Here is the latest of my reasons for not posting in this blog. Well, I suppose I have quite a few. It’s not entirely fiaca (how “laziness” is called here…still a distinct concept from that of “lasagna,” for which my German friend mistook the English “laziness” until I explained it more thoroughly.)

Things happen. Brennan came to visit. I visited the hospital (twice, both concerning my left foot, which is apparently cursed.) I just came back yesterday from the stunning Iguazú and the jungle of the tri-border area. I’ve suddenly found myself surrounded with lots of work to do, finals to take, and only two weeks left in the country.

It doesn’t help that sometimes I try to be responsible and it doesn’t work out. Take this morning as an example: my classmates and I went all the way to the university for the make-up review session of a class only to find it cancelled upon my 9 a.m. arrival. They didn’t notify us that plans had been changed again and our exam is still tomorrow…but ya está. That’s enough. I’m not whining (todavía no estoy una ñoña.) I’m just slightly incredulous, is all.

So here’s a phrase for you before I go re-review all kinds of grammatical forms, work on my human trafficking prevention project, my unemployment presentation, and get a move-on on my 10-page human development/social cohesion paper on education.

Vos fumá. You smoke (literally.) In practical use it means more, “Calm down, buddy, have a smoke, no need to worry yourself, I’ve got this,” and more. (Thanks to Flavito, Mariano, Akki and a night of me proving my continued ineptitude at billiards for this one.)

Hope all’s well.


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Cathedral, cachorros, contaminación, curry

La Basílica Nacional Nuestra Señora de Luján
After the rain cleared off on el 25 de Mayo (national holiday: celebration of the May Revolution in 1810, precursor to the war to gain independence from Spain), we left La Capital Autónoma de Buenos Aires (often written CABA, to distinguish it from the province of Buenos Aires…this is an important distinction as there was civil war over this and a few other points.) We intended to go to the zoo at Luján, but apparently missed the stop (as the zoo is 5 km before you arrive at Luján itself.) So, while we were stopped, I decided to check out the famous cathedral.

Luján is a popular pilgrimage site in Argentina as this basilica houses the image of what is commonly considered to be the patron saint of Argentina. Nuestra Señora de Luján is everywhere, from decals on colectivos to walls of restaurants. Nicknames: ‘La Virgen Estanciera’ y la ‘Patroncita Morena’.

Her story? The Virgin of Luján is a simple terracotta figure of Mary made in Brazil in 1630. She was part of a pair of Mary statues (being the representation of the Blessed Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, while the other was of the Mother of God with her Child) to be sent to Córdoba via caravan, in an attempt to revitalize the Christian faith there. One day after leaving Buenos Aires, the horses of one of the wagons stopped and refused to move. In spite of the additional men and horses who came to help, the wagon still wouldn’t budge. The figure of the Immaculate Conception had become impossibly heavy for the animals to pull and was removed from the cart to be kept safe in a nearby ranch under the care of an 8-year-old slave boy named Manuel (who was a witness to the whole miraculous event and begged to be allowed to stay at the ranch in the service of the Virgin instead of continue with the caravan.) He devoted his life to the care of the statue (in the small chapel he had built for it) and works of service in the community. Upon the death of the ranch owner, the figure of the Virgin was moved to the private chapel of Dona Ana de Mattos. The figure began to mysteriously disappear from the chapel, in spite of being locked and guarded at night. Manuel was accused of stealing it, but time after time they discovered the statue at the exact spot where the caravan had stopped and the horses of her cart had refused to move! The local authorities decided that the only clear solution was to build a new church for this figure of the Immaculate Conception. She’s seemed much happier in her new church (or at least has stayed put,) and has been performing miracles and drawing pilgrims to Luján ever since.

The statue has undergone some reconstructive surgery (she now has a base of solid silver to prevent further disintegration,) now has a fancy outfit from fabric, and even was given a crown (which was stolen and has its own history) and the Golden Rose (which only really special Mary’s get, presented personally by JPII in 1982.)

Zoo Luján!
Argentina, thank you for fulfilling my childhood dreams one by one! I went to the Zoo Luján with a troop of Americans and my favorite Dane for a surreal afternoon. I have always wanted to snuggle with lion cubs (see left–they’re like kittens and golden retriever puppies combined into one adorable 2.5 month old cuddly ball of fur that likes belly rubs) and find myself hanging out with regal Bengal tigers (who are actually gigantic,) I left with mixed feelings. I loved being able to interact with animals this way, however I know that it’s wrong, to a certain extent. The animals are well-loved and cared for, but these noble animals are essentially domesticated. From a young age they are separated from their mothers and interact with humans, learning from dogs the proper (and tame) ways to behave around people. The big cats have limited space in which to play and do all of the big-cat-things they like (though the grown animals have notably more room.) And, while it’s an incredible experience to have a Bengal tiger lick milk out of your hand, which I know would never be permitted in a more developed country, it’s still not right. This zoo is internationally controversial for the degree to which its visitors can interact with its animals, and the debate over whether the adults are sedated. The handlers/keepers are adamant in their insistence that the animals are so calm because of how they’re raised, but I don’t know that all natural instinct can be overridden. Our theory is that there’s something in the milk they are always giving them… In spite of the controversy, I still enjoyed my day outside of real life (and my parents were surprisingly fine with my decision to go play with big cats.)

Some days are just better than others. The other morning when I took this photo, for example, Buenos Aires proved itself to be Malos Aires. A smog darkened and yellowed the city, all along Alem and the diques of Puerto Madero. I haven’t been able to find a particular reason for the haze today (last time I particularly noticed it, for instance, was in the summer when there was a fire in the ecological reserve, flooding the sky with smoke and scattering ashes.) Right now the air quality is even worse than in my photo, thanks to the volcano Puyehue which has grounded flights even in Buenos Aires.

On a recent free evening, I played with one of my favorite recipes, introduced to me by my fabulous mother who actually doesn’t like cooking whatsoever. When my mom makes this curry it involves apples, apricots, tofu or soy strips (originally chicken when this came into the house,) peas, and a number of other primarily-vegetabley-things. I kept the apples, but made culinary choices based on what was actually in my kitchen, coming up with a new curry entirely. So I ended up adding onion, red bell pepper, and garbanzo beans as well as some fabulous spices I bought for one peso each–based mostly on color, smell, and the occasional word I thought was a cognate–at the Andean spice market pictured above. This, served up with brown rice, has recently become my new favorite thing to make, much to the chagrin of my sister who hates it when I cook without measuring ingredients.

Soon I’ll put something up about the best weekend I’ve had in Buenos Aires with one of my favorite mochileros. Hope all’s well.


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Today’s commute

This morning I, along with a line of commuters a full block long, waited for a colectivo (also, bondi if we want to use the true slang for “city bus.”) Bus after bus passed us by without stopping, including several that had room for more passengers (though one driver gave us the wag-of-the-finger to indicate clearly that he had no intention of letting us get on.) I have no idea why, but this is what happens sometimes. Granted, I’ve given up entirely on ever arriving early for anything (considering that the people I’m meeting will be arriving late or the class I’m going to will be delayed by the arrival of the professor…), but getting to the university generally only takes me 20 minutes on the bus, plus a few minutes of waiting, the ever-important ever-scarce monedas, and the stepping-out-in-the-street-flagging-down-of-buses, which I have learned to do like the best of the porteñas. Sometimes it takes around an hour, and that’s just a fact. I suppose coming to class half an hour late isn’t the end of the world, though I’ll have to catch up on a few NGO fundraising strategies. It’s not like I missed half the class, like my friend who had 14 completely full subway (subte, here) trains pass him by before he could grab one to get to the same 9 a.m. today.

On my way back to the apartment, I made another friend. Apparently I have one of those faces that just invites strangers to talk to me, whether a dodgy Brazilian man who tries to get me to walk down dark streets in Tribunales with them (causing me to change my mind in a hurry about which bus I was actually waiting on) or a cute señora who wants to know if this bus stops near Retiro. She got her answer (yes, it stops right near the Torre Monumental) and I got her life story. Apparently she’s an Argentine who left the country at age 17 for the US to be an actress, where she lived in California and was apparently nominated for an Oscar (though Lola can’t think of who she could be.) She will be moving to Sweden soon, but has come back to visit her rich sister (who studied in Sweden and was made to move back to Argentina by her husband). She’s had enough of this country where she gets no recognition and there are no opportunities, and wants to go visit her friends in Germany who have a (small) castle. I can’t tell how much of this was truth, or if it was just a story to pass the time, but there you have it. Public transit can be mierda, but at least sometimes it can be entertaining.

Consejos: Mostly for the caballeros (gentlemen) here. Let women board the bus first, even if you were waiting in line before them. This is courtesy and custom and if you don’t, you may find yourself being told off by a señora, who may be elderly but is nonetheless scolding you in rapid Spanish for being a rude ignorant kid. I’ve seen it happen, don’t let it happen to you. Generally, as on most public transit systems, women are given preference when it comes terms to taking seats, and of course everyone should give up their seat for pregnant women, women with children, and anyone of an advanced  age. (Really. Don’t pretend you don’t see them, that’s just inconsiderate.) Also, never travel without your Guía T: it’s the most useful tool you can imagine, with grids and maps detailing bus and subte routes through the whole city (though it takes a little getting used to.)

Anyways, hope all’s well.


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Concerts, dinner, etc.

El Teatro Colón
Thanks to my discovery of 40 peso (10 USD) tickets, I have decided to take myself on dates to the theater! Or at least to see the Ahn Trio (last week) and the Emerson Quartet (next week) in the stunning opera house (with which I am absolutely enamored.) These tickets were labeled “Cazuela de pie,” so I assumed they were kind of a standing-room deal (technically cazuela means “saucepan” or “casserole,” which are clearly informative when buying tickets at an opera house.) It turns out that this actually means that you get to choose your seat on a first-come-first-serve basis when the doors open. So, when I showed up for the beautiful Ahn Trio, I found myself seated in the first row in front of the cellist (Maria Ahn,) which is actually exactly where I wanted to be. Maybe when I grow up I can afford the big-ticket seats (like the only ones that were left for La Flauta Mágica, which closes tomorrow,) but I was happy as could be. Plus, meeting and getting the autographs of the Ahn Trio afterwards was pretty neat.

The Ahn Trio’s program:
Nelson Ayres: Paisaje brasileño
Kenji Bunch: Danceband
Pat Metheny: Yu Ryung
Kenji Bunch: Dies Irie
Astor Piazzolla: Oblivion
David Balakrishnan: Tremors / Skylife

This was the first time Angella, Lucia and Maria (three American sisters “de origen coreano” who all studied at Juilliard) had visited or performed in Argentina. They were nervous in the most darling way about playing Piazzolla for a crowd in Buenos Aires, but they were well received and were visibly touched by how the audience reacted. (Thanks to El Abono Bicentenario for making this happen.)

Greatest recent restaurant discovery, thanks to Alicia and the recommendations of the Cine professor at UCA: Chifa Man-San. A fusion of Chinese and Peruvian styles leads to fantastic wallet-friendly food. We went out for Alicia’s birthday (followed by a couple of bars, including La Puerta Roja, and a place near Plaza Dorrego with an unexpected karaoke night on the  second floor where the birthday girl was serenaded and we played the “we’re foreign and don’t know these songs” card.)

The Rapture
For the record, South America does not care or know about this supposed event. Mostly, I just enjoyed the sunny 23 C (73 F) day! I even went for a run this afternoon…and finally broke my miraculous record of never having stepped in dog shit in this city (clearly this signifies the end of the world is, in fact, upon us.) I seriously don’t know what these people had been feeding this monster animal, but they should reconsider their life choices. Consejo: always watch your step, regardless of what kind of beautiful person is running towards you.

Spain, etc.
On said run, I ended up by the Spanish embassy where there were young people protesting, too. Whether these peaceful protesters are Spanish, identify with the cause of unemployed youth, or are simply demonstrating the Argentine love of participating in public demonstrations remains unclear. In case you somehow missed what is going on, check out the news. (Lola thinks it’s great that young people are getting involved and standing up for themselves.) Next time I should run by the Chilean embassy and see what’s going on there, as Chile is also a hot mess right now (though for different reasons and in a more destructive way–thanks to Brennan for the link.)

Just a thought or two for you. I’ve been doing a lot of reading for my project, catching up with friends, wandering the city, fighting recurring insomnia etc. Hope all’s well.


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Abecedario: chamuyero

el chamuyero noun
A smooth or sweet talker (usually a guy trying to say anything to get a girl.) An example of a chamuyero would be the man by the newspaper stand with sleazy pick-up lines who tried to get my number, convince me that we should go out for coffee (especially since I’m an Aries like his past girlfriends,) question my distrust of strangers, etc, when all I really wanted was to be pointed in the right direction. (Consejo: while asking the newspaper/magazine or flower vendors for directions is highly recommended, not everyone hanging out by said vendor is the vendor himself.)

Anyways, this word is super porteño and may get said chamuyero to leave you be if you tell him off with your best accent and other choice words from Buenos Aires’ fantastic lunfardo (slang). Thanks to a late-night drive home from Flavio and Mariano for this one.

Hope all’s well.


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Abecedario: chocho

chocho, chocha adjective
Pleased, happy, delighted, overjoyed.

This is the common definition in castellano argentino, as explained to me by Lola.

The internet also suggests the definition of “crazy,” whether “gaga” (as in “demented” especially used for older people,) or “gaga over” (as in “doting on”). Apparently, this is also an interjection, though I’ve never heard it this way as this usage is really only popular in Central America, which does not include Argentina.

Consejo: Apparently this is a vulgar term for lady-parts in Spain, so watch out.

In other news, we found our first cockroach yesterday. It was a little one and Monica killed it with squeamishness and girly squealing (which I probably would have done if I found it.) Lola said it’s because the heat is on now (but came to the rescue with evil-smelling bug-killer anyways.)

As for my midterm, I think I did decently, especially considering the 3 hours of sleep I got, though the exam was much easier than expected (which made me uncomfortable, honestly). It is now siesta-time, which I know won’t necessarily help me in the long-run with my battle against my recent insomnia, but it will make this Friday loads more enjoyable. Hope all’s well.


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Los sufijos apreciativos! I’m studying! Look! Since UCA says I still have to be in grammar for small children, I thought I’d share one of the most endearing grammatical points of Spanish. Adorable grammar (aka the diminutive, augmentative, and pejorative suffix) and a quick life-in-Buenos-Aires update after the jump.

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