The below photo is one of my journal two months ago. I believe I was feeling frustrated after yet another cold shower (due to a broken gas line that stayed broken for quite awhile) and felt the need to vent.  Looking at this entry inspired me to write about what I will miss when I leave Buenos Aires this Saturday night. While I still stick with the statement that I will miss “everything,” I’ll try to be a bit more specific here.

1. My host family.

Not only will I miss the perks, like a home cooked dinner every night or a maid to clean my room once a week, but I’ll miss the extended family I’ve gained. Carmen always made me feel so welcome and included on any family activities.  As a result, I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with her brother and his family as well as both of her sons. Living with a host family was the thing I was most nervous about but it turned out to be a very positive experience and I feel extremely lucky to have been placed in this house.

My roommate, Stephanie, my host brother, Nico and I.

My host mom, Carmen, and I at the Teatro Colon.

2. My new friends.

I’ve met some incredible people here from all walks of life and it will be hard to say goodbye to them.  When I moved from Ohio to South Carolina for college, I met many people from various backgrounds and with viewpoints different than my own.  That was at times challenging but also very rewarding.  Coming to Buenos Aires, I had a similar experience but with even newer backgrounds and viewpoints. Knowing and loving friends with different ways of seeing the world is always a positive experience and I will miss the strange cast of characters that have become my friends here.

With my friends Kehala and Phoebe in Mendoza.

The ASA (my program) gang.

3. The ice cream.

Really, it’s indescribable. A creamy, gelato-esqe texture, but rich like ice cream. Just one more cone!

My friend Kehala and I enjoying some yummy Chocolate Mousse ice cream.

4. Spanish.

It sounds obvious, but I will really miss having constant opportunities to work on my Spanish skills. I love walking outside and being surrounded by Spanish (something that was a bit terrifying when I first arrived). I love the way Argentines speak Spanish. They speak with so much passion and exaggeration that it’s almost theatrical.

Answering trivia questions (in Spanish) during my first month here.

5. Traveling.

One thing this experience has taught me is that traveling is not nearly as hard as we pretend it is. There were multiple times here that I decided to take a weekend trip somewhere and simply went. It didn’t take months of planning, it often didn’t take a lot of money. I will miss that spontaneous thinking, but I hope I can bring it back with me. There are so many places to see in the U.S., why not go for a weekend?

Biking in Northern Argentina.

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Tour de Belgrano

August 28, 2011

This post originally appeared on August 14 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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For my post this week, I thought I’d give you a little tour of the area of Buenos Aires that I’m living in. I live in the barrio Belgrano, which is split into four sections, of which I live in Belgrano C.  As you can see from the map, Buenos Aires is split into 48 barrios and Belgrano is in the northern part of the city.  According to Wikipedia, a little under 140,000 people live within Belgrano, which is only two and a half square miles – wow!

The barrio received its name from Manuel Belgrano, a politician and military leader who created the Argentine national flag.  In addition, the law declaring Buenos Aires the capital of Argentina was issued in Belgrano.

These days, the neighborhood is a nice, upper-middle class residential area with lots of parks and restaurants. It is just south of Palermo, the largest barrio in Bs As which is a very trendy bar and club area as well as residential.  I’ve come to enjoy running on the bike path that goes from Belgrano to the large parks in Palermo.

Drinking gourmet tea at my favorite cafe and homework spot in Belgrano - Tea Connection.

Enjoying some yummy Argentine steak at a parilla near my house.

My house is three blocks from Buenos Aires’ Chinatown, which is quite small (about 8 blocks or so) but is always bustling.  My 20 minute walk to school takes me through Chinatown and along a park so it’s a really nice walk. I particularly enjoy watching the shopkeepers in Chinatown set up in the mornings – although the smell of fish isn’t as enjoyable.

The arch in Buenos Aires Chinatown.

Every weekend, there is a feria (artisanal market) in the Plaza de Belgrano.  It’s smaller than some of the other more touristy ferias in the city but I think the products are generally of higher quality and at better prices.  Most Sundays, I stop by to look around.

Some stands at the Feria de Belgrano.

The University of Belgrano, the school I'm currently studying at.

I’ve really enjoyed exploring Belgrano and feel pretty lucky to live here.  I’m a ten minute walk from the Subte (subway), am blocks away from stops for many of the city’s bus lines and can walk to school every day.  While I’m still obviously in the city, it’s comparatively quieter than other areas and I’ve never felt unsafe in this area.

My room.

My house.

I’m also excited to explore some of the other 48 barrios. Next stop, Once, home to the city’s Jewish, Korean and Peruvian immigrants.

An aerial view of Belgrano.

This post first appeared on July 22 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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The title of this post is a Czech Proverb that my friend quoted the other day during lunch.  I have been thinking about these nine words since then.

In coming to Buenos Aires, one of my main goals was to become functionally fluent in Spanish. Technically, I have been studying the language for eight years (high school and college) but upon arriving here, I did not feel comfortable speaking to native speakers at all.  Today was the last day of my intensive month-long Spanish class and I am amazed at how far I’ve come in just four weeks.

The whole ASA gang out for drinks five weeks ago.

Today on the way home from class, I stopped by a fruit stand to buy a few apples.  I had the following conversation with the vendor:

Me: I’ll take two red apples and two green apples.

Vendor: Ok. Are you North American?

Me: laughs, Yes, I’m from the United States.  Is it obvious?

Vendor: Oh yes, very obvious. Want me to wash these for you?

Me: Oh yes, thanks a bunch!

While not an intellectual conversation about the state of Argentine politics, I was thrilled that this exchange didn’t consist mainly of finger pointing, “Sí,” and “¿Qué?. In this moment, I realized that I truly understand more than I did a month ago and I can express myself a bit more clearly.  In other words, I’m getting there.

In addition, my host mom, Carmen, told me that she’s surprised how much better my Spanish has become.  So, I’m not making this up!

I realized last week that the moment I started to feel more comfortable with this new language was the moment that I stopped trying to translate everything directly. I realized that I have to think in Spanish to be able to speak in it.  This is a fact that others have told me but I never truly understood it until I experienced it.  This brings me back to the Czech proverb.  Learning a new language is not just about learning rojo means red and lo siento means I’m sorry.  It’s teaching yourself a whole new way of thinking. I have to think how would a Spanish speaker express this thought – not how do I translate what I want to say. A new way of thinking – a new “soul”.

I still wouldn’t call myself fluent but I am excited to see how much I improve over the next four months. But for now, I’m off to catch a bus for a 21-hour drive to Salta, a northern province of Argentina, for the next week. I’ll let you know how that goes in my next post. Chau!

My First Peña

August 24, 2011

This post originally appeared on July 10 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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Last night I had an entirely South American experience. My host mom’s brother, Sergio, invited my roommate, Stephanie, and I to a “recital” and dinner at his house. Sergio is a musician and music teacher so we knew the music would be wonderful. In South America, this type of gathering is called a Peña. I looked up the word online and found it described as “a grass-roots community meeting place where popular folklore and other artistic expressions accompanied by food and drink are showcased”. In other words, it was awesome.

At the Peña with Steph, Alex and Campbell (I'm the one on the far left)

We arrived to Sergio’s house, a beautiful home tucked away behind a garden (with a Lemon Tree!) in Belgrano, paid the 25 pesos (about $6) for the show and sat down at our table. Sergio’s living room, was filled with tables covered with colorful tablecloths and a cacophony of various chairs for guests to sit on. Sergio was surprised that we were “so punctual!” when in fact we were a few minutes late. But, in Argentina, if you aren’t 30 minutes late, you’re early.

My host brother, Nico, was the waiter for the night and he brought us locro, empanadas, bread, and, of course, Malbec. Locro is a hearty Argentine stew made with corn, white beans, beef, chorizo and veggies and it was as amazing as Carmen said it would be.

Some of the wonderful music. Sergio is the man playing guitar on the far left.

After chowing down for a while, we sat back and listened to about 3 hours of folk music. Since it was Argentina’s Independence Day, all the music was Argentine, although Sergio said they often play Peruvian, Bolivian and other South American styles of music. We also heard a little rock and roll style music. My favorite part of the night is that it was such a communal atmosphere; most people in the room seemed to know each other, so there were jokes being yelled about the room and we were encouraged to join in for many of the songs.

Apparently, we Americans managed to not embarrass Sergio too much because he invited us back for next month’s Peña. I can guarantee you that I’ll be there.

Argentine Locro (courtesy of Wikipedia)