Life in Buenos Aires

Things have definitely settled down here. Life is going on, day by day, and each day is a new adventure…but it has been feeling more like real life rather than a vacation. Surprisingly, having class for 5 hours a day hasn’t been that bad. It starts my brain up in the morning and makes my spanish brain start working instantly. My professor, Miranda, is really sweet and very smart. She definitely knows how to teach a bunch of struggling Americans Spanish. We can ask her anything from the language, things to do in Buenos Aires, or just cultural differences. She is always patient with our pieces of sentences we give her, but she won’t let us speak English at all. She will go word by word until she makes sure we understand what we’re saying.

So far, class is still a review, but a very important review…and it’s helping me build my vocabulary. I also get to practice my Spanish every weeknight during dinner with our host family. Our host dad, Enrique, is really nice about being patient and helping us through our sentences…but usually we just listen to his stories about his travels around the world as an architect. He is quite funny, and we always enjoy his “Fatherly advice.” Dad, you would agree with his philosophy that life is young…so we shouldn’t get married until we’re at LEAST 95. He is very protective. But he also likes to joke around a lot with us. Alicia is also very sweet…but she is harder to connect to. I feel like I need to be more careful around her. It feels like I am staying in HER home, and that we are guests. So it’s a little hard to be completely comfortable around her, and I think she also is a little less patient when we can’t say what we’re trying to say. But she is very helpful and I think it’s too soon to see how things will be between the family and us. Hopefully as our spanish improves, so will our relationship.

This last weekend was another fun adventure, as always. On Friday, the girls and I went to a lower income neighborhood where we heard had cheap shopping! We are GREAT at buses now. We have a guide with ALL the information and as long as we have that we can get anywhere. It was a hot, sticky day…but we walked around and looked through the windows at the hundreds of little clothing, shoes, leather, and trinket shops. A nice Friday afternoon! That evening we just ended up going to a bar and chatting the night away! We have a new thing we’ve been trying to get the confidence to do. It’s called “Dance Dare.” Ellen DeGeneres started it and what you do is go up behind an unsuspecting stranger and dance like crazy! We have yet to successfully dance dare someone…but we will soon! Hopefully! Here’s one of my favs:

On Saturday we went Museum hunting! We first stopped at the Biblioteca Nacional, which is the “official” library of Buenos Aires. But when we walked in it was not very friendly. The whole building is cement and has VERY weird architecture. The people at the desk were not amused that we were foreigners and told us we could only look at certain floors. We explored a little, but it didn’t look like there were many books, but just study halls or computer rooms with archives. It was weird, and we were quite uncomfortable in there. We left quickly and went to El Museo de Bellas Artes. This was a free museum with the largest collection of art mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries. The painters ranged from Picasso, Monet, Chagall to local famous artists. VERY cool! We snuck a picture…

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After walking around the city we came home and relaxed for awhile. We went out to dinner, then went out like the Portenos do it! Our goal for the weekend was to do a “true” Porteno night out…which means continue until breakfast. We went to an Awesome club and “partied all night long.” And we did indeed leave as the sun came up and found a little 24-hour cafe to have some medialunas (croissants) and coffee. Then we dragged ourselves home and slept and lazed around all day Sunday. It was quite the experience. Not sure if I could do it often though. I like sleeping at night. Haha. But we had to experience the culture…so don’t get too mad parents! I was just living the culture and doing as the locals do!

My time here so far as been a whirlwind. Now, life is finally starting to slow down. Our group is getting settled and more comfortable in a big city…which is new for many of them. It’s pretty amazing to think I’ll be here for another 4 months still. I can definitely feel a little of the excitement wearing off and now I’m realizing how long I’ll actually be here. I think I’m pretty good at adapting to new situations, but I do miss home every once in awhile. And I think I miss alone time and feeling 100% comfortable. From language issues to simply not being in my own home, there really doesn’t feel like Anything is familiar. I went for a run today around the city, and I could see myself being at home here…eventually…but not yet. I feel out of place and that I stand out. People have been coming up to me and just speaking English, without even asking. It has been getting very frustrating because I want to practice my spanish, but I also don’t like that I stand out so much. People are always very nice as I struggle to talk to them…but I just don’t like the immediate assumption that I’m American or that I can’t speak Spanish.

This is my third week here, and I already feel a change though. I can’t wait to keep using Spanish and learning all I can of the culture and just the city! Buenos Aires is such a lively, fun place! My philosophy here is to ALWAYS try and DO. If people want to go out all night, I’ll go. If they want to tango dance in the park, I’ll go. I just want to experience everything, and I’m so glad I have the time to do that.

Thanks for reading my thoughts and experiences! Hope you are still enjoying it!

Wizard of Oz

I hope the title got your attention…because I have some fun events to tell you all about and LOTS of pictures. But be prepared…the images you are about to see Really did happen. But I am alive, so all is well. This is the surprise I mentioned about in my last post…

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Very sweet elephant...and I didn't feel as in danger of my life with her.

Very sweet elephant…and I didn’t feel as in danger of my life with her.

We were in a cage with SIX tigers.

We were in a cage with SIX tigers.

I petted them...yea.

I petted them…yea.

We petted a little white tiger too!

We petted a little white tiger too!

I was SO excited.

I was SO excited.

Saying hello to Mr Lion.

Saying hello to Mr Lion.

"Ok girls, just get on in there...ignore the other lion behind you." AH! Haha

“Ok girls, just get on in there…ignore the other lion behind you.” AH! Haha

Feeding the bear...easy peasy.

Feeding the bear…easy peasy.

Feed it with my mouth? Why not! Haha. Bear kisses!

Feed it with my mouth? Why not! Haha. Bear kisses!

I can't believe I just did that...

I can’t believe I just did that…

From BIG to small. Animals were Everywhere. And this little guy was SO cute!

From BIG to small. Animals were Everywhere. And this little guy was SO cute!

As I said, we had quite the eventful day. And this would NEVER be allowed in the United States. A once in a lifetime opportunity. And as sad as I was to see these animals in cages with peoples’ dirty hands all over them…I couldn’t help my excitement! The trainers also seemed to really care about the animals too. VERY amazing day and one I will never forget!

The Adventures of Avery, Tajel, and Sarah

WARNING: This will probably be a Long post. There have been lots of things happening lately!

Ok, so this week ended well with class and lazy afternoons. Class is getting a little more advanced and I’m definitely learning new vocab and understanding more of certain tenses. However, I think I am more advanced than some of the other students, but so far, the review has been helpful and I have been keeping a good vocab list! My roommates and I have decided that the best way to adapt to this late night culture is to stay calm during the week nights. So after school, we usually end up doing homework, sleeping, or hanging out at a cafe. On Friday, we had our first adventure to the lavenderia(laundry-mat). All we had to do was drop off our clothes and pick them up later. Very convenient! That evening we decided to adventure out and meet a group of our friends at a bar in Palermo…a nearby neighborhood. So Friday night was definitely the “bar/club” scene. Which was…interesting. People truly do go to bars, sit down with their drinks for hours, then go dancing until 4 or 5 in the morning. It really is hard to keep up with the locals. But the dancing is really fun here! People were circling up and just doing their thing. Dancing til the wee hours! So with our small group, we explored the nightlife and then decided to get home…which felt Really nice to come back to and fall asleep in my cozy bed.

On Saturday, we slept in until noon…which is also a normal Porteno tradition on the weekend, and we got ready for a day of exploring! We stopped at a cafe to get some breakfast and coffee, then headed to the “Subte” or underground train station. The train was like a little business area…people were coming up to us left and right handing us little cards or trinkets they were selling. There was also a singer who brought in his microphone and boombox and preformed a lovely spanish version of a sappy, romance song from the States. He was really good too! And everyone seemed very nice about giving him a little money. We got off right on the edge of Plaza de Mayo, which is the Most famous plaza here. You can learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_de_Mayo.

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Basically, this plaza is where every famous protest has taken place, and where Evita and Juan Peron gave their famous speeches to the descampesidos. It was amazing to be in such a historical place, and I especially appreciated it after reading my “Evita” book. After walking around we decided to explore the nearby neighborhood of San Telmo. We walked about mile around the area and then stumbled into the cutest, busiest little neighborhood we have found so far. We found lots of antique shops, hipster music shops, clothing stores, and local cafes. One store was called “Walrus Books” and it has the biggest collection of English books in Buenos Aires. It was the Best little shop…especially since I LOVE book stores! Even with a great English section though…we all decided to get interesting Argentina story books in spanish. So that will be a fun task to accomplish! Also, at one hipster shop, we met the nicest lady, who could’ve been from San Francisco. She kept taking artsy photos of us and was playing the coolest music! She said it was this small little Argentine band named “Valeu!” So everyone should look them up!

Here’s a link to a playlist…http://www.myspace.com/valeucara/music/songs?filter=popular   They are AWESOME!

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We stayed in San Telmo all afternoon and probably walked around 3 or 4 miles. Other adventures of the day included a Huge marketplace with leather, vintage clothing shops, meat and cheese vendors, and helado cafes…which is where we bumped into our group of friends with CEA! And of course I had to take a picture with the local kitty!

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We were on our own adventures, so we didn’t join up with the other group though. The streets were made of cobblestone and the buildings were old, beautiful historical places with graffiti art all over…which looked really cool! Our feet got VERY sore though, so I had to sit down a couple times. As the evening got darker, more people came on the streets and at the cafes while the shops closed up. We were walking along a busy avenue when we started to hear music and loud voices down the way. We decided to follow the sound and stumbled upon a busy, fun, dance party with a stage full of guitar players and singers who were all dressed up in sparkly, silly costumes. The sign above them said “Carnevale 2013.” This is a big fiesta for Latin Americans, especially in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. This was a small thing, but it took up the street and the dancers and singers were Amazing!!

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We stayed there for over an hour while people from 3 to 50 years old danced in the streets while onlookers clapped and moved along. Children ran around us spraying each other with soap from spray cans (at first we thought it was silly string…but it was just foamy soap that didn’t stain clothes or anything). It was quite the party! After enjoying the festivities we decided it was dinner time and looked to our guidebook for suggestions. One place was closed, and we ended up walking in several different directions and finding different places before settling on a local, family owned restaurant called “Manolos.” (There was a picture of Manolo on the wall and he looked Exactly like Jay Leno…our waiter laughed when we told him that). It was a cute, family-friendly place. We all decided on different chicken dishes with a bottle of Malbec wine to share. Best meal so far!! Great conversation and great food. Sarah, Tajel, and I have grown close this past week. We get along so well that things are very easy with us, and very fun! It was almost 12:30am by the time we finished dinner…with the restaurant still crowded for dinner! We made our way back to the bus stop, laughing the whole time. San Telmo is across town from Belgrano, so we got a great tour of the city at night on the bus. Casa Rosada in Plaza de Mayo is covered with pink lights at night and the City Bank across the street has blue lights that shine on it. It was beautiful. On the walk back to the apartment, we were also bombarded with cat calls and shouting as a bus of rowdy boys rode by. Almost 30 guys were Yelling to get our attention. It was quite amusing. Haha…but also normal here. It is not uncommon for men to simply yell at women to get their attention. We just laughed at them though. Haha. After our long, hot, walking day…we quickly went to bed and fell asleep.

SUNDAY

We kept to the theme and had a lazy, sleep in morning. We got out of the house around 1/1:30pm and went to Belgrano Park where we were checking about bus tickets, but also to see the big festival for Chinese New Year. There was a BIG stage set up with lots of tents around the area selling trinkets and chinese foods. The place was packed! It was VERY hot, so we didn’t stay for long. We wanted to go the Sunday street market in San Telmo. So we took our now familiar bus to San Telmo and stopped at the cutest little cafe called “La Poesia” and had cafe con leche and relaxed in the air conditioning before heading out to explore the overwhelming sights, smells, and feelings of San Telmo’s market.

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They had closed off the main street of San Telmo…which is probably 3ish miles long, all made of cobblestone with the cutest little shops running down it. On both sides of the streets were stands full of jewelry, clothes, shoes, mate cups, fabric…and every little tourist and locally made object you could think of! The place was packed! We walked for hours! It was SO fun! By the end of our adventures…the light was fading, and the sky smelled of rain and huge gusts of wind were blowing by. When we were just reaching Plaza de Mayo, we started feeling raindrops, and then out of NOWHERE, it started POURING.

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Everyone scrambled to get things packed away while others ran for cover. We ran under a building cover looking out on the Plaza. I have never seen so much rain! It was crazy and we were soaked! People were gathering underneath the overhang and were just waiting. The SUBTE stopped working because it was getting flooded and the streets were starting to flood. We wanted to find a cafe to sit in and wait it out, but we didn’t want to leave our safe spot. We decided to look for a street with our bus to get home. Sprinting to another overhang, where poor Tajel fell and scraped her knee and where we were drenched by the time we got there, we decided to wait there for a bit. The storm was crazy! Lightening and thunder…pouring rain. At one point, it lightened up enough for us to walk to the parallel street and find our bus stop. We waded through the small lakes of water in the streets and just as we made it to the stop our bus was driving by!! How lucky! We hopped on and watched it as it waded through the pools of water in the streets…where shop owners were pushing it away from the entrances to the buildings. Making it home, we changed clothes, sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. A little later, we went out and got a small dinner when it stopped raining. Now I am back in my room, dry, and sleepy! We have a big day tomorrow because it is a holiday here in Argentina. Tomorrow AND Tuesday are holidays. But I am going to surprise everyone with our adventures tomorrow…its a secret! So goodnight and thanks for reading!!

Avery

Back to school…

This week has been our first week of class at the University of Belgrano. On monday morning, we walked the long walk of two blocks to our school (that was sarcasm by the way). We sat down with all the other students studying abroad here from the United States and took a short, fill in the blank and writing test. It took less than an hour, and then the teachers sent us away while they graded them right there and then. After about another hour or so, we went back inside the class and they called off our names and what level we were and what class we were. We we were joking that it felt a bit like being sorted. Except there was no awesome hat talking to us. After the test, the CEA group (which is the program we are using to organize this trip) took us on a little tour of the school’s neighborhood, which also is my neighborhood too! We stopped at a big fashion mall and had lunch there. Their mall food is a Lot better than back at home. Un poco mas saludable. After our lunch, Pamela, our CEA organizer and tour guide told us about all the beautiful buildings of Belgrano and a little history of the country itself, especially during the Peronista dictatorship. I am reading a biography on Evita, so it was exciting to hear the point of view of her about things I have been reading. After the tour, we were set free to walk around and see more places for ourselves.

Sarah, Tajel, and I walked a bit more then decided we were tired and we came home. After our daily nap, we stayed in until dinner time. I went down to the pool for a bit too which was really nice! Alicia, our host mom, is a lawyer and monday was her first day back to work from a Month of vacation! So she stayed very late and wasn’t with us for dinner…which I believe was a meatloaf thing. Not my favorite unfortunately. After, we hung in our rooms, read, cleaned up…I showed one of my favorite girly movies to the girls. We watched “The Sweetest Thing.” Not sure they liked it as much as me…haha.

After a good night of rest, we woke up to get ready for our first day of class! Even though we are all in different classes, we luckily all start at 10am. However, because I did the early start program, we have class from 10am-3pm…yes, that’s 5 hours! My teacher is fantastic! She’s VERY patient with us, speaks slowly and only lets us speak in spanish. The first day was a bit of a review, but I think it helped clarify things. I also love that the class is discussion based and we can ask her about cultural differences or confusing words, like the vos form. And the differences of pronunciations too. The first day of class surprisingly went by quickly, and after, we had to get a few paperwork things done and then we went to the postal office to get our SUBE card, or transportation card…which will be great to have!

After a long day of school and errands, we had to run home and get ready because one of the residencias where some of the CEA students live was hosting a party. Everyone was asked to bring something to drink and we were going to be fed hand-made empenadas and showed the proper techniques and art to making mate(the most popular tea drink here). After a little mis-adventure down a few wrong streets, we finally found the house and were taken up onto this beautiful roof-top patio where about 30 or 40 people were gathered and introducing themselves. Everyone is in the CEA program, but many are at the CEA global campus, which is just where international kids study, instead of at an actual Argentinian University. It was a long and fun night, and it got more fun as the bottles became empty. The empenadas were Amazing and dessert was fantastic! They were like sweet little powdered sugar cookies. Everyone was very nice, and as I hopped from conversation to conversation, I kept switching from Spanish to English and back again because lots of people are working on their spanish and are only speaking in spanish, which is crazy. I’m working on getting there…After the party, it was still early when we had to leave because we were loud and would keep up the neighbors, so a few of my new friends and I went to a small bar nearby and chatted for awhile. The bar looked like a old ship or dark underground part of an old European castle. It was not too crowded because of the early hour. By 1 or so, we were tired and walked Jen home, then went to my home where Taylor got a cab back to his house. A fun night indeed!

This morning was day 2 of school. Not too much to report. I was tired this morning and woke up with a lot of pain in my stomach. I think I got the same bug Tajel had a few days earlier…hopefully it’ll pass soon! It was harder to focus in class, but I’m still really enjoying it and appreciating the review! After class, I came home quickly and fell asleep. I don’t feel too well to eat or do much, so I think tonight will be a quiet one! I’ll keep everyone updated as best as I can! Sorry for no pictures….I am AWFUL at taking pictures. Some will come soon! Promise!

Chau(Argentinian spelling),

Avery

Weekend Update

After a whirlwind day yesterday, the roomies and I have decided on a very lazy, Sunday afternoon where we have been napping, catching up on reading, and now updating the blogs! First off, Friday night ended quietly, with the storm slowly coming to a quiet drizzle. However, the rain dampened our spirits enough to decide on a quiet and early night to sleep. As common with the porteños (people from Buenos Aires), we slept in until late morning on Saturday. Hearing about a fería, or market fair, in Recoleta, Sarah, Tajel and I went off to explore the city. Not sure how to deal with the buses yet, and thinking the walk would be fun and educational, we began our journey to the nearby neighborhood of Recoleta. However, the walk was very Very long. We stopped for a bite to eat where I got quesadillas con pollo.

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From there we continued for another mile or so on the main street of La Libertador into the main plaza where the fería was up and going. About a hundred little tents surrounded the plaza and vendors sold leather bags, jewelery, shoes, dresses. Everything you’d expect at a little touristy part of town. Then, we knew the Cemetario de Recoleta was around the plaza and we walked over simply checking to see what the entrance fee would be. However, when we walked through the gates, we were already in the cemetery…which is the most important cemetery of Argentina. Many presidents, political figures, and historical figures are buried there, including Evita. As my book documenting the life of Eva Peron states…”It is easier to get into heaven than into Recoleta.” However, we could not find her grave. But we are returning on a tour soon and I’m sure we’ll see it then. People buried there prove their wealth by the grandness of their burial monuments. It looks like a small city with streets and houses lining them. As you can see here:

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After walking around in the sun for miles, we were not looking forward to the walk back. We decided to give the bus system a try. After much discussion and options, we got a few coins by buying water bottles, and went to the bus station nearby. There, we had to ask which bus to get to our neighborhood of Belgrano. However, the first bus drove by us, which is quite common here. Whether the bus driver is in a bad mood, or simply going too fast to stop…he will drive right by. So, the next bus stopped, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough coins. So, after begging the friendly station manager for help, he spared a few pesos for us and we hopped on the bus. Driving through unfamiliar neighborhoods and aiming in a very different direction than our neighborhood, I had given up on getting home soon. I thought we were lost. Fortunately, Sarah and been watching the street signs and we got off on a familiar one and found we were on the same road, Libertador, that we had taken before. We walked along it for about 15 mins until we came upon our familiar neighborhood! Mama Sarah is now her nickname because she is always watching out for us!

Finally making it home, we fell into our beds completely exhausted from walking and from the sun shining down on us all day. A little pinker in my cheeks, I napped for several hours before getting ready for our next evening adventures!

We had agreed to meet another girl in our group, Jen, who lived a little ways away and go out and explore another part of town called Palermo Viejo. After much map dissecting and a little luck, Mama Sarah figured out the way to Jen’s place where we met up with her and walked back to our street where I had found a bus that would take us to the neighborhood that we wanted to spend the evening. Now we were getting a little more comfortable with the buses and definitely better at map reading. Finding a fun little place in one of my guidebooks, we headed through the quaint neighborhood of Palermo Viejo, where the further we went, the more people and shops and restaurants came out. We came upon the restaurant we wanted, se llama, Don Julio. A bricked walled, leather seated place, it was obviously Very popular. And as I said, the hours here are Very different. So we arrived at the restaurant around 11:45pm. Ready to have dinner! Haha. We got a bottle of red Malbek, a popular wine in Argentina and I ordered orange chicken with mashed potatoes. Very yummy!!

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After dinner we walked to the heart of Palermo Viejo where we heard had a popular night scene. And boy, it definitely was! Even at the early hour of 1am people were crowding the little plaza where nightclubs and bars circled the small central area. Loud music, busy crowds and bright lights shined all around this small area. This picture barely shows the intensity of this place.

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Sitting at a bar filled with red light and blasting techno and pop music from the U.S., we sat at a table, ordered a few drinks and chatted until the streets gathered more and more people. Around 3am, we walked around through the crowds, peaked into a few places, and decided we had had enough. After such a long day, we weren’t quite up for the intensity of this scene. We’re still adapting to this whole nightlife as well. It’ll take time….and we sure have it! Finding our way back to the main street, we hopped the bus back to our neighborhoods, made sure Jen got home ok and barely made the walk home. We were Completely exhausted!

Because of our Saturday activities, we slept in past noon today and have been lazing around, as I said before. No superbowl drama down here! Haha. It’s been a long weekend, but a very learning one as well. I really love that Sarah and Tajel are up for exploring, and we all know that the first time for anything is always the hardest. So even though we struggled through things, now the next time will be a piece of cake! It’s better to try things than avoid them just because they’re unknown or difficult. So far, everything has turned out fine and we are already getting a better sense of the city. Tomorrow is our placement test for our Spanish immersion class…so early night for us! Buenas Noches!

Tour Day

Before I explain today’s events, I have to share a little cultural phenomenon that Tajel and I discovered first-hand last night. People who go out in the evenings, whether it be families getting a treat, or an older couple sitting and getting a drink together, or teens going to the clubs, they don’t even go out until midnight at the Earliest. Tajel and I went out to find a bar, or cafe to have a drink, and we left around 11/11:30pm. There was no one on the streets when we sat down and had our first Argentinian wine, a Sauvignon Blanc called Trapiche. By about 12:30am and later, older couples began showing up at the cafe and groups of young people began walking by…but not many. I have been told that the usual thing to do is nap in the evening, then go out around 2am until 7am!! Not even true college partiers could handle those hours. So this is definitely a different nightlife than what we’re used to!

Today I was woken up in the sticky humidity of 6am Argentina. The sun was shining through our window, and for the first time in 5 weeks, I actually got up Earlier than my alarm and felt awake. We had our breakfast and were driven to our meeting point by our host father. It was quite far away and so we were able to see lots of the city! He is Super smart and gave us a small tour of the sites. When we arrived at CEA headquarters the program organizers were there ready to introduce us to everything in Buenos Aires. We learned about the neighborhoods, safety, excursions we will be going on, and some cultural differences about living in a city and with a host family. It was a long, but very helpful meeting…which made me a little paranoid, but I think in every huge city, it’s important to be on guard and watch out for things.

We then went to lunch where I had empenadas, which as one of our program people describe, “They are like fancy hot pockets.” Then, we had chorizo steak…which is literally a piece of steak, and helado chocolate. Mmm! Also…it’s like 100 degrees with 100% humidity here. So most of my pictures I will be sparkly and shiny looking, like the twilight vampires. Haha.

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After lunch we had an Amazing tour of the city, where we went ALL over the city in a bus and our program organizer guided us. He is hilarious and knows all about America culture and phrases…so we had a blast. The picture I posted yesterday is of a barrio called La Boca, and we were able to drive by and walk around a little. It’s not the safest part of town, but the tourist area was very cool! The colorful buildings are because these house are along the docks and when the boats would leave leftover paint cans or have extra, the people would grab what they could and paints parts of their houses. Now the whole neighborhood is quite touristy, but it reminded me a Latin New Orleans. We drove from the homeless and slums to the wealthiest area, where the Argentinian “Oprah” lives. It was quite an eye opening experience…and it really showed how diverse this city really is. It is the tenth largest city in the world, and we could definitely see that today.

Our third roommate also arrived today! After a canceled flight, Sarah has now moved in with us. So our family is complete! Right now, I am sitting in my room during a HUGE thunder and lightening storm. It is pouring outside, and I have never seen so much lightening and this intense. It’s quite amazing! As we’ve learned, we know going out doesn’t happen til later…so we’re waiting, and hoping the rain will stop too!

Until next time…Ciao!