I finally bought a backpack today. A real backpack. The kind you cram a bunch of stuff in before you set out for adventure. So after I finish up this final post I’m going to head home to cram the pack, say goodbye to a few friends before heading to the airport and beginning the next leg of the adventure.
Leaving Buenos Aires and all the friends I’ve made here is going to be tough. I really am going to miss all the cultural quirks, the architecture, the empanadas, and the buenas ondas in general. I was thinking of who I needed to say goodbye to here when I realized that over the last 5 months I managed to be a part of my own little community here... from the people I buy groceries from, to the wait staff at the cafe in my neighborhood where I studied between classes to Andri (the kiosk attendant on the corner who I chat with before going out). I’m going to miss these people! ...continue reading "Chau, Mi Amor"
This past weekend in Buenos Aires there was a heat wave, a chemical explosion in the Port that left yellow toxic cloud over the city center, and torrential downpours that overtook cars only a few blocks from where I am staying. I know what your thinking (December 21st!) but wait... I luckily escaped to the countryside during most of this madness, but it gave me some time to look back on my experience here and realize that the chaos hasn't really subsided, or even taken a break.
The yellow toxic cloud incident was particularly interesting and was really the talk of the town for quite a while. Some pesticide chemicals (fun fact: this part of South America is ideal for agriculture, and Argentina's main crop is soy to meet the increasing demand in China) were making their way from Singapore to Paraguay and stopped here in Buenos Aires before completing the last leg of their journey. That last leg never happened because the 17 tons of pesticide chemicals either reacted poorly to the excessive heat in this city or reacted to contact with water and then exploded. The explosion sent smoke and chemicals into the air above, right above downtown Buenos Aires. People who couldn't see the smoke or fires could smell that something was wrong from even further away. Government buildings and schools in the area were evacuated and worst of all the Boca Junior soccer practice was even postponed! And that's how you know something is seriously going wrong over here.
...continue reading "The Yellow Cloud by G.C. Sordoni"
Argentines are no strangers to holidays. There has been about 5 days off from school/work since I have been here, even yesterday for example. A lot of them are new. As in the government will declare a holiday and then everyone has the day off from work. Like a snow day! With a lot more wine and a lot less snow. It’s pretty great. It’s hard to get a clear idea of what they all celebrate. But no one is complaining. “Friends Day” is a personal favorite.
As the token American in certain circles of friends, people here asked me about Thanksgiving and I told them the old Pilgrim - Native American tale (leaving out the true parts, of course) and they got it right away. We take a day off to remind ourselves to be thankful for the things in our lives that we may take for granted, and as an excuse to get the family together and take a little time off. Because why not. Spending more time together as a family certainly isn’t something that needs to be explained to the people here. Many get together for lunch on Sundays with the entire extended family. ...continue reading "Another Holiday To Be Thankful For"
Part of the reason I chose to study abroad in Buenos Aires was because I knew the cultural customs would be a bit different than in the US. Because of the European influence, which seems to come up in just about every blog post, the Argentine customs are more similar to those of the Europeans (especially Italians and Spanish) than other South American customs. A common and more noticeable cultural trait, is that the Argentines are often more open and emotional than the average American. They can sometimes be blunt, and very few topics are off limits; they will gladly talk about politics, relationships, scandal, etc. I definitely respect their ability to be very forward and honest. ...continue reading "Cultural Variety"
As I have mentioned before on the blog, Argentines love to talk politics, and the political tension continues to grow as many disagree with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s policies (mainly economic and foreign). People in Buenos Aires frequently rally against the current populist government’s recent policies such as heavily restricted imports, and ban on the legal purchase of American Dollars in Argentina, that when coupled with a 15% tax on credit card purchases outside of Argentina makes traveling abroad extremely difficult for the average Argentine. ...continue reading "Argentina Bring Younger Folks Into the Discussion"
Sometime ago I wandered into the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall because I wanted to see a movie in that great theater they have in the East Building. (they show interesting and free movies almost every day!) Although I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into when I sat down to see “Nostalgia for the Light”, it turned out to be fascinating. The documentary tells two stories in parallel, both set in Chile’s Atacama Desert. One is the story of archaeologists and astronomers who study in Atacama, which as the driest desert in the world, lends itself to fossil preservation and the clearest views of the stars in the world. Astronomers from all over put their names on a long list to eventually be able to visit some of the worlds highest observatories and largest telescopes.
...continue reading "The Atacama Desert, Northern Chile"
A few weeks ago my host brother, Lucas, invited me to take a peek at his record collection. Among the pile of 80’s gold, I found an LP that really stuck out. It was one I had never seen before, with a drawing of a wacky mustached character (pictured). The drawing was of an Argentine musician called Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), who I had never heard of. And the weirder thing was, that it was signed.
I gave Lucas the “what is this all about” look, to which he replied “no conoces a el!”. He put on some of Astor Piazzolla's tunes, and I was blown away. I had heard tango before, but not like this. Piazzolla was a classically trained composer and bandoneón tango player (the bandoneón is an accordion-like instrument). However, he broke away from the norm of Argentina at the time and fused the classical tango sounds with some elements of Jazz, and the result is beautiful.
...continue reading "Astor Piazzolla ; Where Tango Meets Jazz"
Pop quiz: What do DC, Buenos Aires, and Rome all have in common? They are all cities I have lived in that built obelisks out of stones and pride. These slender structures are one of the few surviving art forms that have remained ‘tres chic’ since egyptian times when somebody said:
‘Hey, why don’t we make a little pyramid and put it on top of a shaft.’
‘Because we can Sehkmet, that’s why.’ (historical fact)
The ‘Obelisco de Buenos Aires’ in Plaza de la República, is a source of national pride that was constructed in 1936 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first foundation on Buenos Aires. It was built in just 31 days, probably the quickest (only quick) construction of anything in Buenos Aires which probably has a lot to do with the fact that a German company was contracted to build it. The Washington monument took 36 years to complete and has had some structural difficulties lately, but it was started a lot earlier than the Argentine monument and is the biggest in the world (go ‘murica). ...continue reading "Obelisco de Buenos Aires"
Before coming to Buenos Aires, I had been doing the pescatarian thing for about a year. Not to save the world, or the animals, or anything noble else noble, but more-so just to try something new for myself that I ended up really enjoying (and partially because of the because of the mystery meat situation in the US & Monsanto). However, I feel like food is an essential element of any culture; the West Coast of the US, for example, is famous for the In-and-Out burger, whereas Buenos Aires is well known for having incredible meats. So in order to take in my full dosage of culture here I decided to start eating meat again. I also don’t like being picky, especially when traveling and/or living in someone elses home for 4 months. These days, I consider myself a “domestic pescatarian” and have been enjoying steaks and other awesome food down here. Here are some of my favorite cheap and quick places to snack in the city:
1) Chinatown Roadside Vendors
On my walk to school there are a few little restaurants facing the sidewalk. They've got all sorts of food on sticks (tofu, chicken, pork, beef, egg rolls, etc..) ready to be deep fried and served to you! An incredible snack always under 4 dollars.
...continue reading "3 Great Eats for Under $5"
Last week I took a trip down to the northeastern side of Patagonia to a little coastal town called Puerto Madryn. The town is famous for the whales and other marine life that populate the “Golfo Nuevo” to mate and give birth as the climate gets warmer around this time of year. After a 20 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires, my three friends and I dropped our bags off at the hostel and signed ourselves up for a tour of Península Valdés an ecological reserve that serves as the main attraction of the area. We spent all day driving around the arid Peninsula, which happens to look a lot “like the Australian outback, but with funky llama things instead of kangaroos,” according to one of my Aussie friends on the trip. We stopped at various beaches and were lucky enough to see the very first penguins of the season. Having never seen a penguin in their natural habitat before, it was awesome to be able to get up close to one of these goofy animals. One particular penguin was scratching his side with his webbed foot like a dog scratches his ear.
...continue reading "Patagonian Adventure Time Part I."