It’s been exactly a week since I landed at the Ezeiza International Airport and paid a new $140 entrance tax, that’s apparently good for 10 more years. This was implemented recently because there was no such thing in 2006 when I last came through Buenos Aires. Apparently the trick is to enter the country at any other airport or location in the country and that $140 can just go right towards endless bottles of delicious Malbecs, or empanadas, or both! If only the U.S, Canada, and Australia didn’t make it so expensive and difficult for Argentineans to enter our countries for vacation, we’d all just be sharing Malbecs all over the world, now wouldn’t we?
Yankee. Gringa. Americana. La Rubia de Chajarí. My new pseudonyms– or the security guard of the apartment building who can’t seem to say my name without an “S” at the end. “Buenas Noches Hannas” That’s a new one.
The “Rubia de Chajari” has been a joke since I came and met the Marsó family almost 5 years ago. When I arrived to Concordia, a city along the Paraná River, minutes from Uruguay, Justa and Edguardo picked me up and took me straight to “Las Termas”—thermal pools. When we were paying the entrance fees Justa told me to say I was from Chajari, about 100 km from Concordia, because they’d charge me more for being a visitor, and mostly because apparently there are a lot of blondes in Chajari. Funny enough, years later, Javier, his friend Denise, and I went dancing last Saturday in Chajari and I kept joking with everyone in the morning that I found my blonde long lost relatives in a discoteca in Chajarí (while I may be exaggerating about how many relatives I found, one truth is that the average age at the discoteca was about 16, in which case I just felt like I was dancing around a bunch of my high school students. Dios Mio!)
Since I have landed here, it’s been about 80 something degrees and sunny every day and I immediately made sure I got my two fixes: a proper asado–grilled varieties of different meats, and incredible baked empanadas. Every day I wake up and I am so thankful for the amount of people I have here who are always looking out for me. I always hope there will be a day when I can do the same for the Marsó family in Boston and all of the wonderful people I met in 2006 that I will spend the next three months visiting. Since the moment I’ve landed I’ve been spoiled. From airport Pick-up, to borrowing a cell phone all hooked up and ready to use from Javier’s business, to doing laundry back in Concordia where we spent the weekend, to being invited to Sunday Asados surrounded by huge groups of fabulous Argentinos, having rides for the first time to the site of my weekly, late night Soccer games, to having friends to cook dinners with, and for weekends planned for the next month including beaches, ATV-ing in Sand Dunes, and Wakeboarding.
Mostly, I am thankful for the constant company. To arrive to a foreign place with the only goal of re-immersing myself in the Spanish language and to have that one requirement as accessible to me as a visitor continues to amaze me on a daily basis. It can be very tough to make friends in a new city with foreigners and equally it’s all too easy to become friends with all the ex-pat Americans and speak English all day. It’s ALL about the networking and of course, giving back. Travel Karma, how I love thee.
Some of my 1st week favorites and highlights:
- Meeting Felipe, Eugenio’s 5 month old baby. Eugenio is one of the 4 Marsó brothers, who I traveled with for a week in ’06.
- Meeting up with Adam for the past two days, a Backroads leader who was en route to Calafate to lead in Patagonia and Bariloche. We found the best empanada restaurant in the Recoleta Neighborhood called “SanJuanín” and it was filled to the brim with locals. We found a gem within a touristy area!
- Playing Indoor Soccer in a 90 degree building (and I thought I couldn’t do hot yoga?) last night with a group of Argentine men cheering our team on, since women in Argentina rarely play soccer. Thank goodness I played for the past month on a team in NH with Chanpheng, a high school soccer buddy.
- Walking to my little favorite new coffee shop with wi-fi a few blocks from Javier’s apartment, chatting with the staff, and sitting up on the terrace in the shade with a breeze and catching up with friends and family back home.
- Finding out that Alison is going to come for 12 days in April on her teaching vacation. I cannot WAIT to plan something spectacular. The vineyards would be in perfect season in Mendoza, so that is one idea we have.
- Sitting around with the Marsó family and their friends and passing yerba mate around for hours.
- Remembering how politics are something that you are asked for your opinion on within hours of sitting down for a dinner. “Did you vote for Obama?” “How do you think the U.S is doing?” “Why is Sarah Palin crazy and how is she a governor?” “What is Obama saying about Egypt?” “Hillary Clinton?”, and things alike. I always feel like I am one step behind them here with reading the latest news!
- Visiting Roberta, a 40 year old single architect, and in the words of my mother, she is a “hot ticket!” I met Roberta here in Buenos Aires two days ago, through Sarah in Boston. Sarah met Roberta on medical mission trips to El Salvador that she does with her family every year. Sarah put us in touch, and e-mail led to meeting for coffee, which turned in to eating dinner at Roberta’s chic apartment and her offering to rent her empty second bedroom to me for the months of March and April. It’s a crazy networking world out there. I’ll move in on March 7th and I will definitely miss the daily living with Javier, but I’ll be happy to have my own space too and continue to come cook with Javier all the time.
- A highlight definitely worth noting: No stomach problems as of yet! Yah! Definitely a highlight!
- Not a highlight, not a favorite, but a regular part of life as a foreigner in Latin America: the hissing groups of men. Hissing? Really Muchachos? That makes women want to run away, not come and talk to you.
- I absolutely love adjusting to the accent and vocabulary specific to Argentina, but sometimes it makes it tougher to follow a conversation with words sounding quite different than Spain’s Castellano that I learned. Every day I learn new words that are used in Argentina’s Spanish, for example the world I know for a goalie in soccer “Portero”, is not anything close to the word that is used here. It makes this all that much more of a cultural and language heavy experience. Me gusta mucho!
- On Tuesday night, Fernando, another Marsó brother came through Buenos Aires for business. Fer and his aunt came over Javier’s place and we hosted an “Asado” Dinner. Their arrival time? Typical 10:30 on Tuesday night. Departure time? 1:30 in the morning on Wednesday. Javier had the meat grilling on his mini outdoor space and I was in charge of the sautéed vegetables. I thought it would be really nice to have a little appetizer plate of grapes, cheese, crackers, and pistachios, so I put that out and put on some Gypsy Kings to really make our formal dinner night official. The next thing I know, Javier’s aunt (who I stayed with in ’06 also) was staring at the plate and politely asked me, “How do I eat this? Show me”. While I cracked up, she explained she wasn’t sure if you were supposed to have cheese and cracker and grape all at the same time? The three of them plowed through the Pistachios and said they never buy them or some haven’t tried them because it’s an expensive item here. I guess the grapes were not a hit. I realized they might have thought, “Grapes (fruit) at 11 at night before dinner? That’s the last thing I want to eat before I dig in to a bunch of meat.” Who really knows? So I left the three of them thinking that Yankee’s eat odd appetizers like that in Gringo-landia.
- Adding another brother to the dinner table resulted in me learning more and more inappropriate, albeit useful (!) vocabulary from hanging around a bunch of boys. Why is always that kind of vocabulary that you end up remembering the most?!
- Today I spent over an hour just exploring the isles at the grocery store, and also because it was so well air conditioned. Grocery shopping with the 4 to 1 currency exchange is certainly a plus. Four juicy, sweet oranges cost me 80 cents today!
- I am deciding which cooking course to sign up for (1 week intense or 1/week for a month) at this famous cooking school down the street from my apartment!
When I make an entire album of photos I’ll be sure to post the link! Can’t wait for e-mails and stories from back home!