Saturday, July 26, 2008

Recoleta Pictures

Ok, here's the rundown on the pictures from the Recoleta Cemetary: the first is one of the hundreds of mausoleums in the cemetary, each of them differently designed. The above picture is a testament to Argentina's immigrant past (and frankly, the most hilarious name I've ever seen). Then, a really old mausoleum that has broken in the front so you can peek in and see the actual coffins just inches a view down one of the mausolem-lined pathways. Then another mausoleum, and finally one of the many plaques on the mausoleum of Evita, dedicated by the town of Almirante Brown. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

¡Viva el campo!

Historic happenings in a few months ago the president of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner proposed an agricultural export tax increase to 45%, which caused a huge uproar among the farmers here. They've been protesting/on strike/blocking food transportation for months now, and yesterday the Senate voted on the proposal. In anticipation of the vote, there have been huge demonstrations around Buenos Aires, at least one with over 250,000 people, this past week. Yesterday the Senate debated into the night, and ended up tied 36 to 36, with only Kirchner's VP left to vote...and at 4:30 am today he voted AGAINST the proposal, which is completely unheard of. People have been going nuts - there were a ton of people out in the streets last night banging pots and pans and waving Argentinean flags. Everybody has been telling me that this is a really historic time for Argentina - I guess truly honest politicians are few and far between here. Here's a link to a NY Times article on the situation:
In other, completely unrelated news, I discovered one of the wierdest places ever a few days ago - the Recoleta Cemetary! It's a huge graveyard in the middle of the city where all of the rich people of Buenos Aires have been buried (and still are!) since the 1800s. But there's no grass or dirt like in a normal cemetary - just tons of narrow paved pathways lined with family mausoleums, most at least 8 feet high and squished together like those tall skinny houses in San Francisco. The place is gigantic, and the pathways crisscross in all directions, making it really easy to get completely lost among all the dead folks.
A lot of the mausoleums have windows in them, and you can look in and see actual coffins stacked atop each other like or (for those who prefer to be underground) creepy narrow staircases going down into darkness. One was broken in the front, and when I looked in I saw a sunken room filled with four stacks of cobwebby coffins, stacked seven high. Adding to the general creepiness are the dozens of cats padding silently down the paths or sitting atop the mausoleums, staring at you as you walk by. We asked our tour guide why there were so many cats there and she said simply "Hay ratones" - "There are rats"
It was so wierd and creepy and a perfect horror-movie setting, especially because we got there right before 6, closing time, so there weren't a lot of people there and the sun was just starting to go down. Definitely one of my top 5 places in Buenos Aires so far! Pictures coming soon, I promise!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Rainy day in Buenos Aires

It's Sunday night, I haven't touched my homework all weekend, and I have to read a 25-page story for class naturally I'm wasting time online. Just got back from two days in Uruguay, which were amazing!! Uruguay is just across the river from Argentina, and there's a little town called Colonia just a ferry-ride away from Buenos Aires that's really popular with Argentinean tourists.
Since it's the off-season for tourists (it's winter here), Colonia was pretty sleepy, but really pretty. It's a smallish town that's been passed back and forth between the Spanish and Portuguese at least 10 times over the last 400 years, but finally ended up with the Spanish. Everybody on the street is carrying a thermos of boiling water and a maté bombilla - maté is a really strong tea that's everywhere in Argentina and Uruguay. It's really popular and almost everybody drinks it, but unfortunately it's definitely an acquired taste. In my personal opinion, it's kind of like drinking dirt. Anyway, we spent Friday exploring the town and went out to dinner at El Portón, a restaurant recommended by the owner of the hostel we were staying at. I asked the waiter what the "comida más famosa de Uruguay" (the most famous Uruguayan food), he recommended something called Parillo (or something like that), which is shared between two people. Trusting person that I am, I ordered it, and well...I'll describe it and let you decide for yourself. First, they put potato salad, shredded lettuce and tomato slices on a huge plate. Then they pile french fries on top, then a couple of thin steaks, followed by bacon, a generous covering of melted cheese, and two fried eggs. The whole thing is garnished with green olives and rolled up slices of ham. More or less three heart attacks on a plate. That was the first time I've ever eaten steak, bacon and ham in the same bite...and hopefully the last! A true Uruguayan experience.
The next day we woke up to seventy-degree weather!! Keep in mind it's winter here - it was unbelievable! We found a big playa (beach) that was almost completely deserted, and played all day in the Uruguayan ocean. It was completely unexpected and wonderful.
Hope everybody had a great 4th!! We all sang the Star-Spangled Banner a few times on Friday, but that was about it unfortunately.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Comida and other amazing things about Argentina...

Sorry for not writing more often, but this combination of intense Spanish lit classes and crazy Buenos Aires nightlife (the Argentines I go out with are always surprised to see me yawning at 5 am after 4 hours of dancing) has been keeping me pretty busy. I actually have an oral presentation due tomorrow on three cuentos de horror (horror stories), but feel like procrastinating, so it's blog time!
Life is good here in the Southern hemisphere. I'm finally getting used to the whole kissing strangers on the cheek thing, can find my way home from school without getting too lost, and my Spanish is getting better every day. But my favorite Buenos Aires pasttime so far is going out to eat! I love the food here, and the only reason I haven't been packing on the pounds is because I have a good 2+ mile walk to the train station every day. Some of my favorites are:
-alfajores - I know I touched on these last time, but my brief description didn't do these incredible snacks justice! They are pretty much the national cookie of Argentina, and every kiosco (corner stores that sell drinks, candy, magazines etc) has a staggering array of any variety of alfajor. They come plain, covered in chocolate, coconut or meringue, filled with dulce de leche or chocolate creme, plain or chocolate cookies, one or two layers...etc. I average about 2 a day - they're irresistible!
-of course I couldn't write about Argentinean food without mentioning beef, and it's famous for a reason! It's everywhere, and surprisingly cheap. You can get an excellent steak for about $4 American in an average restaurant, and I'm not one to let that opportunity go by. Amazing.
-ice cream. Due to a huge influx of Italian immigrants in the 19th century, Italian food is everywhere here. Argentine ice cream is really more similar to gelato than American ice cream - it's really thick and creamy and, obviously, delicious. My personal favorite flavor so far is Super Dulce de Leche!
-empanadas, which are sort of like little meat pies with flaky pastry crusts. They come fried or baked, and filled with beef, chicken, vegetables, cheese, etc. Four or five of them makes for a delicious lunch or dinner. We had empanadas for dinner a couple of nights ago, and I tried to make one - it looked kind of sad and crooked next to Vivi's (she's a girl my age from Paraguay who works here), but she is going to teach me the recipe, so I can practice making them in the US!
I'm keeping busy lately with school and wandering around town after my classes are over, discovering new restaurants, panaderias, heladerias and shops with some of the other students in my program. One unfortunate downside to living in India for a year is that now whenever I visit other countries, I'm still in a 35-rupees-equals-one-dollar mode, which means that I'm spending money a little too freely here! I have to remind myself every day that despite the 3-to-1 exchange rate, the peso is not Monopoly money!
Ok, I'm off to analyze some literature - hard enough in English, and quite a struggle in Spanish...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Hola a todos de Buenos Aires!! I've been here for five days and already love it. Since we're leaving for a boat trip on Rio de la Plata soon, I have to make this short, so I'll just list my favorite things about Argentina so far:

1) My family! My host family is awesome. It consists of my mom Alicia, 23-year-old Agustin, 21-year-old Luli, and 11-year-old Clara. Everybody's really nice and the food is awesome. They all speak English really well, which is good and bad. It's nice when I have to explain something complicated, but I told them that I want to speak Spanish as much as possible. I can already tell that my Spanish is improving, which is awesome!

2) Dulce de leche...mmm. Dulce de leche is an Argentinean version of caramel, but more creamy and absolutely delicious. They put it on everything here - toast, waffles, croissants, and alfajores, which are two cookies with a thick layer of dulce de leche in the middle. I'm addicted.

3) Cafes! There are cafes on every corner here, where portenos (the name for residents of Buenos Aires) meet up and sit for hours conversing over a cup of coffee and a couple of medialunas (croissants). Most of the cafes are fairly old and have a great atmosphere. On Sunday I went to Cafe Tortoni in downtown Buenos Aires with my host family. It's the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires, and was supposedly a favorite hangout of Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina's most famous author. I had chocolate (an incredibly rich, amazing Argentinean version of hot chocolate) and three churros - with dulce de leche of course! Here are some pictures:

Chau for now, I'll write more later!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm Back!

Hello again everybody, I've decided to bring my blog back to life in honor of spending 5-6 weeks in Argentina and Brazil this summer! I'll be leaving on June 20th (9 days!) for Buenos Aires to study at the Universidad de San Andres for about 5 weeks, then it's up to Belo Horizonte, Brazil to visit my good friend Michel, who lived in Surat with me last year. I knew all those exchange student connections would come in handy someday...
Anyway, I absolutely can't wait to leave. Hopefully I'll be able to update this blog about once a week - my host mom told me that they have three computers in their house, but the fastest one is hers and she uses it a lot for work, and the other two are slow "como tortugas" (that's like turtles!), so we'll see how that works out. They can't be any worse than Indian computers!
Well I think that's about all for now. Check back soon - my next post will be from South America!