Monday, October 5, 2009

Spring Has Arrived!

Yes, two weeks ago marked the beginning of spring and it seems we will finally have some consistently warm weather. Spring also means more of my favorite thing in Buenos Aires: loros. My first day here in the city, while walking with my host mom to the subway I saw a bright green parrot fly by and exclaimed 'Oh my goodness! We only have those in zoos at home!' Ana looked at me like I was nuts and simply said, that's a loro. Since that day I've taken it upon myself to find as many beautiful loros as possible. They occasionally hang out in packs of pigeons on sidewalks, but I'd only catch one every few weeks. When I moved into my apartment, I discovered they live in packs in some of the giant palm trees in Parque de las Heras, which is across the street from me. Finally with the warm weather, the loros have been hanging out in groups on the ground, thus distracting me on the way to the bus stop and making me late for school. (I swear there is a loro hiding in that photo).

The past few weekends have been spent in the city and last week I went to my first Argentinian soccer (futbol) game. The weather was rainy and cold, but the crazy soccer fans still did not disappoint. The whole stadium was a sea of red for the River Plate fans, with only a small blue section for the La Plata fans. Everyone sang songs and chanted the whole game, and when either team scored the fans erupted with insults and rude gestures. We all laughed when the game ended and our guide told us we had to stay put for twenty minutes. The home stadium lets the opposing fans out first so that they can get far enough away from the River fans to not get hurt. Talk about some intense fans!

This Saturday I went on a graffiti tour. A guide took us through different neighborhoods and showed us some of the city's most impressive works of art. Graffiti is technically illegal here, but its not policed and several well known and talented artists have emerged. After the financial crash of 2001, street art became a way for artists to try to cheer the public up. Even though the economy has gotten better, the artists have stuck around. Some people even pay the artists to use their home or building as a canvas. Imagine that in Boston!

One of my favorites was a guy who went around the city painting pigs with medical masks all over the city in response to the swine flu panic.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy Student's Day!

One of the first things I learned in Argentina is that they take little holidays, like Friendship Day and Children's Day very seriously. Because of this, I had no class today due to Student's Day! I think I will continue celebrating all of these days in the US when I get home.

Because of the long weekend, a bunch of us from Di Tella decided to go somewhere, and we decided on Colonia, Uruguay. Colonia used to belong to Brazil and much of its colonial heritage has been preserved (hence the name!).Its only a one hour ferry from the city so we booked tickets there and back for Sunday. When we got to the ferry in the morning, like all things in Argentina, there were lots of lines, different stations, forms, and confusion. We were there early, but we were all running down the dock to get the boat in time.

In an hour we were in Uruguay with a whole day ahead of us and nothing planned. We began to wander towards what we thought would be the downtown area and started walking by beautiful, bright, colonial houses. The streets were lined with trees and there were lots of old cars, including lots of VW bugs. We got lunch at a cafe and then divided into two groups; one headed to the beach and the other rented mopeds which were the popular method of travel in Colonia. I headed to the beach and relaxed as some sort of dune-sledding contest went on behind us. It was a very peaceful afternoon.

The best part of the day was the sunset over the water, it may have been the most beautiful I have ever seen. Then the stars came out and I realized that they look different down in this hemisphere!

Afuera de la ciudad

Things have been a bit busier lately now that classes are in full swing, but I've been managing to spend at least one day out of the city every weekend. I do love Buenos Aires, but its nice to go somewhere without millions of cars and where you can see the stars at night.

< View from my bedroom window

A few weeks back I took a trip to an 'estancia' with the BC kids. I guess you would call it a ranch in English, with horses, llamas, and carriage rides. It was close to the city, and still in the Buenos Aires province, (Like New York, Buenos Aires is the name of the city and state). First we rode horses around with a 'gaucho' as our guide. More so in the past, but even today, gauchos are the cowboys/farmers that ride around and tend to their fields in Argentina. We then ate a traditional Argentine asado, which is like a barbecue, and watched some folk dancers perform. Of course then the performers wanted everyone to dance, and lots of embarrassing pictures of us trying to imitate the style were taken. I spent some time with the llamas after that and the day ended with 'gaucho games' which involved gauchos on horseback racing to grab tiny rings.

The weekend after that was another BC trip, this time to Mar del Plata, a city on the beach about 5 hours south of the city. Overall it was a good trip, but being that it is still winter here, most everything was closed and it was a bit too chilly and rainy for much beach time. On the bright side, everything is much cheaper in the off-season and I was told it is much too crowded in the summer. We spent one day at the aquarium which was great and mostly outdoors. I even got to pet a penguin!! Another day was spent at a different estancia on a lake and we rode horses around the whole area, it was beautiful. My horse had a bit of an attitude and refused to move for a while, but luckily the guide was able to coax him into moving eventually. He said that my horse, (ironically named 'Gato,' or cat) did this often so it wasn't my fault.

The city itself was also cute. We toured around it and saw that there was a chain of cafes called "Boston Bakery," go figure. We also saw the groups of 'lobos,' which means 'sea wolf' and I'm guessing they were sea lions. They were all HUGE and and seemed to sleep in giant piles on the shore all day. Unfortunately they smelled horrible so our viewing time was kept to a minimum. Most importantly there was yet another Kenny bar next to our hostel, the third I've found in Argentina!

This weekend we went to Colonia, Uruguay, but that's a whole different country so it gets its own post!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nos vamos a Bariloche

Our first excursion outside Buenos Aires was to Bariloche, a small city surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Bariloche lies right along the border with Chile and was about 24 hours away by bus. It was recommended as one of the best places to visit in Argentina and a few of us wanted to ski. I didn't know much about it and haven't skied in years, but when else would I get to see the Andes?

Although the 24 hour busride was a bit daunting at first, (and it ended up taking 26 hours!) it actually wasn't too bad and we got to see what the rest of Argentina looked like. There were nine of us in total, four from BC and five others from our language course. We had a good laugh over the strange bootleg films the bus played and the really, really questionable food. It took us a while to get outside Buenos Aires as the city really is huge, but then there wasn't a whole lot of civilization to see. Landwise, Argentina is a very large country, but almost half its population lives in Buenos Aires. We drove by little towns here and there but mostly there were stretches of farms with the occasional gaucho on his horse. It was a strange feeling to wake up in the night on a dark bus with absolutely nothing outside.

Lucky for us, when we woke up in the morning, we were just entering the Patagonia region. No glaciers where we were, but lots of lakes and rock formations. Soon the Andes mountains appeared in the distance thus beginning the slow, winding trek through the mountains. Eventually, we made it to Bariloche. To me, it looked like a cross between a city and a ski village, with a few gingerbread-like cottages thrown in. We arrived at our hostel which turned out to be really nice, it was set on a hill overlooking the town, lake, and mountains.

Over the next few days we took a ferry through the lakes, saw some famous forests, hiked up an inactive volcano, and explored the town center. On the last day we took a chairlift to the top of a mountain and could see an entire rainbow stretched over the surrounding lakes. The town was also very cute and touristy. Bariloche is apparently the Chocolate capital of South America, and the hot cocoa did not disappoint. The shops sold lots of gnomes, which I guess Bariloche is known for and has to do with all of the forests around. We also saw many people walking around selling photo opportunities with St. Bernards. I didn't get a photo, but the puppies were very, very cute.

Also important, Bariloche was the location of the second of three "Kenny" Irish pubs I've found so far in Argentina. I'd been to the Kilkenny pub in Buenos Aires, but Bariloche then had the Wilkenny bar. In both bars the service was unpleasant and drinks overpriced, all a part of the Kenny charm!

Monday, September 7, 2009


Hello from the Southern Hemisphere!!

I can't believe I have officially been in Argentina for two months already! I decided it was time to fight the inconsistent internet access and my general lack of computer skills and finally start a blog, so here goes.

Right now I am living in the neighborhood Palermo in an apartment I share with an Argentinian woman named Gloria. The location is perfect, with a bunch of my friends only a few blocks away and easy Subte (subway) and colectivo (bus) access. Across the street from me is the Park of Las Heras which is always filled with people playing soccer, walking their dogs, or drinking "mate" (more on that later). Living with Gloria has been great because I get to practice my Spanish a lot and she has lots of good advice for making my way around the city.

My first month here was a bit all over the place with lots of changes to my plans due to Swine Flu. When I first arrived, the flu was a serious deal with some people walking around with face masks, but now it is almost forgotten as winter is nearly over. Lucky for me, I managed to have three weeks without classes due to schedule changes. I also still got to attend my intensive Spanish course for two weeks. The course itself wasn't particularly helpful, but it was a great way to make friends with all the other exchange students, most of whom are not from the states. There's about 100 of us at my university, Di Tella, and 50 took the course. We have people from Holland, France, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Poland, Israel, Morocco, New Zealand, Austria, Canada, Brazil, Italy, and more that I have forgotten. Needless to say we all find lots to talk about!

Now I am three weeks into my regular semester and classes have been better than expected. I have one class on 20th century Argentine literature that is pretty interesting because my professor is a complete nut. He really likes exchange students which is great because some professors at my school are not welcoming to non-native Spanish speakers as I learned quickly while shopping around for courses. Another class is on Peronism, the political philosophy started by Juan Peron in the 1940's that has carried on until today. Its a very controversial topic in Argentina and the class is interesting enough that I am willing to get up at 6:30AM to attend! My other class is on the history and culture of Argentina and is taught at a different University through Boston College, and my last class is at Di Tella and called Art and Culture of Modernity. This last class flies a bit over my head as the professor does not speak Spanish as clearly as my other professors. I also am having trouble deciphering the syllabus, but I overheard some Argentine students having trouble as well so I do not feel so bad! Overall I seem to be holding my own with my classes in Spanish, I may not be singing the same tune come exam time....

Well, that is my Argentina overview for now. I will try to go back and write a bit later on my homestay, trip to the Andes, and other sightseeing trips. There is lots to say about the crazy Argentine schedule (Dinner at midnight!?), traditional food, and history of the country. Thanks to everyone who has been supporting me on my trip with well wishes and emails, I miss you all!

Much Love,

(Argentine translation: "Katy")