I’m back and feeling 100% finally! I felt good starting on Wednesday/thursday and it’s been so wonderful to get back into real life.
The title of this post means, Here too the nation grows, which is a sign that you see anywhere outside of Buenos Aires. It’s this weird affirmation that though this one area has the most people and money and power, you matter too.
Here’s what happened this week:
Sunday, I joined some friends at a cafe still on a diet free of flour, sugar, raw fruits or vegetables, and dairy. I wound up eating gnocchi with no sauce or anything which was pretty bland, shockingly. Then I came home and Rita informed me that the 29th of every month meant you had to eat gnocchi so I had more gnocchi for dinner. Classic, BA.
Monday, I again journeyed to a coffeeshop and attempted to eat real food. As I was sipping my tea, I heard another couple speaking english. I decided to try and be a helpful friendly american abroad so I asked them if I needed help with the menu. Turns out the woman lived in Argentina as a kid but didn’t know what one word meant. We started talking and they told me they graduated from Penn in 2010. The guy was also really close with a girl on my program’s brother! They’re in town for a cousin’s bar mitzvah and had just arrived from the airport. We had such a nice conversation about what it’s like to be at Penn and I gave them little rundowns of the neighborhoods of BA. The world is so, so small. My journey into real food was a little rough so I took it easy the rest of the day.
Tuesday, I did something I’ve been worried about for a long time: I took my laptop to a coffee shop, one literally on my block, but still. I wasn’t the only one with a computer and I had both hands on it for pretty much the entire time but I felt pretty safe and would do it again at the three or four places that are within three blocks of my apartment. It was really much nicer to answer emails in a place other than my bed, especially in the middle of the day. I hate feeling trapped in my apartment just for computer safety.
Wednesday was to be my grand return to society. My tuesday class didn’t happen cause it’s midterm week at DiTella (my midterm is wednesday eep) so I was all ready for wednesday. I got lunch with a friend beforehand at a place that has actual spicy food (they had great veggie-rice salad) and then got to class. Only to find out it was canceled and the news had only reached half of us. UGH. I mean no complaints but I had traveled there and was a little bit ready for some stimuli on the educational front. I went home for a bit and then did some work in one of my favorite places right near my house. That night, I had dinner at Mario’s apartment with a group of 13 student to evaluate the program and get some feedback from him. His apartment is super cool and full of art and he served us pasta (rice for me since I was avoiding dairy) with great sauces including pesto. It wasn’t super well facilitated but still a nice idea to take stock at this point int he semester, even if it’s just personally.
Thursday is my longest day of the week and I actually had class. I went out to run some errands and saw that the subway was closed and there was a huge line of people and a firetruck in front of it. I asked my host mom about it and she turned on the news which was saying that people had thrown rocks at the ticket window and broken glass because there was a problem with the service (this happened at another station on Wednesday). I had to take the bus to class and was a half hour late and it was so slow (it took over double the time). Then, my class and I went out to lunch (we always get a lunch break in the middle) and the TV at the restaurant was announcing that the subway was closed because a woman committed suicide on the tracks. It was a complete whoa moment that put my whole day in a new light. My teacher said this type of suicide, especially on railroads in the south is very common and all the drivers can get free therapy after they, in a sense, kill people. WHAT. This moment in some ways is so typical of this country. You find out something really upsetting and intense and just have to keep going. I finished class, took the subway to my next class, got tea and a medialuna in the time between, and went to class.
Thursday night, I finished class and got home in record time (under 30 minutes) and ate dinner featuring real food for the first time in so long. I had salad with all my favorite vegetables and a little zucchini quiche Rita bought. I was thrilled. Then I changed in like 5 seconds to meet people in San Telmo, a cool neighborhood that reminds me of Brooklyn in that it is hipster, formerly really industrial, and a trek to get to. We went to this closed door jazz show that was actually only a block from the bus stop but way further south than we normally go. It was really cool and motivates me to explore the barrio more. Nora and I left early because had an early omnibus to our estancia the next day (more on that later) and had the nicest cab driver ever. We were speaking spanish in the cab, because IFSA has convinced us that if we don’t, we will be kidnapped (not really) and the driver asked us why, basically, he could tell we weren’t argentine. He then said in all of his years he’s never heard two people speaking just among each other in their non native language late night in a cab. He said we expressed ourselves well (which may have been because we were gossiping about a potential couple) and told me his whole life story of moving from Spain to Uruguay to Argentina. His name was Julio Cesar which is hysterical.
Friday morning, I woke up and packed an overnight bag to head to the Estancia. The Estancia, a working ranch, is in San Antonio De Arreco about two hours from the city, and some friends on IFSA recommended it. Both Nora and I were in the mood to get out of the city, especially after being cooped for so long in my case. Bus rides, especially with This American Life to listen to, are becoming so easy. It was super easy to plan and the Estancia had a cab ready for us at the bus station. The Estancia was just beautiful and I felt like I was in Italy, even though I’ve never been there. We got there around lunch time which was an asado and then it was time to ride horses through the campo and see the hundreds of cows there. There was a gaucho who played guitar and he was so Argentine. He was older and his posture seemed really poor when walking but he looked so comfortable on a horse. There was also a gaucho who trained a horse to lie down on its back and let people lie on its stomach, all by whispering in the horse’s ear. We had perfect weather and a beautiful ride and then lay on lawn chairs looking at the fields. There was a huge family staying there for a grandparents anniversary and an 8 year old boy befriended us and told us we talked kind of badly in spanish and sounded mexican. He then bragged to all of his cousins that he knew us, which was very endearing. His three year old sister was also really sweet and gave us lots of hugs. We ate dinner right there and then slept so well in a giant bed with lots of blankets.
Today, we had breakfast on the estancia including honey they make there and then did another horseback ride, this time with the giant family. Watching all the kids interact with their horses was hilarious. We then went to the town of San Antonio de Arreco and got lunch, walked around the square, and visited the two main attractions: a chocolate factory and a silver shop. It was so relaxing and tiny and the perfect afternoon before a really easy trip back to BA. Tonight, I’m staying in and I ordered takeout for the first time ever on Argentina’s version of grub hub. I got tabbouli salad and a veggie turnover and added some chickpeas. It was really good and lighter than anything I’d get at a restaurant.
Tomorrow is time to hunker down for midterm studying and I’m going to my Argentine cousin’s birthday party which I’m so excited for! I hope the second half of this experience is wonderful and healthy!