It’s already been a week since I’ve arrived in the beautiful country of Argentina? No wayyy. I guess it is! This past week along has been filled with many mini adventures and new learning experiences, all of them slowly shaping me as a person and increasing my knowledge of Argentinian language and culture.
DAY 1: Arrival
As the plane touched down, I noticed nothing else in sight but fields. I thought we were going to land in a random campo, but we ended up on tarmac, much to my surprise. I got a glimpse of the GOREGEOUS mountains around the city through the tiny circular plane windows, which were absolutely breathtaking. We’re here!!
After some…erm… complications at customs, we made it out to the fresh, warm, open air. I had a moment of silence for all my friends back in the states suffering with -20 F wind chill conditions in the frozen tundra we call home. You never would guess the weather could be that miserable once you take in the sunshine, fresh air and 70-80 F temps that South America has to offer. No coat? No problem.
We took a cab to my new apartment, nestled right in the city’s center, overlooking a little slice of Córdoba. At my apartment, I met up with one of my Argentinian friends, Marina for the first time in two years, and we were overwhelmingly happy to see each other—it seemed like ages!! She went with us inside along with my landlord and got started on the paperwork.
Dining room/Living room
Enjoying the fresh air on my balcony 🙂
Here’s the grand tour!
I was in love with this place! It was even better than the pictures, and it already felt like home. One of my favorite parts is the little terrace I have outside. So lovely! I also learned how to work a manual gas stove, as I mentioned in my previous post. I paid off my first month’s rent and security deposit and began to unpack a bit. Marina offered to walk around with us in the city and get us used to our surroundings, as well as grab some lunch.
We tried lomitos for the first time, which are like little sub sandwiches with chicken, beef, egg, mayo and cheese, a protein-lover’s dream.
We continued on to their mall, the Patio Olmos, which they also call “el shopping”. Okay, I can roll with that.
This place is essentially a four-story mall inside an old building, very beautiful and classy. There’s a wide variety of stores and the food court was also very intriguing, due to the variety of different selections and new words Argentines use to portray them. I didn’t buy anything, but I was definitely scoping it out for a future shopping day!
We walked out of the Patio Olmos to a bit of a surprise—a manifestación, or rather, a demonstration/protest in the streets, with approximately 15,000 people demanding “justicia”, proudly holding up signs declaring, “Soy Nisman”. They were questioning the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, who was found with a bullet in his head in his bathroom.
The day he died, January 18th, 2015, was just a day before he was to relate to Congress accusations against the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez. Many Argentines vehemently doubt that this was a suicide.
All over Argentina, at that exact hour, similar protests were happening, and I was there to see one of them and thus experience a significant moment in their history!
When we got back to my apartment, we got ready to go out with another one of our friends, Rocío to go out to our first parrilla (grill). When I met her down by the doors, we jumped for joy since it had been so long since we’d seen each other! We gave each other a huge hug before the door could even open all the way and exchanged greetings. I showed her my apartment and then we all headed out on the town once more.
The parrilla we opted for ended up being a GREAT decision. Our meals came with homemade, flaky, baked empanadas, stuffed with beef and onions, to start.
Then the main course arrived. I went all out, getting the beef, of course!
It came with a vegetable-stuffed pepper and some hand-cut potatoes, golden and crispy on the outside, airy and soft on the inside, slightly sweet and done to perfection.
The beef. Oh my God, the beef. My mouth is watering just remembering the moment. Yeah, it did NOT disappoint, and it does indeed live up to its reputation. Tender. Buttery. Succulent. Skillfully seasoned. Cooked through. Crisp outside. Everything about it was so delicious! There was so much there, I even had extra to take home for a sandwich the next day!
A successful first day indeed!
This was a day of exploration. We just got up and walked around the city with no particular destination nor route in mind. We made a lunch stop at Il Gatto, where I ordered a napolitano sandwich, which has ham, cheese, sauce and tomato. Big enough for two portions! This was also a perfect lunch, and the flavors were so rich and appetizing, complementing each other impeccably.
We stopped at a number of phone stores too, like Personal and Claro, the two major phone brands here. They’re kinda like our Verizon and AT&T in the states. My friends were checking out SIM card prices and plans.
Of course, we managed to get a little lost! We asked these two girls who looked around our age and they benevolently helped us. We all talked with each other and found out they studied English! These girls were super sweet and friendly and even walked with us some of the way. After some departing cheek kisses, we were on our way again.
Finally, we found the Facultad de Lenguas, the Language Department of the university. We just meandered around, getting a feel for the environment and finding our way.
Afterward, we stopped for a refreshing Pepsi and a torta de acelga, which is a little savory tart made of swiss chard and onion.
May I just say, that here, they know how to do soda. Glass bottles, perfectly sized portions, made with actual sugar versus that high fructose corn syrup crap they cram into every food back in the U.S. I don’t usually drink soda, but when I do, it’s just like this.
After stopping at a grocery store to pick up a couple basics, we made our way back to my apartment, where we had our first mate together! Of course, it was complimented with some fresh alfajores from a bakery down the street, layered with some decadent dulce de leche.
It had been a long day, so we watched some Argentinian cable stations for the first time and ended up watching Escape Perfecto, a game show where answering questions correctly gives your teammate a certain number of seconds to raid a prize room to see how much they can grab. Or at least, that’s what I took out of it.
Another successful day! My one friend got her luggage back from the airport and we registered for the CELU exam we have to take next week, which basically assesses your overall Spanish proficiency.
We walked around a little more, and I tried some fruit from here, which was ripe and in season. A plum from a corner stand was particularly scrumptious, supple and soft, the way they should be.
After a stop at the inmobiliaria, which is basically a travel agent but for apartments, we went to this one chain restaurant for a bite to eat, called Lapana. I learned later that its name is a play on words, short for “la panadería”, which means “bakery”. I’ve noticed many Lapanas throughout the city, and it’s actually quite good! I haven’t been disappointed.
After more walking and exploring, we got back home and shared some mate while chatting and enjoying a chocolate alfajor. I even had a moment to call my sister, who had been enjoying Harry Potter World all day with her husband in Florida.
This morning, we went to a café 10 feet from my apartment and tried criollos hojaldres and medialunas for the first time since being here. Criollos hojaldres are basically little square biscuit-type things, great with some butter and jam. The medialunas, directly translated as “half-moons”, are croissants. Obviously, I’ve had a croissant before, but the ones here a little different. They have a light, sweet, sticky glaze on top, which I’m not too sure of. Sure, it’s delicious, but it’s messier. Plus, I think I prefer just a basic, butter croissant. Still, it was good! We also got some fresh squeezed orange juice, which reminded me of the zumo in Spain. Always fresh—the only way to drink it!!
We looked at some more residences for the girls, both of them much like American dorms, and one of them much cleaner and nicer than the other. We met a French guy named Antonio and got some brochures and maps at a neighboring hostel. In addition, we grabbed some homemade empanadas from a place across the street. Ricas!!
A couple hours later, we exchanged some currency “in blue” because of the better rate. Rather than 8 pesos to the dollar, we were getting 12! It’s highly recommended you bring U.S. cash with you to Argentina for this reason, because you get more bang for your buck! Luckily we had some connections here with people who wanted to trade. The whole time, I felt super sketchy though because very few American bills equal many peso bills! I didn’t like having a huge wad of bills with me!
Then we went to the “mercado de las pulgas”, the flea market!! This place was LEGIT, and it deserves its own post because I have so much to say about it! I’ll be posting on it soon.
That night, we also went to our first boliche, or night club! Our friend Rocío invited us and we felt particularly awesome because we had to say the name of the person whose list we were on in order to get in. We were ballin’, not gonna lie.
The club was called Chic Notre Club, and it was pretty legit! According to Argentinians, this is more cheto, which implies that it’s more upper class, preppy, and posh. Everyone was dressed to the nines and the drink prices reflected the type of clientele they wanted to attract. The club closed at 5:00am, and I’m lucky I made it to 3:30am before I started feeling tired. That, to me, was a huge undertaking. Have you seen my post about what a non-night owl I am?!
The music was a mix of popular stuff from the states as well as a little cumbia and latin music interspersed here and there. Every now and then, it would rain down confetti, leis, masks, crazy string, and other free items. Altogether, it was super fun!!
Time for a lazy day. Due to the late-night shenanigans from yesterday, I slept in till 1:00pm (*gasp!*). We walked down by the cañada, the canal near my apartment and got lunch at Lapana. After a long, relaxing lunch on this bright and sunny Sunday, we made our way to the university, were the lawn was FILLED with families and friend groups sitting on the lawn, tomando mate together. We felt a little out of place, because we didn’t bring any. But we’ll be back! And we’re bringing our mate next time too!!
After a little more wandering, we went back home and I watched some Disney movies in Spanish, Brave (Valiente) and Finding Nemo (Buscando Nemo). I must’ve been super tired because I feel asleep during the second movie. What a lazy day indeed!
Today was a bust. I don’t know if it was something I ate, or something in the water, or even just a virus, but I was sick. That morning though, I went for a refreshing early run around the canal which was super nice! Before I was sick we went to another parrilla and I ordered this delicious grilled chicken. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any appetite and it ended up in my fridge for later.
It was also super hot today so arriving home to my living room oasis of a cool leather futon and air conditioning was most refreshing. I spent the rest of the day sick and watching Spanish cartoons on and off as I drifted in and out of sleep.
I slept a lot of whatever that was off and I felt a lot better today! I did take it easy though, because I didn’t want to upset my system at all. We registered for classes and I finished up a bunch of errands on my computer, like emailing, messaging friends, checking accounts, posting my blog, making travel plans, etc.
My friends even decided on where they wanted to stay, the nicer dorm place we saw before. They moved there today and my apartment felt a lot emptier after they left. So weird!
I’ve been thinking about all I want to do in regards to traveling and budgeting my loans and scholarships accordingly. It’s so hard because travel here is actually more expensive than it was in Europe. I feel like there’s so much to do with so little time (and money!). More on that another time though! I do know that my first excursion will be to Buenos Aires and the Iguazu Falls, so the plans for that are in the works! J