Saturday, June 2, 2012

Closing Thoughts


I have put writing some sort of closure to my entire trip for quite some time now. I don't think I can summarize my four month trip into one post, but overall I could not have asked for a better experience. From the cafes to kioscos, high tea in Recoleta to getting ripped off by taxis, Teatro Colon to toe infections, the stark contrasts of the city of Buenos Aires have opened my eyes in more ways than I could have imagined.

I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to witness a country who genuinely despises and mistrusts their government, where women walk around in fur coats in 50 degree weather, where at any hour of the night the city is alive and the party goes on, where I could pick up an international package and witness a riot all in the same block, and where five star hotels mask the slated tin shacks of the slums of the city.

The juxtapositions of life between the metropolitan city life and the Latin American villas is what made living in Buenos Aires so fascinating. I don't think I will ever be in or find a place like it again- there is a pace, culture, and vibrancy to the city that I truly came to appreciate. It is weird to think that I found comfort in such a huge city, but beneficial that I don't have this fear of being out on my own in the real world post-college/graduation.

Being in the comfort of my home has been nice, albeit weird. When friends asked how the entire experience was, I often found myself simply listing all my complaints- whether it was my host family, the food, or the dangers of living in a big city. I reread some of my blog posts and realized that I couldn't be negative over something that was such a fantastic and wonderful experience for me. I didn't really let myself think about it all, simply because in a weird way I still felt like I would have to be going back. Like this was some weird vacation where I'll have to be flying back into Ezeiza in a couple weeks.

Now that a month has passed by, I am more comfortable with knowing that it is over, and I have allowed myself to look back and reminisce about everything that has happened. I made some wonderful friends and discovered an independence for myself that I don't think I could have found anywhere else. It's no secret I have anxiety over logistics and traveling, and this trip has instilled a confidence in me for planning and venturing places by myself. I went from my first posts of looking forward to boliches every weekend to spending my final days on architecture walks and park hunts, from pride in walking home alone to pride in planning an entire spring break, from anxiety over the subway to street smarts in the big city.

I am so grateful for everything I have learned from this experience- from the people, the culture, the language, and Buenos Aires/Argentina itself. Some quick lows would be the housing family crisis (see and the initial culture shock, but my highs (and there are many more) consisted of hiking through patagonia, trekking on a glacier, tasting the Iguazu waterfalls, biting into Argentine steak, and living confidently on my own in a foreign city.

Gracias y chau, Buenos Aires. You've done me well.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Second to Last Post

...before I'm home in my bed! While the day to day haul of being abroad sometimes caught up to me, I can't believe it's already May and I'm heading home in three days! While I had some sadness about leaving next week, I'd say I'm on an emotional roller coaster now, not really sure how to feel about everything going on.

I think I'm ready to leave this experience (optimistically definitely ready to get home), but I'm having random anxiety spasms about what to do once "home" arrives. It's been this sought-after goal in the distance, and now it's literally right at my door. I don't start my job until June, so I'm sort of at a loss of what to fill May up with once I'm home. I've been enjoying my last few days in the city, and can't help having weird feelings about leaving such a lively and foreign (literally) place.

This past weekend was a four-dayer... With random holidays like Animal Day (literally they celebrate their pets) accompanying Argentina's Labor Day, we had a luxurious amount of time to run last minute errands and enjoy final moments in the city.

Thursday was two friends in my program's birthdays, so we all met up at Chupito's, the shot bar. I personally am not a real big fan of this place (over-priced, over-rated), but because Christine wanted her bday celebrations to be there I happily obliged. Queue twenty minutes later and probably 100 American Univ. Belgrano students swarmed the bar, which was both fun and overwhelming.

After getting hardly our money's worth, a few of us headed out to Lost, sadly my last Thursday night at one of my favorite boliches. After about two hours though, I was tired and not really feeling the music, so I decided to call it an "early" night at 330.

Friday I stayed in to watch the draft and see Bryan go way early in the third round- GO JAGS.

Saturday I headed out early to shop around the outlets near my house buying last minute gifts for all the summer birthdays/holidays. Kerrie and I stopped at this adorable cafe, where I got a delicious quinoa salad with squash, tomatoes, and other veggies. We split a blueberry crumble for dessert, and it tasted a little too cold to be my favorite.

Side note: I officially don't fit into my pants anymore. Gracias, Argentina, for supplying me the freshman 15 I never got a chance to have.

Saturday night we decided to give ourselves one last Buenos Aires bang, complete with bars, boliches, and staying out til wee hours of the morning. My friends at the Roof bar not only remembered me, but requested I come back tonight in order to say goodbye yet again. Considering I have a final tomorrow, I'm staying in tonight.

I came full circle in Buenos Aires, making Crobar my first and last boliche experience. Mixing latin and American beats, I had a blast dancing, and even wanted to stay longer when my friends wanted to leave (abuela not so much that night).

Sunday I pretty much wasted the entire morning and day resting, although I did get a lot of organizing done in preparation to pack by cleaning out my whole room. Sunday night, Shawna and I went to one of her Argentine friend's apartment, where we had one of the most delicious meals in Argentina. (I feel myself saying that a lot when I venture outside my homestay).

Tomas (her friend) is a chef in the city, and he and his American fiancee cooked us an amazing Mexican feast complete with nachos con jalepeños, chicken, beef, spicy pork, GUACAMOLE (it's been way too long), and some wine/corona/tequila on the side. It was such a good night, that I didn't even notice I had stayed for over four hours, enjoying conversation and good food.

Monday I had another lazy morning, and met up with Kerrie in the afternoon for tea at the Hyatt. It was just as fun as I remembered it with my parents, and having a girls' night with Kerrie was just what I needed after feeling off these past couple of days. After tea, I went home for dinner, and met Kerrie again at her apartment where we enjoyed the last bottle of the wines my parent's left me.

Tuesday (yesterday) I was packing in the morning, but got so restless I just left my house and hopped on a bus to nowhere. No, actually I just got on the first bus that came and took it to the outskirts of Recoleta, where I enjoyed walking around and snapping photos of cool buildings. I meandered my way to the Floralis Generica- a silver sculpture of a flower that opens and closes with the sun (like a real flower) and took some photos since it's been on my to-do list since Day 1 in the city.

Randomly the market was going on, and I silently hit myself for not carrying any cash on me in order to swoop in on some last minute things... oh well.

Last night I ate dinner at Lupita's (again, sorry Dad) and ordered a different guacamole- this one actually tasted like Villa Sombrero's- and a burrito that was to die for.

Today I sat in a cafe for a couple hours after class in preparation for my final tomorrow... I should be more stressed, but the way grading works is that a 4/10 and higher passes, and I'm taking this class pass/no pass sooooo..... sea lo que sea.

Tomorrow I don't have many plans except to pack, Friday morning I'm getting brunch with some friends before our oral exam, and then Friday night one last trip to 878 bar. Then Saturday, off to EZE, which I'm sure will have at least one or two stories from it (after all, this is Argentina) and on a flight to Miami en route home.

Next time I write will probably be waiting in the Miami airport during my four hour layover (4am - 8am... WOOHOO), so chau for the last time probably South-American side D: wahhhhhhh
last night at Lost

Mexican meal!

Ralph Lauren in Recoleta

artsy flower

me and the flower

Monday, April 23, 2012

Buen Finde

Buenas noches! It's my second to last Monday in Buenos Aires and I'm sort of not okay with that. Don't get me wrong I'm ecstatic to go home and see friends, family, and get out of this godforsaken living situation (my abuela, house brother, and house brother's friend are currently having a yelling "conversation" while two tv's are blasting different shows), but I truly am sad about leaving this city :(

It's all sort of hitting me now, especially when after school today, both the lady who works at the natural foods store AND the fruit stand guy near my school asked me when I was leaving, and that it was way too soon for me to be going. The natural foods lady (I really do have to get her name- I see her just about every day and she's even given me some of her home-made treats behind her desk) was super sad to realize that it will be less than two weeks until I'm saying "chau" to one of the greatest experiences I've had thus far.

Because of the immediacy of my departure, I've made a pact with my friend Kerrie to do just about anything and anything that would be on my Buenos Aires bucket list before I leave. This last weekend was a great time, balancing going out and exploring the city.. hitting up bars, still making Latin American friends wherever I go, browsing the market and enjoying Recoleta, and heading out to visit Plaza de Mayo, Puerto Madero, and the Ecological Reserve of the city.


After school I headed to happy hour with Kerrie and Shawna, and we agreed to make plans for later that night after eating with our host families. Side note: my meals still haven't improved, although Gabriela brought oranges for us to eat in the mornings- WOOHOO.

We planned on meeting around 12, and so there I was at 1215 alone at a bar in the city. Feeling pretty cool. Basically we went to the Roof, upstairs from the wanna-be Chipotle, California Burrito Co. Since it was still "early," the table right next to me was filled with the owner, an accountant, and two waiters/bartenders discussing their business. The owner was an elderly man from believe it or not, Colorado, who asked me why I was alone and where I was from.

Upon finding out I was stuck waiting for friends and lo and behold from California, he promptly said a drink was on him and introduced me to a bartender. The bartender introduced me to his girlfriend, who was sitting with about 10 other people, and the rest was history. I enjoyed a fantastic half an hour with guys from Ecuador and Argentina, along with Luz (the girl) and her girlfriend from the city. The waiter was from Peru, bartender was from Brazil, and I ended up having a lovely conversation with Luz, all in Spanish.

Finally my friends showed up, and we quickly progressed the night as free drinks kept coming are way thanks to my new bartender friends. I was amazed at how friendly everyone was, and it wasn't just because of the alcohol. People surprise you in this city, and instead of being a snobby porteña, Luz completely took me under her wing, introducing me to practically the entire bar.

We then headed out to a shot bar, called Chupitos, where a disgusting Harry Potter shot (it was on fire which was cool) and a smooth Bob Marley shot later, I decided to call it a night. I wanted to be productive with my weekend, and didn't really care to spend my entire Saturday between my bed and the bathroom.


I needed to buy some last minute souvenirs for family members and well, myself, so Kerrie and I headed to the Recoleta market that's held every Saturday and Sunday in front of the cemetery. I was able to purchase an ornament for my parents, hand made soap for me and my host mom, and glass earrings as well as some gifts I don't want to say on the blog for my family reading...

It's finally fall in the city, and the weather has been PERFECT. Mid-60s, sunny and crisp, and it's so pleasant to finally be out of the muggy weather- it's like a breath of fresh air. We shopped around for 2 or 3 hours, and not wanting to go home, we walked down Las Heras just looking at all the cool buildings. We even walked right past Austria, where my parents and I stayed in our Recoleta hotel. Recoleta has become my favorite neighborhood, probably due to its glamorous stores, beautiful architecture, and relaxed atmosphere.

We found a cafe on a street corner in front of a beautiful but eerie closed down hospital, and marveled at how wonderful life is. Even though I know it's normal in Starbucks, I will miss the culture of sitting for hours at a cafe or restaurant without being rushed or hurried out by the staff. Afterwards, I walked home, just as the sky became dark. Because I had gone out the night before and Sunday was about to be another big day, I curled up and watched my recently "free-trial purchased" Netflix account- Because it's the Argentine version, there are a lot different selections for watching. Which turns out good and bad in certain cases.


Sunday, Shawna and I met Kerrie on the subway, and we headed to Plaza de Mayo to begin our day. The Casa Rosada (basically the Buenos Aires "white house" but pink) was for the first time I had seen open, so we spontaneously decided to check it out. We didn't want to wait a full hour for a tour around the upstairs, but it was cool to see the building up close and meander through the downstairs area.

Afterwards, we walked down through Puerto Madero, the beautiful newly-upscale barrio of Buenos Aires. The whole weekend had been de-ja-vu of what I had seen with my parents, which definitely made me yet again so thankful I was able to share my semester with them :)

Randomly, between Puerto Madero and the Ecological Reserve/river, there was a huge market going on, with tons of parilla vendors and street sellers. It's hard to explain, but the whole experience of today was exactly how I pictured Buenos Aires would be before I got here. Open meat markets, live Argentine music/bands, the entire jungle/marshes of the Ecological Reserve.... it was such a rich epicenter of culture, and I was so so pleased we discovered it (although perhaps a little late).

We meandered through the market, finishing our strolling with a bike rental in order to ride around the reserve. The reserve was beautiful, and such a nice breather from the boisterous city life. We stopped at a beach, but upon encountering so much garbage and lack of serenity, we decided to keep moving and rest while munching on some carne sandwich.

We returned our bikes just under the hour time limit, and headed off to share a chorizo de bife, with as many condiments/toppings as our hearts desired and some papas fritas from one of the vendors. Our meal was complete with live music, all in Spanish, and probably one of the better afternoons of my trip whilst being here.

Afterwards, I jumped on the subway home, and still couldn't help but realizing that it would probably be one of my last rides on the Subte D line. I think I'll be ready to go home in 12 days (wait.. only 12?! maybe not), but I have so much appreciation for this city now that I wish I could have given myself in the first few weeks when I was experiencing my bout of culture shock. We have a 4 day weekend coming up, which is so perfect for my last weekend in the city.. I'll try and get a blog in before my final goodbyes (ahhh so weird so weird) but chau for now!

me, Shawna, Becca, and Kerrie
Harry Potter shots- en fuegooo
Casa Rosada!
stopping for some jugo de naranja- this vendedor's set up was preciosa!
biking down the trail in the Ecological Reserve
all the garbage :(
captured the feeling of the day perfectly- fall colors, parrilla, and the market in the background
our parriollon with all it's condiments!
beautiful puerto madero

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dia Del Campo

4/18 (so weird.. I feel like it was just yesterday I was making the dates in February)

Hola!! I might have just had the most relaxing weekend to date in Buenos Aires. Between happy hour with some friends, a full day at an estancia, and a lazy Sunday, I had a delightful weekend just enjoying the city and not stressing about simply checking off the to-do list.

Friday after class, a group of us went to Benihana for happy hour and good conversation. Before you judge me, I have to say two months ago when Christine told me about the happy hour I just replied "There's no way I'm going to a Benihana when I'm in Buenos Aires." BUT... drinks and sushi rolls are only 3-5 dollars, meaning that I spent less than ten bucks on two *very* delicious and strong mojitos, and next time I can spend less than fifteen and get myself two drinks and a california roll, which is incredibly hard to find in the city due to the lack of crab on the Buenos Aires shore.


Saturday, I headed to Univ. Belgrano at 8am in order to board the busses that would be heading towards Lujan, the same city where the zoo was, to have an excursion at a ranch, or "estancia."

I conked out for the two-hour ride, and upon waking in Lujan, I could barely process what to do other than to find coffee. Since we had an hour to stroll around the HUGE church, Christine and I opted to head to a small cafe before taking in the sights. The church was covered in fog, and the weather matched our grogginess.

A double shot coffee later, and as if the heavens smiled down at us blue skies and sunshine, we headed towards the church. A service was going on, which was beautiful to hear in Spanish, and I don't think I've been in a church that big before. It was beautiful.

After an hour, we loaded the busses again to head towards the estancia, which as our guide put it "en el medio de nada." It was a lovely little resort-ranch, with greenery and peacocks all around. I wasn't looking too forward to this trip just because there were so many of us (three charter busses full- the same as Rosario), but just like Rosario I ended up having a fantastic time.

We were allowed to ride horses, which I thought would only be the guide dragging you along by a rope kind, but we were free to roam around the fenced in area. Without warning my horse took off, which was a lot of fun especially since it's been so long since I've been on one.

After the horses we had probably the longest meal of my life, where the meat was disappointing, but the people and conversation greatly made up for it. I couldn't help but constantly think how great of a weekend it was turning out to be, just hanging out with some friends at a ranch in Argentina.

After the meal, we headed out to watch some horse riders play a game where a small ring hung from poles and they had to stick a pencil through the ring while galloping at breakneck speed on a horse. Casual. If they got it through the ring, they got to get a "besito" from a girl in the crowd and give her the ring.

It was great fun watching the riders (one was an adorable 11 year old boy- who actually got it through the ring!) and I even got a besito- woohoo! After the day, I was so tired that I fell asleep yet again on the bus and dragged myself home, crashing relatively early in order to wake up for brunch the next morning.


Sunday I woke up and decided to walk to brunch, about a mile and a half away from my house. It was such a beautiful morning, and it was really nice just to meander through empty streets since it was a Sunday morning. I met Kerrie and Christine at Oui Oui, the same place I went with my parents, although I guess the restaurant has two locations, and we went to the other one that was maybe three doors down.

After ordering some fruit, eggs, bacon, and toast (DELICIOUS), I also received some tea. I literally lifted the teapot up to pour it into my cup and it broke clear off the handle. Of course everyone stared at us, and Kerrie was like "quick! Speak in Spanish so they stop staring!" but I couldn't help and laugh at the handle in my hand and the teapot on the floor. Clearly not my fault, however the waitress brought me back a lame excuse for just a cup of tea, without any extra water. Lame.

Regardless of the waitress' attitude, it was an amazing brunch, and it felt nice to spoil myself for once while I've been so budget-friendly (although the fantastic double meal plus lemonade and tea still was less than 20USD).

Afterwards, Christine and I walked to my house and changed, then heading to a park between Palermo and Recoleta in order to get some Vitamin D in. It had been forever since I'd laid out and gotten some sun, and relaxing and reading Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (thanks mom) was the greatest way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Once we reached our breaking point with the mosquitoes and bugs, we headed home. I then popped in Star Wars (again thanks mom) and had a perfect Sunday, complete with heading to bed WAY early at around 930/10pm- can you say abuela?

Monday was normal.

Tuesday after class, I headed to a cafe to read up more on Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and for dinner I met up with a few friends at this African restaurant. it was PHENOMENAL. I can't even describe the dishes, but the owner was from Cameroon and helped four of us pick out three dishes to share family style. There ended up being around 12 people, and we all sat outside on a quiet street, just enjoying each others company. I ended up staying at the restaurant for three hours, mainly because another girl and I were so early- so while we waited we made a sort of happy hour out of the dinner, but we ate this like bean/chicken/spices dish, with the same sauce on a beef dish, and then a spinach/possibly pesto chicken dish, with sweet potatoes and fried bananas to dip in the dishes. I've never had African food before, but it had SO MUCH FLAVOR. The closest I've had would be Indian, but I really can't describe it.

Today I'll be heading to a movie (Kerrie and I make it a point to get ice cream and a movie once a week) and the rest of this week looks pretty low key. Chau for now!

church pre-coffee

church post-coffee

riding a horse!

me and my horsey

the riders- second from the left (of course the porky one) was my besito

riding the horse with pencil in hand

Thursday, April 12, 2012



So I haven't been blogging the past week due to the fact that my family was visiting me in the city!!!!!!! For Henry's high school spring break he, my mom, and my dad flew down to the city from Saturday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 10th.

We did everything. Absolutely everything. From steak dinners to empanadas to the ballet, soccer/futbol match, sushi, la boca, uruguay, leather stores, markets, casino- you name it we probably did it. Or at least debated doing it.

I began the week super stressed and tense- primarily because I wanted to make sure I could guarantee that my family would have a good time (i.e. with safety and enjoyment), and secondly because I wanted to show them how city-savvy I had become, including my knowledge of Spanish. On top of everything I was kind of still sick, so that made my energy levels not too high (and my moods not too happy). Typical Kelly anxieties.

After countless times of asking permission to order water at dinner (in Argentina they don't serve water free or from the tap), I began to realize that this was my vacation too, and I shouldn't get so caught up in the little details. I started to relax, and by the time they were getting ready to leave, I couldn't stop smiling at how much fun I was having (minus the last day when I got restless due to slothing in the hotel room).

I have so many highlights of this trip, so I'll make a quick bullet list of our itinerary with some one-liners or important stories as to not bore you to death. Also because I know my family members are my main followers, and you'll be hearing these stories multiple times to come, and I'll be happy to elaborate on any story/event in person versus having to type them all out.

Saturday- arrival into Palermo Soho.

The first area my family stayed at was Palermo Soho, the more "hollywood" area of the city with bars, clubs, and fashion.

I took my mom and dad to my local choripan store and ice cream shop, both of which did not have the vendors whom I usually talk to. At the ice cream shop, we had an "incident." We put Henry's choripan and my dad's hat on a table in the shop while we went to order ice cream, and by the time we returned they were gone.

Turns out an 80+ year old lady was sitting right next to our table, and when my dad checked back on our table, he could see the choripan bag in her purse. "Donde esta my hat?" didn't really work, and just a bizarre schedule of events of me not thinking to tell them to bring all their stuff, my dad not calling me over to translate, the lady wanting my dad's sweaty old baseball cap.... Well, welcome to Buenos Aires!

That night we went to see River Plate play in Belgrano- so much fun and the crowd was insane! Hoping my mom uploads video soon. Afterwards, Henry, my dad and I went to an American-expat bar to watch the NCAA tourney over a couple beers.

Sunday- San Telmo

We did the San Telmo market, where my brother and mom bought gifts and trinkets. For dinner, we ate at La Cabrera- one of the most famous steak restaurants in Argentina... it lived up to its hype :)

Took Henry out for his first night on the town to bars and a boliche but called it an early night at 330.

Monday- seeing my school, holiday.

It was a holiday of the Falkland Islands War, which Argentina takes as seriously as we do terrorism, so a lot of things were closed that day. I took them to Belgrano where we ate lunch near my school to pass the time. At night, we tried going to a restaurant/bar combo of places in Palermo that I had been aching to try out, but BOTH were closed, so we ended up going to a restaurant on a foodie-street known as "Las Cañitas." As a family, we decided to try out the "Mexican" food of Argentina.

Family anecdote: My dad had ordered a Pepperoni pizza at lunch earlier, which ended up being a bell-pepper pizza. I don't know why that word was lost in translation, but needless to say he was ready for a good, made as he ordered meal. Luck ran out though, when he ordered the nachos, which may have been on the same level as nachos at a Dodger game. Maybe worse. That and the "dirty water margaritas that came from the toilet" made a delightful dinner for the rest of us, more-so at the expense of him.

Tuesday- Uruguay

We took a boat to Colonia de Sacramento, in Uruguay, and rented a golf cart to put around the cobblestone streets of the town and drive along the beautiful beaches. Very relaxing trip, and had amazing food at a cafe for lunch, and a delightful experience at a smaller Uruguayan restaurant.

Wednesday- Uruguay -> Recoleta

We left Uruguay and headed to stay in a BEAUTIFUL hotel in Recoleta, basically our rooms were apartments. I loved staying in Recoleta because of all of the French-style buildings and high class atmosphere. It definitely was a highlight to be able to just walk places with my parents or gaze out the window of a taxi in areas of these neighborhoods that I wouldn't have otherwise seen.

There was a huge storm that night, with winds blowing branches down the street and flooding onto the sidewalks. I think this was the night I took them to my pasta place and bar- we went to an Italian restaurant with delicious home-made pastas, complete with good wine and red and white checkered tablecloths. Afterwards, I took my dad and Henry to one of my favorite bars, 878- an old speakeasy bar in the Palermo area.

Thursday- around town.

We ate brunch at an awesome cafe in Palermo called "Oui Oui" where my dad Henry and I got eggs benedict, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious. Afterwards Henry went to work out, and my mom dad and I ventured to El Ateneo, an old theater that was converted into a bookstore.

For dinner, my dad found a delicious place in the Centro, which had good atmosphere and great food.

Friday- la Boca/tango show

Because Henry was exhausted from staying out til 7am with one of his friends from school (wooo party) I took my parents to La Boca while he slept it off. La Boca is famous for it's El Caminito strip of colored houses, much past that turned into an uneventful visit. I didn't really like the kitschy, tourist trap of a street, and was eager to get back to Recoleta and enjoy some peace and quiet.

We ate lunch at one of the "Bares Notables" next to the Recoleta Cemetery, and for dinner we were headed off to a Tango Show. Which my dad and Henry reeeeeeeeally enjoyed. (Note the sarcasm)

Saturday- Recoleta cemetery/market

I took the fam to the Recoleta cemetery and market that's held every Saturday and Sunday, where my mom and I perused arts and crafts, and my dad and brother ran around touching coffins and being boys.

For dinner we went to this awesome sushi restaurant in Palermo where black painted walls and candlelit tables made for a very dark, yet fun setting. We went to another 'more popular' bar, Bar 6, where two drinks later and I still wasn't too impressed.

Sunday- Easter, Centro, Theater.

So for the last two nights of their stay, my parents and Henry stayed at the Marriot in the Centro and I slept in my apartment back in Palermo. It was a BEAUTIFUL hotel right next to Plaza San Martin, and basically in the financial district of the city.

For Easter 'brunch' my dad took Henry and I to a pirate restaurant complete with beer, pizza, and the best 2x1 daiquiris I've ever had. Classy.

We then walked around the park and down Florida street, where overpriced venders were selling leather and jerseys- typical of Argentine products.

In the afternoon we went to the Teatro Colon for the ballet, Carmen, which was not only one of the most beautiful theater's in the world, but a great performance as well. Dinner was at the hotel, which was good and easy to deal with after a long exhausting day. Henry and my dad headed to the Casino, and I headed home since I had school the next morning.

Monday- leather, school, steak.

Monday morning my parents met me 20 blocks east of my house in the leather district of Buenos Aires. My dad bought a belt and after numerous times of trying on not the best leather jackets, I found the MOST BEAUTIFUL travel bag ever. It's black with silver buckles and big enough for a weekend or week of traveling and I absolutely love it. Plus it's made in Argentina which makes it my one really expensive souvenir for the trip.

I went to school. Yay.

After class I met my dad and brother at a museum that apparently had a replica of a maimed body (the Museo de Policia) but it was closed for refurbishments. Bummer.

We started out the night with "happy hour" at the Brighton, a fancy restaurant/bar right out of San Francisco with it's dark wood and leather. "Happy hour" consisted of either a glass of scotch (like literally, a full glass) or a flute of champagne. After the scotch for Henry and I and champagne for my parents, we headed to our reservations for dinner.

For dinner, we ate in Puerto Madero, a high-end area of the city that reminded my family of the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The restaurant was Cabaña Las Lilas, and probably my favorite restaurant/meal of the week. I don't know if it was because of the food, or maybe because of the three bottles of wine split between my dad, Henry, and I, but it was one of the most fun nights out as a family and a great way to enjoy our last supper. Great steak, bread, and desserts. Also add the complementary tequila shots at the end of the meal and things just went uphill from there.

After dinner, my dad, Henry and I headed to the Casino, which is on a boat as to not have gambling directly "in" the city. Cool. My dad lost at poker, and Henry and I flipped at Black Jack from him being down and me being up to me losing and him being up, and between the two of us we didn't do to shabbily.

Tuesday- package and tea.

Tuesday morning I woke up bright and early to fetch a package that I had been waiting for for over a month from Jenn. Basically here's my synopsis on the mail failure of Argentina.

How mail is supposed to work:
-If it's a package weighing less than 5 pounds, they deliver it to your address

-If it's a package weighing more than 5 pounds, it's delivered to the Correo Internacional (International Mail Office), located in the most inconvenient area possible, Retiro.
    -    Retiro consists of a train station, tons of city bus stops, the country-wide bus terminal for long-distance bus travel, the migrations office, international mail office, and business buildings. And literally sitting right next to it is a "villa," or informal settlement of the city, bringing all sorts of characters to this area. (To put it in perspective, this is where the French tourist was stabbed a little over a month ago).
-If it's at the International Mail Office, the government is supposed to send first warning letter the day your package arrives
-Send a second warning letter a week after this announcement, giving you a month to retrieve said package

I didn't get anything until 3.5 weeks after my package arrived, telling me that I had only a few days to retrieve my package that Jenn sent. Luckily, my parents hotel was a few blocks away from the Retiro area, so I was able to just cab there instead of take a nightmare hour subway ride from my apartment.

So the villa I mentioned was rioting against the police the day I retrieved my package, leaving the mail office close to empty. Ironically, I chose one of the most dangerous days to travel into Retiro, and got super lucky because the whole process only took me about an hour. (Between pulling a number to be called in the first room to have my warning stamped and pay a fee to pick up a package, and then waiting in a second room with a whole different assigned number waiting for the mail office to sort through and find my package, usually it is at the least a three-hour affair). Both the taxi driver I used for the mail office and my house mom conversed with me in length about the inefficiencies of the Argentine government.

Luckily or unluckily depending how you look at it (hello an extra 5 pounds) I am now content with all the candies and treats that the Helssen's sent me :) so thanks guys!

After we rested in the hotel for a while since Henry and my mom were worn out, and as a final meal before taking a taxi to the airport, we got tea at the Hyatt in Recoleta. The hotel was BEAUTIFUL, and the tea was delicious, a perfect and relaxing way to spend my last hour with my family.

Their visit made me have a somewhat closure and re-opening of the city. I finally did everything on my "to-do before I leave" list, and now I am preparing myself for my trip home- three weeks away!! At the same time too, I have such a new appreciation for Buenos Aires. It really makes a difference when you aren't worried about time or money, and you can simply enjoy the sights BA has to offer.

Three weeks is starting to dawn on me. Even now, I'm starting to feel almost sad that I'll be leaving nights lasting until 5 or 6am, dinners taking over two hours, and the general comfort in practicing my Spanish every day. On the other hand, I can't say I'm not looking forward to sleeping in a normal bed (did I mention mine is broken?), taking a peaceful shower, and squishing my toes in my carpet at home. Three weeks is the perfect time to get out all the last-minute impulses and yet at the same time be so close to coming home to family and friends.

K done with the cheesiness/philosophy, here are some pics- this Saturday I'll be headed to an Estancia (basically a horse ranch) and I'll have more to update Sunday!


River Plate Game
Mom and I at our hotel in Uruguay- a beautiful old hotel with tile and adobe
Henry and I on the Uruguayan beach
My dad and his pepperoni....
Might I add that the entire trip my dad had his nose buried in the two Argentine guide books I got my mom for Christmas- time well spent, though, since he found some great restaurants, cafes, and things to do.
My first brunch in BA :)
Family dinner at a restaurant in the Centro
La Boca
El Caminito with my momma
Mis padres :)

Dad and I right next to Evita's tomb in Recoleta Cemetery

View from up top at Teatro Colon of the ballet

the fam in our seats

Henry and I in Plaza San Martin outside of the Marriot Hotel (past the clock tower and two blocks down is the dreaded Retiro station/where dreams go to die)

Henry and I outside Avenida de Julio- one of the largest (if not the largest) avenues in the world

Outside the Brighton (already can't keep my head up)

Tea at the Hyatt.

Besos :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mi Vida es una Telenovela. En Serio.


Okay. So I have absolutely fallen in love with Buenos Aires, and I usually have such a positive attitude about everything. But the television louder than my thoughts has inspired me to write this blogging rant about my homestay life. That and the fact that it came up in class today, and I spent like 10 minutes almost yelling about the drama in my homestay family.

Disclaimer: I am almost hesitant to write about this, because I realize they have deep-seated family drama/issues, and I don't want to glorify that or make a mockery of it. I wanted to document my entire experience here, however, and it's time I had a blog entry about my living situation.

For starters. The television is literally on TWENTY.FOUR.SEVEN. I don't know how my host mom does it. She rarely leaves the house, so basically spends 20 hours a day/7 days a week in her living room, with the television on. By twenty four seven I mean I literally fall asleep to the garbage equivalent to like Extra or some wannabe E! channel in Castellano and wake up to again some off-beat morning show in Spanish. How do people live like this? It's the definition of couch potato but even worse. Think watching Extra and infomercials and bikini contests on that awkward HD network that half plays movies half travel shows.

Other noises to add to my atmosphere are the nails-on-a-chalkboard voices of my house grandma and my house grandma's friend.. more on that later.

RECAP:  I started my Argentina adventure with me, my housemate Jessica, my house brother Nacho, and my house mom Gabriela. Our apartment is spacious for four people, with a small kitchen, one and a half bathrooms, and three rooms- one for each of the kids and my house mom gets the living room to herself.

Two weeks into the program enter my house grandma, or abuela. Gabriela's sister had been taking care of her for months/upwards years, and she just couldn't manage having her mom and a newborn to take care of.

And then there were five.

Having abuela around wasn't so bad- she was a chef at one point in her life, so she cooked us really intricate meals (still somewhat unhealthy- think designer empanadas) and spends her down time cleaning around the house.

Having abuela around gets bad when her and Gabriela have arguments that end in screaming fights, which occurs about once a week. Often past midnight or right before dinner, when Jess and I have to come out and walk past their arguments.. Talk about awkward. Also it gets really bad when she fights with... the cousin?

Enter the cousin. The cousin is a boy Nacho's age- we still aren't sure if he's always over or there are two of them who look the same. He sometimes surprises us with a visit, often popping up in the worst of times (i.e. when I think everyone's a sleep at 4 in the morning after a night out and go to shower in just a towel) or when he brings his girlfriend over and it's just Jess, me, the cousin, and cousin's girlfriend in the house.... like what? Who are you again? Regardless abuela decided she didn't like the girlfriend, which emitted a screaming battle complete with doors slamming and everything... oh and this all happened on Valentine's Day. Cue entrance of abuela's friend.

A month ago, or a month and a half into the program, enter my house grandma's friend. On Nacho's birthday, the whole family and two of abuela's friends and one of Gabriela's friends were gathered in the living room to celebrate- Jess and I had just gotten back from Iguazu, so we retreated exhausted into our rooms, but at 130 we heard the most terrifying screaming and sobbing coming out of the living room.

Basically abuela's friend's daughter died in a car crash in Uruguay, and she got the call that night. Like I said before, this is all their private information, and I feel so terrible for everything that's happened, but I need to let this out and I can't even make this stuff up. For the next week, our house was the mecca for mourning, which made it really uncomfortable to ever come home. I was stuck in my room for a while, since it was a storm and I couldn't get out of the house, and Lord knows I didn't want to be around the living room/kitchen where everyone was crying or yelling, etc.

Now our comfortable 4 person apartment has gone from a cozy five person to a tight 6 person squeeze. Abuela and her friend can't seem to talk under a yelling decibel, and I always seem to be in their way. The worst is when the friend orders me around, or makes me leave a room so she can clean... I feel horrible for having such negative thoughts but all I want to yell is "SHE DOESN'T EVEN GO/live HERE" (cue mean girls quote).

Numerous times I've had to plug in my ear phones because either the TV is on full volume or the abuelas are yelling, and it's getting to a point where my house family has turned into a house nightmare.

I've already blogged about how bad the food is, and tonight I want nothing more to eat out, but unfortunately Jess is no where to be seen (pretty sure she's watching Hunger Games) and so I'll be stuck eating a platter of rice mixed with "cosas extraños" or stuff I don't even want to know what it is.

Again. I am having THE BEST time of my life right now, especially in this week/month/whatever it is, but I have to have one blog entry about my housing situation. It's gotten to a point where it's comical. Needless to say I am so excited to live with my parents in their hotel room for a week, eat out at solid restaurants, and escape the madness that has become of my apartment in Palermo.

PS: Our house abuela just tricked us into having a bite of cow intestine. She made us try it without telling us what it was. I almost threw up after taking a bite. Then she explained how it was cow intestines. Now I may just be ill for weeks. She said she'll make us hamburgers instead. I don't even want to think about meat or cows or food ever again. AAAAAAAHHHHHH.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Leones, Tigres, y Osos- Dios Mio!


So if you haven't seen my facebook album, basically I just spent an entire day with Lions, Tigers, Bears, Elephants, you name it. And unlike American zoos where you can take pictures and poke at a glass screen, in Argentina- anything goes.

Kerrie and I decided to take the school day off and go to Zoo Lujan- a two hour bus ride outside the city in order to encounter an off-the-beaten path zoo where you can actually go into the cages and play with the animals.

In Argentina, something is always bound to go wrong, and luckily for us it only happened on the bus ride. We were under the impression that our bus' last stop would be the zoo, but sure enough we saw the zoo... as we were driving past it towards an unknown destination. Keep in mind we're an hour and forty-five minutes out of the city at this point with nothing but informal housing in our view.. needless to say we had kind of a "....what do we do" moment. 

We arrived at the town of Lujan, where a MASSIVE church was about the only thing it promised/we could see. We decided to hop in a cab for less than 10 bucks to take us back to the zoo, with possibly the intent of returning to visit the church (I'll google to find a pic to post.. it literally was a monstrosity).

Basically the background for the zoo is that it promises to foster "saving animals" and relationships between creatures and man. It's a load of BS since basically all they do is sedate them so heavily that people can enter cages 'safely.' In the 30 years or so that it's been opened, however, there hasn't been an attack, which made me comfortable to enter and pet the tigers and lions. Our favorite was how the trainers explained to us they were only sleeping/tired because they're nocturnal animals... and that what they feed them is "milk." Obviously I can't preach too heavily since I went and had an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience, but seeing the giant male lions so dead/asleep kind of put things in perspective.

We started out with little youngsters (I think like 8 months) and moved on to babies, then grown adults- pictures  of course to come. Then took a quick camel ride, fed elephants, and had bears eat right out of our hands. It was literally out of some bizarro world; all we had to do was approach a cage of grown tigers/lions/you name it, ask "podemos entrar?" and we were set with a bottle of milk and the freedom to do everything but take the animals home with us. I love this country sometimes.


Also just nonsense bloggy stuff-

Yesterday we saw Margin Call in a theater in Belgrano, which was kind of cool to see with subtitles and realize I both understood the English movie and the Castellano words at the bottom of the screen.

I also kind of have been realizing a total attitude shift from my weekend in Iguazu and the week after in Patagonia. All my anxieties from the first month seem to have disappeared, and upon coming back from the mountains I was filled with an odd comfort in the busy city streets and skyscrapers versus the impending doom I felt when we came back from Tigre in January.

While I miss so many things about the states, even beyond just friends and family, I've come to appreciate so much about living down here with such an adventuresome lifestyle. While I miss having my own space (the four person-turned six person apartment is really weighing heavily on me.. especially since the plus two are both women over the age of seventy), clean floors in my house, good laundry, efficiency most of the time, being able to smile and speak to strangers without worried about getting robbed, and other white girl problems, there are so many things about Buenos Aires that I will never be able to experience again.

For example, when else will my nights start after midnight and continue on until sunrise? When can I just sit at a cafe/restaurant/bar for hours without worrying about where I need to be/what I need to do or holding anyone up? I'll miss the friendship that comes out of the relationship with my choripan man or the heladeria boys. It's a weird sort of missing of the city- I don't think I could ever live here, and I can't wait to get home, but I really have fallen in love with Buenos Aires and what it has to offer. I'll even miss hearing Spanish/Castellano in the periphery of my day to day activities.

I can't wait to show my parents my city- they get here in a week and a half!!!!!!!!! and it will be cool to see for myself how i've gone from freaking out from culture shock to touring around my family all the spots I know and love.

Chau for now- will update after the weekend!

 me and kerrie and the 8 month old lion
 my hand and the lion paw- my favorite pic of the bunch
 feeding an adolescent lion
 tiger candid
 go bears??
me and a baby puppy and BABY TIGER- they claim the puppies are there to teach them how to act like domestic animals and to allow them to learn to coexist.... hmmm.

Chau :)