Argentina - May 5 & Match 2

Ashton Hansen poses outside the Cathedral La Plata.

May 5 by junior Janvier Beaumont

Buen Dia! Hello from Buenos Aires. Tonight is our last night in this beautiful, diverse city and we are sad to leave a place that has truly left a mark on our hearts. While thinking about this city, I've come to believe there are three universal things that are the same between Argentina and home. The first and foremost being our church, the second being volleyball, and the third being... shopping. As we attended church in Argentina, we felt the same spirit strongly in our hearts the same way we do at home, despite language barriers. As for volleyball, our first match was, I think, a little bit of a relief from the culture shock and jet lag we first experienced. Minus the chanting, cheering, blasting raggaetone, lights turning off, and mispronouncing of names ("Havier Bumont"), it was wonderful to play a sport that was second nature to us, making us feel at home. As for the third universal thing, shopping, let's just say it's another things that's second nature to us girls, even with the language barrier. We have seen and bought beautiful original photographs (the hit seems to be the subject of tango dancers), paintings, jewelry, postcards, and gifts for family and friends.

As for today, we had a free day until we left for our match at 3 p.m. Many of us spent the morning either touring the district of Boca or Florida Street. Florida Street, (which many say reminds them, building-wise, of New York), is filled with loud music, crazy mimes, and bustling crowds ?- it's a hot spot of the city. The rest of us headed back to Boca, which we have all fallen in love with. It's not hard to fall for the colorful little town by the sea and its diverse characters there. We love walking by the vibrant buildings, eating freshly made empanadas, shopping among the locals' booths, and watching/interacting with tango dancers. As Americans, we definitely stand out among the people down there, as many are European looking and are dressed for winter. We are generally taller than everyone, except me of course, and a lot of us stand out with our pale skin and fair complexions, which is a change they seem to like.

After shopping, we got on the bus and drove about an hour and a half to La Plata, the location of this evening's match. We visited the capital of the state of Buenos Aires, which was absolutely beautiful. Our breath was taken away by the beautiful Cathedral La Plata, the largest cathedral many of us have ever seen. It looked like something out of Notre Dame, with its gothic, neoclassical style architecture. The inside of the Cathedral was gorgeous, and we spent plenty of time taking pictures inside and in the park across the street. After that, we drove to our gym and walked the town for a bit, where we saw plenty of rampant, mangy dogs, and lovers in the park - La Plata seems to be a very passionate city.

Our match started around 8 p.m., and the team we played was very friendly, about our age, and had sound skills. We had a tough match, followed by a team meeting, and then ate a dinner of empanadas, salad, rolls, meat, and flan. They are extremely hospitable! We all marvel that Argentineans seem to eat a diet of bread, meat, pastries, more meat, and more bread at such a late hour, and still stay so thin! As for an update on the weirdest foods contest, Christie "Carpe" Carpenter is still winning in that department. Although we have all avoided the infamous blood sausage, Carpe did solely devour a couple cold anchovies covered in olives and oil at the Spanish restaurant last night, something the rest of us were afraid to touch.

As we spend our last night in Argentina and think of the wonderful times we've had in this city, I've thought of some favorite experiences we've had so far. My favorite experience so far is definitely playing in our first match. It was a real adventure to play in a foreign country, in a crowded, humid, smoke-filled gym with loud raggaetone and crazy fans. Huddling together in a completely dark, foreign, crowded gym really made me very grateful for the comfort of our team, our BYU family. I also really loved the graveyard we visited yesterday, as it felt like a huge, 200-year old stone maze. The 20-80 foot high graves were covered in creeping ivy, mosses, and statues of angels, weeping women, and busts of the deceased. It was very European and impressive, as the country's most influential leaders seemed to be buried there, including Eva Peron. My third favorite experience was church yesterday, as we got to hear testimonies of the humble, reverent members and also some of our own teammates and coaches. As tears streamed down some of the members' faces, I truly felt the Spirit just as strong as I do at home, even though we were thousands of miles away. I was touched at how willing the members were to bear their testimonies in such a small ward.

Well, now that I've written a book, we are excited to travel to Igauzu falls tomorrow to repel down waterfalls and zip-line through jungles! We feel so lucky and blessed to enjoy this beautiful, exciting place. To those of you at home, we are so glad you are able to take part in our journey through this blog! Thank you for your support, emails, and for answering our long-distance phone calls! To our friends and family in our BYU family, you are loved and missed. Ciao!

Match 2 by Jen Connery

LA PLATA -- The BYU women's volleyball team dropped the second match of its 13-day tour of Argentina on Monday, falling in three sets to Gimnasia Y Esgrima La Plata (GELP), a team that finished sixth at the nation's top club level this year.

Playing in the Buenos Aires state capitol city of La Plata, the Cougars struggled early in the match while still adjusting to international play and different venues. After dropping set one, 25-8, the second set had an ominous beginning as BYU quickly found itself down 5-0. However, as she did in set one and in the Cougars' match on Saturday, senior Bryn Porter took control, sending a ball down the middle for a point that helped the Cougars cut into the momentum of the home team.

Fellow senior Rachel Dyer then followed suit, and the two combined for four straight kills during an 8-2 run that saw the Cougars take their first lead of the night at 12-11 in the second set. GELP battled back with a 6-1 run of its own to regain the advantage before sophomore Christie Carpenter helped BYU respond with three straight scores to cut the lead to just one point. However, the experience and comfort of the home team continued to be a factor as GELP held on for the 25-21 win.

BYU got off to a fast start in set three, leading 6-3 after two service aces from Porter. But the momentum quickly swung the other way with an 8-2 GELP spurt. BYU got to within one point at 12-11 after Porter sent a ball down the line, but a service error on the next point spelled the beginning of the end for the Cougars, who fell 25-16 in the decisive game.

Porter led the way for BYU with seven kills while Carpenter and Dyer each added five.

Bryn Porter, Rachel Dyer and Stephanie Lau enjoy empanadas for lunch.

The governor's mansion in La Plata, the capitol of the state of Buenos Aires.

Outside the Cathedral La Plata.

Bryn Porter and Rachel Dyer take a moment to reflect in the Cathedral La Plata.

Stained glass inside the Cathedral La Plata.

Looking at the front entrance from inside the Cathedral La Plata.

The Cougars shake hands with their opponents before their match against Gimnasia Y Esgrima La Plata.

Sophomore Christie Carpenter puts down a kill against GELP.

Senior Rachel Dyer gets up to send a stinging ball across the net.