Crossing the equator and descending into a dark and chilly Buenos Aires, Argentina while Oregonians are enjoying the first week of summer was a unique experience for me. I can’t say that I felt wonderful after a 10-hour, red-eye flight with one hour of sleep but I certainly was excited. We landed in Buenos Aires around nine a.m. (losing four hours) and after a necessary bathroom break, all five of us traveling together made our way to the baggage claim. Next up, we had to find the Tienda Leon bus that would bring our half-awake, anxious bodies to our hostel in Rosario, where we would stay for the night. As we arrived, we were met by other students who had arrived earlier, sipping wine and chatting by the pool in the backyard. Our hosts were kind as they showed us our rooms and cooked us asado, a typical dish in Argentina consisting of an assortment of meats cooked over a fire with coal. Served alongside it were bread and lettuce, which I used to make what looked like an “asado burger.” As American as I am, dinner sounded appetizing around four, but they began cooking at seven and it took another two hours until it was ready, providing us with dinner between nine and ten. Here I have learned that Argentines typically eat a small breakfast, a big lunch, a small meal in the middle of the day, and then a big, meaty dinner, similar to many European countries — something that will take me some time to get used to.
Asado is also known as a social event, which it certainly was in this case once the hostel owner invited his local Argentine friends who were keen to try to impress the American girls with drinks and loud, semi-comprehendible conversations. Some stayed up late to sing karaoke to Nirvana and Queen songs with the locals who are quite familiar with the American classics, while others (myself included) were drawn more to the idea of lying down in a warm, comfy bed that felt heavenly compared to the airplane/bus seats we grew accustomed to during the 28 total hours of travel time. I was well-rested in the morning and it was time to tour through the Universidad Nacional de Rosario, where our site director, Beba, would go through the rules and expectations for the trip. Once this concluded and we had lunch at a small café, we met our host families at the hostel. My host mother, Ana, brought Nathan, another journalism student, and me to her apartment, where we are staying for six weeks. We each have our own room and are accompanied also by a girl from Iowa, Rachel, studying Spanish abroad.
At night, we cooked empanadas together, which is a typical Argentine dish with meat wrapped in dough — in this case with egg and olive inside. Nathan has joked that he has eaten more meat in the first two days in Argentina then he had eaten in his entire lifetime, only recently abandoning his old vegetarian ways. There are about seven vegetarians in our group of 25 or so, and many of them are doing the same thing. It’s hard not to I would think! The first two days, which seemed to roll into one, concluded and it’s safe to say that the whole group is slowing falling in love with Argentina (I can’t help but root for Argentina in the Copa America soccer tournament even though the United States is the next competitor in line). The last game was against Venezuela and Argentina won 4-1, causing locals at the bar to erupt in excitement at each goal scored by Messi or one of his teammates.
June 17 marked the anniversary of the death of Argentina’s famous military leader Martín Miguel de Güemes, which very recently became a holiday, then June 19 was Fathers Day and June 20 was National Flag Day, making for a long weekend. El Día Nacional de la Bandera was an exciting festival with carcineros (butchers), gauchos (cowboys), dancers, a band playing famous Argentine songs, and a short address by Argentina’s very own president, Mauricio Macri. For some who agree with the politics of Macri, it was a joyous and exciting visit, giving middle class families hope for lowered inflation and utility rates, while many opponents started altercations with supporters, causing many to get hurt or have to turn around. Competing chants of “Hijo de puta” and “Si, se puede” rang throughout the crowded monument with signs calling Macri “hungry” or a “vulture.” Argentines have long been split when politics enter the conversation, whether they are supporters of a military government as was the Peronist movement, or the current democratic administration.
I am slowly improving in my ability to understand and communicate to strangers, which was much harder after the immediate arrival not knowing the differences in dialect between the Spanish I learned in school and the Spanish I’m hearing on the streets of Rosario. I am transitioning my dialect each day from using “tú” to “vos” and trying to pronounce “me llamo” as “me shamo” without seemingly trying too hard. Going forward, I am optimistic. Soon I will be able to have legitimate conversations with locals, but first I must perfect the art of ordering “posho” (pollo) in a “restobar.”
Here are some photos from the trip so far including those from the celebration of Flag Day: