Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In BA for a day -- 10 Feb. 2008

¡Estoy en Calle Lafinur en Buenos Aires!

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For the non Spanish speakers among us, I just announced that I’m in Lafinur Street in Buenos Aires! I had a rather uneventful flight into Buenos Aires from Atlanta. I definitely will travel again, especially when you arrive and realize where you’re at.

While I was in Atlanta I was able to catch up with Stacy, my mom, Anya, and Aunt Karel. It was a good time to talk to them since I had about a 3.5 hour layover. Atlanta’s airport is super easy to navigate thanks to the wonderful metro-like transports. It’s definitely an airport that’s handicapped accessible. I was prepared for these metro cars thanks to my cousin Anya and Stacy. (P.S.—they were neat, Anya)

According to my seating preference, I had an end seat. I sat with a gentlemen from Boston who was coming to Argentina to go on a dove hunt in Córdoba. (…after speaking with him, if I could just convince my dad to take a flight to the airport, he’d have the vacation of the lifetime…pssst…if you see him, remind him that passports can be expressed). In the seats behind me I was able to talk to two students, one from Washington, D.C., and the other from Holland. The girl from Washington, D.C., will be staying in Buenos Aires for a year working on her Master’s Degree, and the other guy from Holland is staying for two weeks to work on his language skills. The girl who is getting her Master´s her in BA received a scholarship from the Rotary Clubs. I think it would be a great program to apply for in the future.

The plane didn’t have much turbulence; we had some from time to time when we crossed the equator and again when we were over Columbia. The plane took a different trajectory than I has assumed. We left Atlanta and flew over Cuba and started to curve over to Columbia, through Bolivia, and then into Argentina until we got to BA the flight ran 30 minutes ahead of time and landed around 9:15AM in BA; however, we were tied up in customs for quite awhile. I have a visitors pass, but I will need to upgrade it to a student visa at the embassy.

I was easily able to navigate the airport, got money out of an ATM (cajero automático), and paid for a remiso, or paid taxi car to take me to my family. I know I have a lot to learn about Spanish, but I definitely know enough about the language to mitigate through any travel related circumstances without thinking—way cool.

The taxista took me to my semester-home in Palermo in about 30 minutes. I got to look at the streets first hand when we got off of the autopista (highway). The city is very pretty. I think it has a certain enchantment because there are little parks hiding every few blocks, and the porteños walk there dogs everywhere. When I got to my house, I rang María Inés’ apartment and she came down to greet me. I live on the second story of a multiple story apartment complex. It’s very secure since you need a key to get into the foyer and the elevator and it appears that we live on a nice street, too.

María probably is in her 50’s or 60’s and is full of pep. She lives here with her son Matias. Matias is 36 years old. It’s quite common for children to live with their parents until they’re married like many other parts of the world. She welcomed me with “los brazos abiertos” or with open arms. The apartment is functional with a kitchen, 3 bedrooms and a living room. She has several little patio areas that are covered with plants, reminding me of both of my grandmas. Both Matias and her are very eager to talk with me. Matias took me to a store to get a phone card so I could call my mom, and I got a mini-tour of the area.

My first meal in Argentina consisted of one of my cousin’s favorite regular foods. She heated up a rotisserie chicken from a supermarket and made salad. Anya: you would have loved the chicken. We had small talk and discussed briefly about my home, Buenos Aires, arriving early, etc. They were very patient with my delusional state, since I didn’t sleep more than 2 hours on the plane. It made my Spanish very interesting. After that, I slept for 3.5 hours. After I woke up and went for a walk.

I figured that it was good to get my bearings. Since its daylight savings time, there was light until around 9PM. I live so close to many things! The Botanical Garden is literally across the street and the zoo is about 2 blocks down. I didn’t go in them because it was too late and they had shut down for the Sunday. However it was comical to see the great number of feral cats in the Botanical Garden, which it is known. There probably were probably 75-80 cats there. It reminds me of my uncle’s place…

I then continued to walk and stumbled upon Alto Palermo, which is a 4 story mall complex. I found a wonderful bookstore, Yenny, and bought a book in Spanish to start reading. I also browsed the mall a little bit. Since I wasn’t really ready to shop hard core, it was good to get a sense of what was there. I might go back today to get a cell phone. They had a great mixture of stores with some American fashion labels (Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, McDonalds) and some Argentine-specific stores, too. Oh, and there were 2 McDonalds that have slightly different product lines than our McD’s—one even had a McCafe that served pastries that looked good, but nothing as good as the pandelerías in the streets.

The streets around my house have many café’s, parrillas (Argentine steak houses), heladerías (ice cream shops), and tiendas (stores). There is also several supermarkets within a few blocks of the house.

For dinner around 9:30 María made empanadas, an Argentine staple. Empanadas are made with dough shaped similar to a turnover. They are often filled with cheese, beef, vegetables, or fruit. She had beef and hard boiled egg in them. Mateo made a pizza, too. The water here tastes very good; it has a similar taste to the water at my paternal grandparents. María paid me a great complement. She said that my Spanish is far better than the other 6 students she has had in the past. She told me that she had one student that didn’t talk as good as I do after 6 months in Argentina. Maybe there’s hope fluency while I’m here!

If I understand my María correctly, I will be able to have the internet around March 1. It’s expensive for her to have it all of the time, but for 40 pesos (about $11) it’s possible for me to pay for it. Once I get the internet, it will be easier to communicate with everyone outside the country. She already has a wireless router, so I just will pay her for the service.

Interesting aside particularly for my dad: The electrical outlets here are very strange. Most outlets run 220V power (in the US we use 110V). On most plugs it says what kind of power the thing accepts. For example, my computer accepts 105-240V, so I can just plug in my laptop directly (and same for my cell phone). But if I have something requires 110V power only, I need a charge converter for that.

So for now, I’m going to figure out my plans for tomorrow. I want to head to the downtown district, which surely will be another adventure, and maybe try the buses—I’ll see how brave I am.


1 comment:

Janelle said...

Mmmmm... empanadas. I ate a lot of these after I graduated from college and lived on my own (sans meal plan) for the first time. They are very common thing to find in the bakery section of a Texas supermarket chain called HEB.

Keep posting - I love hearing any detail!