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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Meeting Portenos

I've come to realize that I'm very lucky with my home-stay family. Given, I don't have any host brothers that want to go out and party every night, but at the same time, everything happens for a reason. It only gives me most the motivation to go out and meet portenos. That being said, that's exactly what I did last night.

So, I've become great friends with a guy named Andy from LA. He and I are both interested in the same things and we both are super pumped to get out and meet portenos. Hence, last night, Andy invited me to a party. It was through a friend of his down here, and I was pretty psyched to go...but a little nervous too. How much Spanish do I really know...we were to find out.

Anyways, long story short, the party was great. I made three porteno friends, two of which live very close. We're going to hang out and have language lessons. Spanish one day, english the next. Estoy emocionado!

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Thursday, March 27, 2008

El Paro Del Campo

I'll tell you what, this strike is getting pretty insane! Tuesday night, the crowds marching in downtown were only a couple hundred. Last night, a couple thousand people from each side, the government and the farmers, marched in downtown. Tonight, I've heard rumors of over 100,000 people planning to march at the Plaza de Mayo and the Obelisk. It's insane, and the president said today that she won't budge on her policy of this export tax on agricultural products. She made a statement today saying, "the protesters for the farmers are of absolutely no importance." This definitely riled up the protesters.

Tomorrow, I'm going to bring my camera with me and take some pictures of butcher shops and supermarkets. Literally, the entire meat section is empty, or about 90% empty, and at the current rate, it'll be empty by the weekend.

Argentina without meat is like the separation of church and state in the just doesn't happen!

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cacerolazo Video

This video was from last night, when this SMALL group of people was marchin to the Plaza de Mayo for the big demonstration. At this very moment, the sound is almost deafening outside our windows and the battle cries start for another night. The group is assembling again about 2 blocks away, and I'm sure they'll march to the Plaza tonight for another big ol' party. Oh, and along with the pots and pans you also get the obligatory soccer horns. I love it!

Here's a good article on what's happening.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Gipsy King Moment

Do you ever have those times where at one moment you're feeling shitty, then you turn on a good Gipsy King song, open WordReference, and you feel like you can actually learn this language? It's pretty cool. Hopefully it stays.

I've come to realize one thing. I've got to make things happen here. I can't expect Argentine friends to fall into my lap and conversation on the streets to just happen. I need to break out of my comfort zone and start making conversation. It's kind of like picking up girls, except I don't want their number, I just want them to be nice to me and speak slowly.

Back to writing!

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Get Out Your Frying Pan!!!

As Chiara and I got out of class this evening, we began our 30 block walk home. As we're walking down Avenida Sante Fe, we notice an unusually large amount of people banging pots and pans in the windowsills and streets. After asking numerous people what the reason for this was, and getting answers that had the words "Kirschner" and "Gobierno" in them, we finally made it home. The fam was nice enough to tell me that it is because the president, Cristina Kirschner had renounced the farmer strike and would not negociated with them. Carlos, my 45 year old brother, said it was also about many other government things, but they just needed a good reason to get out and march.

Well, outside our dinner window, people started to gather, and I had to go out there and get involved. I come from a small, working-class city. I understand the plight of the underpaid farmer. So, with my pot and beater in hand, I marched with around 150 people for about 20 blocks. I think they were heading to Playa de Mayo to continue their march, but I had homework to do and had to head home.

I have a video of the march I'll post very soon. Until then, enjoy the picture.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Monday, March 24, 2008

Semana Santa

So I just finished my first big holiday weekend in Argentina, Semana Santa. My friend Hannah and I headed to Mar Del Plata, a huge beach resort city, along with a bunch of other IES students to get some sun before fall starts to set in. Semana Santa is to Argentina as Labor Day is to the States. It's the last big weekend of the summer.

Anyways, we left on Thursday afternoon and got to Mar Del Plata at about 9pm. The busride was about six hours and it was very pretty smooth. We had front row seats on the second level of the bus so we got to see the landscape and everything pretty well. There was one pretty intense accident while we were driving down. This little car lodged itself under the the truck part of a semi-trailer and they both burned up. We drove by afer the fire was put out, but it was very destructive.

The first night Hannah and I took it easy in preparation for the next day at the beach. The next day I walked about 45 minuted down the beach to meet some IES-ers and we enjoyed the sun and Quilmes all day. That night in the hostel we met some cool Canadian girls. They were from Montreal and are spending 6 months traveling around South America. With them we went to Sobremonte.

Sobremonte....probably the largest club I've ever been inside. It was the equivalent of four clubs put together and took up around three city blocks. I've never seen anything that big. We got to the club around 3:30AM, and it was just starting to get going. We danced until around 8AM when the club closed. The DJ did not let us down, very good techno/progressive all night. A cool guy named Ceasar invited us to an after party he was DJing. Hannah and I stayed until 10AM, and then had to go, we were just too tired. Rafael and Camille, the Canadians, stayed until 12:30pm. They're rockstars.

The next days followed in the same manner. Going to the beach, walking around the city, get some food, and then go to Sobremonte. My body is officially wore out. As a sign of thankfulness for what I put it through, I'm currently enjoying the full force of the summertime cold. It's almost an "I'm going to have to carry a hanky" cold. Thanks body!

Dinner time...I'll write more in a bit. Enjoy the video. I have more I'm going to post.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Taste of Culture Shock

Before I arrived in Buenos Aires, I felt that I was pretty well prepared. I'd talked to Lindsay and Holly quite a bit and heard all of their stories about how it is living in a foreign country. I knew there were going to be really tough times and I knew there were going to be really fun times. And, sure enough, I'm having a pretty equal mix of them right now. It's the end of the second week, and it's starting to sink in that I'll be here for a very long time. I've met so many really cool people and made a lot of friendships that I hope will last well past the time we all split up in June. For the difficult times, they all pretty much stem from one common thread, learning Castellano. If I ever use the term Castellano, just mentally change it to Spanish. Portenos don't speak Spanish, they speak...Castellano. It's Spanish though, don't worry. It's just a Porteno arrogance thing from what I've heard.

It's really hard. I'm a fairly smart college student who can learn accounting with some patience, and I'm able to comprehend most things. However, being 21 years old and having 6 year old kids in the park be able to speak better than is you very humbling. I can't seem to figure out which conjugation to use and the little kids just talk and talk and talk and talk. If anyone loves to talk, it's me, and having my ability to communicate taken from me is pretty shitty. I've got so much to say but I don't have any of the vocabulary to say it. I know it's a study abroad sin to hang out with other Norteamericanos but I honestly think I would have a meltdown if I didn't get my fill of English speaking every now and then.

Given, I'm excited for the challenge, but it's not going to be like learning stocks and bond rates. This is the big leagues. To end with one of the most well-known "Watching natives chat while studying abroad in a foreign country where they don't speak English" statements:

They make it look so easy!

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Placement Test & Internship

The weather has been perfect here for the past couple days now. So much has happened. On Thursday we had our Spanish placement test. I placed into Advanced II so I'm pretty excited about that. Right now, as for classes, I'll be taking Spanish, Latin America in a Globalizing World, Cultural Icons as Global Commodities(in Spanish), and then my business internship.

The internship is two hours of class per week and eight hours outside working with a company. Internships here are unheard of, so it's basically just acquaintances of the business professor. He's an entrepreneur and has a book on entrepreneurship published. He teaches business classes at quite a few local universities, but he says you can't survive just being a teacher he has some side projects. The company that I'm hoping to be placed with is a software outsourcing company. Lots of huge US companies have there software developed down here. He said it's one of the fastest growing companies in Argentina. I guess they follow the Google style of management so it's super laid back with a nap room, ping pong tables, etc. I told him I don't like computer tech stuff but he says that I'd be in the business side of the company. More info on the internship to come.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Time Differences

(our internet was down so I couldn't post this when I wrote it. Forgive me)

It's 10:07 and I'm just getting ready for what will most likely be a pretty fun night out. I have absolutely no plans, and that's how it is. It's still relatively early right now. Actually, for a saturday night, it's REALLY early. Last night at about 12:30 I went to a friends house to do some pre-gaming. Chris Mike and I were drinking mixers in his house and we realized that it's about 1:30 and we really needed to start making our way to the bars. We concluded that in the states, if you aren't at the bar/drinking at a party by midnight, everyone gets all pissy and angry. Here, 1:30AM is about the equivalent to 9:30PM in the states. Restaurants are packed with people at midnight trying to get some dinner, and fashionably late means 2:30.

Seeing as I'm posting this after the night I wrote it, I did end up having a fun night. Went with some friends to a little bar until around 1:30, then went to Plaza Serrano(nightlife dining hub of Palermo) until about 5. When we left, this entire restaurant plaza was still packed with people hanging out.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Estancia

We went on our first big field-trip this past Thursday. After we took the placement test we had an end of orientation party at an Estancia, the Rodizio Campo, which is basically a HUGE country house with horses, llamas, etc. This place was AMAZING. We pulled in with our tour buses and were carried in horse-drawn carriages to the main building. There we had fresh empanadas and a slew of other tasty appetizers. Figuring that we weren't going to have our big meal until later, I owned those empanadas. It was quite the shock when we were immediately led inside the gorgeous restaurant for a true Parilla. Being the glutton that I am, I sucked it up and went on to consume a disgustingly large amount of food. They definitely do food right here.

After the dinner we were free to explore the place. They had horses to ride, bikes to cruise around on, and two big swimming pools to kick it by. We rode bikes all around this place, which is literally a HUGE ranch, and then I did something I thought I would never do again...ride a horse.

Few people know, but I'm terribly afraid of horses. Why you might ask. The answer, my friend, is because of an incident that happened when I was around 6 years old. Holly was absolutely obsessed with horses and convinced Mom and Dad to take us on a horse riding trip. Everyone got to ride their own horse, but I rode with Dad because I was too little. So, we're having a nice little walk through the countryside and then, out of nowhere, our horse spooks. Turns out, a dog from the barn got loose, ran up to our horse and startled it. All I remember is Dad wrapping his arm around me, grabbing the horse saddle thing, and holding on for both of our lives as the horse took off in a full-speed sprint. I believe I've mentally blocked out the rest of my memory from that day, but all I know is that, since then, horses have always scared me.

Anyways, I successfully rode a horse. I was too scared to make it move so I just sat there as it made about a 50 yard circle and then came back to the barn. Everyone else went to the other side of the pasture and back. I was content with my small circle. I was pretty terrified the entire time but I overcame the fear.

After horseback riding, if I can even call it that, we sat by the pool and soaked up the beautiful sun. I believe it's safe to say that it was by far, for everyone, the best experience yet.

Enjoy my personal snaps and the pictures on the Rodizio website.

ps- Holly, Lindsay, Mom or Dad, do you remember that horse incident?

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Second Week Begins

As I write this, I'm currently a beautiful shade of burgundy-magenta. My virgin Minneapolis skin has taken a liking to the Argentine sun, and it's definitly showing. However, I'll be happily tan in a couple days, and it'll be all good.

Traveling abroad is pretty cool. Living in a country that speaks a different language that your own is hard, but still pretty amazing. The IES program is going really well right now. I've made a ton, for lack of a better word, new friends since I've arrived. It's very similar to the first few weeks of college. Everyone is trying to make friends as fast as possible and everyone is super open and friendly. Little friendship circles are starting to develop, but everyone is always up for meeting new people. Case in point:

(forgive my tense jumping)

Sunday Afternoon
After dragging myself out of bed, having only went to sleep roughly 6 hours earlier(read previous techno post), I decided I should take advantage of the nice weather. It had been rather Seattle-ish here since I arrived. It was cloudy in the morning, and it would rain in the afternoon, and then out of nowhere the sun would burst out and it'd be 85 degrees at 4pm. It's amazingly hard to tell what's going to happen with the weather on any given day. However, I digress.

So, seeing as it is Sunday and everyone in Buenos Aires(todos los Portenos) takes advantage of their day of rest, I decided to go to a nearby park and study some flashcards. I've been meaning to work on my vocabulary, so what time is better than a nice Sunday afternoon. As I'm walking down my block, I run into some IES students hanging out outside of an apartment. I somewhat knew a few of them, but we'd never really spent any long amounts of time together. We chatted for awhile and they asked if I wanted to go to the market with them. There is a HUGE craft fair about 2 blocks from my apartment every Saturday and Sunday. Seeing as they have such a grand cattle population, leather goods are everywhere. You can buy handmade leather sandles for $30USD.

Anyways, I cordially pass on the invitation because I really wanted to get some studying in. However, as I'm walking away, I just about kick myself in the ass. How on Earth could I pass up an opportunity to meet some more of my fellow classmates, and instead, sit by myself in the park and look at vocabulary flashcards?!? I quickly run home and drop of my flashcards and catch up with them in the craft fair. We walk around for a bit, looking at all the neat little items that local vendors produce. As we're walking, we notice a hillside with a lot of people hanging out. Turns out, there's a folk guitarist just about to play. We all pop-a-squat on the hill and hangout, talk, laugh, and listen to music for an hour or so. Everyone, except for us, has their thermos of hot water and their Mate(super popular drink). On a sunday, it definitely gets it's workout.

As we disbanded, they invited me to the dinner they were going to have in Palermo Viejo, a very nice barrio of BaAs. So, that night, I went out to eat with 7 people that I had just met that day. We had an amazing dinner. Salmon, sirloin, filet mignon, salads, 2 bottles of wine, a couple beer, etc. After thoroughly stuffing our faces, we got the bill.....

$400 pesos!!!

With tip, that comes to $450 pesos, or....about $150USD. For less that $20 per person we had an AMAZING dinner in a very classy area of town. It's great.

So, that was an amazingly longwinded story. However, it really points out the greatness that is occuring right now. Super friendly people who are all about making friends hanging out in parks and listening to music, and then having a steak dinner for almost nothing.

Life is good.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Techno All Night

Well, it's 7:31 AM and I just got home from the clubs. All I can say is wow!!! The music was amazing, loud European and American oldies(Sweet Dreams - Eurythmics) techno. Had a good time, danced my pants off, and now it seems that there are cotton balls in my ears. Time for bed, I'm spent.


On a sidenote, we went to Crobar in Palermo Viejo. As stated, some of the sickest techno I've heard in a while. Quite a few of my friends were sportin' permagrins while we were there. You couldn't not be awed by all the beautiful people and great music.

Also, it has to be at least a 3:1 ratio of women to men in this country. Whoever suggested BsAs to me, thanks!

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Saturday, March 8, 2008

words are sticking

Also, I forgot to say, but words are starting to stick in my head. I can learn a new word once and it seems to stay with me. In the states, you learn so much and it just dissapears once the bell rings, but here, I'll learn a word and I'll find myself using it the next day. Good sign I think.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

My First Night Out

What a week it's been! I've been super busy lately doing all my IES stuff and getting to know all my classmates. There are around 120 IES students all together and so far, I haven't really met anyone that I can't get along with. We're all in the same boat here. Some are in the dorms, some are in homestays. Either way, we're all new to the city and we're all super ready to explore and learn all about it. For the first two weeks we have orientation and spanish classes. These are just to teach us the customs and all the other differences with the Rioplantense spanish. These include the use of "Vos" instead of "Tu," the lack of political correctness, and the SHH sound of "LL."

On political corectness, there isn't any. If you're overweight, your nickname is gordo/a, if you're black it's negro/a, it you're skinny, flaco/a, have a big head, cabezon, etc. Nothing is off-limits. Seeing as I have quite the big schnoz, I'm sure my nickname will be somewhere in the nariz area.

Tonight is the first night that I'll actually be going out. I had drinks the other night and we got home at 2, quite early. It was a school night and we didn't want to be out too late. It's 9:37PM now and I'm about to take my pre-club nap. Tonight, we'll meet up aroud 12:30 and get to the nightclubs at around 1 or 1:30. We're all expecting to get home around 6-8AM, and this is quite normal. My host mom, Slyvia, who's probably around 65, played cards with her friends until 3AM on Tuesday! Everyone stays out super late and gets up at the same time as we do in the US. I'm starting to think that all the talk in the US about getting your sleep is a crock. They sleep less, smoke more, and everyone seems fine to me.

Cigarettes and espresso make Argentina go round!

I'll write tomorrow about how the night went.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Pues, Estoy Aca! "Well, I'm Here!"

I've finally planted my roots in Buenos Aires, Recoleta to be exact! It's phenomenal here! The weather is gorgeous; it's currently about 75 and breezy at 12:40 AM, the women are gorgeous; I finally believe what the guide books have said, and the accent is smoooooth.

I arrived at Ezeiza, the international airport, at around 11:30 on Sunday and took a 35-minute cab ride to the city. We went past one pretty large Villa Miseria and through neighborhoods of all shapes and sizes. I arrived in Recoleta and found my apartment. I live with Silvia, a very grandmother-ish figure and her older, read Dad's age, son. He's about 45 or so, and very helpful with neighborhood questions, etc. After dinner, more about that later, he and I always talk for about a half hour over cafe y cigarillos.

Dinner. So, we were told that many of the host mothers are of italian heritage and love to feed their host children. Nothing could be more true. We had gnocci on Sunday, it's a custom of have it near last day of the month. Tonight we had meatloaf with stewed onionsand mashed potatoes. I asked if it was hamburger and I think Silvia was insulted. After further inspection, I think it was fresh meat ground in the house with something like a cheese grater. Either way, it was damn tastey! After dinner, there's always a small cup of casera chocolate mousse. Also very tastey.

Sin embargo, it's getting late and I need to get to bed. I have spanish class at 9AM.


How about this view out my bedroom window!

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mexico City a Buenos Aires

Well, I'm currently in an airplane again. This time, however, I'm only one stop away from Buenos Aires. It's been a long day of flying and traveling but I'll finally be there is about 8 hours. I've had a great flight so far. A little boy, Simon, is sitting next to me. He and his family are flying back from Mexico to Buenos Aires. I think he's taught me more spanish than the U of M ever did. It's quite humbling having an 8 year old boy speak Spanish so fast that I continually have to say "lento" or "despacio." It's eery how similiar to him I was when I was his age. I don't know the word for hyper but he fits the bill perfectly. He's a constant chatterbox , bouncing around his seat like a chihuahua on Adderal, once again, just like me. He showed me his little hairless arms and I told him how I'm 21 years old and I've about the same amount of facial hair as him. I blame Grandpa Don, but that being said, I'll be Mr. Hairsuchi by the time I'm 70. Well, cena caliente is on it's way so I'm signing off. Hope all is well in los Estados Unidos and I'll see you in nine months!

Terminals and Waiting

After a four hour flight with a bunch of Notre Dame spring breakers and a stiff vodka con jugo de naranja, I've finally made it to my gate for Buenos Aires. Navigating the Mexico City International Airport was quite the task. However, using my broken Spanish and an innocent "estoy un poco perdido," I found my way. I enjoyed a Mexican cigarette outside and the weather was gorgeous, probably around 75 degrees. The taxis were zooming by and a wave of happiness washed over me. I'm only one more flight from my new home for the next nine months. My host family is happily awaiting my arrival and I can't wait to land at Ezeiza and take a taxi to my new apartment.

As people slowly start filling in around me in the waiting area, I'm starting to hear quite a bit more Castellano. The LL's have went from "Yah" to "Shh," and I love it. I'm getting super tired so, with any luck, I'll be able to get a couple hours of sleep on the airplane . Tomorrow the adventure truly begins.

Somewhere Over The Midwest

Well, it's really happening. I'm currently in an Airbus A320 flying over the desolate, snow-covered terrain of Illinois. Mom and I stayed at Beet and Jim's house in Elgin and made the short drive to O'Hare this morning. Once again, in classic Jones family tradition, I arrived at the airport about 3 hours before we even started loading. The TSA agent at security asked me if I really wanted to go through yet, "You know, you've still got 3 hours before your flight leaves and there isn't any food on the other side."

Surprisingly, I actually slept very well last night. My usual pre-departure sleep consists of tossing and turning every 15 minutes and checking my alarm clock in OCD fashion to make sure that it's set and that I don't wake up late. Having the comfort of knowing that I was only 30 minutes from O'Hare, I got a great night of sleep.

Uncharacteristically, the only stomach pains I'm feeling now are from being hungry, and not nervousness. After successfully getting ahold of my host mother and her daughter, all the tension is gone. I was so worried about my living situation, but as soon as I told the lady on the phone that I was her international student, she screamed my name in excitement. I'm guessing the housecleaner told her I had called and she was excited to finally meet me.

Who knows what's in store. I'm excited to see the apartment. I'm excited to see my room. Living in Recoleta, I have decently high expectations for my living arrangement. I'm excited for the beach. The Minneapolis sun isn't too powerful during the middle of winter so I'm currently a nice shade of vanilla ice cream. However, in time, I'll be nicely tanned. My skin will absorb the sun faster than Tim can get lost in Minneapolis...and that's pretty damn fast.

Warm weather and sunny skies await!