Monday, March 23, 2009

Epiphany. Maybe.

Was it the hand of God that reached into my brain yesterday afternoon? Or was it the passionate beckoning of a street musician asking me to throw my hands up, not in despair, but to dance and clap and jump with him? Whoever it was that showed me the way, I finally feel like I have a reason, a thesis, some inspiration. Yesterday, walking the craft-packed side streets around the antiques fair in San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego my friends and I were drawn in to a circle of spectators jumping and clapping and dancing along with a group of street musicians. Hand drums, trombone, trumpet, acoustic guitars, all playing together and then singing together over the guitars and drums. It was like ska, marching band, drum circle, salsa, reggae all mixed together into this incredible sound; you couldn’t help dancing. And with lyrics about peace, beauty, culture, a new world, music, life, love… I was hooked.

OK. Rewind. Back up.

Rome, 1965. Old men in robes sitting around trying to figure out how to revive the Catholic Church and make it relevant in contemporary culture, also known as Vatican II. Blah, blah blah, lots of Latin, blaaaah blah blah blah. Got it! Make Catholicism more accessible to people worldwide! Include all languages, forms of expression, and hey, let’s start using new kinds of art, literature, and music to communicate with people around us!

Skip to 1960s Latin America: home to intense social stratification, Liberation Theology, and claves. Frustrated people looking for answers, a powerful institution willing to provide needed social services, and a killer music scene.

Now we’re in Argentina. Buenos Aires, to be exact, the year is 2009. The city is practically devoid of Catholic practice. What’s that you’re asking about holy week? Religious festivals? Ritual?

No. Nada. Vamos a la playa.

Step back. Freak out. Go chill at the antiques fair in San Telmo. Typical South American tourist crafts, woven bracelets, leather goods, street food. Aaah, that’s better. There’s a little more to this place than ham and cheese after all...

Here come the street musicians. They were a group called Radio Roots, and for me, they gave me something to believe in, or at least to think about a little more. Seems to me that the spirit, and maybe the spirituality and faith too, of Liberation Theology is still around. You just have to wander down a side street to find it, or hear it, I guess. These guys are singin and dancin to spread a message about peace, equality, and beauty… all the things that the Church claims to be about. They seem to have a vision of a better world and society. And what’s more, they’re young and they have the energy and the ability to communicate that the old guys in the robes lack. And it seems like Buenos Aires is listening. At least this chica is!

So maybe this is what I’ve been looking for. To inflict some religion major lingo on this idea (which is inevitable if I’m looking to get a grade out of it), I could even call it postmodern. Sounds fancy, right? Mensajes por Música (I do love a good alliteration): Expresiones Postmodernas de Espiritualidad y Fe en Buenos Aires.

Commence head scratching. Maybe it’s just some BS. But it sounds a lot more fun than papal documents.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Some other goings on. Day 32

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day; it was the second time I’ve been outside the US to celebrate. Last year, I was in Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day in BA was a little different, to say the least.

Since Gina’s homestay mom is out of the apartment for the week, I met Gina at her place in Almagro to drink some wine and watch a bit of Orgulloso y Prejuicio (nothing like beautiful people with British accents to make you feel like home). Then we met up with Kara and headed to Temple Bar on Marcelo T Alvear right en el centro. There was free face paint (I’m still working on getting the last flecks of glitter of the right side of my face), expensive drinks, and lots of drunk dudes. Most of the time, Argentine men are only %20 alcohol, 80% vain and self-assured. St. Patrick’s Day, it seems, is the one night when they’re just aaaall 100% crunk-ass playas. No thanks! The three of us girls finally resorted to adopting alter egos when anyone stumbling/sketchy/with a mullet tried to approach us. Kara pretended to be mute. Gina only spoke in a low voice that rivaled the cigarette encrusted scratch of Molly’s host mom. I was from France… “Je ne comprends pas!” When Temple Bar got a little old, we headed over to a block party on Reconquista, and pretty much immediately realized it was NOT the place for three young American women to be walking around. Stuff was on fire. Broken glass everywhere. Packs of men chanting and clapping around a bagpiper (who knows where he came from?) So we ducked out faster than they could say “De donde sos? Wayhr ahrd yous flrom?”

Another big day is coming up as Barbara’s fiesta de quince is this friday. I saw the dress the other day. Think pink Cinderella + strawberry cupcake. She’s going to look beautiful. Did I mention there’s 170 guests? And it doesn’t end until 6am? Everyone’s busy with the preparations…

My search for a new dress to wear to the party lead me into Palermo Soho yesterday after I met Molly and Kara for the most delicious pizza I’ve had here so far. The place was called Io te amasso… thin crust and deeeelicious. For some reason, most pizza places here like to include huevos duros (hard boiled eggs) and salsa golf on every slice, but gratefully, this place was self-proclaimed “Italian style” and neglected the Argentine fascination for the strange mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup. At least I think that’s what it is.

Just down the street from the pizza place was the big fancy shopping district with all of BA’s top designers. Papa, don’t worry! I restrained myself! But it was fun to window shop alongside the rich and famous for a few hours!

Almost forgot an important update! The oven works! I made my first batch of cookies this afternoon. They came out alright for not having measuring cups, baking soda, or eggs. Yup, I banana battered those babies and they still came out pretty good! They look a little funny, and they’re very dense without the leavening, but throw sugar, banana, oatmeal, walnuts, and chocolate chunks in anything and it’s sure to be delicious!

Well, its about time for a family skype date and maybe even some homework before classes tomorrow. Hasta luego!

Man vs. Wild: the case of the Sleepy Jaja's

My friends Kara, Gina, Molly and I have decided that try as we might to communicate the absurdity of this past weekend to friends and family, it’s just impossible to relate our experience. So here’s what happened in a nutshell:

We went to Tigre, a town on the river coast about 45 minutes from BA; the weather was beautiful. We met three guys (2 American students and their Argentine friend from Mendoza) who told us they were planning to camp on the island in the river. We thought, “Hey, that sounds pretty badass. Let’s do it.” We gathered “supplies” (beer, wine, meat to grill, things with sleeves) and hopped on a boat. We arrived at a beach/camping area called Parque LYFE. We cracked open the beers, we swam in the river, we befriended the bartenders and got lots of free drinks. The sun went down, we ate chorripan and spam, we watched a movie in the bar. We slept in the bar. The island flooded in the middle of the night. We awoke to mayhem. We waited for a boat to bring us home. We arrived back in BA looking like refugees. We went our separate ways, showered off the smell of molding mattresses, and slept for the rest of the day.

I really can’t say anymore. Pictures are worth a thousands words:



And here’s the rest. In short, this weekend was ridiculous. But it KICKED ASS. Jaja jaja jaja jaja.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Like the new look? Hmm?

This morning, as I woke up and completed my daily food blog reading ritual, I had a thought: I cook good food (most of the time) and I can take a decent picture (some of the time). Why can’t I have a food blog? But then I got distracted by my hungry belly so I snuck quietly past my homestay mom’s room and down a block to the little café on my street for some coffee. Then I came back and quietly enjoyed a bowl of copas de maize with radiated milk in a bag.

When I returned to the apartment, the lights were still out, not a sound could be heard. What if Celeste wasn’t there? She actually has something to do today? I have the apartment (read: kitchen) to myself? So, I drew back the curtain that encloses her part of the apartment ever so slightly. And she wasn’t there.

Bounding the three steps over to my room I grabbed my computer, placed it on the dining room table, turned on the iTunes, and cranked some Clapton Unplugged.


But what to cook? I decided on Randy’s Rice plus whatever else I could find to put it in. Oh, and guacamole, because I had an avocado. And, ok get ready for it: I FOUND CORN.CHIPS THIS MORNING. They only sell them in health food stores, and they're marketed solely for consumption by celiacs. Go figure! Lucky bastards.

OK. Randy's Rice. For those of you who don’t know Randy, he’s my pop, and he’s a damn good cook. Apparently he’s been making Randy’s Rice for 30 something years, which is good, because it’s delicious.

So here’s Randy:

And here's how my version of Randy’s Rice turned out:

And here’s my “recipe”:

1 cup brown rice

some olive oil

salt, pepper

half a yellow onion, chopped

some red pepper, chopped

some golden raisins

some toasted almonds, chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

unknown spicy red powder substance I got in Chinatown (what?! It said, picante and cost less than a dollar, so I bought it!)

Per pop’s instructions I wrote down on a post-it a few days ago, I sautéed the rice in some OO, salt, and pepper, and then added the chopped onion, pepper, raisins, and almonds. I let that all hang out for a bit in the pot, and then added 1 and ½ cups of hot water. Then it all came to a boil, so I turned down the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.  While it simmered, I pan-seared some garbanzo beans in some more olive oil, an idea I got from a recipe on 101 Cookbooks.  When the rice finished cooking, I added in the beans and mixed in some of the hot pepper powder stuff because I forgot to add it before. It all worked out great and tasted absolutely delicious!

Now for the guac:

I think this is a pretty standard guacamole recipe, though I couldn’t add cilantro because I don’t have enough cash in my wallet at the moment and CLEARLY I’m not going to spend my hard earned monedas on some silly cilantro. And I still had some more red pepper that I didn’t use in the rice, so that went in there too.

1 perfect avocado (all the avocados here are perfect, so this part’s hard for me to mess up), chopped—not mashed

¼ of a yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped up real small

some red pepper, chopped

juice of one small lime


Mix it all up, but don’t let the avocado turn into a big globby mess. No one likes a big globby mess, especially when it’s green.


Alright friends, this is my first food blog style post. How’d I do?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 26: They shaved the dog.

It wasn't cute to begin with. And now it just looks like one of those hairless cat things that celebrities carry around and buy pink studded collars for. It yips. Sometimes it just stands in my doorway, just looking at me. And when I walk into the apartment it licks my calves. It's name is Patán. They named it after Patricio, my 20-year-old bro. A little confusing, seeing as how Celeste calls her son Patán too. 

Have I mentioned that my homestay sis, Barbara is having her Quince (keen-say) next week? Think "My Super Sweet 16". And I'm not kidding. She has two gowns. All the guests are being transported to a wherever the party is somewhere in the city, and we're not allowed to leave until the bus returns at 6am. Gina is coming with me. Should be a blast. Room full of 14-15 year olds, cake, and we can only hope, an open bar???

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I've been in Buenos Aires for 25 days.

Yesterday I saw some silly things.

There was a 40+ year old woman learning to ride a unicycle in a park on my way to check my mail.

There was a basset hound with legs so short and ears so long that it had to wear a headband type of thing to keep its long ears from dragging on the ground.

I opened the oven in my apartment, only to find that it is just another place to put pots and pans. Devastation ensued. I need to ask if it actually works, and is just being put to another "use", but I’m afraid of the answer. 100+ days sin horno. Can I handle it?

Yesterday’s yoga was an interesting experience. It felt good to move and stretch like that again. But having to translate and open my eyes to see what to do took a little of the calm out of it all. I even had a ‘late ballerina ends up facing the wrong way on the bar’ moment, and had to hold triangle pose facing a line of sniggering porteños. But other than it was good.

It torrentially down poured today. All day.

The Jonas Brothers just announced their world tour. They’re coming to BA in May. Barbara (14 year old homestay sister) is still screaming and blasting their album, along with intermittent breaks to play Aerosmith’s I don’t want to miss a thing.

Can’t figure that one out.

Abby returns to America tonight!!! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Filling some gaps.

It’s been a while since I did a real post about how everything is going here in BA.

Bariloche was a blast. The land is absolutely beautiful: mountains, lakes, snow capped peaks in the distance, rocky beaches, coniferous forests. I felt like I was back in New England! Definitely a much needed siesta from the sounds, smells, and speed of the city that had been wearing on me. I did a few great hikes up to summits and down to beaches and made some new friends. But I think my most enjoyable and memorable moments I spent alone! After a late night (in bed by 6am) I somehow managed to wake up at 9am, refusing to sleep away my days in Patagonia. With most of my friends still asleep, I went down and shared breakfast with some other early risers from the group and truly, deeply enjoyed my refillable, free mug of black coffee. Sure have been missing it! It was such a beautiful morning, but the afternoon threatened to be gray, cold, and rainy, so I took my fourth cup with me, down one of the hotel trails that lead to the beach. It was so nice to just walk the beach that morning with no one else in sight. I walked as far as I could go until I just stood on an outcrop of rocks that dropped off into the lake. I stood there for a long time in the cold wind, just reveling in the sound of the world without cars and horns and people yelling on the sidewalk. I even sounded a barbaric YAWP across the mountaintops of the world. What a way to start the day! I think it was the first time I’ve been alone and at peace since the rooftop terrace of the hostel my first night.

So, all alone, with nothing in sight except for the warm sun and a refreshing glacial lake… what to do? what to do?? Clearly, the only option was to do a little skinny-dipping and I’m SO glad I did. It was incredible. Cold, but then not at all (adrenaline rush?) And absolutely liberating and glorious. My favorite memory of the whole weekend!

I ate some delicious food in Bariloche too. However it got there, Bariloche is home to a traditional Swiss colony, reflected in the architecture and of course, the chocolate. There was one place, Mamushka, that I frequented for their chocolates artesenales. Que rico! My trusty Lonely Planet recommended Mamushka, and it didn’t let me down!

However… when Gina and I were looking for a dinner place not far from the hotel, LP didn’t serve us quite as well. We had an epic journey that thankfully ended in a delicious, relaxed, perfect dinner. But getting there was kind of crazy. We left the hotel around 8 and got on the colectivo that runs from Llao Llao, the area where our hotel was, into the center of Bariloche. The previous night, Gina and I had had quite an encounter with the colectivo, during which we met Sirius Black (a gigantic black dog that waited for the bus with us) and even accompanied the bus driver as he stopped the bus on the side of the road to smoke a cigarette. Gotta love Argentina.

After passing the restaurant we were going to go to, which we were later glad about because it turned out to be a big tourist, chain kind of deal, we ended up all the way back in the center of Bariloche. I remembered another place from the Lonely Planet, but we had to walk clear across town to find it, and when we finally did it was closed and abandoned. Oops. All was not lost! We stopped in a little hotel at the edge of town and they recommended a place that was fantastic, lovely, relaxed, and way cheaper than all the places in the center. Gina had one of the most beautiful steaks I’ve ever seen, complete with two fried eggs on top, and I tried the grilled trout, which was also perfect. Add a bottle of red wine and you’ve got two happy Americanas en Patagonia.

Sorry for blaspheming the Lonely Planet, Abby... don't worry I still love it!!!

Of all the food I ate in Bariloche, and maybe in BA too, my favorite meal was CHURRIPAN. Right in the crafts market, there was just a dude with a big grill, grillin up delicious meat. Churripan, also spelled Choripan, is like the Argentine version of a hotdog. Here, they call American hotdogs panchas, but churripan is like big hunks of chorizo sausage on a bun, and then there were all these tubs of sauces like chimichurri, and pickled hot peppers and onions, the first hint of spice since I’ve been here. Basically, it was delicious and perfect and only 5 pesos, and I went back the next day for more.

The trip was full of good food, hiking, and swimming. The only big disappointment is that Gina and I were all ready to go paragliding while we were there, but we couldn’t because of the weather. But now we’re planning our next trip to Salta, or Córdoba, world famous para/hang-gliding destinations. Can’t wait!

Returning to the city was a little rough, I wasn’t quite ready to give up nature again. But I got by by visiting the rose garden in Palermo and exploring more of my neighborhood, Belgrano, which is much calmer than the city center. I also went to the zoo with some friends and have been exploring more of the markets around town.

This past weekend ended up being quite a cultural experience. What started with a great, cheap, chill dinner with my friend Molly at a hole-in-the-wall Columbian restaurant (rice and beans at last!) ended up as a night out at one of BA’s biggest night life hotspots, a club called Crobar. I suppose I’m glad to have experienced it, but I don’t think I ever really need to do anything like it again. It was crazy; I didn’t leave until 6am and there were still people lined up outside trying to get IN. Take a nap, Argentina!

Then Monday brought on my first day of class at UCA, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Argentina. I tried a class called Ciencia y Religión, but I don’t think it’s quite what I’m looking for. I have two more classes to check out on Thursday. But otherwise, I’m bumming around a lot this week which is kind of nice. I need to get some ideas going to start my research project, and I’ve been checking out some volunteer opportunities in the city too. I’m also really excited to check out a yoga class tonight at a studio in Palermo. At last!

Right now I’m writing from a bookstore on Avenida Santa Fe that’s in an old converted theater. It’s called El Ataneo and it’s a fun place to be, though very much full of tourists. Full of books, and the balconies have more shelves and some private reading rooms. The stage is a café--absurdly overpriced, but very cool, since the likes of Carlos Gardel (tango singer, Argentine hero) have performed on it. It’s an absolutely beautiful building, and there’s classical music and the happy hum of tourists to accompany a little reading/writing time.

Friday, March 6, 2009


So I haven't posted about Bariloche yet, but I will, and soon! Here are the pictures. And for a bit of a spoiler... see those giant, glacial lakes? I went skinny dipping in one! More to come...
But for now I really wanted to share this video that my beautiful, inspirational, always loving and comforting best friend Jacqueline posted on her facebook. Check it out here. And if you're curious and want to know how this video came to be, click here.

Moral of this story is, I watched this video this morning and I cried because I was moved.  It's silly, and inspirational, and wonderful. I know it's just a youtube video, but I think it's pretty awesome. I suppose I've been feeling like I'm in a bit of a funk because as much as I know I am independent, strong, determined, and fun-loving, I am not a city girl. I can be all those things here, it's just a lot harder for me to feel at peace in this city than in, say, THE WOODS. I do love trees. And I like waking up and hearing birds and wind outside my window, not motorcycles and trucks. I love traveling and I love the world, but I really miss my home.

After watching this video, I am determined to find my place in the city, and find the things that make me happiest. I have my first field hockey practice tonight! For lunch, I'm meeting up with a friend in the Botanical Gardens for a picnic with some homemade hummus I whipped up last night. And then I'm going to check out a yoga studio in Palermo and see what they've got going on.  All these things make me happy.

Alright friends, watch the video and be happy. I love you all!