Sunday, May 31, 2009

Home Stay....

Dear Chicago,

I'm at the new house today. I moved yesterday. I don't know what to say - its different. And not clean.

This morning I'm meeting a girl in my neighborhood who is a member of the same exchange program. It will be good to talk to another girl and see what her house looks like. Maybe I will gain some perspective... My escape will be a futbol game, thank goodness! The friends of the family (my 'old' house) invited me to see a Bocas Jr. game at their private box at the staduim!! I cannot wait. It should be an amazing experience to see such an important part of their culture from such a great vantage point. After the game they've invited me to a big Sunday dinner at their home. It will be wonderful I am sure - I already miss them. Seriously.

Tomorrow I have orientation and my first class. I'm looking forward to developing some type of schedule. Last night and this morning have proved to be the first difficult days of my adventure but I am doing my best! Hopefully I will have lots to report on a move to a new place...

I miss everyone very much!


Friday, May 29, 2009

Palabras de mis hermanas

Dear Chicago (y mis hermanas),
If I thought it was difficult for people to understand me here – just wait until I try to describe my sisters and our sense of humor! Imposible – nadie en el mundo pueden entendernos. Y me gusta mucho eso! Besos chicas – xoxo saben que me aman – GG

Funny notes I’ve found in my suitcase:
K crying as she watches T’s plane fly away.
K looks like she is miserable without T.

Looks like little red riding hood won’t find her way home this summer. Xoxo GG

My other favorites:
The Titanic is unsinkable
Chewy. Tastes like a balloon.

(Also I've received some random cards – my favorite being a Christmas card - gracias, K) Let us not forget the two of you trying to pull out a grey hair while I distribute weight in my suitcases and speak to the United Airlines clerk. Me da una sonrisa, esto momento. :)

Te amo - Tess

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Tarjetitas E-Postales"

Birds of Paradise

Gorgeous vintage mailbox

View down the street on my walk

I love that he is called Carlos!

Downtown BA and BBQ

Dear Chicago,

Today was my first day in downtown Buenos Aires. I took a private car called a Remis (safer and more expensive – still only US$15 for a half-hour drive) to the headquarter office of my program. GIC is located in a famous old building in downtown BA of which I cannot wait to take pictures. The coordinators were nice and walked me through all sorts of details about my stay. I also received my cell phone, in which Nik has already programmed phone numbers of everyone in my host family. From the center, I went exploring for the afternoon.

There is a pedestrian mall – La Avenida Florida – which extends for blocks and blocks through the city center. After trying my first ATM I went immediately into a beauty store next door to look around. Apparently I am less likely to be robbed if I take a detour after the ATM for a while, so I was browsing to make sure no one was following me (as if I’ve ever needed an excuse to window shop). As I strolled along – it got much colder yesterday – I heard a huge protest and could see flags and people en masse coming up La Avenida. No one seemed to notice and I was prepared because I knew elections were coming. The utilization of noise bombs was a little scary – it honestly sounded like buildings were exploding – but again, I understood what was happening around me and no one else thought much of it. This crowd was probably more violent than I realized at first, because as I was in one bank, the guards rolled down the metal gates to cover windows and I was ushered out a back door with other patrons. After getting off the avenue it was fine. I also visited la 9 de Julio, the world’s widest road. It is basically four alleys of 7 lanes of traffic in each. Very big. Impossible to capture with a camera.

I made it back safely in the afternoon via taxi and watched the Champions Final soccer game with Carla. It was a ‘full circle moment’ as Barcelona played England/Manchester because the last Champions Final game I saw was the Barcelona/England-Arsenal game when my Dad and I were in Paris during the final match. After the game we lolled around and Nik&Nike came over to go out to dinner. As we were leaving, Carla called to Ani to schedule her mani/pedi appointment. It took me a minute to understand that the manicurist comes to the house… once a week. And I thought I lead a charmed life!

Carla and Nik took me to my first Argentine barbeque en una restaurante se llama “La Vaca” – the cow. It was one of their favorite places and we split seven strips of short-ribs (Dad and Julia – se llama ‘Asado de Tira’). I ate one, they each ate three – I have no idea how. We also had piles of potatoes fried in different ways covered in handfuls of an amazing ‘topping’ – chopped garlic and parsley, nothing else. It was delicious. I’ve never seen meat as rare as these tiras – they could have told me it was beef sushi. This was a ‘kids dinner’ as los doctores could not join us, so we broke the ice further with stories from back home and questions about what its like to be twenty-somethings in each country. After dinner we went to ‘El Rio’, the rio de la Plata, or “Silver River”. It was very cold but the big park will be beautiful to see again. Way, way across the river was Uruguay. We also saw amazing stars, most of which I’ve never witnessed, as they seen only from the southern hemisphere. Carla, the physics student, promised to take me out with a map on a clear night and go over them.

Another fun, successful day! Te amo Chicago,


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

La primer dia - My First Day in Argentina

Dear Chicago,

I am finally here in Argentina. The flight was great and I slept almost the entire flight, awoken only by turbulence over Peru. I had a great seatmate in an Argentinian woman who was flying back to visit her family. In my mother’s fashion I gave her a magazine I was finished with. She was grateful and opened to chat immediate. In the bold Argentine manner I am getting to know, she was quick to give detailed advice about the darker parts of the city but it came from a place of love and concern.

As we the plane descended we were informed of new health ministry policy requiring facemasks and a disinfectant spray of the plane. We were also informed of an inspection of all passengers by ministers of health themselves. (I’ve had a head cold for about a week that won’t go away. My symptoms may seem eerily similar to those of swine flu…) Before got off the plane I refilled my water bottle to aid the first adventure – no coughing, sneezing or sniffling until I cleared customs. I did well and the ‘inspection’ turned out to be a bizarre handheld camcorder hooked up to a video screen displaying heat readings. (I think it might have just been a color setting on the camcorder). The process was fine. Clearing customs I couldn’t help but notice all of the signs warning about Dengue fever – the mosquito born jungle virus causing severe blood thinning. My Spanish isn’t that great, but I found it funny that the sign said “If you are bleeding from your nose or ears, please step of line and see a health minister”. Yikes!

Luggage was prompt and I headed to the taxi service. This was the only headache of the day. The program I am with had not told the service that I will be spending this first week with a family in the suburbs. An hour wait and some phone calls to ensure I was not speaking under duress of someone forcing me to a second location (no joke) and I was on my way. The drive was beautiful. They are having an ‘Indian summer’ here – no easy translation – so the trees are still green and the air is warm.

I was greeted at the address I was given by a woman who did not look anything like the description my dad gave of La Doctora, but she nodded at me and we confirmed who we were. I was ushered behind big wooden doors into a beautiful home. We got it figured out that La Doctora was working late and I was now in the care of their housekeeper/chef Ani (annie) who was so kind to me. She knows not a word of English and was very patient with my Spanish. A tour of the house laid out a guest bedroom, a gorgeous kitchen with a big solar window, a formal dining room and living room. Original art is everywhere, as are giant photos of their daughter riding her horses (this is just the beginning of this family!). A spiral staircase leads to a big shared room and the two upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms.

Ani and I were soon joined by Carla, Nik and Nik. Carla is the daughter of my host and she is awesome. Her English is perfect. She is completing her graduate degree. Nik is her boyfriend, and he is hilarious. He bought a water cooler rental business and employed a saleman to do all of the work, so he just makes money and hangs out (his words). Nik – the other Nik – is a dog. His name is pronounced like Nike with no ‘e’. They had obviously been out all night (it was noon) and still looked great. She started an espresso right away and we all caught up. Shortly thereafter Carla had a session with her personal trainer. Nik, Nike and I hung out and had espresso, talking about sports, futbol, the nightlife here etc. I told them I like running, so when the personal trainer returned she let me know about the run club she runs every Wednesday. There is a 10K in July she will help my register for! Carla and Nik were then hungry so I joined them for lunch, which meant they hung out while Ani made fried steak Milanesa. Flank steak pounded very thin and breaded then fried, with a side of deep fried potatoes. I loved it and when I finished my first piece was quickly served another, this time with a fried egg on top. I should have taken my cholesterol levels before this trip to compare them in 2 months. Needless to say it was delicious. Espresso followed the meal – heaven.

There isn’t a siesta culture in Argentina ( I believe they’ve replaced it with coffee breaks) but I was wiped out and read a book while Carla did a few hours of homework. She is seriously a bad ass – in between smoking Marlboro Red cigarettes, she was running molecule comparison software on her computer. And she had just stayed out all night. I also found that wireless worked with no problem contacted everyone back home to let them know I made it. After a lazy afternoon I was invited upstairs to watch TV with Nik and Carla. We watched the news and talked – I feel like I’ve already learned a great deal about current events. La presidente de Argentina is Cristina Kirchner. She was all over the news responding to a potential nationalization of Argentinian industries by Hugo Chavez. LOTS to talk about there. Kirchner is sitting president married to former sitting president and is great fodder for political humor. Her lip-liner gets the same attention that Sarah Palin’s hair did. We later watched a very funny comedy that makes a spoof on the show ‘Big Brother’ but has actors playing politicians in the house for a quasi-reality TV. Cristina is played by a transvestite – it was pretty funny even if I only understood a third of it. Before dinner they also showed me a bit of a TV show that Carla’s cousin starred in. It’s called “Champs 12” and is a sort of local ‘gossip girl’ (Julia, you know). Carla phoned down to Ani in the kitchen for some espresso before dinner. It arrived moments later on a silver tray. This family lives very well!

La Doctora and her husband returned home from work at 10. We had an unbelievable meal that began with fresh cheeses, suasages and some sort of ham-roll-up that was filled with eggs and other meat (don’t want to know) followed by home-made gnocchi with homemade pesto. It was delicious and tasted so fresh. Lots of Argentinaian cabernet sauvignon with the meal, which was not as oakey as I expected. I really enjoyed myself. My hostess was so warm and laid back fro being a high-powered female cardiologist. She was very funny and yells louder than the other five people who were yelling for all of dinner. She decreed that no more English be spoken in my presence and I did just fine. We had a heated debate about global warming over dinner. I was a little lost but my vocabulary grew.

After dinner the family watched the Big Brother show and I spoke with Ani in the kitchen. The afternoon had loosened up my Spanish and I was talking much more freely. I learned all about her family and her life in Paraguay before she came here for work. I keep offering Ani help in the kitchen and cleared my own plate after both meals, which I think is rare for her to see. I cannot get used to a housekeeper! Ani also cannot get used to my name, which I knew ahead of time would be a problem. It is just a strange name and hard to pronounce in castellano – ahora, soy Teresita.
After 40 hours without, I finally slept in a bed. It was heavenly.
I miss you, Chicago!

Te amo -

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tess Celman

Close enough for me!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Casa Nueva - My homestay

I cannot believe I leave in a week! After discovering that e-mails from my host program were going into my spam box on GMail, I've finally received my new address of my home-stay family. With gratitude, I will first be spending a week with friends of the family, and then I will be here:

View Larger Map

From everything I've read, Palermo is a beautiful and centrally located part of the city. I can't believe how close to the ocean I will be and yet still remain in the same time zone. Hasta maƱana Chicago - ¡solo tenemos una semana hasta mi viaje!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The benefits of invierno

Querido Chicago,

I had a great weekend on your Northside again. Now that the weather is getting nice, it was so nice to see friends and go out. The sun is finally shining after a LONG winter, and it seems like such a shame that I'm heading down for 2 extra months of winter. My hope is that the typcial mild winter of Argentina is unaffected by any type of 'El Nino" occurrance where the weather is atypically awful or unpredictable. Winter in Buenos Aires DOES give me another chance to wear the following: my purple Hunter boots, black puffy vest, gorgeous long trench, brown tweed fancy coat, knee high black and brown boots, black flats... I should stop. Other benefits of cold, cloudy weather: great light for pictures most times, constant museum weather for all of the museums I cannot wait to see, constant excuse to buy scarves and sweaters. Traveling South America in the off season equates to better exchange rate, shorter lines at major destinations and the Iguazu falls are supposed to be great at this time of year. Besides a hot summer day on North Avenue Beach, what more could a girl ask for??

Leaving in 15 days!!!!

Te amo Chicago -- Tess