Have you ever had that feeling when you are out in public and you feel like everyone around you is doing nothing but staring at you? Yeah, it's a strange feeling. I'll elaborate on this in a bit.
Since my last post, I've had some certainly interesting experiences around Buenos Aires. On Saturday Night (8/30), we celebrated my Adrianna's birthday. They had about 15 to 20 people come over, and as usual it was a production. If you think Americans like to eat, you do not know the half of it. Argentines love their food, and are not shy about it either. From finger-sandwiches, to meatballs, a prosciutto and antipasta type of dish, steak, and countless desserts, I think I was full enough until when I get back to the States in November.
Birthdays are a big deal for Argentines, since they are much more thankful for each day that they are given. As Americans, we usually take things like that for granted, so Adrianna's birthday was a nice way to understand the difference. Plus American birthday cakes have candles on them, Argentine birthday cakes have a literal firecracker-type of candle on them that makes it look 100 times better. The party was also another great opportunity for me to practice my Spanish.
On Sunday (8/31), Ben, John, and I went to La Plata, which is another city about an hour away from Buenos Aires. La Plata is actually the capital of the Province of Buenos Aires. Just to elaborate, there are 23 provinces throughout Argentina. The city of Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, but not the capital of the Buenos Aires Province. It is similar to New York City not being the capital of New York State.
Regardless, La Plata was interesting. For a relatively popular city, my friends and I felt like we were genuinely being stared at by everyone that we passed on the streets. We all understand the feeling of seeing someone who obviously is not from where you are, but this felt different considering it was from the opposite perspective. Nonetheless, we went on with the day and it was eventful. In La Plata there are a lot of historic government buildings and parks, but we mainly went to visit El Catedral de La Plata. It's known as the sixth tallest church in the Americas and has a Neogothic style that resembles several churches throughout Europe.
Outside the church, there happened to be a Colombian Festival going on with a lot of street vendors and people. We opted to check it out and since we had barely eaten all day, we got some food. For me, I was still full from the birthday party the night before, so I just decided to try this mixture of fruits and juices that seemed safe to eat (picture is shown below). The vendor cut the frozen fruit right in front of me so I THOUGHT everything would be fine.
After the Colombian Festival, we went into the church and it was easily the nicest church that I have ever been in. From the marble floors, countless stained glass windows, and huge alter, it was a sight to see. I have some pictures below for everyone to take a look at. Finally after about a half hour of exploring the church, we went into the museum which showed the history of the building, as well as the elevator that leads to the top of the church at the lookout point over La Plata. And naturally, this is where it gets interesting.
READING DISCRETION IS ADVISED HERE, DON'T READ THIS IF YOU A) have a weak stomach, or b) are currently eating something. If you have ever heard of Montezuma's Revenge, this situation was nothing like that. However, it was still not pretty. That amazing fruit mixture that I ate about an hour before being in the museum was coming back to haunt me. Needless to say, I puked in the bathroom of one of the most sacred and beautiful churches in the world. ...go Pat. Thinking that I would be okay to go up to the lookout point 12 stories high, I was wrong. While at the top, I had the urge to puke once again, debated on throwing up off the side of the church, opted to (somehow) keep it inside, made it safely to the ground level, went outside the building, and eventually vomited again in the middle of the Colombian Festival outside the church.
After a few good laughs, I certainly left my mark on La Plata. This is another example as to why everyone was staring at us like they had never seen Americans before.. oh well. Just have to note that I can never make an appearance in La Plata, Argentina again.
Contrary to popular belief, I am actually also taking five classes while being down here. Although it seems like we mostly travel and explore, I devote time during the week to take care of my homework and projects. This week I have met a lot of other foreigners at the University of Belgrano. One guy, Ricardo, is from Mexico and was just giving me insight about how life is in his hometown. We were talking about the word "flaco" in Argentina. Directly translated, it means skinny in English, but it is basically used as a term of endearment and also a sarcastic reference too. Ricardo was explaining that the same word can have drastic meanings depending upon the context of the conversation, so it is important to listen carefully in Spanish.
Today (Thursday 9/4), I met two European girls at UB, one from Norway and one from Belgium. According to them, life in their countries are not what you would expect, given that they both felt that their countries do not have a distinct identity. The phrase that they both actually used was "we feel like our country is very Americanized. The culture is not there anymore." They tried to elaborate by saying that nearly everyone in Europe knows English. The signs throughout their towns are in English (not in Dutch, Norwegian, or French), their television shows are in English, and their citizens use a good amount of English in conjunction with their own languages. And just to add to this, the Norwegian girl also mentioned that Norwegians think Americans are very outgoing, whereas in her culture, people are very introverted and only will meet new people if under the influence of alcohol.
Part of this experience is getting a chance to not only learn about Argentina and South America, but also meet people from all over the world and learn things that I would not otherwise know. So getting to talk to these people this week was eye-opening for good reasons.
Tomorrow morning (Friday 9/5) my group and I are off to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. We are flying there from the local airport within Buenos Aires and its going to be unforgettable. Puerto Iguazu is located within the "Triple Frontier" area of Argentina, where it is very close to both Paraguay and Brazil. There is a point where you can stand within Argentina and see Paraguay to your left and Brazil to your right, so I am definitely trying to visit there. Also on Saturday we are going to Iguazu Falls, which are basically equivalent to the Niagra Falls of South America, but much larger and warmer because it is the rainforest. I'll have a full description about my trip to Iguazu early next week, so stay tuned. Stay well, everyone. Talk to you soon!