The weekend before classes really started everyone in the Buenos Aires program was swept away for a short vacation in Uruguay. The first few weeks had been intense, with us trying to get a grip on a new country, getting used to living 24/7 in Spanish, and working with a completely different university system. Uruguay was a chance for a break before we had to buckle down.
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
Wow I really thought it was going to take at least a couple weeks to break my promise to myself to update once weekly, but here we are. I think it’s been about a month since I’ve posted, so let’s catch up! Read More »
Hey world, and thanks for tuning in. I hope things are going well for you, wherever you may be I’m sure you’ve all been quivering with anticipation since my first post where I mentioned Uruguay, and so now, after long last, I shall finally write about it.
HOWEVER, my one disclaimer is that the pictures that you will be shown are not mine, and they have been shamelessly stolen from sites on the Internet. I took some lovely photos while I was in Uruguay, but managed to lose my phone on one of our many bus rides, so all of my photos were tragically lost. That said, though, I’m going to try and include photos of all of the places that I went, so you can get an idea of my visual journey. But anyway, on to Uruguay! Dale aventuras!
Uruguay is a gorgeous (albeit a tad bit more expensive than Argentina), peaceful, and fun country, and it is only a quick jaunt over the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires, making it a popular destination for many Argentinians with the means to travel there. IFSA had set everything up for us (and very generously too, I might add), and as this excursion was one of the three times that the entire program group got together (the other two times being orientation and our closing ceremony), it was pretty fun to see everyone in the program who I hadn’t seen in a while. We had all come a long way from our overwhelmed selves during orientation, and I enjoyed hearing of everyone’s unique scene in Buenos Aires.
Our boat cruised across the river, fueled by caffeine and the excitement of 80+ American students, and we were in Uruguay in no time! From the dock we hopped on a couple of big buses to our first stop: Colonia! Our host and program director, Mario Cantarini, had generously offered his house for us to stay and frolic, and that afternoon was probably one of my fondest memories of my trip so far. Mario’s “house” is a boutique hotel/lemon farm/place so beautiful I could see myself getting married there, and it was only a few blocks away from a beautiful beach on the Rio Plata. Heaven. We feasted on emapanadas, choripán, fresh fruit, pie, artensanal bread, and some of the most delicious meat I had ever eaten. We splashed around in the pool, played soccer on the hotel’s front lawn, and then cooled off by sprinting down to the beach and jumping into the river. At the end of the day, we bussed into the center of town (Mario’s place is on the outskirts) to check into our hotels for that night.
Colonia has a ton of history and is a World Heritage Site, and we took a tour to check out some of the old (they’ve been around since the 1600’s) buildings. The town was super safe, quiet, and peaceful. Stray dogs (who are neutered by the city so that overpopulation doesn’t run rampant. Fun fact) run around, barking at cars, and the air buzzed with the sound of birds and insects. Some good friends and I feasted on paella and jazz music, and then went down to the river bank for stargazing, fireflies and good conversations. After the breakneck pace of Buenos Aires, the peace and quiet of Colonia was cool water to my parched and chapped nerve-endings.
The next day, we were up early again to scamper off to Punta del Este, which is one of the biggest resort towns in the area, and was much more built up and touristy than Colonia. Argentine author Rodolfo Rabanal describes it thusly: “Los turistas se marañan sus calles peninsulares durante el verano. Pero en invierno, edificios telar vacío, como si en los talones de una alerta atómica, mientras que barrido gaviotas y cormoranes negros que anidan en las grietas de mejillones rellenos de caminar por las calles” (“Vacationers snarl its peninsular streets during the summertime. But in Winter, buildings loom vacant as if on the heels of an atomic alert, while scavenging seagulls and black cormorants that nest in mussel-filled crannies walk the streets.”) As we were there in the fall, the streets were mostly free of the snarling vacationers, and it was a pretty odd experience to wander the hotel-laden streets that seemed to offer everything except people.
We certainly, made the most out of Punta del Este, though. IFSA (praise be unto Them) put us up in some sweet digs that were equidistant from three different beaches, and they also paid for some spectacular restaurant meals of fresh calamari, fish, and carne de vaca (the former two are some delicacies that are uncommon in Buenos Aires, and they were happily welcomed by my palate). Punta del Este has some gorgeous beaches, the Dedos de Punta del Este, and some very fun beachfront nightclubs. Shenanigans, surfing, and silliness ensued for the next few days, among which included: Bodysurfing in torrential rain, meeting a professional-level breakdancer and dancing with him and a club, and spending a lot of time in the complimentary hotel bathrobes. Before I knew it we were back on the waterbus to home sweet Buenos Aires. It had been an amazing adventure in a gorgeous country, and despite the comparably terrible exchange rate, I can’t wait to get back to Uruguay. But, until then, there is always LOLLAPALOOZA (see my next post 😛 )
I hope you enjoyed this blast from the past, and I assure you that one day I’ll catch up to what I’m doing currently. Classes have been excellent so far, though. I’ve watched a truckload of excellent peliculas, spent many an hour toodling around on REAPER (a free sound-editing program) building “sonic stories”, and have met a bunch of fascinating and diverse South American students.
16:44- Café Tolón, Palermo Alto, CABA, Buenos Aires, Argnentina
This is going to be a recap of all of my adventures from the last couple of weeks, so I’m gonna try to organize it by adventure so I can keep my thoughts a little organized too. I think I’m going to start writing a little bit every other day as fun stuff happens, just because I feel like nobody really wants to read the giant posts (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t…) jajaja Así que, empiezo:
Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia, Uruguay:
The last place I left off was right before our IFSA-funded trip across the Rio de la Plata to a little town in Uruguay called Colonia. We hadn’t even been in the country two weeks before we were hopping the border. As if it wasn’t cool enough that I’m living in one of the biggest/coolest cities in the world. But this trip was the perfect counterbalance to the slightly overwhelming transition from small-town, Arkansas (where I’m from/spent most of my break) to the hustle and bustle of the big city. Colonia is a slow-paced small town on the Rio de la Plata that caters to tourism and a safe, relaxed lifestyle. The hotel room I shared with two other IFSA girls was possibly the best of all of ours, not to say they weren’t all amazing. But we had two personal balconies overlooking the street and the bar next door, a beautifully tiled bathroom complete with bedét, and three beds. LeeAnn (another girl from Tulane) and I played rock-paper-scissors for who got to sleep alone in the queen-sized bed, and the other two each had a twin-sized bed. I won! Not to say we spent that much time actually sleeping in them… The majority of the trip was planned out by IFSA with a city tour, a beach trip, lots of delicious free meals, and, the highlight, the trip to Mario’s ‘plantation.’ Mario is the director of IFSA here (I think? I’m not exactly sure of his job title, but I know he’s in charge of big stuff. jaja)
But we had all been hearing about this infamous trip to Mario’s house in Uruguay since we got to Argentina. I had heard a little about it from my host mom, and between a couple friends, we had a picture of its magnificence all painted out in our heads. And, as it turns out, The Casa de los Limoneros, as it’s called, did very well at living up to our expectations. The place was designed by Mario’s partner who is an architect, and it doubles as a hostel. It was absolutely amazing; I don’t think I can do it justice by describing it, so I’m definitely attaching pictures. But we had lunch there (more like a feast) of a traditional asado, with chorizo (sausage) and delectable steaks and pork and I’m not even sure of some of the things we ate. But it was all absolutely delicious. Then after lunch, once we were all full to the brim, we changed into our swimsuits to hang out by the pool. jajaj so that probably doesn’t give you the best mental picuture, but it was still basically paradise, at least for me because I wasn’t there to impress any of my American IFSA friends. Just as we were starting to feel a little less full, Mario and his friends/(possibly family?) brought out the tortas (desserts). Dios Mio. I thought the meal was amazing, but the desserts just reaffirmed the excellence of the whole day. jaja ok maybe a little dramatic, but still, they were delicious: one, a bread pudding that was more flan-like was absolutely to die for. I told Mario’s partner that in New Orleans we make bread pudding with rum, and lots of it; he thought it was a grand idea! also, there was dulce de leche out the wazoo, tons of fresh fruit, and a torta de apples. Have I mentioned yet that dulce de leche is everywhere on everything? We were joking that it probably wouldn’t be bad on a steak… maybe pushing it, but why not? jajaja
Punta del Este, Uruguay:
Our tip in Colonia was from Wednesday to Friday funded by IFSA, but a lot of us decided to take a bus to another city past Montevideo, about 4 hours away, called Punta del Este (literally Point of the East) for the rest of the weekend. After three days in Colonia, I was ready to see a little more action; to put it in perspective as to the crowds the two cities were catering to, Colonia has only one boliche (dance club) that isn’t consistently open, whereas Punta del Este has tons to choose from that are full of Argentinos and other young travelers. So, we enjoyed our relaxing in Colonia but were definitely ready to see more people our age.
My friend Brittany and I took a later bus form Colonia and ended up getting to Punta del Este around 11pm, to be welcomed with a parade! I’m not exactly sure what the holiday/event was, aside from the arrival of the americanas (jajaja chiste!), but it was so awesome to see so soon after missing Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Even so, it was more of how I picture Carnaval in Brazil, with women wearing pasted on jewelry-clothes and covered in glitter as the dance down the street. Luckily nobody ever sleeps and places never close anywhere in the Cono del Sur (obviously an exaggeration, but, maybe almost true), so we went to dinner at midnight and watched the parade from a table outside at a little fast-food cafe. The one downside about Punta del Este was that most of the prices were more equivalent to what you would pay in the states, like most of the restaurants would be around $15USD for dinner, which seemed outrageous when we had gotten used to almost always less than $10USD for anything. But we were able to find a delicious little empanada place down the street from our hostel that had empanadas for only $25uruguayos, which translates to a little over a dollar a pop. Aside from the mini-carnaval, we also were there during a surf competition, which was pretty cool. We spent most of Saturday on the beach, but it was so full of people, it was kind of hard to tell what was going on with the competition. But the better side of the competition being in town was the people it brought. jaja There was a group of surfers staying in our hostel too, so we obviously made friends with them. We all went out around 2am (because that’s when things are just getting started) and danced at a few different boliches. I love to dance, so that obviously was a lot of fun, but the best part, I think, was after we left and we all went to the beach to walk around and put our toes in the water. It was just surreal: am I really “studying” abroad right now? But now, after struggling with registering for classes that start this week, I’m a little bit closer to the studying part.
Mini-adventures, here and there:
Taking a step back, I forgot to mention the trip to a milonga (a tango dance club) that we had the night before leaving for Colonia. Another IFSA-funded dinner/event, I went with the group for my concentration in human rights that I’m doing here through IFSA. We had pizza and got to take a class on the basics of tango! It was so cool to learn a little bit about it, and absolutely mesmerizing to watch the two instructors dance it. It’s just such a sexy and serious dance, but at the same time they made it look effortless and smooth. I hope to find somewhere nearby to take some dance classes in tango, salsa, merengue, etc. I took a couple of classes when I was in Costa Rica a few years ago, and it’s one of the best ways to meet people and, obviously, it’s so fun!
Random things I didn’t expect: ~there are tons of McDonald’s here! And some of them are 24hrs, some deliver, some have a whole separate room for the McCafe, because they’re all about cafés here (there are literally like 15 on every block) ~they spend a lot of money on clothes. The shopping is awesome (I’ve seen Armani suits, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Lacoste, Nike, Swarovski jewelry stores, Zara’s everywhere, and tons of little boutiques), but a lot of the stuff costs a lot more than what I would normally pay in the states. Even so, there’s so much cute stuff! Also, millions of shoe stores, and the average pair of shoes is over $50USD (and that’s right now when everything is on sale: changing from summer to fall/winter) ~At the mall near my house, there’s a TGIFriday’s…odd? ~There are a lot of Starbucks and the prices are around the same. ~The streets are nicer here than in New Orleans. ~People are beautiful. I’m 5’11” and blonde, so I obviously stand out, but less than I expected, and kind of for different reasons. The majority of the women are very thin, and they’re obsessed with Pilates, which I love too. jaja But there are a lot of taller people here too, and some blondes, but most aren’t naturally blonde, so I guess I still stand out. Men dress well, too, so it’s always nice in the mornings on my way to IFSA class to see all of the modelesque men in business casual attire. I don’t know what it is here, maybe something in the bottled bubbly water, but they somehow have figured out the perfect mix of european features and culture to make an absolutely beautiful and fascinating city. ~semi-strange thing: they like never drink the tap water, even though it’s perfectly clean and drinkable. Water in restaurants is always bottled (a lot of times in glass) and you have to ask for it to not be bubbly. I haven’t decided yet if I like the bubbly water, but it’s kind of fun because it’s more exciting than normal water.
On another random topic, this past Wednesday: #1 I saw a lady carrying a ferret on the street… normal? #2: I saw my first paro, or strike, which was a pretty big group of teachers and supporters, I believe, who were marching because they don’t get paid enough in the schools. They actually stopped traffic on one of the larger streets, and Brittany and I were eating lunch in a cafe watching it pass. #3: I was walking home around 7:30/8:00 pm and, though it’s completely normal for here, it still took me by surprise that most of the restaurants I passed were just opening and getting ready for the dinner crowd, but I don’t think I saw one person out eating dinner. Dinner time is 9pm or later, and they stick to it! jajaja Actually I had dinner last night (a Saturday) at an Indian restaurant around 11:30/12:00, and when we left around 1:00am, we weren’t the last people there. I don’t know if I like it better, or if it’s just different, but it is kind of nice to have so much more of the day to do stuff without having to worry about being home for dinner at 7. #4: The lights went out in my whole apartment building, and several around us. It was right around dinner time (so 9pm-ish), and my host mom was preparing the food and then all the lights went out. We lit candles and it wasn’t a problem, but the strange part was that it was only a few buildings. The ones across from us still had light. My host mom was explaining to me how the electricity is supplied to the buildings on three different circuits, I think, but it was still just kind of confusing. jajaja But she called the electric company after about an hour, and literally less than a minute after she got of the phone the lights were back on; she said that the company had no idea the lights had gone out. jajaja
This past Thursday was full of awesome, too. After my Castellano class at IFSA from 10-12, I walked around a bit and then finally stopped in this little bar/tavern/restaurant to have lunch. For the equivalent of about $12USD, I had a beer, bife de chorizo (which basically means steak), salad, and fruit salad for dessert. But this wasn’t any normal steak; it was like the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Pre-Argentina I heard from basically everyone that the steak will be awesome because this is the beef capital of the world; and I didn’t doubt them, but my dad can make a mean steak. But this was just in a class of it’s own. There was this magical sauce on it and it was perfectly cooked and basically it was just awesome. But then to make the day better, I met up with a friend to go to the Plaza de Mayo to see the Madres who always march around 3:30 there for their disappeared children. But Thursday was also a national holiday, Women’s Day (what a great idea, no?!), so there was a lot more going on in the plaza having to do with women’s rights and the topic of abortion, which is illegal here. It was really cool to see how proactive they are about things like this. There were tons of news stations there and people just filming the event, too. It was just unreal to be there and semi be a part of it. But then to make the day even better, my friend and I walked to a palacio de something where you can go to the roof (or I’m assuming it’s ok, because we did…) and see the whole city. It was breathtaking. Also, we both realized how much of the city we haven’t seen. It’s so huge!!! Dios mio. Then, on our way home, we stopped in a really cute leather shoe store that was having a super sale, but sadly there wasn’t anything that exciting in my size because the place had already been picked over. The last really cool thing to make my Thursday was the conversation I had at dinner with my host mom. I told her that I had gone to the Plaza de Mayo to see the Madres, and she surprised me with her own account of the genocide. She was in med school at UBA when the disappearances started. She said she got pregnant with her first son and had to drop out of school, which she said more than likely saved both of their lives. She had lots of friends that disappeared during that time. It’s so scary to hear of that first-hand. It was women just like her, that were in the University that were the ones who were getting abducted. The government didn’t have to have reason; they would just take people if there was even a slight possibility that you were against the government, and being in the University was excuse enough. People her son’s age are the ones who were taken when they were babies from their moms and adopted, often by government families.
Concentration: Human Rights
I had a meeting with my advisor for my concentration in human rights this past Friday at a cute little café in Palermo, and we discussed what internship I want to do for the semester. We talked about the structure of a few, and instead of choosing what I originally thought I wanted to do working with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo or a social/political rights group, Luti (my advisor) made me fall in love with two different organizations, which are a bit of a 360 turn from the other two. The other two are a lot more informal, but I think their form of work will be a lot more fulfilling for me and for what I’m studying. My first choice is a group of Bolivian immigrants that work for immigration rights, I believe, and it’s largely composed of people of indigenous heritage or from the more rural areas of South America. I’m really excited for this because I’m really interested in the indigenous populations of South America, and being in the super-europeanized city, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to see or participate in this sort of activity. My second choice is a co-op that employs youth in la Boca, which is a super-touristy barrio, but also home to a very poor population. The co-op employs kids/teens in making alfajoritos (mini-alfajores, the delicious treats I talked about in my video!) that they sell to tourists in the area. This internship reminds me a lot of the type of work that I did through Manna Project International in Ecuador, where the actual work you’re doing doesn’t matter as much as the outcome and the overall point of it. This seems like a great organization made to help these kids get off the streets and give them an opportunity for employment and, ultimately, help make their futures better.
Patio Gastronómico, Mar. 10, Avenida de Mayo:
Yesterday, a friend and I went to the Patio Gastronomia down next to the Plaza de Mayo. It was a really cool event with tons of little tent/booths set up for a wide variety of countries with food and information about their countries. There was so much food! I ate a little fried something with chicken in it from the Brazil booth, a hotdog/sausage from the Germany booth, and some amazing cake thing from a booth for a country that I don’t think I know of in English (or at least I couldn’t figure out the translation from Spanish). There were people dancing and they gave out awards (not sure exactly what for) but Perú, Japan, and Germany all won something and the people who went up to accept the awards were dressed in traditional clothing, which was so pretty!