Monday, May 28, 2012

Activities during the first few days

I know most of my friends back home aren't considering travelling to BA and don't care about my recommendations for a homestay, so here is what I've been up to!

The first day here, Friday, I was really tired, overwhelmed, and kind of wondering why the hell I came to Argentina. But, I did venture out of my room and met my housemate D, who is also in a CEA program. He's been staying in Chacarita (our neighborhood of BA) since January, so he was kind enough to show me around a bit and even invited me out with him and his friends.

We went to this really cool closed door bar called Frank's Bar. I had read about it in my BA research and was really excited to check it out. I took my first ride on a collectivo (thanks again to D, because I didn't have monedas/change for the bus) and we headed out to Palermo to meet his friends and walk to the bar. When we got there we had to wait awhile to get in, but once inside the first door there is just a telephone booth. Customers have to enter a secret code into the number pad of the phone and hidden door pops open to this really posh bar. It has nice wood bar with crystal chandeliers and comfy lounge areas. And there's even a sex shop as you leave in case all the expensive drinks and low lights have you feeling frisky on the way out. Definitely not a bumping boliche, but considering I just flew in that morning it was just what I needed to help me acclimate a bit.

The next day, Saturday, we had the CEA arranged city tour, and I rode the subway and a taxi for the first time with my host mom. We talked about the city and met everyone in our program then walked around a bit to a nice place to eat called La Dorita. I took pictures of everything along the way and the inside of the restaurant because it had really cool chandeliers made of recycled bottles. When we were done, we took a private van around the city, and one of the CEA coordinators, Pamela, who explained all the sites in Spanish. We got an overview of the main neighborhoods: Belgrano, Palermo, Recoleta, San Telmo, La Boca, and Puerto Madero (notice Chacarita wasn't on the tour?). The city is full of beautiful European style architecture, cool street art, and other neat things like statues and tributes to Los Desaparecidos, those who were abducted and likely killed during the "Dirty War".

We stopped in La Boca after admiring the stadium, La Bombonera, wear the fĂștbol team Boca Juniors play. Fans are nuts there and are called the "12th player" because the Boca Juniors couldn't win without them. Then we walked around "Caminito", a small street with a lot of shops and cafes. Its a bit of a tourist trap and is a little shady in the evenings, which I think is why they brought us as a large group with an escort. It's a very artsy neighborhood with a lot of character, although I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it after a Boca Juniors match.

When we were done with the tour we all parted ways and napped like crazy. It is very exhausting trying to absorb all that knowledge being thrown at you in another language, and we did a fair amount of walking too. Later my friend A, also from Southern IL, and I met up and had a "date" at a very delicious pizza joint we happened across while exploring her neighborhood. It was very romantic even if she disagrees (:P). It was interesting ordering without a program assistant to help interpret, luckily our waiter was very patient and amused with us.

Sunday was an off day for the program, a day to relax and rest before the placement exam today. A and I planned to meet up at the university and then go to the San Telmo feria which happens every Sunday. Somehow we managed to miss each other; she got lost coming to the university while I went looking for her, and then I got lost going back to the university as she headed home. I decided to walk home and am still regretting it as my feet haven't quite recovered. I don't even know how far I walked but it took at least an hour. When I got home and conversed with A about our mishap, she asked if I wanted to come back to explore with her more knowledgable roomie, C. Equivalent to my D, C has been in BA for about 4 months already. So of course I did, I can't pass up a chance to soak up someone's knowledge when they're just handing it out. We ended up in Chinatown and then went to see Hombres en Negro 3. That was a trip, because when the cashier asked us, "3D or regular", none of us knew what she was saying. Luckily A & C's host mom came with us, and was able to save the day. She also helped me find my bus stop and ran from one side of the crosswalk to the other with me, so you know she's good people.

Today we had a placement test for Spanish and tomorrow I start my classes from 10AM to 3 PM. We also toured around the university and Belgrano with Nahuel and grabbed some tasty lunch at a nearby mall. A mall here seems to pretty much mean a building with all the really pricey shops in it. After the tour split up, the girls split into groups, some going to get cell phones, others went home, but A and I went shopping! I'm happy with my purchases and the exchange rate on my credit card, but I need to do some more. 

I have a ton of pictures but they are taking forever to load to they might need to be posted State-side.

I don't know yet what tomorrow will hold, but I think my feet might need a break! Buenos Aires is tough on the feet, I will need a pedicure before all is said and done!

(Also, I'm not Not talking about my host family & A's host mom with names and details because I'm rude, I just want to protect their privacy. The CEA people's information is available online so no secrets there.)

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