Tuesday, July 31, 2012

La Bomba de Tiempo


Often times, the most essential part to settling into a new environment is time. The past few days felt perpetual and yet in retrospect, flew by. It's exciting to recognize that I have made some progress, which includes the most basic tasks of remembering how to get home, or knowing the name of a street. There is a constant bombardment of vocabulary, and to be honest, I am as happy as a clam!
Typical Street in San Isidro
Beautiful would not be the first word to come to mind if you asked me to sum up my observations of the greater Buenos Aires area (I haven't even scratched the surface of the Paris of the Americas). However, I would consider it to be very lively and culturally engaging. I chose the word "cultural" because I feel like enjoying life is a top priority in Buenos Aires. They value this more than other places I have visited. Fun is quite spontaneous and random here...which is a change for a planner like myself.

Last night (Monday), I went to a percussion performance by a group called "La Bomba de Tiempo." It was a very enthusiastic group of musicians that is not a set group; that means different percussionists perform in this group every Monday. I would assume that each performance is unique, considering the fact that it's very challenging to mimick another entertainer exactly. It was a euphoric night because the music was unlike any show that I have experienced before. It was intriguing to observe this immense crowd bob their heads and move from side to side to the beat of the music.


Afterwards we found a club in Plaza Serrano to celebrate a fellow UdeSA student's birthday. The taxi driver informed us that Monday nights are the most quiet evenings in this city. I would not consider this Monday night to be "tranquilo" (calm) as the roads were bustling well past midnight. The celebration was a good time, although I had to ask myself if these people actually had to work in the morning? It was a night of what felt like eternal fun that didn't bring us back home until 5:30am.

Today was the first informal meeting at the Universidad de San Andrés (UdeSA). The experience of travelling to campus was stress-free and the walk from the bus stop to campus boasts some very nice properties. (The main photo at the top of this blog is one that I snapped while I was heading back from campus.) It was a nice afternoon of an informal meet-and-greet, along with a campus tour. I enjoyed being in the company of such a dynamic, diverse, and optimistic group of people. UdeSA has a quaint, picturesque campus that surprisingly (when you consider the size of the campus and number of students) offers the students a lot! Participation in "amateur" sports was strongly encouraged, by both the Foreign Studies Office and Silvia and Daniel (Argentine parents). I have been out of the water for quite sometime now (by choice), so I'm ready to jump in with both feet!

San Andrés Campus

After the meet-and-greet, most of us continued the fun at a local café. I have enjoyed chatting it up with my peers. The conversations that I have had with my Argentina family and fellow UdeSA peers thus far are what stick out to me as what will be a great memory. We have discussed a wide array of topics...nothing is off-limits. A time that this is extremely common occurs during and following mealtimes. Dinner was 2.5 hours today. Granted we ate and talked for the first hour, but then the conversation flowed past 11pm. This part following the meal is called "la sobremesa," where you simply relax after a delicious meal and chat. Here, much joy is taken in the simple things, such as the company of other people and que le pasa bien (have a good time).

Hasta entonces,
Matt

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mi Barrio: San Isidro

Every moment has been an opportunity to learn. At this point, I'm trying to absorb every piece of information possible, including Spanish vocabulary, familiarizing myself with the neighborhood, and getting to know my Argentine family. The past two days have been a clear example of the honeymoon phase - when you're in love with everything that surrounds you. And I'll be the first to admit that it's a great feeling! I have enjoyed playing grammar games in my head as I try to think en español and still observe my surroundings...in short, I'm a dork who loves study abroad. Now I'll get to the highlights of the past few days.

So I am located in a neighborhood (barrio) called San Isidro. I live with my Argentine family, which includes 4 other students that will also be attending the Universidad de San Andrés (UdeSA). It is a nice mix of personalities and we have been exploring San Isidro and Buenos Aires quite a bit. Silvia and Daniel (my Argentina parents) showed us around the neighborhood; we are located very close to el Río de la Plata, a very famous waterfront/region in Argentina. With a local market, several shops, a restored Cathedral, and a very rich history, the neighborhood is very nice, once you are comfortable nagivating through it. To be honest, I did not expect so much graffiti. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is unlike one I have experienced before...hence why I'm here to learn about the culture. Río de la Plata in the background

One aspect is the fact that they stay out super late at night. I met up with a few other exchange students from UdeSA in Palermo, a part of Buenos Aires. The bus system has so far been pretty unpredictable, but it brought us to where we wanted to go, so it did the job. Simply put, the evening was AWESOME! We sat in bar and became better acquainted. And we (the students that I live with) didn't get back till around 4:30am...It's typical for the Argentinians to return home at 6 or 7am...so perhaps I'm building up my endurance...

Today was fortunately a day of rest and food. After the final exchange student arrived this morning (my roommate, Will), Silvia, Daniel, and Sebas (Argentine brother) presented us with an asado...a traditional Argentina BBQ. Let me say...¡qué rico y delicioso! I think the photos speak for themselves.
The Grill
Mi Argentina Familia
The Main Course
Dessert (Catalán specialty)

Lastly, my fellow exchange students and I went to a rather immense mall, which in Argentina, they simply call it "el Shopping." It was a zoo, considering that there had to be half of the Buenos Aires population in this one shopping center. It was also surprising to see that items are not as cheap as one would assume, such as clothing. I've learned that inflation, due to a economic meltdown from 2002 has decreased the value of the Argentine peso. The hunt for cheaper clothing options continues. UniCenter Shopping

Overall, this time has been extremely enriching by meeting people from all over the world, being amazed by the smallest details of a place that I have never visited before, and being happy to be here. This upcoming week includes orientation prior to the start of the semester and some more exploring. So far, I am really enjoying the journey!

Saludos,
Matt

Friday, July 27, 2012

De Verano a Invierno en 1 Día

After an exhausting ~27 hours of travel (which felt like the longest day of my life), I have arrived to my host family in Argentina! Despite weather delays in NY and electrical repairs in Chile, the flights were very comfortable. - I felt like royalty with a personal monitor to watch whichever TV shows and/or movies I preferred and airplane food (breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner) that was surprisingly tasty.

Customs in Argentina was an interesting experience. As an American, I was charged a $160 "tasa de reciprocidad" (reciprocal fee) to pass through customs. I was informed this is done to citizens of the USA, Canada, and Australia because these are the fees that an Argentine citizen is charged (the same rate/amount) to attain a visa to be permitted to enter into these three countries. Fortunately for me, this reciprocal fee must only be paid once every ten years. Thus, for the next 10 years, I can enter Argentina without being charged the tasa de reciprocidad. :)

From the time I stepped onto Argentinian soil, my incoherent mind and I have managed to communicate in Spanish. Additionally, it is winter here! Yes...winter jacket, heating, the works! I didn't think it would be this chilly, but I digress. My driver was very informative as we drove to my new home. I was welcomed with smiles, hugs, and kisses and a lovely dinner with three courses (1. soup, 2. a meat and potato dish, and 3. fruit with dulce de leche for dessert). We enjoyed the Olympic opening ceremonies as we ate (I found it ironic to be watching the Summer Olympic Games during Winter). Lastly, I have settled into my new room, which I will be sharing with another student. It's basically our own apartment (large bedroom and a bathroom with a separate, outdoor entrance.)

I look forward to exploring more of my surroundings, but as I was ready for bed at 9am this morning, I hope to be a bit sharper after a solid night's sleep. I still feel like I need to get adjusted, but I'm LOVING IT so far!

Buenas noches,
Matt

Goals for this week: get adjusted to "vos" which is the Rio de la Plata (Argentine dialect of Spanish) version of "tú" (informal 'you') and their unique pronunciation of "y," "ll," and certain "j"s, which is more like a "csh."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

¡Casi en la Argentina!

Ready or not, here I come! To where you may ask?...this time I'm travelling south to the land of Evita....yes! ARGENTINA!

After working at a language camp for the past month in California, I have had an entire five days to reflect on the past few weeks, to greet friends and family, and to pack/prepare for this upcoming semester abroad just outside of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. I have an impressive supply of 2 Argentine pesos in my wallet (which equates to roughly 50¢ US), a suitcase stuffed more than a Thanksgiving turkey, and no idea what to expect.

An array of individuals have shared their different impressions of the Argentinians, and fortunately most of them are positive. I have heard they are just beautiful people that always dress their best. I have heard they are friendly, kind, and never sleep. Yet, while one may feel safe physically with them, your personal property (i.e. cell phones, wallets, etc.) is another story...I will only be able to share based on my experiences and what I observe. 

Today and Friday will be primarily spent finalizing any preparations and then travelling to Argentina. I leave out of New York with a 7-hour layover in Santiago, Chile. Who knows? Perhaps I'll get the chance to explore the Chilean capital a bit before I ultimately arrive in Argentina and meet my Argentinian (host) family in the evening. 

I'm very excited to be blessed with the opportunity to visit the Paris of the Americas (Buenos Aires) located in the country of wine, steak, and the tango! It is a thrilling time to wonder what these five months abroad hold in store for me, and fortunately I am not in an anxious/stressful frame of mind but rather a more optimistic, looking-forward-to-it kind. Thanks for coming along for the journey! :)

¡Saludos desde Nueva Jersey!
Matt