Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sweet Home: Chicago

Dear Buenos Aires,

I cannot believe I am back in Chicago! This trip was better than I could have imagined. I learned so much: a great deal of Spanish and the workings of a new city. I walked, ran, bused and taxied all over Buenos Aires for over 2 months, and in the process I gained a new sense of self and a sense of the city. Going to a new corner of the world opened my eyes to a completely new landscape. What an experience.

A few days before I left, the Buenos Aires News covered the new glass cubes on the SkyDeck of the Sears Tower. The story was in the paper and magazines - people couldn't believe how tall the building was and what it must feel like to be in one of those little glass rooms. In castellano, Christina looked up from her magazine and asked if I had ever been to the Sears Tower. I smiled - just as I will if someday, someone asks if I've ever been to Argentina.

"Yes," I said. "I've been there".

Ciao, Buenos Aires. It was a pleasure.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Home Is Where...

Dear Chicago,

I only have a few hours left in Buenos Aries, and there is a lot I need to say before I go. A lot of what I learned I owe to Christina. The woman was so generous and helpful and patient with me. We discussed everything over meals – everything from recipes to her mother’s health to how much of a picky eater she is. She gave me a scarf as a going away present – this after 2 months of giving me the use of her hairdryer if I needed it, coins for the bus when I needed them and total access to her kitchen. She was actually so concerned that I wasn’t going into the cabinets for snacks that she sat me down and showed me how she takes spoonfuls of dulce-de-leche at a time and sits with the spoon in front of the TV. (Another thing I love is that she only buys ‘low-fat’ dulce-de-leche). She made extra food on days she knew I would be in the house during lunchtime.

Christina is a very different than most of the women in my life, and I learned a great deal from her. My last request this morning was a handwritten recipe of the tartas she made - and the recipe maybe my favorite souvenier from the trip. My going away lunch was FOUR milanesa steaks (yep, breaded and fried meat – and I have to say I love them) with a little salad. It was served on her TV tray with a mini tablecloth, it was adorable. [This was funny – she had packed up the dining room table because the condo-association came over this afternoon for a meeting. They use her place because its gorgeous and she’s single. The group met to discuss how best to fire one of the doormen! I got the whole scoop – sad really because I got to know the guy – but I guess he refuses to retire. It was a scene that captured my time with Christina in her home very well – a high energy situation with a bit to gossip about.]

Views from my bedroom in June:

Fish and vegetable rolls with calabaze (squash):

View of my bedroom:

Christina, Maria Eugenia and I:

I really had the best time living with Christina. Hopefully, Maria Eugenia can translate this post for her! The note I left was insufficient to express my gratitude - my Enlglish vocabulary isn't big enough to communicate my feelings; my vocabulary in Spanish - not even close. I did my best to thank her for her help, her cooking, her generosity and patience. I also left a box of chocolate. If there's one thing I know about this woman, I bet she has already eaten them by now!

Gracias Cristina - muchisimas gracias a vos para todo -

Home tomorrow Chicago,


Friday, July 31, 2009

Last day in the Villas

Dear Chicago,

After a week of private tutoring to close out my language immersion, I had the day Friday to volunteer in the field one last time. Many thanks to Mom's famous workbooks that made the 5,500 mile trip:

They will be put to good use in this place.

It was another fun, cold day outside. I ran a bowling game for about an hour and did worksheets and jump-ropes for the rest of the day. It was so much fun to play and run the kids around. I feel guilty being another transient person in these kids lives, but I do believe they understand that we come to have fun and help them with their homework. They were nothing but excited, smiling little kids. Watching them chase after the van at the end of the day was actually a bit tough to watch - but I know there are students that will keep arriving and helping out long into the future of these children. LIFE was a great experience, and I learned a great deal about these kids and Buenos Aires while working with them

The specific Villa I worked in this summer got a shout out from the New York Times

Paco is a mix of cocaine residue and dangerous household chemicals. I have heard about it since my first day in Argentina. The wealthy view it to be 'taking care of the problem of the poor people' in the villas, because it kills people so quickly after they begin using it.

I continue learning about the world from this place. Hard to believe that was my last day out there...

Home soon, Chicago -


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Boots and Bags

Dear Chicago,
'Peso' is the Argentine unit of currency and also the word for "weight"... I am bringing back so much stuff to Chicago! A note on the shopping here:

I researched all of the stores my book recommended for leather bags and had success at Qara. I went with the hopes of getting a medium sized bag, and what do you know - the only leather bag on sale (for a killer 199 pesos) was exactly what I wanted! Here's my new bag:

Following my wise mother's words, I am doing a lot of Christmas shopping here. In the face of the upcoming semester it seemed wise to take advantage of all of this free time. It was a brilliant idea... but I will need to be very, very creative in my packing tonight. Thankfully, I ate all of the Twizzler's and Swedish fish that made the journey with me and I used up lots of bottles of lotions and potions. In their place I will be bringing back:

2 pairs of georgeous leather boots

1 leather bag
1 large Christmas present for Katie
3 medium Christmas presents for the Feldman ladies
2 medium presents for Dad
3 boxes of alfajor cookies
2 boxes of conito Havannette chocolates
3 bottles of wine
AND MORE ... This should be interesting. I still have only the 2 suitcases I came here with. At least they won't weigh me and charge for the extra kilos I'll be bringing home on my person!

I will see you soon, Chicago.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tengo = I Have

Dear Chicago,
I really cannot believe I'm leaving in less than a week. While I have lots to do in the coming days, I also have a few reflections to share with the world... I have had so many unbelievable experiences in this city:

I have learned this language from taxi drivers, little kids and bartenders.

I have smelled a great deal of pollution, espresso and red wine.

I have tasted blood sausage, handmade pasta and alfajores.

I have studied artists, Spanish books and bus routes - lots of bus routes.

I have lost and found my way around Buenos Aires.

I have changed my vocabulary, my accent, my time zone.

I have missed the bus, the presence of salad and my sisters.

I have walked the sidewalks with my family, the wine roads with a friend and the alleys with children in villas.

I have had the trip of a lifetime - the trip dreams are made of, the trip that fills books and magazines and movies.

I have had the time of my life.

Thanks Mom and Dad. Muchisimas Gracias.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nos Vemos Pronto (We'll see each other soon!)

Dear Chicago,

The last day always arrives too quickly. We had another divine breakfast at the Melia Recoleta hotel. I think that breakfast may be the best I've ever experienced. From there we packed up, stored the bags and were off to squeeze in another adventure. We did a 'drive-by' museum viewing. Degas, Rodin, Monet, Pollack, Picasso - done! It was a very efficient tour. Walking back from Museo de Bellas Artes we cut through the Saturday morning artists fair in the Recoleta park. I could stroll and look at all that weird stuff forever.

We strolled up Ayacucho to have lunch at a very classic Confiteria. Medialunas with jamon y queson (croissants with ham and cheese) and coffee to warm up, then off for more shopping! The Feldman's had great success at Prune & Clona. Purse: check. Hottie leather boots: check. Leather wallet: check.

We headed back to Recoleta with a very clear purpose: eat a giant lunch so everyone gets sleepy for the plane. We did our best with pizza and empanadas... heaviest foods known to man. I, of course, had no flight to catch but did my best with the food anyway. The restaurant was on Libertador - its called Panini and smelled exactly like Anne Marie and Joe's Italian store. Delicioso.

Another quick turnaround at the hotel and the gang was off. I saw the family drive off in a radio taxi and followed suit right behind them. Before I knew it, the text messages and e-mails were rolling in to let me know everyone made it home safely. I had a quiet weekend with Christina and lots of great memories to keep me company.

Getting ready to see Chicago in less than a week...

besos -

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Shall we (go watch some tango) dance?

Dear Chicago,
Finally - a day of sunshine! We walked from Recoleta to the Puente de La Mujer bridge in Puerto Madero. We strolled down Libertador and cut over on a pedestrian mall at Cordoba. Mom found me a fabulous leather jacket.. I just might have to go back for it. We stopped along the way to get our empanada fix:

Just some women on the Bridge of Women:

This sign means "Red Sheep of the Family". Love it:

On Friday night we were off to a show. I had been waiting all summer to go to a Tango show with my family and I have to say it was a success. We were picked up at our hotel and driven to the theater where Carlos Gardel (world famous Tango singer from the 1920's) got his start. Expectations for a dinner show are not always met, but the food was great, the theatre was gorgeous and we had the best seats in the house - a table for four, center stage.

It was a great show!

It was SO much fun. The red wine flowed, desserts were delicious and the performances were unbelievable. There was a live orquestra on a riser above the dancers, which was very cool. The dancers performed everything from cheeky 1940's era dances to some racy dances in sparkly outfits with hot pink hair. The funniest part was a guy in the audience who would yell "YES!" as each number ended, right before the applause. Very funny.

It feels good to have some 'home' in my 'home-away-from-home'.

Te amo Chicago,