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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. 

Lights, Beer, and Football

Lights, Beer, and Football

I've been slacking a bit on my posting frequency; I shoot for at least once per week but I let it slip a bit. IT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN.

Church Rave

Last Saturday, I had an a true Buenos Aires night out. My roommate is pretty big into electronic music so I went with him and two other people from our old hostel to a rave in an old abandoned church turned bar. In typical BA fashion, the doors didn't even open until 2 AM, and we got home around 6:30 in the morning. Four hours of DJs and strobe lights would've been hell on an epileptic, but it was an absolute blast. As expected, I was completely worthless the next day; I have no idea how porteños do this on a regular basis. Years and years of practice I reckon. I suppose I'll have to remain dedicated to the cause, ya know, for personal growth and what not. 

High Quality Cold Beer

I had several different people recommend I check out Antares, an Argentinean craft brewery with a few locations in town. I finally checked it off my list last Thursday. The last time I walked past their Palermo location, it was packed with a line out the door. One of my teachers told me we needed to get their right as it opened to get a seat, so my buddy Clinton and I did. It wasn't quite that dramatic but it filled up shortly thereafter. I've drunk my fair share of Heineken, Stella, and Quilmes (Argentina's version of Bud Light/Coors Light/Miller Lite) so I was looking forward to enjoying some beer with some depth to it. Combine that with some quality bar food for a good price and it's safe to say I will return. 

Tigre

The following afternoon I took the train to Tigre, a suburb of Buenos Aires set along the convergence of three rivers. It's an effortless hour-long train ride from BA, which makes it an easy and pleasant day trip. With the weather finally starting to look up, I thought it'd be a great way to spend a Friday. The clouds wouldn't retreat for an extended period of time, so I decided to hold off on the river cruise for a subsequent trip, but I was able to check out the market, take some great pictures, and enjoy some beer and ice cream along the river. I'll certainly visit again, and would recommend it for anyone visiting Buenos Aires as well. 

Finally Found the Football Bar

Another Saturday, another opportunity to find The Alamo, the ever-elusive football bar. After realizing that the bar had just changed names, I locked down the coordinates and set out on my quest. I arrived just in time for the start of the 3:30 CBS kickoff, and watched it in between a Bammer and an Ole Miss fan, which made things fun. The bartender explained why they changed names; apparently they have do it it relatively often as they attempt to "bend" the rules set upon them by the Buenos Aires government, and need to avoid repeat fines and getting shut down. You gotta respect the hustle. I convinced them to change one TV to the Auburn game and boy, what a joy that was! Looks like I'm in for another season filled with disappointment. I've decided I'll just find out whatever Argentine soccer team is the best and start rooting for them. I have no shame - I just need to see some wins this fall. 

I've just spent today streaming some NFL games and nursing the wounds that come along with staying at a bar for 8 hours. But I had fun and met some cool people, so I continue to have a lot to be thankful for. 

 

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!

A Proper Send Off

A Proper Send Off

Yesterday was fantastic. I had my going away party with my friends and had an absolute blast. Started at Monday Night Brewing at 1:30 and didn't stop until midnight. It was an All-American theme, so I tossed on a red shirt and was planning on getting accessories when I got to MNB. Little did I know, my buddy Harper had different plans. And when a friend presents you with an Uncle Sam costume, you can't turn it down. So one quick trip to the bathroom and I had morphed into a true patriot. I certainly turned some heads, and on the bright side, it made it very easy for people to find our group. 

We went from Monday Night Brewing for some food and beverages at Krog Street Market, then walked over to Ladybird where the shots began flowing. The hazy nightcap at MJQ was a great way to end it...I'd love to see video of Uncle Sam dancing the night away. 

I drank entirely too much beer and am paying for it today, but with such a great group of people out with me I didn't want it to end. I will certainly miss these people when I'm away. I look forward to meeting new friends abroad, but they will have some tough shoes to fill. 

Mending Injuries

Mending Injuries

Yesterday I got my 3rd and final epidural shot in my back, conveniently only 2 hours after the actual appointment time *deep breaths, Ryan, let it go*

The shots definitely do provide some relief. And I'm not sure how weird this makes me, but there's something intriguing about watching them give you the shot through the x-ray machine. The length of the needle can be a bit bothersome, but it's cool watching the medicine flow exactly where they want it to. But when doc starts saying "Ok, tell me if the pain shoots down your leg...", that means the pain is about to shoot down your leg. Just a heads up. 

When I first went to the doctor in January, I would've said you were crazy if you told me this issue would still be lingering 7 months later, but alas, here we are. I can say it's definitely gotten better - I don't fear sneezing anymore, which is nice. It's really just developed into more of an annoyance. I was worried it would bother me in Colombia, and it really never impacted me. All I can do now is take my meds, get my stretches and work outs in, and let it work itself out. 

 

Life Without Work

Life Without Work

Well my life without a job has officially started. Definitely a weird feeling. But first I should reflect back on where I left. When I think back to my last semester of college, going through the interview process, I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I wanted a job. A job that paid a good salary so I could pay my bills and buy cool stuff. A job in a big city in the Southeast, preferably Atlanta. 

I interviewed with several companies, some ending better than others. And then I went into the Home Depot interview process (with something like 25 other developers from other colleges there) and thought I crushed it. But I still didn't really know what I was interviewing for (a generic IT Developer position). Turns out, I did crush it, enough at least.  I finally got the offer (the only offer I ended up getting that cycle), I was excited but more so relieved. I checked the boxes...I got a gig in Atlanta with a good salary so I could pay my bills and buy cool stuff.

I started working on a software I had never even heard of, but somehow managed to figure it out, mostly due to having a very helpful and patient manager. Through out my years at HD, this pattern continued to repeat...meeting and working with amazing, helpful people. It's what allowed me to be successful. My strength has always been building relationships with good people and learning from them as much as I can, and Home Depot was no different. But beyond that, I met so many people that I can truly call friends. Maybe I initially thought that work friends were just for keeping me sane while at work. But I'm as close to these people as I am anyone. I've laughed with them, traveled the world with them, and had way too many beers with them. It's what made leaving last Friday tough. But I find comfort in knowing regardless of where any of us are working in the future, we'll always remain friends. 

Now back to the present. I'm doing my best to make these 3-4 weeks before leaving as productive as they can be. There's always a fine line between being productive and being busy. But there is a difference...I want to do more than just 'not sit around', time spent needs to be focused on accomplishing a goal. My two current goals are: get as prepared for my trip as possible, and spend as much time with friends and family as I can. I feel pretty good about what I've accomplished so far, but it's still only 2 days in. I'm also working on developing a morning routine, but I'll post about that later.

That's enough for now...until next time, I'm logging off.