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Empanadas de Salta

Time June 16th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Geez, I’ve certainly been traveling up a storm recently!  When we last left off, I had just returned from the Argentine Patagonia (check my story out HERE), and I barely had time to catch my breath in Buenos Aires before gearing up for my next trip, which was to the city of Salta in the extreme Northwest tip of Argentina.  My friends and I scored a sweet deal on the travel and accommodations with the same travel agency that took us to Calafate, and after kissing my host family goodbye (it seems as though I had just said hello to them), I was on a plane to the high-altitude deserts and rugged Andes Mountains of the north.  

Before I had left, my host Dad took me aside and advised me that Salta was famous (food-wise) for its empanadas, tamales, and wine; and he urged me to try all three.  So, after landing, dropping our stuff off at the hostel (and saying hi to the kitten that lived there), we set off in search of delicious and authentic Salteñan food and drink.  Our trusty Lonely Planet app steered us towards a restaurant called Doña Salta, which, while kitschy (the waiters dressed up like Gauchos), had extraordinary food and wine.  I sampled the empanadas (which are more like empanaditas; they’re pretty small in the Salteñan style) with delicious dried meat only found in Salta, and enjoyed my first bites in a long time of  tamales (yum!).  I also had Locro, which is a lamb stew popular in the Northern regions of Argentina.  The food was all rich and hearty, which proved to be a theme for all the food that we ate that weekend.  It seemed appropriate for chilly and mountainous region in which we found ourselves, and my tummy certainly didn’t mind.  We told ourselves we would crash early that night since we had a tour planned at 7 the next morning, but since we are silly college students who were stoked to be in a new city, we naturally didn’t sleep much that night (note: this is a very consistent theme for this trip, and I probably averaged only four hours of sleep a night #restandrelaxation?).  

The next morning found us excited if a little exhausted, and we had barely shook the sleep from our groggy eyes before we had hopped onto a combi (a giant van-type vehicle for carrying larger groups of people) and began our photo adventure to Cafayate, which is a wine town tucked into the nape of the Andes.  We had a van photo/food/informational tour planned for each day, and each tour that we took had a different mood depending on who our fellow riders were. Today, the mood was ENERGY.  We were with a crew of middle-aged women from Mar del Plata (shoutout to the first city that I ever traveled to in BsAs) who liked to have fun!  That day was the birthday of one of their members (Ramira), and I lost track of how many times we sang “Cumpleaños Felíz” during that drive.  We also saw amazing vistas, drank yummy pink wine, enjoyed some llama empanadas, and I bought an alpaca sweater.  The women were wonderful company, they were tickled pink that we were American but spoke comfortable Spanish.  We ended that day with quick stroll into a canyon for our last photo stop, and while we were there a ukelele player took full advantage of the acoustics of the canyon with a few tunes, which inspired our new friends to dance wildly and sing along.  Then, the ladies from the sea gathered us all into a circle and we prayed for Paz Mundial.  #blessed.  What an amazing day.  

Day two (Saturday), however, was the one we were all waiting for, the (longggg) day trip to the Salt Flats of Jujuy.  After staying up way too late the night before (again) with our new friends from the hostel, we crowded into a new van with a new crew and hit the road for the Salt Flats.  If yesterday’s theme was energy, then today’s was absolutely adversity.  The day started auspiciously enough; we met some cool new friends who were staying in Tucumán and took some enthusiastic photos with us next to the Train to the Sky.  However, after one of our first photo stops, our guide couldn’t get the car in gear (basically every vehicle is stick-shift here), and he turned to us and explained that without the ability to shift gears, our car wouldn’t be able to drive.  We had no radio, no cell service, and no idea what to do.  Our guide, fortunately, happened to be a mechanic, but after taking apart the whole front panel of the The mood of the group rapidly began to sour until another combi trundled along and we were able to flag it down.  After about an hour (from when the car broke down to the end of the tinkering), our driver had jury-rigged the gearbox cables together with a piece of wire from the toolkit that the other combi had.  And that jury-rigged system lasted the ENTIRE 12 hour day, including some really rough driving.  Color me impressed.  But broken-down autos aside, that Saturday was also obscenely windy, and the towns that we visited were all out in the open and duuusty.  By the time we finally pulled up to the salt flats, most of us were tired and ready for the attraction that we had traveled so long (about a 5.5 hour drive thus far) to reach.  However, the flats were absolutely worth it.  We braved the wind and took a ton of goofy photos, and afterwards we hopped in the car and passed around some mate.  Between the excitement of the salt flat and the mateína, the mood and morale definitely improved.  Still, we were a ways away from Salta when we were at the Salinas, and it was a long haul back home.  When we finally made it back to our lodgings, darkness had long since fallen, and hostel food had never tasted so good.  

Finally, for our last day, our van tour promised us a trip to Cachi, which is another tiny mountain town that is known for both its goat and having spawned a former Argentine president.  To get there, we drove up a winding mountain road that offered spectacular views of a cloud-cloaked Salta.  The were cacti everywhere, and between the hardy desert plants and the color of the soil, I felt like I was in Tucson, Arizona (a town I know and love).  On the drive up, our affable (my personal favorite) guide introduced us to the mountain tradition of coqueando, which means the process of chewing coca leaves.  While each leaf contains a minute amount of cocaína (yes, the stuff in cocaine, but it’s more like caffeine than anything else in the leaf form), our guide assured us that people chewed these leaves the “help with the digestion”, before opening his mouth and cramming about 500 leaves into it.  Oh well.  However, our guide also asked if anyone in the car (which was populated today by a bunch of retired Argentines.  We, like every other day in Salta, were the only Americans in the car) if they wanted to perform music with him at the restaurant in Cachi.  Someone volunteered me (granted, I would have volunteered myself if given the chance), and before I knew up I was perched in front of a crowd of elderly Argentines singing Creedence Clearwater Revival (I forgot a verse but just made up the words in English and they were none the wiser).  I also ate goat for the first time.  Fantastic day.

And then, a god-awfully early morning flight later, I was back in Buenos Aires with some fantastic memories (and a lot of homework that needed doing) under my belt.  Once again, I felt incredibly lucky to travel, and I had spent the weekend with some of my favorite gringos that I have met during this program.  Plus, we were all photogenic and avid photographers, so between the 6 of us we probably took about 1000 photos.  I assure you that I made sizable cuts to get to the 88 photos that I’m posted here.  What a fantastic weekend.

Now, I’m in Buenos Aires and World Cup fever is in full swing.  I’m writing this while watching Colombia beat Greece and doing my best to balance academics with soccer (soccer might be winning).  It’s hitting me a little harder each day that I only have 3 weeks left in this fantastic country.  Definitely not ready to leave.  Not yet.  I no doubt will write some overwrought and unnecessarily verbose reflection when I end my days here, but until then, I’ve still got some more adventures.  Mendoza this weekend!  See you on the other side!  Dale, vamos!

Dylan

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My Mate for Life

Time November 19th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Today I’ll be talking about:

I. Yerba Mate
II. Musica
III. Vocabulario
IV. Links to previous posts
V. Coming Soon

I. Yerba Mate

 

If you’re thinking about coming to Argentina, something you’ve probably heard about by now and might be wondering about is yerba mate, the national drink.  If you haven’t and you’re not, you should get on it. It’s kind of a big deal.

 

An Argentine is said to truly become a man the day he decides to prepare mate for himself of his own volition.

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A big moment in the life of the student abroad is being offered mate for the first time, because that basically means your IN. They like you. Drinking mate is generally a group activity, representing friendship and solidarity and all that other good stuff. Everyone sits in a circle. The cebador (mate server) prepares the mate and passes it around to the circle to the left. Each time the mate is sucked dry, it is passed back to the cebador to refill.

 

A few tips to avoid mate faux pas:

1. Don’t say thank you unless you mean, “I’m done drinking mate now.”

2. Don’t move the bombilla. That’s a good way to suck up bits of yerba in your water, which doesn’t improve the experience.

3. If someone offers you mate, it’s in your best interest NOT to turn them down. Just do it.

4. That said, consider yourself warned, because it can have a strong effect on the digestive system. Drink with caution until you know how it’s going to affect your body, and try to eat beforehand/with your mate.

5. When you pass mate to someone else, make sure to do so with the bombilla pointing towards them so they can drink from it more easily.

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Not all mate is created equal. It comes in a hodgepodge of flavors (grapefruit, orange, lemon, peppermint…), with or without palo (which makes is less or more concentrated), and of course there are about 80 gazillion different brand names. It’s all up to personal taste. There are also mate cocido tea packets…but that’s a completely different drinking experience!

 

Mate is the word for the yerba itself and for the container it goes in. Traditionally, they’re made out of calabaza or madera, but they come in all shapes and sizes, including this crazy, not-vegetarian-friendly one.

 

Mate is also known as the student’s drink. I’m sure this is partly because it’s loaded with mateina, a sister chemical to caffeine. It’ll keep you running through the night if you have a paper due. But I think it’s also the student’s drink because it’s the procrastinator’s drink just because preparing it is such a process. The thing about mate is that everyone has their own weird little rituals and superstitions about their preparation.

 

I put together a little video about preparing mate, but it’s not exactly the highest quality so I’ll give you some written notes here:

 

You’ll need:
A thermos full of hot water
Yerba
A mate
A bombilla
Optional: sugar (or honey, or milk, or coffee, or orange peel, or orange juice, or…)

 

  1. Fill your mate 2/3 of the way with yerba.
  2. Shake the mate a little to release excess powder. (Makes the first batch of mate less obnoxiously strong.)
  3. If you want sugar, now’s the time for it.
  4. Tip the mate to a 45 degree angle so that the yerba lies at a diagonal inside. Pour in not-quite-boiling water, taking care not to wet the uppermost section of the yerba. (You’ll lose the flavor faster if you wet all of it at once.)
  5. Give the yerba a moment to absorb the water, then add more if necessary.
  6. Cover the mouth of the bombilla with your thumb (not quite sure why. It’s just what you do) and insert it into the yerba.
  7. Sip from the straw until you can’t get any more water out of it, then pour more water. (Sugar may be added before pouring in more water if you want it sweeter.) After a while, if the yerba has lost its flavor, you can dump it out and start over with a fresh batch.
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One of the coolest moment in my study abroad was when an Argentine, who had her hands full with something she was working on, asked me to serve her mate. High pressure situation: it’s one thing preparing mate for other Yankees who don’t care about traditions and protocol, another entirely preparing it for a real Argentine. I held my breath while she sipped from the straw. “Yes, thank you! Ah, and you didn’t even get the top wet—you’re amazing!” she cried. I died of happiness.

 

Mate is definitely an acquired taste for some, but I absolutely adore it. My favorite is yerba saborizado con peperina, amargo. I get random cravings for it. Drinking it has an instantly calming effect for me—I think I understand a little bit when Argentines are talking about when they say it has a “nostalgic” taste for them.

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For other applications of yerba, you can also look for information about tereré, the hot-weather interpretation of yerba mate.  I don’t know much about it because I’ve never had it—it’s more common in the north—but my sister, who’s from Corrientes, told me a bit.

 

1) With mate, you pour the water then put in the straw. With tereré, you put the straw and then the water.

2) Tereré is traditionally done in all-caña equipment: caña straw, caña straw, etc.

3) There’s a version of it with sprite instead of water—yuck.

 

I’ll leave you with this funny cross-cultural moment from the beginning of the program:

 

2:34 pm

Yona: So, we’re still meeting on Las Heras around 6 to do some shopping, right?

2:36 pm

Lorri: Yes. And I told Micah he could come too. He’s looking for a mate.

 

…What? Oh, wait, yerba mate. Right, got it.

 

II .Musica

 

Julian Mourin has a nice little song about mate. You can also download the entire CD free and legally from him on the same website.

 

III. Vocabulario

 

Palo – stick

Yerba – herb

Bombilla – straw

Saborizado – flavored

Peperina – peppermint

Cedron – lemon verbena

Chupar – to suck

Cebar – to serve mate

Caña – cane

Calabaza – gourd

Madera – wood

Pomelo – grapefruit

Amargo – bitter (without sugar)

 

IV. Links to previous posts

 

I just noticed that these have been a bit off in the last couple of entries. Sorry about that! All the links are here now.

 

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! 

 

V. Coming Soon

 

Chile
Neuquen
Cordoba
The Student’s Life
Trabajo Voluntario
Rafting in San Rafael
Daily existence in Argentina continued
Chile again
Iguazu
The split up and the return to BA
Home?

I’m running out of adventures here. :(

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mate

Time June 8th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

If you’re new to mate, you might be turned off by the bitterness. Keep in mind that it’s more of an acquired taste. The more you drink it, the faster you’ll become accustomed to the comforting taste. :) Also note that the warmer the water and the longer you let it sit before drinking, the more bitter it will be.

I’ve come up with some simplified directions to prepare mate, so you can drink mate all the time :)

To prepare mate:

  1. Fill your cup about 1/2 to 3/4 with yerba mate.
  2. Moisten the mate slightly with lukewarm water, then wait 30 seconds.
  3. Prepare the hot water, then pour until it nearly reaches the top.
  4. Let the mixture stand for a few seconds, then insert the bombilla firmly into the mixture.
  5. Sip your mate with the bombilla (but never touch the straw!!!)
  6. Replenish with hot water when necessary.

Note: sugar, other herbs (mint, for example), honey, or milk can be added, depending    on the drinker’s preference. Some don’ts: never touch the bombilla and never drink for too long; always pass it on!

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Back in the saddle

Time May 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 Sunday, May 13 – Back in the saddle

 

Happy Mother’s Day to my mommy at home in Arkinsaw!  I’m going to do the dishes tonight after dinner for my host-mom as my little gift to her, even though it’s not an Argentine holiday.  But apparently today is Mother’s Day in Uruguay, too.  haha just not here

I am beyond excited to say I have been feeling a zillion times better since my gran quilombo with the pneumonia.  I’m not getting tired nearly as much after walking around more and more every day.  I still take naps every other day, but I think that’s probably just my normal tiredness.  haha  I’ve been doing Pilates and feel really good, but I’m still a little iffy about trying to run again.  I don’t want to run in the chilly air outside (not sure my lungs would like that too much), so maybe I’ll re-join my gym.  Or maybe not.  haha We’ll see.

But today I went with one of my friends to the Feria de Mataderos, which was a big fair of artisan stuff in Mataderos, a barrio basically on the opposite side of the city from where I live.  We were really proud of ourselves for getting there without trouble after a little over an hour on the bus.  It was sooo cool, as you can see in the pictures.  There was live music, dancing, booths set up in every direction that had every kind of mate gourd ever, jewelry, clothes, A LLAMA and his mini-horse friend, leather out the wazoo, tons of amazing-looking food, and I don’t know what else.  I got some of my gifts to bring home checked off my list and for super cheap!

the llama!! and his mini-horse friend

live music at the Feria de Mataderos, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, BsAs, Argentina

a metal wine-holding gaucho!

 

Along with today’s adventures, I’ve been getting back in the swing of things as I’m feeling better.  It’s so nice to be able to enjoy the city again!  I conquered one of my biggest study-abroad fears and got my hair done!  And the guy was hilarious and actually did an awesome job!  But I almost got my tips dyed…  After he looked at me kind of funny and pulled out the color book, I was super confused and asked him to confirm that “desgaste” meant cortar–to cut.  Apparently it doesn’t.  It was ridiculous and we both got a good laugh out of it.  I told him at least now he had the best story of the day about the silly American girl.  But after that was cleared up and he offered to shave my head (another word I didn’t know before), he ended up doing exactly what I wanted and I taught him a couple of funny words in English too.

We found real HOT WINGS in BsAs!! and they were actually spicy!

 

Last weekend I went with the human rights concentration kids to an estancia (basically the country) in the province of Buenos Aires (not the city).  It was another IFSA-sponsored event, so we obviously ate some ahhmazing food and the accommodations were awesome.  We left early Saturday morning for the two hour trip and came back Sunday night.  Even though it was just two days, it was the perfect amount of time to get all the fun/relaxing stuff in.  But we still all wanted to stay and study abroad on the estancia drinking wine all day and eating like kings.  hahaha It was a pretty chill trip and we didn’t really have much organized activity as much as just options to do cool stuff or to just relax.  Because I was still feeling a little ill-ish from the pneumonia, I opted for mostly chill time to catch up on reading.  But I did go canoeing in the lagoon on the estancia!  I’m not really sure of the definition of a lagoon, but this body of water was barely more than a super stretched out/glorified puddle.  So it was really wide and could have passed as a mini-lake from just looking at it, but once we hopped in the canoe and started “paddling” it was basically like pushing off land the whole time.  I think the deepest it got was a solid three feet.  Even so, it was hilarious how much effort we were putting into it because somehow there was still a current/wind that we had to fight once we got off shore.  But it was really fun to get out of the city for a hot second and have a relaxing couple of days.  This coming Saturday I’m going to Pilar, a city outside of BsAs, with the exchange program group from the Universidad del Salvador.  They have another campus there and it’s supposed to be really pretty and relaxing too, so I’m really excited for that.  And we’re going to have an asado–aka a BBQ with tons of meat! yaummm  :)

learning a dance at the Estancia

 

feasting at the Estancia

 

learning the proper mate form at the Estancia, Chascomús, BsAs, Argentina

 

the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

canoeing in the laguna at the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

our little cottage at the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

This past Wed. in my human rights research class we went to the  Instituto Espacio para la Memoria, which is where people were brought and tortured during the dictatorship from 1976-1983.  It’s this gated area with a lot of different buildings that don’t seem that incriminating.  A lot of them were disguised as office buildings during the dictatorship so as not to draw suspicion.  It’s located right off of a main avenue on the edge of the city, which was eerie to think about how that must have functioned when people were being brought there to be imprisoned and tortured.  It was hard to imagine that we were in the exact same place where so many people ‘disappeared.’  There were bits and pieces of testimonies on display in the main building that we toured, and they really gave light to the horror that only handfuls of people survived.  They spoke about their complete lack of freedoms.  They were unable to go to the bathroom at their own will.  They were hooded and shackled/handcuffed and not allowed to talk to the others around them.  They were packed into rooms where they sat for days, weeks, or months (sometimes even years).  Some testimonies spoke of the radio that was constantly playing on full volume at all hours and the lights that were always on.  Their sense of their surroundings was completely controlled by guards.  It’s scary to think that almost nobody knows how many people were packed into the rooms at a time because they weren’t able to see the others.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside of the building where the ‘disappeared’ were kept, but I do have some pictures of the artwork and quotes from some of those who were released/friends and family.  I could go on for days about the dictatorship, or what is called the Dirty War in the States, but I’ll hold back for now.  I’ll let the pictures/quotes speak for themselves.

 

Artwork about the memory of the dictatorship

 

one of the buildings where the disappeared were illegally held and tortured"Lo único que les pido, si les queda algo da valor, es que digan dónde están los cuerpos" The only thing I ask of them, if they leave anything of worth, is to say where the bodies are. --Charly Pisoni from H.I.J.O.S.

 

"Es fuerte verlos entrar esposados, cuando hace más de treinta años la situación fue al revés y ellos llevaban a nuestra gente esposadas." It's powerful to see them handcuffed, when more than 30 years ago the situation was the opposite and they brought our people in handcuffs. --Cristina Muro, from a group for Families of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons

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mendozan musings

Time March 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Yesterday, my friend and I met at calle Las Heras to buy mate cups. We walked in various tourist-y shops, stores that sold amusing trinkets, and another shop that was entirely dedicated to mate (mate bags, cups, straws, yerba, etc.) before finally buying a ceramic one. I was pretty excited to buy my first mate cup. My host family doesn’t drink too much mate (since my host mom is so busy with work), but I love it and plan on drinking more.

We had a mate fiesta at the IFSA office where we learned about the history and the proper ways to drink and mix mate. We passed around thermoses and cookies while stirring the mate to our liking. Mate can be drunken with sugar, dulce de leche, etc., but in my opinion I don’t think condiments are needed! I should probably stress how common mate is here. Even when you walk down the street or wander through the parks, you can see everyone (the young and the old), sipping on mate cups and pouring hot water from the thermos to get the mixture just right. Drinking mate is symbolic of friendship, community, and culture, but it’s also an enjoyable social activity. After all, it’s beneficial for your health and highly caffeinated (although you certainly won’t receive the awful crash from coffee highs).

Afterwards, some of us trekked to Mailo’s, a delicious ice cream place. Oh man. Desserts are so cheap and accessible here! Granted that my host family provides relatively healthy meals for me every day, I’m still trying to get used to eating between 10-11:30pm then being treated to dessert. How 99.9% of this population remains extremely thin remains  a mystery to me.

While we were eating ice cream (I opted for tiramisu and dulce de leche), we received many jealous stares from passerby (we were eating outside), and one man looked so happy by the thought of our ice cream that he immediately went inside and got himself a big cone. Ice cream is popular among everyone :)

Fueled with ice cream, we walked to San Martin, an extremely busy and commercial street that is always filled with people. Sigh. We were really tired at this point, and I felt frustrated weaving in and out, struggling just to move forward. It was a struggle because a) lots of little children were present, b) the elderly slowly ambled on with their canes, c) people stopped in the middle of the street, forcing us to somehow walk AROUND them, d) there were SO many people, e) people do not weave in and out like we do, and f) the streets are ridiculously long (address starting around the two digits to the triple digits). Oh, and did I mention already that Adele has followed all of us to Argentina? You can hear her at your house (my host sister is blasting “Someone Like You” at this very moment), on the streets, by the people, boliches, restaurants, bars…..personally, I love her music but I think it’s a tad too soulful to be played at lively venues. -___-

Those are some thoughts I have from today! If you have any questions or want to check out my personal blog and see more pictures, feel free to send me an email: brl91@brandeis.edu.

 from top to bottom: mate cups/drinking mate/mate ready to be tasted/ice cream

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