Thursday, February 26, 2009



Ooookaaaay friends. Today I went to Chinatown, which just happens to be maybe 10ish blocks away from my apartment in Belgrano. While BA’s Chinatown only takes up one block of la calle Arribeños, it is chock full of everything I’ve ever wanted at this very moment. Well, one store is, to be exact. The Asian marketplace. I was one playing of Single Ladies away from weeping in the middle of the spice aisle.

Chili sauce! Curry powder! Red pepper flakes! Masala powder! Sacks full of fresh and toasted nuts! Dijon mustard! Balsamic vinegar! Argentina really has great food, but they’re not into spices or spicy stuff at all. So I am unbelievably thankful for Chinese cooking.

AND PEANUT BUTTER. That’s where all the peanut butter in Argentina is. Los chinos have it! Me encantan los chinos!

Also, it’s pretty awesome to encounter an entire Chinese community speaking Spanish. Even the little Chinese babies toddling along speaking Spanish! Abby, I finally understand why you love Asians so much. They are truly beautiful people. However it got here, Chinatown is my new favorite place.



So the past two days, I have definitely let a bit of homesickness get to me. It all started Tuesday night when I got back to my apartment from meeting up with friends for a few drinks and found Sex and the City on tv in English! All of a sudden I found myself on, craving peanut butter, and wishing I was back home snuggling with Trot and Emma! Speaking of other cravings, in a desperate attempt to find out more about “leche larga vida” (long life milk that doesn’t have to be refrigerated until it’s opened) or whether or not normal (American style) milk exists in BA, I wound up on the online forum for American expats living in Buenos Aires. This website,, is pretty hysterical and actually pretty helpful. It introduced me to a part of the city I may never have learned about.

The Jumbo and Easy. And it said they sell peanut butter. Imported Skippy, to be exact.

Some online descriptions describe the Jumbo and Easy as Argentina’s answer to BJ’s, Target, Wal-Mart, all those horrendous American big-box stores we can’t help but turn to for shopping convenience. My friend Molly says it’s like Ikea and Super Wal-Mart had a baby. A big, big baby. So yesterday, I decided I would make the trip to Jumbo and Easy to stock up on whatever bulk dry goods I could get my hands on. As a side-note, lunches with our homestay families aren’t included in IFSA-Butler room & board, and as I don’t want to pay to eat lunch at a café every day, some real grocery shopping was actually necessary. As all varieties of fresh fruits, veggies, and meat are available at the corner kiosko, all I needed were the Jumbo and Easy dry goods.

The trip to Jumbo and Easy was an experience I’m glad I could have. But I think I’ll be rationing my hoard so I never have to go back again. I ended up with this:

3 Ziploc Tupperware containers

2 boxes Barilla Farfalle pasta

1 box cous-cous

1Kg brown rice

2 cans lentils

2 cans chick peas

1 jar of “Gurken-Sticks” (pickles!)

1 small wheel of brie

an assortment of pecans, walnuts, almonds, raisins, and dried pears

1 box granola

Nature Valley granola bars


At first, I thought I wasn’t going to find the PB. Nowhere to be found in the jelly/preserves/dulce de leche aisle, I searched frantically in the American imports section (Tabasco and Ramen noodles were also chosen to represent our country at the Jumbo Easy), but to no avail. Up and down every aisle, I had given up on the one real reason I came to Jumbo Easy, when I saw it. Just one lonely 12oz. jar, nestled alongside some other misplaced items at the back of a half abandoned shelf. I like to think it was the last jar left and it was saving itself just for me.

I’m totally OK with being a peanut butter crazed American. I’m getting used to the fact that I’m actually homesick, a feeling I’ve never travelled with until now. I am missing a lot of people, and 2 dogs, back home, but I know that once I find some regularity in my routine (and now that I’ve found the peanut butter), everything will be just fine.

I think it’s time to make a sandwich.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Celeste's Homemade Pasta Masa

Mmmm, homemade pasta with my homestay Mom, Celeste. I think it's your general pasta recipe, but with a little porteña mama love thrown in there too:

1 egg for each person eating
salt, pepper, fresh ground nutmeg, to taste
a bit of olive oil
add flour and knead until you reach the right consistency (not too sticky, a little flaky)
then, pass it through a pasta press machine until you get the right thickness and then, follow the pictures...

Next weekend we'll make pizza. It's funny that I'm learning to make Italian food in Argentina...


I’m finally feeling like I can love Buenos Aires. The first few days I was here I was completely overwhelmed by heat, sweat, and public transportation. I was thinking that BA was a big, dirty city, that I could get used to it, but that I probably wouldn’t love it. But now after some more exploring, a lot more walking, and a few thunderstorms that broke the heat wave, I finding the real beauty in this big, dirty city.

This weekend has been wonderful and relaxing. On Friday night I met up with friends and we went to one of BA’s microbreweries in Recoleta, across from the cemetery where the Perones and the rest of Argentina’s VIPs are buried. After a few samples, we headed over to San Telmo to a 3-story nightclub called Rey Castro. The place was mostly locals and only played Latin music, which was really fun (though of course I was craving a little Single Ladies, as always). The only American song they played was the Twist, and all the porteños knew how to twist! It was fantastic! We left the club around 3am, about the time Argentina’s senior citizens start to think about going to sleep… but we had big plans for Saturday so a few extra hours of sleep were necessary.

Back in San Telmo on Saturday, my friends and I planned to meet at Plaza Dorrego, known for its weekend arts and antiques market. I took the subte (which is actually quite pleasant outside of rush hours) to Plaza de Mayo where I snapped some pictures of la Casa Rosada and the Banco Nacional de Argentina. The architecture here is really incredible. Most of it is modeled after classic French architecture, with the occasional Spanish Colonial catedral thrown in there just to mix it up. Plaza de Mayo is also the site where the mothers of children and families kidnapped during the dirty wars in the 70s and 80s march in non-violent protest. Las Madres still march there every Thursday, and their symbolic white head scarves and pleas for their families are painted on the bricks of the plaza.

From Plaza de Mayo, I walked down the cobble stoned calle Defensa into the heart of San Telmo. This street is lined with fabulous antique shops. The ceiling of one was entirely covered with crystal chandeliers! So beautiful! On one corner of Defensa is the market at Plaza Dorrego where we drank some espresso and watched the tango shows that spring up anywhere tourists gather.

Then, it was time for asado.

Asado is an Argentine tradition of grilling up every possibly edible part of cows and pigs and stuffing your face with meat and wine until you are deliriously happy and don’t need to eat for days. OK, maybe the latter half of that isn’t so much tradition as it is just hungry Americans in Argentina. So let’s see, we ate chorizos, morcillas (blood pudding), chinchulines (intestines), tiras (ribs), mollejas (um, glands), and every other unknown delicious hunk of meat the asador threw on our plates. Did I mention the place we were at, Siga la Vaca, is all you can eat? For 63 pesos each, less than 20 bucks, each of us got all the meat, roasted vegetables, cheeses, prosciuttos, and breads we could consume. And a few bottles of wine too. Gracias a dios, I’m no longer vegetarian.

It’s been a fabulous weekend. Not much more to tell about since after the afternoon of asado I’ve been pretty lazy. Though today I did explore more of Belgrano. BA is full of surprises, and I’m so glad I get to spend time here.

Off to learn to make homemade pasta with my homestay mom! The rest of my pictures are here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quirks and coins

Buenos Aires is a quirky little town (or sprawling metropolis of 40.5 million). Just getting around is an experience in itself. The traffic lights look and function just like ours, except they turn yellow even before turning green. If you feel a few drops of water drip, drip, dripping on you, or splashing off the sidewalk, is it a mid morning sun shower? Nope. It’s the air conditioners dripping water from 2, 3, 4 stories up. Beware the dog walkers, especially in Belgrano, who walk 8 to 12 dogs at a time and leave a lovely, smelly trail wherever they roam.

If you have too far to walk, you just grab el colectivo (the bus) or el subte. The subte is just like the Metro or the T. The colectivo however, comes with a whole new set of rules. First of all, to get around by colectivo, you definitely need your GUIA “T”—without it you’re absolutely doomed. This 192 page guide to the colectivos is possibly one of the most confusing map systems I’ve ever tried to navigate. We spent over an hour of our Spanish class learning how to use it. But once you figure it out, it works just fine. The only other thing you need to take the colectivo is las monedas. Coins.

And they’re absolutely impossible to get. The shortage of monedas has got to be the most annoying economic crisis in the world.

At first, I thought it was a ploy by the taxi drivers. Horde coins so that people trying to get home at night (after the subte stops running at 22:30) have to hail a cab since they can’t pay for the bus. Turns out, it’s actually the bus companies themselves hording las monedas! Companies sell monedas on the black market for more than the coin value, because you can’t use the colectivo without them. In turn, this creates a whole new set of problems. Coins become more precious than higher value paper money. Shopkeepers would rather make you pay 1 centavo less than give up their monedas! Even by day two, my friends and I have already found ourselves bragging about our new found monedas.

I think it’s kind of crazy that after 2 days I’m pretty comfortable getting around BA on my own. Me, the girl from the pueblito en el bosque. Belgrano is pretty far from el centro; it takes me about 45 minutes of walking and subte riding to get to where our orientation classes are, but I can handle it! Orientation is going well! Lots of information, and it really tires you out focusing on how to register for classes and all that, all the while translating every bit of it as you go. But my language skills have also surprised me, and I’m not scared anymore of my classes being completely in Spanish. Outside of class there’s been lots of hanging out at cafes, a tour of el barrio Retiro which is absolutely beautiful, and a few nights out.

Fine wine is cheaper than shitty beer here. Perfecto.

A lot more fun to look forward to as I’m getting closer with new friends and making plans for more areas to explore for nights out and weekend trips too. This weekend I think we’re going to check out some all you can eat asado and maybe even head to Puerto Madero for the last weekend of Carnaval. Sounds delicious!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Settling in


So friends, all the bragging about sunbathing in my bikini on the rooftop terrace of my hostel came back to bite me. Or burn me, I suppose.  I now have one of the strangest sunburns I’ve ever had… just on the front of both arms, on my chest (but not the left side for some reason), and my tummy too.  Nurse Coteleso, please avert your eyes from the first picture.  Lesson learned: always wear sunscreen when close to the equator. And I was only out in the sun for about an hour! Yikes.

I’m all moved in to my new home away from home.  It’s perfect. Cozy, comfortable, and my home-stay family is so welcoming. I’m living in a neighborhood called Belgrano.  A little calmer than el centro and there’s even some trees!  There’s a big park nearby where people like to tomar el sol… not that I need to be doing much more of that, at least in the next few days.  I’m not sure if it’s the travel, the sun or the long Buenos Aires days, but I am exhausted. It’s after 20:00, haven’t even eaten dinner yet, and I’m already curled up in my new bed.  So long to the geriatric days of 5:30 dinner at Smith!

I’m meeting up with the rest of the Butler group tomorrow or Tuesday; they seem to have told me one thing and Celeste another so we’ve got to figure that one out. I’m sure I’ll have much more to talk about once I’m all caught up in the program orientation—city tours, museums, some kind of trip outside the city too. Lista para todo!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Over the rooftops...

I have arrived safely at my hostel in Buenos Aires! And thank god, because there was about 10 minutes after leaving the airport when I just wanted to abandon my 100lbs. of luggage and sit my sweaty ass down on the curb. But after denying an oncoming freak-out I tightened the straps of my pack a little tighter and kept going.

My flight wasn’t bad at all. I actually slept through most of it, having only been interrupted once by my seatmate, a large Slavic man programming his new iPhone and testing out all the possible ring tones. The headphones were in his ears. I guess he missed the instructions to plug them into the phone too. Besides that, it was all good. I ate two crappy plane meals, drank a miniature bottle of red wine, and woke up to find myself just an hour away from my destination.

A bus ride and then a van ride later, I am now sitting on the rooftop terrace of my hostel, Portal del Sur. I’m just a block away from the 16 lanes of Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world, I think. It has crosswalks, which is kind of scary. I’ve already had my first café con leche at a little place on the corner and am looking forward to a cold beer on the rooftop when the bar opens in a few minutes. It’s almost 19:00 here, and not even a hint of sunset. Just blue skies, hot sun, and a bit of a breeze. There’s some Spanish Top 40 type stuff playing on the radio too. Life is good, and I know there’s still more to come.

I made it through my first Spanish phone conversation a little earlier, with Celeste. I’m headed out to her home in Belgrano tomorrow afternoon to drop off my stuff and take a stroll around the neighborhood. I might even head to San Telmo tomorrow, where there’s an antiques market every Sunday en la Plaza.

I miss my family and friends, but I’m relieved and excited to be here at last. It’s been a long day, but a great one so far. I think it’s about time for that beer.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kharma, Juju... whatever it is, It's GOOD!

After another failed attempt at making steel-cut oats in the microwave this morning, today has turned into one of the greatest days EVER! I’m not exaggerating. Since we’re without internet at 32 Piper Lane, I woke up, gathered my things and headed to Jitter Beans, an internet café in Marlboro, NH.  Now, my first Jitter Beans experience was hardly an enjoyable one: overpriced coffee and I wasn’t allowed to plug my cranky old Mac into the wall outlet to charge (seriously! what kind of rule is that?).  But today, Jitter Beans is heaven.  In protest to the overpriced coffee, I ordered an overpriced chai instead… which ended up being absolutely delicious! Yum! After setting up my “new” Mac courtesy of Mom, that has a battery that lasts for more that 27 minutes, I instantly fed my insatiable hunger for e-mail, Facebook, and skype.  Lots of incredible news in the e-mail!

First off, a long expected e-mail from the Smith religion department approving my grant proposal! Just a small grant, $150, but it will help cover the cost of the voice/music recorder I bought to record notes and performances for my research in BA.

Next e-mail in the inbox? A reply from my home-stay mom! Her name is Celeste and she and her family sound like so much fun!  She has two kids Patricio, 20, and Barbara, 14. They both play guitar and sing and they always have friends and family over to play music.  Celeste says she loves to cook and is excited that I do to. And they have a dog! How much better could it be?!?!

Man, I have so much good to share, I’m almost shaking with excitement trying to type it all up! I also finalized this morning an opportunity to use the PRAXIS internship grant from Smith. This summer when I’m back from Argentina, I’ll be expanding my Wilderness First Responder certification to the Wilderness EMT certification! And then I get to stick around the SOLO campus and do some volunteer work with them.

I almost forgot big news from a few days ago! My Smith friends called on Wednesday to let me know we got an on-campus apartment for next year! Me and three of my closest friends at Smith will all be living together with our own kitchen too! B3! B3! B3!

This morning was absolutely fantastic and just what I needed to really get me in the mood to travel and be so so excited.  I feel that I have so much to look forward to and there’s so much coming my way I can’t wait to just eat it all up.

Next time I post I’ll be in BA!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


When I first found out I would be spending my spring semester in Buenos Aires, and people started asking me what I would be doing there, my first impulse was always to describe the range of classes I could take or the research I could do.  After a few lectures on my academic aspirations and future career goals, and explaining that no, being a religion major doesn’t mean I want to be a priest, I finally realized that above all the academic stuff that yes, I love, but no, is not my real inspiration to travel, there are two true reasons that make me so psyched to be in Argentina:

Red wine and red meat.

What else spells happiness besides a good steak and a few glasses of red wine?  Now, my main response to why I’m traveling to Argentina is simply, “Steak and wine”. What more could a girl ask for?  So, I dedicate this blog to sharing tales of adventures (both above and under the influence of wine), and some good Argentine recipes for good food and long life. Enjoy!