Wednesday, February 25, 2015

cultural adjustments

  • yes, I'm in a different time zone than NY! *~ just 2 hours into the future~*
  • there's so much European architecture and influences in this city
    • huge windows with huge shutters
    • little balconies that house tons of green plants
    • columns and arches 
    • tall wooden doors with shiny brass knockers
  • I feel like a porteño wearing my birks around because they're a huge trend here
    • so are sky-high flatforms/chunky sandals...I really need to get my hands on a pair!
  • dulce de leche is everywhere, it knows all, it sees all, and just when you think you know exactly what you got for dessert, there it is...what you thought was a plain churro is actually filled with it. 
    • note to self: smuggle back to the US by the ton. I'm addicted. 
  • don't get me started on the mouth-watering steak here
  • bus/subway rides are less than $0.30 a piece
  • you raise your arm to flag down a bus, and lower your arm to hail a cab 
    • make sure they're radio taxis and not the skeezy cabs that slowly pull up to the curb like a predator

  • kioscos are like NYC delis minus the lazy, idling cats 
    • and minus the fact that by sunset the entrance is guarded by a gate so you can only make purchases through this tiny rectangular opening just wide enough to pass through your pesos and get your snacks
  • dinner's at around 10PM, pregaming's at midnight-1AM, ya turn up from 2AM (any earlier and you really don't know how to party), and crawl into bed by 7AM as the rest of the city gets up for the day
    • makes me wonder when children's bedtimes are if they're still out and about with their parents at midnight 

  • there's a strong mate tea and espresso culture to keep ya going 
    • people carry around and sip mate here the way basic b!tches wear uggs and yoga pants and drink PSL in the fall
  • Buenos Aires' dripping AC water problem is like NYC's to the 10th degree (really can't tell if it's raining or if it's just city juice sometimes)
  • like the architecture, so many of the people look extremely European
    • I'm talking blonde hair, brown hair, blue eyes, green eyes
  • everyone is tan AF (so sorry for all who had to see me fresh off the plane pale as a ghost)
  • it's not , it's vos! Spanish across Latin American is NOT the same. 
  • eating empanadas on a regular basis isn't a choice, it's a lifestyle

  • everyone wants to pay with $100 bills, but no one ever has change
    • coins are a rare commodity

  • fernet y's an acquired taste
  • Quilmes the national beer is meh

  • drivers pretend they don't see you when you cross the street
    • bus drivers are equally psychotic drivers 
  • the number of cute cafes, beautiful storefronts, and fancy restaurants in the city astound me

  • pizza is huge, it's on almost every menu I've seen 
  • Argentines are generally so sweet and friendly 
    • when you look a little lost, they break out their English 
    • when you meet someone new, it's all about the kisses on the cheek (repeat for goodbyes)
  • but some of them are creeps and a half (in and out of club settings)
    • don't touch my hair
    • stop with this "mi amor" nonsense
    • no kisses!!!
    • I'm not going anywhere with you
    • bye
    • forever

  • Ariana Grande's top hits will accompany your black market currency exchanges located at "unassuming" storefronts that claim they're actually travel/tour agencies instead
    • there's an official rate (1 USD = 8.7 Argentine pesos)
    • and a black market rate (1 USD = 13 Argentine pesos)
  • I miss free ice cold water at restaurants
    • Poland Spring, I need you
  • what I want to say whenever I go to street fairs/markets
    • "shut up and take my money!!"
  • Latin American street art is amazing 
    • art is everywhere you go and everywhere you least expect it 
    • there's beautiful graffiti on benches, murals on the sides of buildings, Banksy-esque sketches scattered around the city

  • no matter how much I regret it afterwards, having ice cream at Freddo almost once a week is my guilty pleasure (ugh how can one ever resist the 2 for 1 deals here with a roommate who craves this stuff just as much as you do)
    • porteños have a massive sweet tooth (which explains all the heladerias/panaderias/confiterias)
    • don't get me started on the delicious alfajores sold on every street 
  • tango, tango, and more tango (after my first milonga, my two left feet and I are going to have to pass)

  • I feel the feels every time I realize university is gratis here 
  • Frida Kahlo is on shirts, flip flops, posters, totes, magnets, you name it 
  • restaurant service sucks ("1000 years later......")
    • but, to be fair, dining/having coffee is a really drawn-out activity in Argentina (conversations can last hours)
    • servers hardly scan the room and don't check up on you every 15 minutes 

  • if you're on time, you're early...too early
  • men are super forward and slightly aggressive in the pursuit of women, but at the same time, care about reflecting machismo and chivalry...
    • there's no flip-flopping between bros at a bar, no hesitation, none of that "dude, should I go talk to her", but more like "HEY, I JUST MET YOU, AND THIS IS CRAZY, BUT HERE'S MY NUMBER, SO CALL ME MAYBE"
    • and if you're clearly not from around here (being Asian has made me feel like I have my own unwanted spotlight sometimes), they'll stare at you for a second too long and/or make some moves STAT
  • but, there are a lot of cute guys here ;) 

  • PDA appears to be widely accepted and wildy rampant, especially in parks
    • accidentally catching couples eating each other's faces once made me cringe, but now I just wonder if these people ever come up for air
  • iced coffee does not exist here
  • no sightings of peanut butter either (it's dulce de leche or bust)
  • and of course, everyone's either a die-hard Boca Junior fan or a River Plate fan
    • you can hear people's cheers ("GOOOOOOOOALLLLLL") and disappointments from apartment buildings quite clearly in the middle of the night when a fútbol match is going on 
  • more to come as the semester continues!
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Punta del Este

Armed with a pair of shades, my trusty Birks, a few outfits, extra sunblock and a bikini, I spent my first long weekend in South America in Uruguay. This trip made it so much harder to remember that I'm not abroad solely for spontaneous travel excursions planned extremely last minute. Getting back on the academic grind in a continent where it is still summer vacation has proven a little bit more challenging than I thought, especially since my time in Punta del Este, a small city and resort on a narrow peninsula dividing the waters of Rio de Plata and the Atlantic, felt like a dream with its many gorgeous beaches, high-rise apartments, and swanky restaurants. 

Warm waters and even warmer sand all around
The tropical trees here in South America remind me of giant pineapples. 
Despite hours and hours of basking in the sun, I have yet to be as tan as the local Argentines #goals
I managed to stand on top of the thumb of Mano de Punta del Este.  Mario Irarrázabal created this sculpture of a hand "drowning" to warn swimmers about the rough waves on the beach. It has become one of Uruguay's most recognizable landmarks.
Posers who managed to get a bunch of stares from Latin American tourists while taking this photo
I survived (and really enjoyed) my first hostel experience! Our place had really laid-back surfer camp vibes. And I met a bunch of other Americans studying abroad, as well as the usual interesting internationals spontaneously backpacking around the world.
Reppin' the Uruguayan flag on the hostel patio
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was kicking back on the sand and watching the sky fade to black.
Our trip coincided with the Carnaval holiday, so the street parade made its way through town starting at midnight. So many scantily clad females ages 8-70 in skyscraper heels...
Loved taking breaks in hammocks on lazy afternoons after a full morning at the beach

A quick photo before the sun slipped away behind the bobbing boats 
Amen to that.
It feels odd to say, but perhaps my favorite part of the whole getaway was the physical journey to and from Uruguay. The 5 hours it took to reach the beach (1 hr via ferry, 4 via bus) was so scenic; I have never witnessed such a vast expanse of flat, uninhabited land. The lush green fields extended into the distance as far as the eye could see. I've grown up in New York City, where there's nothing but noise and people and lights, all my life, and there are very few, if any, occasions that I get to experience the quiet, unperturbed lull of the country.

While most people abhor long commutes, I personally think there's something so relaxing about long car rides, especially those with a view. When I wasn't succumbing to slumber, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the window for even just a second. I was mesmerized by the open fields, especially the herds of fluffy sheep, spotted cows, and silky horses who sought refuge from the burning sun under shady trees or lazily idled around among the tall grasses. It perplexed me even more how there was not a single soul in sight even though tiny farms and colorful homes would occasionally pop up now and again with clothes set out to dry on lines and worn pick-up trucks haphazardly parked with their doors wide open.

It made me feel so small in this wide universe, like all of my current worries and problems were insignificant in the grand scheme of things (they really are though). I thought a lot about what people's lives must be like living in rural Uruguay where everything is so far apart separated by acres and acres of nature. I thought about how grateful I am to be blessed to live in one of the greatest cities in the world, and yet knowing there is so much out there I have yet to discover—the food, the people, the once in a lifetime opportunities. I've only explored a tiny fraction of what the rest of mankind has seen, and it's both beautiful and haunting to realize all the wonder that awaits.

There's certainly an addictive quality that comes with traveling, and I think I've got a bad case of it. Now more than ever, I'm carrying this insatiable appetite to get up and delve into all the places I have dreamed about and have yet to see with my own pair of eyes. It's safe to say that from wherever nook and cranny I am in the world, I intend on leaving no stone unturned.

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