October 12, 2011

comemos chivito, tomamos fernet

Monday was a national feriado (celebrating el Día de la Raza, or Columbus Day), so Lidi and I made our way across the Río de la Plata to Montevideo.  It was a great weekend, even though things didn’t exactly start out smooth.

Because it was a long weekend and we like to leave things until the last minute, Buquebus was booked solid, so we had to resort to Seacat.  We didn’t think this would be a problem…until we boarded the ferry.

Thursday was incredibly windy and rainy, making it difficult to even get to the ferry terminal to begin with.  We finally made it there in one piece, checked our bags, went through immigration, and began making our way to the ferry.  We could not believe our eyes when we saw the ferry tiny boat.  The storm dominated the little Seacat.  Within the first five minutes after pulling away from the puerto, the boat began swaying from side to side, resulting in passengers, muy mareados.  One woman was passed out on the ground of the boat.  People were screaming and getting sick, all the while water was pouring in from the sides of the boat.  I saw my life flash before my eyes.  Luckily, it was an express boat, so we only had to deal with this locura for an hour.

Our bus from Colonia to Montevideo was just as eventful.  There was one loud borracho, who seemed as though he must be pregaming for a football game by the amount of cold ones he was tossing back.  We later found out that he had snuck past customs and was carrying drugs with him, so he was booted off the bus.  (C’mon dude, you need to be more stealth.)  While aduana was dealing with him, the woman in front of Lidi and I asked Lidi if she would put her luggage (aka a plastic garbage bag) under Lidi’s seat.  We thought it was a rather weird request, but Lidi told her to just put it under her own seat.  Two minutes later, aduana came back on the bus to ask this woman to open her plastic bag.  Sorpresa: she was smuggling drugs.  Good thing Lidi didn’t take the bag, otherwise we’d probably still be in Montevideo.  Ayyy.  We got to the hostel in Pocitos around 12am, rallied, and went to Tres Perros per the hostel’s recommendation.  One weird Uruguayan “custom” we observed: men oddly dominate the bars.  Some would say this would be a good thing, but it was just weird.  We would go as far to say there was a 1:4 girl to guy ratio.  Definitely not something we see every day in BA.

Friday we woke up to torrential downpours.  Not the weather for sightseeing, so unfortunately we spent the majority of the day at el shopping, changing money, grocery shopping, and basically seeking refuge from la lluvia.  We found a small Mexican joint for lunch, and by the time we were finished the rain had cleared up.  After dropping everything off at the hostel, we decided to walk down to the beach.  It was incredibly chilly and windy (a HUGE temperature change from last weekend in Córdoba!), but still beautiful.  We finished at a bar called Che, getting an early start on the evening.  On our way back to the hostel, we stopped at a chivitería for some comida típica.  So good.  Chivito is a lot like lomo, but better and más completo.  We went back to the hostel, fell into a deep food coma, and woke up and rallied to go to Asia de Cuba.  (Not very uruguayopero bueno.  They had 2x1 promociones de cerveza, so we weren’t going to complain!)  It was a lot of fun; great music, but we were missing our energía porteña.

Saturday was not very rainy, so we decided to explore Ciudad Vieja.  Just as we got of the colectivo we passed a California Burrito Co. (conveniently just as our resacas began to kick in…), so we just HAD to stop for lunch.  Claramente, we love Mexican food, especially in Uruguay.  We went to the Mercado del Puerto, where we went to Roldós and tried their infamous sparkling wine.  It was interesting, to say the least, and something that we had to do in Uruguay.  We then made our way to an artisan market in El Centro, while wandering through some barrios near the puerto.  It was the bicentenario in Uruguay, so there were lots of celebrations, performances, and desfiles in the street.  Pretty neat.

After our much needed siestas, we woke up to some talk downstairs of a possible asado that evening.  Instinctively, we sprinted to the market to pick up some bife y chori, and joined the rest of the porteños in the hostel for an asado.  We wound up going back to Asia de Cuba again that night, not as great as the night before but we still raged.

Sunday was another dreary, rainy day in Montevideo, so we slept in and laid low with the fellow porteños in the hostel.  I whipped up my genius salad creation for Lidi, which made everyone else laugh.  (¡La yanqui está haciendo algo para la latina!)  After a lot of laying around, Lidi and I went to the beach for a bit, to el shopping, then back to the hostel for another asado.  I really can’t get enough chori.  We decided to go to El Living for drinks with some of the other porteños from the hostel, where Lidi and I sipped on some delicious sangria.  There was this creepy old man in the hostel, an old surfer dude in his 50’s from Punta del Este, who has clearly smoked and drank too much for his own good.  On several occasions this weekend we caught him pulling a Peeping Tom into our private room.  He managed to follow us to El Living, where the bar owner literally threw him out (after seeing his insane level of creepiness).  When he was within twenty feet of us it was funny…any closer, and not so much.

On Monday we went to a delicious pizzería for lunch, then spent the majority of the afternoon walking around like uruguayas.  (Maté y termo en mano.)  We wound up in a pretty shady plaza, per the recommendation of the jovencito in the hostel, so we quickly bounced and wandered our way back to Pocitos.  Once we were back at the hostel, we quickly got our things together and before we knew it we were on our way back to BA.  Luckily, on Buquebus this time.

For the past three weeks I have been traveling nonstop, so I am excited to actually be in BA for a bit.  I’m in the process of scheduling a two-week trip to Patagonia, but details are all still up in the air.  In other news, I turn 22 in six days, and could not be dreading it more!


October 5, 2011

cerveza and freakz

What’s a year abroad without an Oktoberfest weekend?!?  I mean, Villa General Belgrano IS the Munich of South America…

Side note: I have found out that it is indeed possible go from my house in Belgrano to the bus in Retiro in less than thirty minutes, even while stopping for some chori.  A little risqué perhaps, but definitely doable.

We got to VGB around 8am on Friday morning, a little groggy and disoriented after the 12-hour bus ride.  Once we were all together, we got on a bus to Los Reartes.  After unknowingly missing our stop, we were dropped off literally in the middle of nowhere, unsure as to where we were actually headed.  After a long, sleepy walk in the cordobés heat, we managed to make our way to Cabañas Dali Luma, complete with a parrilla and pileta.  We settled in, showered, and changed, and were on our way back to VGB. 

Is this not the most ultimate hitchhiking car?
Buses are few, so we resorted to the standard Latin American form of transportation: hacer dedo.  (Yes, I can finally cross that off my bucket list!) Santiago and José de Mendoza managed to shove five of us in the back seat of their 1980’s sedan, even though the weight of all of us resulted in the back bumper dragging on the ground.  Sorry, dudes.  After having lunch in VGB and seeing that the Oktoberfest activities hadn’t started yet, we got loaded up on asado essentials and headed back to Dali Luma.  We spent the rest of the beautiful day by the pool, saving up our energy for that night’s asado.

Four sliced fingers later, our asado was ready.  It was an asado completo, with a full ensalada, chori y bife.  I guess I was a little too excited to eat my chori, because I spent the rest of the night with excruciating heartburn.

The cabañas were right on the Río Los Reartes, so we spent that hot Saturday morning and early afternoon chilling by the river, getting ready for the locura of Oktoberfest al cordobés

VGB is a very interesting place, a lot like Epcot’s Munich.  After getting our steins, we went around to all of the stands, fully absorbing the pedo argentino.  There were plenty of crazy people dressed up wearing wigs made of questionable materials, dancing to weird German music, taking steins to the face.  After many hours immersing us into the so-called German culture, we headed back to Dali Luma for a late night asado.  Luckily, this round of chori nomming was heartburn free, and I was sure to make up for the chori I was not able to eat the night before! 

After a lot of indecisiveness on Sunday morning, we decided to spend the day in the city of Córdoba.  It was a long walk along the river, to the main street, then up the main street until we came across the bus stop.  We knew it would be a while before the bus would come, so we figured we might as well get comfortable.  There just happened to be an ice cream parlor across the street from the bus stop, so we loaded up on the best ice cream that I’ve had in Argentina.  (Which is saying a lot, since the ice cream in Argentina is AMAZING.)  What was even better about this ice cream was that a medium cone was only 12 pesos…take that Freddo!  We spent a solid two hours sitting on the side of the road, basically looking like vagos, waiting for the bus.  We got to Córdoba around 4pm, found lunch, and wandered around the city for the rest of the afternoon. There are lots of college students in Córdoba, with both Argentine and extranjeros, so it’s a very young city.  But it’s also a very small city and we did not need more than a half-day there.  I’m definitely glad I came to Buenos Aires to study; I can see myself getting bored in little Córdoba.

But I mean, there is nothing like the energía porteña.

We went to La Zete for dinner, a delicious Middle Eastern restaurant.   It was a pretty early dinner…for Argentine standards…around 8pm.)  The food was amazing, but unfortunately I had to dip out early to catch a bus that would get me back to BA in time for my 8am class…rough.

This weekend, I'm off to Montevideo with Lidi!  Not sure what to expect, other than ridiculousness and (possibly too much) pedo.


September 29, 2011


Good news: I managed to find a tourist bus to get me back to La Paz, so no hitchhiking/donkey riding for me! (Hitchhiking IS on my South America bucket list, but I guess that will have to wait for Patagonia.)

It was so nice to not be on a bondi lleno de bolitas stankin’ up the place. I was a bit nervous crossing the lake in San Pedro de Tiquina, as the little boats just didn’t seem strong enough to carry such a large vehicle. But alas we made it, after waiting for forty minutes with bolichori all around us. We arrived in La Paz around 5:30pm on Saturday afternoon and got right to mercado wandering and pirated DVD scouting. La Paz, on top of being 3,200 meters above sea level, is also an incredibly hilly city, so you can imagine our exhaustion after walking around for three hours. We came back to a delicious meal of SPICY chicken (yes, spiciness actually exists in Bolivia!), arroz, and “fried potatoes,” according to the menu. (Also known as French fries…I love broken English translations.)

The sights in the actual city of La Paz are rather limited, so Sunday was devoted to lots of salteñas and more mercado browsing.  Taking advantage of the boliviano-dollar exchange rate was beyond epic.  Sunday night, dinner at the hostel was bolichori…obviously I went for seconds.  So good.

All in all, Bolivia was amazing.  Ten days was by no means enough time, so I definitely want to go back soon.  Uyuni, Potosí, and the Amazon are on my Bolivia part two checklist.  Being back in BA has been great though, lots of parciales so I have been rather busy.  Today I got my first Argentine haircut!  I was beyond nervous going into it, but they did an amazing job!  It feels amazing having my hair short again.

I am about to walk out the door to head to the bus station.  This weekend I’m going with Jenny and some of her UBA friends to Villa General Belgrano, in the provincia of Córdoba, for some Argentine Oktoberfest!  I am beyond excited, but also a little nervous to see how all of this goes down.  Details to follow.


September 24, 2011

copacabana y boobiepoopie

For the past three days I have been in Copacabana, about four hours northwest of La Paz.  I write this post bundled up in my alpaca scarf and gloves, sipping on my coca tea, praying that the temperature doesn't drop any further. I wasn’t exactly prepared for this brisk weather when I was packing for Bolivia.

The bus ride from La Paz was brutal.  I don’t even think it would be appropriate to call it a “bus ride,” seeing as it was more of a van, jam packed with the smelliest humans I have ever encountered.  Lu warned me about the Bolivian smelliness, but I had no idea how bad it was actually going to be.  This is how I can sum up this scarring experience: homelessness, mildew, a month-old sweaty gym towel, smelly feet, and the worst body odor imaginable.  Try putting yourself in a small metal box (with ZERO circulation!) with that wretched stank for four hours.  Needless to say, I am riding a donkey back to La Paz today.

Because we are at 4,000 meters above sea level, the ability to breathe is actually a luxury. Walking up the stairs between the dining quarters and the dormitories, I am more winded than I am after running 5 miles.  Drinking coca helps a bit, but what would really be great would be a respirator.  At least I dont have to worry about fitting in my daily workout!

Despite the cold and my lack of appropriate abrigos, I have been aprovechando of the fact that I am here in Copacabana.  Thursday was a beautiful day, and not too cold during the afternoon, so I went on a day-long kayak tour around the islands nearby on Lake Titicaca. The water is so blue and we could see all sorts of things swimming underneath us.  The infrastructure of the kayaks were extremely questionable, but it was all part of the experiencia boliviana.

One of the many things I love about Latin America: PIRATED DVDS.  Seriously, they are everywhere.  There are actually STORES that sell pirated versions of DVDs and CDs.  A lot of the time the pirated version sucks, whether it’s the bad quality, the fact that the whole movie isn’t on there, or it's dubbed in Spanish with no way of changing it to the original version.  When I got back from the kayak tour on Thursday, I poked my head into a pirated DVD store in town, just to see what they had.  I found that the DVDs they sold were the real deal—real DVD quality, the complete movie, full menu, different languages, subtitles, special effects, etc.—and for SIX bolivianos…around 86 cents.  My DVD collection is officially complete.

I was hoping to go to Isla del Sol yesterday, but it was very cold and rainy, so instead I wandered around the little village of Copacabana, eating lots of fresh fish, and meeting some new, interesting people.  Rural Bolivians are some of the nicest people you will ever meet, but some of their cultural divergences catch me off guard.  For example, I was laying down on a bench, reading, and a guy literally popped out from behind the bushes and said to me “eres muy linda!” and ran away.  Maybe this is not a cultural divergence rather lack of being exposed to many gringa-looking humans…

This afternoon I am going to make my way back to La Paz.  Tomorrow I will be hitting up the infamous artisan market, loading up on souvenirs while I can still take advantage of their developing economy.  As much as I love Bolivia, I am looking forward to returning to springtime in BA!  It is supposed to be 73°F when I return on Monday.  Cant.  Wait.


September 20, 2011

frío en la paz

I got everything sorted out and have made it to the capital of Bolivia in one piece! Barely though, the turbulence coming into La Paz was out of control. My flying anxiety only has gotten worse the more I travel. It is 5°C at the moment since the city is around 3,200 meters above sea level, so the alpaca scarf I bought in Cocha is finally getting some use out of it!  It is unreal how much I am feeling the effects of the altitude already; I legitimately ran out of breath walking up a small ramp in the airport.  As Paloma knows from our adventures in Salta and Jujuy, I don’t exactly handle altitude change well.  And by that, I mean not at all.  This is going to be fun.  Tomorrow I head to Copacabana, right on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca (hehehe), and I’ll be there until Saturday.  Hopefully by the time I get there I will be mature enough to hold back my laughter every time I hear someone say that word.  Doubtful.


September 19, 2011

más salteñas, porfa!

Greetings from Bolivia!

I arrived in Santa Cruz around noon on Thursday, welcomed with a nice 28ºC breeze. My flight to Cocha wasn’t scheduled to leave until 7:30pm that evening, so I decided to leave my bags at the airport and go into the city to explore for a few hours. Santa Cruz is more of an industrial city, but the center of town is filled with colonial architecture and traditional Bolivian elements (such as indigenous women roaming the streets wearing their conventional garb and pirated DVDs being sold on the streets alongside skewered papas and cow hearts). I explored the various mercados, tasted some of the local food, and enjoyed finally being able to wear a sundress.

It would be quite the understatement to say that Bolivia is a little less developed than Argentina; for one, the “bondis” are more like painted vans, a good decade older than I am, and whose ability to survive a crash test is doubtful at best. Traffic lights are more of a surgerencia than anything else, and you negotiate cab fares with the taxista, since none of the cabs have meters. It’s definitely a change of pace from life in Argentina (and especially life in the US), but I’m enjoying it!

I got to my hostel in Cochabamba very late on Thursday night, and after a very long day I was ecstatic to arrive to a very new and clean private room, with a private bath, double bed, and television...for the same rate as a dorm in any Argentine hostel.  I LOVE taking advantage of Bolivia’s underdeveloped economy.  These past few days I have really enjoyed exploring the city, while getting a serious bang for my buck.  My wallet has never been so happy with me.  

Cocha reminds me a lot of Mérida: colonial, indigenous, traditional, and tranquilo.  I have made my way to the mercado de artesanía, La Cancha (a HUGE market where they sell everything from manzanilla to dog food), but most importantly, countless salteñerías.  Salteñas are Bolivia’s empanadas, but are made out of corn meal instead of flour, so they are a lot sweeter than normal empanadas.  Inside the salteña, the filling is a lot soupier, and includes hard boiled eggs, olives, and some peas along with the carne (or pollo!).  They are significantly more filling than Argentine empanadas.  Like Paloma once said to me, I literally could have salteñas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and be completely satisfied.  (Except I was recently told that eating salteñas for dinner isn’t something they “do” here...quite stupid and senseless if you ask me.)

On Saturday I went up to El Cristo de la Concordia.  Think Cristo Redentor, but much, much smaller. Still amazing, though.  At first I was considering walking one way, but after seeing a sign that read in English In order to avoid getting mugged, we recommend not to use the stairs,” I was quickly convinced to use the teleférico.  Getting to the top was absolutely breathtaking, looking over the city of Cochabamba and the entire valley.  After spending quite a bit of time taking in the view, I went back down and obviously made my way straight to a salteñería.  After stuffing my face with three salteñas (which you know, if you are familiar with salteñas, is a LOT), I was wandering through Plaza Colon where I bumped into Ladi.  We decided to go to Cochabambas second annual Arabic festival, something I definietly was not expecting to do in Bolivia!  It ended up being a lot of fun; lots of good food (delicious baklava!), Sangria, and international dances, including a Hawaiian hula dance. 

Yesterday I went with Mariela to La Cancha, where we bought some fresh hojas de coca and sipped on some delicious tea in Plaza Colon.  We ended up drinking the coca tea out of my maté, a wonderful fusion of two Latin American cultures.  I am going to do my best to bring some coca back to Argentina, it is so delicious and really wakes me up!  

Unfortunately I have wasted all of today figuring out my money situation.  Bolivia is apparently on some list of restricted countries with both of my banks, thus both of my debit cards have been frozen.  I literally have $70 bolivianos to my name.  Tomorrow night I am supposed to be heading to La Paz, but unless I get one of my accounts unfrozen, it looks like I am stuck in Cocha! 


September 14, 2011

la belleza de la lengua...y otras cosas

Esperanza, lluvia, estrella, sonrisa, caramelo.  Sarah, you’re right: some things are just better in Spanish.  Spanish has a wonderful way of making the most explicit of words incredibly sentimental and romantic, one of the shortcomings of the English language.  I’ve been able to pick up on an amazing amount of language, mannerisms, and taboos while living here, including that coger does NOT mean to take, but I have loved learning about all of the linguistic emotions.  By now, I am speaking solamente en castellano, and oftentimes I will just sit back and listen to my friends talk, relishing the passion and sentiment that is so easily expressed through everyday words and phrases.  That is how I would describe Argentina: romantic, emotional, and passionate.  The most stereotypical of all Argentine cultural elements, the Tango, captures Argentina’s fondness of romance and passion.  Overhyped, a little outdated, and uncomfortably romantic (it’s a little strange to be that close to someone I’m not romantically involved with), it is one of the many touchy-feely cultural divergences that we don’t find in the US.  Personal space doesn’t really exist among Argentines; meeting someone for the first time and embracing them a kiss on the cheek is perfectly normal.  In fact, it is considered rude not to do so.

Speaking of la lengua, I have been having exceptional difficulty nailing the Spanish “rr.”  I’ve never been able to roll my tongue, but on Sunday, Meli, Lidi, and Lale made it their mission to teach me how.  God bless their patience, this was much more grueling than my “speech therapy” with Anj.  Using ejercicios para pronunciar la RR as the teaching platform, we spent the entire afternoon repeating/screaming words such as forro and borracho over and over again. (I hope the neighbors don't have any young kids…) It became more trial-and-error than anything else, but with lots of práctica I will hopefully have it down by January.  Forrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrro.

I came across this article the other day, 20 awesomely untranslatable words from around the world, and it got me thinking about how—for lack of a better word—awesome the art of the language is, considering there are over 6 billion people speaking nearly 7,000 different languages.  Did you know that there are more Spanish-speakers in the world than English speakers?  Yet for some reason, I find that most Argentines knowledge of English is far more proficient than most Americans knowledge of any second language, let alone Spanish.  A little embarrassing, no?  Unfortunately, I know very few people who are proficient in a second language, and even fewer who are considered to be fluent.  This may have to do with the fact that so many aspects of American culture are incorporated into Argentine society.  At times, I forget exactly how far away I am from home, as I pass a Starbucks or McDonald’s on my walk home, or turn on the television and flip to Friends or Grey’s Anatomy in English, with subtitles.  But still, I do not find this to serve as much of an excuse, as we are just as capable of fluently speaking a second language as any European or Latin American (unless there is something in the water preventing us from doing so, which I doubt is the case).

Tomorrow morning I leave for my ten-day adventure in Bolivia.  I will try to periodically while I’m there, but cannot make any promises...

¡Hasta el 26 de septiembre!