Monday, July 28, 2008

Ciao Ciao Argentina

One last blogspot update as I'm heading back on the plane from Seattle to Atlanta. It's been a busy couple of days, I'm exhausted from a long and busy weekend and about to be even more exhausted from 15 hours on two planes and jet lag. Wednesday night we got together for wine and dessert for Molly's send off, and on Thursday after the last day of class we had our good-bye lunch at San Andrés. That night we went to Acabar, a huge board-game bar in Palermo. They have games like Monopoly (which is "Estancionero" in Argentina," Boggle ("Coggle"), and huge Jenga. The menu is made of laminated colored cards with an item on each card, the decor is crazy, and they'll let you stay for hours and hours without bothering you (much like everywhere else in Argentina). If there were a place like Acabar in Seattle it would be a huge huge hit.

On Friday night I took a tango class at the Confitería Ideal with Michelle and her mom. The Confitería Ideal is in Evita, and it's one of the oldest cafés in Buenos Aires. They have tango lessons twice a day right in the the middle of the huge cafe and live music, shows, and a milonga (free dance) every night. The two instructors are performers in shows around the city, and there were tourists as well as argentines taking the class. Later that night we went out dancing with Tiffany's host sister and friends - everyone was so nice, I'm always surprised (but shouldn't be) about how receptive and inclusive and open people are. There's something about greeting people with a kiss on the cheek that instantly makes you feel connected, even though you might never see the person again. We were so proud of ourselves for staying at the club until it closed at 6am, and we got choripan (chorizo sausage sandwiches) before hailing a cab and driving by shopkeepers opening up for the day just as we got home. The next day my host dad said, "You got home at 6am last night didn't you? Well you might as well, I don't think you'll be able to eat choripan at dawn in the United States."  (Mark and choripan shown below).

We went to the artesan fairs and San Isidro and Tigre on Saturday for one last round of shopping, which included 4 of us getting matching llama sweaters. I predict a lot of llama sweater parties on the horizon. That night my host parents had two old friends over for chinese take out and card games. It was my last dinner with the family, and after 5 weeks I felt so comfortable just being with them and being able to say everything I wanted to say in Spanish. Now that I'm heading back home it's going to be so odd not having to respond to everything in Spanish... when I got to the airport in Atlanta I found myself approaching customs thinking about how to say what I needed to say in Spanish before realizing... everyone speaks english here!

Today, or I guess it's by now it's yesterday, I took off for the airport. I came pretty close to crying as I said goodbye to my host parents and I think my host mom was on the brink as well; they have been so wonderful for taking me in and taking care of me and treating me just like they wold one of their kids and showing me what it's like to really live in Argentina. I took a cab to Clarke's house so we could head to the airport with Tiffany as well. I even felt like I could cry when Tiffany said goodbye to her host siblings and when Clarke said goodbye to his family, because I knew that everyone else felt so connected to their families here. It's risky and you feel so vulnerable when you go live with someone in a foreign country, and equally risky to take someone in to your house, but it creates such an intense and close relationship and I am so thankful that I came to Argentina. After five weeks I feel like I'm leaving just as I got completely accustomed to everything - the language, getting around on public transport and being able to gossip with taxi drivers, knowing the layout of the city, meeting really amazing people, figuring out the best places to go out to, and feeling really close to everyone else on the trip. Every day Buenos Aires grew on me a little more, and now that I've been away from it for only 12 hours I get this nostalgic feeling thinking about all things Argentine, and I think that means that the trip was a success.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rain Rain, Go Away

The last couple of days have been pretty low-key - we're finishing up our classes (tomorrow's the last day!) and getting ready for one last weekend before going home.  Monday it rained super hard and there was lots of wind and thunder and lightning, but now things are just kind of chilly.  Here's a picture of us waiting for the train in the rain.

We all went to a great restaurant for lunch today called La Vaca - all of the decor was old wood and gaucho stuff, and I realized how much I'm going to miss traditional Argentine food.  Where else can you get a steak for $10?  I'm also going to miss spending tons of time with these people:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Oh Argentina

This was our last full weekend in Argentina and I don't think I could have come up with a better way to spend Saturday.  We took at train downtown and walked through Parque 3 de Febrero.  It was a beautiful day - there was a lake with paddle boats and swans, people were rollerblading and biking with their families, and we had chorizo sandwiches.  We went to MALBA - Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires.  It was the best art museum I've ever been to - big enough to keep you occupied for a good 2 hours but not too big to feel overwhelming, and all of the pieces were just awesome.  There was a good mix of traditional and modern pieces and different mediums, and Buenos Aires is such a huge cultural center that it's able to host some big-name pieces by people like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. We walked by the zoo, ran into Barney on the street, and spent some time at the artesan fair in Palermo before having dinner at the vegetarian chinese buffet for the third time around and finding a bar to finish the night in. 

Today my host parents had an asada with some of the extended family and invited Molly over.  They are such a wonderful family - it feels so good to come to a foreign country and be welcomed into a family and feel right at home.  After being here for a month I really do feel at home - the grocer on the corner always greets me on my way to the train in the morning, the ticket collectors on the train and the people on the gym know us, and by now the layout of the city makes sense and it's so easy to get where we need to go.  All of the things that seemed to strange a month ago now seem comfortable and familiar.

Friday, July 18, 2008

El Campo

On Tuesday we had lunch at a restaurant called Kansas - it's all American food and we were surprised to see everyone inside all dressed up.  Everyone was really excited to have American-tasting burgers and salads.  At $15 USD it was the most I'd spent on a single meal since I've been here, which says something about how favorably the exchange rate works out.
Wednesday night we went to a tango show in la Boca, and last night we went to the Jazz Club Olivos to watch Clarke play again.  I loved it so much - the players are all legitimately really really good, everyone at the club was so nice and it had a great atmosphere, and I really enjoy spending time with our group of students and the host siblings and friends we've met here.  

I saw Batman today, and it was definitely one of the best movies I've seen in a long while - and fortunately it was in English with Spanish subtitles or else a lot of the dialogue would have been lost in translation.

The last couple of day have been pretty historic for Argentina.  President Kirschner proposed a 45% export tax on agricultural goods, and on Tuesday over 300,000 people went downtown to protest during the senate vote.  100,000 people showed up to support the government and the other 200,000 were there on behalf of the farmers.  The vote was tied 36-36 until the Vice President cast the tie-breaking vote at 4:30 in the morning and rejected the increased export tax.  Today's newspaper had about 12 pages of articles about the vote.  It's interesting, in America we generally talk about political issues between republicans and democrats, but here in Argentina the political issues are between the government and the people.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Saturday afternoon was gorgeous - I took the train down a few stops and ran back along the parks and beaches along the river. Everywhere was packed with families and couples and groups of people with dogs and bikes and guitars, and probably 90% of people were passing around around mate. Saturday night we celebrated the birthday of one of the students at San Andrés at Frére, a bar/boliche in Belgrano.

On Sunday I had lunch with my host parents at the sports club they're members of. A lot of middle/upper class families in Argentina belong to these clubs - they have competitive teams for rugby/futbol/field hocky etc, kids come to take classes and be on teams, parents play pool and bridge, and families come to eat and swim together. My host parents have been playing tennis with the same group for years and years and said that when their kids were growing up the club was like a second home; it's a cool idea to combine sports with something so social. My host mom was telling me that argentines will take any excuse to get together and talk and eat and laugh, which I think is really healthy. Sunday night I went to the weekly artesan fair at Tigre. I can't believe that I'll be home in exactly 2 weeks!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Our group took a walking tour of Barrio Norte downtown and looked at a lot of the old architecture in the city.  There's a big italian and french influence, and I love that in a city of huge skyscrapers there are all these hidden corners with ancient buildings from every architectural period.  I've also noticed that almost every building downtown has huge huge doors - I don't  know why, but they're everywhere.

The other night we went to watch Clarke play piano at the Jazz Club Olivos.  He was listed on the program as "Un joven pianista norteamericano - Clarke Reid - El Gringo de Seattle!"  It was so great - the jazz club has these weekly spontaneous jam sessions and the place is always packed with argentines who love jazz.  Jazz is so uniquely american, it was great to see that the people here were so into it.  I think our table was the youngest by about 40 or 50 years, and everyone was so happy to see Clarke, they kept coming over after to shake his hand and talk to the famous Gringo.    

Yesterday I spent the day downtown.  Our homework for the weekend is visit and write about some of the notable cafés/bars in Buenos Aires (best homework I've ever had).  We went to Confitería Ideal, where the middle of the cafe is a dance floor full of tango-ing couples.  We also went to Bar Seddon in San Telmo, which has a really eclectic feel with old roman sculptures and modern art pieces.  One thing that I love about all of the cafés and restaurants here is that the waiter never brings the bill until you ask for it - you can sit (and people do) for hours and hours without being bothered.  In the US we usually go to cafés for a reason - to study, to meet with someone, to get caffeine and go - but people here come to just eat and drink and talk and enjoy.  Most of the cafés I've been to are open until 3 am on weeknights and 6am on weekends, and around 11pm or midnight you'll see people ordering dinner before heading off somewhere else.  Yesterday I also bought tango shoes, we went shopping in Palermo, and we found a vegetarian chinese buffet - I was completely in heaven.  Another food-related discovery of the day was that I am slowly and reluctantly but surely becoming a fan of dulce de leche.  Dulce de leche is reminiscent of caramel, but it has a less annoyingly sticky texture and tastes sweet in a different way, and I've been putting it on rice cakes and fruit.  Soooo good.    

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happy 9th of July!

The other night Molly and I went to a yoga class at the gym we've been going to.  The gym is really quaint - everyone who comes in is greeted with a kiss on the cheek, everyone kind of knows each other somehow, and the power went out in the middle of the yoga class.  The yoga class was a good lesson in spanish anatomy vocabulary and it's always nice to mix in with local people, even though they can always pick us out as Americans.  Whenever I say that I'm from Seattle someone says "Oh, sí, como Grey's Anatomy!"  

We had a couple birthdays to ring in last night, so we all headed down to Palermo around 11pm.  Nate's host brother is a bartender and happens to know a lot of people with connections, so we were able to get into a reservation-only bar called "el buey" (the ox) by saying that we were "friends of Lucas" and then we headed to a club called "Asia de Cuba" in Puerto Madero, which started out as an industrial district down by the water but now has a bunch of trendy converted warehouses.  The lines outside were crazy - it was one of those clubs where huge crowds hover around the entrance and wait for some mysterious guy to beckon them in.  There were 5 girls in our group and we were able to get in by pushing to the front and again saying that we were "friends of Lucas."  The club was amazing - it was packed, they played a mix of latin music and really good american remixes, and there was a huge golden buddha statue right next to the dance floor -  but we only stayed for a little bit because the guys weren't able to get in.  It seemed like there were twice as many people waiting to get in as there were inside the club. When I eventually got home it was 4:30am, pretty early by Argentine standards.

We didn't have school today, it was Argentina's Independence Day.  We celebrated Nate's birthday at his family's house (his host mom made this delicious dessert - it was some incredible dulce de leche/pudding/ice cream combination) and then Mark's birthday at his host family's house (which involved a chocolate and dulce de leche cake).  The whole day was so relaxing and I love spending time with everyone's host siblings.  I noticed that most of the time we speak in spanish to them and they speak in english to us, and the whole conversation just goes on seamlessly.  We spent most of tonight eating and playing guitar and singing - if there are two things that never fail to bring people together it's food and music.  I am so incredibly thankful that this specific combination of people decided to come on this study abroad, and I am so thankful for how wonderful all of the host families are.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

El Subte

I went downtown and took the subway (el subte) for the first time today.  The system is pretty new, the trains come every 5-10 minutes, and it's only 30 cents per ride.  When you ride the subway, oftentimes someone will walk down the aisle dropping whatever they're selling (paper, pens, toys, candy) into everyone's lap and either collect money or the item on the way back.  You'll see it everywhere too - people wander through busy streets trying to sell things to people stuck in traffic, and the other day in a fairly upscale cafe downtown within 15 minutes a blind man came to our table trying to sell candy and a kid who looked to be about 4 was crawling around the restaurant asking patrons for spare change.  

Today we went to Palermo, a neighborhood that people call Hollywood or SoHo.  It's known for its shopping, cafés, and bars.  I love that there aren't many chains restaurants and cafés down here - every place has its own flair and its own sense of style.  The restaurant we went to had a really great atmosphere - it was three stories tall with huge wooden doors that almost reached all the way up to the loft on the third floor and all of the furniture was really modern.  It was raining today for the first time since I've been here, and I'm excited to go back to Palermo on a day with better weather.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I love 3-day weekends - we just spent a long 2 days in Uruguay and still have a Sunday to sleep in. Uruguay was great, I'm so glad we went.  We took a boat over to the Colonia de Sacramento yesterday morning and had long meals and explored town all day.  We stayed at a really great hostel in the old part of town, which has older architecture and a small-town feel.  There were probably as many vespas and motorcycles and cars, and it was great to get away from the traffic and noise of Buenos Aires - it was the first time we had seen drivers stop for pedestrians in a while.  Everywhere you go in Uruguay you'll see people walking around with thermoses of mate under their arms and a cup in their hands - it's the national drink and it's prevalence makes me think of Seattlites wandering around the city with coffee.    

Today we slept in and got lunch at a local cafe, and I was thrilled to find that they served white rice.  I have a running list in my head of food that I miss terribly - rice, bok choi, avocados, smoothies, and salad are at the top of the list.  It's really tricky to order at a restaurant and get what you want - things generally come a la carte and you have to be reeeeally specific sometimes.  For example, I've learned that an "ensalada" in South America doesn't imply that you'll be getting lettuce.  I ordered a mediterranean salad yesterday, which turned out to be tomatoes, chicken, tuna, a hard boiled egg, and a pile of onions.  And the other day Molly ordered "grilled cheese," which was a plate of cheese that had been grilled.  But I think that what Argentina (and occasionally Uruguay) lacks in salad and grilled cheese sandwiches it makes up for with fried bananas, delicious coffee, and the never ending parade of meat.    

The weather was gorgeous today - it must have been at least 70 degrees, I still can't believe it's winter here.  We spent a couple hours playing at the beach, got ice cream, wandered around an artisan fair, caught a beautiful sunset over el Río de la Plata, and took the boat back to Buenos Aires.  The whole trip went off without a hitch, and it was a great way to bond with everyone else.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Steve Carrell

We had our second tango class last night.  Our instructor is tiny and hilarious, I just want to put her in my pocket and take her home.  I'm so glad that we found the class, it's way fun and it's too bad that we'll only be able to take a few more lessons before going home.  

I really like the classes we're taking at the University.  We have grammar twice a week and conversation/culture twice a week.  Today was way fun - we talked about and drew argentinian mythological creatures, discussed and made up "los piropos" (pick-up lines), and talked about machismo.  Here are our artistic interpretations of a few legendary creatures:

A few of us went to a local movie theater to see Get Smart tonight, although here it's called "Super Agente 86."  I was hoping that it would be in English with subtitles like most movies and TV shows here, but it was dubbed in Spanish and we were all pleasantly surprised at how much we could understand.  Matinees cost just over $4 USD, which was another pleasant surprise.  

I'm waking up in just a few hours to take a train and then a taxi and then a big boat to Uruguay for the weekend!  We're staying the night in a little historic town just on the other side of the Río de la Plata called Colonia de Sacramento.   

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I think the thing I miss the most about Seattle right now is long days.  It's tough to wake up before the sun and have it set only an hour or two after I get home in the afternoon.... in July.  But fortunately the weather's been good - I'm a big fan of almost-70 degree days in the winter.  

I got a monthly pass at a gym that's only a 8-10 minute run from my house (major thanks to Molly for finding it), which is really nice - I had missed working out sooo much.  It's a small gym on a corner with some cardio and free weights and a few machines and a studio upstairs for yoga and different classes.  I noticed a virgin mary statue in the corner of the gym, which was cute.  I also noticed that most of the trendy guys in Argentina are pretty into the whole almost-mullet look right now.   But anyways I'm glad to be working out again because it's so easy to spend all day eating things that are bad for you.  I think my favorite thing so far is Pollo Milanesa Napolitana - it's breaded/baked/sometimes fried chicken topped with ham, melted cheese, tomato sauce and herbs.  So bad and yet sooo good. 

I also just booked my boat ticket for our trip to Uruguay this weekend, I'm excited.