What’s this?! An actual blog post? I know, I know, it’s been awhile. Very sorry for the long absence but I promise I will be updating this week with stories of my latest adventures. Pinky swear.

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September 11th was the date for this year’s Festival of the Moon(La Festival de la Luna), one of the oldest and most important holidays in Chinese culture.  For the first time, Buenos Aires’ Chinatown hosted an outdoor festival to honor the holiday. Conveniently, Barrio Chino is a mere three blocks from my house so I decided to check it out with a few girlfriends of mine.

According to the flier I received, the holiday occurs every year on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month when, according to legend, the moon is the most full and bright of the whole year.

Paper lanterns hang above the street during the Festival de la Luna in Buenos Aires' Chinatown.

And, according to legend, Chang Er flew to the moon where she now lives and you may see her dancing up there during the Moon Festival. The festival is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture.  Families often reunite to watch the full moon and celebrate together.

Martial Arts show during the Moon Festival. They were pretty impressive.

Buenos Aires’ Chinatown is quite small, as I mentioned in a previous post, but there was a crowd of people stuffed into  four blocks. Some friends and I browsed the market stands, listened to a singer, watched a Martial Arts show and enjoyed some “Asian Cuisine” at a restaurant. Hey, it can’t be entirely authentic, we are in Argentina after all.

Members of the Chinatown Association carried the dragon through the streets.

We enjoyed watching the dragon meander through the streets.

Altogether it was a nice, relaxing day and a good way to enjoy some of the early spring weather we were having. It was also pretty exciting to experience some Chinese culture while living in South America.

My first experience with Melon Popcicles. So yummy!

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.

“Researching” San Telmo

August 25, 2011

This post first appeared on July 18 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

Just a reminder, if you want to be notified when I update this blog, click the subscription box to the right.

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Our latest class assignment was to explore one of the 48 neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and give a presentation about the barrio to the class.  My group and I decided to explore San Telmo, the smallest barrioin the city.  Therefore, I spent last week exploring the various sights in this small corner of Buenos Aires.

Back in the 17th century, San Telmo was an industrial area home to the city’s dockworkers and brickmakers.  Later on, in the mid-1850s, the neighborhood started to improve with the addition of better housing, cobblestone streets, running water, lighting and the addition of the still popular wholesale market in the center of San Telmo.  These improvements drew the well-to-do porteños to San Telmo until a yellow fever epidemic struck in the 1870s, pushing the wealthy to Barrio Norte and Recoleta [for a previous post about the Recoleta Cemetary, click here].  During the wave of immigrants in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the large old buildings were converted to tenement housing that was home to communities of British, Greek, Italian and Russian immigrants. Beginning in the 1950s, San Telmo began developing the bohemian reputation that it still maintains today.  San Telmo’s multi-cultural history, cobblestone streets and artsy vibe makes it a wonderful place to go for a walk or sit in a café and people-watch.

The well-to-do history of San Telmo is obvious in the beautiful architecture that fills this small neighborhood and the narrow cobblestone streets can lead you to believe that you’re strolling through Rome (or at least, what I imagine Rome is like).  In the center of the barrio is a small antiques, produce and meat market that is always full of interesting things for sale. I even found a store that was selling a U.S. dollar bill – good thing I know where to find one of those now.  All joking aside, the market is filled with beautiful antiques, old record and poster shops, and some of the most delicious looking meats and cheeses I’ve seen.

On Sundays, many of the streets in San Telmo are closed for the feria – the artisans street market – where everything from jewelry to mate cups to underwear is peddled.  The feria gives San Telmo a very congested feeling on Sundays that causes many of the residents to flee, but it is a nice thing to visit once or twice.

My classmates and I certainly preferred San Telmo on days other than Sunday.  One Saturday, we went to a café called Bar Federal on the corner of Peru and Carlos Calvo (in case anyone’s in the area).  It was by far one of my favorite places so far.  After standing around awkwardly waiting for a table to open up, we pounced on a table in the corner by the window before the mozo even had a chance to clear it (that’s just how things are done here).

Our site director Gaby, a San Telmo resident, told us that Bar Federal is known for its “finger food” so we decided to go with an aperitivo platter – the Gran Federal, I believe.  After ordering some cervezas and Cokes for the table, the waiter brought us a heaping basket of various breads.  No one in Buenos Aires is ever in a hurry and this café was particularly relaxed, but about an hour later, the Gran Federal arrived.  It was a large wood cutting board covered with jamón, Roquefort cheese, bite size pieces of tortillas españolas, salami, olives, more cheese, pâté and hearts of palm.

After chowing down and resisting the urge to lick the cutting board, we decided to order another course.  About 2 and half hours had passed since we first arrived so this was already one of the longer lunches of my life.  Campbell and I decided to share a dish of papas fritas (French fries) covered with pancetta and fried eggs while Kenzie and Steph ordered a Spanish tortilla with chorizo and cheese.  Another 45 minutes later, we got our food and it was as delicious as we had imagined.  All told, the lunch was about 4 hours and we all had a fantastic time.  This café seemed to really echo the bohemian sentiment in San Telmo and it was, of course, necessary “research” for our project.  Even though the presentation has come and gone, we still have a list of places in San Telmo to explore.  And, after hearing all the other presentations, I have a list of places in other barrios to add to my to-do list.