Today, I Cry for You, Argentina

So that’s it. Just like that, it’s over. Back to North America, back to regular life, back to reality. And not excited about it.

My last week in Argentina was just crazy. A hectic week, bogged down with school work, franticly packing and trying not to let the depression get to me. Finishing a semester at school is even more strange and liberating abroad. The work is in and that’s it. But instead of driving home and kicking back, you have to face a long and drawn out goodbye with the life you built, the people who have surrounded and supported that life, and everything you have come to call home as you pack your entire life into a giant (9-pounds over the weight limit) suitcase. So that’s what I did.

Tuesday night, I went to dinner with my host mom and host brother. She took us to La Cabrera. This restaurant is constantly filled with tourists as its name swarms every BA to do list in history. Some say it is simply the best restaurant in the city, so I had to find out for myself. Well, I’ll tell you one thing, it certainty is not over rated. As the three of us split a bottle of wine and the almond and parmesan cheese stuffed olives, we waited for one of the tastiest meals I have ever given my taste buds the honor of enjoying. That place will surely be making it into my dreams; I am going to wake up with drool everywhere and I’m okay with it.

Wednesday night we had a small goodbye dinner. A group of maybe 15 of us that have gotten close over the duration of out time abroad went to one of our favorite restaurants for a short but enjoyable and commemorative meal. It’s strange, it really seems like I have known some of these people for my entire life and in a sense I have. Parting from the life I have built including a new city (state, country, and continent) new language, and new lifestyle is not going to be easy. In fact, after the “reverse culture shock” sets in, I’m pretty sure it is really going to hit me that the semester is over. It already feels like a dream and I would do anything to jump back in it.

Thursday was my last day of school. Papers turned in and final exams finished, we just sat and talked in class as we looked back on our time in Argentina. The swarm of emotions from all the students sitting and telling funny stories was more than palpable. We really, really just don’t want to leave. After my last (actually, on second thought, I think I’m going to continue my tradition) Thursday afternoon nap, I met some people at Kevin’s (Jesus’ son) place so we could…not drink…before the IES farewell dinner. Then we went. We had no idea what to expect. We thought we would be sitting down at a huge table but boy, were we wrong. They rented out what was more or less an Argentine Ballroom and had a projector playing a photo slide show as students spiked their drinks, ate the dinner (which was more like hors devours) and danced the night away. It was actually really nice to see everyone let loose. Many of the teachers and staff came and everyone was dressed up. Turns out, many of our friendly staff members who just sit typing away at their computers are actually beautiful and love to dance. Hm, who would have known? Throughout the night, people said their goodbyes as we split up to go out to various boliches for one last time.

And just like that, it’s done. Friday I just woke up, enjoyed my last empanadas for lunch and packed my entirely overweight suitcase filled with all kinds of crap that I hope doesn’t break. 2 bottles of red wine, 2 suits and a white rug is a dangerous combination. Pray for my luggage please.

Now it is off to Canada. Why? I have no idea. Well, for a wedding actually, but still. I flew overnight from Buenos Aires to Miami where I had less than an hour to get off the plane, pick up my checked bags at baggage claim, go through documentation and customs, re-check my bags, go through a (miserably slow) security line, and walk across the terminal before my connecting flight to Montreal. I cannot believe I made the flight. After 2 days in Montreal for the wedding, I fly back through Chicago to Austin. That is 18 hours of flying in 3 days with 2 checked bags and 2 carry-ons weighing in at a total of, I don’t know, a hundred million pounds or so, thanks to my 27+ kilo suitcase. Luckily though, my flight to Miami was awesome. After finding out that Jenn was on my flight, we shared a cab to the airport and got ready for the plane. After eating gross airport food, we had to spend our last pesos. Thanks, duty free. Before we knew it, we were sharing a few small bottle of whisky and watching Finding Nemo before passing out for the majority of what could have been a miserable flight. I have no idea how we managed to sit together, we got really lucky.

Anyway, in what might be my last blog post I would like to (very briefly, don’t worry) recap some of my experiences abroad. If you are still keeping up with my blog, there is not point in stopping now.

Let’s think travel. About 17 weeks in Argentina, and considering the long weekends and Spring break, I think I may have travelled for half of them. A ver…

Week 1: Where the hell am I?

Week 2: Traveling already, Mar del Plata before Summer is over.

Week 3: Classes begin; day try to San Isidro neighborhood.

Week 4: Man, I wish I spoke Spanish.

Week 5: Easter off? We’re going to Iguazu Falls. One of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.

Week 6: IES trip to Tigre. Fell out of Kayak into gross brown water. Lived.

Week 7: Day trip to Lobos, Estancias rock.

Week 8: Alright, I’m settled in.

Week 9: Mid-terms already? IES trip to Tandil.

Week 10: Patagonia. Scuba diving in Ushuaia, climbing Laguna de Los Tres to Fitz Roy in Chalten, and trekking on a giant glacier in Calafate.

Week 11: Keep going. Uruguay with IES.

Week 12: Emily comes to BA – incredible.

Week 13: The time flies by.

Week 14: North by Northwest Argentina. Packed a 7 day trip into 4 to Salta, the Salt Flats, Purmamarca, Tilcara, Cachi, and Cafayate and seeing the beautiful sights in between them.

Week 15: Something tells me I’m running out of time here. Oh well, at least I speak Spanish.

Week 16: I need to study for finals now? And how many pages do these papers need to be?

Week 17: Finally, I’m done with school. Oh dammit. Am I leaving already?

Yep. 9 trips. I spent more weekends outside of BA than I did in it. And still, there is so much more I want to see and experience. Not being able to go to Chile and/or Peru is my biggest regret. There is no doubt in my mind that I am going to return to South America to see more. This experience has been one of the most incredible and life-changing times I can imagine and I can’t wait to take that home with me. I have made some incredible friends without realizing how seamless it was. I am going to miss all of them very much (until they come visit me in Austin.)

So what now? Well, that is a really good question. This may be the end of Good Air from Buenos Aires, which by the way, I’ll tell you now in case you didn’t know actually means “Fair Winds.” You fool, you. I really appreciate those of you who have kept up with my blog, it has really been a pleasure to write and I hope you enjoyed it. Perhaps I will continue it with my post-Argentina adventures or the after-effects of my experience. One thing’s for sure, I plan on hanging onto my Spanish, drinking my Mate and living una vida tranquila. I suggest you do the same.

Gracias chicos.

Suerte.

-Avi

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Published in: on June 28, 2010 at 1:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Salgo con un Corazón Roto

I realize that it has been nearly two weeks since I have posted on my blog which is, like my trip, unfortunately, coming to an end.

I’ll try to catch you up to speed, and do it quick considering that I have a ridiculous amount of work weighing me down. In fact, in my last two weeks in Buenos Aires, I have had three 1-page papers, one 2-page paper, one 7-page paper, one 9-page paper, and 3 final exams to deal with. How am I supposed to enjoy myself slash find time to buy you gifts, dear reader? Not to worry though, with my excellent procrastinating skills that I, like many of us, have been developing for years now and my dedication to soaking up as much Argentine vida as possible, I think (hope) I’ll get done all that I need to.

Alright, I can’t quite take you day-by-day here, but I’ll try to remember all the exciting things I have been doing lately. After my (incredible) trip to the Northern region of Argentina, I had a lot to face. Once I realized that my time here was coming to an end, I knew that I needed to see the cool places I’ve (somehow) missed, buy gifts for family/friends/mi mismo, and deal with the depression from the ending of my trip/adventure/dream/Argentinianism/whatever you want to call it. All the while, doing the work necessary to pass (not fail) my end-of-the-semester-heavy classes. Off I went.

I felt pathetic for being in Argentina for more than three months and never having been to a milonga (a place where Argentines come together to learn how to/watch/dance tango.) Luckily, Tal knew of one deemed by many (himself included) as one of the coolest/must-see places in the city. So, for the past two Tuesdays I went to Milonga Catedral. This place is incredible. The hard-to-find, barley marked doors open to stairs which lead up to the top of the building. Once you (pay and) walk in, you are greeted with a giant, dimly lit, attic-like room with dozens of tables surrounding a well-decorated dance floor. A bar in the back of the room swarms with people and waiters who deliver incredible drinks (and food, if you’d like) until the wee hours of the night. One mention that must be made is called Clarico, it is a white-wine Sangria type drink which comes deliciously by the pitcher. The walls are full of all types of art and hanging from the ceiling is a giant abstract broken heart which creates a unique ambiance in the tango-filled room. So we sat, watched tango, listened to live tango music, and even danced a little.

I have also taken out a few days to shop around. I made my final visits to San Telmo fair and Recoleta Cemetery fair to buy gifts and mementos. In fact, this time I actually went into the aclaimed Recoleta cemetery. It is simply a huge area with elaborate tombs of famous people in a haunting maze. Definitely worth a look. I also went downtown and shopped around Florida street where I really did some damage. I bought a jacket, a couple suits, an Argentine fútbol shirt and who knows what else. I think they were all good purchases. Maybe not, who knows; perhaps I am taking out my profound sadness with having to leave buy trying to buy everything in the city.

This past couple weeks have also been super exciting in sports, as I’m sure you know. I went to watch a couple of the NBA Finals games at Casa Bar, which with its burgers and hot wings, is the most American place in the city. Seriously, everyone there was from the States and all the waitstaff spoke English. It was almost upsetting. And of course, the World Cup, el Mundial. Being in Argentina for (part of) the world cup is incredible. The entire city bursts with pride unlike anything I have seen before. In fact, watching the games this year and cheering for Argentina has completely turned me on to soccer or fútbol, as the rest of the planet calls it. Needless to say, I will be following it until Argentina wins.

Food! I have to dedicate a section to my food experiences (right, Emily?) Recently, I have gotten to go to a couple places that were on my list. I went to Lotus this past weekend, a Thai restaurant in China Town where we got to sit on the floor (intentionally) and eat pretty tasty (and actually spicy) food. Ironically enough though, the best part was the drink I ordered. Their passion fruit infused Caiphiriña is one of the best drinks I have had in BA. Also, I went to Almacen Secreto. A restaurant that is literally kept “secret.” It is part of a unique group of restaurants in Buenos Aires that use no publicity, and call themselves closed-door restaurants. They are reservation only and have strange hours but once you get in, and sample delicious home-style preperation of food from all over the country, it is well worth it. And of course, I went back to Kono to get my sushi fix, but that’s a given. Lastly, considering that Argentina has a million holidays, and Sunday holidays give Monday off for the entire country, I went on Sunday night with a group of friends to Don Julio, an incredible famed parilla with some of the best food in the city. After that, we went to a bar where I had some tasty drinks and shot some pool. That along with the amazing hip-hop party that kept me out pretty late makes that one of my better Sunday nights here.

Let’s see, what else? There has been a influx in house (or homestay) parties, as peoples’ host-parents go out of town. I’m not saying I’m guilty but I may have taken advantage of the situation a bit. Oh, I should also mention that while I was watching the second Argentina game with Max, Taylor, and Andrew, we decided to get some ice cream from Volta. After deciding on sharing a kilo (yeah, over 2 pounds of the best ice cream in BA,) we received two. Apparently, on Argentina game days, they double your order for one centavo. 2 extra pounds of ice cream for 1/4 of a penny? I’ll take it, I’ll even take the stomach ache that comes with it. I also (finally) got to meet my Dad’s cousin who lives in BA. We had been playing phone tag for 2 months before we found a time to get some lunch…5 days before I leave the country.

Well that’s it. Or most of it, as much as I can remember. I should probably study for my exam tomorrow morning and edit my giant pain-in-the-ass essays. In exactly one week I’ll be back in Austin, wow. Soon this will all be a dream.

Published in: on June 21, 2010 at 11:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

¿Como se Llama? (Northern Argentina)

Alright, we got ourselves another long blog post coming up. Shut up. Grin and bare it, you’ve got nothing else to do anyway. And it will (probably) be the last long one as this past weekend I went on my last trip exploring the infinite beauty of Argentina.

Thursday to Sunday were 4 of the longest days of my life. Seeing upwards of 8 cities in a jam-packed, virtually sleepless trip that left me with a ton of purchased goods (greats, I should say) and a small cold (which I think is gone now that I have had about 10 liters of water in 2 days.) Let’s start at the beginning.

Thursday. Woke up at 5 in the morning, showered, packed and headed to the airport for my 6:30 flight to Salta. I should mention here, that Tal and Karen hated me for my (generous) 4 hours of sleep and ridiculous slap-happy-in-an-airport-at-5-in-the-morning-traveling-the-world amount of energy, but whatever. Once we got in, we had just enough time to eat something before taking our 3 and a half hour (Argentime) bus ride to Purmamarca (note: that translates to 4 and a half hours everywhere-else-time.) But the fact that they were playing Slumdog Millionaire in dubbed Spanish didn’t hurt. And for some reason they informed us that the bus did not take us directly to Purmamarca but rather 2-3 kilometers outside of it where it left us on the street. Oh joy. After walking (with all of our stuff, of course) to the town of 2,000, we got to explore what represents an entirely different side of Argentina, one I have never seen before. This little town is a lot closer to what much of South America looks and feels like. Nevertheless, we absolutely loved it and ended up spending a couple hours buying a ridiculous amount of (incredibly awesome) stuff.

Aside from spending enough money to run the city for a few weeks, we saw the famed “7-colored hill.” Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like, a hill with many different colors of rock that formed over time through geographic mumbo jumbo. After that we explored the town a little more and found this incredible little hotel that looked like a perfect little model of a house from The Flintstones (credit: Tal) along with the most adorably jumpy puppy (of all time.) After that, we took a 25 minute (40 minute) bus ride to Tilcara. By then, it was already dark so we just found a hostel (that mutual friend Sara was staying at) and finally put down our stuff (in an extremely interesting hostel room.) Before we knew it we were headed to dinner at what was (supposedly) the towns coolest peña. Which it was. The 4 of us had an incredible time. We shared about 3 and 3/4ths bottles of wine, ate regional food (well, Sara ate the llama, we didn’t) and enjoyed the live music. Next thing we knew, we were dancing the night away with a couple dozen locals who were excited to have foreigners there. We made conga-lines (spell check?) enjoyed the pan-flute Beatles renditions, had giant dance circles, and ended up (drunkenly) buying both of the bands’ cds. Oh, I should also mention that Karen got serenaded and danced with the lead singer-ucalele-player-guy. We had way too much fun enjoying the best and most authentic of Argentine culture and were thankful that the locals appreciated having us there.

Friday. Woke up (or nearly died trying) after an inconsistent and less-than-cómodo sleep (Tal, I did not hog the covers,) and got ready for another long day. Considering the amount of traveling we did, we needed to pack our days full to see everything that we wanted to see. So at about 11 o’ clock, we took a cab for a total travel time of 3 hours to see the salt flats by Jujuy for an incredible 45 minutes. The drive was beautiful and the salt flats were unbelievable. A giant white grid layered in thick salt with pools of water (guess what kind!) and random mounds of natural salt. After taking our (terribly cliché) pictures and experiencing a sight unlike anything I have ever seen, we stole some salt and made it back 15 minutes before our bus ride back to Salta (just enough time for empanadas for lunch.) After 4 and a half miserably tedious, smelly, crowded, and awfully-Spanish-dubbed-Mama Mia-blasting over the intercom-hours we were back in Salta. Once we got to our hostel, we found a group of Israelis and hung out with them for the night. The group of us had the interesting experience of going to a Chabad in a city that has lass than 1,000 Jews. Nonetheless, it was nice to have a calm (long) home-cooked meal. The only problem for me was that everyone at the table spoke Hebrew fluently except me and I couldn’t contribute much to the conversation (thanks Tal and Karen.) After jamming so much Spanish into my head, I just couldn’t get out 2 words of Hebrew before unwillingly switching to Spanish. Meh, I understood (most of) what was going on. Then it was back to bed (by 2) because we had to wake up at 6 in the morning.

Saturday. The days only get longer. We woke up at 6 in the morning to start our 12-hour, dozen stop drive from Salta through Cachi down to Cafayate. We all battled through our (increasing) lack of sleep to enjoy our hysterical cab driver who claimed that his (excellent) English was learned by watching American movies (I wonder how many tourists have heard that one.) Honestly though, he was a great guy. The places we saw on this drive were simply some of the most spectacular sights on the planet (I imagine.) On our way through the pre-Andes mountains, we got to stop in the freezing cold morning to see the landscapes, get coffee at a little shop in the mountains, and continue on incredibly windy roads through the mountains and valleys of Northern Argentina. And along the way to passed several artist markets with all kinds of exciting homemade cosas.

Once of the coolest places we stopped was the parque de los cardones (Cactus Park.) This dessert-like valley had an army of cacti from 3 feet to more than 15 feet in height. The three of us got to (try to) hug cacti and walk among the amazing cacti of all shapes and sizes. As we continued the drive, we came across a really cool stand-alone market that sold everything from bull-horns to canned jellies and chilies. Then came my favorite part of the drive: the sheep parade. We had to stop our cab as we came across a single shepherd with a flock of what must have been over 400 sheep. This one guy walked in the back with his whip for any sheep that wanted to mozy around while various (small) dogs led the sheep and kept them together. As they got out of line, the three of us were cracking up uncontrollably. The taxi drive said he had never seen this many sheep completely block the road, baaing and pooping all over the place. (I have a couple videos of this, I’ll try to get them on Facebook.) Our favorite sheep were the one who stopped at us and starred us down and the overly fluffy guy who needed a major sheering. Oh, and the black ones (gotta keep it PC.)

After stopping in Cachi for lunch, we continued to a few other places seeing towns ranging from a population of 40 to a population of 7,000. We even saw one town whose cemetery had a larger population than the town itself. In a cool little town called Molinos, we saw a church that was built in 1692 (wow!) After that, we stopped for a bit to hike around a beautiful desert mountain range. Unfortunately, the pictures can not quite capture just how enormous the beautiful scenery was or how perfectly blue the sky looked. Tal and Karen we be put off here if I didn’t mention my (controlled-but not really) fall down the side of a mountain. After feeling bold enough to climb various rocky hills, I found myself caught at the top of one of which I couldn’t get down. I some how got passed the myriad of awful thistle bushes that carpeted the area and could not avoid them on the way down. That lead me to attempt going down the steeper side of the hill (with dull tennis shoes) and falling down, taking one of the bastard bushes with me. Oh well, scratches and bruises heal, stories last forever. Thankfully, there we no pictures taken of that.

We finally arrived in Cafayate after 6pm passing buy the dozens of famous wineries in the area that make the famous Torrontes fruity but dry white wine. We even stopped at one that has been around for more than 100 years where we got to tour the wine-making process (even if we could not understand a word of what the tour said in his awful English) and I even bought a bottle of incredibly smooth Malbec that they let us try. After that, we got to our (incredibly cool hostel) to shower and get ready for dinner. And by the way, this actually is a play-by-play, everything was booked back to back with hardly a moment to rest. We wanted to go out after sharing a few plates for dinner, but the brutal cold made it less desirable, so we went back to the hostel and went to bed.

Sunday. Yeah, I bet you are already tired from reading this blog, let alone doing all of this in real time. Hang in there, one (incredibly long) day left. We got up after our wonderfully generous 6 hours of sleep and got ready for our day. Since the hostel breakfast was pretty awful, we went to a fruteria where Karen and I split an avocado for breakfast. Shout out to avocados, best fruit ever. The person at our hostel told us about this cool lookout point that was 15 minutes away so we decided to check it out before making our way back to Salta once again. But of course, it was 15 minutes Argentime which meant that it took us 35 minutes to (almost) get there before we had to turn around due to time restraints. So we walked back to the town to sit down at one of the most satisfying lunches I have ever had. We went to La casa de Empanadas, a famous empanada place in Cafayate whose walls are signed by hundreds of empanada enthusiasts claiming that these were the best empanadas. They were right. The ingredients were fresh and the flavors were lethal. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to sign the wall. After lunch, we got our stuff from the hostel and headed to the famous ice cream place in Cafayate, known for its cactus ice cream as well as its (alleged) invention of helado de vino (win ice cream.) They has torrontes and cabernet sorbets that were simply spectacular and apparently still contained alcohol.

After dessert, and buying more random stuff, we walked to the plaza where we got solicited to take a taxi back to Salta (via the other direction.) Despite the fact that we were approached by a random sketchy man, we decided to bargain and take the opportunity to take a cab instead of a bus for another tour that took 5 hours. This way we got to see an entirely new set of gorgeous views and cool sights. The orange-ish dessert rock looked like Arizona landscapes but was even grander. But the best part was probably the llama encounter. Karen was really upset for the fact that she had been in Argentina for 4 months and still had not seen a real live llama. Luckily, on the side of the road, there was a little artist market with two llamas tied to wooden posts. The three of us had a blast feeding, petting, and taking pictures with the adorable and hilarious creatures that I am not obsessed with (Darcy, we have something common.) After our llama fun, we continued on the road stopping for more spectacular miradores before seeing the two famous geographic formations of the area. The first was some amphitheater place. It was basically a narrow pathway leading to a giant hollow hole of rock that was open air on top. This created an enormous echo and incredible sound. It was also cool to see a guy playing guitar in there listening to his echo and selling cds (we didn’t buy those ones.) After that, we went to “The Devil’s Throat,” an enormous geographic formation of blah blah jabber jabber that created one of the most fun hikes I have ever done. I have no idea how to describe this place beside for being a narrow pathway where you need to climb rocks upon rocks and find your own way up to the top where you can look down and see the jagged rocks you just climbed or look up and hear your echo all the way up the massive structure. Once again, the pictures won’t do it justice.

That’s pretty much it. We got back to Salta (a third time) with just enough time to buy a bunch more crap (awesome crap) and eat a quick meal before getting on the plane back to B.A. where we met up with Sara again (who abandoned us for most of the trip.) After everything, this trip genuinely seemed like a two week adventure but was packed into an exhausting but wonderfully satisfying experience in the north of Argentina. And I must say, the north, with all of its tiny towns, relaxed nature, and lack of pressure, might be one of my favorite places in Argentina.

What more can I say besides that I’m sorry for the excruciating detail? If you made it to the end, I applaud you. And thank you, I love you more than those other “friends.” Seriously though, this final trip in Argentine simply confirms my enormous love for the country. Every single part of it makes me appreciate it more and guarantees that I will be returning in the future. Maybe even with you. I can’t wait.

Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 1:13 am  Leave a Comment  

You Will Be Missed

It has come to my attention recently, that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

This is a special blog post as it is not devoted directly to my happenings in Argentina, but rather something that I have missed from “Los Estados Unidos.” There is something that many of us have regularly, and even more of us enjoy occasionally. This is something that, without a doubt, almost everyone took advantage of as a kid. It is something that could either kill you or make you stronger (depending on your exact genetics.) This is something that enjoys having a perfect match, an ideal partner that many people in life never find. Something so incredibly simple, yet packed with an impossible amount of goodness. Something I’d like to pay attribute to.

There was an absence in my life for three months, an empty void if you will. Upon the closing of that mysterious abyss, I realized how large the small things really are. My friends, if you appreciate the simplest of pleasures, it is near impossible not to appreciate life as a whole. So go ahead, reach out and grab something small that you enjoy and enjoy it.

For me, it was something that cannot be found in Argentina, something that was brought to me from a far off land of plenty. It is for this reason that I would like to extend my ever-most gratitude to a one Emily Ann Taylor for allowing me to enjoy the simplest of pleasures we all remember from childhood. I realize that I must sound crazy, thanking Emily, who traveled some 5,000 miles to visit me for a mere 5 days, enduring the overnight flights and jet lag to spend a short but incredible weekend in a foreign South American city. Of course, that is not to say I don’t appreciate that. Having my wonderful person here to entertain with the goings on of the wildly chaotic Buenos Aires was extraordinary and gave me an entirely new perspective and appreciation for this crazy place that I have been calling home. But that is not what this is about.

No, this is about the small stuff. The stuff our parents enjoyed as kids, we enjoyed as kids, and our kids will enjoy (or enjoyed) as kids. I dedicate this blog post to thee, oh so mysterious and suspenseful treat of my choice. For in a mere week I finished an entire jar, pairing it with its perfect mate, match, and lover. Your lifetime was short, but well enjoyed, and forever celebrated.

Here’s to you, peanut butter. You’re awesome and I love you.

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 10:40 pm  Comments (1)  

So That’s Why They Call it a Bear Hug!

It is getting really hard to keep up with this blog thing.

I’ve missed a bunch but I’ll get it covered. First I need to say that I have only 4 weeks left here. 4 weeks?! I can not believe it. This entire experience has gone by SO fast, and packed so much into such a short period of time. In fact, recently, I have been getting my first intense feelings of really not wanting to leave this place. There was so much emphasis put on adapting to an entirely new environment, and it all happened right under my nose. One month left, time to really stop and smell the roses (and drink the wine.)

But back to that after I catch you up to speed. About a week and a half ago, Emily came in to visit me from the States. Although I am extremely thankful that she was able to make it down here at all, no one (myself included) could believe that she was only here for 5 days. What a tease, a really fun, comfortable, and infinitely enjoyable tease. She came for a perfect weekend though; there was a lot going on in the city considering Argentina’s bicentennial anniversary. We got to check out some of that stuff as well as see the beautiful neighborhoods of B.A. I couldn’t show her everything in 5 days but we hit some of the big stuff, ate really well, and had a blast. If nothing else, she got a peak into how and where I have been living for the past few months.

After she left it was back to regular (if you can call it that) life. The bicentennial festivities made it only a two day school week which was great, and then another weekend was here. After my ritual Thursday afternoon siesta, I met some friends at a bar named Thelonious which was supposed to be a cool modern jazz bar. The music playing was hardly jazz, and it was not as exciting as we’d hoped, so we shared a cab to Las Cañitas. There, we went to a really cool Dutch bar with dozens of beers from around the world to choose from. We explored some delicious cerveza and headed home. I needed to get home earl(ish) because I had an internship meeting in the morning (and by morning, I mean noon.) After my meeting and catching up on all my TV shows, I met some friends for sushi and maté, could there be a better mix? Friday night was muy tranquila. I got some work done, stayed in, and watched a movie. I have almost forgotten how relaxing those nights could be.

I woke up on a dark and gloomy Saturday morning, just in time to rush to IES to meet for another day trip. We grabbed our umbrellas, went to San Isidro, and watched a very messy rugby match in the rain. It was still really fun to watch despite the fact that no one really knew what was going on (no, Lilah, you didn’t, you were just pretending to.) But the rumors are true; rugby certainly is a gruesome sport, especially in the rain and mud. On Saturday night, the (host)fam came over for another family dinner. This time, I got to warn my new host-brother  Taylor (who told me his sister is in the upcoming Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, and Paul Rudd movie – what?!) about the incredibly rowdy grandchildren. We sat there an enjoyed our meal as they ran around the table destroying all sorts of things. But hey, it is all well worth it when dessert is a couple pints of incredible helado from Volta. Afternoon dinner, we went to meet some people at the anniversary of La Bomba del Tiempo (the Timebomb.) This crazy event packs about 3,000 people into a giant room (that could probably house 2,000 legally) for a giant drum-circle type concert. This band of various people playing various different types of drums coordinated by their leader was surprisingly organized and extremely talented. But after spending about an hour in the most chaotic mosh-pit you could imagine, it was time to get out of there. Still, really fun to see; I’ll see if I can get some videos up on Facebook.

I woke up Sunday morning to meet three (other) sleep-deprived people so we could go to Luhan Zoo. This zoo has been talked up by so many people, and you can’t quite understand why until you get there. Luhan Zoo is a privately owned zoo about and hour and a half outside of Buenos Aires. The fact that it is a privately kept zoo means that you can do all kinds of crazy things at your own discretion with the owner’s permission. “Avi, come on. It’s just a zoo.” Is it, reader, is it? Because throughout the day, I got to do all of the following: Hand feed a full-sized tiger, pet baby lions, feed and pet an elephant, feed and ride a camel, play with llamas, chase geese, feed peacocks, feed monkeys, and oh yeah, hug a 200-kilo grizzly bear. Still just a zoo? After making friends with the owner, who gave us free videos for some reason, he allowed us to go into the bear cage and play with the bears. If you don’t believe me, you can find proof on Facebook.

Oh Argentina, you and your mysterious places. I genuinely can’t believe that I have so little time left in this incredible country. The thought of it sends swarms of conflicting feelings straight into my gut. I am infinitely excited for everything that I know I have learned in my time abroad and even more excited about the things I don’t realize that I have leaned. Lately, it has been really easy to think about readapting to life back home. Many say that it is harder to readapt back home than it is to adapt to the new surrounding in the first place. I guess that is yet to be seen, but I can easily say that I’ll miss la vida tranquila and that I am going to take home as much of it as I can.

But enough about leaving, I another month! I am hoping to be able to travel one more time (to the northern regions of Argentina) before school comes crashing down. Speaking of which, I need to get some of that 15 page paper done.

More to come…

Chau

Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 7:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

As It Turns Out…

…Argentine stress feels a lot like American stress.

Last weekend I had a nice and relaxing time in Uruguay before I was walloped with a downpour of both the most exciting things I can fathom as well as some of the most frustrating. But first, my weekend (or “finde” as they call it.”)

This was the last of the IES trips and pretty much had the same tempo as the others; slow and relaxing. They gave us a lot of options and plenty of downtime which is actually a great monotony breaker from the stress of study abroad classes. We left on Friday evening and took a short shuttle-boat over to Colonia for the night. IES treated us to a big dinner after we checked into our adorable little cottage-like hotels. In fact, the entire region of Uruguay seemed to be so quaint and laid-back, a good change of pace from hectic Buenos Aires. After we finished our dinner at the restaraunt, they had a big karaoke night. Considering the foreign song list, no one from IES went up to sing (except our chaperon, actually.) Most of the people who went up to sing chose multiple songs and dedicated them to their mothers for the Uruguayan Mother’s Day. After a few songs, thursday night caught up with me (Max and Kevin’s “Tex-mizvah” joint birthday party) and I went to get some sleep. During the day on Saturday, we had time to walk around the city, and have a little tour (I’m tempted to say “tour-ita”) of the historic parts of town before eating an incredible Uruguayan lunch. But before we knew it , we were on a bus headed for Carmelo, another coast-side city in beautiful Uruguay. That is where things just got plain silly.

We finally arrived at our “Dormis,” which was basically a creepy log cabin in the middle of some sort of forrest in the city. When we arrived, everyone simultaneously realized just how haunting our surroundings were. We got there in pitch black in which we could not see past the lamp post down the street or through the trees surround the dimly lit cabin. Upon walking towards our home for the night, we noticed that the ground was sand (perfect for silent, horror-movie-type murders, might I add.) To make things worse, the IES staff let us in and informed us that the 30 of us would be alone in the cabin while they stayed in a house down the street. We immediately explored the area finding only a rickety swing set in the back (classic) and an erie forest surrounding us (cliché.) 30 students, in a sand surrounded cabin, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere amidst and dark and scary forest: all we were missing was the hockey mask and machete. Anyway, after eating a delicious wine-and-cheese themed dinner at a restaurant in the city, we had the night to entertain ourselves. An boy, did we.

To add to the random silliness of the situation, the dorms were split into a guys room and a gals room. Sounds great in theory, but does not work so well when there are 24 girls in a crowded room and 6 comfortable boys in the other. The room upstairs had foosball, ping pong, and playing cards, so everyone got to take a leap into their past and play camp-games. Eventually, the cabin got quiet as it got late and there was only good conversation with good (be it forced) company. Somehow, among the myriad of different “clicks” of students on the trip, most of us got involved in a incredibly fun game of “Mafia” that lasted until 2 in the morning. We all just sat in a circle in the (seemingly vacant) boys room with pillows and blankets and laughed into the night. After our game, everyone retired for the night so we could be up for breakfast.

Fortunately, the night didn’t end there. Considering the terrifying quarters we were staying in, and the campy feel of the entire night, Max and I had no choice but to scare the living hell out of the lot of girls in their cramped room. About 30 minutes after we went to bed, Max, Alex, and I snuck out through the window and over to the other side of the cabin outside the girls’ room. After throwing various pinecones did not solicit the response desired, Max and I decided to spontaneously bang on their window and darted back to our room. That did the trick. Half the girls were annoyed, half were terrified, and all were furious. Perfect. After our conquest, the boys’ room continued our campy attitude and told funny stories until the wee(est of) hours.

We had our day in Carmelo, went on more tours, and came back to B.A. only to start a both stressful and exciting week. Sources of stress (in short): I am preparing to write a 15-page paper (in Spanish) about the expansion of soy in Argentina, preparing for a quiz in TANGO class (over the dance’s annoyingly complex history) as well as a 15-minute play we need to put on full with costumes, music, and a story, but lacking dialogue, and I am starting an internship that I don’t have time for. (Oh yeah, did I mention that I set up an interview for an internship last week and will apparently be helping design some stuff for this company for the next month?) I need more sleep. Sources of excitement (in short): My host mom told me a while back that she had a friend who’s son works in advertising. After talking to her friend, she informed that that her two sons are the co-founders, owners, and creative directors for La Comunidad Buenos Aires and Miami, one of most successful independent  advertising agencies in the world. Umm…awesome!?! Anyway, I got to visit the (gorgeous) B.A. office and will hopefully get to meet the director there. Also, my host mom told that me that we are going to have another student stay with us for the next month or so, how exciting (potentially.) Hm…what else? Oh yeah, there is also this little ditty; Emily leaves TOMORROW night and gets into Buenos Aires on Thursday to spend 6 (classless) days with me! AHH! I am so excited that I am a little nervous.

Alright, I have 5 hours of class and a meeting tomorrow and won’t sleep tomorrow night, so I should hit the hay.

Buenas.

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough…

Lean back, take off your shoes, and put on a kettle of tea, this is going to be a long post. Shouldn’t it be though — I just had one of the craziest weeks of my life?

I’ll start with the IES trip to Tandil, although that is hardly the main attraction. We woke up early Saturday morning and met at IES to take our 5 hour bus ride to Tandil. We stopped at an Estancia (surprise!) and had a delicious and traditional Argentine lunch. Then we checked into our incredible hotel. It had beautiful rooms (hooray for not sleeping in a twin bed,) a pool (it was cold, but what they hey,) and was on top of a hill overlooking the city. After some free time, we went to a peña and had our wine and empanadas like always. In the morning, we woke up and went trekking in the countreyside. Some of the terrain looks surprisingly like Texas (wishful thinking maybe?) as there are just huge wide open plots of land. IES took us to get Fondu that night which sounded exciting. The restaurant was one of the oldest buildings in the city and hosted us at a huge table where we ordered wine and shared appetizers. The main course was kind of a disappointment, however, as the only thing they gave us to dip in the cheese was bread. The next day we did some of the same stuff, saw a giant rock on top of another giant rock (look at the pictures) blah blah blah. Let me get to the good stuff.

Fast forward. Tuesday morning, rise and shine for my 9 am flight to Ushuaia. I figured that considering how little sleep I got on the Tandil trip it would be a tired a miserable day. Boy was I wrong. As I started reading my book in the airport, I got that strange satisfaction that one gets from traveling alone. I had a really inspirational moment as I looked out on the runway (cliche, no?) and got on the plane headed for Ushuaia. I thought I would sleep on the flight but I spent my time listening to music, reading more of my book, and flipping through the Spanish/English magazine that was in the seat pocket (Cielos Argentinos – I took a copy.) When I got there it was beautiful. Just absolutely gorgeous. It had that “You are standing in a city at the end of the world surrounded by blue sky, snow-topped mountains and fresh air” kind of feel. I took a cab to the tourism office where I met Andy and we immediately went to this little cafe that we heard was famous for its hot chocolate. Best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. Not knowing where we were going to stay (Andy had been couch-surfing before I arrived,) we walked around looking for a hostel. We posted up at one of the few hostels that was open as it was off season (for tourism) for the entire southern region of Argentina. We relaxed, played some pool and went to explore the city. It does not seem like a huge place with it’s tiny downtown area but they say the city has over 100,000 people who could not be more laid back. Then we went back to the hostel to take a nap and get ready for dinner.

Here is where things start to get awesome.  In our search for a good meal, we asked the guy who was working at the front desk of the Freestyle Hostel. This big, friendly Rastafarian guy calls himself Rasta Max, was born in Jamaica but lives in Argentina (fluent Spanish with a Jamaican accent,) and is a professional food critic. Oh the people you meet in hostels (more on this in a bit…) He took out a piece of paper, told us which restaurant to go to and wrote down all of his favorite dishes and wines that they had. Andy and I headed out for what was one of the greatest meals of our lives. We ate like kings. Andy got Ushuaia’s specialty, King crab crepes, while I got incredible spinach and mushroom crepes. After our appetizers, we had a dilemma. Andy got the (extremely tender) lamb that was served with potatoes and who knows (or cares) what and wanted red wine. I got the “specially cooked” (something with the ashes of the oven?) Merluza (whitefish) that came perfectly fresh and packed with incredible flavor and wanted white wine. We told the waiter about our little problem and he suggested we order a Rosé. Not a bad idea, but instead, we just ordered a bottle of each. We sat there from 10pm until midnight enjoying our incredible food and exquisite wine. Then, as we were ordering dessert we started to talk and joke around with our waiter. Next thing we know, it was 3 in the morning, the restaurant was closed, and the three of us were talking, laughing, and listening to music as we looked at the bar’s cd collection. Then he asked us if we had been to the Ushuaian long beach.

Here is what happened next…

“No.”

” Okay, let me clean up, and we’ll go.” (In Spanish of course.)

Andy (to me): “I think the waiter just said he would finish working and take us out…either we are going to get killed or we’ll have a great night.”

Needless to say, we went. Until 4 in the morning Andy and I found ourselves hanging out with our waiter who showed us around the city and took us out to a bar. He showed us this incredible look out point where you can see the lights from the entire city. It was beautiful, but really really cold. Possibility: mugged, killed, etc. End result: Our waiter buys us beer as we sit and discuss the differences in our cultures. I love this country; the people are so damn nice. In fact, when we told him that the food was delicious he invited us over to his home for dinner so he and his friend could cook us “even better” food. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up going.

The next day, Andy and I got up and walked around the city where we found an awesome restaraunt. This little place was decorated with antique phones, typewriters, and musical instruments and had the best bread that I have had in Argentina (not too much competition but it was deliciois.) So we enjoyed olive bread and maté before we left for our boat trip. We decided to be toursits for the day and went on the boat trip that took us around the Beagle canal south of the city. The canal seperates the mountains and land between Argentina and Chile and is filled with exciting things to see. We saw an island full of these birds that looked like (but weren’t) penguins, an island of sea lions and the famous Beagle lighthouse. Then the boat took us to a small island in the canal that holds evidence of the indigenous tribes that once lived there where we got to walk arond and see the incredible view. The boat trip was fantastic. It had everything from a great guide to coffee and cookies to a chocolate liquor for our sunset return to the city . Then we went to hang out at the hostel. I should explain that this hostel was always a party. The positives include them playing Up and snowboarding videos all day, as well as the people we met there and the negatives include being woken up at 10 in the morning by the BLASTING Michael Jackson music. Don’t get me wrong, I love MJ as much as the next guy, but that doesn’t mean I want to be beat over the head with “Beat It” during my priceless hours of sleep. We did get to meet a typical hostel crew though (hilarious English guy and insane Australian among others) and hang out with them a bunch. Then, another incredible dinner. I’ll spare you the details and just mention that Andy got baked lamb in honey orange sauce. And do I need to mention we had more incredible Argentine Malbec? Didn’t think so.

The only downside of the city was the political catastrophe we were there for. Considering the small size and relaxed nature of Ushuaia, there is hardly any crime. Bu apparently, while we were there, someone stabbed a cab driver for no reason and he died the next day. There was a city-wide outrage. All the taxi drivers parked there cars in the main street of the city and protested. For three days traffic could not get from one side of the city to the other and wildly passionate Argentineans roamed the streets protesting with their drums and banners. What a country! This was a problem because on our third and final day in Ushuaia, Andy and I wanted to got check out the national park. Since the streets were blocked, buses couldn’t get through and we had no way of getting there. Not to worry; we found something else to do. Something a little crazier.

What followed is probably one of the sketchiest things I have ever agreed to do but hey, I was “en el culo del mundo.” Thursday morning we were sitting and hanging out at the hostel when one of the guys who worked there randomly came up to us and asked us if we wanted to go scuba diving. Umm…what?! After much (but relatively little) consideration, Andy and I went with this guy, his friends, and the crazy Australian (of course) to the dock to head out into the canal. Now, I am not saying that you should go out there and say yes to every random guy who invites you to go scuba diving in 4ºC (about 38ºF) water, but when you are at the end of the world and have a chance to go scuba diving SOUTH of the southern most city on the planet…think about it. By the time we got out there and put on our dry suit (well, mine was a dry suit, Andy’s…not so much,) the sun was setting. So I got to go scuba diving…in near freezing water…at night….with no light or torch…with some guy from my hostel. (Mom, take a deep breathe and get a glass of water, I’m fine.) Anyway, I live to tell the tale; carpe diem.

All in all, Ushuaia was very relaxing. We had a lot of down time to just sit and hang out. That all ended when we arrived in El Calafate on Friday afternoon. Long story short (but Avi, this is long story long. No reader, it isn’t) Andy and I needed to get to El Chalten that night. The only was for us to not have a dead day was to be in El Chalten (the nation’s hiking capital) before the morning. After discovering that the evening bus no longer runs after April, we looked for other ways to get there. Renting a car was an option but surprisingly expensive. Hm. What could we do? Well, I’ll tell you what. Andy and I took a taxi nearly 140 miles from one city to another for a long 3-hour drive. This guy was willing to drive us to the next city for over three hours and drive back the same night for the equivalent of about $60 US (each). Not great, but not bad and we needed it. Getting to El Chalten that night allowed us to find a hostel (in the bitter cold and wind strong enough to lean against for a few seconds) and be in bed by midnight. That way, we could wake up at 7 AM and hike up one of the most incredible trails in all of Argentina. Laguna de Los Tres is an 8-hour, 16-mile, half-mile in vertical elevation, exhausting hike to the base of mount Fitz Roy. And considering the sun’s 9:30 rise, we got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets across the planet (as far as I’m concerned.) The hike was easily one of the most incredibly, as well as incredibly satisfying experiences I have ever had. The views as we got higher and higher in elevation of the valley and the rivers were simply spectacular. We got down just in time to have spent only 20 hours in Chalten and made our 6 PM bus back to Calafate. That allowed us to once again, get in town in time to find a hostel, settle in and get to bed before midnight for another early day.

7 AM we got up bright and early (and sore) for another exciting adventure. We had breakfast and then we were on our way to the Perito Moreno glacier. This giant hunk of ice is the third largest mass of ice in the world (after Antarctica and Greenland) and is larger than the city of Buenos Aires. We got to take a boat in front of it before putting on the “crampons” on our shoes so we could trek around on the ice. It was amazing, an ice wilderness with jagged hills, deep valleys, cracks and sinkholes. It almost felt like being on another planet. Of course, I had to strip down to my UT shirt and take a “Texan wearing a T-shirt on ice” picture where I discovered that a couple people in our group were from Austin (what a crazy small world.) And the guides surprised us with alfajores and whiskey (with ice cut from the glacier) for everyone. After that, we got to go under part of the glacier to see an ice cave that formed with dirt, rocks, and even bubbles in the ice.

After our ice adventure, we went back to the hostel to nap before our last night in Patagonia. Considering that after we ate incredibly in Ushuaia, our food budget was near nothing, we decided to have one more nice dinner. The super friendly guy at the hostel (not surprising) told us about this restaurant on top of a hill that looks out onto the city that had a shuttle that would come pick us up. Come on, who could say no to that? We went and had another incredibly delicious meal. (Man, Emily is right, I DO talk about food a lot!) Let me just say that Andy got roasted lamb (yes, again, it is what they do and do well in Patagonia) with a calafate (both the name of the city and the name of a plant that grows delicious red berries) wine-reduction sauce. Need I say more? Upon finishing our bottle of wine at dinner and getting coffee for dessert, we discovered that Jameson whiskey (which is usually 25-30 pesos) was a mere 10 so we had to…well…take advantage of that. So we sat, drinking our wine, coffee, and whiskey and made goofy jokes about how ridiculous we looked before planning our night. After dinner we decided to skip the movie night at the hostel (Bastardos Sin Gloria – we had already seen it) and went to a really cool bar in town. We were reminded, once again, that it was off season when the bar was nearly empty. So we just sat, drank beer, and played cards. When the bar closed we headed back to the hostel hoping to see everyone up and being social. No such luck, everyone had gone to bed. We asked the guy at the front desk for a deck of cards and a liter of beer and sat down to continue our game (a variation of gin.) Since the place was empty, Mateas decided that he would sit and play with us. 3 hours and 5 liters of Quilmes later, we decided to go to bed. After all, playing cards until 5:30 in the morning could be quite exhausting.

So that’s it. An unbelievable trip touring the south of south America and meeting the nicest people along the way. It was really interesting to see the mentality of the people outside of B.A. El Calafate had around 20,000 people and El Chalten had even fewer, and both had only reached that number in the past 5 years or so. Most of the people from the small cities were from bigger cities in Argentina and got out of the hectic urban jungle to relax in the beautiful Argentine countryside. And so did we. So we took our flight back to reality (where we actually met a guy who is form Houston, went to UT, and did the Texas Creative sequence) and our vacation was over. Of course, I can only portray so much with words, as it was one of the wildest weeks of my life, so get on facebook and take a look at the pictures (if I can get them to upload).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to Uruguay in an hour; I need to pack.

Published in: on May 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm  Comments (2)  

When The World Ends, I’ll Be There…

Hello all!

I can’t believe it, I have been here for two months. It makes sense, though. When you nearly get hit by a bus on the street and don’t even flinch, that is how you know that you are a resident of B.A. and not a visitor (that, and I have an Argentinean visa, you can decide which is more valid.) Anywho, this has been quite the stressful week as I have 4 midterms (in Spanish) ranging from everything from the imperfect subjunctive tense to the explanation of Argentine climate as a result of its latitude and longitude. “So, Avi, 4 midterms in the next two days and you are writing to us, your adoring fans?!?” Yes. Because I am just that devoted.

What to say, what to say. This past weekendend was a mix of awesome and miserable. On Thursday night I met some friends at this really cool 3-story bar that used to be a mansion. It had various rooms with different themes and delicious (but expensive) drinks. I was craving good whiskey so I had a Jameson and Coke (yum.) On Friday I attempted to go shopping but just was not feeling up to it, didn’t buy anything. On Friday night, Giselle came in town (also known as Griszeslealze.) She came in from Rio, Brazil where she is studying abroad to visit lil ol’ me (in my mind, anyway,) how exciting! We went to get Mexican food (becasue me, Giselle and Kevin who are all Texan were craving it) and then drank at Giselle’s hostel. Then, somehow, through the grapevine, we got into Crobar for free with VIP passes (just an awesome exclusive club in B.A., no big deal.) Music was great dancing was better.

Then I woke up on Saturday. It turns out that Mexican food all over the world gets you sick, in case you were wondering. I got some kind of stomach bug and was miserable for a few days, blah. I did get to eat at this incredible little cafe by my house (thanks, Kebin) and study for Spanish (thanks, Vale.) I wasn’t feeling great so I just went home and tried to nap. On Saturday night I went to get my comfort food with a friend and met up with some others for beer and such (those of you who know me well…or at all really, know that my comfort food is sushi.) I wasn’t feeling great so I left early and went to sleep.

Other than than I have been studying so I can pass these midterms. Once they are finished I have a ton of exciting things going on. On Friday I am going to a peña with a group of porteños (I am not even completely sure what that is but know that it involves music and wine, what else do I need to know?) On Saturday, I am leaving with IES to go to Tandil, a region outside of Buenos Aires. I haven’t a clue what we will do there but it shall be fun. I return back to B.A. on Monday at night when I will need to pack and sleep. Tuesday morning I have an early flight to Ushuaia. Known as “El fin del mundo,” Ushuaia is the southern most city on the planet. Isn’t that awesome? I am going to meet my friend Andy down there for a few days and I don’t know where we are staying or what we are doing but I have heard about things involving parks and penguins; I am so down. On Friday, we are going to fly to El Calafate, a city in Patagonia. We will either stay there or catch a bus to El Chalten, a small town not too far form the city. Either way we will be seeing some of the most beautiful views in the world of mountains, glaciers and the like. I know, I know, most of you are having finals and finishing classes and I am going on Spring break in southern Argentina. How are finals going, anyway? :p

Other than that there isn’t much to say. My beard is extremely long and needs a trim, upon looking for a place to get a haircut I discovered that my maid is a barber and will cut my hair for free, and Emily comes in three weeks. Good stuff, all around.

Oh yeah. Hey Max and Lilah, remember how we are on a quest to find the best epanadas in the city. Well, I need not search no more because tonight I had the best epanadas out there. Guess where I had them. Oh. That’s right. In my home stay. There were incredible. Sorry.

I love and miss you all.

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 12:11 am  Comments (1)  

Ode to Panza

I know, I know, I’m slacking. I apologize, but as you can imagine, im pretty busy.

I don’t have too much to update you on but let’s see what I can dig up. Things have been great. It is really hard to believe that I have been here for 7 weeks. Yes, I’m getting used to it. yes, my Spanish is improving (I hope,) yes it will be weird to return to the States blah blah blah. Classes have been going well (or as well as they can be.) Not much to say there, poetry is poetry, Tango is picking up, getting tricky, and hard to keep up with, Argentine Cinema (sounds cool, right?) SUCKS beyond all belief, and environment is, well…complicated.

I’ll skip the week and get to the weekend because that’s really what you want to hear, isn’t it? For some strange reason I have no recollection of what I did on Thursday night. No, I did not get really drunk, I just can’t seem to remember anything past a couple days. Strange, right? Friday was great though. On Friday night, I went out to meet up with a friend of a friend of my brother’s who lives in Buenos Aires. I got to hang out with her and her friends, drink a few beers and practice the hell out of my crappy Spanish, but it was quite enjoyable. On Saturday morning, I woke up early and met at IES for our day-trip to Lobos (Yes, traveling again.) It was a very relaxing day of riding horses, listening to music, eating delicious food, and laying in the grass. Oh yeah, it also included a tour of a castle (yes, a castle) and a polo match (yes, a polo match.) After the trip, I showered and met some friends for sushi. Castles, polo matches, sushi, and wine, I live a very difficult life in South America.

Saturday night could not have been more interesting. After meting up with some friends (stop asking for shout-outs, you know who you are,) we went to a bar that Tal recommended. Apparently, someone was having a big birthday and threw one of the most dynamic costume parties I have ever seen. This party had everything from cat woman, the riddler, and captain America to a mermaid, pirates, and a geisha. Not to mentioned the black-faced Bob Marley. We ordered drinks as we were entertained by three things: 1. the fact that Argentines can have an incredible costume party, 2. the Rocky III big boxing match scene on the projector that was playing simultaneously with “Like a Virgin,” and 3. the fact that our drinks had real passionfruit seeds in them. After a few shots and a bit of dancing my caught caught the most unexpected sight. Some porteño was wearing a Daniel Johnston “Hi how are you?” frog shirt. I immediately asked him where he got it and if he knew what it was. He got in Argentina (WHAT?!) and had no clue what it was. We left the bar as got (debatably delicious) milkshakes loaded with dulce de leche and headed home.

Sunday, after going to eat (real) Chinese food in Belgrano’s Chinatown, I went on my mission to find the perfect mate (gourd.) I didn’t find it. I did, however, sit with Yael and Nina, eating delicious pastries, drinking mate, and talking for a good couple hours. As I was returning to my home, it started pouring and hailing. The rest of the night was calm and relaxing which will hopefully set the tone for this week. After all, I do have mid-terms next week.

Giselle (sometimes referred to as Griszesjsejs) is coming to Buenos Aires this week from Brazil to visit me (woo!) Chances are I’ll have more to tell on my next post.

Luego.

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 9:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

To Tigre and Back

During the second week of orientation, IES offered a few field trips that we were allowed to take part in. Of course, they made us sign up that week not knowing what any of our future weekends would entail, which could be quite inconvenient. Needless to say, everyone is trying to travel around to see everything that this beautiful country has to offer. Initially, I was signed up for the Tigre trip in May. However, once I found out that a miss Emily Ann Taylor was coming to Buenos Aires to visit me, I needed to change the date. Luckily, I was able to befriend the girls who work in the travel office and they got me on the April trip. This little change means that I will be traveling 7 out of 8 weekends in April and May. It sounds crazy, I know, but once you are down here, it is easy to realize how many beautiful places there are to see. From cities around Buenos Aires to other countries in South America, the sights are just endless.

Now, it goes without saying that this switch was worth it. Umm, hello, my girlfriend is coming to visit me in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Exciting, isn’t it? And considering our mutual love for wine, food, and dance (that last one is new,) I think we’ll be plenty occupied in the city that (truly) never sleeps (sorry NY, get over it.) Unfortunately though, I am out of town nearly every weekend until the one she arrives so I won’t know where to take her. Ideas? But seriously, I can’t think of anything more exciting than having Emily here. I can’t wait.

Tigre. Tigre is a little city about 45 minutes from Buenos Aires. The city sits along the coast of the river and consists of various islands that  follow the brown muddy waters. On Saturday morning, I woke up, ate a banana, and went to meet the group at IES. Once all the zombie students were packed into the bus, we were on our way. 10 A.M. for a weekend is quite early to be up (and packed) for a field trip. Just ask Max who nearly missed the bus (no need to say “Gracia,” Max.) Anyway, I’m sure everyone was just tired from working on homework until the wee hours on Friday evening. ‘Entonce…’ we drove to Tigre and stopped at a craft/fruit market not far from the port. It was amazing how many little ‘chachkies’ (little, crappy, useless souvenirs) they were selling there. Few purchased anything besides giant slabs of various meats and bread. After that we had a nice boat ride and got to the hotel.

DAMN, IES, you hit this one out of the park (on second though, I should not make a baseball reference, I’ll try again. INCREIBLE, IES, fue un GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL. Better?) The hotel was beautiful. A long wooden walkway in the middle of the forest joined together nearly two dozen bungalows with beautiful rooms (and bathrooms,) a personalized restaurant, a pool, and the (disgustingly brown) water (that looking identical to the water in the movie Anaconda.) And here is the best part. For the evening as well as the following morning and afternoon we had NOTHING to do. The IES itinerary simply said, “tiempo libre,” and they couldn’t have planned it better. The weekend was just a lot of coffee, a lot of Mate, sleeping in, relaxing by the pool, and enjoying good company. It was really soothing to have so little to do. Everyone had a few drinks and was able to completely relax including the trips special guest: Vale. Vale works at IES. She teachers many of the Spanish classes including mine. We discovered, on this trip, that EVERYONE has a crush on her. She sat with groups of students and just talked about nothing. It is always cool when an administrator or some sort of authority figure has an interest in the people she works with which makes her all of the more lovable – I mean likable. Oops. The trip was fantastic and many want to return to the hotel for a second round.

Okay, I’ve been putting it off. Let me explain the title of this post. NOTE: If I call you “mom,” skip this section (except you, Lilah, you can keep reading.) I figure I have to write about this considering the fact that Lilah has damming evidence of it and is not afraid to blackmail me. But i don’t give a duck, (or as they say in Spanish: Pato) I’ll share the story. Max and I took out Kayaks to explore the previously mentioned waters around the island. As we paddled down at a brisk pace, I lost my balance and my kayak tipped. I was wearing a life jacket, but was still treading in the middle of a river with a kayak that was filling with water and sinking. I swam over to the side of the water as my classmates paddled towards me. Unfortunately, I was unable to lift the kayak up and drain the water because every time I tried, I would sink into the soft mud below. Everyone gathered around to help (except Lilah who was, of course, laughing hysterically and filming the ordeal.) We were FINALLY able to get enough water out to make the kayak float. After pouring the rest out, I got back into my kayak a bold survivor of the (who-knows-what) infested waters. That wasn’t the end of it though. As i tried to paddle away, my kayak snagged on something. Turns out that the docking rope on the nose of my kayak that we used to lift it out of the water got caught in the gears of Lilah and Miriam’s paddle boat. We jimmied it out after a good amount of effort and got (the hell) out of there at which point I took an incredibly long shower. Not to worry though for I have yet to sprout any tentacles or spew any florescent fluid.

Mother, you can continue reading here.

So the weekend was great and now I’m back in BA, safe and sound all around. I do, however, have a disgusting amount of homework to take care of considering that I accidentally volunteered to present a 70-page Spanish article about the Argentine environment during the time of the Incas. So much for the relaxation.

P.S. I miss Emily. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 12:06 am  Comments (1)