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, May 31, 2008

It's Cold!

Don't let anyone fool you, Buenos Aires is NOT warm all year round. I came down here expecting winter temperatures to be somewhere around 55* and sunny the entire time. Nope, we're talking about 50*F right now, but it feels like about 35*. Why you ask? Well, it's because it's always humid here, and the humidity makes the cold seem much worse. We have windchill in the states, they have humidity coldness.

To restate, it's unbelievably cold here right now. This is also coming from someone who's rather experienced in the cold weather department. I've done 21 years in the the northern US. Also, I left my winter coat in the States, thinking someone would be coming down before winter, but that isn't happening. So, off to Avenida Corrientes to get my winter jacket.


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Avenida 9 de Julio

This is me standing smack-dab in the center of Avenida 9 de Julio. This is the famous avenue that Buenos Aires is known for. To quote

Crossing the avenue at street level often requires a few minutes, as all intersections have traffic lights. Under normal walking speed, it takes pedestrians normally two to three green lights to cross it.

No lie. I need to cross this street everytime I go to the IES Center. If I'm not waiting by the sidewalk before the walk light turns "walk," I won't be able to make it across, and I walk FAST. It's a guarantee that I'll need to run the last 25 yards if I want to make it across in one "walk-light." My school is about six blocks from where this picture was taken. The Obelisco is right behind the photographer.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mate in Plaza San Martin

My friend Mike and I had a fun day in Plaza San Martin recently. It's probably my favorite park in the city. The canopy created by the huge trees is great on hot days. We had a hard night partying on Thursday so we both agreed that Mate on Friday would do the trick. Plus, I had my internship at 2PM, and I knew a good strong Mate(Argentine/Uruguayan drink) would destroy any potential hangover.

We're having Mate and talking when this cute little dog comes over by us and starts chillin. We thought he must have had an owner, because he was wearing a little dog sweater(very Buenos Aires-ish), but no one came looking for him in the hour we were there, so we're not sure. You can see the my entire Mate set-up in the picture. It's an addicting substance that's super good for you.
Anyways, he was all about hanging out and relaxing, so I took these pics with him.

The people on the bench came to the Plaza as we were hanging out, and we couldn't help but notice how perfect they would have been for a McDonald's commercial. McDonald's is HUGELY popular here. They are everywhere, and they're so much nicer than in the states. Teenagers actually hang out at McDonalds on the weekends because they're so comfy.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Cops

I had an interesting experience not to long ago. A friend from home was telling me about an incident that happened in MPLS and how my friends reported the incident to some cops that were making their rounds in the neighborhood. As she was telling me this, I wondered why they would trust the cops to help them. Then it clicked that I'm thinking about cops in the Argentine perspective.

The cops aren't trustworthy. They're sketchy guys who can be bought off very easily. I've been told that many are former military members during the Junta, and they revert to their "how it was during the dictatorship" ways quite quickly. During the demonstrations of the strike, the government-sponsored "Pro-Gov't" picketing group beat up many of the "Pro-Farmer" demonstrators, and the police just turned a blind eye.

Also, It isn't uncommon for the cops to sit with someone on the corner and catcall women as they walk by, or, my favorite...Two girls and I were walking home one night and we were all dressed up. The girls were wearing some pretty sexy outfits, and all of a sudden, we noticed a cop car driving alongside of us. The two officers were about 10 feet behind us, just creeping along checking out the girls the entire time.

These aren't the kind of men who I'd want to ask for help, in any situation. With the right amount of money, anyone can buy the upperhand in a disagreement, fight, etc.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Baby Caiman

Here's a video of some baby Caiman that were swimming by the dock. Note the profanity at the end was because my plastic cup fell into the water. Being a nature reserve, I knew I couldn't let it float around, but Mama Caiman wasn't too far from her babies.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

I'm Alive!

I'm Alive!!!

Sorry for not posting anything in a super long time. I've got a lot of ideas for some future posts, and hopefully I can start making something out of them. I'm going to get some good pictures of the buildings, the streets, the gorgeous parks, etc, and let you see them all.

Anyways, three weeks ago, I went on a 5 day trip to the Ibera Nature Reserve. Ibera is a Guarani word meaning "Brilliant Water" and it's definitly no lie. The sunsets were amazing, and this was one from our first night. You can see some of the smoke from the pasture fires going on right now.

To start out, 20 IESers and myself loaded into luxury coach buses at at around 9pm. After doing some reading, eating some popcorn I made for the ride, and trying to get some sleep, we were awaken at our destination...or so we thought. It was 5:30 in the AM, and they told us that now we had a three hour ride to the resort.

The only way to get there was in the ultimate 4X4 trucks down a two-lane dirt road.

The landscape in the province of Corrientes is really interesting. It's exactly how I imagine the African savannah to be. It's endless land, with those little "savanahh" trees here and there. All that was missing was a pride of lions and some water buffalo.

The resort was right on the water, Lake Ibera, and it was amazing. Every morning we woke up to cereal, toast, coffee and fresh yogurt at 9am. From there we got into 15 person boats and cruised around the lake looking at all the Caiman and Capybaras. Everyone assumed we MIGHT see some of these creatures, but this place was swarming with wildlife. They formally made it into a nature reserve in 1983 to protect the species from being poached, especially the Caiman for their leather. A lot of the park rangers are past hunters who now protect the park.

After our morning boat trip, we'd come back to a great three course lunch. We had tortas, pasta, salads,etc. Everything is made fresh on-site. They're a very eco-friendly resort, and later I found out that the area is a prominent eco-tourism location.

After lunch we had 2 hours to relax by the pool, sleep in hammocks, or do whatever we pleased. I did a lot of reading in one of the most comfortable hammocks ever, which I dubbed, The Womb.

I also biked around the tiny little city, Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. The north of Argentina LOVES their siesta and we were all about it. Also, many people in the city, because they never have to leave, use horses to get around town. These two little boys followed us back to our lodge one night showing off on their pony.

After our siesta time, we took our afternoon trip. One day it was walking through a forest and looking at/listening to Howler Monkeys, and another day it was a canoe trip across the lake to go for another hike through the savanahh.

What city in Argentina doesn't have at least ONE futbol field.

Upon returning from our afternoon trip, we had tea time. Everyday they had three new types of snacks ranging from torts to cookies. After tea, we had an hour or so to hang out and anxiously await the sound of the dinner bell. Why you ask...because dinners were AMAZING!

All the dinners were great, including a hearty northern Argentine stew and some vealish meat with gravy, but I'll highlight the last asado.

The cream of the crop! Argentina's version of a BBQ.

To start off, a man from the city came specifically to cook the asado. Everyone has their own special way of cooking, just like in the States, and this guy was the city's best. He prepared aspen embers and then got started on the cooking. As we was cooking, we started with our first course, which was empanadas and salads. The salads were good, and it was nice to get some greens in my diet again, but the empanadas were boss! Meat/cheese/onion stuffed "hot-pocket" like creations which I'm addicted to. After empanadas, the meat started coming. Every 15 minutes, the staff came around with huge plates of meat for us to eat. First was lamb chops, then ribs, then tenderloin, then chorizo(amazing sausage), then blood sausage, and a whole lot more. It was probably one of the best meals I've had since I've been here.

Here we have some very "Ontario-like" traffic blockers.

After dinner on the first night, I taught everyone Celebrity, and it became the "after-dinner" game for the rest of the week. Good times and very good laughs. Also, because we were in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, the stars were awe-inspiring. I've never seen anything like it, even in the middle of Wisconsin. The milky way was like a white cloud floating over the resort every night. I also got to meet about 15 new people who I didn't know before the trip, many of whom I now hang out with on a daily basis.

A bit long winded, but an all around great week.

A Capybara, the world's largest rodent

A family of Capybara

Caiman just hanging out

Our guide Sebastian

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another Language Thought

Ok, so I was going to start getting ready for dinner, but I thought I should write this post down while it's still fresh in my head. It's about learning spanish, what else.

So, lately, when I've been listening to the radio here or reading my book, I've noticed something neat happening. I'll hear/read something in spanish and translate it over to english. Then I'll think to myself that this isn't how you'd say it in english and then I realize, wait, this is spanish, not english. They don't say things in the same manner here as they do in the states, and I'm coming to understand that.

A good example is "todo el mundo," which here means "everyone." However, in literal english, it means "all the world." We'd never say "all the world" when we want to say "everyone" when we speak english, but Argentines don't translate everything to English, like I do, before they say it. When they say "todo el mundo" it means "everyone" NOT "all the world." I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm beginning to realize that everything doesn't translate, and it shouldn't. These are two different languages and people who created Spanish didn't consult with the people who created English to make sure everything worked out just peachy during translation. I'm learning to say things the way they're said down here, instead of always using the english phrase's spanish equivalent.

Another thing that happens when I'm reading a book is that I can completely understand the idea of a sentence, but I can't, for the life of me, create the same sentence in english. I know exactly what they're saying but when I try to translate it word for word in English it just doesn't make sense. I guess I'm starting to read Spanish now, instead of English translations.

Un Abrazo

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

River Plate

In regards to my previous post, I'm going to give you a little more indepth view on the niceness of Porteños.

Last night I arrived home from a week in the north of Argentina. This is future post with pictures and videos. Anyways, I woke up looking forward to another day in good ol' BsAs. So, after waking up at noon, having some breakfast, chatting with Sylvia and Carlos about my trip, I pack up my thermos, yerba and mate and head to Parque Las Heras to do a little reading and relaxing.

After getting some empanadas on the way to the park, I find a good spot in the sun and start sipping on some mate and munching on those highly regarded tastey morsels. Amazing I tell you, amazing. I may have to write a post about Argentine empanadas and why they may be the leading factor for me NOT returning to the USA.

Bueno, so, I'm doing my thing in the park, reading my book and having a good time. A nice couple(i think) sits down in the same area and I ask to "rob them of a cigarette." They are more than happy to oblige and notice that I'm drinking mate. They say it's awkward to see a foreigner enjoying mate. I tell them that I really like it, and then go back to my reading. After I finish my chapter, I figure I should ask them if they'd like a mate.

Note- You don't really drink mate, you drink yerba. Yerba is the ground up tea-like leaves of the well, yerba plant. These go in the mate, which is usually a hollowed-out gourd or some other similar item. That being said, you can say; "I'm going to drink mate with some friends in the park" or you can say "Did you bring the mate." THE mate is the gourd, just mate is the act of drinking mate. Sorry to confuse you all.

Anyways, the guy, who I learn later is Lucas, says sure, and I walk over mate. He immediately invites me to sit down with him and his friend, Aldana(a very feminine Argentine name). You see, you don't drink mate without having conversation, it's just not right.

Entonces, Lucas, Aldana and I are sitting and talking for quite a while. We talk about why I'm in BsAs, what I'm studying, where I live, etc. They both attended a very nice business school here and we talk school for awhile. After that we talk a little about the emerging drug problems in Argentina(future post) and then we get onto the topic of futbol. I told them about the story from my homestay with Carlos and Slyvia(Argentine Grandma Ruby post.)

Well, after a little bit of talk I learn that they're both for River Plate, which makes sense. If you live in the northern parts of BsAs you usually cheer for River. After hearing that I've never seen a game, they quickly invited me to come to the River Plate game with them tomorrow, Sunday. They're wasn't even a breathe inbetween them hearing that I've never seen a game, and them inviting me. It was so cool! Of course, my jaw practically dropped when these two people I've only met 30 minutes earlier invited me to a game, but...that's the Porteno way.

So, I've got a lot more to write about from the past two weeks, but I've also got dinner plans with my friend Mike tonight. I'll keep you informed.

Much Love from South of the Equator,


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Who Are Porteños?

Porteños are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Case in point:

Who will give a yankee directions to an obvious location and answer with a smile?

A Porteño

Who would offer you their last cigarette, even if the nearest Kiosko was only one block away?

A Porteño

Who would invite you to a River Plate soccer match on Sunday if you've just met in a park on Saturday?

A Porteño

Who would let you look around their shop and ask questions for twenty minutes without buying a single thing, and send you off with a gracious thank you?

A Porteño

Who would hear your accent and in the next breath ask where you're from with great interest?

A Porteño

Who still enjoys the art of conversation and makes it a daily point to have coffee and talk with friends?

A Porteño

And for all those "fatty on the inside but skinny on the outside people"

Who makes the best damn empanadas in the entire world?

A Porteño

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Umm...I'm Sorry?

First and foremost, I should probably apologize for not blogging that much in the past two weeks. It's hard to post when you've been living the life, and that's just what I've been doing!

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sunday, May 4, 2008

El Superclasico

So today is the day....El Superclasico. This is when Boca Juniors plays River Plate. This is the biggest game in Argentine soccer and the city is ready. EVERYONE supports either Boca or River, and if you ask, they'll let you know exactly why the other team is a piece of shit. The other night a girl taught me a little of one of songs that River sings against Boca, and one of the lines was in the area of "you're filthy people that clean your ass with paint thinner." River's name for Boca fans is the equivalent of a person who cleans up horse manure. Boca's names for River are Los Millionarios because River is the rich man's team, and also Las Gallinas, which means chicken.

Anyways, the weather is gorgeous and it's going to be a great game. I'm about to leave and find a place to watch it. Hopefully with friends in a bar where there are fans from both River and Boca. I would like to go to the game in live but I didn't get tickets early enough, and scalpers are pricey too.

Un Abrazo

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina