Monday, June 27, 2011

¡Que éxito! ...o suerte?

Now that I'm safely at home in Southern California and cannot jinx myself, I would just like to mention that I successfully managed to make it through 4 months in Buenos Aires without being mugged, robbed, or pickpocketed, so HA!  No money was stolen, no keys were lost, and my camera and new Blackberry survived the entire trip.  Could it be because I kinda look/seem porteña?  Dang, I sure hope so!  Do I feel slightly superior to the other estadounidenses who were victims of petty crime? ...I shan't answer.  But what I will say is that to live in any big city --especially Buenos Aires-- you just have to keep your wits about you.  And as less-than-perfectly-sober as I may have gotten, my wits were always there for me, glueing my hand to my purse in the boliche, hiding my phone in the secret pocket of my coat, and walking with purpose as fast as humanly possible until I reached my apartment lobby.

Friday, June 24, 2011

La Despedida

As my time here comes to an end, I'm thinking about how a year ago I was unsure as to whether or not I should study abroad.  During my college application process I never took into consideration the possibility of studying abroad.  I never thought it would be for me.  And once I got to Michigan, I could barely understand why anyone would want to give up a precious semester of college life to live in another country, possibly in a stranger's home with their family.  But, these four months of studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina has probably been the greatest experience of my life.  Hands down the second best decision I've ever made in my life (the first was choosing Michigan over Emerson).  I've been saying all along how much I love certain foods and places, but it's really just been the entire experience and all the people I've met (especially the people in my program) that made these four months so amazing.

As some of you might know, I hate being/feeling like a tourist.  And one thing I realized the other day as I was walking around the city, running some errands, is that I am not a tourist here; far from it, I like to think.  Just like Ann Arbor, the city of Buenos Aires has become another one of my homes.  I frequent certain places, I know the bus routes, I know my way around the city, I understand and can communicate in the local dialect, etc.

And the people I've met!  Despite what I thought throughout the program, I really made some good friends here that I'm truly going to miss.  Even though we've only been here for four months, I feel like I've known some of these people for way longer.  I feel closer to some of these people than I do to some people I've known for all of college or all of high school.  It's a happy and a sad thing: sad because I might not see these people for a long time or ever again, unfortunately; happy because it makes me realize that there are potential friends and people who I would love all over the world, just waiting for me to meet them.  Also, we all got to share this amazing experience together.  And whether or not everyone loved it as much as I did, we were all in it together, studying, going out, playing soccer, traveling, whatever.  We share this common experience of living and studying in Buenos Aires.  And hopefully --what I think would determine a true friendship, and not just one by circumstace-- we'll stay in touch and continue to be close and have other things in common, and not have to rely on reminiscing about our crazy adventures in Argentina.  So, saying goodbye to all my new friends has been sad, but I know that if we're truly friends we will make the effort to see each other again in the future, and that's what matters.

I keep saying I want to come back here, live and maybe work here for a while, but I know that coming back still won't replicate the experience I've had, living with this family, hanging out with my IES friends.  I love Buenos Aires as a city, but without the right people, it won't be the same.  Instead, it will be an entirely new experience, where I'll meet new people and make more great relationships.  And I look forward to that, not only when I return to Buenos Aires, but in every new adventure I undertake throughout my life.

Chau Buenos Aires, te quiero muchisimo.  Te voy a extrañar, pero nos vemos pronto.  Besitos :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

But what I'll actually miss the MOST...

Tomas, my 4 year old best friend, is not pictured.  He chose to hide under a couch cushion...boludo.
ah, there he is.
I won the host family lottery and got placed with the greatest people in all of Argentina.  Technically, my original housing assignment said I'd only have a madre, a padre, y una hermana.  What it didn't say is that my host parents' three other daughters would constantly be visiting with their respective husbands and children.  From day one, they've all been so welcoming and interested in my experience here and have treated me as if I was the 5th daughter.  I love going out here, but some of my favorite nights here have been the ones spent in my homestay, watching movies with my host sister(s).

They keep telling me I need to find an Argentine boyfriend so I'll have a reason to stay here.  What I don't think they realize is that I've already fallen in love with a whole family of Argentines.  It's a shame they don't have any sons, because I would have married into this family in a heartbeat.  I'm already informally invited to my host sister's future/eventual wedding, and these people are all invited to mine, whenever that might be.

I'll miss listening to my host dad tell me about how great Salta is and how all these natural disasters are proof that the Earth hates us.  I'll miss being persuaded by my host mom into accepting second helpings of dinner.  I'll miss my host sister reprimanding my host mom for not letting me decline second helpings of dinner.  I'll miss the hilarious and re simpáticos friends and neighbors of my host family that have joined us for dinner on multiple occasions.  I'll miss Sunday brunches of wine and milanesa, and swapping bad words with my host sisters' husbands.  I'll miss trying to study as the 4-year old screams, for no apparent reason, from the other room.  I'll miss my host dad's speculations as I dip everything in sight in dulce de leche.  I'll miss coming home at 4am and making drunk food with my host sister.  I'll miss watching cartoons, coloring and playing games with my host nephews(?).  I'll miss constantly being asked, by everyone, if I'm wearing enough clothes to endure the "cold" weather outside.

That entrance fee I paid to get into Argentina is good for the next 10 years, although my passport expires in 8, so I know I'll be back before then.

[This post was written in segments, seeing as every time I sat down to write, I would just get way too emotional]

Friday, May 27, 2011

Casi Porteña?

Evidence of my adaptation to this culture/language:
  • I can finally understand what my host mother's 4-year-old grandson is saying.  We even have conversations.
  • I went to a Spanglish Exchange [where Argentines and native-English speakers meet and chat in a setting very much like speed-dating] and 2 people there --one of whom was Argentine-- thought I was one of the Argentines :D  Granted, they only heard a very very small amount of my Spanish at the time they made this rash assumption; but hey, I've got the look?
  • I can skim my readings, if necessary. 
  • 30% of the students in my marketing class passed the midterm and I was one of them.  The teacher even went on to say to one of the Argentine students who didn't pass, "She writes better than you, and Spanish isn't even her first language"
  • During my midterm for Culturas Contemporaneas, I realized I really had not studied all of the right material and was semi-doomed to fail, so I threw caution to the wind and wrote a bunch of stuff/BS that only almost kinda answered the questions posed.  I left the exam downtrodden.  This week, I got my test back to discover that not only did I pass (4/10 is passing), but I got a 7 (approximately a B)!  If that doesn't show language skills, I don't know what does.   
  • I think I was one of three people to pass our Econ test.
  • Only when my momma came to visit and I was put in contrast with her Mexican Spanish did I realize that I do, in fact, now speak Spanish with a bit of an Argentine accent.  sexxxy

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Things (mostly food) I will miss!!

As my time here is drawing to a close, I'm getting a little emotional about all the amazing things I'll have to live without until Buenos Aires and I are reunited once again in the future.

Las galletitas
Mate is not on this list because I will still drink it when I get home (but who knows what brands of yerba they'll sell in the States =/).  What I will miss are the delicious cookies/galletitas that I eat while I drink mate.  Mate has a pretty strong flavor, so the perfect balance to a steamy, amargo (bitter, or non-sweet) mate are yummy little cookies.  Argentines love their cookies --there's a good majority of one aisle at the supermercado dedicated to just cookies-- but the ones I love the most are Tortitas (Black or Super Chocolate), which are similar to the cookie part of an Oreo, but with a little groove scraped out on one side to hold a delightful puddle of chocolate or whatever you would call the cream-filling of an Oreo.  Cookies come in rolls of about 18-20 cookies, and I'm pretty doubtful that any roll of Tortitas has ever lasted me (or any person?) more than two sessions of cookie-eating/mate-drinking.  The fact that they cost $2,85 pesos (that's less than 75 American cents) makes them that much more irresistible!
Tortitas are my favorite, but I'm pretty sure I haven't met a galletita here that I didn't like.

When people rave about the Argentine meat, they're telling the truth.  So much so, that even the street food is delicious.  Choripan (chorizo+pan = sausage+bread) is offered in restaurants, but is in my opinion the best when it comes from dives or street carts.  I don't need anything fancy, just the choripan and some chimichurri (yummy sauce), a little mostaza and maybe a few papas if I'm feeling especially ravenous.  Needless to say, the chorizo is my favorite part of any asado.  I don't know what kind of meat fills these sausages (I probably don't want to know, let's face it.. it's sausage) but it is TASTY.

Superpancho (tuesdays)
Continuing on my love for Argentine sausage...
If anyone knows me, they know my favorite food group is the hotdog family; so when I came here, I obviously had to try the Argentine version: the superpancho.  I wouldn't say the actual hotdog of a superpancho is anything amazing (it's got nothing on Carney's); what makes a superpancho great (or at least the superpancho my friends and I discovered) is the sauces and papas that you add to it.  The place my friends and I frequent on our "Superpancho Tuesdays" (<--self-explanatory) has a deal where you get a 7 peso superpancho (less than 2 USD!) and your choice of any 2 (out of like 30) sauces, topped off with crispy little papas.  My friends and I are pretty sure we could be billionaires if we made this available in college towns across the United States.

Argentina seems to be the only place that really appreciates how good grapefruit is.  As someone who has always held that pink grapefruit Jelly Belly jellybeans are way better than watermelon, toasted marshmallow and all the other flavors, I'm in love with the fact that pomelo (grapefruit) is a popular beverage flavor here.  Con gas (carbonated) or sin gas (flat), the pomelo juice drinks here are refreshing and delicious.  And Argentines know this, which is why the option of a 1.5L bottle is the standard size found in kioskos and supermercados.  Because the BsAs tap water here is completely fine to drink, I refuse to spend money on bottled water; I am only ever willing to pay for pomelo (or beer).

The best thing to have for breakfast or during your coffee break (or any time of the day, really) are yummy little medialunas.  They are similar to croissants, but are smaller and sweeter.  They also might be the cheapest thing you can buy here.
...They're delicous, that is all.

There are many different kinds of alfajores, but if I had to describe them in a simple fashion, I'd say they are super cookies.  That, and they're basically a vehicle for dulce de leche.  They can either be two soft butter cookies sandwiched around dulce de leche, or they could be 2-3 layers of biscuity cookies (or soft cakey layers) sandwiched among dulce de leche or chocolate and then dunked in a coating of chocolate.  You can get them at a coffee shop/restaurant or you can pick up an individually wrapped one at the nearest kiosko.  To be clear, I like ALL alfajores; but I've definitely consumed more of the kind that is pictured in this adjoining photo.  Also, buying alfajores from the kioskos is a great way of getting monedas (change) for the colectivos (buses), so it's really a win-win situation.  There is also no unacceptable time of the day to eat an alfajor, which is great!  Unless you're being fed them for breakfast at 8am on a Tuesday... then it's a little much.

La Noche
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the nightlife here is ridiculous.  I'm trying to have as much fun as possible here to hopefully get it out of my system before I return to the United States of America where bars/clubs close at 2am (4 if you're lucky), the drinking age is 21, and having fun is confined to fridays and saturdays.  But it's not all about getting crazy here.  It's just nice knowing that you can basically enjoy any and all hours of the day, whether the sun is shining or not.  You can sleep when you're dead, or when you're back in the States, or until 4pm the next day after coming home at 6am; whichever you choose, Buenos Aires is a place to have fun, live life, and enjoy the company of your friends and even some random strangers who might become your friends.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mate (Mah-Tay)

     I was first introduced to yerba mate freshman year in the dormroom of my friends, Michaela and Lilia.  It was more or less green tea in a weird little cup with a metal straw, but I liked it.  Now that I'm in Argentina, homeland of mate, I can't get enough of it.  I got the chance to learn more about mate when I did a class project on it at the start of the semester.  Even the research process was rewarding:  I basically just asked two IES professors a million questions while one showed me the "proper" way to prepare un buen mate and then the subsequent etiquette of drinking mate in a group (because mate is a very communal beverage, to be shared amongst friends).
     In Argentina, mate is everywhere! and I love it.  Every park you walk through, there are people sitting with their friends, drinking mate.  Go to the library and every table of people has at least one mate (because it has caffeine and is said to stimulate mental activity).  Just the other day, I was in the Biblioteca Nacional when a complete stranger offered to share her mate with me whilst we studied; I was in desperate need of some caffeine and it was just the greatest, most unexpected surprise to be offered to share mate with a friendly stranger.  And on Sunday, I sat around with my host family, watching the Boca vs. River Superclasico and drinking mate.  How Argentine am I???  I even shared mate with the British girls I met in Patagonia; we drank mate and watched Mean Girls on the miniscule screen of my iPod one rainy day in our hostel room.
     I have my own mate set, and plan on using it very much when I return to the States.  I already had my mom take home a bag of yerba with her for me, because I haven't yet found out where I'll be purchasing yerba in LA when I run out...
     All are welcome to join and tomar mate conmigo :)

One funny thing that happened here that probably would not go over so easily in the States:  Before my trip to Patagonia, my host mom packed me some yerba in a glass jar for me to take with me.  I decided the glass jar was too heavy and fragile, so I moved the yerba into a plastic bag, only then realizing how sketchy a giant bag of yerba looks.  But of course, everyone in Argentina knows that yerba is yerba; I think I'd have to answer a lot more questions if I did that in the States.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Patagonia: El Calafate y El Chalten

For my program's midsemester break this past week, I took a solo trip to Patagonia to visit the two cities (if you can call them cities) of El Calafate and El Chalten.  I ended up meeting up with other kids from my program and also making new hostel friends, so it didn't end up being entirely solo, which was nice.  Upon arrival at my first hostel in El Calafate, I was given a gift from the gods which took the form of FREE FOOD left in the kitchen for anyone to take.  One of the items was an unopened roll of my favorite Argentine cookies, so I obviously took/ate all the food.  The next day my friend and I minitrekked on the glacier, Perito Moreno, which consisted of putting on crampons and then walking around on the ice.  It was really cool and so beautiful and the tour ended with whiskey (on glacier ice) and alfajores!

The next day, I took a three hour bus to El Chalten, all the while having great epiphanies of why I love my life so much.  I then proceeded to get very emotional at the sight of the beautiful grandiose mountains and lake during our approach into El Chalten; I blame it on the slow 90's pop jams I was listening to at the time.  When I got to El Chalten, I met some really nice girls from London and spent the next three days hiking with them.  Our first hike was an 8-hour trek up to Lago de los Tres, near Fitz Roy.  It was really beautiful and rewarding, but after climbing a mountain and walking for 16 miles, I wanted to collapse dead as soon as I got back to my hostel.  The next day's hike was much easier, and just as beautiful.  During both days of hiking I had to keep stopping to look at my surroundings, just to make sure it was real, because it was all way too unbelievably, breathtakingly BEAUTIFUL.  None of it looked real, it was too amazing!!!

Fitz Roy and Lago de los Tres

second day's hike to Lago de Torre

Also, littlebabyEmily learned how to make pasta, because she had to fend for herself and cook in the hostel (I've been spoiled by the EQ cafeteria).  When I told my mother this (who is visiting in Buenos Aires right now!!!) she said, "cool, as in you made pasta from scratch?" to which I replied, " learned how to put pasta in boiling water..."