Hey all, hope everyone is doing well back home. As summer is winding down in the States, I know most of my friends have made it back to school for another great semester. For me, I will miss Delaware while down here, but there's no place I would rather be at the moment than in Buenos Aires.
Since my last blog post, nothing too significant has gone on. I have explored new parts of the city with my friends and always find something cool to do. Last Saturday, 8/23, my friends and I went to Barrio Chino (Chinatown) in search of either some great Chinese food and new places to wreak havoc. Barrio Chino is not very big, it's basically 5 or 6 blocks with authentic Chinese markets and shops at every corner. While there, we noticed that nearly every person walking by had some kind of popsicle-ice-cream-stick-thing. As it turns out, they were a certain kind of frozen yogurt popsicle that you can only find in Barrio Chino. Also one of the staples of Barrio Chino, at least for Americans, is that the stores have peanut butter available. In Argentina, it is very difficult to find peanut butter in stores because it is less of a commodity for them. Whereas for Americans, they generally love peanut butter. All in all, Barrio Chino was a cool place to see and spend a few hours on a 75 degree "winter day".
On Tuesday, 8/26, I had my second visa appointment at the Immigration Office downtown. Unfortunately for me, the rest of my group had their appointment when I was out of town in Mendoza, so mine was rescheduled to this date. So I had to do the process by myself. In the US, I have zero problem with independence; but for this, I was nothing short of a fish out of water. In the words of my program advisor, "everyone should give themselves plenty of time to get to the Immigrations Office. It is downtown and student often have a tough time trying to find it." Being the optimist that I am, I did not take this statement as seriously as I should have.
The appointment was scheduled for 8am and since I live about an hour from downtown, the only option was to leave my house at 6:30 in the morning. To make a long story short, I got lost not once, not twice, but three different times getting to the Immigrations Office. After only being 15 minutes late for this, I survived the confusing visa process, received my temporary visa, and officially am not illegal in Argentina. What did I learn on this day, you might ask? It would be: maybe next time I should listen to others when they tell me to take a taxi somewhere.
A few of the nights during the weekend, my friends and I tested out new places to hangout at night and meet more people. I would be lying if I said these instances were over coffee and tea, and not beer and drinks, but getting the chance to practice Spanish is the most beneficial thing from these types of experiences. Whether it be talking to someone in a bar or at a boliche (club), at a store, or on the street, you can learn a lot about people and many of them are actually interested in what you have to say.
Most Argentines are very accepting and welcoming of international students because of all of the places in the world that someone could study, they chose Buenos Aires. Proteños are honored to host international students; probably also because they assume anyone that can study abroad is rich, so they think that they will buy things and put money into their already failing economy. In any situation, it is always interesting to meet new people, as they may be of help somewhere down the road. I have made several Argentine friends that we see around and invite out all of the time, so that is something that I did not anticipate before coming down here.
After looking at the calendar and realizing that we have been here for five and a half weeks, my friends and I finally decided to plan out the rest of our free weekends for traveling around South America before our program ends (already dreading having to leave in November...). Not to bore anyone with the specifics, I just wanted to mention that I am going to 10 cities and 4 countries in a matter of 6 weeks. Those trips include Tigre, Ushuaia, and Mar del Plata, Argentina; Rio de Janiero, Brazil; Santiago, Viña del Mar, and Valparaiso, Chile; and Colonia del Sacremento, Montevideo, and Punta del Este, Uruguay. And yes, I am still going to my classes in between all of that traveling. The University of Belgrano is more lenient than universities in the United States, as they know students will want to travel and experience all that South America has to offer so they do not require documentation for absences (surprised? yeah, me neither).
On a more serious note, tomorrow (Thursday 8/28) is a crucial day for the Argentine government. The General Workers Confederation, which encompasses nearly all public transportation employees and waiters, have threatened to hold a protest tomorrow in demand of higher wages. With rising inflation by the day and the value of the Argentine Peso at an all-time low, workers are not seeing an increase in pay to supplement the rising prices of goods. To the average Argentine, it hits hardest in their wallet, but with a President that seems to have approval ratings below 30 percent throughout the entire city of Buenos Aires, they will do anything against her.
In essence, the workers have said that beginning at midnight on August 28, 2014, they will not be working and, instead, fighting for their wages. This is the second public transportation strike in 5 months for Argentina. Unfortunately for many people, they will be greatly impacted by the protests as they cannot get to work, school, banks etc. In addition, the strike will go as far as grounding the flights of many Argentine airlines and creating even worse travel woes for domestic and international flights. The University of Belgrano has yet to announce that classes will be cancelled, but it is likely to happen based on the history of these events. After tomorrow, I'm sure I will have more than enough stories to share, so keep checking back!
And finally this Saturday 8/30 we have a volunteer day at a local Food Kitchen for the homeless. I am definitely excited for this, as its another chance to meet some interesting people and even help out where it is needed most.
If anyone would like to read more about the protests scheduled for tomorrow, feel free to click the following link and save yourself from reading my rambling.
"Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” - Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It by Mark Twain