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Am I really staying here for a whole semester?

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sometimes I still can't believe I'm gonna be here for a whole semester. I got here about a week before orientation started, so I did a bit of exploring with my mom, but I think that only contributed to me feeling like I am on vacation.
Now that orientation has started, things have gotten a bit hectic. We have been meeting for most of the day to get pretty valuable information.. like this quite wonderful little pocket book called Guia T that pretty much helps you get around the whole city. It makes Buenos Aires way simple. We have also been told what places are safe, which are not, and should be avoided, important vocabulary, etc. And, of course, I've been meeting some pretty cool people.
The other night we decided we wanted to go out, but would rather avoid the very touristy, and more expensive, Palermo. We got some sweet tips on a really relaxed bar in Almagro, which only locals attend, which is cheaper, and so much more fun. Apparently you can just put a couple of tables together whenever you feel like it and play ping pong! Anyway, this is La Casona de Humamuaco

And this is the wonderful group of kids that got together for some awesome conversation and some cheap beer and wine.

Yesterday we went on a tour of "The Paris of South America", which was pretty interesting. I learned more about architecture than I ever have.

This is an example of the European, more specifically French, architecture that predominates in that portion of the city. Fancy, huh? But don't be deceived.. the original mansions in France are made with stone, but since, according to the tour guide, there are no stones in Buenos Aires, the houses (if you can call them that) are made of bricks and covered with stucco to replicate the stones.

Meet Kendall and Tegan, two of the students I've been hanging out with. They're super nice. Also, for your information, Tegan and I both have tickets to see Radiohead here in BsAs in March.

This is Plaza San Martin, which, so far, is my favorite of the Plazas. It is not too big, but it has gorgeous trees and pretty colors all around. And a cute little dog park.

Anyway, as most of you know, I am here to do some research and write a paper.. I wanna look into some of the social movements that emerged out of the 2001 economic crash. I have been very excited about this for a long time, but spending time in a Latin American city once more has made me face the harsh reality once more. People on the street, begging for some food, and the stark contrasts. I've felt a bit useless, because doing research is not directly benefitting anyone but me, but I have recently heard some pretty wonderful and inspirational words that are helping me to stay focused.

Anyway, that is all for now. There is internet at the home I'm living in, which is pretty awesome, but who knows when I'll actually be home in the next few days..

permalink written by  poweroflove on February 19, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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An intresting weekend

Buenos Aires, Argentina

This past weekend was quite interesting. Friday we went to a couple of clubs, and then a very expensive boliche. Interestingly enough it was gay night, but none of us knew until we were inside.
As for Saturday, we decided to take it a bit easier, and we ended up going to a local movie theater. They only play argentine movies, so we watched a very interesting movie called La Camara Oscura. It wasn’t very fast paced or extremely exciting, and there was very little dialogue, but it was so good! Later we wanted to find a nearby bar, or somewhere we could have a drink and watch some tango. Apparently they usually charge you a cover price and whatever you consume, so we figured it’d be too expensive. But this sweet old man found us asking about pries and such and told us about this restaurant that was just around the corner. He said we wouldn’t have to pay for cover, just what we consumed, and there was a bit of everything, so we decided to give it a chance. That turned out to be quite a wonderful idea, because I ended loving the place! It’s a pretty small restaurant, filled with regulars that know each other and share a passion for music. There were people taking turns singing, dancing, playing the guitar, the accordion, the drums. It was quite an awesome show, with some wonderful live music, great singing, awesome tango dancers. They even came to our table, sang to us, asked where we were from and welcomed their new friends from the US/Colombia! On our way out the owner started talking to us, and invited us to come back. I most definitely want to be a regular! I think that’d be pretty cool. Then I asked him if we could, by any chance, play music, since one of the guys I went with, Sam, plays the guitar, and another one, Greg, is learning the violin. Wouldn’t it be cool if they could have a bit of a recital there? The owner also asked if anyone sang, and since I was singing during the performances because I knew the songs, the people I was with ratted me out. So apparently I’m supposed to go back next week and sing? I’m not too sure about that. I like singing in the shower, but I don’t know about singing in front of people again. We kept talking and the owner said if we brought him pictures of us he’d put them up on the wall of performers… Hmm.. Maybe not…
After we left, something pretty scary happened. After we had walked about half a block from the restaurant, we ran into some pretty sketchy men sitting on the side of the sidewalk. I guess we were really ridiculously obvious, speaking really loud English on the street at 2 am, but one of the guys came up to us and started asking for money. I was immediately freaked out, so I turned around and started walking pretty quickly back to the restaurant, but apparently the others didn’t follow me. Tegan and Sam tried walking around them, but only Sam got through. Another guy started tugging on Tegan’s purse, but luckily she had it pretty forcefully held under her arm and he couldn’t take it. When Sam realized what was happening he turned around, threw the umbrella he was holding down, and shoved this man. By this point I was jogging away, back to the restaurant. Apparently Tegan and Sam walked all the way back home in the rain, which I think is crazy, but the nice people at the restaurant called me a a cab and helped me to calm down a bit.
No more walking at night for me, at least not outside of my neighborhood, where there are cops at every turn.

Anyway, this weekend I’m going to Bariloche for three days, and I’m way excited. I’m reading for the hikes and the views. Expect lots of pictures!

permalink written by  poweroflove on February 24, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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Argentines like their sweets

Buenos Aires, Argentina

While my mom was here we kinda came to the realization that there are about as many confiterias, which sell sweets and desserts, maybe some sandwiches, as there are restaurants. Also, everything is obscenely sweet. I guess if I actually had a sweet tooth this wouldn't be a problem, but I don't. Today I went to an ice cream place, and I tried their maracuya flavor. Maracuya, for those of you who don't know, is also known as passion fruit, and it is very very sour. The ice cream I tried, however, was very sweet.

Even the sugar packets at cafes and restaurants are extra large.. .
Can someone explain this to me? I'm not too into their carb and sweets obsession.

permalink written by  poweroflove on February 25, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

There's really no way of explaining the beauty of Bariloche. Sadly, pictures don't do it justice either, but here is my attempt to show you all how incredible this place is.

First glance at Bariloche.

Before we could possibly continue the trek, we had to stop for chocolates in town, which they are famous for. They had all kinds, with nuts, and fruits, and dulce de leche. My personal favorite was the white chocolate almond. Also, try their indredible raspberry stuff, since they are homegrown and way cheap (I bought a nice sized box of raspberries for about one dollar).

We went up Cerro Campanario on chairlifts (lame, I know.. the real hiking would come later..). This was the view from the chair lift.

Now come the pictures from the top of the mountain.

Later we went on a tiny hike to the Mirador del Brazo Tristeza. Please note the mountains in the background of the pictures.

That patch of lighter grass is a golf course. Don't get me started on what I think about destroying nature to build golf courses. Anyway, to the right in the mountain is the hotel we stayed at.

Had to dip into the freezing but clystar clear water at Bahia Lopez.

Swinging in the mountains..

And that's about as much of Patagonia as I saw that day. Gorgeous, no?

permalink written by  poweroflove on February 28, 2009 from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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El Bolson and the hike up Cerro Lopez

El Bolson, Argentina

On our free day some of my friends and I decided to venture to El Bolson, a town introduced to me as a hippie town. Apparently this gorgous place, smack dab in the middle of two mountain ranges, and surrounded with gorgeous hiking trails, is a region free of radioactive pollution and an Ecological Municipality.

The two hour bus ride through winding mountain roads was well worth it. Although it was pretty foggy and rainy, the mountains were beautiful.

Once there we made it to the El Bolson brewery.

They have a great beer selection.

The raspberry and the honey beer were my favorites.

We then walked back to town in the rain, and went on a short hike.

El Bolson- part of the town, part of the farms.

Our pretty trail

The tasty blackberries we found

The view from the plaza in town

The next day, our last day in Bariloche, we hiked 7km up Cerro Lopez. The trail was steep, rocky, and slippery, and I have a bruise to prove it.

Can you see the tiny pink house at the top of a mountain in the middle of the picture? That is where we were headed. This was taken about an hour into the hike.

The view from the top

permalink written by  poweroflove on March 2, 2009 from El Bolson, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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On my healthiest addiction..

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

As many of you know, I have a tiny obsession with sunsets. While I was in Bariloche, however, the sunsets happened to occur while I was stuck on long bus rides. My solution to the problem? I woke up at ungodly hours to watch the Sunrise..
Given, the first morning it was by accident, but what a pleasant accident.

the sun starting to peek out

the reddish (salmon?) hues starting to appear

the incredible clouds that make for much more interesting Sunrises

the reds spreading

the mountains at dawn

the beginning of the second Sunrise

i like waking up with the birds

the light cloud cover starting to show its pinks as the sun rises

smokey mountains

permalink written by  poweroflove on March 3, 2009 from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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I am sick of this CRAP!

Buenos Aires, Argentina

One thing I absolutel hate about this city is that, although it has pretty clean streets, the residents seem to have absolutely no decency when it comes to picking up after their pets. Something I see pretty much every single day is the pile of dog crap that has been stepped in, and the subsequent trail of smeared turd left on the sidewalk as the victim walks away. I HATE this.

Why the rant? Well, tonight, as I was coming home from a long day of exploring, I unknowingly came upon the largest pile of crap I have ever seen. Unless it was left by a horse, this dog probably hadn't had a bowel movement in weeks. It was so large, in fact, that I didn't just step in it, I actually accidentally kicked it, which meant I had poop in my sandal.

Portenos, please clean up after your dogs!

permalink written by  poweroflove on March 8, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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A musical weekend

Buenos Aires, Argentina

My weekend was filled with wonderful music, and it all started with Sam and Greg playing for Kendall and I at the park.

On Saturday night we went to have dinner at this place called La Pena del Colorado, which has delicious typical foods and awesome folk music.

Here's a bad picture of the Willy Gonzalez Cuarteto, which included a guitar, a base, an accordeon, and percussion. We ended up having drinks with them after the show.

There were musicians at almost every corner

Awesome artists doing their thing on the street

Some women with drums were celebrating Womyn's Day!

And they had really great beats..

There was even a band that did vallenato (a kind of music from Colombia) covers! I danced for a long long time..

And the theme of the day..

Can you imagine a world without music?

permalink written by  poweroflove on March 9, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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Hecho en BsAs

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Today, while I was at the park, a man approached me and asked me for a minute of my time. He started telling me about this magazine he was selling for 3 pesos (less than a dollar), which was basically a way for the unemployed to make some kind of money. Apparently the place that prints these magazines works with the unemployed and the sin techo (homeless). People can register there, agree to certain rules about behavior (like they can't be rude or insist if you're not interested), and take a pile of magazines to sell. Two pesos and ten cents of the cover price goes to the person that sold it to you. I bought it, of course, and I must say, it's got some really interesting articles, and a pretty cool section with stuff going on around the city (like this French film festival I'm gonna check out next week).

What I love about this little system is that people that could not have a steady income otherwise, and that would most likely end up having to beg for money on the streets, have a really awesome way of generating some sort of income through their own work. What's even cooler is that the registered sellers also get really good support and social services from the organization that sets it all up. Needless to say, I think more of this should happen, because it is quite and awesome system.

permalink written by  poweroflove on March 9, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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Donde estan las monedas!?

Buenos Aires, Argentina

I've held off long enough on this, so I think it's time to finally complain about the incredibly inconvenient coin situation here. For some reason, there are very few coins in circulation. People have very different theories about this phenomenon.. I've heard some say that the mafia stockpiles the coins and then sells them to reatailers for profit. A more likely possibility, which I'm almost positive is a fact, is that the metal of the coins is worth more than the value of the coins, so people melt them for profit. Anyway, the really really bothersome thing about this shortage is the fact that you need coins to ride buses. Apparently they were having security issues on buses, where people would threaten the driver and take all the money. Now they have little machines on the bus; when you get on the bus, you tell the driver where you're going, and he or she tells you how much you need to pay. You then put the coins in the machine, and it gives you a little ticket. If you have no coins, you can't ride. It's a simple as that.
Something that is particularly infuriating is how stingy people are with their coins. Often business would rather let you pay less than you have to than give you your change. All of this makes it difficult to ever have enough change to ride the bus, and since the bus is the most convenient method of transportation, because cabs are much more expensive and the subte (subway) access is pretty limited, having coins is a pretty amazing feeling.

So if you ever come here, NEVER give your coins away. You will need them for the bus. If when you're paying someone asks you if you have any change, just lie. It will make your life much simpler.

As a side note, at leas in Buenos Aires they're willing to part with bills.. In Bariloche they never had even bills for change. Go figure.

permalink written by  poweroflove on March 10, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina
from the travel blog: ARGENTINA
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