spent the past five weeks. It was very interesting to hear my classmates’ well-prepared arguments. Especially Addie Moore’s. It da best.

This Girl Tho

Afterwards, our class was able to tour the Colon Theater. It was one of the most elegant creations I have seen on our trip. Its history proved just as rich and beautiful as its design. This was made apparent by our incredible tour guide, Sebastian.


Only one thing marred our tour of the beautiful theater. Imagine this — Lang Lang. Lang Lang is a world class pianist who just had to practice because he has a concert or whatever. I am not upset with Lang Lang because he decided to practice his art before his recital; that is very responsible of him. Nor am I upset with the fact that he chose to practice in the Colón Theater; I would have much enjoyed hearing Lang Lang work his finely tuned fingers across that elegant piano. Rather, I am upset with Lang Lang because he decided that our group was not worthy of his pianism. Imagine that you watch a movie for an hour and it builds up to the climax when you are about to find out that Bruce Willis is dead the whole time. Except you never find out that Bruce Willis is dead. That was how the tour of the Colón Theater ended. We never had the opportunity to actually see the inside of the theater. We never found out that Bruce Willis was dead. But it’s okay, I am over it as of now.


On to further disenchantments. Immediately after leaving the Colón Theater, I traveled to a shoe store I had seen a few weeks ago and purchased some shoes by the name of Mallorca. Upon googling them, just now, I am becoming fearful of the possibility that they may be a low quality shoe. This brings us to now, I sit in my hotel room typing this blog and looking forward to tomorrow, when I get to blow everyone away with my speech. Peace. Out. 

“It was the best of times…”

                “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Well, perhaps I am being a bit dramatic. But we have reached that point in the trip where people have a range of mixed feelings: homesickness yet unwillingness to leave, excitement for our last few adventures yet readiness to see family and friends back home.

                It has certainly been an adventure and it is hard to believe that it is winding down. Today was a slower day, what with the last round of speeches having begun and finals on the horizon. Today’s batch of speeches were superb, with topics including animal rights advocacy (courtesy of Angelie Reyes) and the need for free public internet access in Brazil (courtesy of Cecil Armstrong). My peers are a truly remarkable group of people whose altruism and engagement with the world encourage me every day.

                I’ve been musing a lot today about the things that I will miss from this trip, not the least of which will be said altruistic, engaging friends. I mean, just look at them!

How could you not love these people?

How could you not love these people?

People I Cherish

                I’ll miss the baker who smiles and waves to me as I walk to school every morning; I’ll miss walking as my main form of transportation.; I’ll miss dulce de leche spread on sticky medialunas for breakfast every morning; I’ll miss meeting world-travelers and locals in the markets and on the public transportation. This month has served to make the world a little bit smaller, friendlier, and interconnected for me.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen

or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

– Helen Keller


-Post by Laura Lee Hoyt

June 16

Monday was a very busy day. We started with history class at 10am and learned about the war in Vietnam, then went over the outlines for our persuasive speeches which we will be giving over the rest of the week. Afterward we had our Argentine Culture Workshop and learned about futbol and its importance. At 6pm, we all met downstairs and went to Pichincha to watch the America vs. Ghana game at a hostel and have dinner.

When we got there, we went all the way up to the roof. It was a very nice hostel with a large kitchen and a glass wall that opened up onto a patio with an outdoor grill. Two chefs made us a huge meal and let us help with part of it. We started with vegetable kabobs and then helped make cheese bread.

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The game started as we finished with the bread. The US scored within the first 2 minutes! As we watched the game, the chefs made us several different kinds of empanadas, a few of which were beef, chicken, and corn and cheese. More students and teachers arrived as the night went on. It was a very globally diverse group. A few students were visiting from England, and others came from different parts of Argentina. There was also another American student and one from France. By halftime, we had nearly 40 people gathered together watching the game.

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As the second half started, the chefs brought out salad, mini spinach pies, and chicken and onion kabobs. There was beef and sausage cooking outside that they brought in later along with bread for sandwiches.

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For dessert, the chefs made crepes filled with dulce de leche and put banana slices on top. After the game ended with US beating Ghana 2 to 1, we stayed for another couple of hours talking to the other students and then took taxis back to Aspen Suites. It was a fun-filled evening!



June 14th & 15th

This weekend we had some free time to continue to explore the city and integrate ourselves with the culture of Buenos Aires.

On Saturday we went to different markets around the city to interact with locals and enjoy the day out. Some of us went to La Boca in Caminito located at the South end of the city. This place is filled with artistic expressions on buildings, walls, and even trees.


With the World Cup in full swing we found that all restaurants and bars are crowded with soccer fans from many different countries. They get together, enjoy a nice meal, watch the game and celebrate. The neighborhood in Buenos Aires known to have the most popular hangouts is called Palermo. Some of us went there and experienced the latin passion for futbol. We also went back to a café run by a mother and her daughter in the first floor of their home. These ladies were very happy to see us come back and treated us with great joy.


Sunday we spent in different places again. A few took the train to visit the International Bible Church. They were very warmly welcomed by the congregation. .  IMG_5595 (3)

Several groups went separately into San Telmo to shop and hear the street bands playing. The streets were crowded with both tourists and locals, and there were hundreds of vendors selling their wares. One of the bands was especially comical to watch as the drum player was wearing a bear mask.

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There were many antiques in the market as well as lots of belts and leather items. We got a new sense of the Argentinian norm of having no personal space.

Sunday was a very important day in Argentina because the National team played its first match of the World Cup. Thousands gathered at Plaza San Martin to watch the match on a jumbotron. The people of Argentina are very passionate about their National team, which they support with great enthusiasm. One brave student went to the plaza to enjoy the match with the thousands of Argentines.


The rest of the night was spent preparing for the following week.

June 13

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Today was a free day. Some of the students went on a visit to several museums in Buenos Aires as well as a memorial site for The Disappeared. Others got their hair done and a few even got dreads. It was an academically eventful day for homework and rest after a busy week of class, speech planning, and going to the ESMA memorial.

The big event of the day centered around the World Cup games which started yesterday, with Brazil beating Croatia. Several of the group found restaurants where the games were on and watched along with the locals. Others gathered in our hotel rooms to watch the games together. The city of Buenos Aires is providing all of its citizens with a free showing of all of the matches in a jumbotron in Plaza San Martin. This shows the importance of futbol for the Argentinean people. The matches that took place today included Mexico vs Cameroon, Spain vs The Netherlands, and Chile vs Australia.

Soccer pic

June 10 – ESMA Visit

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Today we visited ESMA which stands for Espacio de Memoria y Derechos Humanos. It means Space of Memory and Human Rights. Our visit here was to further educate, and make us more aware about what cruelties, tortures, and injustices that were suffered by those disappeared in the Dirty War of 1976 in Buenos Aires. This place was once a Naval academy, which did a lot of good for many people who came here to learn skills like mechanics, to take with them and be able to work. In 1976, this place became a  “clandestine center”. Around 5000 people are known to have been brought here, and suffered beyond severe torture, isolation, and pain; there were only 200 survivors.

This “clandestine center” was not so secret. Although bars surround these facilities, it is easy to see in and out. This place is located on a main street, not hidden from the public at all. It is known that the abducted were brought in through the front gate. Though people knew something was obviously going on here, they were either too afraid to speak, or some thought “they must have done something bad.”

The people that were abducted and taken to this place, were unaware of where they were. But in 1978, Argentina held the World Cup at the stadium River Plate which is very close by. Survivors of this concentration camp, can remember hearing the yells and screams of people excited to be at the World Cup. Though they were not very far away, the distance was vast. No one at the stadium could imagine someone down the block was being tortured, having electrocuted rods in there anus, no one knew down the block someone was being “transferred”. No one would ever know of what these people were enduring while they enjoyed themselves and watched a soccer game. But Argentina’s government was in on it.

A check point which was restricted area. The line on the floor was made by a chain being dragged and stepped on by a big truck, in which the abducted were brought in.

We were not allowed to take pictures once inside the building where the people were held, and tortured. The buildings were completely empty, paint chipping off, cracks in the infrastructure. When the IACHR were called to check this so called “clandestine center” parts of the building were altered to not be able to be recognized as the same place where people testified having been. A staircase was removed which went straight down to the basement where the prisoners were taken in. The Navy further destroyed evidence of it ever being the torture and terror center it was when they finally unoccupied the centers in 2007. We went to the basement where people were tortured, and some made to fake identifications and important documents. Once tortured they would be taken to the third floor called the “capucha” meaning hooded, the people tortured would be hooded and taken to the third floor of this building, where they were unallowed to speak. They sat in this cold room, completely concrete, in shackles and not allowed to go to the bathroom. This is where some survivors described as “feeling disconnected from the world”. If one died inside ESMA, their bodies were burned. Others were “transferred” which meant they’d be drugged and taken to the near airport and flown above the ocean and dropped, these came to be known as flight deaths.


You may ask why this place is kept alive. While it was just one of hundreds all around Argentina. It’s empty, but these facilities keep in memory what must never happen again which is a country against its own civilians. This place may not be a beautiful place to have visited, but it is something that opens my heart in a different way, and will forever be engraved in my memories. Walking through the halls, I kept thinking that if I had lived in this time period, I’d hope to have been a rebel against the government, which clearly had no good inside. I’d hope to not be a part of the people who stayed in silence, while knowing injustice occurred.

“A people with memory, is democracy for always.”

For more information:

-Angelie Reyes