Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hasta Luego Argentina

I'm finally back in my room and in the midst of unpacking and cleaning my room. One last blog is in order though, so here we go...

The last couple weeks went by way too quickly, just like I knew it would. For the most part I did a lot of exploring of the center. Some highlights: robbing incident in La Boca (more of a lowpoint, but an interesting memory nonetheless), street fairs & markets, rugby game, good-bye lunch at San Andres, and ecological reserve. Made dinner for my family Friday night and they absolutely loved it! I went shopping for ingredients in the small, two-blocks of Chinatown in Blegrano. After dinner went out with Flor to a really swanky apartment in Palermo. Got to chat it up with a group of young Argentines one last time and just enjoy how nice everyone is. Colleen, Mark, and Marie were even able to meet up with me there and we went out dancing at a busy boliche until 6am in the morning. I had so much fun during that 'last' night out but was a little sad too. With only two days left, I knew it would be the only time I'd see all the people I met.

Eventually you learn to accept it though. When you travel, you meet and make connections with a great deal of people, but because you are traveling it's very difficult to keep in contact. You take events and encounters for what it is and nothing more because it's somewhat disconnected to your real life- your life back home. It's all kind of surreal and becomes just a memory.

Well, during this trip I stepped beyond that; towards the end things felt permanent, not temporary. I felt so comfortable with my life in Argentina, I feel as though I could definitely move back there to live if I wanted. This is largely due to my amazing and wonderful family. During the six weeks I lived in that house, I became part of the family and they made it home to me. The day I left we had a big American breakfast with pancakes and scrambled eggs, followed by a farewell asado in the afternoon. Eventually it came time to go to Clarke's house for a ride to the airport and Flor, Maria, Cuki, Remy, and Raquel all came out to see me off. Hugging each of them good-bye was strange because I still didn't really feel like I was saying good-bye. We were all smiles and joking around like normal. Maybe because I know that I'll see them again in the future? I sure hope so. I was hit with a pang of sadness on the car ride to the airport though as all the memories of the past six weeks started playing in my head. It was a really exceptional trip and I'm so glad I went.

So this is until later Argentina. I'm going to miss the kiss on the cheek with every greeting, the long lazy meal times, milenasas, media lunas, alfajores, dulce de leche, empenadas, sharing mate while sitting and talking, coffee after every meal, walking along those sidewalks in my neighborhood, the dirty train, Retiro train station, playing Rumy with Chichi, cooking and coloring with Flor just to be tranquilo, sitting in the kitchen and listening to Marina talk about Peru, laughing and joking around with Maria, having Bruno greet me at the door everytime I come home, standing in front of the fireplace for warmth as the family talks politics, greeting the guard with a 'Buen dia' everyday to class, hearing boludo/a every other word, taking a remis around and chatting with the driver, attempts at grabbing a cab in al centro, spending hours in really old and elegant cafes, asados outside and in the countryside- even in the winter, how silent and peaceful the house could be, all that is associated with No-No and Cordoba, listening to Bob Marley almost every other day, the crazy and fast driving, and all the people I met during my time there. And I'm definitely going to miss hearing Castellano every day.

Friday, July 18, 2008

No No

That's the name of the small town I traveled to in Cordoba last week with Maria and her two cousins Maria (Cuki) and Raquel. They told me it was named that because there were two distinct mountains that looked like breasts and so No No was born. I'm not sure if they were pulling my leg or not... We took a bus there Thursday night and arrived Friday morning. It was about an 11 hour bus ride but we slept most of the way. Stayed there Friday - Sunday and got back Monday morning in time for class.

I believe that Cordoba was the highlight of my trip. The land was beautiful and took my breath away. Imagine a place where at night there's no artificial lighting except for a small house about a mile away, where you can appreciate how bright the moon actually shines, and the sky is so vast above you that you feel like the stars form a web over you. During the day it was hot and for the most part we lazed around in the sun, barbecuing, and just talking. It was so relaxing. We also walked to a nearby river, went out dancing at a deserted club in a nearby town, and I got to ride a horse again! There's not much more to say about the trip except I hold it close to heart. I had the chance to bond with Maria, Cuki, and Raquel and be surrounded by nature at its best for three days. Oh I did have the best asado during my whole trip there as well.

It's pretty crazy that I only have about a week left here in Argentina. I leave next Sunday, the 27th. I'm really excited to be going home because I miss everyone and would like to enjoy summer in Seattle, but at the same time I know I'll miss it here in Buenos Aires. I love my family here dearly and am sure that I'll be back some day to visit. I told Maria that if she ever wants to come to the States, she has a place in Seattle... And then she came to me with this idea: she wants to study cinema at a university there and could do a homestay at my house. Of course I was excited and told her yes on the spot, with your permission of course Mom & Dad. I think she's pretty serious and plans on looking into it to see if can work out. Maybe just during one summer? We'll see...

Last night a bunch of us went to this restaurant where every Thursday night it turns into sort of a Jazz club. Clarke's been playing there the past couple weeks with the band. It was completely filled with old people just talking, laughing, and enjoying the music. It was one of my favorite nights in Buenos Aires because we got to witness and participate in something that was really part of the culture. Argentines love to get together any chance they get to chat and just enjoy each other's company. I love it. Another example: I went with ChiChi to her yoga class last Monday at this really swanky country club-like place. Before it class started, it felt more like a little get together/fiesta because everyone was just chatting like old friends. I had the urge to laugh during the work out a few times because it seemed so silly when I thought to myself how I was doing yoga with my host mom and about 40 other middle-aged Argentines. But then I got somewhat depressed because all I thought for the rest of the hour was how unflexible I have become...Sigh, so sad. I know when I get back I'll pay for it in Vovinam.

Some other highlights these past couple weeks: visited the Recoleta Cemetary where a bunch of famous people are buried. Except this cemetary is special because there are monuments, some with really great architecture, as opposed to head stones. The place looks more like a small town than a grave yard. Went to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA museum) today. A lot of modern art, some very interesting and others I didn't really care for much.

I may or may not write one last blog before I leave. Oh and check out what's been happening here in Buenos Aires: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/17/world/americas/17argentina.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
Miss you all and see you in a week or two!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Uruguay Edition

Hoy fue lindo. Cuando salía a casa, el sol estaba levantando y el aire estaba fresco y crespo. El cielo estaba azul y naranja- los colores brillante que indican el día va a estar un día bien. Mientras estaba caminando, podría ver mi aliento como un soplo de humo. Pero, desemejante de soplo del cigarillo, estaba respirando oportunidad y optimismo. Había alguna niebla que agrega un sentido de nostalgia. Caminé abajo la colina y podría he estado en escene apertura de una película. Acercé las pistas del Trén de la Costa y delante todos estaron siluetas. Estaba muy contenta.

Today was beautiful outside. It felt like an Autumn day back in Seattle with clear skies and cool crisp air. So much I need to update on.

Our ‘field trip’ last week was to the countryside, al campo. The estimated hour bus ride ended up taking more than three because there was fog and some roads closed down. We eventually arrived though and were treated to an asado. Basically we were fed five different types of meats and sausage while we watched some traditional dancing and listened to the accompanying music. Despite the fact it was very touristy, it was still fun. At the end they told us we all had to get up and dance so our table valiantly obliged. Definitely goofy because everyone was jumping up and down as opposed to dancing, but we had some good laughs. Oh, and the guy performer invited me to dance as part of the show and that was embarrassing/funny. Supposedly he looks like Tom Cruise. Hahaha, anyway he did some crazy footwork and stomping with the folkloric music. Watched the gauchos play some horse games and even got to ride one. Fun stuff.

Did you watch fireworks on the 4th? I was a bit sad to be missing out on the bbqs and celebrations, but I’ve got to admit our trip to Uruguay was pretty sweet. We celebrated this past Independence Day by sailing across the Rio de la Plata to a little town called Colonia del Sacramento. And it really was little; anywhere you needed to go you could walk to. There were a lot of mopeds though and people there carry around thermos of hot water and their maté like people in the States carry around Starbucks. We visited a little church, a lighthouse, a bookstore, and watched the Negotiator at our hostel. Went out to dinner at a local restaurant where I shared a famous Uruguayan dish with Nate, which basically was a steak topped with a mountain of cheese, bacon, and an egg, served with a load of french fries. Hello cholesterol. Oh! I also had chocolate caliente earlier in the day with Colleen and it was sooo delicious: solid chocolate dropped in hot milk so that it melts while you drink it. You have to try it. We ended the night playing card games and mafia.

I feel as though a good portion of my entries are about food…oh well. I actually plan to devote one whole entry on food later. Hahaha

On Saturday, the weather gods gave us a perfect day while Colonia graced us with a beautiful beach. We stayed there for hours after a long lazy lunch just soaking up the sun and playing in the water and sand. Whenever I seek tranquility, I will think of that beach. Finished right with a visit to the heladoría for ice cream followed by watching the sunset.

So there is a saying here in Argentina: matar el tiempo, or literally: to kill the time. Contradicts our saying of time is money, no? I already touched on it earlier and will probably expand on this point later but I’ve already written so much. I’m headed to Cordoba this weekend with my host sister and her cousin, both named Maria. I’m so excited, they have horses we can ride and we’ll be surrounded by mountains. Cordoba is located to the West of Buenos Aires and promises to deliver on natural beauty. You’ll definitely see some pictures! Until then my friends, make sure to wear your sunscreen and drink tons of water. Oh, and please eat tons of what I can’t really here: mainly good asian food, peanut butter, watermelon, peaches, strawberries, broccoli, asparagus, a GOOD salad, etc… :)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Check It

Pics are up:


Enjoy! Blog update coming soon...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

¡Que Bueno!

Hola amigos. Hoy es dia siete en Argentina para mi y oficialmente he estado aqui para una semana ahora. Voy a celebrar con tratando escribir esta entrada en español- bueno, parte de la entrada. Lo siento, pero no se como usar el keyboard y obteno tilas (accentos). Con esperanza, van a comprender todavia. Voy a admitar, estoy usando un diccionario para algunas palabras, pero muy poco. Hasta ahora, estoy habiendo un tiempo fantastico aqui. Creo que mi espanol es mejor y viviendo con una familia me permiti a saber la cultura de Argentina y Buenos Aires. Aunque todavia necesito mejorar y mas rapido, estoy gozando mi tiempo aqui y viviendo la vida de Argentina.

Alright, the above is probably riddled with errors, but hopefully those who know spanish can still understand. Now in English...
I've been here a week now and I feel pretty adjusted to the Argentinian lifestyle. Especially after the stressful and fast-paced spring quarter I left behind, my days here are a nice change. I have the chance to really enjoy where I'm at and the people I'm around without worrying about some deadline, responsiblity, or how to be more efficient with my time. Sure, it's basically summer break for me, but I think it has to do with this lifestyle too. For example, we sit down to eat for every meal (except breakfast sometimes because I have to get to class) and just talk. I'm pretty used to eating on the go- lunch on the bus from Harborview to class- but here we set the table for lunch, tea, and dinner. They basically have four meals here: for tea there is coffee and tea with small snacks and then dinner really late around 9pm.

I love the kitchen, mostly because the maid Marina is in there most of the time. She's from Peru and one of the first persons I felt welcomed by when I arrived. She's this wonderfully cheery, petite woman who has an enourmous amount of patience with me. I didn't see her these past few days because I've been at school when she comes, but today when I got the chance to talk with her again I realized how much my comprehension has improved. The first couple times talking with her, I was completely lost and got by with hand gestures. But today I definitely understood her. It's nice to get some reassurance that I'm improving, especially when a lot of conversations make me doubt myself. Anyway, she and I share bits and pieces of our lives with each other and she is showing me how to cook some delicious Argentinian dishes. I'm definitely bringing some recipes home like you asked Mom! Mmmmm....

Tomorrow we're headed for the countryside to see another part of Buenos Aires. I think we'll get to ride horses, so I'll definitely let you know how that goes. Last night some of us ventured out to San Isidro and attended a tango class. Yep, you read that right. It was absolutely fantastic as we stumbled our ways through steps and tried to dance as smoothly as possible. The setting was perfect and exactly what you imagine a night of learning the tango in Argentina would be like. It was upstairs in a sort of studio/villa like area, small but cozy, with a boombox playing music on a chair in the corner. Because we came with about 8 people, the class was too big for the space inside. So we split into two groups: beginners (us) and advance, and switched back and forth dancing outside where lanterns were strung up and the stars shined above. Alright, I just had to add the stars for effect, but really it was quite the perfect atmosphere and tons of fun.
I was talking with Chichi earlier and she started telling me about a house Diego has in Cadoba in the countryside where there are beautiful views of the mountains. It sounds really nice and she asked said if I want to go with Marie, we can work something out. I'm excited if we can spend a weekend there, I really would like to see other parts of the country. Ok, there's so much more I want to write about, but I should be going to sleep. I guess it'll just have to wait until next time. The pictures below are from a boat ride we took yesterday on the Rio de la Plata, where a bunch of little islands have formed and have become 'get-aways' from the city center. It was a nice ride, but I think it'd be sweet if we could kayak/canoe like a bunch of people were doing. Bueno, ¡buenas noches mis amigos!
Casa de Domingo F. Sarmiento turned into a museum/'preserved' in glass on one of the islands

Marie and I on the boat

Have to give one picture of a view from the top Oh, and can I just say how much I love this dog?! His name is Bruno- mi amor!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Just wanted to share a cool picture from the plane ride. I'll post most on picasa: http://picasaweb.google.com/V.Tiffany/BuenosAires

We didn't do much during the first day of class, it really begins tomorrow. Today was all introductions and a tour of the campus- which is small but really pretty. I finally saw the rest of the group for the first time and I think we definitely took advantage of speaking freely in English. Well there's not much else to say about today except that we all had a really long lunch on the water.

Yesterday I went to an asado (bbq) with Maria. We sat outside and it was sooo cold but the food was good and it was interesting to see another side of Buenos Aires. We went to her cousin's house who lives more in the country side where people basically own small estates. There was a pool, tennis court, and separate house for their grandpa but it was all very, very old- I can just imagine how grand it must have been in the past. Got to talk with tons of new people and even held my own for a while.

The day before was pretty lazy and we just stayed around the house most of the day. Spent more time with Maria and met some of her friends. Friday we went to a cousin's confirmation where the entire cathedral was packed. It was beautiful inside and the singing was lovely. Afterwards we went to their house to celebrate and I met a bunch of the family. They have tons of girls in this family and all around the same age. The conversation was silly a lot of the time and they just cracked me up.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And so it begins...

I've made it safe and sound to my host family. The trip took about 22 hours total, 15 in the air and the remaining due to layovers and delays. Still have a bit of a cough, but hopefully that will go away within the next few days...

It's raining here today, but I guess it's the first time in a while. I was told the farmers have been praying for it- reminds me of Seattle actually. The weather is very similar to what I just left behind; at least I have that bit of familiarity. As most of you know my spanish has plenty of room to improve and I have been struggling to communicate the moment I stepped off the plane. I knew this was going to be hard, especially at the beginning. Already I have already experienced moments of despair in trying to understand and be understood, but I guess the only way to go from here is up.

On the flight from Houston to Buenos Aires I sat next to an old woman returning home from visiting her family in the states. We talked for a while (yes, in English) and I asked her what Buenos Aires is like, her immediate response was: "It's dirty- it is a dirty city". I thought she would follow with: "but still beautiful" and instead, she told me "but everybody loves the city where they come from." Now I'm sitting here wondering what my impression of Buenos Aires and Argentina will be. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, no?

The house is really cute and I have a nice room. Chichi has been so patient with me as we try to communicate. I met a couple of her friends who came over for lunch and it was really fun to laugh over my attempts at Spanish and theirs at English. It's only my first day here and I've been fed so much: gnocchi, empenadas, and this sweet caramel-like treat called dulce de leche. My host sister has already told me to reserve Sunday for a barbecue with her friends where I will eat some of Argentina's infamous asados.

Well, I'm looking forward to get out and about tomorrow. Plan on going to see la universidad and buy a sim card for my phone, maybe pick up a few books. Promise to keep this updated and upload pictures too. Buenas noches mis amigos.