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, April 25, 2009

The Loring Surprise

Last night was incredible. I was finally able to surprise all of my coworkers from the Loring Pasta Bar. A little backstory, I worked at this restaurant for 2.5 years before I left for Argentina. During the last three months before leaving for Argentina, I was practically living inside its confines. I worked a number of 15 hour days, absolutely crazy, but I made good money and all the work allowed me to live, on my savins, for 14 months in Argentina. The smell of the restaurant is like home to me.

Anyways, last night, I just casually walked into the restaurant and surprised everyone that was working. It was great to see so many familiar faces. Seeing as I worked so many hours, these people were basically my family. Lots of fun was had, and many plenty of strong cocktails were drank. The highlight of the night was when I was talking to one of my bartender friends. As he was making a drink for someone else, a server who I didn't recognize came up to me and said, "So, you must be the Patrick that I've heard so many good things about." It's great to think that in a couple of weeks I'll be back working with all my old friends again. So many stories to tell!

Friday, April 24, 2009


So I've made it back to Minneapolis. I couldnt have chosen a better time of the year to come back. Yesterday was about 75 and sunny, and today, equally as beautiful. Blue skies and a light breeze. I'm really happy that I came back to the US during Spring. I can't imagine having come home at the start of a cold winter, having left Argentina at the start of the summer. I left just when it was starting to get chilly there, and I arrive in Minneapolis at the start of summer. Everyone has told me about how miserable this last Winter was, and now, with the warmth, the trees starting to sprout leaves, and the birds chirping and flying around, you can see the happiness and joy in the faces of everyone you pass on the street. I'm looking forward to a very productive summer, and I'm sure I'll have stories to pass on. Well, I'm off to go biking. Tim loaned me his bike and I'm going to give it a workout.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Being Back Home

It's about time I actually finish this post. I had the intention of writing it a couple days ago, but got sidetracked and wasn't able to fill in the text. Hence why it was just a blank post with a title.

A little rundown of the past few days. I landed in Chicago on Wednesday morning and, after a bit of confusion, found Lindsay. She was expecting me in the international arrivals gate, but I landed in Washington DC first, and was therefore on a domestic flight. Seeing as I was completely helpless, without any US currency and no cellphone, a nice women at the gate let me use her phone and call Lindsay's cell.

Spent a couple days in Chicago with Lindsay and Adrian, and I was lucky to be able to see my good friend Mitchell. He studies in Chicago and we were able to work it out so that we could hang out for a little bit. It was really refreshing to not be questioned about Argentina, how I felt, what it was like to be home, etc. He understood the fact that I was still processing everything, so we all just hung out and talked.

Lindsay and I made it back to Chilton on Friday morning. After getting out of the Chicago traffic, we switched seats, and I took over driving. After 14 months without the slightest contact with a steering wheel, it felt good to drive again. Given, I'm still nervous driving around town, in Chilton. My depth perception for cars isn't what it used to be, so the people behind me probably suspect that a grandma is driving in front of them, nice and careful.

I went to a friends wedding reception on Saturday, and it was there when everyone asked me what it was like being home. Then, and still now, it still really hasn't hit me that I'll be in the US for quite a few months to come. In my mind, it's like I'm on vacation, and I'll return to Argentina in a short while. Once that mindset wears off, I think I might start missing it more. Right now, I'm just enjoying the time with my family, talking/chatting with my friends on Skype, and just kind of relaxing.

No worries about the blog being left behind. I have plans to keep it up for quite some time. I'm sure I'll have just as many new and interesting thoughts and perspectives about the US as I did about Argentina.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Buenos Aires --> Washington D.C.

I'm back (USA as my home) and I've left (Argentina as my home), but that's another post.

The Mac wasn't working so I had to pen down my thoughts as I was flying home from Argentina.

April 14, 2009

I'm somewhere over South America and I feel absolutely empty. I thought I was prepared for my departure from Argentina, everything just seemed to be going so smoothly. However, I am just completely overwhelmed by emotions, thoughts about my friends, and the most about Anabel. Just seeing her in the bus station, I broke down and was finally able to cry. I had been trying to be the strong one, just saying how excited I was to be leaving, and I honestly didn't expect to be feeling like I do. I can't comprehend the fact that I won't be seeing these people for many many months.

Sudden crying urges just hit me and I've already used a handful of Kleenex. All my friends who have left told me it would be hard coming back, and I truly believed them. However, it wasn't until now, and actually experiencing it firsthand, that I really understand the sense of loss and emptiness. I always knew I had so much time left in Argentina ("I'll buy my flight home soon.") that I never really understood that sadness in their eyes as they were leaving for the airport. Now, I do.

Yes, the internet will make staying in touch with my friends very easy, but nothing can replace Juan asking, "Jonesy boy, queres un Fernet" , Eugenio yelling, "Tu vieja!", Pablo making his Boy voice, "Si si, a Boy le gusta vivir en Pramer" or Anabel shouting "Lechuga" at some irrational idea or plan. These, among so many more, are the memories that I will forever have from Argentina. "Che chicos, tengo una idea..."

Being on this airplane, leaving a place I have called home and the people I have called friends, is more emotionally painful than expected. I could have escaped all of this by never opening myself up to the experience, by closing people out of my life and living as the distant study abroad student. The pain, sadness, and sense of loss I feel right now show me, in the most real way possible, that I truly let these people into my life, that I didn't try to escape, and for that, I don't regret one thing and would do it all over again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Final Night

Well, tonight is the last night I will spend in Argentina for quite some time. Today was a day filled with last minute errands, picture taking, and emotional goodbyes. I took Holly´s advice and took pictures of very common things; city buses that I use, kioskos that I frequent, streets that I bike, and the subway that I have learned to love and hate. The pictures won´t make any sense to anyone expect me, that that´s exactly how it should be. On the emotional side, I had to say goodbye to my first group of Argentine friends, the UMSA(my school here) girls; Maru, Chechi, and La Guacha. Without them, I don´t know where I would be. They introduced me to so many people, taught me so much about spanish and friendship, and really introduced me to the Argentine way of life. I also saw Belen after months of not seeing each other and said goodbye. She´s doing great, is happy, and all is well. We ate a sandwich from our favorite restaurant, a perfect way to spend our last night.

I´m currently in "el living" which is actually Pablo´s room. We always chill in his room, use the computers, listen to and sing music and just generally hang out. He, Eugenio, and myself are drinking, what else, Fernet & Coke, but Fernet Branca from Milan, instead of Argentina. The cousin of Eugenio lives there and came to visit, bring him a fabulous bottle of the world´s best Fernet.

I´m about to start packing my suitcases now. I want to have them done by tonight so that tomorrow I can spend the day with the guys and Anabel and not be worrying about packing. I just wanted to do an update post for you all. I think I´ll probably write a doozy post later on tonight. Keep an eye open.


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Friday, April 10, 2009

Una Verdadera Conversación Porteña

In order to demonstrate some truly Argentine vocabulary, I've put together the following conversation of what one would overhear inside our department on any given weekend:

Los Personajes:
Patrick- El yanqui que vive con los dos Porteños, Pablo y Eugenio.
Pablo- El pibe que tiene una adicción a Dr. House y Go.
Eugenio- El chabon que vive durante la noche y duerme por la manaña.
Juan- Él tipo que realmente no sabe donde vive.

*Todos están en el living*

Patrick- Che Juan, me hacés un fernet?

Juan- Estoy re pancho. No tengo las ganas de moverme. Ponéte las pilas y hacételo vos!

Eugenio- Dale Boludo, no seas pelotudo! Preparáselo.

Juan- Basta! Basta! Ya voy! Bueno, como lo querés Patricio, cargado o suavecito?

Patrick- Sorprendéme

Pablo- Euge, para mañana, qué bondi me lleva al centro de Pompeya?

Eug- Pompeya?!? Eso está en la loma del orto, a la vuelta!

Pablo- Tu vieja está en la loma del otro.

Patrick- Te tapó la boca mal Euge! Pablito, por qué te vas para allá?

Pablo- Un torneo de Go.

Juan (entrando con tragos)- Go?!? Boludo! Qué ñoño que sos! Jonesy boy, te enteraste sobre la fiesta?

Patrick (emocionado por el hecho de que haya una fiesta)- Qué fiesta?

Juan- La de tu culo y ésta!

*Todos se ríen de Patrick por no haberse dado cuenta antes*

Patrick (sonriendo)- Andáte conchuda de mierda.

Eugenio- Hablando de fiestas, la de anoche, qué bárbara!

Pablo- Che Euge, escabiaste a full no? Estabas chupando como si fuera tu trabajo!

Juan- Posta? Te pusiste en pedo y me lo perdí? Me fuí temprano porque tuve que levantarme temprano y mi casa, en Coghlan, está lejos de allá. Fissuraste Euge?

Eugenio- Primero, no fissuré. Segundo, vivís en Villa Urquiza, no Coghlan!

Juan- Boludo, dos cuadras!

Patrick- Dos cuadras? Viste la "Guía T" una vez? Me parece tipo ocho cuadras.

Juan- Calláte la boca nene!

Pablo- Bueno chicos, tengo una lija enorme, tenemos algo para morfar?

Patrick- Ni un pedazo de comida. Si tenés la guita, hacé un pedido.

Juan Si, pero helado, no comida. Pedimos del Lado Bueno, no?

Eugenio- Tu vieja es el lado bueno!

There you have it kids, Argentine slang at its finest. This is just the tip of the iceberg too!


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Monday, April 6, 2009

Iguazú Falls

Bueno chicos,
Después de vivir en un país hispanohablante más de un año, debería haber escrito algo en castellano. Entonces, para hacerlos feliz y para cumplir otra meta de la lista de 'goals', voy a escribir un post sobre el viaje que Anabel y yo hicimos a Las Cataratas de Iguazú.

Arrancamos el miércoles a las 2 de la tarde, preparados para la excursión en micro (un tipo de autobús para distancias largas). Arriba, tenemos a Anabel tomando un mate súper rico ¡que cebé yo!

Después de 18 horas, mucho mate, un montón de sanwiches (el estilo Jones, exactamente como los viajes a Noahs Ark hace años), y un par de libros, llegamos a las 8 de la mañana al Puerto de Iguazú, una ciudad alrededor de 20 minutos de distancia del parque nacional donde están las cataratas. Abajo hay una foto del hostel. Re top, con pileta, desayuno gratis y una mezcla buena de extranjeros y nativos!

Llegamos al hostel, dejamos las mochilas en el guardamochila y fuimos a las cataratas. Una cosa genial sobre todo esto fue que Miguel, el primo de Eugenio, y su amiga, Yanina, estuvieran en Iguazú al mismo tiempo que nosotros. Ellos estaban viajando por el norte de la Argentina y lo arreglamos para que pudiéramos ir a las cataratas juntos.

Pues, entramos al parque nacional y fue entonces que me enteré de que los extranjeros tenían que pagar tres veces más que los nacionales. $20 pesos para los Argentinos y $60 para un yanqui. ¡Qué bajón! ¡El parque es gigante! Hay un tren chiquitito para viajar de un lado al otro, pero caminamos la mayoría. Dado que teníamos dos días, elegímos recorrer una parte el jueves y la otra el día siguiente.

Arriba está La Garganta del Diablo, The Devil´s Throat. Si seguís a lo largo del río 300 metros derecho, estás rodeado por cataratas. Muy flashero. En la foto, el lado izquierdo pertenece a Brasil y el lado derecho a la Argentina.

Durante el recorrido, pasás por lugares tipo selva y no podés ver nada. Entonces, de golpe, una vista asombrosa se presenta a través de los árboles. Para mi, la foto de arriba es mi favorita del viaje.

En total, hay más o menos 40 cataratas, algunas grandes, algunas pequeñas. La Garganta del Diablo es la más popular pero realmente, en mi opinión, las otras son mejores. Se puede acercarse más a las otras y tienen más onda.

Esa noche, después del primer recorrido, Miguel, arriba, nos invitó a un asado en su camping. Como Eugenio, mi compañero de cuarto, Miguel puede armar un asado bárbaro. Tomamos vino, comemos carne súper rica, y hablamos durante horas.

Como la mayoría de los lugares afuera de Capital Federal, había un par de perritos callejeros corriendo por el camping. Uno era súper callejero, una mezcla de todos los perros de la ciudad. El otro era un cachorro súper tierno con pelo enrulado. Le pusimos el nombre Conchita al cachorro ése.

No se ve bien en la foto abajo, pero estoy alimentándolo con pedazos de asado y otros desperdicios de comida. Conchita se comía la mayoría de la comida y siempre estaba al lado de la mesa, esperando algo. El otro perrito estaba muy tímido y no quería salir de las sombras del camping.

El día siguiente recorrimos un sendero hasta una cataratita y después fuimos a la Garganta del Diablo en el tren. El poder de la catarata más grande es immenso. Conozco las Cataratas de Niagara y ellas tiene nada que ver con las de Iguazu. Hablamos de lo que pensaban los primeros exploradores al verlas. Navegando con una canoa en el río y a la vuelta del río se encontraron las cataratas más magníficas del mundo. También, el área estaba llena con mariposas de todos colores.

En total, nos divertimos un montón en Iguazú. Definativamente vale la pena verlas. Ahora, por fin, puedo tachar dos metas de mi lista.


Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Friday, April 3, 2009

Open Your Eyes

"Oh my god, Buenos Aires is so beautiful. It´s like the Paris of South America."

I can´t begin to explain to you how many times I have heard, and subsequently cringed, at the sound of study abroad students/foreigers repeating this overused guidebook phrase since I´ve been in Argentina. I, myself, even used to regurgitate this line back in Minneapolis when I was telling people about my future study abroad plans. Every guidebook, be it Frommers, Lonely Planet, or TimeOut, always introduces Buenos Aires in the exact same way...

"Welcome to Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America, where sensual tango music escapes from the confines of a San Telmo milonga while cigarette smoke lingers in the French-architecture lined cobblestone streets."

I have two arguments against this whole "Paris of South America" image that tourists and travelers cling to so strongly.

First and foremost, this is Buenos Aires, not Paris. Give the city credit where credit it due! Yes, French, English, Spanish and Italian architecture exist in the city, but these types of architecture also exist in New York City, yet I don´t see people calling New York City "The Paris of the New World." New York City gets the celebrated destinction of being called a melting pot, whereas Buenos Aires get the distinction of copycat. Buenos Aires is a smorgasbord for the senses with its slums and mansions, cumbia villera and tango, as well as the large and thriving immigrant populations nestled in the hidden corners of the city.

Argument number two never would have occured to me if it wasn´t for staying in Argentina for more than one semester, and actually seeing the REAL Buenos Aires. To all those tourists and students who boast about how Buenos Aires is the South American Parisian paradise, I pose the following questions:

Have you ever gone south of the Riachuelo, the southern border of Capital Federal, which seperates Buenos Aires City from Buenos Aires Metro? Do you even know what the Riachuelo is? Have you ever taken a train into the western metro area from the Once train station. Or, for that matter, have you ever gone south of Avenida Rivadavia, the north-south povery/wealth divide between the city. Have you seen the sprawling slums, like the one above, scattered throughout the city? Have you taken a city bus from somewhere besides Recoleta to somewhere other than Palermo?

To everyone who claims Buenos Aires is Paris, please break your comfort zone and get out of Palermo, Recoleta, Belgrano and Barrio Norte. These barrios are not a fair representation of what Buenos Aires is as a city. They are 4 of 48 barrios that make up this city. Take a bus from Plaza Constitucion and go south until you cross the Riachuelo, one of the most polluted rivers in South America. You won´t need any forwarning about its whereabouts. The horrid smell of the river is noticeable hundreds of meters before you ever cross the bridge. I translated the following quote from an Argentine news site:

"The problem is agravated by the more than 88,000 squar
e meters of industrial waste poured into the river on a daily basis by the 3,000+ factories that reside along its 40 miles of shoreline."

I am in no way trying to talk down or disrespect the city that I have come to love so strongly. I cherish my bike rides through the different barrios, each with its unique "vibe" and demographic. Everytime you turn a corner, you´re likely to be surprise by a unique building or a beautiful plaza. I am, however, trying to explain that if you claim that Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America, you obviously haven´t seen the majority of it. If you really want to see and feel what Buenos Aires is all about, take the first bus south.

That being said, I understand that a guidebook isn´t going to direct its readers to the less beautiful parts of town. They try to make the city shine in the best light possible. This post isn´t directed at them. It´s directed at those travelers who come to Buenos Aires without ever seeing the other side of the city, without ever leaving the comfort of Barrio Norte.

Looking back at the last 14 months here, and all the experiences which I have had, I guess I could call this city "The Paris mixed with New York mixed with Milan mixed with Detroit mixed with Bogota mixed with San Francisco of South America" but I just prefer to call it Buenos Aires.

Capital Federal, Buenos Aires, Argentina