Don’t cry for me Argentina

I’m sorry about my blog posts being late, but between finals and travels, the past weeks have been crazy.

My last week in Argentina, I had my written and oral finals, but I also wanted to check off my list the things I hadn’t done yet. Therefore, I went to the Museo de las Bellas Artes, where I saw the works of famous artists like Orozco, Siqueiros, and Rivera, among others. The same day, I walked to La Flor, a giant metal sculpture of a flower, and waited about an hour in the cold until sunset to see its petals close. It was worth it.

The petals open every morning at 8a.m. and close at sunset

The petals open every morning at 8a.m. and close at sunset

My last night in Argentina (at least what I thought would be my last night), my roommates and I went out to celebrate being done with classes and passing our exams.

Last selfie in front of La Universidad de Belgrano

Last selfie in front of La Universidad de Belgrano

We met up with some friends that we had met two weeks earlier, and I was told that my Spanish had considerably improved; I now understood them better and I was more easily understood. That night, I also went to a boliche (nightclub) with them, because I wanted to try it out. It was confirmed that I like Latino music and dancing.

The next day, we packed and went to our favourite bakery to get a few empanadas for lunch and some cookies and pastries for the road. We said goodbye to the workers there, and it was kind of emotional. We had been to this bakery everyday for weeks. We were for sure going to miss them (and the food), and they would miss us too (and the business we brought a.k.a every international student at the university). They wished us safe travels and good luck.

As we rode to the airport that day, I looked outside the window knowing I would miss this place. Despite the cold, the dog poop everywhere, the crazy drivers and the weird shoes, I had loved my stay in Argentina, the people, the food and especially the language.

Just more proof I was actually there

Just more proof I was actually there

As I waited in the airport lounge that day, I learned that my flight was delayed 30 minutes. “That’s okay,” I thought to myself. That okay-feeling was replaced by anger, exasperation, tiredness and desperation, when five hours later, at 2a.m., they cancelled the flight and told us that the next one was not until 8.45p.m. the next day. I guess Argentina did not want to let go of me. The airline booked us a hotel right in the city centre for the night and offered us meals. Although it was stressful, I made it back safely to the US a bunch of hours later after missing two different connections. The thing is, airports can be really boring but they’re also cool places to meet really interesting people. I met a man from Bath, UK who works for a translation company and gave me good advice on a potential career path. I also met a couple from Argentina who needed help communicating with their friend who was supposed to pick them up in the US. So, as they talked to me in Spanish, I texted their friend in English. Fortunately, I was not alone during my airport adventures. A girl I had met earlier in the program was also there, and we travelled together all the way to Houston and became good friends.

From start to finish, this trip has been incredible! I learnt a lot about the country, but also about myself (travelling alone does that). I’d really love to be able to go back for the people, the history, the culture, the food, and the snapchat geofilters.

IMG_0012 IMG_0033 IMG_0036 IMG_0038 IMG_0070 IMG_0086 IMG_0088 IMG_0116

I hope you like my collection, and thanks for reading about my adventures. If you’re considering the SLA program or going on a similar trip, I would 10 out of 10 recommend it!

¡Adiós amigos!


The wonders of Argentina

So, the following Friday and Monday were feriados (holidays). Friday was the “100th anniversary of an important figure” (the answer I got when I asked), so it was a one-time thing, and Monday was Día de la Bandera (Flag Day), which was actually last Thursday, but they decided to put the holiday on Monday (strange, right?). So, my roommates and I embarked on what we thought would be a 17-hour bus ride (it was actually 18) to Puerto Iguazú. I slept most of the ride, so it wasn’t bad at all. When we got there Saturday afternoon, we were determined to make the most of our time, so walked about 2 miles to Hito Tres Fronteras, pictured below.

View from Hito Tres Fronteras

View from Hito Tres Fronteras

Although this may look like a sunset landscape, if you checked out the link above, you’d know that it’s more than just that.

Taking in the beauty

Taking in the beauty while reppin’ ND dorms (back of shirt)

Standing at the edge of Argentina, I am, indeed, overlooking Brazil (on the right) and Paraguay (on the left). It felt like the Cumberland Gap (where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet), but better.

Given that both countries were this close, you are probably wondering if I went there. Well, let me tell you about it. The following day, we had plans to visit the Cataratas del Iguazú (Iguazú waterfalls). The waterfalls are on the border between Argentina and Brazil, so we could visit them from either side.  Because we wanted to go to Brazil, we considered going to that side. Remember that I’m from Mauritius? So, I went online to check whether I needed a visa for Brazil, and according to visaHQ, I did. However, we had talked to a bunch of people back in Buenos Aires who had told me I did not need a visa because Brazil had lifted the visa requirements for all countries due to the Rio 2016 Olympics (Lies! The visa requirement is only lifted for the US, Canada, Australia and Japan). Someone even told us that there was a 50km (~31 miles) grace period for non-visa holders (More lies!). You see where this is going, right? So when we got to the hostel in Iguazú, I asked the lady at the reception desk whether I needed a visa, she said no, but that she was not certain, and that I should ask before I buy my bus ticket there and that they’ll know for sure. We head to the bus station, and before making the purchase, I asked the lady whether I needed a visa, since I’m from Mauritius. “No, you only need your passport,” she assured me (all in Spanish). Therefore, I get on the bus, out of Argentina, and into Brazil. Right after we passed the border, the bus driver collects all of our passports to get them stamped, and guess what? Yes, he comes back with mine, and says “Necesitas visa” (You need a visa). At this point, I laugh to myself and get off the bus. My roommates, with whom I became really good friends, refuse to go without me, and get off too. Together, we wait on the border for the driver to pick us up on his way back (I can now cross off getting deported from my bucket list).

After that, we went back to Argentina and checked out the falls from that side. We hiked about 10 miles that day, and I saw the most beautiful sight ever.

I tried picturing the beauty with some panos, but the real thing is so much more grandiose

I tried picturing the beauty with some panos, but the real thing is so much more grandiose

At sunset, we took a boat trip in the river and under the waterfalls, and although scary, it was also exhilarating!

I was soaking and cold, but it was so worth it

I was soaking and cold, but it was so worth it

On the ride back, we met a couple who had been to the US before. The woman who did not speak any English told us how she thought Americans were positive because she kept seeing ‘exit’ everywhere, and believed it had something to do with being successful (in Spanish, success = éxito).

That night, at the hostel, I met a French girl and a German, whose name was Hanz (doesn’t get more German) and who spoke about 5 languages.

The next day, we walked around downtown Iguazú, before getting on the bus back. On the way back, the DVD system was working so I got to watch a movie, all in Spanish, and it felt great ’cause I understood everything! We were also stopped by the police in the middle of the night who checked the bus for Paraguayans trying to enter Argentina illegally, and also for human trafficking, I was told. I’m not exactly sure how they do that, but they went through my stuff extensively, and I’m inclined to think it was due to my skin colour since no one else was searched that thoroughly.

I got back home the next day, ready for my last week in Buenos Aires!

Digging deeper into the Argentine culture

Me in class working on a project/flyer

Me in class working on a project/flyer

Last week was a whirl. Although the picture suggests otherwise, five hours of classes a day, plus homework, can be really time-consuming (and hard), but I believe that challenging yourself can only make you better. That week in class, we talked about immigration and discrimination, which made me think about the issue in Argentina. I live really close to Barrio Chino (the Chinatown of Buenos Aires), and for this reason, there are a lot of Asian people around. Other than that, I have not really seen many people of colour. Here, they refer to people with dark skin as morrachos. I know that because, as I was getting my hair cut, the hairdresser extensively explained to me that he would call me a morracha because of my “piel más oscuro” (darker skin). However, I don’t think he meant to be discriminatory since he went on to say that he had a 23-year old son and that we would make a good pair due to the difference in skin colour. Later, I talked to my friend Guillermo (pronounced Gui’sh’ermo because, you know, Argentina)  about it. He told me that since most Argentines are descendants of Italians and Spaniards, there is not much discrimination in the country. They are also predisposed to immigration from bordering countries, as well as Asia and Europe. As such, Argentines are tolerant and accepting of others. However, there can be certain prejudices and stereotypes relating to Bolivians, Paraguayans, and Asians. He added that some of his friends from other countries have felt that people looked at them differently because of their skin colour.

My experience in Argentina has been great so far, and it’s hard to believe that it is soon coming to an end. My only complaint is that everyone in my class/program is from the US, which made it harder to meet locals. However, I found some ways around this. First, I joined that conversation exchange program at the university. I also try to talk to as many people as possible when travelling around or going out. Additionally, I created a Bumble* here, through which I met a few people (Disclaimer: if you are planning to use it, be careful, i.e. follow the rules** of talking to random people online).

Last Thursday, we went to a Tango show preceded by a Tango lesson. We learnt the basic steps and were certified. I am far from being a pro, but I intend to learn more (I added it to my bucket list).

Best couple of the night (according to us)

Best couple of the night (according to us)

I know I promised stories of adventures in my previous post, so stay tuned to read about the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.


*Bumble is kind of like Tinder (so basically an online dating app) except the girl has to talk first and has 24 hours to do so.

** The rules are:

  1. Do NOT ever give out sensible information about yourself, e.g your address
  2. Never agree to meet alone. Meet with other friends or in a crowded place, and always let someone know where and with whom you’re going
  3. Beware of cultural differences
  4. Do not believe everything you’re told
  5. Be SMART

A weekend as a tourist in Buenos Aires

Last weekend was an eventful one (yes, more than usual, it’s possible).
Thursday and Friday night, Alexa, Jaimee and I went to bars to experience the night life of Buenos Aires. We learnt that people don’t go to boliches (clubs) until about 2 or 3 a.m. (Remember everything is super late here?). We did not stay out that late but we still had fun at the bars. We met a group of Americans from Texas who were traveling around in South America, and when holding a conversation with them (they did not speak Spanish), I realised I was losing my English a little bit, or rather I was speaking Spanglish (good thing?).

The next morning, we went on a trip to Tigre, a town in the Buenos Aires Province. It was beautiful!

The Paraná Delta in Tigre

Did we go on the river you ask? Yes! We had a 2-hour long boat tour on the river on which we met a Brazilian tour guide on vacation. He spoke no Spanish and we spoke no Portuguese but somehow conversed about where we were from, and what we were doing in Argentina. He proceded to invite us to Brasilia, gave us his phone number and promised he would drive us around and give us a tour of the city if we stopped by (at least, that’s what we think he said).

Our new Brazilian friend, Francisco and his granddaughter

Our new Brazilian friend, Francisco and his granddaughter

We also walked around in the town, went to Puerto de Frutos, which is an open-air market with tons of hand made crafts, paintings, clothes (lots of fur and leather), and food. Additionally, there was, in the middle of Tigre, a park lined with a LOT of flags. I want to say that there were flags from all over the world, because guess what? I found Mauritius’ (tiny island off the East coast of Madagascar, the one I’m from).

Some country pride (There's was a US flag too, in case you were wondering)

Some country pride (There was a US flag too, in case you were wondering)

As you can see, it was sunny and it felt great! However, Sunday was even better! When I say better, I’m talking short sleeves. (Fine, I did get some looks from locals, basically saying “where’s your jacket?!”, but it was 65 F and sunny, which is shorts weather in South Bend). That day, we took the colectivo (bus) to Caminito, a region of La Boca, which is a beautiful, but dangerous, neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. After the sketchy walk there, I understood why people recommended to go there early in the day, but once there, there was a bunch of other people. I can only explain what La Boca is in pictures:

Caminitio, La Boca

Caminitio, La Boca

Colourful buildings

Colourful buildings ft. street art

Also, I want to be a firewoman when I grow up

It is very common to find graffiti and postgraffiti in Buenos Aires

I was told I was a bad tourist for this (by my roommates nbd), but it was worth the picture

I was told I was a bad tourist for this (by my roommates nbd), but it was worth the picture

We had lunch at La Boca and the waiter, who I believe was Argentine, spoke English. Nevertheless, we replied and ordered in Spanish. He was very persistent (maybe he wanted to practise his English), but the problem was we understood his Spanish better than his English (not trying to be mean here, but we were hangry). After a conversation full of misunderstandings, we got our food, he took a picture of us and we had a really good time overall.

This week I have my big oral presentation at school and a 4-day weekend, during which I will be going on some new adventures.

¡Hasta pronto!

Being a Porteño: Lifestyle in Buenos Aires

I’ve already spent two weeks in Buenos Aires and I feel like time is flying, but at the same time going by slowly because of all the stuff I’ve been able to do. School is going really well. I have no problem understanding my professor at all (and most people here), and I also feel a lot more comfortable speaking the language. Pictured below is me giving my first oral presentation on a piece of art, titled ‘Tactics of non-existence’ that caught my eye at MALBA.

Oral presentation on art

Oral presentation on art

'Tácticas de no existencia' by Juan Tessi

‘Tacticas de no existencia’ by Juan Tessi

One of my favourite things about Argentina is the food. Because they love bread here, you can find a bakery on every block, on top of all the cafes and restaurants around every corner. Fortunately (or unfortunately), there’s a bakery right next to my apartment and my roommates and I go there at least once a day. I already said goodbye to my summer bod. It’s not like I need it here since it’s getting cold here, with the daily temperature varying between 35 and 55 Fahrenheit. To be honest, I did not expect it to be this cold, and as a result did not pack adequately. Thankfully, I have lived in South Bend for 2 years now, and have built a tolerance for cold, while mastering the art of layering.

Argentina also made me drink tea (about 3 cups a day). It warms me up and is kind of essential for merienda, (tea time). The eating habits of Argentines are very different from that of Americans. First, breakfast usually only consists of a cup of tea or coffee with toast (or nothing). Then, everything else is pushed back a couple of hours. Lunch, which is an important meal, is eaten at around 1 or 2 p.m., and dinner is normally served at 8.30 or 9 p.m.. Due to this very late dinner time, one has to have merienda, also very important, in the late afternoon to make it through the day. The first week, this confused me, but I have now found a good rhythm that prevents me from starving when then clock hits 7 p.m..

Another interesting thing about Argentina is that a lot of people here are of Italian descent. This explains why they really like pasta and also why Argentines sound like Italians speaking Spanish. It’s a very peculiar accent.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit La Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires, a beautiful Cathedral located on Plaza de Mayo, where the mausoleum of San Martín (guarded 24/7) can be found.

Words are not enough to explain su belleza

Words are not enough to explain su belleza

What else is new? I joined a interexchange conversation program where I get to practise my Spanish while students from La Universidad de Belgrano practise their students. I love it because it’s a good way to meet new people from Buenos Aires and to get advice about things to do in the city.

Looking to get to know more of BA in the coming weeks!

Just tourist things

Just tourist things

P.s. A porteño is someone from the city of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires’ secrets revealed

Last week was my first one at ‘La Universidad de Belgrano’. Classes started on Monday after a two-hour orientation. I was placed into the Advanced Level and the first day, it felt like it was a jump from Intermediate II (the last class I took at Notre Dame), but it’s getting easier. We have classes for 5 hours everyday from Monday to Friday. It’s intense. There’s only 5 people at the Advanced Level, so Prof Yael makes all of us talk, which is great! Class is usually reading texts and answering questions about history, culture and art, working on some vocab, and doing advanced grammar. We really go into the technicalities of the language, which I surprisingly enjoy.

I’d also like to use this post as an erratum to my previous one, with respect to the accent here. Basically, the sh replaces the y sound here, i.e. whenever there’s lly and j in foreign words only. For example, they would pronounce mayo (May) as mashoella (she) as esha and jazz as shazz. Argentines also have a tendency to not pronounce ‘s’ in the middle of a word or a sentence. They call it aspiración de la ‘s’ (aspiration of the ‘s’).
We also went over the differences between Spanish spoken here and in other countries. It turns out Argentina has a lot of different words for stuff, like frutilla for strawberry (instead of fresa) or palta for avocado (instead of aguacate). Most of them have to do with food.
Another big difference here that I mentioned in my previous post is the use of ‘vos’ instead of ‘tú’. ‘Vos’ is conjugated exactly like ‘tú’ except for the Present Indicative and Imperative. I also read a couple things about this and talked to some local people and found really interesting that the conjugation of ‘vos’ is not taught in school. Kids learn how to conjugate ‘tú’ and ‘vosotros’, but in everyday conversation only use ‘vos’ and ‘ustedes’.

Additionally, Argentines use a lot of slang and abbreviations when they talk. Now that I know a lot of them, it’s easier to hold conversations with the locals. My roommates and I often find ourselves practising ‘sobremesa’ after dinner. ‘Sobremesa’ is probably my favourite Spanish word to this day and describes conversation that people have at the table after a meal. It is very common here to spend hours at the dinner table talking even after all the food is gone. It’s also a very good a way to practise speaking!

Culture-wise, I had the chance to go to a Milonga last Wednesday night. A milonga is a place to which locals go to meet people and dance tango. Although it was mostly older people, I thought it was really fun! Also, tango looks really hard.
I took a trip to MALBA (El Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires), where I saw works of famous artists like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Fernando Botero, among others.


Me at MALBA trying to explain what a sinusoid (behind me) is. It’s just a sine curve #mathmajor

A highlight of this past week is that my roommates and I got better at navigating the city, taking the bondí (slang for bus), the subte (metro) and the train.

Alexa, Jaimee and me in downtown Buenos Aires

Alexa, Jaimee and me in downtown Buenos Aires

I already have my first exam at the end of this week. Hopefully it goes well.
¡Deseame buena suerte!

First taste of Buenos Aires

I like to say that my journey started pretty well. Do you know how flight attendants know what language to speak just by looking at you? Well, when I got on the plane last Wednesday, they talked to me in Spanish and I was pumped! That feeling didn’t last long. I was sitting next to an Argentine woman and I have to say I was flattered when she started talking to me in Spanish (in her defense, I did say ‘Hola’ first). However, it was way too fast, and I had to tell her to slow down, but we eventually managed to understand each other.

I got to Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires Thursday morning, managed to exchange my dollars to Argentine pesos (in Spanish), met with my program coordinator and one of my roommates, Jaimee. We then headed to meet our host mom, Liz, whose birthday it was on that day. Liz is super nice and speaks minimal English. She also apparently knows some local celebrities. We might meet them (or have already) but I’m afraid I wouldn’t recognise any. That night, I had my first ’empanada’ (Argentine style cause they’re different in every country) and instantly knew I’d like the food here. They’re big on meat and carbs.

The following day, we met Alexa, our other roommate and together with Jaimee, we visited some historic sites during the weekend. A lot of people think that women have a bad sense of direction (or none at all). They might be right. We had some trouble navigating the city without Google Maps (none of us had a working phone with data yet), almost missed our bus stop (twice), but feel more confident using public transport now (yay!). Nonetheless, it was pretty cool being to places that were previously discussed in my classes at Notre Dame, like Plaza de MayoCasa Rosada (their equivalent of The White House), Cementerio de la Recoleta (where Evita‘s tomb is),…

I had never been this excited to be in a cemetery

I had never been this excited to be in a cemetery

Language-wise, it is slowly becoming easier to understand the accent here. Argentina is the only country that uses ‘vos’ instead of ‘tú’. Also, they pronounce the ‘ll’ or ‘y’ and ‘z’ sounds as ‘sh’, which really throws me off at times since I’m not used to it. Asking people to repeat what they said, and using signs have become an integral part of everyday conversation.

Tomorrow is our first day of class and I’m really looking forward to what is to come, especially more Spanish!

¡Hasta luego!