Monthly Archives: May 2008

Tango Lessons and Boliche

On Friday I got up and had a couple of cups of coffee before heading to class.   My friends and I were not the only students who hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before.  It was bad enough that the teacher sent us on a break early so that we would all go get more coffee.  I was hoping for a long afternoon nap, but I got distracted on the way home and ended wasting  most of the time that I could have been napping.   I’m trying to find the grammar book that our teacher recommends as I have a feeling that it will be quite helpful.  I found a discount bookstore not too far from my house, but they didn’t have.  You all know that I can’t walk in and out of a bookstore.  I did end up buying a book.  I have a feeling I’ll be returning to the store often as the book only cost me about $2.50!  I also went to a pharmacy looking for the last couple of essential items I couldn’t get at the supermarket.  I was still missing some hairspray and shaving cream.  Porteñas apparently don’t use hairspray, because this pharmacy was the first one that I have seen with it, and it was pretty expensive.  This is cheap hairspray that would cost about $3 in the U.S., but it cost me $7 here.  I have to date not been able to find  women’s shaving cream.   At all of the places where I have asked the store employees tell me that they just use soap.  I’ve tried to explain that they are missing out…but I guess you don’t miss what you’ve never had.  Looks like I will have to keep shaving with my conditioner for the duration of the trip.

After all of my shopping I went home and took a half hour nap.  Following my nap I got ready for my first Tango lesson and a dinner out with friends beforehand.  We all had to go out with for dinner since the class was during the time when our host families would be serving dinner.  For supper we went back to the cute café on the corner where I had tried the quiche.  I had four cheese ravioli in meat sauce.  After supper we made our way across town for the tango lesson.

The lesson was awesome.  The school that our program director took us to was perfect and the instructors were as “famous” as tango instructors can get.  They have won world class competitions and collaborated in the choreography and performed in the Broadway show Tango King.

The type of tango taught in the class in not like ballroom tango that you see on dancing with this starts.  This is the fast pace extemporaneous style traditional danced here.   The women’s part in the dance is definitely more difficult, but of course it was the American guys in our class who struggled the most.  It probably didn’t help that a couple of them were already drunk.   Overall the class went well.  I’m assuming that over half of our class will never go back, so next time the girls won’t have to deal with completely worthless partners.

After the tango lessons we went for alfajores at a  nearby café.  The alfajore that I had was covered in the same sort of sugary coating as a krispy-crème.  If you think American desserts are too sweet and rich, the desserts here would probably overwhelm you.  After drinking four glasses of water with my alfajore we were ready to go.  During dessert I had managed to figure out the best bus to take to our next destination (a true accomplishment considering the difficulty of the task.)  We had to go to a nearby pharmacy to make sure we had small bills (see upcoming post on money…) After a half hour trek and a 5 block walk we found our destination.

The destination for the night was a dance club called Bahrein.  It is a fairly touristy destination, but one worth making the trek to.  The whole place including all three floors was really decked out with funky furniture and video screens ect.  There was a coat check (something the bars in Brookings should think about J )  We got to the club at about 1:00 in the morning.  There were people there then but the things didn’t really pick up until about 2:30!  Unfortunately, you can smoke in the bars here so the whole place was pretty smoky.  We mostly stayed on the main level because after one trip to the basement we decided that getting high off of second hand pot smoke was not something that we wanted to experience!  The music was like this one long techno song that never ended.  Seriously the beat would just change and everybody would just keep on dancing.  At 4:30 we decided that we are going to need a couple of weeks to be able to keep up with the Porteños and headed for home.  A half-hour cab ride later brought me to my nice chilly bedroom.  I turned off my light at 5:03!  No wonder the Porteños drink so much strong coffee. 


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Tango Show

Thursday ended up being quite the long day.  I got up and went to class.  There has been this freak cold snap in Buenos Aires.  At first I thought I had just underestimated how cold the winter here was going to be, but I guess that this is unusually cold here.  It is so unusual that is is breaking record low temperatures and energy consumption reached an all time high in Buenos Aires.  There was even a strike at a high school because the students were so mad that there wasn’t any heat.  They really know how to strike here in Latin America, but the irony of the strike is that is happened outside so they ended up being even colder.  There isn’t any heat my classroom either, so I wish I would have brought more sweaters along.  Instead, I have just been layering all of the different shirts I brought with.  This is a really porteña like thing to do anyway.  Last night I wore 3 shirts…   Needless to say I am really glad that I bought that coat this week because I certainly needed it. 

After class on Thursday we decided to go see the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.  These mothers march in front of the casa rosada every Thursday.

  After snapping a couple of pictures of the mothers we wandered around Florida Ave.  We certainly had not made plans to stay out late, but it ended up happening anyway.  At some point during our wandering we came across the famous café Tortoni and decided to take in the Tango show there.

The show was awesome and really fun.  After the show we went out for pizza.  I got back to my room at 3:30 in the morning.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to return at that hour when I left for class at 9:00 a.m. 

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Come back tomorrow!

I don’t have time to write an entire post tonight.  Today I went to class; and then we went to see  las madres de la plaza de mayo.  After that, we went to a tango show.  At the end of the night we ate pizza with an “international” crowd.  There is so much to tell that I will wait and tell the whole story tomorrow and post pictures.  So, come back tomorrow!  My plans for tomorrow include another day of class and then my first tango lesson followed by another night out on the town. 

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Close Call

Today started with another 4 hours of Spanish class.  Studying Spanish in another country is so much easier than at home.  Somehow I managed to incorporate yesterday’s lesson magically over night.  I can already tell that it made a huge difference in how I narrate in the past tenses.  I was tired from going out the night before, but nothing a little coffee couldn’t fix. Ironically, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker before this semester.  During the last month of school, I started drinking more iced mochas and other sweeter concoctions.  Now I have graduated to regular coffee (nobody can survive a four year college degree without making the switch eventually) to the extent that next fall I’m going to need a coffee pot to get my daily cup of joe.  For the record the coffee is really good here. 

After class I went to the cell phone place and the store clerk fixed the phone I bought from Maria.  I finally feel connected to the world again.  I also stopped at a supermarket on the way home and bought some shampoo and various other things I only brought in travel sizes. 

We decided to forgo the soccer match today because it just seemed like too dangerous of an activity for students who just arrived a week ago.  It is a semi-final match in the more dangerous of the two soccer stadiums.  Also, because it is a special game it is at night.  My gut was telling me not to go so we didn’t.  There will be many more opportunities that will be safer.  The national team has a home game on father’s day against Ecuador. 

Although I eliminated one risk from today’s dangers there was still a moment today that I was really really scared.  This story should be filed under “WOW SOMEBODY SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME!!! “  There are a whole bunch of parking garages along one of the blocks that use to get to school.  I’ve seen a whole bunch of cars go into them, but never one come out.  The doors are usually closed and whenever one is open I look both ways before proceeding.   As I was walking by one today the door started to open and this loud beeping noise really scared me.  I had to run to get out of the way in time.  After that, I noticed that way above the garage doors there are lights sort of like a stop light.  There aren’t very big but the light turns red when a car was leaving.  I had never noticed them before.  I’m just glad that I figured this out now before I got hit by a car!!  Again, why didn’t any of the guide books or my roommates say anything? 

Tonight I am going to stay in and catch up on some sleep, because Steph and Carsten and I are going to go out every night this weekend.  Oh and like every other thing party-related, the porteños go all out.  The weekend bar and dance club scene starts on Thursdays. 

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First Day of Class and Mundo Bizarro Again

The girls and I out on the town

Yesterday was a great but day but it started out pretty quietly.  I went to class for the first time; my instructor is really fun.  The 4 hours went by really fast.  I can tell this is the class that I need to be in because we are going to be covering all of the grammar points I can handle pretty well in writing, but that never quite seem to make it to my daily speech.  Needless to say, (and I don’t say this lightly as I would prefer to lean towards the modest side) the fluidity of my speaking is way better than the most of the students.  (There is one guy in the class who has lived here for a couple of year…)   Anyway, my classmates in South Dakota  would stack up very well against these students.   At lunch, a Jewish girl from Florida made my day.  She asked me if I am a native speaker or if I just spoke Spanish at home.  Obviously she lacks the trained ear of native speaker who would be able to tell that I am not one, but nonetheless I was very very flattered.  After lunch Carsten and Stephanie (two girls from my program with whom I get along very well) and I went to China town to try and eat lunch.  The restaurant we wanted to go to ended up being closed so we settled for the bar/restaurant on a corner where you could sit outside in these tent-like canopies.  I had a medialuna.  This is a croissant.  They are so good here.  They have this sweet coating on the top and the contents of the sandwich itself are always salty. It is my new favorite dish! 

After lunch I went home and took a nap and just hung around. I did my homework in ten minutes.  (I don’t need as much help with writing and reading so the homework should always be easy J )  For supper we had a meal where you could eat everything with your hands, because we were playing poker!  I stink at poker so it was no surprise that I lost right away.  I was the first one out.  However, the game was still very enjoyable.  Now I really think Luciano and Maria are like my grandparents; they are card=sharks too!

After the poker game I met Carsten and Stephanie to go out for drinks.  They really wanted to go to Mundo Bizarro.  I didn’t really want to go back; but I agreed seeing as it is a place they should see eventually, the drinks were good, and it made me feel more confident to be going someplace I was already familiar with since this was the first time I had gone out with anyone besides my roommate.  This time the video screen featured among other things a scene from planet of the apes that they played over and over again.  For ahile they were playing Christmas music!  I have definitely taken on the role of translator/designated communicator so I need to feel confident that I know where I am going.  I thought this was going to bother me, but it is helping my Spanish to improve very quickly.  My new favorite drink is a Pinarito; I love them!  It is made with rum and grapefruit juice.  The girls and I had one drink alone until we were joined by three other tourists. Two of the guys were from Rio de Janeiro Brazil and the third was from a small town near Paris.  The two Brazilian guys did not speak Spanish but there English was o.k.  The guy from France didn’t speak English but his Spanish was definitely native like, although it was of the Spain variety.   The whole conversation was like an adventure; I found out that I can understand Portuguese enough to get by if necessary; and the two guys from Brazil said that they understood my Spanish very well and that this was a sign that it is pretty good.  Overall a good night.  I went to bed at 3:30 in the morning which is incredibly late for me and ridiculously early by B.A. standards.  Today, I am going to go to class, fit in a nap and then maybe on to a my first soccer game…

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Quiche and More Quiche

This morning I took the placement exam with about 200 other kids.   We had a written test and then an oral interview.  There are five levels: two basic levels, two intermediate levels, and one advanced.  I tested into the second intermediate level.  Out of approximately 200 there were only 4 in the advanced level and about 15 in the second intermediate.  So this first month I will take the second intermediate, next month the advanced, and then the following month they will make a new section for me and anyone else who might need it.  (They have had classes with 1 student before….private tutor for the same price as a class…ok I won’t complain J ) 

After class I went with some of the girls in my program to pay rent and go shopping.  One of the girls brought travelers checks (which I had read in guide books are a pain here.)  The guidebooks were completely right!  It took us an hour to cash her traveler’s checks.  She doesn’t speak any Spanish; she is lucky that I am a very patient person!) 

We ate lunch at this cute corner café.  I had this egg dish called a torta that is sort of like quiche.  It was really good.

Afterwards we went shopping along Florida Avenue.  I bought a headset for my computer so I can use skype to call everyone for really cheap!  (Yeah Ana, I’m back…I’ll e-mail you as soon as I know more about my schedule !)   I also bought a jersey for the Argentina soccer team, so I can go to a game soon and blend in!  I also got a cheap scarf and and glove set so people stop telling me I need them (eventually I will) 

For supper tonight I actually had another torta.  It was different and also delicious.  However, the big food highlight of the day was buying dulce de leche ice cream at Freddo.  The best ice cream I have ever had and considering the amount of SDSU ice cream I’ve eaten that is saying something! 

I spent the rest of the night chatting on Skype with Rachelle and family…overall a day well spent.  Add me to skype and we can chat like I never left the states! 

Tomorrow I start class; my Spanish is going to get so good, because it has already improved so much.  I am becoming more confident as well.  Today, I didn’t hesitate to ask locals for directions and I chatted up the waiter at lunch.   Who knows what tomorrow will bring…


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City Tour!

This morning I had to make my way to the University where I will be studying.  Luciano gave me awesome directions so I didn’t have any problems finding it.  I finally got to meet the other students who are in my program.  We went for a sort of “orientation tour” of the city with our program director Claudia.  We walked past most of the most photographed touristy sites in the city.  Including: el palacio de justico, la plaza de mayo, el avenida de 9 de julio, el obelisco y la catedral nacional con la tumba de San Martín.


  Our walk eventually led us to San Telmo.  Here we wandered through a weekend craft fair.  Eventually we ended up at a restaurant full of locals.  A lot of the other students ordered one of the T-bones that Argentina is so well known for.   I might have joined them, if my host family hadn’t let me in on a piece of national history the night before.  Today was a National Holiday.  It celebrates Argentina’s equivalent of our declaration of independence.  Since it was a holiday locro was available.  I ordered this since I can get a steak any day.  It was pretty good! 

After lunch Claudia left us to return home.  A couple of us split off from the rest of the group and spent the rest of the day wandering the city.  After wandering along the edge of La boca and a couple of other fairs we ended up at the Recoleta Cemetery.  This cemetery is the resting place of Evita and many very important figures in Argentina’s history.  All of the tombs are above ground with ornate statues.  The whole place looks like a little city, and our tour guide even referred to it as la ciudad de los muertos.  As soon as we located the entrance we saw a tour starting and jumped right in.  We were really lucky as this was the last tour of the day and tours are only given on Sundays.  Our tour guide was awesome and although his history of Argentina was intended for those already really familiar with the revolutionary war his stories had enough jokes and great extra stories to hold my interest for the whole 2 hour tour.  In between the selected tombs on the tour, I had to fill some of the other students in on the stories and the basic history. 

After the tour we rode the subway back to Belgrano and I made my way home.  I made a couple of wrong turns since I was trying not to look at my map.  (You are extraordinarily safe walking alone as long as you look like you know where you are going!)  In the end, I only ended up walking a couple of blocks out of the way.  Unfortunately, today ended my lucky streak.  I am referring to the fact that I had yet to step in dog poop.  It is all over the city and it is a miracle that it hadn’t happened already. 

I got over the dog poop fast since tonight for supper Luciano served us this awesome cheese pizza!

The weather was gorgeous today! However, it is so humid here.  I’m going to have to figure out something different to do with my hair.  Everyday it is just a huge frizz ball before I even leave!  Although it was 60 degrees and humid here, everybody was wearing big jackets.  Most of the day I walked around in just a t-shirt, and added only my jean jacket when the slight breeze caused a chill.  All day long everybody was commenting on how I must be so cold!  The tour guide at the cemetery even made notice of it. 

Tomorrow morning I go to the University to take my placement exam.  Afterwards, my roommates and I going to try to find a nice place to have some lunch.  The rest of the day after that is ours to spend wandering again! 

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