Rachel Hunt – Buenos Aires, 14th August 2009

Hola a todos! The obligatory introductions: I’m Rachel, MEL student (French and Spanish) with two great years behind me studying at Edinburgh and one split between Argentina and France to come.

Unlike most of my fellow bloggers, the month of August does not find me anxiously packing, saying goodbyes and preparing to enter the unknown. As of the 7th June, my official residence has been Buenos Aires, Argentina. With university starting at the beginning of August, I braved a brief two week turn around at home after exams and headed out early for eight weeks of Spanish classes and volunteer work. It was the best decision I could have made, giving me time to acclimatise to the sprawling metropolis that is ‘the Paris of South America’. The last two months have been both more intense and enjoyable than I am able to put across here, so the best I can do is to sum up some of the highlights and impressions of my Argentinean adventure so far…

– My Spanish has changed beyond recognition. Buenos Aires is not a city of Spanish but of porteños (port dwellers) and their slang, lunfardo: Yo is ‘sh’-o, calle is ca-‘sh’-e, a bus is a bondi and dinero is plata

– My meat consumption has increased twofold (thanks to many an asado, Argentine style BBQ), as has my vino tinto intake

– I now know that ‘being on time’ covers roughly a forty minute window and that dinner before 10pm is unthinkable

– I have sampled mate, herbal tea and national drink of Argentina and witnessed the many porteños carrying around their thermoses, gourds and straws ready for an afternoon beverage in the park

– I have lived the tourist dream, with tango classes, Evita’s grave, the Boca (Maradonna) football stadium, Sunday craft fairs, art galleries, museums, and even a Christian theme park (unmissable– there’s a resurrection every thirty minutes)

– I have arrived at, rather than left nightclubs, or boliches, at 3am and danced the night away to reggaeton – continuous variations on Daddy Yanke’s Gasolina

– I have discovered that the Argentine flavour of the month is forever jamon y queso (ham and cheese) and have had it in all its variations; sandwiches, salads, pizzas, quiches, pastas, empanadas (another delicacy here, think mini Cornish pasties)…

– on my travels, I have paraglided in the Andes, watched the sunrise over el cerro de siete colores (the Hill of Seven Colours), got stranded for the night in Montevideo in a thunderstorm, had fun taking photos on the salt planes, ridden horses with gauchos (Argentinean cowboys) and quite literally got under one of the world’s biggest waterfalls, Iguazú

– I have also wisely saved 100 pesos (less than £20) by turning down the standard overnight Argentinean bus ride, which comes with reclining seats, blankets, pillows, dinner, breakfast and movies, to spend 25 hours on the slowest moving train in the world, that had none of the above

– I have lived with an Argentinean family, been taught by Peruvians, shared a room for a month with two Brazilians, travelled with Germans, Mexicans, Ecuadorians and Dutch and in general had about as much of an international experience as you would expect from one of the biggest cities in the world

So now I find myself at a university of roughly 1000, in a city of 13 million. I am living with a French girl and an American girl, both of whom study with me, in the ‘chic-est’ areas of the city (naturally), within crawling distance of clubs, bars and boutiques. Having just finished my second week at La Universidad de San Andrés, the queuing, timetable clashes and anxious first days are finished and a lot less painful than I thought. The hour-and-a-bit journey to university, which involves a bus, train and then twenty minute walk, is, however, still just as painful when I’m faced with a 9am lecture.

I’m about to go and catch a bus to take advantage of the bank holiday weekend and see some more of Argentina, armed with some of the copious amounts of reading I’ve already been set. It looks set to be an incredible four and a half months, working hard, playing hard and experiencing a country half a world away.

Until next time… Besos

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