There are two things that are bound to happen at every meal abroad. First, my friends and I will inevitably joke about how beautiful everyone is in Buenos Aires. Second, we have to gush over how incredible our meal is. These are unavoidable pieces of living in a gorgeous, bustling city where dulce de leche is a staple in half of your meals and its inhabitants are forever tanned.
Although I have only been in Buenos Aires for five weeks, it feels like I have been here forever (except for when I get off at the wrong colectivo [bus] stop or when I ask someone a question in Spanish and their response is, “Oh, I speak English” or “where are you from”).
I had such mixed feelings only a few weeks ago before arriving in Buenos Aires. I was nervous and excited, mostly ready to start my adventure that didn’t begin until February 20th. Because I am taking classes as an integrated student at the Universities in the city, and because Argentina is in South America (meaning their seasons are the opposite of ours) my semester of classes didn’t actually begin until this past week! I gather that most college students would be thrilled at the thought of not having classes for over 3 months, but since I am the “typical” Brandeisian, I have been itching to be busy again.
My first weekend in Buenos Aires could not have been more perfect. One of the reasons I chose to come to this humongous, magnificent city was its sizeable, well-known Jewish population. Coming from such a large, inviting Jewish population at Brandeis and being an avid Jewish sleep-away camp goer, I knew that I needed that religious and culture experience to be a part of my time abroad. I spent my first Friday night and my first Shabbat abroad at the Moishe House. From what I understand, the Moishe House is a Jewish house where three Jews in their twenties live (there are Moishe House’s all over the U.S. and all over the world). They host a Shabbat dinner once a month as well as other parties and get togethers for Jews from all over the world in Buenos Aires. This Shabbat was filled with prayers, brisket, Israeli dancing, Shira, and guitar playing, a given when any group of Jews congregate together. (Another source of comfort was walking into the Moishe House only to hear this series of bands playing in their CD player-Guster, Mumford and Sons, Dispatch…)
I couldn’t be more grateful to have made a connection to Moishe House so early in my time abroad. Purim was a few weeks ago, and between connections to Moishe House, Hillel and other Jewish friends in Buenos Aires, I was almost over prepared for the chag. This past Shabbat, I discovered a wonderful temple called Amichai with my friend Emma. Not only is Amichai exactly the kind of instrument-filled, enthusiastic service I was looking for here, but it is in “el barrio chino” which means that my post-Shabbat service meals will generally be Chinese food. Nothing could be more satisfying. I will also be interning with AMIA (Associación Mutual Israelita Argentina), the most well known Jewish Organization in Buenos Aires. They aim to promote and maintain the Jewish community in Argentina. Although most of my job will involve archiving, I cannot wait to begin my time there and meet more local, Jewish Argentines.
For my second weekend in Argentina, all of the IFSA-Butler Argentine Universities Program traveled to Colonia, Uruguay. Colonia is not only one of the most quaint towns I have ever visited but it was recently designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It reminded me very much of a small town in the Berkshires. This was a wonderful weekend getaway from the bustling city. Since that trip, I have made a getaway to El Tigre, a town an hour train ride outside of Buenos Aires with relaxing activities to partake in such as laying in the grass, eating postres, or canoeing (one of the more strenuous). Though I love the city and all of its excitement, it is nice to have a break from subways and buses (that I often get lost on). I have already planned my Patagonia trip for the last weekend in March and cannot wait to plan a Mendoza winery trip for the end of April!
Being in Buenos Aires is certainly a roller coaster. One day, I am happily walking down the sunny street, alfajor in hand taking in the scenery. A couple of hours later, I could find myself getting off of a colectivo at 10pm at night in a new neighborhood completely lost. Luckily, I have had great experiences with porteños when lost. Last week, a sweet, older couple helped me find my way to a bus stop and just a couple of a days ago a newspaper salesman helped me find my way to a photocopy store. Every day is a new experience, and every encounter with a Spanish menu is challengingly exciting (who knew that there were SO MANY names for food in Argentina). There are those undeniable comforts of hearing American music on the bus (and all around the city) and hearing other English speakers around you. There is also a surprising level of excitement when trying something new with Spanish speaking porteños.
I cannot wait to see what the next 3 or so months bring! Since I have hardly started having a normal schedule yet (I have been living abroad as a vacationer), I think that I will slowly start to feel like I live in Buenos Aires as my classes become more regular and my internship starts. Though, I have to admit, I will miss the relaxing life (that I have now enjoyed for 3.5 months) of eating alfajores, exploring the city without looming homework, and almost never having a set schedule!