Friday, September 12, 2008

Vos podes entenderme?

So I feel compelled to add at least one post mentioning the distinct flavor of spanish that is spoken by the awesome collective population of Buenos Aires. When I first arrived, between the vos and all the "shja" sounds, I was completely lost. My spoken spanish wasn't that great to begin with, so throwing an accent in the mix meant I was doomed to be a clueless yanqui (note: it's pronounced shjanki by los portenos {another note: the people of Buenos Aires are called portenos [one more note: porteno comes from the fact that they live in a port city]}).

So if you're still with me after that little parenthetical party I had up there, I'll explain the porteno way of speaking.

Rule 1: all "ll"s and "y"s are pronounced kind of like the English "j". So the phrase "yo me llamo mark" sounds like "Joe me jamo mark." There is actually kind of an "s" sound mixed in there too, kind of like a "shja"

Rule 2: Instead of using the tu (you informal) form of verbs, people use the vos. To make the vos you basically pull the r off of the infinitive, add an accent to the second to last letter, and add an s to the end. So the vos for hablar is Hablás, and for poder it is podés, not puedes. Commands are also different but other tenses are the same as the tu.

Rule 3: People use their hands a ton while talking, and there are 3 or four (or three or 4) key gestures that people bust out all the time. these include pointing to an eye, putting the tips of all your fingers together pointing upwards and pumping your hand up and down, and, of course, the under the chin "que se yo" hand flick.

Anyway, about two weeks into my trip I started really catching on to argentine style speaking, and I began to love it. The week before I left I had a dream that I was in Mexico somewhere trying to converse with some of the people and they just kept laughing at me and mimicking my "shja" sounds while telling me they had no idea what I was saying. It was the worst nightmare I had during the entire trip! Haha. Or should I say, Jaja?

So I leave you with these: a couple examples of the vos in advertising around Buenos Aires.
This one reads: "Senti el sabor de vivir!", or "Feel the taste of living!" That's right, the taste of living is very similar to that of high fructose corn syrup.

"Suscribite" means "subscribe yourself." Since the second to last syllable naturally gets an accent, there is no need to write it in (i.e. suscribíte). Also, those are my favorite pair of shoes.

This sign doesn't even have the vos in it, but I had to put it in because it cracks me up. Poor little Juanito was just trying to get across the train tracks when all of a sudden that bipolar Zeus flew into a rage and decided to hurl a fat bolt of lightning at him. And note where Zeus aimed-Ay yai yai!


One of the highlights of my time in Argentina was the two day trip a good portion of us took to Uruguay. We left Puerto Madero on July 4th and took a 3 hour ferry ride across El Rio de La Plata to the small historic town of Colonia, Uruguay. Upon arriving we basically wandered the city checking out old buildings and soaking up the small town atmosphere. We were amazed to find that cars actually slowed down or stopped for us while we crossed the street. Also, many more people carried around giant thermoses of mate, incluiding the Uruguayan customs officials. I laughed when I saw a sign in the ferry's bathroom that read "Please don't throw away yerba in the lavatories."

The city of Colonia has quite the interesting history. It is the oldest town in Uruguay and was a smugglers port for a long time. It was founded by Portugal, but then Spain claimed it, and it transferred hands between the two something like 9 times. It was even ruled by Brazil for a little while before 1828 when Uruguay won its independence. Part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We cruised around the historic quarter of Colonia, climbed up a lighthouse near the ruins of an 17th century convent of San Francisco. We stayed at the coolest place called La Casa de Teresa, and the owner of the place (Teresa, of course) was super nice. We even celebrated the 4th of July!

The next day turned out to be absolutely beautiful: it was warm in the morning, and by midday the temperature was in the 80s. So much for wintertime! The majority of the day was spent down at this awesome beach where we goofed around in the sand and the water. Getting ice-cream and watching an amazing sunset perfected the trip. Then we took a hydrofoil ferry back to Argentina and arrived back in the city in an hour.
Uruguay is held in pretty high regard by most argentines, there was a consensus that it is a very nice, if small country. I was told that its government is very democratic and economy is stable relative to other countries in the region. Also supposedly it is pretty liberal, and same-sex unions are allowed and recognized nationally. Looking back I wish I could've traveled around in Uruguay a little more, because it did impress me. As it was, we got to see countless cool old buildings and enjoy some time away from it all (a vacation from our vacation, right?), which wasn't half bad. I hope the pictures capture some of the trips feel.
A good portion of the streets in the more historic part of town were cobblestone like this.

This graffiti reads: "Latin America United in repudiation of the genocide of Bush, the repressor and torturer." Nice to know that the US is loved everywhere in the world... This kind of graffiti was common in Buenos Aires too.

El Campo

So June 27th 2008 was a friday, which meant no class. But La Universidad de San Andres did made plans for our group that day- we were going out to visit "una estancia" an hour or so away from Buenos Aires. The trip to the ranch had a rough start, there was heavy fog on the route we were taking so the authorities were pulling trucks off the road, which led to some extreme congestion. I forget how long it actually took us to get out to the ranch, but I think it was in the range of 3 hours.

It was amazing how quickly the packed roads and high-rise buildings of Buenos Aires gave way to wide open, mostly flat country strecthing out in all directions. It was like two different worlds less than a half hour apart. Once we got to the estancia, which was basically a tourist ranch, we did all kinds of touristy things like watching "traditional" dances while eating delicious asado. Along with tourists from all over, including what looked to be an elementary school group from somewhere else in Argentina, we drank mate, rode horses, and watched horsemen at full gallop attempt to spear little metal rods through the middle of rings that they hung from a magnetic pole like this:

Although spending half a day at a touristy ranch can hardly be considered experiencing "el campo," it was at least cool to catch a glimpse of something other than the city. In class and at my argentine home my teachers and host parents always talked about how life in the country was way different from city livin'. They say that people talk much more slowly, pronounce words differently, and are generally nicer and less stressed. It was ironic that during my time in B.A. most of the people I saw who were from the campo were yelling and protesting against "Las Retenciones" (the export taxes) that Kristina Kirchner had raised (more on this later).
One more thing to note was that estancia had a little dairy themed art gallery, which actually had some pretty cool art. My favorite piece was definitely this one at left. It was life sized!

A good chunk of the group posing in the ranch's lookout tower

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mucho mas

Okay so my Argentina blog has been in a pretty pathetic state. I experienced so much during my time there, and my blog reflects very little of it. Since I'm back where I have internet all the time and can actually upload pictures now I've decided to do some post-Argentina blogging about my trip. I've got tons of pictures to post and journal entries to copy, so here it goes!

The first part of the trip I want to revisit is mi primera vez traveling to "el centro," the downtown area of Buenos Aires. This happened on June 26th, and was quite an experience. A number of my friends went down earlier on the 26th to watch the protests of the mothers of the "los desaparecidos" which is the term given to the approximately 30,000 people who mysteriously disapeared (they were usually kidnapped then murdered) during the "dirty war" waged by the military junta government from about 1976 to 1983.

I didn't make it to the Plaza de Mayo in time to see the protest because I caught a later train and ended up walking all the way from the Retiro train station to the Plaza de Mayo, which took the better part of an hour (Michael and I obviously did not take the fastest route). But it was a cool trip because everything was so new to me. Even the train ride into el centro was interesting. The trains of Buenos Aires are decently clean, dirt cheap, and generally a great system of transportation, except often times they are super crowded, with people squashed against eachother standing up in any space available. And since a lot of people don't have anything to hold on to, when the train jolts sometimes everyone plays a little game i like to call "Human Dominoes."

Upon getting to Retiro Michael and I wandered through the busy streets, squeezing through crowds of people waiting for colectivos (buses) and passing all kinds of street vendors. I kept smelling this amazing, sweet scent that reminded me of cocoa puffs, and it turned out to be the sugar coated peanuts that are very popular and sold from almost every other corner in the city.

Eventually we got to the Casa Rosada, which was not only very big and pink, but heavily guarded when we walked by it. La Casa Rosada looks out over Plaza de Mayo, which is also bordered by a number of historic and important buildings such as La Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires, and "La Jefatura de Gobierno de la Ciudad" or the headquarters of the city government. The architecture of these buildings is beautiful, grand, and pretty varied, as my pictures show.
After chilling around the Plaza for a little bit and being hassled by a few beggers/solicitors/panhandlers (sometimes it was hard to classify exactly what people wanted money for) we walked back to Plaza de San Martin via Florida, a pedestrian street which is always full of people. We met up with ourbuddies in a Cafe and took a few group shots in the Plaza de San Martin (which is right near retiro) before heading home.
Something interesting I heard from a friend of mine who is in Argentina right now is that on equestrian statues, if the horse has one foot up it means the rider was wounded in battle, if the horse has both feet up it means he was killed in battle, and if all four hooves are on the ground the rider died of natural causes.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Things that are different and/or notable here in Buenos Aires:

1. No one eats peanut butter
2. People make out in the streets
3. Kids live with their parents well into their twenties (part of the reason for #2?)
4. Milk comes in pouches
5. Eggs are not refrigerated in stores
6. Not too many people clean up after their dogs
7. Kiosks display porno magazines prominently
8. You face-touch/cheek kiss when you greet people-even between guys
9. Everyone thinks Dulce de Leche is the greatest
10. They’re right, it is the greatest
11. The youth don’t just grind with each other on the dance-floor
12. People can and do drink at age 18
13. The sidewalk changes style with every house that you pass
14. Most people drive like drunken angry teenagers
15. People are way more open and ask you intense questions just after meeting you
16. They eat morcilla, “blood sausage,” and it’s delicious
17. Tons of people smoke
18. They make awesome milanesa
19. Mullets are in!
20. McDonalds’ drive-thrus are called AutoMacs
21. Dryers are not common-clothes are air dried and ironed
22. The vice-president is more popular than the president
23. Cars are smaller and all from European brands
24. Parties don’t really start going until 2 AM, and I’ve yet to witness the end of one.
25. Hand gestures are used with gusto
26. Bidets are in most bathrooms
27. House-keys are crazy and old looking
28. The wooden blinds work so well that you can sleep for an entire day and think it is night (helps with the recovery from #24)
29. Everyone wears shoes in the house
30. People speak Spanish!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Che, boludo!

So the reason why I really haven't blogged at all is because there is so much to do here every day! If things were more boring, I promise I would spend more time on the computer. Plus because of my mas-o-menos internet working online is slow and I can't upload pictures without having my browser crash and erase everything I wrote.

I've had three days of clases so far, and they've been good. I've learned a lot about Argentina, including some of the crazy local slang. We have a pretty solid group of cool American kids in the program, its been lots of fun going out to lunch and "para tomar algo," even though we unfortunately always end up talking in English when we're together.

On wednesday we all went on a boat tour of La Tigre, a very cool area of El Rio de La Plata. Today after class a group went to el centro de Buenos Aires to see the mothers of "los desaparecidos" protest. I left a little later, so I missed seeing "Las Madres" but I did get to check out a few of the plazas (San Martin and De Mayo) and see some really cool buildings like the Casa Rosada and many others near the Plaza de Mayo. After looking at a lot of these buildings, I realized that the architecture of Buenos Aires would be a very cool topic for my independent research project. I definitely think this is what I will be doing because my host sister is also studying architecture, which means I have a perfect guide and reference for the topic right in mi casa.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

First few days

I arrived in Buenos Aires early yesterday, and spent the day getting to know my family. We went to el rio de la plata, which, I was informed, is the widest river in the world. It was absolutely beautiful and I saw a lot of windsurfers and boats out on it. Then we went to the supermercado where we navigated through thousands of people to buy me a cellphone. My family is terrific; very generous and helpful with everything. And the food here is delicious, I think i have already eaten a pound of dulce de leche...

Today I woke up at the crack of noon (jet lag..) and my host parents showed me how to get to school by taking a collectivo (bus), then train. It's pretty simple and I can't wait to start going to clases tomorrow. I realized yesterday that my spanish is terrible, and I really want to improve it. I'm already having a great time here and I can't wait to experience more!