Lunfardo and Weird Things People Say in Argentina

 Lunfardo Image2   Lunfardo Image3

Of course, no blog about Argentina is complete without at least a mention of lunfardo. This is the slang the everyone uses, and even though you might be fluent in Spanish, don’t think that you will come here understanding the average Joe on da skreet. I was so disappointed the first time I heard someone talking complete lunfardo. I thought, “Ok, I don’t know as much Spanish as I thought…” but then someone explained to me that she was talking with a lot of slang, and there is no way a non-Argentine is going to understand this lingo without it being explained to them.

Lunfardo comes from way back in the early 19th century and was used by prisoners in Argentina so that the guards couldn’t understand them. They also began reversing the syllables of some words, i.e. cafe con leche becomes feca con chele. This spread to the tango community, and thus many tango lyrics are difficult to understand by many. Most lunfardo that you hear is either funny, offensive or sexual in nature. The Argentines have a unique sense of humor and are not easily offended (unless you don’t recognize their best fútbol stars or you refuse to drink “mate” with them). Here are some examples of my favorite lunfardo terms:

Lunfardo1x  Lunfardo2

The sense of humor here is a little more tolerant than what we as North Americans would consider acceptable (btw, don’t call yourself American in Latin America.  We are all in “The Americas” and calling the USA “America” is kind of insulting to many Latin Americans because it seems to indicate that they are not part of America). Comedians and TV shows are more openly sexual that what I’m used to. Their verson of Dancing With the Stars, for example, is a lot different than ours. I won’t include a link, but you can find it on Youtube under Bailando por un Sueño. Warning: take the kids out of the room first! Also, they don’t worry so much about being politically correct as we do. Friends call each other gorda (fatty), flaca (skinny), negra (blacky) and a host of other terms that we in the US might find offensive. This has nothing to do with the size of a person, although the term negra probably came from the darker skin color. I used the feminine form, but guys do it too.

Another expression I find strange, and it’s common throughout South America, is the word chino. Technically this word means Chinese, but it is used to describe any person of the Asian persuasion – no matter where they’re actually from. It’s also used for any small store that is run by Asians (and there are many). These stores are like dollar stores – everything is cheaper, but it’s basically the same stuff you might find at Walmart. So someone might say, “I’m going to the chino.” This offends no one, especially the “chinos” themselves. In fact, the stores are actually named “El Chino” or something along those lines. I even saw one aptly named “Supermercado Argenchino”!

ArgenchinoThere are many more lunfardo/slang words that I heard during my stay here, but these were some that stood out to me. The Argentines are such a warm, accepting people, and not so quick to judge, be insulted or offended, or run and sue someone for something stupid. They are so much more tolerant that the people I’m used to being around, and even strangers are more open to each other in general conversation on the street than we are in the USA. I’ve learned so much about just relaxing, not rushing or just laughing something off that I might have found offensive before… Indeed it’s an experience in itself to be in a different culture.

Bailando   Bailando2

Te amo Argentina! ❤

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Around Town

Getting around Buenos Aires is not an easy task. As I wrote in an earlier post, taking the subway can take an hour or longer, depending on where you are going. There are basically 5 types of transportation here. The subte (short for subterraneo), the bus, a taxi, a car or the train.

bus          Bus_que

Well I still haven’t gotten over my fear of the bus lines here. There is a website in which you can put your starting and ending addresses and it will show you what bus to take and where to catch it; however, for me there’s still the problem of which side of the street to stand on, where exactly the bus stop is because they are not always marked, where to get off, and which direction to go once you get off. Also, some buses with the same number don’t stop at certain stops, so you have to ask when you get on if they stop there. And here you have to flag the bus down or it won’t stop for you. Yeah, that took some getting used to for me. You don’t want to jump up and down and flag like a crazy person either (that was embarrassing).

You might be waiting 20 minutes for your bus, as several different bus numbers will stop at each bus stop. The people line up because the buses fill up fast and those remaining will need to wait for the next one. So you might see a line almost a block long for certain buses during a busy time of the day. If it’s a really busy stop, you might have people selling things to those waiting in line – nuts, candy, soda, empanadas, etc. Another weird thing is that when you get on, you tell the bus driver how much your fare is… (?) And he just takes your word for it! Okay, it only varies between $1.20 and $2.00 pesos, but still l found this kind of strange…

Taxis are everywhere, and would be great, except they are relatively expensive. They start out at about 10 pesos, and continue by the minute, whether the traffic is moving or not. It can take 20-25 minutes just to go a few miles. Also, since most of the streets are one-way, they may have to pass the location and circle around, costing a few more pesos. Compared to dollars, it’s not much, but if you live here and earn a humble wage, you can’t afford taxis. For example, if I were to take a taxi to work, I would spend more on the taxi (one way) than I would earn in the hour and a half class. Then I’d have to pay my way home again. The taxis are generally yellow and black, and the taxi drivers gather at the larger gas stations. These are like truck stops for taxis.

Sometimes late at night, it’s necessary to take one because the subway stops running at about 10:30, and if you are out and don’t know which bus to take (or have heels on and don’t want to walk 7 blocks to the nearest stop), you might flag one down. Since there isn’t much traffic at night, you will arrive more quickly and it won’t cost as much. But if they ask you to sit in the front seat – don’t do it! 😮

My preferred mode of transport is the subte, or subway. There are 6 lines: A, B, C, D, E and H. They can take you pretty much anywhere in the business district of Buenos Aires you want to go. They extend like fingers into the city, but they do not take you to the outskirts of town.

Subway    buenos-aires-subte-peru-2-large

Each line is marked with a different color, and the stops are also marked with that color. Each line also carries a different theme. For example, Line A (light blue)uses tile on the walls and the trains are modern, with newer cars and it’s air-conditioned (yes, it’s the only one that is). You will also find an image of the Virgin Mary in each station, which will be surrounded daily with fresh flowers. Various people will pause in front of it and bless themselves or just touch the icon as they pass. Line E (purple) is really old and you can always hear metal grinding against metal. It’s a horrible sound for me, like fingernails on the chalkboard. The cars have metal benches for seats, usually blue. Line B (red) has fabric seats that are reminiscent of church pews. Line D has a wood theme.

photo 5            LineA

In the subway, you will have all kinds of entertainment, like jugglers, actors doing skits, guitar players, singers, etc. My favorite are the salsa bands. They get everyone hopping and smiling, especially in the afternoon when we’re all tired. But the most interesting was “Actores en el subte.” They even have their own Facebook page. These are a couple of young people that begin a loud conversation on the subway, and draw you in with their animated, hilarious antics. They speak a lot of slang, or lunfardo (I’ll do a whole post on that!), so I don’t understand much, but they are great actors – very entertaining. Here is an example…

photo 4 - Copy (3)     I see Arturo quite a bit on the subway and asked him for this pic.

Then you have the people selling a variety of items: pens, highlighters, notebooks, pastries, flashlights, maps, you name it. They even sell bootleg movies on DVD for just a few pesos. Don’t buy one – the sound quality sucks! Then there are the beggars. Some of these are particularly sad. They may have an arm missing or a leg, be disfigured, blind, etc. I am told that some feign blindness and other ailments, so it’s difficult to know who to believe, but still they are difficult to watch… The saddest are the children begging for money. They start as young as four or five years old, passing out tattered valentines with a little note attached saying “please help me feed my sisters and brothers..” Unfortunately, this sight is way too common.

photo 1 - Copy (3)            Aviary Photo_130308284583472056

The trouble with the subway is that it tends to get v-e-r-y crowded during rush hour, and not only do you not get a seat, but you are smashed together with not much breathing room (which is particularly annoying on a summer afternoon). Just when you think no one else can fit in, the car stops at another station. One person gets off and seven more push their way in! It’s unbelievable how many people can fit into a subway car! Most annoyingly, the car will sit there for a few minutes after it’s super-packed, so you’re squashed in the heat with no air circulating as even more people try to get in. Yikes! Go already!!

photo 1                   photo 2 - Copy (2)

Unlike in the United States, nursing mothers are not bothered by crowds when it’s time to feed the baby. They just flip it out, and the kid latches on. 🙂 Ah the freedom! I remember struggling to keep my blanket around me while nearly smothering my children, or running to the restroom to nurse. You remember that, kids? LOL. I love to embarrass my children…

Moving on, TRAINS
Trains are pretty safe, right? I took a train ride not too long ago to a nearby town, Tigre, and it was pleasant. This was before the recent train crash. It just so happens that in Buenos Aires there have been three train crashes just in the past couple of years. From what I understand, the conductors aren’t a vigilant as they should be and have been caught doing other things, such as texting, reading magazines and sleeping instead of driving the trains. Fortunately, no one was killed in the most recent crash, but many were injured.

buenos-aires-train-crash-2012-02-22     train crash

Hm, maybe I’ll stick to walking…

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My Trip to Uruguay

IMG_2107          Colonia Sign

According to Argentinian law, a visitor is allowed to stay in the country for 90 days without a visa. Unfortunately, visas in Argentina are very complex and difficult to attain. For that reason, expats (like me) usually just leave the country every 90 days and re-enter in order to avoid the hassle of a visa. So I decided to go to Uruguay. My friend and house-mate, Dago agreed to accompany me so I wouldn’t have to go by myself.

I was told by my students that Colonia was a nice place to visit and had many “colonial-style” houses. I was curious as to what “colonial-style” was to South Americans. Colonia is in the southern part of Uruguay and just across the river, so that made it an easy choice for my trip.

Church              IMG_2106

For people with a sense of adventure and not a big wad of cash in their pockets, there’s a really cool website called In a nutshell, members can either host a traveler in their home, give a traveler a tour around their city or stay in a host’s home, either on their couch or in an available room in their house. It’s really quite an ingenious idea, and it’s ideal for travelers who like to meet new people, experience true culture and who want to know the “real” parts of the city they’re traveling to.

So I made a request for a “couch” in Colonia, and this sweet guy, Juan Daniel, accepted my request the next day! I was  super excited. Dago and I caught the boat which took us across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay. This is the widest river in the world, and looks just like the ocean, complete with waves and a horizon with nothing but water as far as the eye can see. I would never have guessed it was a river.

Buquebus                      Seat

When we arrived in Colonia, we explored  the town briefly, bought some wine and food to share for dinner, then called Juan. He was at a friend’s house and gave us instructions how to arrive at his house by bus. Briefly, we were to tell the driver to drop us off at “the farm of Juan Daniel.” We were to jump the fence and wait for him at the front door and he would be along shortly. So we did just that.

IMG_8417      Juan Farm1

It was a pretty trip, and the highway was lined on both sides with huge palm trees. When we arrived, we were welcomed by his dog, Bandido (Bandit). Bandido didn’t even bark at us. He just came up to us wagging his tail and keeping us company until Juan arrived. Soon, however, Bandido did begin barking and ran toward the gate that we had jumped. We saw a lone figure walking in the street. This must be Juan, we thought. As it turned out, Juan walks everywhere he goes, and his friend’s house was 1 hour and 20 minutes by foot! The nearest grocery store was 30 minutes’ walk, and the beach was 10 minutes’ walk. I can’t imagine how long the half hour bus ride would be walking, but I imagine pretty lengthy!

Juan Farm17     Juan Daniel is a scruffy sort of fellow with a full beard and baggy clothes. He’s 32 years old and a total “bohemian”! What do I mean? Juan lives on a farm owned by his parents, and grandparents before that. He works 4 months out of the year with the various crops grown on the farm. The rest of the time he hangs out at the beach, travels nearby or hosts fellow “couchsurfers.” He’s had other jobs, but this is what he prefers at this point in his life. He seemingly has no concept of time, doesn’t own a car, but has a bicycle and a horse. Strangely, he prefers to walk rather than take any other type of transport. He lives in a solid, but antiquated farmhouse with no hot water. He has a fireplace as his only source of heat, and his walls are covered with the musings of his friends and guests. Fortunately, the weather was nice and we were not cold, although we did cook our hamburger patties on a grate in the fireplace. However, needless to say, I refused to take a cold shower! 😮

Juan Farm9              Juan Farm11

In Juan’s profile for couchsurfing, he declares that he likes all kinds of food, and doesn’t care what political or religious views his guests have, or if they smoke, drink or do drugs. Though he doesn’t do drugs himself, he promises to take care of you if you do choose to partake while at his house. A total free spirit! Juan also collects pencil sharpeners. Yes, pencil sharpeners! It was posted on his profile, so we brought him a cool one that looked like a saxophone. He loved it and added it to his collection of over 400 sharpeners!

So we sat on Juan’s patio, enjoying the cool breeze and the wine until well after dark. Later, we cooked our meal and sat by the fire talking until past midnight. It was so interesting to swap stories and learn about a new culture. Argentina and Uruguay are like sister countries. They share the same food, the same dialect and the people’s attitudes are very similar. I listened intently while the guys talked politics. Although the two countries share a lot, the lifestyle in Colonia is very different from the fast-paced Buenos Aires! The cars there travel slowly and they stop for pedestrians waiting to cross. You would never see that in Buenos Aires. There  you have to dodge the cars or they’ll run right over you! Juan also told us there is no crime in Colonia. We had observed earlier that day that several stores were closed, yet the lightweight tables and chairs remained outside. In Buenos Aires, if it’s not nailed down, it is brought in for the night and placed under lock and key, or it will be gone the next day, without a doubt!

Juan Farm5                   Juan Farm13

The next morning, I had my coffee and the guys had their “mate,” the traditional South-American herbal tea. We took the short walk to the beach and enjoyed the beautiful view, while chatting more about the world, cultures and life in general. Juan Daniel commented that he remains single because the girls he has dated don’t seem to understand his lifestyle, and often don’t agree with the “couchsurfing” concept. Juan admitted that he hosts surfers weekly, and often several guests in one week. Obviously, some of these guests are female.

Indeed, a pair of French girls had left a few days before we came, and Juan was expecting some German guests that same evening. As well, a couple of Argentinian guys arrived before we left that afternoon. What an interesting lifestyle!

Juan Farm22                Juan Farm15IMG_2153                IMG_2147

Later that afternoon, we said our goodbyes and caught the bus back to town. We grabbed a wonderful lunch at a little sandwich stand. By far the most interesting hamburger I’ve ever had! You had a choice of about 10 toppings, including homemade salsas and herbed mayonnaises, olives, mushrooms, red peppers, etc. The sandwiches all come standard with cheese, a fried egg and a piece of ham on top of the meat. It made for a huge sandwich, which I couldn’t finish, but I did find room a little later for ice cream!

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The scenic district in Colonia has cute houses, an old fort, whimsical shops and a picturesque lighthouse, in which you can climb and take pictures of the beachy scene below. I thoroughly enjoyed strolling through the district, sitting near the water, and just partaking of the relaxing atmosphere, as compared to the hectic city life in Buenos Aires. But soon, it was time to catch the boat back to Argentina, and our short vacation was over. I’m so glad I got to experience a different environment this weekend, and I hope you enjoyed the adventure and the pictures and much as I enjoyed posting them!

IMG_2189       IMG_2224

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The Beautiful People of Argentina


THE WARMTH  The Argentinian people have a certain way about them. They are warm and friendly, like all Latin-Americans, but there’s more… The people here are confident, friendly people, as a rule. I find them to be intelligent, articulate and ambitious. In some ways they are laid back, as I expected, but in others, they are more hard-working than I had thought. Many business people work long hours, arriving home at 7, 8, 9:00, maybe even later if they live outside of the city. But working late does not stop them from having fun. As I mentioned in an earlier post, you will find people eating dinner in a restaurant at 11 pm and they will get up early the next morning for work. It’s not a big deal here to get 5 or 6 hours of sleep. It’s not for every day of the week, but it’s not unusual to go out dancing, eating, socializing until 12 or 1 am sometimes. That’s during the week. Now on the weekends, it’s a different story. Many dances don’t even start until 1 am – yes, 1 am. If you go to a dance at that time, you don’t leave until 5 or 6, maybe later. I always hear people passing under my window on Saturday or Sunday mornings around that time, laughing as if it were 3 in the afternoon. It used to aggravate me, but – well, what’s the point?

The people here are generally very tolerant, patient and accepting. They are as a whole not overly religious, although there are some very religious people here. In general though, nothing seems to bother them. Delays or cancellations with the subway, waiting in line for and hour or longer at the bank, annoying solicitors on the street and in the subway – they just smile and go about their business. But all that changes when they get behind the wheel of a car! Then they turn into the big-city honkers and aggressive drivers who will seemingly run you over if you don’t get out of their way fast enough! But back to the tolerance, the Argentinians are not prejudiced people. The roots of this generation go back to the indigenous cultures of the Andes and several other Indian cultures. A large part of the population is also of Spanish (from Spain) and Italian heritage. Of course, as with any large city, you will find a mix of various cultures, but it is quite a melting pot here, and the Argentinians are accepting of all of them, without prejudice. They seem to be particularly fond of Brazilians, and many Argentinians vacation in Brazil, not only because it is close and inexpensive to fly there, but because the Brazilians are such a fun-loving people and the Argentinians are drawn to them.

THE STYLE   Style is basically the same, with a few trends that I haven’t seen in the US. The Argentinian girls are currently fond of wearing tight spandex leggings with platform shoes. Tan is a popular color for these leggings, and at first, I had to do a double-take because I thought the girl didn’t have pants on! Short leather jackets are also in style with cute scarves tied around the neck and tucked into the jacket. They also wear boots a lot with the leggings or narrow-legged pants tucked in. The guys dress like guys in the US. I haven’t noticed too much difference, except in the shoes. Business shoes are the squared off loafer and tennis shoes are the same, except for a couple of styles. One leather style has a velcro close that goes across the front of the foot. Another style is open and has a strap like a Mary Jane. That was a new look for me in a man’s tennis shoe. Everyone on the subway carries either a backpack, a messenger bag or a purse. Yes, that includes man-purses, LOL.

IMG_1810      Aviary Photo_130243467305921383

GREETING WITH A KISS   I find the Argentinians, and the South Americans in general to be very open and generous. They greet you with a kiss and share whatever they have with you. It’s a bit different to get used to the “kiss” greeting. Although I have been around Latinos all my life, we only greeted close friends with a kiss, but in Argentina you greet everyone with a kiss! Yes, even boys kiss boys! Okay, it’s not a real kiss – you just touch their cheek with your cheek and make a kiss sound, lol. And it took me awhile to get used to seeing guys “kiss,” but it’s a lovely gesture.

The businesspeople here are told that Americans and other cultures may not want to be kissed, so they should extend their hand instead, but the Argentinians would prefer to kiss you. It’s a wonderful way of “spreading the love,” and you are only a stranger to someone until that first kiss. I made the mistake of trying to run out of a tango class the other night without personally despidiéndome de everyone (saying goodbye, kiss and all) because most of them were on the dance floor still practicing, and each and every one of them, called out a goodbye of some sort and waved, with this kind of incomplete look on their face like, “What? But you didn’t kiss us.” I felt bad and never did that again!

kiss2             kiss3

Argentinian children, like probably most Latino children, are taught to saludar and despedirse (greet and say goodbye to) everyone when they visit or when someone else visits them. They must greet everyone in the house, and it is considered rude if a child stays in their room and doesn’t say goodbye to a guest leaving. I think it’s a wonderful custom and we could learn a little from this simple rule!

SHARING MATE Ah, the mate. Such a wonderful custom! It’s not pronounced mayt, but mah-teh. Mate is an herb that’s made into a tea that every Argentinian loves and drinks every day. Ok, there are a few who don’t, but very few! It contains caffeine and is drunk in the morning, in the afternoon or in the evening, whenever one feels like having it. It’s a little pick-me-up for the day after those late night outings, it’s a relaxing moment in the middle of the afternoon, and it’s a way to spend time with a friend. Mate must be shared. There is a special pot to put the mixture in (also called a mate), and they come in all colors and textures, from solid to animal print, from metal to leather to plastic.

mate2           mate3

Mates are sold on every street corner and in every grocery store, department store and random curio shop. The tea is made by drying the herb, crushing it and steeping it in hot water. Mate is very high in antioxidants, can slow the signs of aging, detoxify the blood and prevent many types of cancer. It also helps reduce stress and insomnia, so it’s no wonder it’s such a popular drink here. You will see people sitting in a park sharing mate, in the office and even on the subway enjoying their daily cup! There is a screen inside the mate (holder) in which you put the herb. Then you pour hot water on top and let the tea soak up the water. You can add sugar or sweetener. You drink it out of a little metal straw from the bottom and the screen keeps the leaves from getting into the water. You keep adding the water to your mate as you drink. People carry thermoses around for this purpose.

The idea is, though that mate is for sharing, so it’s passed around and everyone takes a sip. For this reason (and probably because the pots kind of resemble bongs), some people mistakenly think it’s a drug. I’ve tasted it and don’t really like it. It’s an acquired taste. Kind of bitter, even if it’s sweetened. I’m not much of a tea drinker to begin with, but I do like the idea of the sharing, and my palate is slowly getting used to the taste.

In short, I have fallen in love with the people of this country. They are not only caring and giving, they are a truly sensitive people, who are so thankful for what they have. Their Facebook posts are so different from the ones of my American friends. They post with affection and gratitude for each other and for the wonderful comeraderie that was enjoyed at a particular event. They are truly filled with awe and their hearts swell with pride and gratitude for the gift of friendship that they share with each other. Many of these postings are so eloquently put, they should be published (well, I guess they are). I am so grateful to have met so many wonderful people here, and it makes me contemplate the things, the friendships, the world I didn’t appreciate before or maybe took for granted….


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The Food!

IMG_1669          IMG_1604

Ah, the food……. I don’t even know where to begin. The food is so different here than in the US. I guess the most typical food is the empanada. These are baked meat turnovers, and they are delicious! The empanadas that I’m used to are fried, so these are a little different. There are various types, mostly meat though. I’ve decided I don’t like the chicken ones. They are very cheap on the street, so even if I’m short on funds, I can buy one for 7 pesos (about $1).

The confiterías are my favorite shops. There they have a variety of baked goods, like empanadas, Spanish potato tortillas, various tartas, pastas and more. Tartas are interesting. These are pies, kind of resembling a pan pizza, but not so much crust and they can be made with meat or vegetables. A popular vegetable filling here is pumpkin. They also use sweet potatoes, potatoes, spinach and a variety of cheeses in the tartas. Then there are the pastries. OMG, what choices they have for sweets! I can hardly go by a confitería and not just look in, drooling. All kinds of pies, cakes, pastries, candy. And they are all so beautiful! People look at me like I’m crazy when I take pictures of the glass cases. Now I understand why my Italian husband, Stefano was “bored” with American cakes. “Just bread with sugar and shortening on top,” he would say. Nothing boring about these desserts! They do remind me of the pastries you see in pastry shops in Italy – all shiny and scrumptious. In fact, the European – especially Italian – influence is obvious here. Pizza, pastas, gnocchi (here they spell them ñoquis – pronounced nyokees), caprese salads, Italian coffee – the list goes on and on. Anyone that knows me knows I love Italy, and the Italian influence here was a factor in my decision to come to Argentina. There are pasta shops (pasterías) that sell freshly-made pasta and sauces daily! 🙂

IMG_1605        IMG_1794

In fact, there are specialty shops for just about any type of food you want to buy, and they are all aptly named. If you want cheese, you go to the quesería, For meat, the carnicería, bread, the panadería, coffee the cafetería (no, it doesn’t mean cafeteria – well it does, but not always), fruit, frutería, and so on…. One would think at these specialty shops that it would cost more to buy the items, but no – it costs less! Of course you can buy almost anything at the supermercado, but the quality isn’t as good and you will pay a little more. So I have learned to go to the specialty shops for the things I like. Besides the confiterías, I also like the heladerías (ice cream shops). Do you know they will deliver ice cream to your house for no charge? Gotta love that!

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For breakfast I like to have a medialuna. That’s basically a croissant with a little glaze on top, and they are highly addicting! You can find these literally anywhere, from the street corner to the grocery store to the subway, and points in between. They sell for about 3 pesos (about .40) and they’re delicious with coffee. Sometimes I will buy lunch out if I don’t have time to come home. There’s no such thing as carrying lunch with me here! In this case, I’ll have a cute little sandwich (like the one above) or a couple of empanadas. This will cost about 15 pesos, or $2.

144-medialunasmanteca        argentina-empanadas

There are lots of choices for supper. I will generally cook something with one of the other borders. We can make our own empanadas. They sell the little round pie crusts in a package and you just make your own filling, then fry or bake them. Other popular dinner dishes are pizza (you buy the crust pre-made and add your toppings), pasta and a variety of cheese dishes. There are also many buffets around that sell hot food by the kilo for take-out. I can eat about 3 meals on one kilo and it costs around 45-50 pesos, or around $6. So the food is fairly cheap and really good. Restaurants tend to be more expensive, but not by our standards. You can also get a bottle of wine with your meal for a few dollars. I’m still adjusting to the exchange though; it’s hard getting used to such high numbers. If I hear 200 pesos, I think, “Oh my gosh, that’s expensive!” but actually it’s only about $25. However, I have to keep within my budget because when you only earn about $500 a month and half goes to rent, $25 is a lot. So I keep it real and hoard my money as much as I can! 🙂

I am really enjoying the different tastes here, and developing a palate for my favorites. By far the most popular sweet flavor here is dulce de leche. It’s a type of caramel (literally milk candy) and it’s found in between cookies, in the middle, on top, as a filling for desserts, in ice cream – you name it. Fortunately for me, it has always been my favorite flavor, so I am in heaven with my sweet tooth here! I know for sure one of the things I will miss most about Argentina when I leave will be the food. For now, I am enjoying every bite!

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My New Job!

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  Windy Guy. I thought he was cool!             My bible. I don’t go anywhere without it.

Well as anyone may have surmised, I began job-hunting shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires. Job interviews (the ones I went to anyway) are quite different here than what I’m used to in the States. Generally, I bring a resume, fill out a long application (repeating everything that’s already in the resume), submit references, send in official transcripts of my colleges, etc. Here, I walked in after emailing a copy of my resume, told them a little about myself, and was asked how soon I could start! Wow! One place had a class for me the next day. It appears that native English speakers are in high demand here at the moment.

So I got my first class a few days after beginning interviews. Unfortunately, all she could promise me was 3 hours a week. I took it, but that wasn’t going to buy tango lessons, so I continued looking. Soon the 3 hours turned into 6, then 9, and in a couple of weeks I had 15 hours of classes. Being used to 40 hours a week, I continued to interview with other schools. Even though I knew from reading blogs that a full work week was around 25 hours (in this business), I still thought I would need to cram my days with as many classes as possible in order to survive. And at that time, I had $0, so I was desperate. But I soon found out that there is a reason they say 25 hours, and here’s why:

With Business English classes, the company pays for a few employees to take the English classes. They want the classes at the jobsite, so the teacher generally goes to the students. If you can imagine how large this city is…. well, let me give you an idea. New York City covers about 302 square miles. Buenos Aires covers about 1500. NYC has a population of about 8 million; Buenos Aires, 13 million. Now, most of the businesses and population density is in Distrito Federal, which is like the downtown area, but I travel over about 3/4 of the city each day. So because the various businesses I go to are all spread out, it makes for a very long day, even though I can only teach 3 classes. So eventually, I had to turn down classes…

IMG_1635                       IMG_1615
A rare cappuccino.                                        The view from one of my
They’re expensive on the street.                                      students’ offices.                

Typical Day: I get up about 6:15, have a cup of coffee and leave the house by 6:50. I walk 5 blocks to the subway. I’ll take 3 different lines for a commute of about 45-50 minutes, then walk 6-8 blocks to the business. My first class each day starts at 8, and generally lasts 1-1/2 hours. Some classes are 2 hours. I usually have 3 hours between classes, because everyone wants their classes either before work, at lunch or after work. Even if they didn’t, unless the businesses were very near each other, there’s not time to squeeze in the hour commute each way and an hour and a half class. So I can either run errands, dawdle and have coffee at a bar (that’s what they call coffee shops) or try to run home and have coffee there, which turns out to be about 40 minutes of total home time by the time I get there and have to leave again. So that’s not really worth it, unless I have heavy books to carry. Then I can change out the books in my bag. During this time, I might eat a quick medialuna (like a sweet croissant) with my coffee.

So then I go to my second class at either 12 or 12:30, once again walking 5-8 blocks each way to the subway. After this class (about 2 pm), I do like to go home, mostly because it’s cold outside and I just want to sit and take my shoes off. If I have leftovers at home, I’ll eat lunch there before leaving for my last class. If I don’t, I will eat an empanada or two on the street. Sometimes I have to drop by my employer’s office and pick up books, forms, my paycheck (which is actually cash) or just have a quick meeting. It is fairly close to one of my class sites (about 12 blocks), so I usually will drop by on a day that I have a class there.
My last class begins at 5:30, and it also requires taking 3 subway lines. The difficult thing about the subway for me, since I have no sense of direction, is remembering which direction to take the line! This is no easy task, since there are many entrances (usually 4), people everywhere, and the signage is not the best. There will be a random word (usually someone’s name) for the direction the train is going, which doesn’t match any of the stops or anything on my map. And walking from one connection to the next can often be like a very long maze. Even so, I just about had it memorized when I moved to my new place. So now I have to learn new ones 🙂

I get home from my last class about 8 and eat supper about 9. People eat supper quite late here. I went to dinner with Savanah the other night and we got there about 8:30; the place was empty. I thought it was because it was a Tuesday.  Around 10, when we were getting ready to leave, the place began filling up. I asked Luis (Savanah’s boyfriend) when the people sleep here, and he replied, “On the subway!” It’s true! 🙂 So after supper, I begin planning my lessons for the next day; I plan my route with my map, writing the subway line and connections for each class on a piece of paper, because each day is different. I never leave home without my faithful map! It’s all marked up and taped at every fold. Finally I fall into bed about 11:00 or 11:30, and after all that walking, I have no trouble falling asleep! Did I mention I hate walking?

What a different life from the one I had in Little Rock where I got into my car, drove 15 minutes and stayed there all day! Ah, the luxury……

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Settling in…

I have avoided writing this post like the plague. I’m not really sure why, because I have such good news to tell. Maybe I’m afraid of the bad luck I had right before the last post… Whatever the reason, I have put it off for long enough. Time to move on!

IMG_1583             Evita

Well, after losing all my money in the Atlanta airport, I was pretty afraid to go out around town, especially by myself. I had been sufficiently warned about pick-pockets in Buenos Aires (ironic, right?) So I did go out a few times with my friend and host Savanah. The architecture here is beautiful and very European. We went to a couple of milongas the first few nights we were here (those are tango dance socials). They were fun, but after the first few days, I kept very busy going to interviews and learning my way around town. It’s not like in Little Rock where I just jump in my car and drive where I need to go or use the GPS to get to places I’m not familiar with. No, here I have to walk several blocks to the subway, then ride it for 30 minutes or so, then walk the rest of the way to wherever I’m going. No quick way to get around in a city this size, even if I did have a car. Oh but I would never attempt driving here! It’s a bit like the driving I saw in Rome. No thank you!

The most amazing part of my stay so far though, has been the unbelievable outpouring of love, encouragement and money from my Little Rock and Facebook friends! I cannot believe the amount of money that was wired, deposited and otherwise sent to me by family, dear friends and even mere acquaintances! Money literally started pouring into my checking account in Little Rock, and I thought “Well, maybe I won’t have to beg for a place to stay for free after all, or go back home a failure…” My bop club in Little Rock took up a collection for me and raised $400! I couldn’t believe it. In the end, I recovered all what I had lost in the airport! Lesson learned: even though there are people looking to rip you off, by far there are more good-hearted, generous folks that truly care about people and are willing to sacrifice to help a friend in need. I was so humbled by this experience, and it has permanently changed me. I am so indebted to these people and I could never repay their kindness, but “Y’all, I LOVE YOU, man!” The most profound change I have made is giving a few pesos to the beggars in the subways. I would have never done that before, but, although I don’t actually know what it’s like to be that poor, I can certainly identify with being in a helpless position and depending on the kindness of others. So now I happily toss them a peso or two and wow – it feels good to help someone who needs it! I was shamelessly much more selfish before this experience.

Ah… yes it felt good to write this post. The weight that was lifted from my shoulders in the past week was huge. Instead of waking up in the morning thinking, “I’m in a foreign country without a dime,” I can say to myself, “I’m going to be okay because I have the best friends ever!” ❤ ❤ ❤

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