One down, three to go…: A wrap-up of my first month in Bs AsBuenos Aires, Fall 2010

"One down, three to go..." A wrap-up of my first month in Buenos Aires It's hard to believe that it has officially been one month since I arrived here in Buenos Aires. Although time has flown by, I've packed a lot into these first few weeks. To give you some perspective of what I've been seeing and doing, I'll be filing a summary blog entry at the end of every month that will wrap-up my experience from several different aspects. In this particular entry, I'll be touching on my IES experience, Food, and nightlife in Buenos Aires. Life as an IES student: So far the IES staff have done an amazing job in making this experience a great one for all of the students here. They're all extremely helpful and friendly, and the activities that they have organized for us have been fun and beneficial as well. During the first couple weeks we had orientation. During this time we got to meet other students in the program, sit in informational seminars, and go on several small trips and tours around the city. We visited an estancia (ranch) and had amazing food, visited a couple different museums, and had a bus tour through the city all for free. Just today we went to a Feria (fair) where students got to sample many different Latin American cultures through stage and street performances, food, and shopping. Again, the trip was at no cost to students. The only hard part about being a student is...being a student. Sometimes it's hard to buckle down on readings and assignments when there is so much to see and experience in the city. If the speed at which the first month came and went is any indication, most students realize that these four months are going to go by quickly - which means making memories if often times going to outweigh making good grades (for some). Food This is going to be one of the most interesting things to document while I'm here. Yes, the meat here is amazing. I've had the best steak I've ever had in my life at a restaurant called La Miranda, and I paid a small fraction of what it would have cost me in the U.S. I've also found hole-in-the-wall Parillas (grills) where I've eaten huge Choripan sandwiches for just 6 pesos, or about $1.50USD. I should have no problems eating a lot for a little here if I so desire. So, I have no complaints about the meat or the cost of food in general so far. I've also found the culture surrounding the eating experience to be interesting as well. Dinnertime is pushed back a few hours from typical U.S. time, with most families gathering at the table around 9pm. And when they gather, they talk. A lot. It seems as though the emphasis at the dinner table is more on the conversation than the food itself. In other words, the feeling is almost that dinner is for catching up and fellowshipping as opposed to actually eating. This has taken some getting used to, since sitting at the table and having long conversations only happens in my life on special occasions and holidays. If I had to point to any negative aspect of the food here, it would probably be the lack of spice. I mean that literally and figuratively. Granted, I haven't been to every restaurant in this city and tried every dish, but by and large it seems like there are no spicy foods here and that the culture generally shies away from hot seasoning. If you look on the table at most restaurants you won't even find pepper. What's more is that from my experience there may be slightly less variety at the dinner table as well. Along with many other students I've spoken to in our program, I have yet to receive a salad or any kind of green vegetables with my meals in the home stay. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I do hope that I discover more of a variety in the months to come. Nightlife I have had the most random and amazing time partying in Buenos Aires. I owe it all to spontaneity and, ironically, being black. The first week I went clubbing, a few of my friends in IES and I went to a boliche (club) named Kika. As with most situations in this city, I was the only black person in sight for a while. But, at one point during the night, I saw a black guy walking next to me on his way to the VIP section where there were other black guys standing and talking. I decided to start up a conversation with the guy - going against all rules of cool - in hopes of gleaning some info on who he and the other men in VIP were. It turns out he's quite the socialite. Fred (I'll call him Fred since I haven't asked his permission to be included in my blog) has been studying medicine and has traveled all over the world. Originally from Angola, Fred has connections with someone on just about every continent. I suppose he was flattered that I went out of my way to talk to him, because he invited me and my friends to hang out with him the following weekend - assuring us that he'd always get us into parties and clubs for free, and let us know whenever he was throwing parties himself. So far, my friends and I have hung out with Fred three weekends in a row. Each time he's introduced us to different people, and made sure we didn't have to pay for anything. I've had a blast. It's funny to think how much being black has affected my experience here. On one hand, there are negative racial situations that I would prefer not to go through. But on the other hand, it's the reason my friends and I have been clubbing for free these past few weeks and having an amazing time! Go figure. Next month should be very interesting. My birthday is September 10th, and it will be the first one I've celebrated outside of the U.S. Also, month #2 is supposed to be one of the most difficult according to some study abroad offices. Homesickness, language barriers, and exhaustion are supposedly at very high levels around this time. So far this hasn't happened to me yet, but who knows what I'll have to say about that in a month's time...
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