Monthly Archives: June 2008

Last Week…

Monday was a very relaxing day.  We didn’t have class because the new students who had just arrived for the next month long session needed to take the placement exam.  I did however have to go to the school to find out when and where my new class would be meeting.  I also had to pay rent again!  So, I slept in until about 10:00.  I ate a slow leisurely breakfast and then went to pay rent.  After chatting with Patricia who is my homestay coordinator I headed to the University where I chatted with a few of the students who had just arrived and got the information for my new class.  Unfortunately, there are two sections of advanced and Jessi and I somehow managed to end up in the opposite sections.   After class we made the trek to Retiro to buy bus tickets for a weekend trip to Mendoza.  I was not looking forward to this since before it had been such a chore.  Oddly, the whole process went very smoothly.  It was a very rewarding thing to do because it was one of the few situations where I could really tell that my Spanish has improved a lot in just the last couple of weeks.  The last time we tried to buy bus tickets I had a hard time understanding the travel agents.  The bus station is loud and there is so much going on that the interference was just too much.  This time however, it was easy as pie.  We asked all the right questions and were done really quickly compared to last time.   So that was the start of the preparation for the Mendoza trip.   After buying the tickets we hopped another subway to explore some gardens in another part of town.  By the time we actually got to the gardens we didn’t have a lot of time to explore before dark. The good thing about this was that we enjoyed the sun set in the park, but unfortunately we will have to go back another time to see the gardens during the day.  I turned in early in order to be mentally prepared for my first day in a new class on Tuesday. 

Tuesday was my first day in the advanced class.  I am totally in over my head.  In the last class I was one of the more advanced students in the class.  This time around I am by far the worst.  The majority of the students are heritage speakers or have lived abroad before for more than a year!   I’m going to have to work pretty hard to keep up but the truth is that I’m started to get burned out from having class for five hours a day and homework.  I wish this study abroad was less study and more abroad, but I can’t complain too much because the classes are very helpful to say the least.  Tuesday night was family night again, but it was the last family night before all of the kids who have been here for a semester left so it was extra special.  We went to one of the fanciest restaurants in Buenos Aires called Cabana las lilas.  It was right on the water and they had valet parking.  You know the supper is going to be good and expensive when you start out with 3 forks!    Also, on Tuesday we got two new roommates from Kansas that were starting at the same university as me.  So, I spent most of the supper explaining to them some of the things you must know in order to survive Buenos Aires.   The dinner was totally worth the splurge, although I felt guilty spending so much when you can eat out for so cheap here.  The dinner only ended up costing me about $30 dollars U.S. but it seems like so much more since that is really expensive here.  However, it was seriously the best steak I’ve had in my life.  Also, the steaks were served with little plastic cows poked into them that said “Estoy jugoso” or “I’m juicy”   It was definitely an experience worth having; although, I probably won’t go back again anytime soon.

Wednesday was another pretty laid back day.  I spent most of it making preparations for the trip to Mendoza.  The main activity for the day was going to get our nails done.  It is a must here because it only costs $13 pesos or a little more than $4 dollars.   It felt good to be pampered and to not feel guilty doing it.   Wednesday night Pilar was here for supper and we had lots of fun talking with her about school and various other things.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for her to teach us any more games, since she had to go to bed and we had to do our homework. 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Mendoza

Today I’m leaving for Mendoza!  This is the Napa Valley of Argentina and one of the most picturesque places in the country.  Come back on Sunday or Monday for pictures of mountains, wineries, and maybe even me on horseback!   Also, look for all of the remaining missing posts and a description of my awesome weekend trip. 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Hello Don Pedro!

On Sunday, I slept in until 9:00 or so and then showered and had a quick breakfast.   I met Jessi to go to the fair in San Telmo and to meet up with Juan, the English teacher we had met on Monday.  The plan was to wander the fair and have lunch with Juan.  Our plans changed when we were stopped in the Subway with a fairly common question asked in a not so common way.   “Where are you from…but it was in English by a college aged porteño.  The next question was back in Spanish and was “do you understand Spanish.”  We replied yes, and then saw why were being stopped.  An American girl was with them and she looked lost and on the verge of tears.  Almost no explanation was necessary.  The new session was starting at Belgrano the next day and this had to be one of the new arrivals looking for her orientation session.  We were right.  Turns out she had been wandering down the street totally lost and these porteños had tried to help her, but couldn’t since she didn’t have the address and her Spanish was non existent.  She was looking for the ISA office, which is a program that is also affiliated with Belgrano, but neither Jessi or I are here with ISA.   We tried to call some people who might know, but when we finally got a hold of somebody we just found out that her tour had already left without her.  So, we decided to show her the same type of hospitality that any porteño would lend her and take her with us to show her around and help her get oriented.  The porteños decided to come with too.  So, as normally happens our group expanded exponentially.  We met Juan, but were running on Argentine time by this point (about a half hour late)   We wandered past the plaza de mayo down defensa street towards the fair.  Eventually we happened upon a pizzeria and stopped in for lunch.  This turned into a two hour affair, and was great practice for me as I once again became the the group translator.  However, this time Juan was correcting me as I went along, so it was really good practice.  After lunch we wandered for another hour or so, before heading back for a nap.  On Sunday night, I enjoyed the last asado with all of the students who will be leaving next week.  For the occasion Maria whipped out a blender and made Don Pedro for dessert.  Although, there are some other ingredients this sweet cocktail consists mainly of whisky and vanilla ice cream.    I opted again for another quite night at home since I was still trying to make sure that I really kicked being sick, before returning to a crazy schedule again. 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Cowboys!

Friday was a really quite day.  I had to go to class, but it started a half hour later than normal, so I got to sleep in a little bit.   The only thing we did in class was look at our exam and our final grade and then go over all of the stuff on the test.  Somehow I had managed to get a very high B on the exam and an A overall in the class. The grading scale here works a little bit differently.  Instead of getting a letter grade you actually earn a number that goes from 1-10.  A 5 or 6 is the equivalent of a “C”, a 7 or 8 is a “B” and a 9 or a 10 is an “A.”  Luckily for me, the professors consider things like overall attitude, punctuality and in class participation in the final grade.   We got done with class early so I had the rest of the afternoon to do whatever I wanted.  I was feeling much better, but still feeling worn down, so I decided to go take a very long nap in the hopes that maybe I would feel up to going out later.   My long nap was awesome, but I never did make it out.  Needless to say I was very well rested on Saturday morning.  Jessi and I decided to go wander a near-by mall and have lunch there.  Lunch is never provided so we always have to find something somewhere.  We roamed the mall until early afternoon when we finally sat down for lunch.   I had Asian stir-fry pretty much just so I could eat the vegetables!  During the afternoon I went back and took a nap in order to remain well rested for the play and an evening out.  Right after a quite supper at home, I left to meet Jessi and go watch the play.  We walked to the theatre which was only about 10 blocks from my homestay.  This theatre was still small, but nicer than the other one.  There were also a lot more people roaming around.  The theatre was ¾ full when the show finally started at 12:00.  The play was hilarious; we were right to think that an Argentine version of U.S. cowboys would be a little bit distorted.  First of all, none of them wore blue jeans, and the hats were not done quite right either.  Of course, these cowboys also had no hint of a southern drawl, and one even had an afro like hair-do!  This play was a lot easier to follow since the time line was more rationale and the characters remained the same throughout the show.   Since, we had been invited by the performers we knew we should hang around after the show to tell them just how funny it was.  The other actors that we had not met before were also introduced to us and we were very warmly greeted and very quickly invited out for drinks again.  This time the group was much bigger and we spent the rest of the evening chatting with entire group!  Overall, another very pleasant experience!  We took another cab home this time at about 4 in the morning.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Let’s Go to a Play!

Last Thursday was the day of the long dreaded exam.  It was quite honestly the hardest exam I’ve ever taken in my life.  (This was probably also due to the fact that I was still feeling very sick!)  Fortunately, a long nap and the fact that the test was over brightened my mood for the evening.  This was a very good thing as Jessi and I had plans!  We were going out to dinner and then to this play that we had found a listing for online.  We couldn’t have imagined what an adventure this was going to be.  We met early and took the subte to the part of town where the theatre was at.  To my surprise it was the same part of town we had been in for the tango lessons.   We looked for a place to eat supper, but we were so close to the abasto mall that we knew we weren’t really going to find anything outside of the mall.  So, we headed inside to the food court.  Before studying abroad, I had commented how silly it would be to eat American food while you are abroad and could be enjoying new things.  Honestly, I am over this sentiment.  I miss American food terribly.  Well, not all of it…. Just the vegetables!!  The diet here consists entirely of carbs.  We eat bread, bread, grains, and then meat meat and more meat.  At the food court we found salads.  I had a Cesar salad and it was by far the best one I’ve ever had although in the states I’m sure I wouldn’t have considered it anything special.   After eating, we headed off to find the theater.  At this point the weather was not so pleasant.  It was raining very hard and it was windy.  It was similar to a cold fall rain in South Dakota, but all of the porteños considered it the worst weather of the year.  Quite honestly most of them were treating it like a snow day.   We finally found this little hole in the wall theatre that looked like an apartment that had been converted into a theatre.  At this point we were starting to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into, but the tickets for the play were cheap so we thought oh well what do we have to loose?   When we finally made our way to our seats we discovered that the theater only sat about 50 guests at capacity, but only 6 other people showed up for the show that night.  The cast only consisted of 6 people as well.  The play was called “Cine” and explored the differences between movies and plays.  For example, one scene of the play consisted of the actors commenting about how with movies you can rent them take them home, watch them while eating pizza on your coach and watch your favorite scene over and over again.  Two of the actors then sat on a coach while the rest acted out a scene from a movie.  Afterwards one of the actors on the coach took a “remote” and “rewinded” while the other actors performed the scene very quickly in reverse and then repeated the whole scene.  I understood the majority of what was going on, but all of the movie scenes were from Spanish language films that I hadn’t scene yet.  After the play we were planning on leaving, but ended up talking to several of the cast members and eventually went out to have drink with them!  They took us to this near-by restaurant that didn’t even look like one from the outside.  We would have never found it if we hadn’t been invited by locals.  This place made its own wine, and it was to die for!!!     Talking with the locals was such a good experience and to our surprise they invited us to watch another play that several of them were going to be in on Saturday.  One of the actors from Cine had actually written and directed this play about someone from California who had decided to move to the country.  This concept sounded really funny to me and the actors kept saying “y hay COWBOYS.”  At this point, we couldn’t help but say yes since we knew that the next play would probably be hilarious and have a funny interpretation of U.S. culture.   Eventually we shared a cab home. 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Since Tuesday…

I’m sure all of you have noticed how far behind I’ve gotten on this blog.  The reason:  I got really sick!  At this point there are at least a handful of you thinking “I told you that would happen if you kept staying out all night!”  Well, you have all had your moment…so now moving back into the reality.  Monday night all of sudden I just got really sick; it just hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’m really glad that I was well prepared for this trip, because I had some antibiotics on hand for just such an occasion.  I started taking them right away.  I can’t even imagine how sick I would have gotten without them.  So Tuesday, I got up and went to class and then came back right away and took a nap.  I really wanted to stay in my bed all day, but thanks to the pickets and getting stuck in the middle of no where for a day all of my absences were used up.  Thus, I had no choice but to struggle through class.  Unfortunately, this past week was also the end of the first one month session.  This meant that not only was I sick, but I had a test to study for as well! 

The only thing that distracted me from my suffering on Tuesday was the cacerolazo.  This is a demonstration where porteños bang on pots and pans and generally make a lot of noise.  Maria participated in full force.  She came into my room and told me I had to turn off my lights because we were supporting the campo in a city wide demonstration.  All of the supporters were supposed to turn off all the lights in their house and bang on pots and pans for a half hour.  We turned off all the lights and banged away.  Out the window you could see the mostly dark city and hear the combined noise from all of the pots and pans.  Argentines sure know how to make themselves heard! 

I spent Wednesday in a very similar manner to Tuesday.  I went to class and slept and studied.  The president planned a big demonstration at the casa rosada to address all of the problems with the strikes.  There was such a big demonstration that part of the subway line was closed and many of the buses weren’t running or were on partial routes.  I thought I would notice some of the commotion, but in my neighborhood it was business as normal! 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Puerto Madero

Monday was a holiday here so I made plans with Jessi to explore a part of the city we had yet to see.  Unfortunately I hadn’t planned on staying up so late with Pilar and Julieta so I was a little slow getting going in the morning.  Then they both showed up at breakfast and so I lingered to long there.  All in all, I kept Jessi waiting for a long time! (Sorry Jessi!) 

The subway ride to meet Jessi was an interesting one.   I was listening to my MP3 player just chilling,when I noticed this girl staring at me.  Our eyes met and I smiled and she smiled back.  Then she wispered something to her dad.   A couple minutes later I noticed she was still smiling at me, so I smiled back again and her dad made a motion like he wanted to say something to me.  I put away my MP3 player and started talking with the dad.  He said that the little girl thought I looked like somebody.  I didn’t recognize the name so I was still confused.  He repeated the name, but I still didn’t recognize it.  So, I explained that I’m from the U.S. and then he laughed and said that this person (I wished I would have caught the name) is an Argentine T.V. star…   The two got off at the next stop.

At the same stop a family got on and sat next to me.  I scooted over so the family could sit together.  The mom instructed the little girl sitting next to me to say “gracias” However, the instructions were in English.   When she said it I sort of chuckled and said your welcome.  The little girl laughed and we started talking in English.  Turns out the family was from North Dakota.  What are the odds of the happening? 

After the subway ride I wandered toward the plaza de mayo and spotted Jessi right away.  We spent the next couple of hours wandering behind the plaza de mayo and discovering various things along the way including la puente de la mujer.  We took a whole bunch of pictures and walked past a couple of museums that were still closed but would open back up in the afternoon. 

After a couple of hours we decided it was time to look for somewhere to have lunch.  This was a harder task than we had imagined since it was a holiday.  We ended up back tracking almost to where we had started from, but we eventually found a nice place.  We sat down and order lunch and were chatting away in English almost oblivious to all of the people around us.   Then, we were interrupted by a question from the guy sitting by himself at the next table.  “Excuse me, where are from?”  We were both startled to hear the question in English.  Turns out the guy at the next table, Juan, had just moved to the city from a nearby province to teach English.  He asked if he could wander with us for the rest of the afternoon in order to practice his English and in exchange we could also practice our Spanish.   What a great plan, because as a trained teacher his Spanish “lesson” was pretty amazing.

Over the course of the next 5 hours we wandered over to a nature preserve next to the water and back through the boat museums and along the pier again.  Eventually we had ice cream before heading back home for the night.  It was a pretty long day, and we were walking for the majority of it.   Needless to say, my bed felt pretty good that night! 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1