Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
We had this day off of school because it was El Dia de San Martin (look it up if you're interested, I'm not freakin Wikipedia). Steffi, Talia, Kate and I decided the night before that we would wake up early and meet at the train station at around 8:30, pick a place, and go there. Monday came, and claro, the obstacles began: first of all, none of us wanted to wake up that early. Turns out, none of us are actually as ambitious as we'd like to think we are. Finally, after mutual cohersing, Talia, Steffi, and I- all relatively in the same area- shared a cab to the station. When we got there, and called Kate, we experienced about 20 minutes of "Wait.... you're on the first floor too?? We're standing in the very middle..... Why don't you see us??" until we figured out she was at the wrong station. Go us. Kate then hopped in a cab and, finalmente, we were all together. While we were waiting at a train station cafe, Steffi whipped out her Argentina guidebook to help figure out where we should go. As it was a holiday, there were less options that on a normal day. Above the ticket booths was a GIIIAAAANT board with a bunch of names. The ones which were available to go to that day had a red light next to them. We then sat checking the glossary one by one trying to find a place which was actually listed in the book. Then, we found it: Merlo. We read in the book that Merlo, a resort spot, was home to beautiful mountains, waterfalls, and regular hiking tours. Done. We got our tickets, and were off.
Let me just quick made a side note that- out of all the trains I have been in worldwide (London, Chicago, Tokyo, etc.)- this was by far the shittiest. There were no maps listing the stops; the cushioning for the seats had been ripped out or worn down on most seats, so it was mostly just seats painted like they had a cushion; there were wiring components ripped out of the walls; and when you got to a stop, the doors only opened slightly, so you had to push them the rest of the way open.
Moving on. 45 minutes later, we were there. Granted, we had to ask a bunch of people because there were no signs actually saying the name of the stops. We got off the train platform and noticed that we couldn't actually see any mountains.... this was observation #1. Secondly, this "resort" town looked more like a small, village-like version of Buenos Aires. There was a little park with a Merry-Go-Round, little stores all over, and- oh yeah- there were dogs sleeping EVERYWHERE. It looked like a plague had hit and all the dogs had fallen over dead, sleeping on the side of the road.... in the middle of the parks......
It was weird.
We walked down the street and saw there was a kind of travel/bus business front, so we went in. After waiting our turn, and getting past the language barrier, we discovered we were in
THE WRONG MERLO.
That's right. Apparently there's more than one in Argentina. This clearly was not the more exciting of the too. When we asked what there was to do around here, the guys working there looked like we had asked them where we could find the Chupacabra. No matter, we thought. We're four, enthusiastic, sleep-deprived, hungry girls. We could figure something out to do. To keep the story short, we basically spent the next couple of hours eating pastries, eating pizza and drinking beer (around noon, mind you) and then getting ice cream. And walking around laughing at ourselves of course. Oh right, this is probably picture time:
We headed back, very confused that our return trip only cost about a quarter in USD when it deeefffinitely was more than that on the way there. The rest of my day pretty much consisted of sleeping.
I don’t quite know how to start this section except by saying the week was sort of a blur of switching classes and boredom and syllabi and the same shit you experience in the states, except Argentine. That fact only applies so much as the pace was considerably slower in a few of the classes I sat in on. Whether it was the language barrier or a cultural different pace of academics, some of the classes were downright PAINFUL. One of my classes was two hours of information which could have been summed up in one page. One double-spaced page. Here are the classes I’ve ended up with:
Spanish 250: This class is actually pretty good. Rather than a specific regimen, a lot of the class is just TALKING and asking questions about things we’ve encountered in our day to day lives. That combined with the fact that he’s funny and has such good homework assignments (slang, etc.), it makes for a pretty good class. Too bad I won’t get any credit for it....
Cultural Icons as Global Commodities: This pace is kind of slow, but the teacher seems fun and the course work seems interesting. We’ll be studying things like Peronism (Eva Peron), the Tango, etc.
Argentine Poetry of the 20th Century: This is taught in Spanish, which I was kind of concerned about, but the teacher talks pretty slowly and I understand just about all of it. Plus, he seems just super passionate about the material which makes it even better. Visual Arts in the City: If you’re in the Intermediate Spanish Level, which I am, technically you’re only allowed to take one class that’s taught in Spanish, but I thought all the other classes in English kinda sucked, so I sat in on this class, and was allowed to stay. This class seems really awesome. We’ll be doing lots of fieldtrips studying the arts in Argentina, including the graffiti culture which is VERY big here. Only down-side is that the teacher talks SUPER fast. Like, the Advanced Students ask her to slow down kind of fast. I can understand most of it if I’m paying attention 110%, but I’m very prone to spacing out.... sooo..... we’ll see how this goes? Either way I figure my Spanish is gonna get way better.
After an evening nap and a delicious Milky Way (which sounds soooo good right now....), my night began at midnight. I took a cab to this bar called Miloca in Palermo, which, before 2, has free drinks with a 35 peso ($9 USDish) door fee. Or 50 pesos if you’re a dude. (Hehehe) Clearly as a ploy to not lose money, there was only one bartender, so only so many drinks could be distributed at a time. Some people there had clearly been utilizing that special for all it was worth....
It was a pretty chill bar, but, since all the natives usually go out at around 2am, it was mostly Americans there. Once it hit 2, though, the free drinks were gone, which clearly meant it was time to go. From there we walked to Necito, a club just several blocks up the street. The door fee was 40 pesos (10 bucks) which we thought was kinda high, but once we got in I forgot all about it. The place was packed, and as our eyes wandered around the place, we realized we had gotten way more than we expected. On stages and elevated poles around the room were dancers in Vegas-like ensembles. One woman even had Chinese Lanterns attached to her head. Suddenly, while dancing to AC/DC and watching performance after wonder, unexpected performance, I realized I was there. Bellwoar knows what I’m talking about. It’s that place that you always want to go to when you hear about a party or a club but are never quite at. It’s that place in the back of your mind that makes you want to throw parties to get just a little bit closer to that euphoric chaos you feel in your gut every time you think of the world freedom, or fun. It’s like Mardi Gras and New Years Eve somehow falling on the same night. There were rappers, and sensual dancers, and drag queens, and break dancers. And let me TELL you, I was so freaking glad I had brought my camera with me. So enough blabbing: let me show you....
Yesterday, about all of IES was exhausted at our Spanish classes. Apparently Thursday is the new Friday? After class I went home and slept the whole day. That evening some friends and I just hung out drinking tea and cafe con leche, while a large amount of the kids from the program went out and did it all over again. Going out here is so cheap that it's costing us a fortune. I gotta figure out some other evening activities in this city. There are like 12 million people here. What's a gal gotta do to find a scrabble club? Today, I think my mission is going to be finding a thrift store. Oh yeah, and homework at some point......
Besitos a todos,
Sunday, August 15, 2010
My biggest challenge, as of late, has been maintaining optimism underneath a sky of gray clouds. (Both literally and metaphorically speaking.) A friend today was telling me about this woman in South Africa who built a completely solar-powered, eco-friendly hotel in the middle of a poverty-stricken neighborhood, whose profits would go towards the community. Shortly after it was built, it burned to the ground. Though no one was quite sure if it was an accident or intentional, though suspicions were greater towards the latter, she put herself together and had it rebuilt. This week, I felt like a house collapsing into ash; hopeless, tired, defeated. It felt like I was being punished for some terrible wrong... but I hadn't done anything. Then this story got me thinking. Maybe it wasn't the world's way of being a bully, but of teaching me that I'm stronger than I think I am; that I'm strong enough to rebuild myself from scratch without my friends, my boyfriend, or my family. Though I never want to admit it while I'm in it, it seems the most important lessons are the ones preceded by the most pain. I'm not quite back to rainbows and gigglesnorting just yet, and I'm still considering legally changing my middle name to "Murphyslaw," but things are beginning to look a little less bleak.
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. . . .
This morning I woke up feeling much better. I got some antihistimines in my system and felt ready to go hit the town! My first mission to go to San Telmo, however, fell through after I realized I had no idea to get to the subte, and the Police Officer I asked directions from proceeded to speak really fast repeating "Lejos, muy lejos" (far, very far) a lot. I ended up walking around the Recoleta Artesan fair again, and then meeting up with a friend Talia in the neighborhood. We found this little cafe which turned out to be kind of really awesome. The tables were glass tops over a bed of dried flowers and such. Everything from the napkin holders to the tea-kettle parts to the menu were carved out of wood. Overall, it was a very pleasant atmosphere.
Oh and did I mention their heavenly collection of pastries illuminated under flattering incandescent lights? Living on the wild side, I bought a mini cookie!! (It's the end of the day and so far so good-- ie: no stomach ache.) Oooohhh chocolate tasted sooOOOooooo gooo000Oood!!!!! After some time of life/philosophy/religion chatting, Talia took me to the Subte (Subway).
It's really not so difficult, but it seems like there aren't many stops, which isn't so convenient. After walking at least 10 blocks, we got on, and WHOOSH! That thing can really move!! At only about 30 cents (USD) a ride, it's not a bad way to go. We got off two stops later and met Steffi, Melissa T, and Kate at some mall in Palermo. I swear, you'd think Christmas was coming with how crowded it was! Okay maybe I'm exagerating a bit, but there were a LOT of people. Shopping seems to be a major pasttime around here. When we met up with our shopping amigas, they were famished, and had heard about a very specific kind of place to eat dinner. We went back on the Subte and were off again...
We then entered the Once neighborhood (pronounced Own-Say) and found ourselves wandering NOT the finest of streets. (By this time, by the way, it was night.) Realizing we were not "in Kansas anymore," we used our trusty Guia "T" guidebook to find the place. Finally, we made it to the Restaurante Parrilla, a Kosher Barbeque Restaurant.
(Brief pause so my mother can break for plotzing.)
Inside, Jewish artwork hangs on the walls amidst a sea of bright yellow tablecloths. We were early- it was only about 8:00- and the place was pretty empty. As the night went on, however, it became PACKED. Talia and Steffi, who keep Kosher, hadn't been able to each much exciting food since getting to Argentina, so this was a REAL treat. We decided to get the group barbeque, and to not read exactly which parts of the cow it included. Now speaking after the fact, I couldn't care less. That meat was all sorts of awesome.
As the tables began to fill up, so did the room with a mix of English, Spanish, and Hebrew. It was a bit odd but also crazy cool.
Fortunately, I can say my body has not rejected that delicious meal. (Or at least, not yet?) Hopefully, this means I'm on the road to recovering from the evil lord stomach virus. Steffi and Kate decided to later go out tonight for clubbing, but the rest of us took ourselves and our food comas back home.
This Tuesday we start classes, but maybe I can sneak a bit more fun in for tomorrow?
Besitos y abrazos to all,
Friday, August 13, 2010
And, of course, I did what any 20 year old would do after recovering from a gastrointestinal virus: I accepted. I went home, packed, and at 6 in the morning I went to meet up with two of the ladies going on the trip. (We left super early to be able to buy the 9:30 boat ticket.) We then hailed a cab to the Buquebus (pronounced Boo-Kay-Boos) Station, excitedly chatting with the taxi driver with our embarrassing Castellano. Then, the palms of my hands began to itch. Maybe I'm just anxious? I told myself. As we pulled up outside, taking our bags out of the trunk, the bottom of my feet began to itch as well, and my hands felt hot. I started to think about saying something... but we were at the station and it was beautiful and new and we were the second group in line to buy tickets and I could feel my hands swelling. I told the other girls and quickly rushed to the cafeteria area to ask for some ice. When I returned, I had to take my rings off. I sat on the station floor beside our bags in that snake-like waiting line and began frantically icing my hands. My right foot was swelling up as well and I had to take my shoe off. After several times declining the other girls' persuasions to call a cab for me to the hospital, I finally accepted. My feet and hands were burning and itching terribly. They call a cab, and the program director to meet me at the hospital.
Suddenly, the dinner from La Bistecca hit my digestive track and all the fictitious evil from Friday the 13th movies took the form of partly processed gnocchi and if someone could somehow magnify the inside of my intestines REALLY big they would see those little nuggets of pasta with the facial hair of every bad guy in every James Bond movie (where the bad guy has facial hair) laughing maliciously. Barefoot, I scurried to the bathroom. The stomach virus had not passed. At the very least the pain in my gut was a temporary distraction from my hands and feet.
I returned to concerned, sorry faces and a weekend bag containing carefully selected outfits I would not be wearing. HaveFun/GoodLuck exchanged, I got a cab to the hospital. There, I found out I had an allergic reaction to something I ate (most likely at La Bistecca the previous night), which probably was a response in conjunction to that #$%^&*!! virus.
This little anecdote was a long way of saying I had a very unpleasant morning, and now, sitting on my bed periodically having to pause to ice my hands with a bag of frozen peas and carrots, all I ask is if you have any respect for me at all, please refrain from mentioning the word chocolate.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Sup, mundo. Guess who caught a gastrointestinal virus. I'll give you a hint: It's not Princess Diana. At first I thought it was just from my Tuesday night hangover, but after still being dizzy by Wednesday night, and feverish Thursday and Friday, and extreme stomach pains on Saturday, Sunday, and today..... I figured it wasn't a consequence of las bebidas and workin' the dance floor like John Travolta (or John Belusci... take your pick). I finally decided to call El Medico today and yuuup, here I am. For the next two days, my menu options are (unenthusiastic drumroll, please): mineral water, 7up lite, apples, apple sauce, apple gatorade (the other flavors are actually not okay), plain white rice and boiled chicken. If I'm feeling crazy, I can eat rice cakes. "Excuse me, waiter, I'm going to need another minute to think it over." Here's the real kick in the pants: the doctor said I'm supposed to rest (as in bed rest) for the next 2-3 days. Clearly, I am cheating by coming across the street to use the wi-fi but SERIOUSLY!?!?!? Ironically, I have "100 Years of Solitude" to read back at my home-stay. Uf.
Buuuut let's tilt the camera away from my colon for a bit, k? Every weekend in my neighborhood, Recoleta, there's this kind of fair thing? I don't know how else to describe it. Every Saturday and Sunday, venders set up tents and sell things such as bags, shoes, handmade picture frames, tango art, empanadas, jewelry, cotton-candy, dresses for your BARBIE, super rasta pipes, etc. This is a BIG park by the way, and in other areas of it people listen to/dance to live musicians, there's a play for kids, a puppet show, and various young people just relaxing with their friends. I found this lil' firecracker off-duty by the puppet show area, and she was MORE than willing to have her picture taken.
I didn't take many more pictures from there because (a) I had a lot to carry and (b) with my giant backpack, hanging a nice camera around my neck would kind of make me a target. My backpack was especially plump because I had just bought a brand new leather backpack which I had to fit inside my other one. Let me tell you, she is a beauty. For only 30 USD, it was a toootal steeeeeaaaaal.
Later that day, I went grocery shopping, as I have to fend for myself on weekends. All there is are the Supermercados, mini produce places, and meat, bread, and cheese specialty stores. I feel like I've been so spoiled by the selection we have in the US. In the Supermercados, there are only a few aisles. The cereals seem to be all sugary and there were two options for granola bars (not good ones, even). Also, the majority of the produce places I pass sell produce which is already brown or with very dull tones. I'm trying to be culturally sensitive but what's a girl got to do to get a decent salad around here? Not this girl, of course, as I wouldn't be able to eat it anyways, but you get the idea. AND DUDE!! WHERE THE DANG TWIX BARS AT!?!?!?!?!
Today, we had one-on-one academic advising meetings, which basically consisted of 1oo-some college students completely disregarding their number ticket stub and flooding around the windows of this one conference room like registering for classes was a game of musical chairs. The funny thing was, we didn't register at all. We wrote down the classes we wanted to take, somebody looked at it, took our sheet, nodded, and asked if we had any questions. This whole study abroad experience has been like that: chaos and confusion responded to by calm nodding.
This afternoon I went walking around town with two lovely ladies and we found a shopping mall, which was pretty surprising, since it's mostly just shops everywhere. It was super cool inside. There were some aspects which were similar to malls in the states- stores, kiosks, food court, but there was a giant mural on a dome ceiling in the very middle of the mall, and a museum on the top floor! We didn't have time, but for 15 pesos (roughly 4 USD) we could have seen an exhibit of drawings by Francis Bacon. IN A SHOPPING MALL. There were none of the same stores as in the states which is kind of a weird feeling. (I should have gotten those sweet Dora the Explorer hair ties from Claires when I had the chance...) Also, there's a very few range of sizes. On racks, it's like one or two of a shirt in small or medium. It makes sense, I guess, because the majority of people here are thin, but that super sucks for those who aren't a size 6 or smaller.
Okay that seems like sufficient blabbing. I'm gonna go eat some apple puree and feel bitter.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Buenas Noches. I haven't been able to take a whole lot of pictures lately, as I've been ill these past few days. Today, after a 16 hour sleep, I explored the neighborhood. It's craaaazzzyyy how many clothing stores there are! One after another after another.... I feel like a cougar on the prowl waiting for precisely the right moment to pounce. Rawrrrrr. Also this afternoon, I went to this famous cemetary (I can't remeber the name) where Eva Peron is buried. It was unbelievable how many passages there were at this gravesite... like a village of dead people. When I was there I snapped this picture of an injured cat. (Poor thing!) In all fairness, he was probably like 1,000 years old so maybe he was actually a real looker for his age.
While I was there, I asked this old dude if he knew where Evita was and he offered to accompany me. On the way, he showed me several graves paired with various historical facts, none of which I could understand. (There was a lot of awkward nodding.) Afterwards, he weasled me out of 5 bucks for being my tour guide or whatever. I suppose I could have pulled the "No comprendo espanol" card but he looked the age to have evil spirits as friends so I gave in.
Later that afternoon, I went in search of buying a cell phone. Apparently, a lot of people like to give false directions. In short, I did a LOT of walking today.
Another fun fact? The drivers here are maniacs. They must have read their "Rules of the Road" book upside-down, because turning left from the right lane in front of other cars to the left of you is kind of a no-no. Also, haven't seen a single stop sign. As much as I like biking, I like breathing without a machine even better so I don't think I'll partake in that activity while I'm here.
Pues, I bought a Borges poetry book so I think I'm gonna get on that.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
and at night- well, let me just say it involved a fur collar, vino, a VIP wristband, and I will still be recovering tomorrow. Ay. Today I did the orientation things I had to do, had lunch at a park, and went back home to crash. I didnt bring my camera last night so not to lose it and didn't have it today, as I did not return home, so below are some pictures from yesterday....
Por this upcoming week my goals are: finding a cell phone, finding a Borges book, and exploring the cemetery con Eva Peron near my house. Ciao.
Monday, August 2, 2010
-Yesterday/the day before (it all kinda meshed together), I flew to Atlanta, then flew to Buenos Aires. During the beginning of the second flight there was this fantastic lightning and I got a sweet picture:
I slept for not very long. Fortunately it was through some movie with Matt Damon. No big loss there. I was so excited to see the sunrise and then realized I was on the wrong side of the plane. Fortunately, I managed to get some cool shots:
I arrived at the airport, exchanged some money, met con el grupo, y despues was directed to a taxi and sent to my home-stay. I'm staying in an apartment with this older woman named Maggie who, upon my arrival, has been treating me as kindly as she would her own family. Later that afternoon, she took me on a tour of the neighborhood, which is called "Recoleta." We spent most of the rest of the day talking and relaxing.
This morning, Maggie y yo went to look around the neighborhood for somewhere which sells Soy Milk. Strangely, in a country which grows lots and lots of soy, we couldn't find it anywhere.
At around noon, Maggie accompanied me by bus to the IES abroad center, where I met people from the program. We later toured around checking out historical buildings and local stores. Personally, I was more interested in the people... and, claro, the fashion!
Esta foto really doesn't do this girl justice. Her leggings were black in front and striped in back. Clearly, the weather wasn't an issue for her.
What I love about Argentina is how so many people are bundled up in all black. (Mi color favorito.) Black is always the new black. Always.
My favorite picture of the day, though, is- sin duda- of this couple:
Walking arm in arm, as they stood at the corner about to cross the street, I couldn't resist asking if I could take their picture. Only the woman heard, and, responding only by a smile which peeked out momentarily from behind her scarf, she tapped on the shoulder of her husband and turned him towards me. Is he sharp or what?!
Luego, dos amigas y yo went back to our neighborhood to get cervezas, pero they didn't know if their host families were going to be preparing dinner soon. As for me, Maggie prepared a biiiiiig Argentine steak. Delicioso!
As for now, I'm sitting at the cafe across the street from my apartamento, listening to bad 80s music. Desafortunamente o fortunamente (no estoy seguro), when I ordered a drink not long ago, I misunderstood the waitress and ordered a liter of beer.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
A veces en las tardes una cara
nos mira desde el fondo de un espejo;
el arte debe ser como ese espejo
que nos revela nuestra propia cara.
This is the first time I am traveling alone, and hope to learn not only about this city but about myself. (Corny? I hope not.) Hopefully I won't bore readers (if there are any?) to death in the process.