On July 10th I arrived in Buenos Aires, and now, four and a half later, I return to the United States. It has been a wonderful experience, a wonderful opportunity, one I am fortunate to have been given. Living in Buenos Aires and the surrounding areas has been an experience, to say the least, one that has been mostly positive. However, since the interminable rainy season finally stopped, the city has been aggressively dripping on me, to the point where I’ve become a little suspicious that it isn’t intentional. A walk down the street is not complete without a water droplet from someone’s radiator hitting you directly in the eye, though this is certainly preferable to my friend who was hit in the head by a poorly thrown bottle in a bum fight.
Since last Monday, I’ve been travelling through the nation of Uruguay, situated on the Northern bank of the Rio de La Plata. Despite the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans probably could not pinpoint Uruguay on a map, it is an important country with one of the highest standards of living in Latin-America. I visited three cities, Colonia del Sacramento, Montevideo, and Punta del Este. All three had their charms, Montevideo especially. There was a beautiful boardwalk where a small, unsupervised child showed us his Yu-Gi-Oh cards and asked us if there were a lot of clothes in America. Umm, kind of?
Punta del Este, while home to some beautiful beaches, was a bit of a ghost town, populated by the tortured spirits of construction workers who’s unfinished business consisted of building expensive condos. I got slightly burned by the sun and I am nearly certain that someone in the hostel stole my toothbrush, yet mysteriously left both my iPod, money, and passport. Hmmm.
Colonia was a nice, well preserved Portuguese and Spanish Colonial town. As a member of the intermediate program, I got to spend a night in a room in our program-directors Bed and Breakfast, La Casa de Los Limoneros. We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner consisting of Turkey, potatoes, yams, fruit, Choripan, squash, and pecan pie. Having not seen turkey in my time in Buenos Aires, I imagine that the last few turkeys in South America were exterminated for or enjoyment. It was scrumptious.
Yesterday I went to a Boca Juniors game. It was una locura. After enjoying blackberry pancakes, my friends and I met at a hostel where we were transported to the La Boca area of Buenos Aires, known for its colorful houses, tango dancers, and rampant crack use among the poor. We were initially brought to a some circle of hell filled with slightly overpriced fake jerseys as well as very overpriced beer and soda. I asked the beer vendor where the bathroom might be located. To the back and to the right. Gracias. I walked through a door where a small family did classic Argentine tasks. A wide-eyed girl stared up at me as she played with her Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Is this the bathroom?, I asked. Turns out it was the second door on the right.
The game itself was fun. We arrived early enough to watch the reserves kick the ball around the field a bit before they were ushered off to make way for the professionals. Things seemed relatively tranquil at first, no one was too rowdy and the stadium seemed structurally sound enough to survive at least a category four earthquake.
However, as soon as opening kickoff started people began to throw blue and yellow smoke-bombs and chant Boca Juniors songs that seemed mostly to be series of cusswords directed at Racing Club and its players. It soon became apparent that we were on the balloon side of the stadium, people were passing around balloons, which were then hurled in the general direction of the field, possibly due to some government work initiative where the unemployed are hired to pick up debris. Unfortunately, I felt that I had received the short end of the stick. The opposite side of the stadium had, not only flags, but a small brass band.
The game itself was quality, 3-0 Boca. Afterwards we were treated to some classic slapstick humor as the riot police on the field were sprayed by a malfunctioning sprinkler system. It was uproarious.
I will take a wealth of positives from my time here. My Spanish has certainly improved, though I wouldn’t call myself fluent. I feel like I have enough of a base to continue improving and increasing my comfort with a language I enjoy speaking. I’ve also made some wonderful friends here, some Porteños, others students from different parts of the world,
If I had to pick a negative, I would point to the classes I had, though I attribute some of the blame to myself. They simply were not challenging enough. Despite the fact that they were in Spanish, I found them a little too broad for my tastes. In retrospect, I probably should have done direct enrolment in the Argentine Universities program where I could have had a wealth of classes to choose from.
If anything, after a few weeks back in the states, I imagine I’ll be ready to travel abroad again, somewhere new, somewhere different. The experience I’ve had here has been absolutely extraordinary. If you’ve followed my blog (And you know who you are), thank you very much, I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing as much as I’ve enjoyed living them.