Stories from my 14-month study abroad in Buenos Aires, my 16-month post-college move to Miami, and my get-me-the-hell-out-of-Miami move to Denver

Monday, March 30, 2009


Holly gave me the swift kick I needed to get this post done. I´ll answer all the questions, and then tomorrow I will probably upload some photos to go along with the answers.

How does your water taste?
- I think the water in the city tastes completely normal. When we first started in the program back in March, they warned us to slowly drink the tap water to get used to it. I had already been drinking huge glasses of water from the sink and nothing happened. However, mix Colombian mountain water with plates of beans and rice, and you have a whole other story.

What's the weirdest cartoon on television?
- All the cartoons that they have here are US cartoons that are dubbed over. However, one thing I did not know, but that Anabel told me the other day, is that Dora the Explorer is in spanish here, with small english frases that the kids can learn. In the US, it´s the other way around. I never really thought about it, seeing as I dont watch it, but I thought it was pretty neat. To add to the TV subject, Argentines love shows or characters of men dressed up at females. Not drag queens, but just men, dressed up overly female, and acting as if they were a women. Kind of weird

The strangest guy in the club: what's his deal?
-It has literally been months since I´ve went to a club club, but from what I remember. Usually, if it´s a electronic club, you have the blacked out sunglasses guys that are in their own little world, or the creepy Porteño who is listening for girls speaking english so can he do the, "Hi, you espeaka englis. I love you country. You very beautiful. *attempt to make out*"

Breakfast cereals: give us a list and a description of the boxes.
-I´ll snap some pictures and answer this tomorrow.

What's dominating the political news circuit?
-Currently, exactly like one year ago, the farmers, el campo, are angry over government retentions on the export of soy. Last year I was uninformed, but this year I feel better informed.
No one in Argentina eats soy, it´s a product only for exportation. The government needs to import other grains because the farmers refuse to grow anything besides soy. By farmers I mean huge multinationals that coerce small farmers to rent out their land for soy production. The soy that is planted is a transgenic hybrid. It´s called something like Soy R, R stands for RoundUp, the superchemical from the US. This chemicals kills absolutely everything minus the soy, destroying the land for future planting. I recently read that about 5 or 10 years ago, 1 million liters of RoundUp was purchased by the multinacionals. The past year, 180 Million liters was purchased. On a sidenote, I feel the news is really lacking here. The "nightly news" really doesn´t exist here. There are multiple news channels, but nothing like NBC News with Tom Brokaw/Brian Williams. The news websites are broken up at follows. 50% about Cristina(the president) and what she and the government are or aren´t doing, 35% sports(I´m sick of reading about futbol!) and 15% gossip about showgirls and trashy telenovela stars. I really miss the the community, technology, and cultural stories than run on US news channels.

It's Wednesday at three. I'm a local. What the am I doing?
-Wednesday at 3am the majority of locals will be sleeping if they have to work the next day. Right now, it´s 2:10am and Eugenio is study for school and I´m blogging. However, if you change it to Friday at 3am, it all changes. Besides the usual party scene, every outdoor patio at the numerous coffee shops in town is filled with anyone from 25-65 years old, drinking a strong cup of coffee, smoking cigarettes, and conversing as it if were 6pm. I still find it amazing to walk through Palermo and see groups of people older than my parents, having a cup of coffee and laughing the night away. I wish it was like that back home. On a sidenote, if you meant 3pm, its still the workday. However, banks in Argentina open at 9am and close at 3pm. "Late night drivethru banking" like in the US will never exist in Argentina.

What was the luckiest thing that's happened to you in the past month?
-I can´t think of any specific event that would be considered super lucky, but I would consider the fact that I found my roommates(and through my roommates all of their friends) to be the height of good luck. I´m living the Argentine summer exactly as I imagined, I couldn´t ask for anything more.

What was your wtf moment? It happened, and you literally thought: what. the. fuck.
-This question has to do with the cartoneros(people that collect cardboard and recyclable goods to resell for money) in the city and the harsh poverty that intermingles with the wealth of the city. I will dedicate a whole post to this tomorrow. It´s an intense theme.

What smell will you miss the most when you leave?
- One of the most distinct smells in the streets of Argentina during the weekend around 8pm is the smell of the parilla. This is the big grill that people usually have on the terrace of their building where they cook the meat. The smell of the dripping fat of a chorizo burning on the large chunks of natural wood charcoal is something that I´ll never forget. You get the slightest wiff, and you someone in the vicinity is about to start a great argentina dinner with red wine, french bread, and absolutely amazing meat.

I can literally smell the smoke just look at this picture. The red sausages in the middle are the chorizos.

What do you think you won't miss immediately after you leave, but probably will miss six months after you've left?
-I just talked to Eugenio and some friends about this. In the US, if you have a house party, everyone plans on getting hammered. By the end of the night, someone has puked in the bathroom, and someone is probably passed out on a couch or the floor. Here, drinking doesnt have anything to do with getting drunk. Last night, we all went to a large house party, and everyone just drank beer and fernet, and talked all night. No one needed to carry anyone out, and no girls were in the bathroom asking "can someone hold my hair while I puke." So, that being said, I´m sure the first time I go to another big house party in the states during the school year next year, I´ll remember what it was like drinking to have fun and talk, and not to get drunk.

Of all the Buenos Aires strangers you see on a semi-regular basis (convenience store clerk, bus-drivers, etc.), who's the weirdest?
- I´m going to toss this one around in my head for awhile. I´m sure something will come to me.

The best thing you've eaten had in Buenos Aires. In the past day.
-Today I wanted to try making una tarta. Imagine a piecrust, pilled with sauteed vegetables, ham and cheese(or however you want to make it), covered in whipped up eggs, and then cooked for 40 minutes in the oven. I made my first one today, and it was absolutely amazing.

I even took a picture of it because I was amazed at how great it turned out.

McDonald´s Double Cheeseburger
-McDonalds in Argentina are EVERYWHERE. I´ve seen more McDonalds in this city than anywhere I´ve ever been. However, they are usually really nice buildings, super clean, with a McCafe coffeeshop inside, nothing like the majority of McDonalds in the USA. They are also quite expensive. Obviously there is no Dollar Menu, but even the cheapest hamburger still costs U$S 2. A combo meal costs around U$S 7. This may not seem too expensive, but you can get a bottle of wine, a huge steak with a side of potatos, and dessert for less than U$S 20.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jones Family Music

Seeing as I´m cruising down the emotional highway right now, I just turned on some Van Morrison and James Taylor, the kings of Jones family music. Listening to "And It Stoned Me" followed by "Carolina in My Mind" I get goosebump excited thinking about when we will all be reunited again; Holly, Lindsay, Adrian, myself, Mom and Dad, with Greta on guard duty(sleeping) under the table; drinking a big bottle of red wine and listening to Van the Man and JT on the patio, talking, telling stories, and laughing.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Leaving One Home, Returning to Another

It´s official, I purchased my flight back to the US. My roommates and I have continually joked about the fact that I was always saying, "I´m going to book my flight tomorrow." Someone would ask me when I was leaving and Pablo would chime in, "He´s booking his flight tomorrow." This went on for about two months until two days ago, I booked my flight.

During those two months of joking, I never had an exact date to return to the US, so it more or less felt like I wasn´t going home. I knew I would eventually leave, but not really sure when. Now, having that exact date, the reality has hit me. In less than three weeks, I´ll be stepping foot onto US soil for the first time in over a year. Im pretty much split down the middle on how I feel. On one hand, I´m excited to see my family, friends, and coworkers at the Loring, as well as to restart my life back in Minneapolis. On the other, I´m going to have to leave the friends I´ve made down here and the city that I fell in love with.

Before leaving the US, I wasn´t too sad to leave, because I knew I would be coming back after classes ended (though I did stay 4 months longer than planned). I say that I´m coming back to Argentina, and I wholeheartedly believe it, but I can´t guarantee a date, nor can I guarantee that my friends from now will still be around when I do eventually come back.

One thing I can say is that once I leave here, I won´t feel like I´ve left anything undone. Sure, I won´t have seen the north or south of Argentina, but that gives me all the more reason to return. What I really mean is that, I moved to Buenos Aires and spent over a year of my life here, in turn, accomplishing one of my largest life goals. Right now, I don´t feel that an extra month would add on any great cultural breakthroughs. You can quote any student that leaves Buenos Aires after a semester as saying, "you know, if I only had another couple months."

Luckily, I never had to say those words. I had my "extra months," nine to be exact.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Monday, March 23, 2009

Free College? Healthcare too?

I just recently watched Sicko, the Michael Moore documentary on the US health care system(and our society of debt), and I realized that I never wrote about one of the first, and most surprising, incidents I had when I came to Argentina.

The UBA(University of Buenos Aires), where 14 Argentine presidents have graduated from and four Nobel Peace Prize winners have taught at, is the most famous university in Argentina, and arguably in South America.

Oh yeah, it´s free too.

I don´t remember the first time I heard that the UBA was free. I believe I was talking to a group of friends down here and I asked them how much it cost to attend the UBA, a public school. I attend a public school, the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, and still pay between $10,000 and $15,000 per year. They couldn´t believe what they were hearing.

"A public university that isn´t free? Isn´t that completely against the point of being a PUBLIC school?"

I, growing up in the US, equally couldn´t believe what I was hearing. A free University? How could such a thing could ever exist. Everyone(in the US) knows and expects that after college,
you´re going to have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars in loan debt.

Another thing that surprised me was about the quality of education. The majority of the top professors in the country teach/research at the UBA, despite a large number being paid less than what they could make teaching in a private university. These professors want to give back to the UBA, the university which taught them, despite the money.

On this similar subject, Anabel is a medical student at UBA, the top medical school in Argentina. Everyone will agree that the doctors that come out of UBA are the best in the country, without a doubt. The majority of the internationally published doctors from Argentina graduated from the UBA. And, like the other 12 faculties, it´s free!

Beyond that, quality public healthcare is free too. Talking to Anabel about my envisioned return to Argentina in 2011, I told her I was worried about not having insurance. Here is the summed up conversation.
Patrick: I´m hoping to come back to Argentina after I graduate. The thing is, right now, I have insurance through my dad´s employer. However, after I graduate, I won´t have insurance.

Anabel: And...

Patrick: Well, what if something happens and I need to go to the hospital?

Anabel: You, um, well, go to the hospital.

*enter "I was raised in the USA for 21 years" mindset*

Patrick. Yeah, but you don´t understand Anabel, I won´t have insurance.

Anabel: No, I understand completely, but it´s free!

Patrick: Free, I don´t believe it?

Anabel: What do you mean, you don´t believe it.

Patrick: A hospital can´t be free, it´s impossible.

Anabel: What do you mean, public hospitals aren´t free in the USA?

Patrick: (Laughing at the outrageous thought of a free public hospital existing in the US)

An expat english-teacher friend of mine recently had to go to the hospital after a few nights of painful vomiting. I went with him, hoping to see how the hospital was. We waited no more than 25 minutes to go see a doctor. After the examination, they said he probably had a intestional something-or-other and gave him some medication. We left the hospital without paying a dime with a prescription in hand. At the farmacy, the 30 pill prescription cost US$4! No insurance necessary.

Pretty impressive isn´t it. Maybe we should think about a makeover of our system.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Monday, March 16, 2009

Need Ideas!

Every so often I get the bug to write a bunch of blog posts. However, instead of me thinking about topics of write about, I want to answer questions or write about subjects that interest you guys. I really dont know what to write about anymore. I dont want this to become an online-diary where I just write about my daily experiences here. "so today I woke up, drank mate, read the newspaper, yada yada yada"

I´ve been here for over a year and know the city quite well(for being a foreigner). Most of the stuff I see doesn´t surprise me anymore, but I´m sure it would be eye-opening to a lot of the new arrivals in the city. A protest in the street with m-80 fireworks being launched over the crowd doesn´t even catch my eye. Cars running red lights and almost hitting pedestrians is a daily occurence to me. What I used to think was "picture worthy" is now just normal.

I know there are topics that you want to hear about or questions you´d like answered, be it personal ones about my experience here, or ones about BsAs in general, but that I havent written about, because, to me, they have become commonplace. Therefore, give me some ideas by leaving a comment(lower right corner of this message), and I´ll write about them.


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Iguazu Falls

Anabel and I just got back from the bus station, and we´re officially going to Iguazu Falls this week!

We leave Wednesday at 2pm, and we arrive on Thursday morning at 8am. It´s about an 18 hour bus ride, but we are going in a really nice coach bus, so it´ll be all good. With maté and a couple good books and magazines, the time will fly. We are spending all thursday at the waterfalls, and then spending one night in what appears to be an amazing hostel. It got great reviews on Hostel World, so I guess we´ll wait and see. We´re then going to spend Friday doing the same thing. They say that after two days, there is really nothing left to see. The city is all about the waterfalls. So, in case it rains one day, we have another day to see the falls.

I´m super excited to go on my first big trip in Argentina. The classic study abroad student in Argentina arrives and immediately uses every weekend for bus trips to all the well-known tourist cities in Argentina: Calafate, Mendoza, Tucuman, Bariloche, Cordoba, etc. However, the majority of them will never venture out of their Buenos Aires neighborhood, be it Palermo, Recoleta, Belgrano, Barrio Norte, etc. They might go to La Boca, a southern neighborhood, but I can guarantee they only went their to see Caminito, the most touristy street in Buenos Aires. I chose to explore Buenos Aires(and the metropolitan area), and now, I can really say that I know the city pretty well. I´ve also went to the southern suburbs, where 95% of them will never venture. So, yes, I´m going to leave Argentina without knowing Bariloche and Cordoba, but I´ll know Buenos Aires, and that´s the very reason I came here.


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday, March 8, 2009


So it's Sunday, and it's absolutely gorgeous out right now. I feel like a broken record, but when I continually tell you that it's warm and sunny, with blue skies, I'm speaking the truth. The weather here is absolutely amazing! Anyways, I'm going to go for a nice 50+ block walk right now to a neighborhood that has circular streets, Parque Chas. With my camera and mate, a good Sunday afternoon is in store.


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina


Well, we almost made it to Carnaval the past weekend. My friend canceled on me, last minute, because his boss changed his schedule and he had to work over the weekend. Thinking quickly, I went to Retiro, the bus station, and bought a ticket to Gualeguaychu, the city where Carnaval is at. I, however, did not buy a return ticket for sunday. This would later come back to haunt me.

I get to Gualeguaychu at around 12:30am, because the bus was delayed for an hour in Retiro because the A/C was broken. Once we finally get there, the bus stop is in the middle of nowhere. I luckily find a girl who is also going to the same campsite as me, and we take a taxi there. Once there, I find some other friends who were there, and we all got settled in. It was late so we didnt do much.

The next day, we enjoyed the hot hot hot weather on the banks of the river. The campsites all have these big beaches along the river that goes through town, so we enjoyed our day there. My friends informed me that they didnt have plans on even going to the Carnaval celebration, because it was too expensive, 80 pesos they said. They were just going to stay on the beach all day and then go out at night. I still really wanted to go, so I planned on going by myself to the parade. Well, at 6pm, we all crash to take a siesta because we're drained of all possible energy. A short siesta turns into a 6 hour nap as all 6 of us slept until 12:30am!!! It was too late to go to the parade, so, super upset, we went out in the area surrounding the campsite.

The next day, someone kindly informed me that it only cost 40 pesos to get in, and that the parade went really late the night before, until around 2am. So, in turn, we majorly screwed up our Carnaval weekend. However, I had a very good time with my friends, apart from missing the parade, and now I have another thing to do when I come back to Argentina after graduation.


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina