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,


Japanese Garden, A visit to the Apartment

Dear Chicago,

Today we spent the morning with each other at the Melia Hotel. Our hearts and minds were in Springfield, PA. It was a blessing to be with each other for a reflective morning. Lots of prayers went north from here.

A tranquil trip to the Japanese gardens:

The cherry trees were blooming even in the dead of winter down here. My parents reflected that this was the third Japanese garden on three continents they had visited this year - Taiwan, US, and now Argentina. Who knew Japanese gardens were the big thing to do? It was a beautiful afternoon and we had a great lunch at the Japanese Tea House on the property. My favorite: the goya dumplings were described on the menu as "empanaditas" - mini empanadas. Funny.

We cut through the Buenos Aires Design building and couldn't resist another photo shoot: (I'll spare the rest of the family)

We popped over to 'my apartment'to visit Christina and her daughter Maria Eugenia. It was SO fun to see the two parts of my life merge. K's spanish was great and she talked to Christina all about Spain and her nursing degree. I translated the best I could as Christina went on and on about my life in BA and what her family is like and the kinds of boys her daughters dated in high school - we covered EVERYTHING! Dad's spanish was pretty good too - we talked about the guy who invented bypass, also an Argentine.

Dinner was AMAZING - we were tuckered out after a tough morning and headed next door to the hotel for a restaurant called 'Fervor'. It was a cute '40s style restaurant and once again we ate lots of meat and potatoes. I had fish for the first time in 2 months. Muy rico:

Katie and I headed out to meet some of my friends for a cocktail at 878. I loved the place but it was a bit quiet, as it was early in the week. Another lovely night out in Palermo!

Chicago, I love Buenos Aires.

xoxo Tess

El Dia del Bus...

Dear Chicago,

It was such a blustery day in Buenos Aires that my hat blew away at the first intersection we came to:

Not a great start. The troops and I marched on through the wind and rain to our destination: the bus stop for the Buenos Aires tour bus. My idea was to pay the flat rate and spend the day going on the bus around the entire city to catch all the main attractions. It ended up being a freezing cold ride in the rain on the upper deck of an open bus! K, M &D did manage to see the Obelisk, Casa Rosada, National Cathedral, Florida Street, the entire Caminito in La Boca, the Bonbonera stadium, the Congress building, Puerto Madero... everything.
Freezing on the bus:

We hopped off the bus when the roof started to blow off... poor Dad bumped his head and it was time for a taxi to a warm cafe and museum. We ate at the cafe outside of the Museo Arte Decorativo and toured the museum.

Views from the adventure:

Dinner was at an Italian restaurant in Puerto Madero - more great red wine and unbelievable desserts - a lava cake with dulce-de-leche in the center. Mmmmm.

A cold, rainy day in Buenos Aires - yet it couldn't have been better.

besos - Tess

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mi Familia!

Dear Chicago,

The first day with the family! I was greeted at the Melia Recoleta by Inez, a friend of Maria Eugenia who hooked us up very, very well at this place. K napped after her 24 hours of travel while Mom, Dad and I walked the neighborhood. I showed off a bit of the Recoleta cemetery and we had a bite to eat at La Biela (I really cannot have too much of a good thing!)

Early this week, I had asked Agustin (the sommolier from wine tasting class) for some suggestions of wine tasting adventures I could take with my family. We walked from our hotel to the Duhau Vinoteca at the Park Hyatt - a great decision! We tasted 3 malbecs and a Sauv Blanc. Paired with Argentine and Italian cheeses and we were in heaven. A gorgeous tasting room kicked the night off right.
Dinner in Las Canitas at El Primo, a steakhouse that has been on my list for months, now. It was divine - grilled ribs, a giant ribeye, chorizo and a pork shish-kebab - the four of us barely recognized ourselves as we devoured it all. Proveleta cheese and papas provencales disappeared with the rest. Another great find: the Alma Mora Malbec I'd read about that MC and I found was on the wine list at El Primo. More great Malbec in Buenos Aires! We finished the meal with a panqueque de dulce de leche.

It feels good to have them here. The rest of our family back home is on our minds.

Ciao - Tess

Monday, July 20, 2009

Buenos Aires Design

Dear Chicago,
Buenos Aires Design is a giant building in Recoleta that sells all sorts of design-oriented materials: cool furniture, sinks, stuff for your kitchen etc. I was struck but a creative display on the main floor: using kitchen utensils and appliances, there was a zoo in a glass case! My favorite is the hippopotamus made from a waffle maker:

La Boca, San Telmo, Ezeiza, Fin.

Dear Chicago,
I could not believe that Sunday was Michael's last day. We hit the ground 'corriendo' [running] to maximize the time before his flight. On the way to the bus, we stopped by a store - apparently, I've been living near it for months without noticing:

The bus took us waaay over to La Boca, where we toured La Bombonera - the stadium of Bocas Junior. Very cool to see the inner workings of such a crazy place! I was disappointed Michael couldn't see a game, but this was the next best thing.

We snuck over to El Caminito as it started to rain, but sucessfully saw the famous colorful walkway on the South Side of Buenos Aires:

After a long lunch in San Telmo, we browsed the famous antique market in Plaza Dorrego:

We grabbed a bus back to Belgrano. A brief visit to Havanna for a cafe at one of my favorite places, we had to get bags and the taxi...

Before I knew it, Michael was at Ezeiza and I was heading home in the taxi. The driver was very sweet and tried to cheer me up, saying that airport goodbyes are always 'brusque'. It was the trip of a lifetime and it felt SO good to finally share these adventures with someone I care about. Thank you, thank you, and gracias to those who made this trip possible, both for me and for MC. I cannot wait to come home and show all of our pictures and tell stories. This blog was only the beginning!

Today I'm doing some last minute errands and exploration before more of Chicago comes to Buenos Aires - the family gets here tomorrow morning!

Soaking up every minute,


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The eye of "El Tigre"

Dear Chicago,

Saturday was a cold, rainy day in Buenos Aires. MC and I braved the mist to take 2 trains north to El Tigre. It was far form the most glamorous way to see the city, but it was cheap and a good day to be inside looking out a window.

El Tigre is a town on a delta of the Rio de La Plata. Filled with vacation homes and rowing clubs, the little rivers have created islands accesible only boat. Mike and I took an afternoon boat ride through a few of the channels to see the cottages that dot the island. As it is winter here, most were closed or empty but it was a great little ride nonetheless.

On the boat:

Long lunch to warm up:

Tigre feels a lot like the Jersey Shore - in relation to a big city nearby, its a great getaway in the summer. We didn't get the full effect, I'm sure, but it is always nice to get outside of the city and take a peek around.

The highlight of Saturday night: Thelonius Bar. Mike picked this jazz club out from his guidebook -- what a great choice! This place was way out of the way and we pulled up chairs for a few hours of live music. The atmosphere was awesome - we could have been in any city in the world. A pizzeta and some Malbec kept up in check - we had a great night out in Buenos Aires.

besos - Tess

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Dear Chicago,

Today, Mike and I WALKED. We covered about 5 miles of the city. It was a gorgeous, sunny day that began at the Buenos Aires Ecological Reserve:

Next we walked the length of Puerto Madero to see the Puente de la Mujer:

The widest street in the world:

We walked through two barrios up to the National Congress building. Our plans for a free tour were thwarted by the swine flu - tours remain cancelled due to 'Gripe A'. A long lunch at cafe Victoria across the street was relaxing, followed by a long train ride home. This proved to be the first stumbling block in our trip together: in the business of the rush hour subway cars, Mike managed to get on, while the doors closed in my face... as the train pulled away, I yelled the name of our station and hoped for the best. Thank goodness he found the map on the train and remembered an intersection in my neighborhood - we met up successfully in the station about 15 minutes later! Crisis averted. Mike regained his confidence to go shopping by himself around the corner - he picked up flowers and ice cream for my senora. We headed to the house for dinner with Cristina, her daughter Maria Eugenia and son-in-law Ferr. Mike did great - his spanish got him through the whole dinner just fine! We ate well and discussed sports, the price of electronics in the US, shopping, tatoos, politics and the city of Buenos Aires. He was a big hit and, as always, charmed the crowd. I was very proud of his Spanish! After dinner we met up with friends from my program for live music in Palermo. From there it was off to a club for an authentic porteno night out - LOST was a big hit and Mike got the true Friday night flavor of the city.

Ciao Chicago!