Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

The Return to Buenos Aires

Time February 13th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Buses (again) and public transportation

II. Mi familia Argentina

III. Receta: Torta de Chocolinas / Chocotorta

IV. My Buenos Aires

V. Musica

VI. Vocabulario

VII. Previous posts


I. Buses (again) and public transportation


When I arrived in BA late on a Thursday night, I was greeted not only by my cousins but also by the two staples of the Buenos Aires weather forecast:

1)      Rain

2)      And okay it’s not really weather, but it can be as intrusive and unpredictable: the subway operators and bus drivers were on paro, strike, meaning that my bus was not able to actually enter the bus terminal and I got dropped off on the median near-ish the terminal.


(Keep in mind that I had in tow all of my worldly possessions, all 80-something pounds of it.)


It all worked out without too much trouble, and within a few minutes I was able to meet with my cousins, who drove me home to their apartment. But all the same… nothing says, “Welcome back!” quite like rain and paros.


On the drive to the apartment, I began to realize exactly how expansive the city is. It just keeps going!


Two of my buddies were made fully aware of the city’s size with a sort of rude shock: the taxi from their hostel to my apartment was a whopping 100 pesos. To compare, the most I’d ever paid for a taxi in Mendoza was only 30 pesos. Ouch!


Clearly, that wasn’t feasible. That left us with the buses… My cousins were kind enough to leave me with not only a bus guide but also a bus card with about 30 pesos on it. However, one look at the bus guide made my brain want to crawl away and huddle in a corner somewhere. There are SO MANY buses. So, we had a bit of an adventure trying to figure out where we were going and how to get there.


And, surprise, surprise, the buses are slightly different here than in Mendoza. There are 3 different rates depending on how far you’re traveling, for one. The bus drivers are more impatient (which I hadn’t realized was possible.) I almost got squashed by the doors of one bus because apparently I was too slow getting on. Jeez.


By the end of that day, I was angry at the city. I felt cheated by my lack of understanding of its inner workings. I hated needing to cling to a map like any other Yanqui tourist yuppie. I had learned everything I needed about Mendoza, Valparaiso, and even Santiago by myself with hardly any effort—why was one city suddenly so terrifying and mystifying to me?


We finally did figure it out just fine, and I managed to successfully take not one but two Buenos Aires buses in one day by myself, and we got back in time for dinner with the family. (Though the bus ride took over an hour. Good lord.)


All in all, I was left feeling very grateful that I hadn’t been living in the capital for the last 4 months and very homesick…for Mendoza.


II. Mi familia Argentina


However, it’s hard to mope and feel homesick too much when you’re surrounded by family.


First of all, let me explain how I ended with family in Argentina that I had never met before coming here:

WWII Lithuania wasn’t the safest place for a Jew to be, so my grandpa left for New York. His brother went to Uruguay, settled down and had a family. (Leaked over into Argentina a bit, obviously.) His daughter is my second cousin. Her son stayed with my dad for about 4 months when he lived in California; they were about the same age. I’m staying with his two oldest children, Camila (20) and Mariano (26), but he also has a 3 year old and a set of 6 month old twins.


In spite of my misgivings about the city itself, I knew I had found “home” again when I entered my cousins’ apartment. They’re artsy semi-hippies just like me! They’ve got this great dining room table that they recovered themselves with newspaper comic clippings. Magnets made of old keyboard keys. And they drink actual tea, the kind that you strain through a small metal net, not the kind that comes in a package.
img_3882   img_3883
We’re pretty distantly related when it comes down to it, but we still have some of the most important things in common and we’ve gotten along very well. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the chance to meet them and that I get to claim them on my family tree!


In addition to showing me around town and hanging around the apartment together, I’ve had a few fun get-togethers with my family.


The first was dinner with the chicas (minus Lisa, who was in Chilean Patagonia, but obviously with us in spirit.) Mariano grilled up the best meat we’ve ever eaten and then played us some songs on his guitar. I was so proud to show off my chicas and their amazing Spanish that puts mine to shame and to show off all my nice cousins. We talked late into the night on Mariano’s dad’s balcony, looking up at the stars. (Stars in the middle of the biggest city in Argentina—say what?)


Since Ale and Lorri left the country a week before I did, we had a sort of sleepover/packing party at the cousins’ departamento so that we could spend one last night all together. “Welcome to our hostel!” joked Mariano.


I still cannot believe their generosity.


About a week later, I brought by another Yanqui friend that I met in Argentina to meet the family. We thought it would be a quick, “Hi, nice to meet you, bye, we’re going to Tigre now!” But little did we know that the family was throwing a despedida lunch for Mariano, who was leaving for Spain the next day. To their surprise, my Yanqui friend ended up swooping in and taking over grilling duties. “They didn’t believe me when I said I knew how to do an asado!” They also didn’t believe me when I said he wasn’t my boyfriend, but that’s another matter.


Asi que this apartment has been the place where all the pieces of my heart came together.


I also had the strange but nice experience of sharing the holidays with my Argentine family. Mostly the strange part was that it was so hot that I was dripping sweat, we drank cold drinks (or just sucked on ice cubes), and swatted mosquitos. And yet much of the holiday imagery is borrowed from us, like the tree covered in “snowy” tinsel. We drove out to the provincia for Christmas dinner with…my um… cousin-in-law’s (?) family. Lots of people I didn’t know, which was also weird. There were mountains of food, of course. Pionono, matambre , ensalada rusa, and (very atypically) turkey.


Around midnight, the neighbors started up with fireworks. (Cue the babies crying, haha.) Then we all got up to give besos to everybody at the party and wish them a merry Christmas. I think I would have thought it was cuter if I hadn’t been so hot that I didn’t want to be touched. After that, they carried the presents out of the house and put them under the tree in the backyard. By this point, my one glass of champagne and the heat had done some gnarly work to my system, and I curled up in the hammock under the tree to take a little mid-party nap. (Tee hee hee.) I was woken up when one of the kids brought my present to me from under the tree, which I hadn’t been expecting. The cousins had gone out and bought me one last reminder of Argentina’s bizarre fashion sense:


My very own swag pants. Awesome.


III. Receta: Torta de Chocolinas / Chocotorta


For our family Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) dinner party, my cousin and I made a simple, classic Argentine dessert: torta de Chocolinas (or chocotorta.)


As my cousin Camila said, “Chocotorta will never let you down, because it’s easy and it doesn’t have to be pretty or neat.”

Plus, it’s delicious.



Cream cheese

Dulce de leche

Chocolinas chocolate cookies


Optional: cinnamon, liquor, chocolate milk powder, vanilla extract, fruit garnish, etc


(However, I could imagine some delicious variations with ginger snaps, oreos, thin mints…or any type of cookie, really. Not sure what you’d use as a substitute for dulce, though. Perhaps chocolate? Coconut cream? Pumkin? Lots of fun possibilities, and I’m really excited to play with it a bit.)



First, combine dulce and cream cheese in a bowl. (This is to taste, but I think you want a higher cream cheese to dulce ratio.)


Next, fill a shallow dish with milk and whatever additional seasonings you want. Soak the cookies in the milk until they are soft but not mushy. You want to take them out just before they start to fall apart and lose shape.


In a casserole dish, alternately layer cookies and the dulce/cream cheese mixture. (The bottom layer should be cookies, and the top layer should be dulce/cream cheese.) Garnish with crumbled cookies and/or fruit. Put it all in the fridge or freezer. Serve cold.



IV. My Buenos Aires


Even though I was still in same old Argentina, I felt like I was in a different country than the one I had been in all semester. The architecture of Buenos Aires is very distinctive, for one. It’s also easier to find “Americanized” restaurants, products, and English-speakers, which was all very weird to me.


Possibly most importantly and most strangely, Buenos Aires has been the circuit breaker between my life in Argentina and the life I’ll return to back home, between Yona and Paloma.


Maybe it’s because I’ve had it in mind this whole time that I’m about to leave. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been hanging around with a guy who has central AC and peanut butter in his apartment. But as soon as I got here I started forgetting tiny, strange details of the Argentine social norms that I know so well and have been using every day all semester. Trying to shake someone’s hand instead of giving a beso. Saying “Gracias,” after being handed mate. What the heck, Yona? It’s not like I don’t know these things.


It reminded me of the moment when I realized our Mendocine friend, the IFSA secretary, who the chicas and I tried to emulate in many ways… wanted to be a Yanqui in many ways. We’re trying to be Argentines, who are trying to be Yankees, who are trying to be… So, who’s who anymore? Which identity am I trying to assume?


Buenos Aires definitely zigzags back and forth across that line into the blurry gray middle zone too, but it’s still uniquely Argentina. With all its quirky crazy charm.


Since coming to Argentina, I’ve seen 3 different faces of the famous downtown Plaza de Mayo: I’ve seen it on an afternoon when the madres de los desaparecidos marched and called out names of their missing children. I’ve seen it at Very, Very Late O’Clock packed with people and choripan vendors, the Casa Rosada alive with flashing lights and live music, for Dia de Dependencia. I’ve seen it decked out for Christmas, with the lush lawn trimmed down and a tree made of recycled materials covered in tarp.




But to me, none of those images represent Buenos Aires. Maybe they should. But my Buenos Aires was a bit off the beaten path, which is just how I like it.


I spent the majority of my time in barrio Agronomia, which isn’t exactly central.


(The hour+ bus ride meant that I didn’t venture out to the microcentro very often.) Luckily, Agronomia was much more my speed. I had a great time getting to know the neighbors, doing my own grocery shopping and cooking, and pretending that I lived there on that street shaded by hibiscus trees.


I will also always think of Buenos Aires as my romance city.


I’m still not sure what I want to say about it, but I feel like I need to say something because it was definitely a part of my experience in Argentina. An important one, I think, and a big change for me.


However, this is the one area of Things You May Encounter on Study Abroad that I can offer you exactly no advice on. (And who can?) I can’t tell you how to find love. I can’t tell you how to avoid love. I can’t tell you what to do or how to handle it when it’s time to go home. I can only tell you what my experience was.


The first pieces of advice everyone in Mendoza gave me was
a) Get an Argentine boyfriend so I could practice my Spanish
b) don’t fall in love with an Argentine because he would only break my heart.
Gee, thanks guys. Well, it turned out that none of the Mendocines I met were really my style, so I avoided that problem all together. However, I did meet an American man…


Before I left the US, I joked a whole lot about all the men I was going to meet and hook up with in Argentina. But I didn’t actually expect or necessarily want that, and I definitely didn’t see my little fling coming. He wasn’t the type of guy I thought I should be looking for: older, military, American. It was sheer dumb luck, but I don’t think I could have picked a kinder guy to hang out with, and I think it was something I really needed. I had my first real dinner and movie date. We went sailing, a first for both of us. I learned how to kiss. I think I learned a lot of useful things about myself, men, and relationships, but I’m still too emotionally tangled in everything that happened to be able to process it all yet.


It lasted about a week all together…and then we had to go our separate ways. He was the last person I said goodbye to before I left for the airport. (And I was almost late because of it. Oops.)


“I don’t want to leave,” I whimpered through my tears.


Ever the pragmatist, he replied, “I think your experience of the past week has been very different from mine…” Referring to the break-in of his car two days before Christmas and the ensuing paperwork quilombo.


“Okay, so I don’t want to stay in Argentina forever,” I admitted. “But I still don’t want to leave…”


So my heart broke—colossally, spectacularly. But I’m so grateful that it all happened, and if I could do it all over I don’t think I’d change a thing. And the Yanqui and I are still friends.


For those of you who find romance on your study abroad, or wherever you are, that’s the least I could possibly wish for you.


V. Musica


I believe this will be the last time I share music with you guys, so we’re going out with a bang: 2 good bands for the price of one!


The cousins introduced me to Onda vaga

(My favorite song starts at 5:02. The comments list each individual song and let you skip between them.)


The love interest introduced me to No te va a gustar.

(And here are the lyrics for this particular song.)

They’re from Uruguay, but their musical style is very much like Argentina rock nacional.

(Other good songs: Chau & Memorias del olvido.)


Here’s hoping these guys keep you dancing through your day and whatever your next adventures may be.


VI. Vocabulario


Mellizos – fraternal twins

Flequillo – bangs (hair)

Despedida – farewell

Chorro – (slang) thief

Fuegos artificiales – fireworks

Hamaka – hammock


VII. Previous posts

  1. Antes de que me voy  (Before I Leave)
  2. Host Families and Fun with Public Transportation
  3. “Are You the Girl with the Blog?”
  4. Playing Tourists in Buenos Aires
  5. Looking Good, Mendoza!  
  6. A Detailed Guide on All Things Micro 
  7. Trip to Las Termas
  8. Daily life in Mendoza
  9. Habia una vez en los Andes… 
  10. Night of the Soccer Game 
  11. Road Trip! 
  12. My Mate for Life 
  13. Ringo vs. Chuck Norris 
  14. Pros and Cons 
  16. Philosophical Moments in Neuquen
  17. Cordoba and Oktoberfest
  18. Some tips about Hostels
  19. Student Life in Mendoza
  20. Trabajo Voluntario
  21. San Rafael
  22. The Chicas Take Chile
  23.  Soaking up the Last of the Sun – Mar del Plata

The 2/3rds Review (a little late)

Time November 29th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, I just turned in an extremely difficult essay I spent all of last night editing for one of my modules…I don’t feel particularly confident about the score I will get, but I tried and that’s about all one can do. My head is spinning a little and I need to take a break, which means it’s time for a blog post. Therefore, I would very briefly like to comment on my experience abroad in general now that I am 2/3rds of the way through–more than, actually, since I’m writing this about 10 days later than I meant to!

In any case, I want to be completely honest about my experience and what it has been like, and a part of that is me admitting that for all the fun I’ve had and things I’ve learned, there were moments (well, okay, longer than mere ‘moments’; more like days) when I desperately missed my home university and felt completely beyond my comfort zone.

The first month was really hard for me; when my parents visited a month into my stay, I was so happy to see them, because at the time, all I could think was “I don’t really have friends”, “I miss Gettysburg”, “Why did I decide to do this again?” and other such thoughts. I haven’t written about this yet, really, because at the time, I felt just awful for even thinking those things–objectively, I knew I should be so grateful for having this experience at all, and I felt very guilty for not enjoying it more. The fact that I never really felt homesick after moving to a college 6.5 hours away from my home three years ago and was so incredibly excited to visit Wales allowed me to skim over the idea that I might had adjustment problems here . I (naively) expected to just love being abroad instantly, but it was much more challenging than I’d realized. Being in a different country (even one where you speak the language) with a different academic system in a city threw me much further out of my comfort zone than Gettysburg College ever did.

The most important point I would like to press, though, is that you just have to give it time, and furthermore that nothing helps one adjust more than completely throwing one’s self into something. I chose to become involved in some societies, and furthermore vowed that if I learned anything at all here, I would learn the Welsh language. It sounds simple, but setting that one simple goal of really doing well in my Welsh class (not just skating along to get by, as many do in language courses) changed everything for me.

I can say completely confidently that now, two months (and a week, now) into my program, my attitude and feelings towards this experience have gone completely the opposite way and I am absolutely in love with Cardiff; I no longer see the charm in the idea of returning to my home university, and the only thing I am thinking is “Don’t make me leave!”

Funny old world, isn’t it? One month you want nothing more than to go home, the next month you want nothing more than to stay and in spare moments somehow find yourself pondering ways in which you might soon secure a return visit to your adoptive country.

This, I think, is a pretty normal thing for Study Abroad students to feel, the initial excitement, the homesickness, and then finally settling in. I was just a bit arrogant and didn’t think I would experience all three.

I just wanted to make it clear that contrary to what my blog thus far may have suggested, it hasn’t been all butterflies and roses and frolics in the countryside since I arrived in Wales. But I adjusted and settled in and I feel more at home in this city than I ever have anywhere in the US …the unfortunate side of this change is, of course, that I am struck with despair at the idea that I will not be returning to Cardiff after being home for Christmas and the New Year.

So for the moment I’m just going to go on my merry way, doing my assessments in denial until it all comes crashing down about my ears two and a half weeks from now. :)