Querida Hermosa Buenos Aires,

(Dear Beautiful Buenos Aires,)

I didn’t feel like my blog was quite complete yet, so here are my final thoughts to you!

As I sit here so safe and cozy in my own room in New Hampshire, with the snow piling up outside my window, it’s hard to believe how different you are from my life at home. It’s crazy to think how much I grew to love you. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t love you at first. You were a huge challenge. You scared me more than anything has ever scared me. From before I even boarded the plane 5 months ago, you overwhelmed me. Was I going to Buenos Aye-rays or Buenos Iris or Buenos Ah-ris? Just saying your name stressed me out. And then I arrived, and I plodded through orientation, just following, still unsure of who you really were, but sure that I really sucked with direction, as I couldn’t walk out of a building and know which way I had come from. The Guia-T (the 200 page book of maps and colectivo routes), became my best friend and are now just tattered, ripped pages that sit in the bottom of my purse. Not to mention that I was afraid I was going to get run over by a bus every time I crossed Nueve de Julio, even though the walking sign was on. And every time I spoke, my small-town, American accent stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt stressed about returning to this host family I was supposed to call home, because well, I had to speak Spanish, and that took far too much thought after a draining day.

But, at some point during the journey, faster than I thought would happen, and at a time I can’t quite pinpoint, you weren’t such a huge obstacle anymore. Suddenly you became just a stimulating challenge. And also a place of security. A city I would walk and get to know intimately, and that made me feel alive. And as I started to travel around Argentina, you became less of my representation of “Argentina” as a whole, and instead a home for me to return to as I got off the 20 hour bus in Retiro with my backpack strapped on the front, in need of a shower and breakfast.

You are a place that made me feel frustrated and anxious at the beginning. To get to class, you made me wait for the colectivo for 30 minutes, sometimes more, but never with warning. Your subtes were packed so full I could barely put my hands by my sides. Not to mention that everyone was making out so close to me that I was being bumped into. PDA: no problem here. Nothing seemed to work right the first time. Your systems were disorganized–teachers would not show up for 45 minutes and we prepared that damn psychology presentation for class, and never even gave it. You don’t believe in hydration and certainly not free water, which contradicts my main belief: water can fix everything- a little headache, a tired human, a depressed feeling. Even more so, you allowed for inequality and for macho men who would whistle at me on the streets and holler “vos sos alta.” Yes, I know I’m tall. I know I stand out. You made me furious sometimes.

As annoyed as I could feel some days, I still grew to love you, even for your weaknesses. Because as much as there were things I just won’t ever agree with, I think you had a lot more positive to offer. And many of those aspects that I saw as negatives from the start (mainly your disorganization), are actually most what I want to take back with me. I liked how I felt in your presence. So much more laid back and able to go with the flow, because what is the purpose of always having a sense of urgency? You helped give me the confidence that I hope will stay with me; to try new things and always say yes to opportunities and invitations. You are a place made for meeting people and for appreciating people, too. And most of all, you teach patience so well.

You are beautiful to me because your streets were a constant learning experience, more so than anything I learned in la Universidad del Salvador or la Universidad Católica Argentina. My Spanish grammar may still be far from perfect, but in five months I have learned how to express myself and how to communicate. And even more so, I am not trembling every time I open up my mouth to speak, although I still smile when I come home from a night out with Argentine friends and realize we only spoke Spanish, or have a really great dinner with the host parents and think back only to realize how much we discussed in this once so-foreign language. You make me appreciate learning this beautiful language, and for giving me the opportunity to get to know so many wonderful people I never would have had the chance to get to know. You were my first real immersion experience, and that is special. I will miss “vos” in place of “tú” and the “j” sound you make when you say “me llamo” y “la calle.” I will miss “ojo,” and “como te va?”, and “permiso,” “todo bien,” “lindo,” “che!,” “chao chao,” “me entendés?,” “que sé yo,” and “de dónde sos?” more than you know.

To me, Buenos Aires, you are an authentic representation of Argentina. To tourists, you may just be tango, “the Paris of the south,” great beef, and wine. But I know you are more than that. You are unique, you are challenging, you are challenged. You fit somewhere special among the Andes, the glaciers, the campos, the horses, the deserts, and the political and economic history of your country. You are complex. You are resilient. And so it is almost just as overwhelming to return to my safe, tiny town in the states and my comforting, familiar campus at school, and try to explain who you are and what you have done for me. In fact I can’t even say yet, because I have not been back for long enough. But, I feel strongly that I am changed and that I will soon learn exactly how. For now, you can be a 5 month blur to me, or you can be a 5 month series of snapshots that form my mixed up picture of Buenos Aires.

You are full of a series of firsts, of the excitement of making Argentine friends, of exploring the Jewish community of the city, of celebrating the high holidays, of every asado dinner, the gracious families who invited me into their homes, of my crazy internship (Martha!), of free museums and fun restaurants, of Jacobo laughing at Vivi almost every dinner- “ahh ella me pone loco,” of Hillel conversation club, of saying “uno-sesenta” on the colectivo, of the San Telmo fair, of showing my real family this life, and watching the sunrise every weekend with friends. You are the one hour colectivo rides to class at UCA, but becoming the only one on the bus halfway through. You are every chat I had with Vivi, my host mom, in the kitchen as she did the dishes, and those moments when my Spanish would just “click” and I would feel liberated. You are my Argentine spinning classes and body pump, too, and you are my exploration of my love for horseback riding and hiking mountains. You are remembered by my little Argentine phone slowly filling with numbers and connections, you are eating icecream far too many times per week, you are the dog walkers in the city, watching people getting stuck in subte doors, constantly dividing Argentine prices by 10 to get to the dollar, and watching winter turn to spring. You are every kind Argentine who welcomed me in, who took me under their wings, and who encouraged me to go outside of my comfort zone. You are these ridiculously long blog posts (sorry!!) and the support of my incredible family and friends whose comments and messages ALWAYS cheered me up and kept me going!

Gracias por todo, hermosa Buenos Aires. Thank you for the challenge and for the opportunity to get to know you. For giving me the right amount of time to just begin to really understand you. And for the welcoming people who made me feel like I belonged– I hope one day I can give back like you all. I am so appreciative.

I know I will return one day! Te voy a extrañar, Buenos Aires. Nos vemos pronto.

Besos,

Emily

A Country of Contrasts

FYI: I am actually posting this today from home, in little Sunapee, New Hampshire, but I started this post last week while I was still in Buenos Aires, so I am going to keep it:

I am sitting on the tiled ground out on the tiny porch outside my host parents’ flat, enclosed by a wired fence, and huge purple spring flowers right on the other side. I have been meaning to update my blog every day this week since I have been back in Buenos Aires after traveling for 2 weeks, but for some reason I can’t seem to get myself to sit down to do it. I think it’s because I have never had so many thoughts and emotions rushing through my head simultaneously. Today is my last full day in Buenos Aires.

Tomorrow afternoon, Friday, I will be taking my duffle bag, camping backpack, and myself, give besos to Vivi and Jacobo, and head to the international airport. I will be leaving this beautiful 80 degree and sunny weather, to return to snowy, frigid New Hampshire. It’s unbelievable how fast 5 months can pass, no matter how slow each day may feel sometimes.

The past 3 weeks have been a crazy blur of excitement, adventure, and hands down the most incredible views I have ever seen! Exactly three weeks ago, I officially finished the academic portion of “study abroad.” For not having much work all semester, the final week was a bit crazy! I wrote a total of 37 pages in Spanish- a research paper on mothers in prison for my human rights class, a paper about Argentine education, and two papers on Peronism for my history class. I also had a parcial (exam) and oral presentation in front of professors from la Universidad de Buenos Aires within 3 days! With the end of a jam-packed week, my travels began!

Within two weeks, I went from the very south of Argentina in Patagonia, which looked like this:

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Calafate glacier

To the very northern provinces of Argentina in Salta and Jujuy, which looked something like this:

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Deserts and unbelievably colorful mountains

And in the middle, the long weekend was spent in Uruguay with my entire study abroad program (all 130 students!!) on the beautiful beaches and at the director’s lemon farm:

an Argentine attempt at Thanksgiving foods

an Argentine attempt at Thanksgiving food

I returned to Buenos Aires at the beginning of this week to enjoy the city, see friends, check off last things on my bucket list, and to have the opportunity to understand how contrasting this country really is. 

Patagonia

Patagonia left me speechless. I ventured on this trip with 3 friends from my study abroad program and 1 other friend who I met in the Buenos Aires Hillel. We spent our first two days in El Chalten, which is literally a backpacking town filled only with mountains, glaciers, hostels, and adorable shops. We spent our time hiking to see the famous Fitz Roy and Torre mountains! Something really neat about spring/summer time in Patagonia is that since it is located so far south on the map, the sun does not go down until after 10:30 pm! Our first day, we began the hike to Cerro Torre around 4 pm and walked for many hours, which was funny because in the states in December, it is dark at that time already!

It felt like the top of the world! Fitz Roy behind me.

It felt like the top of the world! Fitz Roy behind me.

We then took a three hour bus to Calafate, also named Argentina’s windy city. This is where we embarked on our full day “Big Ice” adventure on the Perito Moreno glacier. I had never seen a glacier in my life, let alone spend 5 hours walking on it– in between its cracks and crevices, drinking its natural water, and being surrounded 360 degrees around. This icefield is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water and is 97 square miles and 19 miles in length. It is also one of the only glaciers in the world that is mysteriously not retreating and is instead still growing. Having the opportunity to see the glacier was a magical experience. From the second we pulled into the national park, and my friends and I only had to pay $20 pesos because we are “Argentine students,” whereas everyone else had to pay $130 pesos, it was an unforgettable day. We put on our crampons and chose the “Spanish speaking” trekking group, where we chatted in español with our guides the whole day. Pictures cannot fully do the experience justice, as the sights were incredible, but even more so, the crisp air, the sounds of the glaciers moving and cracking under our feet, and the power of the sun’s rays reflecting off the ice (my face peeled for a week..), was all indescribable. 

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Just feeling so small!

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Couldn’t get enough of that drinkable glacier water! mmm so good!

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Uruguay

Uruguay left me feeling content. Not blown away or in awe, like Patagonia of course, but certainly happy. It was very similar to Argentina in many ways, with very friendly people and similar food, but just on a smaller scale. This was an interesting trip, because it was the first time since orientation in July that by entire study abroad program was together. With such a large group, it has become clear to me that IFSA (my program) has not been the thing that has defined my experience in Argentina, unlike many students’ times abroad. So, it was a bit strange to all be together and see how little cliques have formed, and how many people there were I just never got the chance to meet. As much as I missed my real family for Thanksgiving/Chanukah, it was great to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with fellow Americans in such a far away place. And, there is no way I could complain about being on a lemon farm and on beautiful Uruguayan beaches (in Argentine Spanish: las playas uruguayas, aka “las pla-jas urugua-jas”) in November!

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Mario, our program director, in front of his beautiful house! (He wore a different US university t-shirt every day)

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some of my US friends around the Thanksgiving table!

Northern Argentina: Salta/Jujuy

My travels ended back in Argentina, heading straight up to the very most northern provinces of Salta and Jujuy, about 24 hours (by bus) from Buenos Aires. My trip to the northwest of Argentina left me thinking. Hard.

Being in northern Argentina felt almost like being in a different country all together, especially when compared with Buenos Aires. The northern Argentinian population is much more indigenous and not nearly as advanced as the porteños, therefore giving what I would imagine to be a much more “authentic” feel. The contrast was most apparent for me after spending half a week in Patagonia, the most southern point of Argentina, which is filled with tourists, views that people travel from across the world to see, and the most expensive prices in the country. Whereas Salta and Jujuy are left untouched by anyone. It is a raw and wholesome picture of Argentina, simply because it is more than just natural beauty (which Patagonia of course holds as well, probably to an even more extreme level), but in northern Argentina the beauty comes from the people. The way in which people live. Interact. And experience life. We traveled by bus on this trip, starting in the city of Salta, bussing 4 hours to Tilcara, Jujuy, then taking day trip bus rides to Purmamarca and Humahuaca. Just through these bus rides, we could see and understand so much about the culture– from driving through the crazy rain storm from Salta to Jujuy, to coming out to sunny skies in Purmamarca, to see the dust flying up around the bus from the streets they call “highways,” the cactus lined mountains, and the people working outside their shack houses and brick shelters looking so peaceful and at ease. Even the man who sat next to me on the first busride, a native from Jujuy, was so eager to share his land with me. At first I just felt his eyes gazing back and forth from my book filled with English words, to my white skin, back to his own seat. And then he spoke up; asked where I was going and why I was here. Even after 5 months living in Argentina, I will always be the outsider, especially in a place like northern Argentina. We travel to experience other cultures. To understand other people, human connection, and the way others live the same life we are in. Sometimes it feels strange to be the traveler; almost rude as a visitor just stopping by to “view” this foreign life, the poverty that exists, and the way these natives interact. At the beginning of this trip, it was bothering me, as I tried to understand just why as humans we feel so compelled to do this. Does just stopping by for a view open our minds? Make us more complete people? Make us more understanding? I’m not sure it really does, no matter how much we try. But, an unforgettable experience was something my 3 friends and I had the opportunity to do the 4th night in Jujuy. We stayed with an indigenous family, la Familia Lamas.

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This was by far the highlight of our trip to the north, and the 24 hours that kept me thinking the most. No longer were we just walking around these indigenous towns, photographing new views and passively taking in the new sights and smells, but here we had the chance to connect. We arrived on Thursday morning after taking a taxi through the mountains about 20 minutes from the “town” of Humahuaca, and were welcomed in by Clarita and Hector Lama, the parents, along with one of their daughters, and their adorable 8 year old granddaughter, Carolina. We were welcomed into their dark kitchen and sat down to begin peeling potatoes with them. Shortly after, Hector and Carolina led my 3 friends, myself, and one other US guy who was also staying at their house, on a “little” caminata, that ended up being a 6 hour trek up and down rocks and bushwacking on trails that were not trails, to reach the Incan caves that still exist with pictures inside. On our “walk,” Hector stopped to make a religious offering to God and Mother Earth. There we stood, 4 Americans, an intelligent indigenous man, and a young girl with the most positive energy I had seen in a long time. We stood on the edge of a rock cliff, overlooking the vast, open air. Accompanied only by pure silence. Hector kneeled down, put his coca leaves in a little hole he dug, and in Spanish, said his prayer aloud… thanking Mother Earth for this life he has been blessed with, wishing for safety and good health for his family, and for this opportunity to be alive today. Carolina followed, whispering words far beyond her years. And then the four of us took turns kneeling to say our prayers, feeling in awe of this experience and over-taken with how genuine this life felt.

Hector and Carolina leading the way.

Hector and Carolina leading the way.

The view around us during the offering.

The view around us during the offering.

The rest of our time spent with the Lamas was equally as wonderful. We ate three meals with them in their new comedor (dining room), that they were so proud of. We slept in a quaint room with dirt floors and no electricity. Sitting around the table with this family made me feel so fortunate to have the ability to speak Spanish. To have the opportunity to hear their stories and understand how these are people living such a simple life, but how they are not simple people. They are filled with passion, true struggle, natural happiness, and values. Clarita became teary telling us about her family and the hopes for their granddaughter, Carolina, along with how challenging their work is: caring for the goats, living off the land, harvesting crops, making all of their own food, and enduring the changing climate. They live an untainted life that is hard to come by in many places anymore.

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The Lamas family home

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The new comedor

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the wonderful Carolina herself!

The rest of the trip was filled with other incredible sights of deserts, mountains, salt flats, and life so different from Buenos Aires.

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Cerro de Siete Colores

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Cactus!

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Some friends jumping on the salt flats in Jujuy.

I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to travel Argentina and see the contrasts for myself, from the terrain, to the types of people, to the food, to the variety of challenges Argentines face, to the beauty that exists across it all. My past 5 months in Argentina can be summed up as an experience full of risk, perspective and freedom. A place where I have learned to “jump” outside of my own box, and even more so a place that has reminded me of my smallness compared to the world’s vastness.

Thank you, Argentina, for sharing your unbelievable perspectives with me.

Bienvenida y OJO!

The best thing about having my family here in Buenos Aires was watching them respond to aspects of the city that I have become so accustomed to within the past 4 months. It was the little things: my brother, Sam, becoming euphorically happy every time he saw the dog walkers with 10 dogs cross the street, or having my dad be so intrigued with the recyclers who pick recyclables from the trash with their hands and then push them around in carts, or watching my family respond to being in a restaurant until past midnight (which they did quite well with!). It was all of these little observations and the chance for me to share my life here with them that made the week so incredibly special.

Fam photo in plaza de mayo!

Fam photo in plaza de mayo!

In Argentina the thing to do is say “OJO,” followed by a distinct, little hand/face combo gesture as a way to say “look out” or “watch out” or “be careful.” But, it’s different than just a nice, “oh honey, watch yourself…” type of remark. To me, it’s representative of the Argentine culture, and the simultaneous pointer finger/eye-pull/eye-brow raised/serious tone-of-voice package really makes it something to remember.

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Here’s a visual. If my attempted description did not put this image into your head already.

In any case, this was a favorite of my family’s when they came to visit. The first day when we went out to lunch and my mom put her purse on the back of her chair, I quickly told her to put it on her lap, and followed it up with an automatic, “OJO.” My whole family laughed at me, to which I proceeded to explain the history of “ojo” and had them all try for themselves. Throughout the week, they were “ojo-ed” by many Argentines and “ojo-ed” themselves in many appropriate situations. My parents were especially struck when they met my host dad, Jacobo. My real dad made a comment in his best Spanish possible about how the people of Buenos Aires are so friendly and that it is such a wonderful city. Jacobo responded, “sí, es una ciudad muy linda, pero ‘ojo’” (“yes, it is a very nice city, but “ojo!”), which made my whole family turn to me and chuckle. They understood! And they also really got a sense for what Buenos Aires is all about– it is a fabulous city full of such welcoming people, but even still you must “ojo” siempre (always).

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At my host parent’s house with my Argentine dad in the middle! To the left: Jack and my *real* dad and to the right: Sam and me. There is a slight height difference!

I know already that it will be hard to write this post without sounding corny, but it is hard to put into words how special the week was with my family. It was a whirlwind. A crazy, exhausting, exciting, emotional, yet relaxing, stimulating, and wonderful week in Buenos Aires. I am sitting here now at my make-shift desk made of a small, wooden table covered in a red felt-type blanket and listening to the city right outside my window, and it is still a bit hard for me to believe that my family was just here with me a week ago. And as insane as it was to have both of my parents and my two crazy brothers in South America with me, it also really didn’t feel all that strange or uncomfortable for even a second. In fact, what I loved most about the week, is how cozy and comfortable it did feel just to have my family around. Essentially I moved into their apartment (which they truly lucked out with– it was SO great!!), and it was such a treat to feel 100% comfortable going into the kitchen, getting food when I wanted to, and hanging out in the living room, which isn’t always the case in my host family’s house.

It was such a unique “vacation” for my family, because they all came down without planning anything. Which meant I quickly became “tour guide” for the week! This was really fun for me, but sometimes a bit more stressful than I anticipated. It was a true test of my mastery of Buenos Aires. Could I successfully get us everywhere on the colectivos (busses)? Could I translate at every meal and interaction? Could I explain the reasons why certain things are just a “thing” in Buenos Aires? (my family really liked to make fun of me for the way I would describe what is culturally “Buenos Aires” and what is not– it’s either “a thing” or simply is “not a thing!”). But, all in all, I just felt so proud and excited to show them around this wonderful city, and seeing everything again from their point of view, made me realize just how much I have grown to love it here. It was nice to bring them to my favorite spots, for example one day we went to this little take out lunch spot that I go to almost every week before Castellano class, and when I walked in, the ladies working recognized me and were so excited to meet my family (as I translated between them all!). Another interesting thing was the change in my own perspective by having my family in Buenos Aires. Since day 1 here, I have had it drilled in my head that I am to blend in as much as possible, speak Spanish, try not to stick out, and essentially just attempt to be porteña… come on, not that hard, right?! Not that I can say I have mastered this yet (or ever will), but it is a mentality that has been with me. However, having my family here was a whole different story. With 5 people all above 5’9” and with loud personalities, there was simply no way we were going to “fit in.” Every time we took a bus together and spoke English a bit too obviously or went to a restaurant where I waited patiently for my brothers to struggle through ordering, I had to consciously tone down these expectations that have been so ingrained in my mind the past few months. I hadn’t realized it until my family was here, but I really appreciated the week almost as a vacation from my life in Buenos Aires, simply by living a week here with a different mentality.

As tour guide for the week, I had a long list (I’m quite into lists, as I have mentioned before) of all of the places, restaurants, and sights I wanted to take my family to, and each day I made us a little schedule, so by the end, I think they got a pretty well-rounded experience of Buenos Aires!

Here’s the family on the colectivo– fitting in so well!

Jack, the bro, legal in Argentina. And couldn't be happier.

Jack, the bro, legal in Argentina. And couldn’t be happier.

A BEAUTIFUL spring day spent in Puerto Madero: Plaza de Mayo, la Casa Rosada (president’s house), Puente de la Mujer (the bridge that resembles a woman doing tango), and biking through the Ecological Reserve. Jack also found this little bicycle-cart on the side of the road to rent for $15 pesos/half hour… we stuck mom in the back seat and had a blast!

We also had a lovely night of authentic Argentine tango. There was an hour long tango lesson, a short tango show, and an absolutely incredible “typical” tango orchestra. We didn’t get home until about 2 am (which is of course early for Buenos Aires), but still, I was so impressed with the fam! All of our tango skills still need some work, but they are coming along…

We explored the famous Cemetery in Recoleta and I brought them to Evita’s grave.

Love this on the road: HOT WATER.  For the Argentina drink, mate (pronounced mah-tay). My brother Sam was obsessed with learning about mate and went home to the states with his own mate cup and the herb itself! A real porteño.

Love this on the road: HOT WATER. Always ready for the Argentina drink, mate (pronounced mah-tay). My brother Sam was obsessed with learning about mate and went home to the states with his own mate cup and the herb itself! A real porteño.

A very interesting graffiti tour through the city. We learned about how the graffiti represents so much history, especially as it began as a form of expression after the military dictatorship in the late 1970s. A lot of the graffiti in the city looks messy as there are names and symbols written over many of the actual pieces of artwork, but after this tour we learned that all of those names, called “tags,” are other graffiti artists who show their support of the pieces of graffiti artwork by painting their “tags” over the graffiti on the wall. It was very interesting to learn about!

We also took a day trip to San Antonio de Areco, the small town in the province of Buenos Aires, for a day of tranquil exploring, gauchos, festivals, traditional fairs, horses, many dogs, great food, and a whole different perspective of Buenos Aires.

Mom and the gaucho switched shoes. Drank beer. And danced.

Mom and the gaucho switched shoes. Drank beer. And danced.

My family and the group of gaucho friends we met just walking around! They thought we were the "coolest" family because we are all so tall, so they needed a picture with us! They did not speak a word of English!

My family and the group of gaucho friends we met just walking around! They thought we were the “coolest” family because we are all so tall, so they needed a picture with us. They did not speak a word of English!

It was a wonderful week of adventures, great stories, daily icecreams, long city walks, and the MOST entertaining taxi rides (due to my father’s intent to make friends with every taxi driver, even with his limited ability to speak Spanish, yet surprising amount of confidence that allowed him to converse much more than I would have ever expected– Nana, you would have been proud!).

This is now my last full week in the city (unbelievable) and my last week of classes. It has been a really great and productive weekend! I went to Shabbat services Friday night at this fun new temple with a female rabbi and lots of music (I think that must be my 4th or 5th Jewish community I have seen now!). I also went out with my Argentine girlfriends Friday night, then to a Jewish luncheon on Saturday at Menora up on a roof-top deck (it was magical and relaxing and delicious!), and spent Saturday night at a parrilla (Argentina BBQ) restaurant and an awesome funk show for my friend’s birthday. Even with all the fun to be had, I successfully wrote 16 pages in Spanish for one of my research papers due this week as well! This week’s plan is to survive finals (shooting for that PASS in the pass/fail option), and Sunday I leave for 2 weeks of traveling: El Calafate, Patagonia, followed by Uruguay, and will wrap it up with a trip to northwest Argentina to explore Salta and Jujuy. Often I just stop and am so overwhelmed by these incredible experiences.

More adventuras argentinas to come…

¡Chao!

Calm Before the Storm

And that storm being: The Weinberger clan. Let’s be real.

It’s Monday morning and my family is landing just about now here in Buenos Aires!!! I could barely sleep last night and am still unable to contain my excitement! I know I will have lots to blog about after this week, so I want to just give a quick update of this last week, because it was full of more interesting experiences.

For some  highlights:

Last night I attended a partido del fútbol between Boca and San Lorenzo (both professional Argentine teams). It was an INSANE experience. I was quite nervous about going because I knew the San Lorenzo stadium was right next to the largest villa in Buenos Aires, which is a very poor and rough area. I also knew that games here often end in violence and get out of control, so I wasn’t sure it was worth the risk. And I was going with 6 American girls. All not the smartest. But, we took our precautions, spoke only in Spanish, and I never felt unsafe for a minute. It was an unbelievable experience. Soccer fans here are nothing like anywhere else in the world. The people of Argentina LIVE for their teams. It is their culture and defines so much of who they are. And it is clear when you sit in the stadium. We sat in the “platea” section higher up and with the smaller crowd, but across the way was the “popular,” where the fans screamed and sang for “SAAAAN LORENZOOO” the entire game. Not once did they stop. It is interesting because since there is such a history of violence at these games, fans from the opposing team are now prohibited from entering the stadium, therefore, all of the fans were San Lorenzo, and not Boca. Also, San Lorenzo is known as the “team of the Pope” (who is from Argentina!), so all of the fans around us were crossing themselves and saying “oh dios dios dios..” before every corner and penalty kick. There were a couple of mini-fights around us, or people standing up to swear at each other when they felt impassioned to do so, but overall it was a friendly crowd.

Here is a quick video before the game even started with the San Lorenzo song. This pretty much sums it up, and was only the beginning:

I have officially finished my Psychology of the Family class at la Universidad del Salvador (USAL). Yes it is the first week of November. And yes my final was to watch an episode of “Modern Family,” and answer some questions (in Spanish of course) about the “family structure,” “different types of families”, and “family interactions.” I wish finals were like this at Bowdoin. Then, we had a family observation to do (which I was in a group with 4 Argentines, and they went to a family’s house near where they live quite far outside the city, therefore I wasn’t able to go), but I helped prepare a little presentation with them for our final class last Thursday. We all walk into class and we wait for about 45 minutes while everyone is singing, listening to music, and chatting about the week. Our “real” professor decided to peace out to Spain for a month long vacation, so we knew there would be a different teacher, but we didn’t realize he would come an hour late. As we were all getting up to leave, he walks in casually, “Ah perdón, el tránsito.. loco.” Yah yah, it’s always the public transportation’s fault. He proceeds to take attendance, ask if we have our presentations prepared, says “genial (great),” and releases us from class. So we never did the presentations after all. Sometimes the disorganization of the system is beyond me here!

For some more class updates, I now have 2 more weeks of classes and my third week will be finals. I really haven’t had a lot of work this semester, as I have mentioned, but will have to work hard the final week, as in two days I have: 1 exam, 1 oral presentation and 4 papers (one of which is my 15 page final research paper)!! It will be a quick crunch time. My other classes are going well. I have enjoyed my “Peronismo” class at the catholic university. Sometimes it is dry and hard to listen for 3 hours, but overall it has given me a great background on Argentine history and the roots of Peronism, which is still what this country is founded upon today. We are currently past the period of the presidency of Peron and are leading up the military dictatorship, which is particularly interesting, because we are learning about the military dictatorship in both my Human Rights class and my Castellano class. In Castellano, we are learning about how this period influenced public education, while in my Human Rights class we went on two very interesting “field trips” this past week to ex-detention camps that were used to hide and torture people during this horrible time.

We first went to ESMA (Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada), a place that housed more than 5000 desaparecidos (the disappeared) during the military dictatorship in Argentina. Today this place has turned into a space for memory and the promotion/defense of human rights in the country. It is eerie to think that these atrocities occurred less than 40 years ago, during the 1970s. In the US, we learn in high school about this horrible time, known as “La Guerra Sucia” or the “Dirty War.” But, here in the country of Argentina, I have not heard this phrase used even once. And three of my classes talk explicitly about the time. It was a state of terrorism, in which those who spoke out against the government, would suddenly “disappear.” For example (as I am learning in class), there were many guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, which was a radical (left wing, here) movement of President Peron, and they used violence in a cry out against the dictatorship, therefore many of the disappeared belonged to these types of groups, but many were truly innocent people. i have tried to ask my host parents a few general questions, but I find that they are not very receptive to discussing it or sharing any knowledge that they have, which is apparently very common for those who lived through this time period.

Here is ESMA:

The next day we visited the ex-Olimpo, which is a very similar place and was used for the same purpose during this time. What stuck me about this detention camp is the fact that it is located right in the middle of a normal Buenos Aires community. It is accessible, open, and visible. Our tour guide described how people clearly knew what was occurring, but they were silenced by the fear and the overwhelming power that the government had, to the point that people would pretend that what they were seeing was not real.

Another highlight of the week was getting the chance to volunteer at an elementary school! I went for about 3 hours and helped out with an activity with 3rd graders and after 5th graders. These kids have one class of English during the day, and this was a special event they were having in order to practice the language. The students were told they were going on a trip to New York City, so set up around the room was the “airplane,” “taxi,” “hotel,” “immigrations,” and the “gift shop.” The kids had been practicing dialogues of things to ask and what to say in English when they came around to each stop, and my job was to be the “native English speaker” (I can do that!!), and to engage in this game. I played the role of the taxi driver and had some adorable conversations all afternoon. It was so much fun and the kids were so intrigued.

This weekend was also very fun in Buenos Aires. My friends and I found an “American” bar to watch the 6th game of the World Series and watch the domination of the Red Sox! There was so much energy in the room and it was sort of a treat to be surrounded by so many Americans, especially so many Boston fans, even here so far away. It felt very familiar.

I also went on a few cultural adventures: I went to see a three hour long Argentine dramatic opera (which was actually quite good and I could generally follow it), I visited the Evita Museum which is a few blocks from my house, went to the Buenos Aires Natural Science Museum, and a fería de libros (a book fair on the streets). Some of these adventures I embarked on with this nice Argentine guy who I get to speak in Spanish with the whole time! I also went this weekend to my Argentine friend, Viri’s, birthday party. She invited her 4 best “real” friends from here, her sister, and then Sonia and I! I was so honored to be invited to such a small gathering. It was just so welcoming of her. We ate dinner at her house, talked with her lovely mom, and had a fabulous evening!

Ok, my family is landing here now. They will be to the city soon!! It is just about time for me to run down my street 12 blocks and to meet them all at the door of their apartment. I shall stop on the way to buy some dulce de leche and alfajores in order to truly welcome them to Buenos Aires! Also, they have come at prime time, because unfortunately my host mom, Vivi, just left to go to Israel with her parents for 20 days, so it has just been my host dad and I in the house. It is fine and he is perfectly friendly, but he is frustrating because he will do nothing in the house and just wants to wait for “la otra la otra” to come. “La otra” being Belen, the girl who cleans the house, who I consider my friend since I eat breakfast with her often and she is so sweet. So, that makes me angry. Also, Vivi cooked everything for us for the entire time and froze it all, but there is only so much food you can freeze for that period of time. So every night it has been empanadas, mashed potatoes, and milanesa. I offered to cook a bit, but Jacobo laughed at that idea. My real family has come to save me at the perfect time!

Wonderful weeks to all!

¡Chao!

Study Abroad: Life with an Expiration Date

The title of this blog post sums up how I am feeling right now pretty perfectly. I don’t mean “life with an expiration date” in a cynical or morbid way, but rather as a way to describe this whole phenomenon of study abroad. Go ahead, “immerse” yourself in a foreign country for 5 months. Do everything you can to meet as many people as possible, become comfortable with your surroundings, learn to fit in: speak the language, celebrate the holidays, try to act as a native would. Do whatever you can to put your past life (your “real” life) on hold so that you can feel as though you really are a part of this new life. I have taken all of this to heart, but nobody told me how it would feel now, when I am a month away from finishing classes, I can see to the end in sight, yet I can just now feel myself becoming a part of this community here. It’s ironic though, because there is something about living life on a timeline; living life (in this case, my “study abroad life”) knowing there is an end in sight, is exhilarating. It’s exciting. It’s inspiring. It’s pushing me to take risks and change my attitude about the things that are most important, because I know I only have so many more weeks left to do so. It makes me question ideas about happiness that I’ve never thought about before. What things actually are most important? At Bowdoin it is so easy to get wrapped up with the stress of consistent homework and a schedule that is hard to break (especially for me with crew at 5:30 every morning). I love that life when I’m in it, and I know I will be excited to go back to that structure. But, life here is something I have never experienced before. And there is something magical about deciding to go out with an Argentine to icecream at midnight three blocks away and chat in Spanish for 2 hours, just because I can. Or to go to a new friend’s house alone even if I feel a bit intimidated at first, because even if it happens to be horrible, or awkward, or all of those things we worry about senselessly, it doesn’t really matter, because this life is temporary. Living life with this said “expiration date” is allowing me take advantage of more than I ever have before, because I don’t have time to say “no” or make excuses or be closed minded. I think this is such a healthy way to live. And when I return to my normal fast paced, list-making, and objective-driven life at home, I want to make sure to remember to take a little bit of my porteña self back with me. To remember how exciting and alive it feels to be spontaneous and unafraid!

Another aspect of creating this life with such a known timeline is that it’s almost like a game. Especially here in Argentina, since a good portion of my entire life is existing in Spanish now, sometimes I feel like I’m not actually living a real life. I’m in this little made-up world, and I can be whoever naturally comes out, because when speaking in Spanish, there is only so much I can control! Sometimes I find that I just start babbling in a carefree way, because I want to speak with more fluency, so I just begin to say the words that first come to my mind, and all of a sudden I’m just on a roll. In English, we have more control. It’s our native language. So I can think, and re-think, and analyze again how I want my words to be perceived if I want to. But, there is something really fun about “living in Spanish,” because I’m not as concerned about how I sound or seem like to others, instead I just want to be understood as my first goal. With that, I feel like I am even more myself in some ways, and I feel happy with my “Spanish personality.” It’s an out-of-body experience sometimes.

The past few weeks have only gotten better in Buenos Aires. These realizations have come with a lot of new experiences and new people in my life. It has continued to be great spending time with IFSA American friends, but at the same time, my community has been rapidly expanding in the community! It’s amazing when you meet someone and make a friendship fully independently in a huge, foreign city! And I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing this before Buenos Aires. I also find it interesting in this city how eager people are to get to know each other, just for the sake of learning about each other, and in turn, better understanding different cultures. In the past two weeks, I have gone on many different coffee and icecream “dates” and city adventures with people I have met from Argentina, but also England and other European countries, just for the sole reason that it is exciting to connect with people who are different from yourself. And as simple as this sounds, it has been the most exciting thing for me lately! People take the time here to go out of their way. To take the chance to get somebody new. To make that human connection and feel immersed in the lives of others.

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Asado!

The majority of the new Argentines I have been befriending have been through the Jewish groups: Menora and Hillel. Last week, there was an asado (Argentine BBQ with SO much meat… beef country over here), at Menora that was a blast. I went with one IFSA friend, and we sat at a huge table with many other international students, but also many Argentines. In fact the 5 guys around us at the end of the table were all Argentine, so we chatted in Spanish and had a fun dinner, which ended at about 12 am (on a Monday night!). As we were getting ready to go home, one of the guys asked if

amigos nuevos!

amigos nuevos!

we wanted to get starbucks (at home my answer most definitely would have been “NO, I am TIRED and have class at 8 am!”), but I decided to go for it, and like most little experiences here, it was worth it! Just to sit, talk, and be in a constant state of learning.

I have also met some great people at Hillel. The place has a real “buena onda”- the Argentine way of saying “good vibes!” I have been going to the conversation club every week, which is a great way to practice Spanish and share experiences from around the world. Last week, the Argentines taught us to make chocolinas torta: an Argentine dessert with chocolate cookies and dulce de leche all put together like a cake. It was delicioso!

cooking group!

cooking group!

I also have continued to explore this huge city! Last weekend I found myself kissing lions and petting tigers, which was certainly an experience. I went with a few friends to Zoo de Lujan, one of the only zoos in the world where you can go inside the cages and pet ferocious animals. Hence why it is the most controversial zoo in the world. According to the zoo keepers, the animals are domesticated because they are raised with dogs and in a special manner that makes them tame. But, it definitely appeared that these animals were drugged, because they were basically motionless. It was the most eerie place I have ever been to. I am glad I went to see it, but with unresponsive and seemingly sedated animals, I didn’t leave feeling all that happy.

Another fun adventure as of late, was a girls getaway weekend over the feriado, Columbus Day (yes, Columbus discovered ALL of the Americas!), to San Antonio de Areco. Let me just say how much I am falling in love with pueblitos (little towns), caballos (horses), and hostels in Argentina! This pueblito is actually a part of Buenos Aires (not the city part), and is about an hour and half away. I went with two U.S. girlfriends to spend a day in this town that is known for its estancias (the rolling farms), gauchos (Argentine cowboys), horses, and the best chocolatería in South America! We enjoyed walking around with the wild horses, having dogs follow us, running along the long river and fields, playing card games, and finding adorable cafes. The next day we spent a relaxing and beautiful Día del Campo- a day on the estancia. We rode horses twice, basked in the sun, ate empanadas, had a huge asado, drank wine, watched a gaucho show, played with some little kids, and just enjoyed the Argentine nature. Back at our hostel was just as wonderful- it was this really adorable place owned by an Argentine man and his Australian wife, and they have a 6 month old baby (picture of “baby in a box” featured below). They were so much fun to talk with! Almost as much fun as the 5 porteño guys who were in our hostel room and stayed up talking with us in español until all hours of the night. They taught us many new words and phrases, and it was a hysterical experience.

Today was exciting because it was election day in Buenos Aires. The city has been crazy with political party groups gathering around the Obelisk every day to chant and hold signs. There was not much hope for President Kirchner’s party to win today, but we will see what happens. Because of the elections, there have also been strikes, which they call “tomas,” driven by the students at la Universidad de Buenos Aires, the largest, public, and free university in the city. Classes have been cancelled for weeks on and off, and there has actually been violence inside some of the buildings, mostly by students involved with El Partido Obrero, which is the working class allied with Kirchner’s party.

These last few photos are just a few from Puerto Madero, the beautiful part of the city on the river where one of my universities is. The picture with the bright lights was from a night last week at a hip-hop culture club. And the last one of the flowers is the gift I gave my host mom, Vivi, on Día de las Madres- Mother’s day!

Even with the “expiration date” in sight, there is SO much to be done before that time comes! Next week the Weinberger family will reunite here in Buenos Aires (!!!), and I am down to the last month of classes, which means I actually have many parciales and essays to write. After that, I will end the journey with two weeks of traveling to Patagonia, Uruguay, and northern Argentina to Salta. There is no time to wait and no time to just walk through the motions. One of my favorite words to say in Spanish, fits quite well here: Aprovechar! To take advantage and make the most!

More soon, amigos. ¡Chao!

Discovering Comfort

The weeks are flying by in Buenos Aires. The past two weeks have been full of some random happenings, findings, and experiences that have continued to help me find home in Argentina. Let me share some with you!

My host dad’s birthday was on Sunday and he had a birthday party with all of his family. I was lucky enough to get invited and it was a very fun experience! When I first got there I definitely felt uncomfortable and quite out of place, as I think anyone would feel at any family gathering in which you are the only non-family member. Then just add the fact that every time I opened my mouth to speak, it was very clear I was the only non-Argentine as well. I thought maybe my best bet was to hang out with the millions of kids running around. So, I left the “adult” table after talking with a few grandparents and hysterical uncles, and went over to a group of 7-10 year old boys (all cousins) who were playing outside. This is totally going to be my group, I thought. “Hola, me llamo Emily! Como te llamas?” They looked at each other and just laughed. “¿De dónde sos?!?” “Where ARE you from?!” they asked me laughing hysterically. I felt bullied by kids 10 years younger than myself!! But, as the party went on, they started to realize I was actually quite cool, even if I had a “funny” accent! I ended up DSCN2819playing soccer with them outside on the patio and after we all warmed up to each other, it was so entertaining to talk and play with them. Interestingly, one of the first things they asked me about when I said I was from the US, was the “gamelas en la ciudad”, “the twins in the city.” I had no idea what they were talking about, and they kept asking me, until I realized they were asking about 9/11 and the twin towers. They had so many questions for me- why did they happen? Did you have any family on the planes? Are Americans scared now? It took me by surprise that elementary school children in Argentina must be learning about this event currently here and that this is their first representation of North America. Intriguing.

Watching the River vs. Boca fútbol game with my new buds.

Watching the River vs. Boca fútbol game with my new buds.

The party went on for hours and hours with my host family’s huge, extended Jewish family. There was so much energy and love in the room, and I realized that family parties are really not that different regardless of where you are in the world.

My host parents, Vivi and Jacobo!! One of the ladies sitting down is Jacobo's mom and the other is her sister!

My host parents, Vivi and Jacobo!!
And one of the ladies sitting down is Jacobo’s mom and the other is her sister!

And singing feliz cumpleaños to Jacobo:

 

Another exciting fact of the week: I have discovered beautiful city bookstores and libraries. In turn, I have discovered some happiness. This past week was “la semana de parciales,” which is basically midterm week, and also the first real week of any substantial (if I can even call it that) homework I have had yet. I had a parcial in my class on Peron/Argentine Political History and a partner-parcial in my Psychology of Family class (where I am the only non-Argentine). I was kind of secretly excited to have some real studying to do, because it’s been awhile! I’m all about the study atmosphere, and luckily I was successful with my search.

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One of my days was spent in this bookstore: El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Let me tell you- it is splendid!!

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And it was originally one of the first theaters in Buenos Aires. Now renovated to be a bookstore.

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I give it an A+ for atmosphere.

Another winning bookstore in the old part of the city: Libros de Pasaje.

Another winning bookstore in the old part of the city: Libros del Pasaje.

An authentic, old Argentine bookstore!

An authentic Argentine bookstore!

The cafe in Libros de Pasaje.

The cafe in Libros de Pasaje where I spent my whole Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another winner cafe with great windows: Green Eat. (This one isn’t a library!)

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The library at Universidad Católica Argentina. The US kids took over (hence the Apple products)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been really nice to find these little get-away spots as a way to feel more comfortable in the city, not just in my house. My friends and I have been exploring a lot of the city, and it is really feeling a lot more like home. We are finding our favorite cafes, learning where the 20 peso (about $2.50) pay-by-weight lunch places are near each university, showing up to Castellano class with the same salads from the best spot, “Baking,” attending weekly spinning classes at “my” gym, and overall just finally creating a routine in a place that is so naturally routine-less. I also find it to be sort of magical to sit in one of these libraries and study like an Argentine student. It is such a simple thing and seemingly meaningless, but for some reason I am struck with an interesting feeling of comfort at each of these places.

I am also beginning the research for my final Derechos Humanos class paper, in which I am supposed to be finding sources by visiting libraries across the city, talking with the director of my internship, and potentially finding readings from classes that seem applicable to my subject from Universidad de Buenos Aires (I don’t even attend there)! This is not like research I have ever done before! I am going to write my final paper with a comparison approach of the physiological and sociological effects of incarcerated mothers in Argentina and the United States. When I decided to take the plunge and “start” my research yesterday while at the director’s house for my internship, I was left with some surprises. As soon as I walked in, it happened to be lunch time, and Martha (the director) had made some insanely fancy empanadas, so I sat down with her and an older man and young woman who are often there because they work for GMA with Martha. As we got into some Spanish chatting around the table, I decided to ask Martha if she had any recommendations for sources for my research. All of a sudden Hugo, the older man, looked at me in all seriousness and said, “you don’t need any other sources, you have us!” I kind of laughed and agreed, and he continued to say, “do you know why we are the experts?” I knew Martha had spent time in jail and had lived a very tumultuous life, which is the reason she started this NGO, but I didn’t want to bring that up, so I said, “well because this is your passion, it’s what you all work for..” Hugo responded, “No. Es porque tuve detenido por 19 años.” In English: I was a prisoner for 19 years. When conversations are fully in Spanish, it is comments like these that I have to double-take and be confident that I am comprehending correctly. He explained that he was incarcerated at the age of 18 for being a part of a youth group that spoke out against the military dictatorship in the 1960s, but I’m still unclear as to what he did exactly. And then the younger woman piped up that in fact all 3 of them had spent time in prison at different points. So here I was. Having lunch, only speaking Spanish, around a table with 3 Argentine ex-prisoners who have all come such a long way, clearly have suffered in their lives, but are now here, running this fantastic nonprofit, teaching exchange students like me, and changing the lives of so many suffering people in the community. It was pretty unreal to take in. The rest of the day they explained some of their past experiences to me, some information about their families, and how difficult it was to reintegrate back into society. If nobody had told me they all had this whole other life in common, I never would have guessed.

Anyway, onto some other happenings. Last week I discovered the Buenos Aires Hillel. I am really excited, as it can be another way to learn more about the Jewish community of the city and meet more Argentines around my age. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming there and it was an extremely comfortable place from the second I walked in, which is not always the feeling I get with most things I try for the first time here in Buenos Aires. Hillel is interesting here because college students live at home, not on a campus.

Hillel backyard!

Hillel backyard!

So, this Hillel has one building that is open to anyone within their 20s (mostly) and there are a lot of events for different careers (talks about Psychology, Business, Engineering, etc), and then there are some Shabbat dinners and social events during the week. But it is also just a place that people go to do work and hang out at any time. I was told a few times, “una casa afuera de tu casa”- “a home outside your home.” This week I went to my first event there- Conversation Club!! It happened to be a rainy day in Buenos Aires (which clearly means that no porteño will dare step foot outside his/her house), so the group was (apparently) way smaller than normal. In fact there were only 4 Argentine guys and ME! We spent half of the time talking in English and half the time in castellano (Spanish). We mostly discussed differences between photo (8)Argentina and the US- their perception of the “college campus” and Greek life, the difference between a pasantía (internship here) and internship in the US (in Argentina students never do unpaid internships like is so common for us), and the funniest conversation of all was “What is prom?!” Describing the customs of an American high school prom was hysterical and I never realized quite how ridiculous the tradition is! They then proceeded to explain their high school tradition, which is called “Día de la Graduado,” a big night on a “party train” that goes through the city and

The sukkah at Hillel

The sukkah outside at Hillel

ends at a boliche (dance club) that is only open for the graduating class. They told me it was seemingly way less stressful than prom, because nobody went with dates!

 

 

 

 

 

Another highlight of the week was “Restaurant Week.” Fancier restaurants had promotions for the whole week where you pay one price (about the price of one appetizer for the normal restaurant), you get multiple appetizers, a main dinner,

DSCN2770and dessert!! I went with some program friends to a place called Sipan. It was Peruvian food and absolutely amazing! DSCN2772

I also got to see my friend, Andi, from Bowdoin who is studying abroad in Mendoza, Argentina. She had a spring break (only in Mendoza for some reason!) and came to spend it in Buenos Aires. It was wonderful to see her and has been comforting to know that we are both here in the big country of Argentina. We talked a lot about our goals for the second half of our time here and ways that we can immerse ourselves more and really take advantage of it, even though we both miss Bowdoin just as much.

Andrea!

Andrea in BsAs!

This past weekend was really exciting in Buenos Aires because I spent almost the whole weekend with Argentines!  On Friday night I was invited to a dinner at the house of my “pal” from the Argentine university, UCA. He called the dinner for 9, and I know that Argentines are always late, so I intentionally showed up at about 9:35. I was the first guest there. Dreaded. I thought I had gotten a hang of how to be fashionably late, but as I’ve said before, the porteños take this to a whole new level. As uncomfortable as I felt at first (a normal feeling around here the first time I seem to do anything), it ended up being a great night! We chatted in Spanish and within the hour about 10 more people trickled in- a mixture of Argentines and international students from Brazil and France. It was really neat that Spanish was the language we had in common out of them all. The next night I went to dinner at my Argentine friend, Flavia’s house with 3 other girls- one other Argentine, my Bowdoin friend, and a girl from England. At one point the Argentine girls started talking about how much they loved Steve Tyler and Aerosmith, and when I broke it to them that he lives in my town at home and that I see him all the time, they went crazy. I found a picture I have with him and never before have I seen people so excited!

A specia Brazilian chocolate cake! mmmmm

A special Brazilian chocolate cake at the dinner! mmmmm

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Amigos: an international melting pot

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Even as I am finding home and comfort in my life here in Buenos Aires, there are still surprises every day. This week there was a city-wide “Marcha de las Putas” (literally called the Slutwalk), an event supporting the “freedom of the woman” and protesting DSCN2798rape culture and violence. It’s interesting to me that an event like this would take place in Buenos Aires and that porteños are always fighting for the idea of equal gender rights and an end to discrimination (which is fantastic), but at the same time, clear gender roles and the objectification of women still feels so prevalent in this country.

I also was walking home yesterday on one street parallel to the street I normally walk home on, and I discovered a huge secret garden-like park! These are the things that make me so happy here.

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Rabbit on a leash in the garden?

 

All in all, I am learning to find the beauty in this city every day, and am discovering home one day at a time. Buenos Aires: The land of Good Air!

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Life on the Inside: Argentine Residency

With the start of spring in Argentina (Feliz Primavera!!), the beginning of the second half of my time abroad, and gaining the status as a temporary Argentine citizen, life is suddenly feeling a bit different around here! First off, I am sorry for the blogging-hiatus in the month of September. I think I will have to blame it on the fact that I have been so busy adjusting to the changes of the season and the incredible adventures that have been coming with the 10 week mark of living in South America. It’s unbelievable to me that with the start of the 11th week here, I will be beginning the second half of my junior abroad experience. At school, whenever Coachie preps us before a crew race at Bowdoin he drills into our heads: “Make the second half better than the first… second half stronger…” He may be a crazy man, but his advice always works. And why not live life like a crew race? I’m ready to make the second half even better than the first!

It’s going to take work and confidence. As does everything we do in Buenos Aires. To be honest, part of the reason I think I didn’t post last week is because I was feeling a little more down on the city life here. I had a few consecutive days of 6-8 hours straight of class in Spanish, it was a freezing cold week for some reason and my room was like an ice-box (still was winter– must be why of course), some classes still felt overwhelmingly disorganized, I was having horrible luck with the colectivos ( busses) and kept having to wait for 2 hours or was getting on the wrong one and ending up home very late, I spent a seemingly large portion of my day crammed between people and unable to move on the subways, and my host parents were being so moody (mostly to each other). I’d say I also felt a little lonely being separated from all of my friends since we all live in different host houses all over the city, and I was feeling a bit dumb in my psychology class where I am the only non-Argentine and had to write an in-class paper with a partner whose level of Spanish writing and understanding of the material was naturally much higher than mine. So that is my quick (or not so quick) ramble of the challenges here sometimes, and it just so happened that last week they ALL seemed to happen at the same time. But, I have good news. I am feeling MUCH, MUCH BETTER now! Not every week can be a “walk in the park,” and now this week feels completely different. I have been loving my classes, adventures, and appreciating my time in the city! My host parents are also seeming happier, which definitely has an effect on me. When Vivi, my host mom, is in a good mood and smiling often, I feel more relaxed, my Spanish flows with ease and I just feel happier! We have had some great chats at dinner this week and while Vivi has been cooking, I’ve been hanging out in the kitchen to talk with her, which is nice and comforting.

So, the process to get our Argentine Residencies took 4 different steps, and we started the first step over a month ago. It included running around the city to make photocopies, take pictures, get a police record, photocopy again, pick up certificates, photocopy one more time…. Finally last week was our time to head to the

A day spent in Migrations! Crazy process.

A day spent in Argentina Migrations! Crazy process.

Migrations building, hang out for 3 hours, and officially be dubbed TEMPORARY RESIDENTS OF ARGENTINA!! Now I can get half off prices on flights around the country, free entries into parks, and am no longer an “extranjero” (foreigner) status. It’s interesting to me that we were not able to get these residencies until halfway through our program; it seems sort of silly. In a sense, you have to earn it. I was definitely, 100%, without a doubt a good ole’ extranjero when I first arrived in Buenos Aires. So much was shocking to me. My Spanish was just passable. Every time I stepped out my door into the city streets I felt uncomfortable. But, now, at the halfway mark and with my Argentine residency in hand, I think I’ve finally pushed my way to this new “life on the inside!” (or at least closer to it). Here are some of my realizations about the city of Buenos Aires. Things I used to find striking, but have really become the norm (in list form, because I am really into lists):

  • There is no word for “awkward” in the Spanish language, therefore Argentines don’t really have the feeling of “awkward” either. Talking with, standing with, and interacting with Argentines just has a level of proximity and comfort that is not always felt between Americans.
  • Argentines also do not have a word for “PDA.” But, let me tell you, they should. There is no sense of privacy– there is always extreme PDA on the crowded colectivos, subtes (subways), in the parks, or while people are walking. Why?!
  • The one-side cheek kiss MUST take place at every time of meeting and farewell. I absolutely love being in the gym and seeing these big Argentine guys drop their weights to give their bro a tender kiss on the cheek and hug it out. There is NEVER a time the kiss is unacceptable.
  • Porteños are unbelievable friendly. I love being on the colectivos where all of the bus drivers are friends, so at red lights the colectivos will be lined up, the driver will get of his seat, stick his head out the window, and have full conversations with the driver to the other side. So funny!
  • Everything happens so late here. If you pass a barber shop at midnight, it will be open and even little kids will be getting haircuts.
  • In order to pass my classes, I have to get a 4/10 here. In my mind, that’s a 40%. In their mind, apparently it is not. Good news, I received my first grade yet (literally I have ONLY received one grade in this entire time so far), and I got an 8! I do have to admit that it was in my psychology class and I had a porteña partner for the assignment, but I gave great moral support.
  • 24 hour flowers shops sit on almost every corner in Buenos Aires. Because why would you not want to buy flowers at 3 am?
    Still day time in this one...

    Still day time in this one…

    Sometimes if I have to walk back home a little later than I would like, the flower shops make me feel safe!

  • There is so much dog poop on the streets. In the US, it is definitely common courtesy to clean it up. Here, it ain’t no thaaang. I stepped it in today for the first time in 2 months.
  • La Universidad de Buenos Aires has over 400,000 undergrad students. It is public, fully free, but also the best education you can get in Buenos Aires. People move to the Federal Capital here just to attend this university.
  • In the US, it is considered rude to start eating without everyone at the table. Here, it is considered rude to wait if your food is in front of you because it will get cold. My host mom usually wants me to start eating AS she is lowering the plate onto the table. NO TIME TO LOSE.
  • I’m getting really good at military time, although it has taken me until this past week to realize that if I simply subtract 2, it is so easy! For example, 13:00, minus 2 from the 3, 1:00 pm. Got it. (Yes, I have been struggling).
  • Churros at a breakfast I attended!

    Churros at a breakfast I attended! South America is grand.

    Medialunas (croissants) and churros are everywhere. Enough said.

  • Vegetables are not really a priority for anyone in Argentina, but this week I found a veggie take out place for $20 pesos ($2.50 US) that is delicious. I then found a lovely park and thoroughly enjoyed my time.

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  • It still really scares me when bikers decide to ride in between the colectivos on the streets and attempt to weave in and out of the crazy taxi drivers. Somehow they are successful, but it is definitely a sight to see.

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  • Buenos Aires is such a politically-rooted place and is filled with an extensive  history. Politics inspire much of what the city stands for and much of the culture that exists here.
La Casa Rosada lit up at night. Cooler than our White House, am I right?!

La Casa Rosada lit up at night. Cooler than our White House, am I right?!

The face of Eva Peron, "Evita" is everywhere.

The face of Eva Peron, “Evita” is everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • For Yom Kippur last week, I found one of the only Reform synagogues in the city, called Amijai. I decided to venture there alone to experience a service that I would personally feel more comfortable with, and it was so great. The singing was beautiful and the cantor was accompanied by a cellist and some drummers. Totally my kind of jam. A woman also spoke in Spanish about her family moving to Argentina in the 1950s and her family’s experience in the Holocaust. She began to cry telling the story, and it was unbelievable to watch how this Jewish community responded to her and showed her support. I am so glad I went.
Amijai

Amijai

  • A “previa” is the word for “pregame” to the party here. In the US, our previas last for a half an hour and then the party begins. But, things are different here of course. Two weekends ago my friend Sonia and I were invited to our new porteña friend’s house with 2 of her Argentine friends for a picada (argentine snack) and previa. We were there from 10pm until 4:30 am before even leaving the house! But, getting invited to a porteña’s house was a very special treat and made me feel like I had cracked the barriers a little more in an effort to jump into this Argentine life “on the inside.” We chatted in Spanish, laughed together, and I had enough energy from the excitement of being in an Argentine friend’s house to last me all night!
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porteña amiga’s house

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picada

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previa porteña style!

  • Martha, the director of my internship, has brought a new definition to “fashionably” late. The other day when I went to her house at 2pm, punctual as usual, she did not show up for another 2 hours, simply because she “got tied up.” Surprisingly, that’s not considered rude here. As an update also, the internship experience is going well. I have been continuing my research on Argentine prisons, mental health, and intersecting laws for my report, but also have been attending a variety of community events, like a panel discussion at the Buenos Aires Legislative House, a feminist breakfast with a discussion on “Ley de Trata” (female trafficking), and a play production about this same topic. Every day I am learning more information about Martha as a person and about this grassroots nonprofit organization. Martha, the director, is a lesbian who spent many years in prison herself, and had a partner who died from AIDS. Her story seems to go on forever and I barely know any of it yet, but I do know that she is a woman who has been through a lot, has little education, and is exceptionally passionate about her work and accomplishments with this NGO. I am truly seeing “life on the inside” with this experience, and just being in her house every week is enough to open my eyes a little bit wider.
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Panel Discussion at the Legislative House of BsAs

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Feminist breakfast

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theater production

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I am getting used to 20 hour busrides. In fact, they are really not that bad. The busses are really comfortable, you sleep during the night, and watch how the landscape of Argentina changes with every hour out the window. This past weekend I was in Iguazu at the cataratas (waterfalls), which are named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World!!

Truly, my experience this past weekend in Iguazu deserves its own blog post,but, since I am so behind, I will share some of the experience right here. I went on the trip with a lot of IFSA friends, but we went on a large, organized trip through UCA, one of the universities we are attending, so it was a mixed group of Argentines, Americans, and many European students. It was fun to meet so many new people, as we all stayed in the same hostel! I also stayed in a cabin at the hostel with 8 of my girlfriends on my program. Since we all live separately in Buenos Aires, it was such a treat to have roommates and “pillow talk” for a couple of nights! Puerto Iguazu, the town where these waterfalls are located, is very small and quite indigenous. On the way to Iguazu, we stopped in a town called Missiones to see the Jesuit Ruins, which were so interesting and beautiful. We spent the next full day at las Cataratas de Iguazu where we walked all day to view the waterfalls at different points and perspectives, and even took a boat right up to the water. The waterfalls split the two countries of Argentina and Brazil, but without a Brazilian visa, you cannot step foot onto the other side. Iguazu was a truly magical experience. I walked around all day awe-struck by the fact that these world wonders are created by nature, and that I was lucky enough to be at them. The pictures barely do the sights justice, but it is the best I can do!

Las Ruinas

Las Ruinas

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IGUAZU! This is a real picture, unedited. Incredible.

IGUAZU! This is a real picture, unedited. Incredible.

So much water! In fact, the greatest amount of annual flow of any waterfall in the world

So much water! In fact, the greatest amount of annual flow of any waterfall in the world

on the boat!

on the boat about to go under the waterfall!

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Standing at Las Tres Fronteras: I am in Argentina, behind me is Paraguay, and to the right is Brazil.

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I ended up taking a break halfway through writing this post, and I’m really glad I did, because in the amount of time before returning to it today, I went to a lunch/charla (chat) at the director of my program’s house with 8 other IFSA students. Our director, Mario, is an awesome, charismatic guy, and he is having lunches (many!) at his home with small groups of us at a time in order to check in about the IFSA program and our impressions of Buenos Aires. It was such a fun day! We hung out at his house for 3 hours, ate homemade raviolis with pesto followed by incredible dulce de leche icecream, and chatted together in Spanish the entire time. There were a few striking things we discussed and that Mario said which seemed to come in perfect timing for the theme of this post. He asked us (in Spanish of course), “When did this program start?” We all looked at each other and tried to remember…July 21st, 22nd? Why did the day matter? And then he responded, “no, it started in the month of September.” He went on to explain that the first half of the time we have spent in Buenos Aires was a time of adjusting, a time of insecurity, and being on a scale from “overwhelmed to super-overwhelmed.” He explained that the second half of our time here is really about living, and that because of that, we actually have so much more time left than has already passed. He also encouraged us to think about what from Argentina we will take back with us to the US to make us “more complete Americans.” I thought this was an intriguing way to look at the motivation to study abroad.

 

 

 

So, here’s to a stronger second half than the first!

Chao!