Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Argentine Life

I think that going a week without blogging probably is too long because I lose so many things that I want to share with everyone, and I have so many things occur that change the mood of my posts, so I'm going to try to write more often, especially when I've been doing things about town.

Last weekend I finished the weekend off by going to the Ferias (open-air markets) of San Telmo and Recoleta, and the Recoleta Cemetery. The Feria of San Telmo is an antique fair, and they have a lot of really interesting and beautiful things. I walked around and took a lot of pictures. I also bought a very small gift for my favorite Hennick Mom! :)
While we were at San Telmo, a girl got her bag stolen. Or, I guess it was before we even made it to the Feria, so it put me on high alert for the day because I would never want that to happen to me. The Feria of San Telmo not only has the market for buying things, but it also has a lot of Tango performers because San Telmo is home of the Tango. We watched a group of 20/30-somethings perform a song, and later an older couple dance the traditional dance.

After San Telmo, we all hopped on the bus to Recoleta and walked through the cemetery as a group. The cemetery is such a spectacular sight, and it's so close to my homestay! The entire cemetery are ornate mausoleums that house whole families. There are a lot that have gorgeous sculptures on them, and then there are the contrasting ones that have been left and are starting to fall apart and collect dust. They're all so beautiful. We also got to see where Eva Peron is buried, and I love her. Of course, with any famous politician, there is a ton of controversy and you either love her or you hate her, but I opt for the love. It's not even well marked where she's buried, and she's with her family instead of her husband's, so her mausoleum says "Duarte." I couldn't get a good picture because there were so many people in the way! It's definitely the site to visit!
After the cemetery we were set free onto the Feria, which is just outside the front gates. Most of the things at the Feria are handmade by the people who are selling them, and there are so many different things to see! I bought myself a couple of beaded bracelets, a purse that changes to different styles, and strongly contemplated yet another painting of the Tango... I have to pick a bunch to help decorate my apartment with Ashley for next school year!

On Tuesday our group got together for a traditional dinner and Tango show. I'm really interested in taking at least one tango lesson, but I already don't like watching it as much as I've enjoyed seeing people dance the salsa or the cumbia. The tango is much more technical and people say it's sensual, but I just don't see that in it. So, I really enjoyed my meal and tried to enjoy the show, but it wasn't as good to me as seeing some old people just dancing on the street. Also, the one lady wore an orange and purple dress, and the Gamecock in me was a bit put off (haha). After the show, I went to the residencia with some of the kids in the group, and we went out to a club. I only lasted until 2, which is when the club scene actually gets going, so I'm going to consider that night a waste of money. But it's good for me to know that I cannot successfully go out on a school night. Now I don't need to re-attempt that one later on...

On Wednesday night I went to see a show called Fuerza Bruta at the Recoleta Cultural Center. It was so cool! I was told it was kind of like Cirque du Soleil and my friend was told it was like Stomp - and it combined aspects from those two shows, but it was more than that, and I'm definitely looking forward to going back one more time. They also pulled my friend Jen up on stage to dance with them for part of it, which was really exciting! Jen's a star!

Thursday was our last class for the week because Friday (7/9) is the Argentine Independence Day. Jen, Emily (my roommate), and I headed downtown to a Cuban Restaurant that gives lessons on salsa and other Cuban dances. Now, if you know me, you know I always quit things that I'm not good at - and we got there are started the lessons, there were people who were REALLY good, and I couldn't even figure out what the instructor was saying. So, I stepped aside and I was going to be content to just watch, but instead Emily and Jen fought with me to try and get me to dance again, and that's when they pulled us aside with a separate instructor. So for about $5USD we got an hour and a half of private salsa lessons - and a really good vocabulary lesson for my Spanish class!
The annoying part about Thursday night was that I was all ready to go out, and Pipa told me I shouldn't bring my purse because I'd have to put it down when I was dancing, and then I'd get it stolen - and my roommate Emily just had her wallet stolen, so we were on alert. So, I agreed and instead put my cell, keys, and wallet in my front pockets of my jeans. On the crowded, rush-hour subte though, a man successfully stole my cellphone because I thought it was just his backpack hitting into my leg. I'm SO annoyed because I could have prevented it, but I just didn't think it was anything until it was too late. Jen let me use her cellphone to cancel mine, and at least no one can charge calls to my credit card now...

On Friday, Jen came to Recoleta and her, Emily, and I went out for a late lunch. There were a lot of places that weren't open because it was Independence Day, but we found a nice restaurant near my homestay and ate there. After lunch Jen and I decided to go see the Florialis Generica which is about ... 10 blocks from my house? Emily wasn't feeling good, so she went back home to rest. Of course, Jen and I almost got robbed (again), but I realized what was going on in the midst of everything, and successfully got us away without creating a big scene. But essentially, they made it appear like a bird pooped on us, and then they offered us napkins and water to clean it off. But in the process the poop was spread all over us, AND on to our purses. The lady who was "helping" tried to lift my bag off my body so that she could clean it better, and I caught on and wouldn't let her.
It's just really frustrating that no matter what I do here, I'm going to be a target. If I speak in English, I'm a target. If I speak in my non-accented Spanish, I'm a target. Apparently you can tell that I'm not from here by the way I walk! So, there's really no way to avoid being targeted, except pre-planning everything and being really aware of your surroundings and your belongings. I don't like the feeling that I'm always being watched, but I'm sure that with time I'll just come to accept it and catch on to all the games that people play.

Last night I went out to a club with a bunch of people from CEA, and I ended up staying overnight at my friend's homestay because her mom didn't feel comfortable calling me a cab at 5am and putting me in it alone. So for the entire day I've just been really lazy because I didn't sleep that great last night. And today our one roommate, Rachel, moved out, which was sad. It's sad to think that Patricia only has 3 more weeks and then we'll wait and see if another girl moves in with us for the semester.

We had orientation at Universidad de Belgrano for the semester the other day - that way we have an entire week off to travel between intensive Spanish and semester classes - and I'm really excited. They suggest taking 4 classes, but I'm definitely going to take 5. Now I just have to decide what ones I want to take because I did have them all pre-approved, but now they offer a "Women in Latin America" class, and the Women and Gender Studies minor in me is feeling a strong pull towards that - although my other 5 classes were all going to fulfill requirements towards my major/Spanish minor. I'll keep you updated with whatever I end up choosing after my adviser appointment.

Oh! And .. FUN FACT, but this is actually more sad - but it's a fact: I was talking to CEA Staff Member (and new best friend) Nahuel about life in Argentina, and I asked him if to Argentinians the value of a pesos feels like what a dollar feels like to Americans, or, if like I do, Argentinians compare the currency and think of a peso as $.25 USD. And he said that a peso felt like a dollar to Argentinians (which sounds like a stupid question, but like a soda is $5 pesos, and so it's really like $1.25 - but I don't think I would buy a small soda if it was going to be $5!). Anyway, I then asked him what Argentine minimum wage is, and he told me that it's 2.10 pesos an hour! That's a little over 50 cents! PER HOUR. That way, if you work a full time job, you make .. not even enough for rent. So, that's my fact. If you're feeling a little poor in the US of A, think of how it must feel to try to survive on that, and I'm sure you'll feel a little bit richer.


  1. Do you have a money belt? I know people say to use them in most cities, but they end up being overkill; however, I feel like if you're having to worry about crafty pickpockets this frequently (which has to be unbelievably frustrating), it might be something to consider. Even if you can't use it in lieu of a backpack or something going to class, at least times like today when you just had your phone and a couple of things it would suffice? I can mail you one if you can't/don't want to buy one there lol

  2. Hi Caroline,
    Sounds like you're having a great time in Argentina, except for all the theft--how does one protect against that? Are you targets because you're tourists? Also, the dancing lessons for $5 sounds incredible.

    I'd love you to join, a new community for women travelers to get real travel information geared specifically to women.

    It would be great if you could post about your travels in Argentina, providing anecdotes and photos from your time abroad. You might also want to provide tips for women travelers who also want to get out there.
    It would be great if you could write about the dancing lessons and issues of pickpocketing, for example.

    I look forward to hearing more about your experiences abroad!

    Hope to hear from you soon,


  3. I better get something..not just this hennick mom crap

    i miss you. cant wait to see your beautiful face on thursday :)