80 Days in Buenos Aires

Another 10 days have come and gone in Buenos Aires, and with frequent travels and midterms, I have passed the halfway point in my program rapidly. My mindset has drastically changed from pondering how I would be able to spend 150 days away from home to feeling content in Buenos Aires, knowing I’ll be back at home again very soon. There are still moments when it is difficult, triggered by a dramatic song about building a home on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist or thinking about walking into my momma’s arms at the airport on December 17th. Overall, I have stayed very level-headed throughout it all, with only natural highs and lows. I am excited for the next 10 weeks and also for my return home. However, attempting to live in the present, I would like to share my experiences for days 71 to 80 of my semester abroad. I now present 10 Days in Buenos Aires: Part Eight! (WARNING: This post looks VERY long, but it is mostly just pictures)

On Thursday September 29th, I woke up slowly and enjoyed my empty Thursday morning by heading to the gym. Once home and showered, I picked up my normal grab-and-go lunch full of fruit, veggies, and pasta. Everyday that I go to this lunch spot, a young Chinese woman practices her English with me, and normally gives me free bread in exchange. I brought my lunch home and ate as I completed my homework before conversation class. In the afternoon, I headed to conversation and made a quick stop on the way at Rapa Nui for my weekly ice cream treat. I’ve become a local at Rapa Nui, and they now know when I walk in that I’m from the United States; the whole staff seems to jump at the chance to practice their English. Once full of Dulce de Leche, Chocolate, and Meringue, I headed a few block down Callao to FLACSO. Conversation class is always extremely fun, the whole two hours are lively and aided by pronunciation, intonation, and colloquial vocabulary practice. Following class, I headed home on the Subte. Some days are extremely busy on mass transit and others not. There does not seem to be a pattern, and rush hour changes everyday. On this particular Thursday, I was trapped between people for my entire 45 minute commute. In the evening, I ate dinner with my host family and then headed out with my friends Grace, Haley, Gabe, and London to explore a Speakeasy in Retiro. The store front was of a flower shop, Floreria Atlantico, but down a back staircase was a long and narrow bar filled to the brim with people: tourists, after work drinks, families, and groups of friends. My friends and I each ordered a drink. Some drinks even had mate as an ingredient, which is the herb used in the tea that people drink all day, everyday in this country. We enjoyed the venue and headed home at a reasonable hour.

On Friday September 30th, I woke up ready to celebrate a weekend without travel. As amazing as it is to see so many corners of Argentina, it is very difficult to get on a bus straight from Thursday class and return to Buenos Aires on Monday mornings. On Friday morning, I headed to the gym in the morning and then to Oui Oui, one of my favorite lunch spots in my neighborhood. The lunch special of the day was potato soup with homemade bread, shrimp risotto, and an ice cream filled puff, all served with ginger mint lemonade. I slowly enjoyed my meal as Edith Piaf played quietly. In the afternoon, I fit in a little homework and a nap before the house turned into sleepover central. Friday was Alexia’s birthday, and Tony and her friend Cata took over the kitchen to make Chocotorta. Chocotorta is a chocolate cake made of layers of chocolate crackers with layers of dulce de leche mixed with sour cream in between. Once made it is put in the fridge for the dulce and cream to thicken and for the crackers to soften. It is a delicious and simple cake. In the evening, Cata, Tony, Alexia, and I ordered pizza for dinner. After the meal of pizza and cake, I cleaned up the kitchen before heading to my friend Grace’s house. There I met London, Grace, Haley, and Hannah. We headed to Crobar, a club in the giant Palermo Park, for Drakefest: a night themed after Drake and similar artists.

I spent the weekend of Saturday October 1st & Sunday October 2nd working on homework and napping with Om. I am still unsure whether I am allergic to him or not, but I just take a few extra allergy pills and decongestants when he is around. Overall, I had a very peaceful weekend stuffed with the Good Wife, a couple visits to the gym, and a head start on my homework before another weekend trip.

On Monday October 3rd, I woke up to make my normal egg-in-hole breakfast. I spent the morning in bed watching The Good Wife knowing that in just a few hours I would have to rejoin society. I got ready for the day and headed out towards the Congreso neighborhood on the other side of town in search of my favorite Ceviche restaurant. I got off the Subte on Callao and walked a few blocks until I ran into Argentina’s Congress. I had only seen it from afar before, but this time, I got up close for a good view. I then walked a few blocks over to Chan Chan to get my fill of Ceviche. The restaurant opened a little after noon, and I had to be at my volunteer work by one. I had to eat quick, but it was so worth it for some good fish. Once I paid the bill, I ran straight back to the Subte and headed toward Almagro. I arrived at CLAYSS right on time to meet the other intern Maggie. We continued to research service-learning organizations and began drafting letters during our three-hour shift. Once done for the day, Maggie and I walked to the Subte and Bus stop and went our separate ways. In the evening, I ate dinner with my host family before heading to my room to study for two exams the next day.

On Tuesday October 4th, I had a full day of class from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 pm and two midterms. I began with an hour and a half of writing (in Spanish of course) in my service learning class. Following class, I headed to the photocopy store to buy photocopies of readings for another midterm, the following day. I also grabbed a Thai chicken wrap for lunch at Parva and a brownie cupcake to make the long day a little bit sweeter. When I returned to FLACSO, it was time for my midterm in Bodies, Gender, and Sexuality class. This exam was two and a half hours of writing in Spanish. After gaining a new callus on my finger from scribbling rapidly all day long. I walked free out of the exam room, and into two more hours of writing class. My brain was fried, and I felt as if I could cry if anything aggravated me too much, really the normal post exam exhaustion. Following writing class, I dragged myself home across town just in time for dinner with my host family. Following dinner, I headed back to my room to prepare for my next midterm.

On Wednesday October 5th, I woke up early to continue studying for my Human Rights midterm. I read from a large pile of materials as I ate my egg-in-hole breakfast. I then headed straight for the Subte. To my surprise, the Palermo Subte entrance was closed, so I walked a few blocks to catch the 111 bus with the mass of other displaced commuters. I hopped on the bus and watched the minutes tick by. Despite the heavy morning traffic, I arrived at FLACSO just minutes before my exam. Another two hours of rapid writing in Spanish commenced, and very quickly, the time ended. I finished the last question in the last minutes allowed. Finally, I was able to relax. The remaining hour in class, we watched a film about the founder of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. I sat back and enjoyed as I ate my ham and brie sandwich. Following Human Rights class, I headed to grammar for two more hours of constant instruction. At 3:00 p.m., I walked out of FLACSO with a cramped hand and exhausted mind, but at least the weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Everyday on my way home, I pass a bakery with a massive brownie, cream, dulce de leche, and meringue cake. I had promised myself on Monday, that after my exams, I would eat that glorious looking cake. I bought a giant slice and brought it home to share with my host mother. Thank god for good cake and its healing capabilities.

On Thursday October 6th, I woke up, ate the normal egg-in-hole breakfast and headed to the gym. I fit in a quick workout before coming home to pack for another weekend trip. After I had packed two backpacks, I headed down the street to Miranda and bought a massive salad complete with grilled squash, tomatoes, and zucchini. The salad could have fed two but I loaded up on every last bite, especially the homemade bread knowing that dinner is not always promised on these overnight bus rides. In the afternoon, I headed to conversation class, where I had to give a twenty-minute presentation. I chose to talk about the Buenos Aires Zoo which had officially closed because the conditions for animals in the city was so poor. In the last months, the animals have been relocated to sanctuaries or the wild to live more naturally. Once my presentation was finished, I was officially off the hook after the long week of tests and presentations. Following class, my friend Haley picked me up in a taxi, and we headed toward the Retiro Bus Station. There we met Hannah and Grace and boarded a bus for Mendoza, Argentina’s Wine Country in the Andes Mountains. The bus ride was 15 hours long, but I spent it writing in my travel journal and sleeping, somewhat comfortably in my reclining chair.

I woke up on Friday October 7th still on the bus, hours away from Mendoza. This was my 5th overnight bus ride in the country, so I was really a professional at this point. I ate a peanut butter cliff bar for breakfast, along with an orange and banana (I always bring fruit when I travel). The bus arrived at noon in Mendoza, one hour late. 16 hours later, in need of showers, Grace, Hannah, Haley, and I got into the car of our driver to take us to our Airbnb. We arrived at a country house with three dogs out front, one missing a leg and another that seemed to be very sick and injured. We quickly learned that these dogs would be living with us in our Airbnb along with the man who drove us from the bus station. Additionally, the 60 some year old man staying there was not the man we had talked to online. And the final cherry on top? There was no wi-fi. The Airbnb profile was of a young guy from Belgium named Sebastian. We were promised a private house, wi-fi, and a space a lot cleaner than what was there. We told our driver that we needed to leave and get a refund. He was very helpful and took us to meet Sebastian, the lying Airbnb man. Sebastian acted very apologetic after trying to scam us. We asked him to drive us into the city of Mendoza, instead of Maipú on the outskirts where his Airbnb was located. He was fairly nice, handed us our refund, and drove us 30 minutes to a hostel in the middle of Mendoza. We checked in, and FINALLY, all had a chance to lay down in bed. We didn’t stop for naps after wasting nearly the entire day traveling and dealing with Sebastian, and we headed out to explore the city and get some ice cream. We walked through massive parks, the town square, and saw the interesting architecture and water system left centuries before by indigenous people and european settlers. After a stroll around the city, we returned to our hostel for showers before heading to an Italian restaurant around the corner for dinner. I enjoyed seafood spaghetti and an apple tart for dessert. Following dinner, we all quickly fell asleep.

On the morning of Saturday October 8th, we woke up early for our Mendoza Wine Camp tour. We were picked up in a van by our tour guide, a young man who had lived in Texas while growing up and spoke fluent English, and a couple from Denmark. The entire day was spent with our small group of seven. We began the tour at Clos de Chacras. This is a boutique winery that has been passed down from the original owner to his great-granddaughter. They winery has preserved many of the original techniques for wine making, and keeps the basement in the original condition to show guests how the wine was once made in large cement tanks. In these tanks there would be dust from earthquakes, dirt, vines, and leaves, all mixed together to make the wine. Definitely not how it works today. Following the tour, there was a wine tasting with food pairings. To begin, there was a Chardonnay paired with a corn soufflé. Second, a spicy Cabernet Sauvignon paired with meat empanadas. Finally, a Malbec paired with dark chocolate. I learned how to tip the glass and look at the colors, how to identify the first and second aromas, and how to taste and talk about the flavors. This was an incredible experience, and I drank very responsibly, only sipping enough to taste and enjoy the pairings.

The second bodega of the day was the Cruzat Sparkling Winery, which has a beautiful view of the Andes Mountains from the vineyard. Inside, there were massive tanks where the fermentation occurs. We also received a tour of the storage room where we learned the process of sparkling wine once in the cellar. This includes a specific process where the bottles must be turned on certain days, even down to the hours for all of the sugar to dissolve in the fermentation process. Once ready they are filled with gas just as a Coca-Cola is to add the fizz. At this Bodega, I was able to label my own bottle. There was also a quick tasting of the sweet (overly sugary) sparkling wines.

The third Bodega was the destination of lunch. We arrived at a bright restaurant and sat together as a group of seven. The first course was black and green olives served with a cheese plate, bread, olive oil and rosé. The second course was a shrimp tart served with a Cabernet. The third course was grilled white fish over a bed of beet risotto served with Malbec. The final course was a white chocolate cheesecake served with a sparkling wine. The food was magnificent. I enjoyed tasting the wine to understand the pairings; however, I much preferred the taste of the food separate from the wines. I ended up drinking water to preserve my delicious lunch.

The final Bodega of the day was very industrial. We quickly saw the massive holding containers and saw some new processes of fermentation before headed upstairs for a quick tasting. After a long day, I was little exhausted. I had a little sip of each wine, before headed back to the bus to return to Mendoza. After such a large lunch, Grace, Hannah, and Haley all took a nap. We then headed out to grab a small dinner and some ice cream in Mendoza. (Mendoza Day 3 will be in the blog 90 days in Buenos Aires)

Another 10 days have passed with magficient food, experiences, and scenery. I am so lucky to call Argentina my home for the semester. Thank you so much for reading along again; there is more to come very soon (this blog is a week overdue). Sending love to those far away! Adios!