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Paynesville Press - July 16, 2003

Youth explores Argentina by bike

By Ryan Flanders

Jimmy JansenAs Jimmy Jansen biked to the top of a mountain 3,042 meters in elevation in Argentina, he considered how different the scenery was from that of his friends, who were probably sitting on their couch at home watching TV.

For two weeks - from June 13 to July 1 - Jansen expanded his geographical and cultural perspective of the world while touring the northwest region of Argentina by mountain bike. Jansen traveled with a group of five other students from around the United States as part of a program put together by Trips for Kids-Twin Cities and Two Wheel View, whose objective is to provide youth biking programs with a global perspective.

"We experienced a lot of things we couldn't have on a tour bus," said Jansen, who will be a junior next fall at PAHS. "We were out in the fresh air, and we got to see everything up close," he added.

After a day and a half of plane rides, Jansen and his group landed in Buenos Aeries, Argentina, where they began their two-week bicycle journey across the countryside. While packing 45 pounds of equipment, the group covered approximately 245 miles, biking from the city of Salta to C˜rdoba. They biked from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. everyday, and at night they pitched tents to sleep.

"The scenery was pretty different from Minnesota," said Jansen. Their trip began in a valley, progressed into mountains, and ended in a forest. Since Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is currently winter, but even so, the temperatures were approximately 70 degrees during the day and 30 to 40 degrees at night. There was not a single drop of rain for the duration of the trip.

Because Jansen expected the people of Argentina to dislike tourists, he was surprised to find them very friendly. Though many of them spoke Spanish, Jansen's guide was able to translate whatever he didn't understand. Many showed their hospitality by waving, honking, or offering directions.

townspeople Biking wasn't the only physical exercise Jansen got during the trip. While in C˜rdoba, he and his group took some lessons in tango, a common dance in the area. Though he did learn the basics, Jansen doesn't think he'll be wooing any ladies with his tango skills just yet.

Argentina's transportation varies dramatically depending on one's location in the country, according to Jansen. "In the big cities, it's all cars and mopeds, but out in the country most people just have a horse or a bike to get around," said Jansen. "And in a car that can only fit four or five, they jam pack seven or eight people in there."

Jansen also noted that the girls in Argentina ride horse side-saddle.

Along the trip, Jansen got to see some ancient Indian ruins, whose tribe survived an attack by the Aztecs only to have the remaining 5,000 of their people sent to Buenos Aeries by the Spaniards.

Another interesting thing that Jansen encountered was that some towns had their own currency. "They printed their own money to keep the economy going, but you could only use it in one town," said Jansen.

The work day is also a bit different. Because the afternoon can be a time of intense heat, most towns have a mid-day break called a siesta, where people go home to their families from noon to 5 o'clock, explained Jansen. Many families wait until 10 or 11 at night to eat their supper.

Argentina's food also differed from what Jansen was used to. When attending a cookout similar to an American barbeque, Jansen said the only kind of food served there was meat. And it's purchased differently, too. "When you go into the butcher shop, the whole cow's just laying there on a hook, and you just say how much you want," said Jansen. "The food is less expensive over there, because you don't have to pay for all the processing."

Almost all shops carry the standard bread, meat, and milk, added Jansen. But to find bottled drinking water, they usually had to check with the local police. Jansen also had an opportunity to try different kinds of bread, cookies, pasta, and vegetables during the trip.

Although Argentineans typically eat well, the food doesn't just magically appear. "They weren't really poor, but they had to work really hard if they wanted to eat well," said Jansen. "I learned that you have to eat what you're given, because not everybody has food that they can choose from all the time. That's different from the U.S., where a lot of people would rather eat a burger than eat good healthy food."

Jansen noticed that, despite their voracious appetites, most Argentineans are really thin. Jansen attributes this to the larger amount of physical labor they endure, since they don't have as much machinery.

Jansen found Argentineans to be avid soccer fans, and he got a chance to play a couple games. He said the rules were very similar, with the exception of a different scoring system. Also, Jansen was surprised to find that they follow American basketball closely. When he told people he was from Minnesota, he was often asked about Kevin Garnett.

Jansen enjoyed learning about cultural differences and similarities on his trip. "I learned that you can't judge people right away, because you never know where a person's coming from," said Jansen.

Jansen credits Tom Koshiol, organizer of the Crow River Trail Guards, to which Jansen belongs, for first getting him interested in the trip. Koshiol told him about the value of getting a different cultural perspective.

Jansen financed his trip through a number of fundraisers and donations. "Thanks to everybody that donated to my trip," said Jansen. "The only disappointment was that it went so fast. I couldn't believe we were there for two weeks," he added.

Jansen hopes that he will be able to return to Argentina sometime in the future.

Each group member from the trip is required to share their experience with at least 100 people from their hometown. Jansen has planned a short presentation for sometime in the next two weeks, which will most likely be held in the St. Louis Catholic Church. Anyone interested can check the newspaper and church bulletin for the date and time once it is determined.

After his experience in a foreign country, Jansen recommends traveling to others: "If you're offered an opportunity to go to another country, you should go on it. Don't be scared. It will be fun, and you'll learn a lot."

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