Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Flooded Streets and Full Stomachs

Tuesday January 25

Woah, the last week has flown by. Nothing really extraordinary happened but we have still had plenty of fun. Our breakfast with Edu was actually scheduled on Saturday, not Wednesday like I had thought. When I went to meet him (Ivanna was still getting ready), the restaurant had closed for vacation and he was nowhere to be found. His cell phone is broken so we can’t contact him to find out what happened. We still haven’t heard from him. Maybe he decided to leave the country. Or maybe he just saw Ivanna’s email about us wanting to go to Jimena’s on Friday so he didn’t come. Who knows...

Wednesday I went to just one of the parties because I was kind of tired. Ivanna and I had sandwiches at Laura’s with Beth, Nadia (teenager from church), and Laura and played rummy (see photo). Ivanna later left to attend a birthday party but I stayed at Laura’s and took a taxi home by myself. I even told the taxista (driver) where to go.

That night and into Thursday morning in rained buckets. Our street Monteagudo was flooded with a flowing river up to the curb. I took the bus to Paulina’s but got off a block too early and couldn’t cross that road because of the streams on both sides. I should have worn sandals and not tennis shoes but I didn’t know the streets flooded. After walking up hill for 4 blocks, I finally had to try and jump over the streams. Needless to say I got pretty wet from the knees down. Class was a little more uncomfortable that day. By the time class was over it had stopped raining so I walked home in my wet shoes. Later I found out people will just take off their shoes in order to cross the streets. Also, there isn’t a complete drainage system here and many of the drains get blocked by garbage. Just yesterday I saw a man kick 2 pages of a newspaper into the gutter and another women throw a bag of something in the gutter.

I had 5 packets of homework for the weekend, so much of Friday was spent on homework. Saturday was our “non-breakfast” with Edu. We went shopping instead and I bought a nice shirt. That afternoon we went to Jimena’s and rode bikes on the road towards Villa Nouguès. The thunderclouds to the east of the city were incredible!

Guys tend to whistled at me more when I am riding a bike than other days when I just walk somewhere. Strange. Whatever. I'm am very rarely bothered which is contrary to what my travel guide said about Tucumàn.

Saturday night we went out for ice cream about 12:30am. I was over tired and couldn’t understand anything which made me really frustrated. I guess they are right when they say the 3rd week/month/year is the hardest. This was right in the middle of my 3rd week. I felt better after sleeping until 1pm.

Sunday we had dinner with Jimena's family, including her aunt and uncle who were visiting from Buenos Aires. We ate a delicious meal of chicken and rice and potatoes (see photos).

We made it to church almost on time but not before getting caught under a tree in a rain storm waiting for the bus (see photos). As the bus drove us to church I could’t believe how much water there was in the streets. They seriously looked like rivers instead of roads. Thankfully the bus made it just fine. Last Wednesday when it rained a ton, Ivanna couldn’t get home from her birthday party. The taxi driver had to drive on the sidewalk at one point and they still had water come into the car on another street!

Monday I had class in the afternoon and then we watched 2012. It was funny to later look at the flooded streets here and not think much of it since they didn’t come close to the flood and tidal waves in 2012. Today, Tuesday, I sat by the window waiting for the watermelon vendor to drive by with his horse and cart. I finally heard him after lunch and ran out to buy some. He cut one open for me to taste before buying it. So delicious! I bought 2 (basktetball size) for AG$10 which is US$2.50. What a deal!
Liliana has made delicious food for us. I finally got to try humita which is mainly grated corn and cheese (see photo). Yum! I also helped with the masa (dough) for empanadas (little meat pies). Liliana had already made the chicken and beef mixes for the inside. I helped make dough balls (photo #1) and then flatten them (#2). Liliana later assembled them (#3). We will get to eat some this weekend when Liliana is gone helping at a camp for her church. She’ll be helping with the food and will be gone Wed-Sun. I hope we can survive without her! Ivanna admits she doesn’t cook very well, at least compared to her mom, which is a lot to live up to.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dìas Màs Tranquilos (Low-key Days)

Tuesday January 18

We have been sticking close to home after such a busy week. It rained and stormed Sunday night and it has been SO nice and cool ever since. I think it has been in the 70s (F) because I was comfortable in jeans both yesterday and today. Ivanna said it was 46 (C) on Saturday, which would be about 114 (F). Woah! It sure felt like it. Tomorrow’s forcast says 95 (F) so the cool days after the storm are over until next time. It looks like it is supposed to storm again on Thursday and then be in the 80s (F) for a few days. I can handle that much better than over 100 (F).

On Saturday night we milanesa again (like I mentioned before, see photo) and then went out to La Cubana, a bar where there is salsa dancing. The dancers there were extremely talented but we tried to join in anyway.

I met Ivanna’s friend Sami and we tried to salsa (see photo) but neither of us knew what we were doing. I ended up talking quite a while with Fabio, a friend of a friend who happened to sit

by us. He didn’t know any English but was very patient as I tried to explain things. It’s much easier to just listen because I understand more that way. It was also quite loud as we were close to the speakers, but I think I managed OK. In the photos were were trying to pose, but we didn't communicate very when when to smile and when to look serious. We headed home around 4:30am.

Sunday I slept until 1pm, got up to help the girls finish cleaning the house (her parents were due home soon from visiting family), and then ate tamales with Jimena’s family. After lunch Ivanna and I took a 2 hour siesta. We got up close to the time we should have left for church, but showered again instead since it was so hot. I also talked with my parents and brothers on Skype for about 30 minutes making us even later leaving.

We had to take a bus across town and one finally came after about 25 minutes. Aftergetting off we still had to walk about 10 blocks. We entered the church as they were praying to end the service. OOPS! They had shortened the service since many people are gone on vacation or home because of the heat. Other than the Borstad four and 3 Roberts, there were about 10 other people there. We stayed a while to chat and help move the chairs back inside. It was the first time I’d seen the new church. They were just finishing the purchase when I was here in 2006. After we left, we had ice cream with the Roberts.

Monday we stayed at home and watched Centurion. Most of Ivanna’s movies are in English with Spanish subtitles, which is good practice for her but too easy for me. Ivanna’s mom made a great pasta dish for lunch (that we also ate for dinner). I had class again and then around 9 after it was dark Ivanna and I walked to the park where people excercise. We ran around the block 5 times. My tutor Paulina said that all the blocks in Tucumàn are 100 meters square, so that means we ran 20 blocks or 2,000 meters (1.2 miles). It seemed like a lot further, but I really don’t run much and usually only on a tredmill, which helps you run quite a bit. Hopefully we’ll go again while it’s cool enough to excercise.

Today also has been pretty calm. Ivanna left around 7am to take care of Zane while Beth and David have class. They’ve been on vacation until now. She retured around 6pm. I worked on homework quite a bit but also learned how to cook a couple things (goal #3). Ivanna’s mom Liliana showed me how to make tortilla espanola. The main ingredient is french fries. It’s make like a large omlet with onions, peppers, and eggs. I also watched her prepare the beef mix and the chicken mix for empanadas. It is a very long process because she cooked the meat yesterday and cut it up. Today she simmered the meat with the onions, peppers, paprika, and cumin. Tomorrow I believe she’ll make the dough and start wrapping them. She’s also making humita which I know has a lot of grated corn but I’m not sure what else yet. I helped shuck the corn (el choclo) today and tomorrow Liliana will make the rest. She really loves to cook and sometimes sells the food out her front window. She also sews clothes, curtains, etc, and knits. I will try to remember to take photos of the dishes once they are completed.

Eduardo (Edu, from the ice cream shop and the dance club) came over today just to hang out. We talked quite a bit (in castellano) while Ivanna was still gone. Later we all watched What Happens in Vegas and then played some cards. I taught Edu to play “golf” with cards. Later Edu left for a birthday party across town (yes, another birthday) and Zam (Sam, also from the dance club) came over for burgers. It’s 11pm so time for dinner J Tomorrow we are having breakfast downtown with Edu and then I have class 5 to 8. After than we’re going to a gathering at Laura’s house and then a birthday party. It will be a late night again, but not too late that we can’t take the bus home (around 12:30am).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Outings with Ivanna, Jimena, and Friends

Saturday (January 16)

Ivanna has kept me plenty busy since we returned from Cafayate. We've gone somewhere new every night. Like I mentioned before, her older brother and his family came over Monday night for Ivanna's birthday party. Tuesday I met with Paulina, my tutor, to schedule class. I'll have 3 hour classes Monday and Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings.

After meeting with her Ivanna and I went to her friend (and classmate) Lucia's house because it was her birthday. We talked some and then decided to walk to the supermercado (grocery store) to buy some things I didn't want to pack. We also decided to buy food for hamburgers and cook them at Lucia's house. Her son fried the burgers (He was about 12) and we helped prepare the rest. We stayed there until about 11 and then took the bus home. Most place we go we use the bus and it usually costs about AG$2, so about 50 cents.

Wednesday I had class from 5 to 8. Paulina's apartment is just north of downtown and Ivanna's house is north of that about 15 blocks. After class Ivanna came to Paulina's and we walked to the main square where we met up with Daniel and Eduardo, two more friends of Ivanna's. We had helado (ice cream) at Blue Bell. It was very noisy so no matter how hard I tried to follow the conversation, I couldn't hear much anyway. It was still fun to meet them. Eduardo is very tall and Daniel is shorter that Ivanna so we make a funny-looking group walking down the avenue. There were maybe 100 people in the central park of all ages sitting, walking, playing, and enjoying the cool part of the day.

Around 10 Ivanna and I headed north of her house back to her aunt and uncle's house (who lent us the tent) for her uncle's birthday party. It was strange to me at first why where were so many birthdays this week, but once I realized it's the middle of summer and how many friends have birthdays near mine in June, it made more sense. The ladies made empanadas of chicken or beef and pizza. I couldn't each much because I had just eaten ice cream. We left around 1am.

Thursday I had class again form 5-8. When I returned home I met Ivanna's friend Jimena. Ivanna had organized a group to go to a disco (goal #12). Zam (Sam) met us at Ivanna's house and Eduardo (from the ice cream shop) met us at Week, a dance club that is open from 1:30am to 4am. We got there "early" around 12:30am so we went to the gas station and had a sandwich for dinner. Yes, dinner is usually somewhere between 9pm and 12. Breakfast has been late because we've been sleeping until 10. Lunch is around 2pm and merienda (tea/snack time) is around 6pm.

L to R: random guy, me, Ivanna, Eduardo,
Jimena, and Zam (Sam)

We "danced all night" and had such a great time. Eduardo taught me some more salsa. Most of the songs were popular Spanish songs with a salsa beat. They played a couple in English that I knew. Two guys in their 20s came and joined us for most of the evening (morning really). It was too loud to talk or hear much and trying to hear another language in that setting is pretty much impossible. It was fine with me because I got to enjoy myself without having to work hard to communicate.

Ivanna, me, Jimena (waiting outside)

Friday I could barely get up at 9 to get to class at 10. Thankfully I woke up enough to ride Ivanna's bike safely and get to Paulina's on time. Soon after I got home (with plenty of homework for the weekend), Ivanna and I went to Jimena's house on the west side of town close to the foothills (el cerro). We spent the evening listening to folk music on the computer and talking. We had milanesa sandwiches (chicken or beef) with fried eggs. Yum! It's similar to BLT but with breaded and fried meat instead of bacon. It was much better than the one I had in Buenos Aires. About midnight we finished dinner and Jimena asked us if we wanted to go out with friends. I was really tired so we watched Grown Ups instead. Almost every CD and DVD is a burned copy of the original. I'm not sure if you can even buy the originals here.

Today, Saturday, we slept until 10 and left at 11 for Mike and Sherry's house. They were having the "American" (plus Ivanna) over for tacos. They have a pool set up in the back yard that I waded in for a while. Jimena then texted us asking if we wanted to go swimming at the club her family is a part of.
We didn't have our swimsuits but we made it work with extra clothes of Jimena's and her brothers' (Jimena's would NEVER fit me). We swam for quite a few hours and then "played" on the playground nearby.

After going back to Jimena's, we went for an hour bike ride up almost to Horca Molle and back. We later ate milanesa again (easy to cook when mom isn't home to cook :), listened to more folk music, and got ready to go see some friends. We're heading out soon (it's 1am now). Tomorrow we will hang out here, possibly hike in el cerro and then go to the Borstad's church at 7pm.

The fun just never stops!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trip to Cafayate

Tuesday January 11

I am back in Tucumàn after an amazing weekend in the countryside north of the city. Complete with empanadas (small pastries filled with veggies and meat, like pasties), mùsica chacarera y samba (local folk music), cacti, vineyards, horses, llamas (half of goal #5) bicycles, asado (barbeque), spectacular mountains, and many close, noisy, interesting neighbors in the campground.

(Above: Ivanna, Doug, Dave, and Beth at the campsite)

Beth and Dave Roberts rented a car for the trip. It was a compact manual which meant Beth had to do most of the driving. I sat in the back with Doug Dave’s brother), Ivanna, and Zane (Beth and Dave’s 2 year old son). Yes, that totals 3 adults and 1 child, though we made do just fine. Zane was on one of our laps the whole time but was quite content to be in the car for long periods. The Roberts have been here 10 months studying castellano. After 1 year they will decrease the amount of classes and start working more with the church. Zane has started using quite a bit of castellano. He uses si for “yes,” mio for “mine,” and eso for “that.” He also seems to understand quite a bit when adults switch back and forth between the languages in a single conversation. What I’d give to have learned castellano at that age!

We camped in Cafayate in Salta, the province to the north. It was a large campground but had no reserved spaces. We ended up sharing a grill and table with 3 other groups, one of which could be heard all night talking, playing music, singing, etc. Thankfully I had really good earplugs! Zane was really drawn to the noisy neighbors in the evenings. He would go over and just sit down next to them. A little later he got his camping chair and put it in their camp. He also showed them his stuffed teddy “bear.” The guys heard “beer” and thought that was the bear’s name. They laughed really hard about that one. I later told them what the real name was. We had to laugh, too, about how Zane was so easily drawn to them. He’s only shy when you want to take his picture.

Saturday we went on a tour at a vineyard and then tasted some of their wine (see photo on left). I’m sure it tasted good to most of the others but none of us really like wine so we grimaced through it just so we can say we tasted local wine. After that we drove through the mountains and ravines (quebrada) near Cafayate (the quebrada de las conchas). We stopped at 5 or 6 places that had distinct rock formations or outlooks. The color of the red rock was vibrant against the blue sky and green valleys. We sat and ate in the anfiteatro (natural amphitheater) and listened to mochileros (bakcpackers) play some folk music. That was my favorite moment of the trip because the mixture of music, nature, friends, and fellow travelers. We were all enjoying the same experinence together, making us feel connected to each other even though we were strangers. Our other stops included el sapo (toad, photo on right, Ivana hates them), Mirador Tres Cruces (below), sand dunes (further below) and la garganta del diablo (Devil’s throat) where we did some rock climbing. We found out Zane is a natural at climbing steep inclines, though he had to be passed down person to person on the way down at those steep spots.

Sunday was Ivanna’s birthday so I treated her to a horseback ride around town and out into the country ( below). It was very relaxing and peaceful (except for when dogs came to bark at us but thankfully the horses didn’t flinch).

We walked though the shops in town, saw a couple museums, went swimming in the pool, rode a “triple” (tandum bike for 3), ate delicious ravioli at an outdoor restaurant while listening to mùsica chacarera y samba (local types of folk music), and joined in as the musicians sang “Happy Birthday” to Ivanna.

Monday we stopped at the Quilmes Ruins (I went there last time, too.) and the Museo Pachamama (Museum of Mother Earth) on the way back to Tucumàn. Quilmes is a city now in ruins where only about 4-6 feet of the walls remain. The Museum shows the history of local people and places but also has incredible stone walls depicting local symbols of things in nature (lizard, snake, sun, fire, etc.).

Thankfully Zane slept 2 hours of the rest of the car ride. We got back just in time to unload and get the car back to the rental place. Ivanna's mom Liliana had made her a cake and her brother and his family came for dinner to celebrate.

Today (Tuesday) we are going to rest, watch a movie, buy me a pre-paid phone, and meet with Paulina, the tutor, to plan my lessons. I asked Ivana about hang gliding and she said her friend Daniel can help me with that. Another goal in the process!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Castellano and Milanesa

Thursday (Jan 6)

I am excited by how much castellano (Argentine Spanish) I can already understand. I had many opportunities to use it on my way here. I was going to store my luggage at the bus station in Buenos Aires while I walked around for a few hours waiting for my last flight but they didn´t have any space left. I found this out in castellano and later ordered milanesa con tomates y lechuga (similar to chicken-fried steak with tomatoes and lettuce on a roll) from the cafe there. Thankfully I remembered what milanesa was from being here before.

On the last flight I sat by a women who was born in Tucumàn but has lived in Austraila for 10 years. She spoke very little English but we were able to converse quite a bit in castellano. (Goal #4 completed!) She wanted my email to send me photos of Austraila. She also let me use her cell phone once we landed to call Ivy, whom I´m staying with. Ivy´s mom answered and I had to ask questions in castellano. I was able to understand that Ivy was on her way. She got there just when I got my suitcase. I was excited to also see Mike and Sherry Borstad, missionaries from Minnesota/Wisconsin, that I stayed with last time.

Ivy´s mom made us homemade pizza for dinner at about 10pm. We stayed up talking until 1am, which is early for most Argentines. I then slept for 10 hours! I guess I was a little tired. I had tortillas y mate (biscuits and mate tea) for breakfast and fried fish for lunch. Ivy´s mom is a wonderful cook and I hope to learn from her (Goal #3).

Today we are going to finish preparations for our camping trip in Cafayate, north of Tucumàn, with Beth and David, a couple from Colorado that are here learning castellano. We will leave early Friday morning (manaña- tomorrow) and come back Monday. It is an area of folkdance and folk music. It is also cooler than here in Tucumàn since it is more in the mountains. They recently had quite a bit of rain here so the weather is much cooler that usual. It is still humid, but just hot enough to be a little sticky.

The houses are made of brick and cement blocks to keep them cool. The family has a small yard in the back with mango, lemon, clementine, and apple trees (one of each). I have my own room and bathroom. We are enjoying getting to know each other and sharing about our families. We are heading now to Ivy's Aunt's house to get our tent. It should be a fun trip!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beginning of an Adventure

Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan 4-5)

¡Hola! ¿Què tal? (Hello! How's it going?)

My travels have brought me to another country. This time I returned to Tucumàn in northern Argentina. I am here for 2 months to learn as much Spanish as possible. It is summer here now and the students are on vacation so I won't have any opportunities to work in the schools, but I may help with some summer programs. The rest of the time I will be studying many hours with a tutor named Paulina.

When I came here before in 2006, I was an intern with my friend Kim for some missionaries. We mainly followed them around and lived their daily lives. This time I have a few more ideas of what I'd like to do. This is my list:

  1. understand a church sermon
  2. learn 2 songs in Spanish
  3. learn how to cook 2 meals
  4. talk to someone on the airplane
  5. see a llama and a condor
  6. walk a lot
  7. learn some slang
  8. see a fùtbol (soccer) game
  9. visit the Luna family (that I stayed with before), people from the church, and maybe Juan in Santiago (twin of a friend from college)
  10. see my cousin Andria in Pategonia
  11. ride a horse in Pategonia
  12. visit a discoteca (dance club)
  13. hang glide
  14. have nothing stollen
  15. learn and remember when to use the past tenses preterite and imperfec