Monthly Archives: August 2009

School (Or Lack Thereof)

So, I fibbed about today being the first day of school. I was supposed to have class at 9 AM this morning, but I swapped out my Spanish grammar class for a conversation class. Now, I only have classes on Tuesday and Thursday.

lol

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Lluvia!

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Deep Thought

School starts tomorrow.

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Small World

friz mapThe map above shows the path I took yesterday, on bike, from my apartment (A) to a pickup Ultimate game (B). It should help give a sense of scale to the following comments.

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On Saturday, I made my first ~10 mile round trip to the weekly Bs As Ultimate frisbee pickup game. As I mentioned yesterday, Ultimate — and even discs themselves — are not particularly well known here. It is highly unusual that, in a city (and suburbs) of almost 13 million people, there is only one pickup game each week. There are far more than I can count in NYC.

The game was well attended, however, by a good mix of ex-pats, locals, students, and other South Americans living in the city. Everyone was very friendly – I met one of the main organizers who got me all set up to play with Disco Sur, Bs As’ oldest team. A spring league starts next weekend – I got here at just the right time.

In yet another sign of the small, small world that we live in, I met two people from Albuquerque at the game; we chatted it up about craving green chile and breakfast burritos. Unprompted, one even quoted Monroe’s: “a day without chile is like a day without sunshine,” he said. I laughed. (It’s true).monroesname2

I had my first choripán – chorizo sandwich – with a bunch of the players after the game. Nom nom nom.

IMG_0378Although the friz was fun, I think the most enjoyable part of the day was the trip itself. I was totally unprepared for the awesome new areas I came across. On my relatively short ride, I saw a huge park; an equestrian training center complete with a jump course; a lake filled with boaters and lined with fishermen; literally dozens of fútbol matches; and the River Plate stadium. River Plate is one of the hugely popular club fútbol teams in the city – they have a deep rivalry with Boca Juniors, the most popular team in the city. The passion and intensity of the match-up prompted Coca-Cola to change its logo’s colors to black and white on Boca’s stadium (River plays in red and white) – one of the only such changes in the world.

But I digress. I realized while I was riding through the park that Buenos Aires just stomps all over New York in terms of park area. You can hardly go ten blocks without stumbling upon a big, grass-filled park. In NY, there are lots of little mini-parks or squares, but Bs As hosts big parks all over the city. Big enough for boating and fishing. Damn.IMG_0377

I find something very soothing about sitting in an urban park, looking out across the water, grass, and trees to see skyscrapers shooting sun into your eyes in the background. It is like a little oasis of forest in a cement desert. But, as opposed to many forests, which can be isolating, urban forests are usually pulsing with energy. You get the big city experience in the calm of nature.

IMG_0381And Buenos Aires delivers. Even on a short little bike ride, you’ll likely enjoy not only bustling barrios and shifting architectural styles, but also quiet parks and “green” zoning.

Have I really only been here a week?

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Exploration

IMG_0376After a painfully long week of being cooped up in our (admittedly lovely) academic building, I finally got the chance to check out the city yesterday. Most of the orientation days went like this: wake up, eat, go directly to school, do not pass go, do not collect $200, orientate, go directly to house, go out in the darkness, come home in the darkness, repeat. Anyway, Friday was a chance to finally get out during the day.

Most of the kids on the trip opted to goIMG_0371 to a gaucho ranch (for u$s 50 – in Bs As, they mark pesos with the $ sign, so u$s denotes American dollars) Friday, but I wasn’t down for dropping that kind of money on what turned out to consist of a short horseback ride, some gauchos showing off their skillz, and a lot of meat. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m down for una parilla completa (basically, they grill up a whole cow and serve it to you, blood sausage and all), but you can get all that food for much less than u$s 50. So I stayed in the city.

Good call. My friend Eli also stayed home, so we hit the town; he took his skateboard, I took my bike. Bike, you say? What bike do you speak of?

IMG_0383Although public transportation is mighty cheap (buses are about u$s 0.30 and the subway is less than that), it still adds up, and since I’m gonna be here a while, I thought it would be a good idea to see if getting a bike would be worth the money. Dammmmn. Totally worth it. I got a brand new bike, helmet, and lock for around u$s 175. (NY homies, jealous much?) It’s been great.

So we hit the town. Now, there are no lanes here. Combine that fact with the innumerable colectivos and taxis and you have a recipe for exciting, dangerous bike riding. (There are also very few bike lanes. On our trip, we finally came across one and it was so filled with cars we had to get off the street and walk on the sidewalk. lol city.)

IMG_0367Anyway, we kicked it off with some bife de lomo – a medallion cut from the back of the cow. Now keep in mind, this was lunch food at a nice, but inexpensive restaurant. It was delicious – they used no seasoning (except probably salt) and it had a more rich set of flavors than any American steak that I’ve had. It wasn’t too tender – no cutting it with a spoon – and I know I can do much better, but, damn, good start. The steak was less than u$s 10.

Then we just started riding all around – we found some sweet graffiti and really neat little parks before we came across a big park with a lake in the middle. Eli jumped into a nearby skate park and we threw a frisbee around a bit. Porteños are very interested in the frisbee – a number of people stopped and watched us throw for 5 or 10 minutes. One guy even asked what it was made of. Needless to say, here they use a fútbol not a disco.

IMG_0373Coming back to campus was probably the highlight of the trip. We hauled ass down a big avenue as colectivos cut us off and we wedged between cars. We saw a bunch of different barrios that we hadn’t seen before. Exhilarating.

But we barely made a dent. We rode for miles but only covered a tiny bit of the city. Lots more exploring remains.

Next: boating, horses, and, perhaps surprisingly, Ultimate.

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Mi Casa

IMG_0340So here’s an obligatory quick post about my living situation. I’m living with my host mother, Marta (who has been wonderful so far) and another student from my program, Danielle. Right now, I’m serving as a language conduit between the two, since Marta speaks almost no English and Danielle is a relatively new Spanish speaker. It’s good for me to translate – I listen closely and am able to work on my phrasing in Spanish. We are all getting along quite well.

My room is great – huge (perhaps the size of my spot in NY, which I shared with my roommate), well-lit, and comfortable. I have two big glass doors that open out to a balcony facing the jardín botánico. (For those of you familiar with the city, I live right on Ave. Santa Fe). I love these doors at all times except 8 AM, when the sun pierces the slightly too ethereal curtains. But it’s a minor concern.IMG_0346

My housing contract includes breakfasts and dinners every night except Saturday – the food has been delicious so far. I wake every morning to a set table – tostadas (mini toasts) with butter and marmalade, fruit, coffee, and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. Dinners have included spinach ravioli & ham in a cream sauce and fish with sweet potatoes and a carrot salad. I’m doing alright.

More on food later.

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Orientation Week

IMG_0353First impression of Buenos Aires: it’s a lot like New York. More nuanced impression: no, it’s not.

Since it’s quite difficult to be here without comparing the two cities, I’m quickly discovering their many differences. Aside from being large, heterogeneous, and walkable urban, I don’t find them very similar at all. I’ve only been in town for three days, so I really don’t know what I’m talking about, but a few things have already stuck out.

Most notably,  there is an absolute dearth of street food vendors and I can’t remember seeing a single person eating food while walking. (You do see the occasional cup of coffee). IMG_0352The food culture is just profoundly different here – everyone sits down for long, luxurious dinners and enjoys the social aspects of eating with others. I have yet to attend one of the asados – often an all day affair where a parillero cooks epic amounts of beef for a large crowd. It’s a hallowed tradition in Argentina; everyone applauds the chef when he presents the meat.

The slow meal is not confined just to the asados. Porteños (the people of Buenos Aires – literally, of the port) take their time, particularly at dinner.IMG_0364

And dinner here is late. My lovely host mother, Marta (who speaks almost no english), prepares dinner for around 9 PM. On weekends, it’s common not to eat until 10 or 11, since the bars and clubs don’t get busy until 2 AM. New York never sleeps? No, Bs As never sleeps. Last night, I went to a pool/ping-pong/archery bar. It was packed (on a Tuesday!) until they closed at around 3 AM.

On the school side of things, we took a nice bus/walking tour to some different areas including La Boca, La Plaza de Mayo, and La Recoleta cemetary, where Eva Peron is buried. There were stray cats all over the place, enabled by little piles of cat food.

IMG_0359We’ve also been hit with the requisite mind-numbing safety presentations. However, today we had a strangely awesome health and wellness powerpoint, which described how we could catch dengue fever which could turn into dengue hemorrhagic fever which could cause us to bleed out like ebola. Good times!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to Friday when I can finally get a bike, explore the city on my own, and get hyped for the weekend.

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