How a week has already passed since I arrived in this amazing city, I’ll never know. But what I do know is that I’m falling more in love with this place everyday. Despite the differences between here and home, I already feel myself falling into step with the life here. Today is Saturday, which means I had a fabulous Friday night out, and slept in till 12. Now I’m sitting in a delightful cafe right next door to where I live to do homework. But a week-full of adventures preceded this delightful afternoon.
Monday was our last day of official orientation. That afternoon, we met up at the Plaza de Mayo, which is a hugely important part of Argentine culture and history. Many political movements, like Las Madres de Plaza del Mayo (which I’ll delve into a little bit later) took place on the plaza, and all through the avenue are historical buildings, ranging from traditional Spanish styles to more simplified, modern facades. From there, we split into groups and had tours through the plaza and avenue, accompanied with our guide who told us the history like the story it is, and we were now a part of the narrative.
At this moment, and throughout the week, I’ve spotted moments in my comprehension, and marveled at already how much better and confident I feel about my Spanish. Being able to listen and comprehend the Spanish as it is, with no need for mental translation to English is an awesome feeling.
After our tour, me and few friends decided to roam through the avenue and explore. We sampled sweets from street vendors and came across this awesome dance group who was practicing in some theater, before returning home.
Tuesday marked the first day of classes, and although waking up at the God-forsaken hour of 6:45 to get there at 8:45 was not great, I was eager to get up and going. The early hour, however, by no means eased the trek, nor did it get me there on time. I met up with my friend Carson who lives really close to me, and we walked, bussed, walked, and got lost for a good while before we finally made it! (Suffice to say, I’m still struggling with this navigation thing.) But it takes about an hour by bus to get to school, making me realize how much I love being able to roll out of bed on campus and get to my class, coffee in hand, in a mater of minutes.
La UBA, or Universidad de Buenos Aires, is not what I expected, at least from a physical point of view. Our department, or facultad, is Filosofia y Letras. La UBA is a public university, meaning it’s FREE. I know, right? It’s of a very high quality and a prestigious place to attend. It is very political, and the students and faculty are known for their left leaning enthusiasm and passion in politics. The entire school is covered, and I mean covered, with political campaign posters and activist slogans and what not. Just yesterday in class we heard several loud bangs and shouts outside the building. Nonchalantly, the professors informed us that it was a rally, or demonstration, and they were throwing noise bombs or something to get attention. (Don’t worry mom, we weren’t endangered!) Apparently, nothing out the norm. I thought that if that had happened at UF on any given weekday, we’d be getting UFPD alerts out the wazoo. But it is really interesting to see how passionate the students are about making a change in their government and politics, and how they are ready to fight for what they truly believe would make it better.
Despite the fact that the school looks like it’s abandoned, people smoke inside, and there’s usually a lack of toilet paper, it doesn’t detract from the quality of education. I love my classes, especially my literature class. The professor speaks faster than any native speaker I have ever met, and it’s hard to tell if he’s naming some author or saying some vocabulary word we don’t know, but slowly and surely, I’m grasping what he says, and I’m loving reading Borges and learning about Argentine culture and history along he way.
After classes and many cafe con leches later, we took the rest of the city to explore! A group of us made our way to the famous cemetery in Recoleta which hosts the remains of many of Argentina’s most famous and well to do. Even Eva Perron, or Evita, is resting in a simple mausoleum among her fellow Argentinians, and it’s always decorated with fresh flowers from the Portenos who keep her memory alive and well.The place was cool, and definitely a spot to check out, but it was also super creepy, especially since you can peek inside some of the mausoleums and see coffins. Eeek.
After the trek, a few of us got some ice-cream, naturally, and eventually made our way home. The next day after class, I left with my friend Rebecca to study a bit for classes and then we went to a movie event in Palermo. It was at a community center called Palermo K, in which the community comes together for discussions, or charlas, activites, events, etc. That night they were showing a movie on a subject of great meaning for the Argentine people, Los Desaparecidos (the disappeared) and the Madres del Plaza de Mayo who continue to work to search for them. Basically in the 70s here, a lot of people who worked against government principles disappeared, many students, journalists and sympathizers, and many of their children, too. It’s a very sad blow in Argentine history, whose bruises are still felt today. Many of the children that were taken from their parents were given away to families at a young age, and lost a part of their true identity. The Madres of the Plaza de Mayo have worked for years to bring home these desaparecidos in order to reunite biological parents and grandparents with their lost ones, and are most famous for their demonstrations on the Plaza. The movie we went to see was called Verdades Verdaderas, la Vida de Estela (the life of Estela), who is one of the Madres. She was supposed to attend the showing, but wasn’t able to make it. I really enjoyed the movie, and it helped me to get a better idea of this period in history. (You can actually even find it on Youtube if you’re interested in watching.)
And so came Thursday, a very fun day! After classes, a group of amigos and I decided to go back to the Plaza de Mayo to see a small indigenous art display.
I bought a sweater that was made by hand from an indigenous group in the north of the country. It’s made of Alpaca fleece and when you wear it, it feels like a big hug. I love it. Afterwards, we decided to roam a bit. Very close by was a gorgeous Basilica called Basílica Nuestra Señora de La Merced. It’s old and gorgeously intricate. The place glows. I’m not Catholic, and not very religious otherwise, but when you’re in a place like that, it’s amazing how anyone who enters finds it a place of sanctity, and we all feel that sense of quiet, peace, and restoration enclosed in it’s walls.
From there, we made our way to Puerto Maduro, the port, which is and has been an important economic vitality for import and export.
We found a cool boat/museum and had fun roaming around that and taking pictures, before marveling at the Puente de la Mujer (the “Women’s Bridge”) as the sun set across the water.
By Friday, I was exhausted, and went home right after classes to take a nap and prep for my first night out on the town. In Argentina, they don’t start making plans until much later at night, which is weird for me as a person who likes to plan ahead of time. Entonces, we didn’t leave until 11:30! Unheard of in good ol’ G-ville. haha. But we had a great time exploring the night life of the Portenos, and not returning until the wee hours of the morning.
It’s been a fantastic week, and I’m sorry for the short novel I’ve left you with, but I hope to give you not only a day-by-day of my experience here, but also give you a guide should you ever come to see this amazing city for yourself! Nos vemos! Ciao!