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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.

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Settling Into Buenos Aires

Settling Into Buenos Aires

Getting to the end of the first week and the comfort level is rising. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a lost little puppy at times, but now it's more like a lost puppy who can get back to a street he knows and find his way again. 

I'm starting to appreciate the importance of decent conversation. While I'm working on my Spanish (more on that in a bit), it'll be important for me to keep in touch with some English speakers to stay sane. I've done a decent job of that this week. I met up with an Expat group on Tuesday which I found online. A collection of ~15 people who have moved here from around the word and speak English. The crowd is generally a little bit older than me, but seem to be good people that could be very helpful for me on this journey. One lady, who is the dean of a program for international students, mentioned helping me get involved with some of the events her students do. Another guy has a lead on a place to stay. So it will definitely be an event I attend on a regular basis to continue to learn. 

Last night, I met up with a friend of a friend who I was introduced to, a good Australian bloke (sorry I can't help it I become Australian pretty quickly) and we had a few beers. A younger guy, he's gone through the same things I'm going through now so he had some good insight, and was an all-around good mate. 

I've also done my fair share of wandering, just getting the hang of where everything is, the different neighborhoods, finding decent affordable restaurants, etc. When you're traveling alone in a foreign country with no real schedule, your to-do lists change quite a bit. Wednesday, for example, I wanted to walk to Puerto Madero (the nice district right on the water), about 5 miles away with the route I was taking, check it out, and then buy a metro card and take my first journey on the BA metro.Well I go in to buy a pass and the guy asks me for my passport, which I obviously don't have on me. So my 5 mile luxurious stroll turned into about an 11 mile march out of pure stubbornness.  But damn did that pizza and beer at the end of it taste delicious.

And as I mentioned in an earlier post, my Spanish just isn't where it needs to be. So Thursday, I went over to a Spanish School and met with the academic director to discuss classes. This led to a proficiency exam on the spot with fill in the blank and a paragraph to write at the end. I had the same nerves I haven't felt in 10 years about not studying enough for a test. Whatever level my bombing of that test put my into, I'm apparently the only student in it next week. So instead of 4 hour daily group classes, I get 2 hour daily personal sessions until someone else enrolls at my level. Shit's about to get real. It isn't super cheap, but I believe a very worthwhile investment. 

Now the weekend is here, and I'll experience BA nightlife (which is supposed to be absurd) for the first time. I'm going to find out what this town is made of. More likely, it's going to find out what I'm made of.