So to start off this blog post, I just would like to say that I have officially been here in Buenos Aires for six weeks now. The amount of things that I have seen and done within these last few weeks has been awesome, and there are even better things to come. From immersing yourself in a place with a foreign language, the difference you see in your comprehension and conversation is unbelievable. Just to think back to my first day down here and where I am with my ability to use Spanish now, is ridiculous. In addition, all of this would not be possible without the supportive and loving family and friends that I have back home. Although I do miss them here and there, I really do not want to leave Buenos Aires or South American anytime soon. Okay the sappy-portion is over.
Moving on, to recap the city's events since my last post: there was a major public transportation strike and protest on Thursday. Bus drivers, subway operators, train conductors, pilots, restaurant workers, teachers, and others gathered to express anger about salaries and rising taxes. With this being the second major strike within five months, there is a great concern moving forward about the status of their contracts and willingness to work, as another strike is more than likely at some point down the road. The protestors, specifically different sections of Argentina's General Confederation of Labour, were basically requesting fair salaries and tax cuts in response to rising inflation and consumer prices. The Argentinian Government has not issued an inflation report in February 2014, but it is believed that prices have risen about 38 percent between August 2013 and August 2014.
On Thursday 8/28, key locations throughout the city were blocked by protestors. Different entrances to the city, as well as several major highways downtown, had protestors in the streets for upwards of 30 or more hours. This limited commuter access to the city for those coming from outside Buenos Aires. For me, the only major difference was the number of cars on the streets was significantly lower and the frequency of the public buses was much less, as well. Nonetheless, we were advised to stay away from all of the action as much as possible.
As per the usual, my friends and I tried to make the most of our weekend and enjoyed a fun night in Recoleta at El Alamo Bar. It is an American Sports Bar with a great atmosphere (and cheap drinks), so how could you not love it? However, we were a few of only ten Americans in the whole place, so I was surprised at that. From going out and meeting more people, it always opens the door for more connections and great opportunities to practice our Spanish. This was also an interesting night for our experience in an Empanada Shop on the way back home.. Argentines love to dance, including at 5am when others are just trying to get home. We met a nice woman in this Empanada Shop and insisted that we dance with her to random Spanish music, so we did. All for the experience, right? (See picture below..)
On Friday 8/29, my friends and I met up for lunch and opted to go to this place called Burger Joint. Since I am not a big burger fan, I was less than enthused with the choice to go there, but it was definitely worth it. for 75 pesos (or about $7) you get an amazing burger, french fries, and a drink. It was a good enough deal for us and the food was phenomenal. I tried the Jamaican Burger with pineapple, bacon, tomato, onion, and some sweet sauce on it. Check out the picture below to see its glory. Afterwards we explored more of Palermo where many of the best restaurants, bars, shops, and clubs are. We stumbled upon another place called Muu Lecheria. This was a classic 1960's American Style Diner. We didn't eat there, but we definitely will be back. Side note: Argentines also love their food and they have amazing restaurants, so hopefully I don't come back to the US with more than a few extra pounds. At least I have been using my free mornings to go for a run around my barrio (neighborhood).
Today, Saturday 8/30, we finally had our Dia de Servicio (Day of Service) in a poorer area of the city. Originally we were under the impression that we were working in a Soup Kitchen type of place, but it was more like we donated to the Soup Kitchen then played organized games with the kids of the area with an organization that visits the villa, or "ghetto", once a week. Two weeks ago, Argentina celebrated an unofficial holiday called Dia del Nino which is basically "Kid's Day". Children receive small gifts or candy from their parents and grandparents, as if it were a mini-Christmas. For these families in the villas, they could not afford to celebrate the holiday, so this organization got over 200 donations of new gifts to give to them today. It was a special day for the kids and it was great to be apart of it.
However, seeing as these kids have little to no supportive family remaining, things like this have greater meaning for them. They got hot food, dessert, played with other kids and the volunteers, and received presents. For us, we may have provided for them today which is great, but what stands for their futures? It is worrisome to think about where they really are in society and have little to no opportunity for advancement unless they go to school and get a proper education. With the older siblings and parents either in gangs, moved out, or dead, they need times like today to hopefully stay on the right track to success.
Something interesting that several of the kids were doing caught most of the volunteers' eyes. One of the games had them use these large blocks to play life-size Jenga. We witnessed at least ten of the kids use the pieces as a fake gun on numerous occasions, which is unheard of for a kid ages 5 to 8 in the US. Just from seeing that, it is obvious that the kids have exposure to weapons within their homes. At least for the American volunteers, we were surprised to see that. For the short-term, I am glad that we had the chance to see the villa and give to kids and families that have so little to begin with. But for the long-term, I don't feel that I made that much of an impact on the community, which is different for me given all of the volunteer work that I've done through UDaB and AKPsi most recently. Unfortunately I do not have many pictures from the villa because it was recommended that we keep our phones and cameras out of sight, so sorry bfor all those who looked to see those. Either way, it was an eye-opening experience.
Tonight my host family is throwing a birthday party for Adrianna. Her birthday is today, so there are at least twenty people coming over for dinner, drinks, and dessert. I'm sure it will be another great time, since my host family always has something great to say and I can practice my Spanish even more. Thanks y'all, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!
"Let the children come to me." - Matthew 19:14
(not to be religious, but as seen in the picture at the bottom, I figured it would be fitting for this post after seeing that banner today)