Around the World in 360 Days and Way Too Little Money

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The End (Or, How to Study Abroad in Buenos Aires)

(Inspired by Thought Catalog)

Receive your acceptance letter. Be super-excited for 5 days, and then push it to the back of your mind for awhile. Keep getting emails about immigration, and put them all off until the last minute. So it’s late, you think. It’ll work out. It does, but spend all day stressing and running around until you finally know that you made the deadline. Buy a flight. When the money disappears from your bank account, that’s when it feels real.

Start packing the night before you leave. Pack your suitcases full of all the things you use regularly and a bunch of things you don’t, and then take out all the useless stuff. Repack after convincing yourself that yes, you really need that drawing from kindergarten to remind you of home. Your parents roll their eyes and say you won’t use half of it. (They are right.) But you’re an adult, and you know what you’re doing. Thank god when your suitcases are under the weight limit at the airport.

Arrive in Argentina. Begin the awkward process of making new friends, and go out to bars and clubs that you will never go to again. Realize you can’t understand anything this country does. Go on the colectivos and the subte for the first time, and marvel at how cheap taxis are. Pretend to listen to orientation. Two weeks later, you will wish you had listened, but right now, who gives a fuck? You’re in Buenos Aires, and that’s all that really matters.

Start classes, and immediately bitch about the fact that you can’t party and sightsee every day. Try some mate. Live on empanadas and steak and choripan and Malbec and alfajores. Find the bar that you’ll end up going to every weekend. Drink too much Quilmes and Fernet. Discover Lost and Crobar. Be super-excited the first time you have a successful conversation with an Argentine. Be kind of annoyed when nobody will stop making jokes about you being American, but play along. Go to San Telmo, to MALBA, to Plaza Francia. Take way too many photos, and title them in Spanish.

At one point, hate being here. There might be a catalyst – you get mugged, or have a fight with your host mom. Or maybe it’s just homesickness. Miss vegetables, your family, Thanksgiving. Miss having everybody understand you. Miss not worrying about your safety all the time. Miss American dollars, your friends. Have an awful drunken night, after which you promise never to drink again. This resolution lasts maybe an hour. Be excited around Americans because only they can understand exactly how much you miss peanut butter. But even then, it’s not the same.

Suddenly, everything changes. Realize you only have a few months left here, and promise yourself that you’ll go to all the touristy sights, do all the things that got lost in the drunken, studious, absolutely foreign blur that is you in Buenos Aires. Do it for a few days, and then fall back into your routine. Go on a day trip – to Colonia, to Tigre. Carry around a mate gourd with you, and wonder how you ever lived without the drink. Have an awful experience with a micro or an airline, but laugh about it because what else can you expect? Get used to the slow service and the constant piropos and just being here. Go somewhere else for a weekend and be hit with the realization that you miss home, but you miss Buenos Aires too. Start calling Spanish castellano and saying che and boludo and considering yourself to be kind of Argentine. One day, somebody thinks you really are Argentine. It makes your day, your week, and maybe even your whole time here.

One day, realize you’re leaving next week. Panic. Go to all your favorite places. Say goodbye to your favorite people. Make promises to come back to Buenos Aires, and invite them home. Maybe they’ll visit you. Maybe they won’t. Fit in all the things you never got around to doing. Everything becomes special, because everything will change far too soon. Be excited, unbelievably excited, to go home to the places and the people and the country you love. Be sad, unbelievably sad, to leave the places and the people and the country you love.

Because that’s what it is, isn’t it? That strange emotion you feel for this country, this city. You fell in love. Because even the worst days make for some damn good stories, and the best are, well, the best.

On your last night here, walk into a bar or a club with the people who have made this country what it is here, and say Salud. Salud to youth, to friendship, to traveling, to foreignness, to what you didn’t know, to what you do now, to you. Salud to Argentina.

And when your plane leaves the ground, think this:

Adios, Argentina. Adios, Buenos Aires. Hasta luego.

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Ode to Home

I should be blogging about my week in Buenos Aires right now – 3rd-to-last. That’s insane. But I’m going home in two Saturdays and I’m actually really sad about leaving, since I feel like I’ve done hardly anything, even though I know that’s not true. So instead, this is my post about the things I miss, about New York, about Tokyo, about home. (I need to drum up some excitement to leave. Also, I’m procrastinating on my final paper. Obviously.)

I miss my friends. I miss my family – my parents, my sister, my dog. I miss food that has real spices. Pasta with garlic and olive oil. Korean food. Halal. Chipotle. I miss Union Square, Washington Square Park. I miss speaking to everybody in English, and having them understand me perfectly. I miss Christmas in New York. I miss takoyaki, and sushi, and Think Coffee. I miss snow, and I don’t even like snow. I miss actually being cold, not the fake-Argentine-cold that I, scarily enough, have come to regard as real cold. I miss cute winter coats, and boots, and scarves. I miss the craziness that is New York – the a cappella groups busking on the subway, the funny signs, the homeless guys on the stoop of the Aikido dojo on 14th and 8th. I miss numbered streets.

I miss NYU. I miss Bobst, and Skirball, and Kimmel, and Upstein. I miss 3rd North, Palladium, Lafayette. I miss Carmen, the lady who works at the Faye’s Starbucks. I miss the sour-faced teenagers who give me my Dunkin Donuts bagel on my way to work at 7AM. I miss working at 7AM. I miss walking into my class and not knowing a soul and not really caring. I miss that rare moment when I walk out of a lecture thinking, “Wow. That was brilliant.” I miss the far more common occasions when I’d fall asleep.

I miss knowing where I’m going without a map. I miss English bookstores. I miss opening my mouth without anyone asking me, “Oh, where are you from?” Or should I say, “De donde sos?”

I miss St. Mark’s Place. I miss express subway lines. I miss American dollars. I miss having a Starbucks and a Duane Reade on every other corner. I miss the city that never sleeps – or more specifically, I miss its restaurants that never sleep. I miss New Amici’s white pizza. I miss Artichoke. I miss chai lattes. I miss walking into any coffee shop and getting an iced caffeinated beverage without any trouble at all. I miss where to-go is normal. I miss vegetables. I miss paying for things with a card and not having to write down my passport number. I miss actually having people give me change.

I miss when I didn’t get those looks. Those looks that say, “Oh. You’re American,” as if that is an all-encompassing term that designates who I am and what I do, because hey, it doesn’t, and oh guess what, I’m Japanese too. Sure, I get those looks in Japan all the time too. But it’s different here, because when I’m in Japan, at least I can be like, yeah, fuck you, I am Japanese. At least I can say, oh, yeah, sometimes these people suck, but they’re still my people. I can’t do that here.

I miss Japan, too. I miss Tokyo. I miss walking down the streets that I grew up on, that were my childhood. I miss Spasaurus. I miss Harajuku, and Shibuya, and Roppongi. I miss Karaoke. I miss shopping. I miss ramens shop and gyoza shops, onigiri, Just Spot, 7-11 (the Japanese one, not the American one). I miss Japanese snacks. I miss Mr. Donuts. I miss the Christmas tree at Tokyo Midtown. I miss the vending machines, with Royal Milk Tea and Honey Lemon Tea and that one awful-tasting Dr. Pepper. I miss shabu-shabu. I miss my grandmother. I miss thinking it’s so warm the first day I arrive, and the next day realizing that oh, wait, it’s freezing. I miss the lights. So many lights.

I miss Cinnabons. I even miss my airports, for crying out loud – who misses JFK and Narita? (Seriously, there is something wrong with me.) But I do. Because JFK and Narita are the signs that once I get out of them, I’ll be home. I want to be home. I miss walking around without a guidebook. I miss feeling like I belong. I miss my family, my friends, my people. I miss home.

And yet, I still don’t want to leave.

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20 Days Left

20 Days Left.

I’m not so sure how I feel about this countdown. I’m using it to force myself to go out and explore the city, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Still, it’s a bit stressful. It’s also incredibly strange. Any other year, I would be desperate to go home, to get out of school. And I’m looking forward to finals being over. But I almost don’t want them to be, because this year that normally joyous days means the end of my time in Buenos Aires.

But, live while you can, right? I’m enjoying what I have left. And there’s really nothing else I can ask for.

On Saturday night, after a dinner at Limbo Lounge, our regular haunt, we went to Thelonious, a jazz club. Rosie isn’t a huge fan of jazz, but I love it, and we’d never gone before. I don’t remember what the band was called but it was a quintet of young men, and they played some lovely music. I did realize then that, while many people associate jazz with hot summer nights, for me jazz is synonymous with winter. I don’t know why. Maybe because jazz was played on quiet nights at home, and I think home’s perfect season is winter. If that makes sense.

On Sunday, we finally headed down to San Telmo. There’s a famous market there, but I had never been there before. In retrospect, I think that’s a good thing, because otherwise I would have spent way too much money.

We started the day at Starbucks, because it had air conditioning and the heat was unbearable. I had a Hibiscus Tea Lemonade, which I don’t know if they have in the United States but have decided I love, partially (OK mainly) because it’s pink. Starbucks is in full-out holiday mode, with winter cups and the sign below, which says “Welcome to the North Pole!” (Ha I wish.) I find this strange and humorous given the heat, but I also really like it because it inches Buenos Aires closer towards the Novembers I’m used to.

After that, we wandered a lot. We walked through Plaza Dorrego, where I almost bought a cat-shaped plate, but didn’t because it was $AR120. We wandered down a little side street full of artists and their paintings - lots of couples locked in a tango embrace. We walked into an antique shop that was overrun with heavy old tomes and other gems, like this table of oversized perfume bottles.

We wandered down Defensa, the San Telmo Fair’s main drag. In some parts, we were more accurately jostled, as the fair attracted a huge crowd. And the ground itself was downright painful. The cobblestones dug into my ballet-flat covered feet, and only flimsy cardboard covered the especially sharp sections.

Still, we had a pleasant stroll, marveling at the occasionally touristy, occasionally fascinating wares on display. Some things I loved include coins that were carved to reveal various designs, and this awesome leather chess set.

As for the things I bought, I wanted to get gifts but ended up buying things mostly for myself - a Mafalda tote, a hair accessory, and some adorable earrings. I thought they had smile faces, but they were actually Mayan codices. One means wind, while the other means Kneader of the World. (How appropriate, no? :) ) 

And today? We didn’t have school, because it’s a national holiday. Called the Day of Sovereignty, it commemorates the battle that Argentina fought against French and British ships who tried to invade them.

So I headed out with Megan, our Argentine friend Dario, and his brother David. We were supposed to go to a museum, but it turned out to be closed because of the holiday. We then tried to go to the market around Plaza Francia, but then it started raining. It rained hard and fast, but stopped after several minutes. To be honest, I was a little disappointed. It’s been so hot all weekend, and the humidity is still hanging in the air, just waiting to be released. It’ll come. Eventually.

After a quick stop at a church, we all decided that we should go home. So I guess I didn’t really do anything. But I hung out, and had fun, and learned a few things about Buenos Aires, like the fact that the sculpture in Plaza Francia was donated by France for Argentina’s centenary. I’d put that up as a good day.

Upon returning home, Rosie and I went to Helena, where I am as I type this. We discovered Helena our first few weeks here, and in many ways it’s been a godsend. They have real salads, air conditioning, and the cozy cafe, despite its occasionally spotty Internet connection, is perfect for doing work in. Best of all, it has lemonade AND iced tea, two summer drinks that we crave and are extremely uncommon in Argentina.

What is common? This penguin/dinosaur/I-don’t-know-what pitcher. I don’t get the appeal. I see it everywhere.

Anyway, that’s all for this weekend. Hopefully my next post will be during the week and not 8 days from now. But no promises.

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Day 22

Today is November 26th. I have 22 days left in Argentina.

That’s a terrifying thought. I miss New York, but I really enjoy it here and will be sad to leave. So I’m trying to enjoy my time here by cramming in a bit of sightseeing.

Today, we headed down to Plaza de Mayo. Our first stop was the Obelisk, which I’d seen many times from various parts of the city, but I hadn’t really gone to see the Obelisk itself. To be honest, I don’t really understand all the hype around obelisks - they seem like pretty boring monuments to me. I know they’re important and all - this one was the first place in Buenos Aires that the Argentine flag flew - but, come on. It’s just a pole.

We did have some fun trying to take pictures of us holding the Obelisk, although we failed pretty miserably. Below, my best attempt:

More interesting, for me at least, was the graffiti near the obelisk. BA’s graffiti has far more of a political message than the graffiti I see in New York, which I like. The one below means, “To participate is more than to vote.” A great message (and one I should be following…shh).

After the Obelisk, we wandered down Calle Florida, the neighborhood’s pedestrian street. It was super-touristy, with vendors selling their wares in the middle of the street, and several gift shops. I bought a couple of gifts for people back home. “A bunch of useless shit,” as Rosie puts it. But fun useless shit nonetheless.

We also walked into Galería Guemes, a gallery-and-theater-complex, according to the guidebook. Antoine de Sant-Exupery, who wrote The Little Prince, used to live there. Unfortunately, most of the shops inside were closed, so we didn’t really get to see much of it. But there was a giant Christmas tree, which, given that it’s 85 degrees outside, seemed really out of place. It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving was a few days ago.

After Galería Guemes, we both were pretty tired, so we headed to Café Tortoni - only to encounter a line out the door. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised, since it’s the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires, and was a favorite of Carlos Gardel, the famous tango singer. Thankfully, the line moved pretty quickly, so we were inside in only 20 minutes.

The café was beautiful, with stained glass windows on the ceiling and various photos and sculptures scattered throughout. They also host a tango show in a theater tucked into the back of the cafe, pictured below.

The food was pretty good, too. My favorite was the hot chocolate that I ordered accidentally (I thought I was getting churros dipped in chocolate). The chocolate and the milk came in separate jars, and I skipped the milk, so I was basically drinking pure chocolate. Thick, creamy, and delicious. Although I have to say, it got to be a bit much after awhile. Not that I stopped drinking it, of course.

After Cafe Tortoni, we headed to the Catedral Metropolitana. I find most cathedrals to be basically the same, but this one was unlike any I’d ever seen. For one thing, the outside looked like this:

The inside was pretty classic for a cathedral, although much wider than most. This particular did house General San Martín’s mausoleum, which was very interesting to see after learning so much about Argentina’s history. General San Martín is an Argentine national hero, a key figure in obtaining Argentina’s independence from Spain. (Sorry the photo’s so blurry - the mausoleum is basically San Martin’s coffin, flanked by three female figures, with the front one holding Argentina’s flag.)

My favorite part of the Cathedral had to be this awesome stained glass window in a little dome on the ceiling.

After that, we headed on home, but I still wanted to keep window-shopping, so I headed down to Palermo Viejo. I got tired pretty quickly, but I did happen upon a band and some cute stores. My favorite was Dr. Candy, an adorable candy shop that I fully intend on heading back to before I leave.

As for tomorrow? Hopefully San Telmo. And I have other photos/blogs that I promise I’ll put up eventually!

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On Buses, Soldiers, Drugs, and Blogs.

After returning from an amazing trip to Salta and Jujuy this past weekend, I was really looking forward to heading home for some much-needed R&R. While Sunday was incredibly chill (and included a real American brunch from Magdalena’s Party Bar), my week has, as usual, been packed – academically and otherwise. Here’s the breakdown.

Buses + Soldiers:
    On Wednesday, I headed down to San Telmo to interview a friend for a journalism assignment, and had some surprisingly interesting insights on the bus down there. I hadn’t been down to San Telmo in months, unfortunately, having spent the majority of my time here in Palermo and Recoleta. As we passed Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the largest avenues in the world, I realized: A bus is a great way to tour a city. Clearly, I didn’t know anything about what I was passing, or even most of the time where we were, but I fell in love with Buenos Aires all over again. I’ve lived in some amazing cities in my short life, but I always forget just how amazing they are until I leave them. With less than 40 days left in South America, I’m glad that this bus trip has kickstarted my joy in being here, and my drive to explore as much of the city as I can in the time I have left. Hopefully, this weekend I’ll head down to Puerto Madero and San Telmo, and go to La Noche de Los Museos, an annual event where Buenos Aires’ museums open up at night for free.
    After a great interview and an unexpected yet highly enjoyable discussion about Lithuanian and US politics, I hopped back on the bus and was confronted by something I’d never seen in Buenos Aires: a soldier. Not just a soldier, a female soldier at that. I know a female soldier shouldn’t be a novelty in 2011, but Argentine culture is so dominated by machismo, and some of my classes have been on a women’s rights kick lately, so it was a bit of a shock. Also, it was fascinating because I realized how little I know of the current Argentine military. We’ve talked a lot about the military dictatorship here in the 70s, and those trials are still going on, so I assumed that people were mostly distrustful of the military, but perhaps not. Nobody really paid the woman any attention, which may say something in itself – but it’s probably just better to ask my professors on Monday.

    One of the courses I’m taking this semester is La Literatura de la Intimidad, or Literature of Intimacy, with Tara Kamenzsain, a fairly well-known Argentine poet. She has quite a few literary connections, so on Thursday, Inés Acevedo came to class. We had just read her autobiography, Un Idea Genial, written when she was only 25 years old. If you happen to speak Spanish, I highly recommend it – it’s a pretty easy read, and very relatable.
    In our class, she said something interesting regarding blogs. She has only written a few published works, such as children’s stories and poems, since Un Idea Genial. However, she writes a blog, www.granpatocriollo.blospot.com, religiously. As in, every single morning before she goes to work (maybe I should take a cue from her). But people come to her blog and say, “Oh, I loved your autobiography! Are you going to write more?” And she is always confused because, as she says, “My blog is enough writing for about 40 books.” It was interesting because, although I obviously pretend to write a blog, I’d never really thought about it as writing. Writing stories, or poetry, or songs, has always been something sacred to me, and I guess also to a lot of other people. Blogs are so much less formal. And yet so much more in a way, because when I write a poem or a story or a song I have no absolute obligation to show anyone. A blog is available to anyone in the world once I hit Publish. That’s terrifying, but at the same time exciting. Literature, at least to me, is about communicating something…and what better way to do that in a blog?

     I know what you’re thinking, and no, I didn’t try any.
    My latest reporting assignment is about pasta base, more commonly known as Paco. Paco, made from cocaine residue that’s been mixed with things like rat poison and broken glass, hit Argentina’s streets after the  economic crisis of 2001 and never left. It’s extremely cheap and extremely dangerous, mainly because it’s so new that nobody knows how to treat it, and because up until recently there wasn’t any agreement on what Paco actually was. Paco addicts aren’t expected to live past 3 years once they start consuming.
    We’ve spoken to several people since starting the assignment, and today we went to a drug rehabilitation center. Other than being a great opportunity to practice my Spanish, it was fascinating to see all these different types of people trying to get better. In fact, one of the people I spoke to had just arrived today, while others had been there from 1 month – 2 years. To be honest, I don’t really know what I want to say about this visit. My thoughts and reactions haven’t organized themselves yet, and I keep typing and deleting and re-typing. Suffice it to say that this was an experience that I never thought I’d have, but I’m glad I had it. Actually, that statement seems to be a pretty accurate summary of my entire study abroad experience. I’m going to assume that means I’m doing pretty well for myself.

If you made it down to here, I’m pretty impressed. Also, because this is my tumblr and I can, this is my shout-out to Nicole for so religiously checking my blog :) It’s nice to know someone reads it.

Happy Veteran’s Day, and Happy 11/11/11!


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Top 10 Things I’ve Learned in Argentina

On Friday, I realized that I have just six short week left in Argentina. I immediately started panicking, thinking of all the things that I still want to do. But on my way home from a surprisingly efficient encounter at the Alto Palermo express mail stand, I thought of all the things that I have done, that this country and its people have taught me. This is my list.

1. My passport number. Want to buy something with a credit card? In Argentina, you have to know your passport number. I’m not really sure when I’ll use this again, but I figure knowing it can’t hurt.

2. That buses aren’t scary. In fact, they can be just as fast, easy, and cheap as trains. Also, they tend to have more people willing to help the girl struggling with her Guía T.

3. That while a picture may be worth a thousand words, there are still places in the world that neither a photo nor a book would do justice to. Case in point: Cerro Campanario.

4. That I need to chill out.  Ive never thought of myself as a tightly wound person. But the most common word I hear from Argentines is “tranquilo” - calm down. I’m trying to take their advice.

5. The art of small talk. I don’t pretend that I’ve mastered this. And I am both hampered and hindered by the fact that I am a foreigner. Still, I talk way more to strangers here than I do in New York, and I’ve gotten better that it.

6. Spanish. Of course, I knew a fair amount of Spanish before arriving in Buenos Aires. And while my goal for the end of this school year is to be fluent, I’m surprised of how far I’ve come in just 2 short months. I’m nowhere near fluent. But I’m far more comfortable with my Spanish, and I know I’m getting better.

7. Dance transcends language. I’m not much of a dancer, although I’d like to be - hence my (poor) attempts at Argentine tango. The class, which is taught in both English and Spanish, is difficult, confusing, and tons of fun. And dancing has nothing to do with language; it’s about communicating with your bodies. That’s plenty hard in itself, but it has nothing to do with my verbal abilities. It’s a nice break every week.

8. That sometimes, your travel plans will get screwed up, and that’s OK. Rosie and I got stuck in Bariloche an extra night. We went to Antares, had margaritas,  and had a great time.

9. That I’m really bad at sticking to a self-imposed schedule. Case in point: this blog. I told myself I’d update it regularly (by which I meant at least once a week). Obviously, that didn’t turn out quite so well.

10. That photos and words are, sometimes enough. Yes, this is a direct contradiction to Number 3. But it’s true. Through this blog, the photos I’ve taken, and and the very occasional entries in my diary, there are things that I will remember about this country that I very likely might have forgotten. And for that, I am grateful.

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Top 5 Treats in Buenos Aires

Today in Buenos Aires, it is 73 degrees. A lovely temperature, but for a day on which I had  to do a lot of walking, it is way too hot. As I headed home, all I wanted was a giant glass of iced tea. Luckily, I live not too far from a Starbucks. Why was this lucky, you ask? Because Starbucks is the only cafe I’ve found in this city that serves iced tea.

Given the tons of cafes that exist in this city, I find this a bit strange. But apparently, porteños really are not a fan of iced drinks. The major chains have their versions of Frappuccinos, most of which are filled with dulce de leche and just a bit too sweet for me. But iced tea, iced coffee, iced lattes? Not a chance. Still, there’s lots of great food here, so these are my Top 5 Favorite Treats in Buenos Aires.

1. Steak.
If you’ve ever heard anything about Argentina, it’s most likely about steak, red wine, and tango. And with good reason – the tango is fun, the red wine I like (which is quite a feat since I’m normally not a fan), and the steak is out of this world. I tried my first Argentine steak at Don Julio a couple of weeks ago, coupled with french fries and a bit too much Malbec. I believe I had lomo (tenderloin), which was excellent in itself. But then I tried a friend’s, and wow. The steak was tender, juicy, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. And I only had one bite!

2. Empanadas.
For a broke college student, empanadas are a lifesaver. Most are about 4 pesos each – that’s $1 US. They’re everywhere and come with a variety of fillings. My favorite filling so far has been carne agridulce, a type of sweet meat. But I’ve only found these at one restaurant, Il Migliore. Lucky for me, Il Migliore is right across the street from school. Still, the best empanadas that I’ve had are on this restaurant Thames between Charcas and Gulnes. I hesitate to call it a restaurant, because it has one plastic table, a counter, and a large kitchen with a glass window so you can see inside. I can’t remember the name of this place, but they heat the empanadas up in the oven and they’re soo good. (Excuse my descriptions - I’m really not a food writer, as you can see.) They also serve pizzas here, and have a variety of empanada fillings based off of their pizza toppings. I haven’t tried any yet, but maybe I’ll be adventurous next time.

3. Submarino.
One of my favorite parts of the submarino is the fact that I can make it at home! A submarino is just a bar of dark chocolate dunked into a glass of steamed milk. At least that’s the basic version. Rosie keeps getting different variations of this drink when she orders them, which is especially strange given that it’s at different branches of the same chain (Cafe Martinez). I really wish they had an iced version, because soon it’ll be too hot to be drinking submarinos.

4. Alfajor.
If I had to pick my favorite treat out of the 5 here, it would probably be an alfajor. An alfajor is basically a cookie sandwich, with any of several fillings – although dulce de leche is the most popular, seeing as this is Argentina. There’s several variations on these alfajors, such as the Oreo alfajor, and alfajor ice cream, which is made by Nestle, weirdly enough. But my favorite so far has been the alfajor cake, available at Cafe Havanna. I don’t know how they did it, but the texture and flavor is almost identical to a real alfajor. It’s extremely rich, though, so I recommend splitting with a friend.

5. Medialuna.

A medialuna is basically a croissant, but it doesn’t taste like any other croissant I’ve ever had. It’s not as flaky, for one thing, and it’s also very sweet. Porteños like their medialunas (and everything else) filled with jamón y queso – that’s ham and cheese to us Americans. The sweet and rich combination is OK, but they don’t meld well, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m eating too entirely separate foods as opposed to one sandwich. I prefer my medialunas by themselves, with a nice hot cup of café con leche.

But right now, I am thoroughly happy with my venti iced tea from Starbucks.  I’m writing this post on my homestay family’s lovely balcony. After the agony that is midterms, I will be headed on fall break, which at this moment consists of Uruguay, Mendoza, and Bariloche, a city that just happens to be the chocolate capital of South America. It’s 73 degrees a the end of September, and it’s just going to keep getting warmer.

Life is good.

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A Traveling Acrostic

Bold. People here stare at you all the time. I’m learning to stare back, but it’s very different from Tokyo and even from New York. I never thought a city could get more brusque or in-your-face than New York. You learn something new every day, I guess.

Unintelligible. I don’t understand anything they say here - even when it’s in English. I have major issues understanding accents - even British ones, so the Argentinian accent is taking a little getting used to.  My Spanish is decent, but the vos form is really screwing me up lately. Hopefully, this lack of understanding will go away ASAP.

Exciting. I’m probably still in the honeymoon stage, but everything is still so exciting here. Even the parts that I dislike, because it’s all so new. It’s been two weeks already, but every morning I wake up and realize I’m in Argentina and my day is that much better. I can’t believe I’m here.

Nocturnal. Last night, I got home at 2AM and went to bed at 4AM because I wasn’t tired enough. Two weeks ago, I thought I could never get used to the schedule. That went away quick.

Similar. Ironically enough, my first impression of Buenos Aires was how similar it is to Tokyo. In the neighborhood where I take classes, the streets remind me so much of Tokyo. I can’t put my finger on why - the way the sidewalks are shaped (don’t ask), the open-air malls, even the speed at which people walk. It confuses me, but I’m thankful. Buenos Aires is just a bit more like home.

Academic. I know I’m abroad and I’m expected to screw around, but all of my classes this semester count towards my major, so I need to do well in them. 2 out of the 3 classes I’ve had so far are in Spanish, which makes what should be easy classes far more difficult. At least this will help me be more fluent.

International. Buenos Aires is nowhere near as diverse as New York, but it’s not totally homogeneous either, which is nice. All the porteños I’ve met are from all over - Argentina, of course, but also Germany and Chile and Italy. I am feeling the lack of an Asian population, though. I’ve got to make it down to Chinatown.

Roam. I don’t really know what I’m looking for. I have the basic ideas - I want to learn Spanish, live in a foreign country, blahblahblah. But I know there’s something more that I want, if I could only quite figure out what it is. I’m roaming around the world this year looking for that something. But somehow, it seems that even if I don’t find it, it won’t matter so much.

Éxtimo. I learned this word the other day in Las Literaturas de La Intimidad - Literatures of Intimacy. According to my professor, it means intimate moments that are outwardly expressed - for example, Anne Frank’s diary. It seems applicable to this blog - a chronicle of an inward journey, outwardly expressed. Perhaps it’s strange to call this an inward journey, seeing as I’ve ventured who knows how many miles from home. But I hope it is an inward journey. I hear so many stories about people who call their years abroad the best years of their lives, and I know it’s not just about all the nights they came home wasted (which are amazing in their own right). I want that, and I want this blog so that 20 years from now I can relive it over and over again.

Stay. I’m in Buenos Aires for 4 months. Even with my screwed-up definition of home, Buenos Aires won’t be home by the time I leave in December. So home isn’t the right word for this city. But I’m not here only for two weeks - I have time. By the time I leave, I’ll know which coffee shop is my favorite, and I’ll have found a restaurant that actually serves vegetables, and hopefully I’ll have friends that I can call when I return here. For the next four months, this is my place to live - not a home, perhaps, but a city where I can stay.

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Wandering around Palermo

There are so many stray cats in Buenos Aires.

I first noticed it at the Recoleta Cemetery. Today, I went roaming around the Jardin Botanico in Palermo with my suitemate. I saw 5 in maybe 10 minutes, and we were walking a very short distance. I’ve decided that I’m now going to take photos of every stray cat I see - just because I can.

Above: Gato Numero Uno.

Otherwise, the Jardin Botanico was quite pretty. Although I have to be honest: plants are really not my thing. I’ve also figured out that the ‘cold’ that has been keeping me in all weekend is actually allergies. Good news: I’m not sick! :) Bad news: The hunt for allergy medicine begins…

After the Jardin Botanico, Rosie and I headed off to Cafe Martinez. It’s a small chain here - like Starbucks, but far cuter. I got tea to go the other day and the staff gave me really strange looks. To-go is not a thing here, as our orientation leaders explained multiple times this past week. So today we did it Argentinian style and hung out for two hours. I got la sopa de arvejas y panceta, and un capucino frio de frappe. I’m still not sure exactly what I ordered, but it was delicious (and cheap!) I’m going to have to force myself to step into other cafes here. There’s so many of them, but I’m always dragged towards what’s most familiar.

School starts tomorrow. I’ve been in abroad-vacation mode, so this is going to be weird. But most of my classes are in Spanish, so I’m actually pretty excited :) I need to start speaking it if I’m going to be fluent by the end of this year (or even December - that would be awesome!) Lucky for me, my first class doesn’t start until 1:45 tomorrow. College rocks!

Until next time (how do I say that in Spanish?)