Viewing entries tagged
buenos aires

Two Feelings of Home

Two Feelings of Home

Back to Buenos Aires

When my flight touched down in BA, I almost felt like I came home. Not quite the same, but after about a month straight of figuring out a new city every three days, it felt so comforting to arrive to a place where I knew where I needed to go and what I needed to do. I had a few days before Dad and Sarah arrived, so I used that time to catch up with old friends who I hadn't seen in a few months. My friend George put me up in a spare bedroom of his which was just what I needed. He also had two lovely ladies from Canada staying with him who kept great company (and made great finger foods for the happy hours). Thursday I met up with a few friends from my TEGOBA group for some shawarma and coffee. On Friday I met up with Candela and we went to a Mundo Lingo event, the language exchange at local bars. I had a great time and it reminded me that I should've attended more often when I was in BA before; it's such a great way to practice language, but in a setting where everyone else is open and willing to do the same. On Saturday, I grabbed beers with my old roommate Nestor, the one person in Buenos Aires who had to put up with me more than anyone else. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see everyone I would've liked to, but if any of y'all are ever in the States, my door is always open.

I welcomed Dad and Sarah Sunday morning, fresh off their long, miserable first-class flight spent eating 4 course meals and drinking champagne. Poor kids :) It was wonderful to see family in a foreign land and I had a great time introducing them to my second home. We stayed at a really nice hotel in San Telmo, where I slept in a huge bed for the first time in a while. They got to see some of the Argentinean culture: exploring the San Telmo market, taking a tango lesson and seeing a full tango show, and being amused at how late they eat dinner. They got to sample the food (steak, empanadas, choripan, provoleta) and were even adventurous enough to try mollejas (sweetbreads, or, more familiarly, gizzards). I don't believe they'll be repeat mollejas consumers. And they were able to see the beautiful architecture of Buenos Aires, and appreciate it much more than I could. Although once the two construction nerds start talking about the different concrete techniques, they start to lose me.

Mendoza

Wednesday morning, I said goodbye to Buenos Aires (at least for the foreseeable future) and we hopped on a plane together to Mendoza. We arrived at Casa Glebinias in Lujan de Cuyo, a nice wine region 20 minutes outside of the city center of Mendoza. It's a beautiful boutique hotel with an on-site restaurant, wine cellar, and pool. Not what I'm used to, but really nice. The first day we were responsible and only went to one restaurant before we came back to get ready for 1884, Francis Mallman's top-class steakhouse. Incredible meal. The next day was our full wine day, where we went to the first winery, Vina Cobos, at 11. We learned quickly that the "pours" at these wine tastings are more like "glasses". Not that we were complaining, but I was probably down 2.5 glasses of wine after the first winery at about noon. We went to a lunch/wine pairing at Bodega Lagarde, where they did a 6-course meal with a wine pairing for each course. Here they didn't even bother asking if you wanted more; they treated an empty glass as a nuisance, and they knew the solution. Really good meal, really good wine, really bad prep for going to our third winery. We certainly had a nice time at Carmelo Patti, but I'd be lying if I told you I had any notes (or memories) of the different wine varietals the little old Italian man offered us. So, Pro Tip for anyone planning a Mendoza vacation: two wineries per day is probably a safe bet. Not long after arriving back at our hotel did we cancel our dinner reservations and settle for a nice pool-side "nap". Friday was our day to take a driving tour of the Andes, all the way to the entrance to Aconcagua National Park. As tends to happen with these massive mountains, there was a collection of clouds surrounding the peaks which skews your view, but it was nice for us to see a different side of Mendoza province, and our driver Gino gave us some nice history of the region, the country, politics, and everything in between.

They flew back home early Saturday morning and I've moved to a hostel in the Mendoza city center for a few days. I really enjoyed having them here, having them experience a world and a culture much different from what they're used to. It was a nice refresher, a pleasant reminder of home, that should hold me over nicely the last few months until I return to the states for good.

First Half Reflections

First Half Reflections

Here I am, back in the comfortable confines of my Atlanta home(s), for a quick hiatus in my travels. I’ve had such a fun and long overdue two week stretch catching up with friends and celebrating Christmas a few weeks early with family. Now, with just a few days left before I fly back down south, I wanted to take some time and reflect on the last few months, and try to review what I learned, loved, missed, and regret.

I can start with the language. It ended up being more challenging than I thought for a few reasons. First, I probably thought I was better than I truly was when I left in August. Apparently, a few months on Duolingo 10 years after studying Spanish in high school wasn't adequate. Who knew? Secondly, Argentine Spanish (both dialect and accent) were more different than I expected. And lastly, understanding spoken Spanish is just hard for me. Unless I’m asking people to speak at an unnaturally slow pace, there’s a good chance they’ll be met with a confused look. One thing this trip has taught me is that I need to be a much more active listener. No multitasking when you have to dissect every word. I fully admit I wasn’t a perfect Spanish student over the last few months. I could’ve refused to speak English to everyone I encountered, and forced myself into the uncomfortable situations that make you grow more often. But when you’re living in a foreign land, there is a certain comfort to having a nuanced conversation in your native tongue. I think I found a healthy balance, while acknowledging that I possibly could’ve done more. I spent time every day studying at home, and while effective, being in a school setting may have been more productive. I took a few weeks’ worth of classes but at $200/week, I couldn’t really afford to continue that through my whole stay. I learned of free classes led by local schools a few weeks before I left, or in other words, a few months too late. Oh well…I’ll know for next time. So, in summary…sure I’d love to be fluent after 4 months. But that wasn’t a realistic goal. I’m comfortable with where I’m at right now, and look forward to building on the skill. The challenge is part of what makes this fun.

The other biggest challenge of moving to a new place is finding a new social circle. I never really moved as a child, and attended a college where my brother was already well established and several close friends came along with me. For the first time in my life, I had to start from scratch. And for someone that has some introvertistic (Spellcheck tells me this isn’t a word but I’m going with it) tendencies, it’s a much-needed exercise. Overall, I’d say I was successful. You’d think trying to make new friends while knowing you’ll be leaving soon would be tricky, and it was, but I just tried to have as much fun as I could and learn as much as I could with the little time I had. And I met some amazing people. The cool thing about traveling is you don’t necessarily meet people with whom you have everything in common. And from that lack of commonality comes a different perspective. In fact, for me and most of my friends, the trait we shared was a desire to see the world, seek new horizons, and learn from one another. This trip also reinforced my belief that people are inherently good. I constantly came to people looking for help, and I was given what I needed time and time again. And while there’s a good chance I’ll never see a lot of these people again (although I hope that’s not the case), the generosity and compassion of my newfound friends will not be soon forgotten.

Another reason I wanted to go to South America is I wanted to experience a life different from what I was accustomed. I’ve said this before but as a straight, white, upper middle class male in America, I think I’m a part of every majority group possible. I’ve always considered myself an empathetic person, but moving to a foreign land where suddenly, you’re the one that sticks out, has definitely given me new perspective. Not to say I faced any true plight, but it was still a valuable experience to see and I encourage everyone who can to put themselves in awkward or uncomfortable positions. The other thing living in South America taught me was that I took certain luxuries of living in a steady first-world country for granted. For example, the quality (or availability) of appliances makes life a little bit tougher. I felt like an idiot when I had to google how to hand-wash clothes. You can’t program your oven to stay at a certain temperature in 5 degree increments. And your heater isn’t controlled by a thermostat…it’s simply either plugged in or it’s not. I just try to remind myself that, while the US isn’t perfect, comparatively, we have it pretty good. With that said, they definitely have some things figured out down there. Buenos Aires has a ton of green space in the city and the citizens take full advantage of it. they have perfected the production of expensive ice cream and cheap red wine, and their mass transit options put MARTA to shame (living car-free was a great feeling).

Living without a job is probably as cool as it sounds. It’s amazing to be able to set your own schedule and be as selfish as you want with your daily plan. Life is generally less stressful when the only deadline you need to worry about is making sure you check off all the cool stuff on your to-do list before you move on to the next city. It does have some downsides though. I mean not getting a paycheck is not ideal, and I did sometimes find myself lacking a purpose. One takeaway is that even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I couldn’t go lay on a beach forever. I’d still need to find a place where I can contribute and make a difference. So eventually I’ll work again…still trying to figure out what that may look like, but luckily, I have some time.

The second half of my trip will be quite a bit different from the first. In contrast to the first leg where I stayed in Buenos Aires and set up shop, I plan to spend the next few months traveling around more, staying for a week or two per place as opposed to months. I’ll sacrifice the ability to get an in-depth understanding for a city, while gaining the opportunity to see a lot more of the continent. My rough itinerary has me spending time on Chilean beaches through New Years, in Patagonia for January, followed by moving north through smaller cities in Argentina, into Bolivia, northern Chile, Peru and possibly beyond. The timeline will be determined mainly by how my bank account looks, so fortunately I’ve become talented at living frugally. Hopefully this wasn’t too much rambling, but I wanted to provide some insight into what my life was like. As always, open to questions or comments, and I welcome any visitors that want to take a break from the daily grind and come down South.

Ramblings and Current State of Mind

Ramblings and Current State of Mind

It's been a while since I last posted, and in lieu of a post with a central theme, I thought I'd just give a brain dump on where I'm at mentally and emotionally as the first leg of my trip starts to wind down.

I've spent lots of time following the election and the aftermath over the last week, and part of me sympathizes for friends and family back home who have a harder time getting away from the wall-to-wall coverage than I do. On election night, I watched along on CNN (which they broadcast in English), and stayed up til about 5:30 local time until his speech was wrapped up and I had read an excessive amount of election coverage breakdown. In fact it was the first time I've seen the sun rise sober in a long long time. At one point, I had planned to write a long post based solely on politics/division/views from abroad/etc, but instead I'll mention a few quick things to ponder. 

Even though I'm out of the US, I still feel fairly connected to US through social media and the like, and the split in our country truly worries me. Whether it's race, class, income level, or level of education, sides seem to be as far apart as I can remember in my young life (I can still call myself young for 27 more days). Across the board, regardless of affiliation, there's an increased level of defensiveness and a troubling lack of empathy. And while I don't think Fox News or MSNBC are going to be changing their programming strategy anytime soon, we can all make an effort to empathize and understand those who disagree with us. One method I'm using to do this, and one which I can highly recommend, is a series of podcasts called 'Intelligence Squared US Debates'. They have several years worth of topics on a wide variety of subject, and they bring in well-educated and (mostly) civil people to debate their side. It's a great way to get an introduction to subjects about which you may not think you know enough, and it's fairly heavily moderated so you can actually hear debate on policy, which we've been so sorely lacking recently. Give it a shot with an open-mind and let me know what you think. 

Outside of that, I'm getting very close to the end of my stay in Buenos Aires, having 2 weeks until my feet will land on US soil. This whole time I've been so excited to meet new people, develop relationships, and so on. But as I get closer to the departure date, my mindset has started to change. I'm not sure I can even eloquently describe it but it is slowly starting to become me getting ready to leave versus living life day by day. I suppose it's a feeling people feel every time you move but as someone who has lived in Atlanta the vast majority of their life, it's not one I have often faced. My goal over the net two weeks is simply to have as much fun as I can, mark some final things off the Buenos Aires to-do list, and soak in the experiences unique to this place which I'm sure I will miss soon after I get off the plane. That being said, I am excited to see friends and family soon. The comforts of home will be welcomed, if not the cold weather.

Hasta pronto!

My First Experience with Argentine Futbol

My First Experience with Argentine Futbol

Getting to an Argentine soccer match has been near the top of my to-do list since I got to Buenos Aires. However, due to some security concerns, it has become seemingly harder for tourists (or anyone that is not a fan/club member of the home team) to get into games for Boca or River Plate, 2 of the more popular teams in the country. Luckily, I continue to run into great people willing to help. Two friends, Bianca and Nahuel, whom I met at the running group mentioned in my last post, invited me to join them at the Racing Club match last Saturday as they faced Arsenal. Racing Club is one of the biggest and most popular clubs in Argentina, and their stadium is located on the outskirts of the capital of Buenos Aires. A few legs on buses later and I was there. I met up with them and Nahuel's brother and we were ready to go.

We got there over two hours early due to notice online that they would stop selling tickets at that time (which turned out to be false). After we bought tickets (About $22 USD), we had some time to kill, and there's no better way to pass time then a little cerveza in a nearby park. The tailgating scene didn't really line up to SEC football Saturdays, but it was a perfect day outside so it could've been worse. 

Even though our tickets were the cheapest option, they got us to to the best section in the house: right next to the hooligan's section. The flags, the banners, the chants, the screams, the jumping, the yelling, I got to see it all. I'll be damned if they didn't sing or chant for almost the entire game...impressive stamina. I just wish I would've studied up and learned a few songs beforehand. We (yes I'm already speaking of them with 'we') won 1-0 over Arsenal in a game controlled by the home side. Considering that Racing are undefeated with me an attendance, I'd be surprised if some sort of marketing deal doesn't arise for me. 

Let's Go, Racing!

My First Hash

My First Hash

Not drug-related, I promise.

Hash House Harriers

I was googling around for a running club in Buenos Aires to have another way to meet new people and give me some added motivation, when I saw a recommendation for some group called the Hash House Harriers. I started doing some research on the group, and saw their motto: "A drinking group with a running problem" - I figured I'd fit right in. I found their corresponding Facebook group and reached out, seeing if there was anything I needed to know. The response:  

Do you like to run (doesn't have to be fast, and you can walk if you need to, nobody minds), can you follow a trail of flour, and can you drink beer - Oh, and you must be able to enjoy a good laugh, and great company

Say no more. I'm actually fairly proud of myself for making it...old Ryan wouldn't have made the trip for a few reasons. Each run is hosted/planned by a different Hare every time, and this time it was hosted in a bit of a suburb outside of the city. For me, that meant a 20 minute bus ride followed by a 40 minute train ride to get there. To add to it, when I woke up at 8 to start getting ready, it was raining pretty steadily. I did a quick check to confirm it wasn't cancelled (it wasn't, they rarely are, apparently), packed my bag, and headed out. 

Before the run started, all of the visitors and virgins (first-timers) introduced themselves to the group, and luckily, I wasn't the only one. Typically the person planning the path will go out ahead of the group and drop flour on the ground marking the route, but rain makes that ineffective. Therefore, this was a "live hash" where the leader runs with the group. This means one thing...you better keep up. 

One thing I didn't know before we took off - how long the run would be. I found at at the halfway point, after running for probably 3 miles and doing my damnedest to keep up with the fast group, that this group usually runs about 10 Km...which is excellent news for the guy who has been running 3 miles at a time recently. It was all doable as there were a few breaks to let the back group catch up, and the one beer stop halfway through. I joined the back group on the second half because I'm aware of Einstein's definition of insanity. We got a tiny bit lost but we eventually made it back to the house with ice cold beer awaiting. 

After each run, they have call outs for virgins, visitors, the leaders, and anyone else who may have broken a rule (some of which seem made up on the spot), where everyone in the middle drinks while the others sing and shout. It had the feel of an English pub during a soccer match. And of course, when the run was over and we were wrapping up, the sun was shining bright. 

All in all, it was a great experience, and I hope to catch at least one more run with the group before I leave. There are hash groups all over the world, so it gives one a great way to meet some friendly faces in a new place, as well as developing running friendships in your home city. I continue to be amazed at the warmth shown to me by strangers. There have been so many times in this journey when I've gone into a group knowing absolutely no one, and time and time again, I'm greeted with warm smiles and great conversation. Definitely something to keep in mind if you're ever on the other side of that scenario: be as welcoming as you can to strangers...it will mean much more to them than you realize. 

Argentine Asado

Argentine Asado

From what I've seen, potentially nothing is more authentically Argentine than a Sunday asado. An asado is a gathering of friends and family with its key component being meat roasting over a fire.  They love their beef here, and for good reason. I mean the country has more cows than people. Along with ample amounts of slow-roasted dead cow and pig, you'll find baguettes for making sandwiches, provoleta, picadas, and usually a nice Argentine malbec to wash it all down. For many around the country, it's a weekly tradition - rain or shine, and something they take very seriously. 

National Asado Championship

Yesterday, the city of Buenos Aires hosted the first official Asado Championship in the city center. There were representatives from each of the 23 provinces as well as from the capital city of Buenos Aires. Blessed with a beautifully sunny 70 degree day, the festival was packed with thousands of people. Along with the competition, they had street vendors, live music, and many different grilled meat options for consumption. I went with a tapa de asado sandwich (meat, bread and sauce - straight to the point). The team from the province of Mendoza emerged victorious, but, honestly, no one loses on a day like that.

And now I'm hungry.  

A Milestone

A Milestone

Halfway to the Halfway Point

As October starts, it means I've been abroad for two months and I have two months left until my first trip back to the States. It's weird because you want to say time flies, and at times it does. But at the same time, when I reflect back to my first week here, it seems like forever ago. I imagine it's because it has been more than just a two month span; my knowledge and comfort level of the city, lifestyle and culture has grown considerably. I don't feel as lost when hopping on a bus or train. I don't feel as timid when asking for help. And I continue to look forward to additional progress.

I love it down here and don't regret a single thing, but there are certainly times when I miss home, and this weekend had plenty of them. The Ryder Cup was amazing, but it would've been better celebrating with other Americans, chest-bumping and drinking Budweiser. I love seeing photos of the annual Appleton beach trip, but I hate not joining in on the laughs. Or even the simpler things like seeing a dog that looks enough like Chloe, or speaking with someone back home who needs a hug and not being able to give it to them. I embrace every new day I have here, but I will also try not to take for granted the special parts of life back home.

On that note, I've purchased my plane ticket back to the US for my halftime break. I'm flying back on 11/29 and will stay through 12/14 before embarking on the second half of my journey. 4 of those days will be spent in New Orleans, because apparently one trip this year wasn't hard enough on my liver. Outside of that, I hopefully will get a chance to see many friends back home along with plenty of good old-fashioned family time. 

Chau!

La Boca, TEGOBA, and Politics

La Boca, TEGOBA, and Politics

La Boca

The Buenos Aires government has a really nice offering of free walking tours around the various barrios of BA, and I finally rolled out of bed early enough to make it to my first one last Wednesday. Well, kind of...I got there 15 minutes late but it's completely the bus's fault and not mine at all. Luckily, it's easy to track down a tour guide in a bright yellow jacket surrounded by Gringos (they hadn't gotten too far). 

La Boca is very different from many of the other barrios around Buenos Aires, at least ones that tourists might visit. It started as a shipyard many years ago, mainly due to the location on the mouth of the Riachuelo River. In the mid-1900s, upon his return from Europe to Buenos Aires, artist Benito Quinquela Martin devoted his time and money to improve his boyhood home of La Boca. He added vibrant colors to many of the buildings, as well as built a school and a dental hospital for the children of the neighborhood. Due to his paintings, La Boca is easily identified by the colorful buildings and outdoor murals. It's also home to Argentina's most famous soccer team, Boca Juniors. We walked by the stadium, but it's hard to really get a good look. I definitely plan to return for a game if possible. Today, La Boca is a very working-class neighborhood with a lot of petty crime. It wouldn't be a place where any tourists or expats would want to live, but it's a nice visit during the day to see a different side of Buenos Aires

Another Weekend of Late Nights

Friday I met up with TEGOBA (The English Group of Buenos Aires). I was introduced to them by a friend from my Tuesday group, which has some overlap. It was nice to meet some new people (especially several local Argentines who have been going to the group for years as a way to socialize and keep their English fresh). We met at a local cafe, went for dinner around 11, and stayed out til 2:30 or 3. They were a really fun group, and I look forward to meeting with them again. Saturday was another night on the town with my roommate, and when we left the bar the sun was coming up. Obviously this means I logged about 30 total minutes on Sunday not laying in my bed. Everyone needs an occasional rest day.

A Few Things To Come

A question I am asked often - "Trump or Clinton". I usually simply laugh, to keep from crying. But I've had a few discussions with Nestor about American politics, and I'm excited to let him see the circus firsthand as we watch the debate tonight. It will be interesting to hear his first impressions. 

I'm also in dire need of a haircut. I've held on as long as I can, but it's getting a wee bit mullet-y for my tastes. Since my listening comprehension in Spanish is still a struggle, I have a few options - A) I can walk in with a picture of what I want, or B) I can just tell them to surprise me. Leaning option B. If I see her pull out the trimmers I'll get nervous. Updates to come later this week. 

My New Home

My New Home

Home Sweet Home

Yes, last Thursday, my roommate Nestor and I finally moved into our apartment, which we will have for the next three months. While the previous AirBnb I inhabited was great, and the host was very helpful, it's nice to have a place to actually call your own. Settled in the cozy Palermo neighborhood (closer to the Recoleta side), it's a nice two bedroom apartment on the top floor of a 4 story apartment building. We have a really large balcony that will be perfect once it finally warms up (and God I hope that's soon...I hate the damn cold rain). It's not completely perfect...there are a few features I wish we had. There's no washing machine, so I recently googled how to hand-wash clothes (For those wondering....it's wash/rinse/dry). While the kitchen is nice, it's missing a microwave. And the shower leaves a little to be desired. But all in all, we found a nice, clean place, capable of hosting a few fiestas, in a safe neighborhood with plenty to keep us busy.

School's Out

Friday was my last day of school, at least for now. I've got a good bit of material that I can work on reviewing over the next few weeks and can go back for one-off lessons if I feel like I need to. They even presented me a fancy certificate (all in Spanish, big words, some sort of sick joke).  All in all, I'm pretty happy with the decision to take the classes. I learned some things that would've been much more difficult on my own, and it probably accelerated the process a little as well.  

Quest For Football

And finally, Saturday came and college football season was here again. I had heard there was one expat bar here that showed football (both college and pro). I was a little bit skeptical, and i'm very particular about how I watch my Tigers, so I decided to head over for some of the late afternoon games and if I didn't' like it I could leave and stream it at my house.  Well I get to where Google maps says it is and it's not there; it's a different bar name. I search again and there's another bar with a similar name a few miles away so I take a bus over there, to find the place closed. Obviously not it. There's another bar labeled as an American bar somewhat close (Sugar Bar) so I decide to give it a shot. When I walked in, they had baseball on the TV which gave me some hope since they were showing US sports. But when I asked them to change it to some football, they said they couldn't get it. At the very least, this 'American' bar sold Budweiser on tap, so I took down a couple of those with my burger for old time's sake. After dinner, I gave up and returned to my apartment to watch the game. 

I caught up with one of my friends who originally told me about the bar this week, and apparently it was the first bar I stood outside of, they had just changed their name. Thanks for the heads up. I guess next time I'll learn to actually walk in. I'll give it another shot this weekend. 

Just as the weather is starting to get nicer, I've come down with a nasty cold. I need to rest up and get better before Saturday comes...

 

 

A little dancing...well...a lot of dancing

A little dancing...well...a lot of dancing

For me, at least. Last Thursday I met up with my friend Monica, another member of the weekly expat chat, and her 4 international students. We went for some dancing lessons at La Viruta, a local milonga. We started with the beginner tango class, which was similar to the one I took part in a few weeks ago. And I do fine, until the teacher yells at me to stop looking at my feet. THAT WASN'T PART OF THE ORIGINAL AGREEMENT, JULIO. After tango was over, we took a short break, where I drank a beer and the rest drank coffee or coke (I forgot this was an actual school event for them ...oops). After the break started the salsa lesson, which requires just as much coordination, but with a faster rhythm as well. Ideal. Looked like a fool for a while but it was fun to get out and move a little bit. As my stepmom Debbie used to say, "You're either the one having fun, or the one watching somebody else have fun". 

The weekend was fairly low-key; it poured rain Saturday which brought in the cold weather so I hibernated for most of the time. Monday, I met up with Mary, a girl I met in Santiago and has made her way down to BA. We, along with a few others from her hostel and some other Argentinean friends, went to a show by La Bomba del Tiempo. You may have seen the video on Instagram, but they're an 18-man percussion group. They're self-directed, each member rotating in as leader, and it's led entirely by a large collection of hand signals. Not sure if it was the beer talking or what, but by the end, I was pretty sure I knew most of the signals and could've joined them on stage. Next time. We went to a bar down the street afterwards (I'm still not sure how it was chosen) to grab one last beer or four. Luckily as we walked in, the band was just starting. What band, you ask? Well, a 3-piece Israeli polka band, of course. After a while we moved up front to get a good look, eventually joining in on whatever dance they were jigging to (I just spun around in circles a lot). And their was free pizza too. Good times. 

Nestor and I found an apartment finally, and we move in tomorrow. It's been a good stay at Tomas' house, but it'll be nice going somewhere I know I'll be a bit longer term. I'll be sure to give an update about the place when I get settled in. 

Getting out and about

Getting out and about

I've had a nice week since the last time I updated so I'll try and hit the true highlights, while trying to avoid telling everyone about every time I aimlessly walk around the city. Tomas, the guy who lives at my AirBnb, returned to the city on Friday (he works in the country during the week). He kindly invited me to join him and his friends for dinner that night. Dinner was great – one of the weirdest collections of foods I’ve seen at a dinner table in one sitting – chicken tenders, meat and cheese plate, guacamole, sushi, sardines…I think the avocados make it a healthy meal, right? Tomas’ English is pretty strong; the other three guys, less so (a common theme for me nowadays, as expected). So I did a lot of listening, but I picked up on the highlights, including one of the guys Martin expecting a new child and moving to Chile. Which probably explains why he brought 4 really nice bottles of wine. It was my pleasure to celebrate on his future child’s behalf. After I had my first experience with Fernet Branca, a liquor popular amongst Argentinian youngsters, we called it a night around 3.

I’m starting to get back into a workout routine, but without a gym, I’m having to get a bit more creative. The running part is easy -  there are tons of parks nearby my AirBnb for me to burn off the extra empanada. Strength training is a bit trickier. I’ve found a park nearby that has a pull up bar and a few other apparatuses so that is now where I work on my form. Now you may be thinking the same thing I think regularly…that I’m not exactly what you picture when you think ‘guy who works out in public parks’. But you make do with what you have. I’ve found that letting out a good grunt occasionally helps earn people’s respect.

Last night I attended my first Mundo Lingo event in town. Mundo Lingo is an organization which puts together language exchanges for people from all different backgrounds to come together and practice speaking in their non-native tongue (and where the flags in the picture come from). It’s a bit like speed-dating, except the first priority isn’t se..err...finding true love. I had a halfway respectable chat with a Colombian hombre in Spanish for a while and enjoyed a few brews. Ended up weaseling into a conversation in English (whatever, it was a moment of weakness, sue me) between some American kids who just came down for an exchange program and a few Argentinians working on their English. One of the girls in the group encouraged me to finally stop being a coward and helped me take my first bus ride in the city (didn’t have a ton of other options anyways as the subway had stopped running). But it was harmless and it was nice to check it off my to-do list.

And finally today, I met up with Graciela. She’s great. Graciela is a woman I met at my weekly Expat group meeting (at Starbucks no less, how very Expat of them). She’s probably in her mid-60s, and was born in BA but moved to San Francisco for many years before moving back here in 2005. I was mentioning to her at our last meeting how I couldn’t get anyone to break my 500 peso bills, which is all the ATM was giving out, and she offered to go with me to her bank to help me break them. She said while we’re at it, I can show you around my neighborhood to see some other banks that would give out lower denomination bills. It turned into a 3-hour crash course in how to be a more effective gringo in BA. I learned not to buy fruits, veggies, and meat at supermarkets. She showed me the best supermarket to go to (the one I’ve been using is “crap”, apparently). But we walked probably 50 blocks, had a lovely chat, and I learned a ton. I’ve now deemed her my adopted Argentinian mother (not to her face…yet). She always warns me about very motherly things, like how to not get pick-pocketed, or to not eat the Chinese food with extra MSG. She’s actually going back to the states in a few weeks, but it’s so nice having someone with experience here and is so willing to help.

I’m researching on the easiest way to add a comments section to the blog, but until then, I welcome anyone’s feedback – comments, questions, things you’d like to hear more about, things you’d rather never hear again, etc. Email me at jryanappleton@gmail.com or any of the social media networks. I’d love to hear from you!

Chau!

Mini Vacation is over

Mini Vacation is over

As of yesterday, Ken has left to return to the real world, which sort of marks the official start of my solo voyage. It really was great to have a friend along the way as I got settled, greatly reduced the number of panic attacks I'm sure. Weekend was great. Ken and I befriended several South American bros from the hostel, pregamed til about 3 in the morning then went to get hogwild in da club. We needed to stop at the ATMs to get some cash, which as it turns out, is a real problem in this country. They run out of pesos a lot. Of course that night was no different. I borrowed enough from my Chilean buddy NoNo to get cover, hoping to buy drinks with cards inside. They didn't take cards (which honestly was probably a good thing at this point), so we took a lap or two to check the place out then went back to the hostel. The night ended probably around 5:30 or so, which is fairly normal down here. I'm not built for that type of schedule without an adjustment period. I felt the consequences of that night for several days, but it was a hell of a good time. And as a nice cherry on top, one of my new friends from the hostel needs a place for the same time as I do, so we can look for a shared spot, save some cash, and actually have some camaraderie at home. As Michael Scott says...it's a win/win/win situation. 

On Monday night before Ken left, we took in a complete Argentinean tango experience. We started it off with a quick 30 minute group tango lesson to learn a few basic steps. The instructors were great, but I could tell by the end of the 30 minutes he was pretty nervous of how quickly I picked everything up. Understandable. This was followed by a candlelight dinner (very romantic) where I finally took a break from eating beef. The night was capped off by a 90 minute professional tango show with live music, singing, and dancing. A good send off for Ken and a great introduction to the tango culture for me. 

As of yesterday, I've moved into an AirBnb and out of my hostel for 2 weeks until Nestor and I find a place for longer term. You really take things for granted like sleeping in a queen bed without 5 roommates until it's gone. It's so refreshing to have some space to spread out and sleep comfortably. The guy who owns the joint is out of town on business, so his parents, who are staying here for two days, let me in and welcomed me with open arms. While their son speaks good English, they aren't as fluent. But they're such nice people. We'd speak in Spanish, and I'd get the gist of our conversations. But two things were consistent: 1) every time the mother would come home, she'd give me a big 'HELLO!' in her best English and 2) our talks would always end in a smile. Somehow a language barrier has the ability to bring out the true kindness in people. When communication isn't easy, it forces you to become a better listener and put forth the effort that you may otherwise not give in a common conversation. The experience is certainly impactful for me, and hopefully I can make an impact on others as well. 

Hell of a last week

Hell of a last week

Starting from last Monday, it's been a bit of a whirlwind for me. I've been so busy getting everything ready that it didn't really give me the time to get nervous. Probably for the best. But when you combine the stress of selling a car, moving out of a house, and packing for a 4 month stay, safe to say the stress builds. But I made it to Thursday. I had one final dinner with mom, got to the airport in plenty of time, grabbed a beer with my buddy Ken, and took a deep breath.

We got into Chile early Friday morning and hit the ground running until I left this morning. It wasn't a city with a ton of major tourist attractions, but we got in a good mix of in-town hiking, sightseeing, and patio day-drinking. It was nice having Ken there to kind of ease into this solo travel, instead of jumping in head first. He left Sunday to go check out a few other cities before meeting back up with me in BA on Saturday. 

Arriving down here has also made me realize that my Spanish has a long way to go. The Chileans were really cool with it but I'm definitely limited. Best example: Yesterday I ordered some mystery meat (chitlins?) sandwich by accident. But to be fair, I think the gentleman was trying to tell me I wouldn't like it. I think. Anyways...I at least made it 3 bites in. Oh well, chalk it up to experience. 

Just got to BA this afternoon and am able to relax a bit. I'm in the Eco Pampa Hostel for a week before heading to my airbnb for a few. The Eco Pampa has been a really nice stay. The staff speak many languages and are very helpful with recommendations or booking reservations if Spanish is not your native tongue. They also have a cool patio and herb farm on their roof for enjoying some fresh air and getting a different view of the city. Check them out!