Vamos Argentina!

28 06 2010

It’s been an exciting week for us! Last week I had orientation with a new group of interns– two undergrad students and two recent graduates, all from the US. We had the usual workshops and activities to help them get comfortable here and introduce them to FSD’s mission. I love orientation week– I get paid to play jeopardy, eat croissants and watch TED talks. Not a bad life. I also got to meet more of the host families and visit a couple of new organizations so I’m slowing getting to know everyone.

While I was doing that, Tim found himself some (paid!) work. He had two interviews at English institutes that seem very promising. The semester ends mid-July so he would probably start at the beginning of the new term. He has also started teaching private English lessons so he’s starting to settle in here as well. His Spanish is getting more and more awesome by the week. He’s been getting a lot of well-deserved compliments on it this week!

As if that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, we’ve been watching as many of the World Cup games as possible. No surprise that everyone is loco for soccer here. Yesterday Argentina beat Mexico, meaning that they advance to the quarter finals! If Argentina can manage to beat Germany on Saturday, they say the championship is as good as theirs. Watching the games has been a fun way to meet new people and spend more time with our host family and coworkers. We’ve learned a lot about soccer, the cultural norms around watching the games, and the selección (what they call the Argentine team, which is comprised of players with nicknames like The Flea, The Witch, The Gringo, etc!).

We watched the US play this weekend too. We went to BA for the day to get Mexican (how I missed spicy food!!), to watch the game and to check out an art festival that was in town for the weekend. And even though the US lost and it was pouring rain while we were there, we managed to have a really good time. When we got back to our house in the evening, our host family was throwing a huge party for the abuela, who turned 97 years old this week!! So we got home, ate some cake and then packed our suitcases because… we finally moved!!

That’s right, yesterday we moved into our new apartment, and we couldn’t be happier about it. The apartment is soo bright and cheery! Lots and lots of natural light, plenty of space and a super friendly roommate. It felt like home right away. Today we are planning to go shopping to stock our shelves with some groceries and maybe buy a house plant or something. We still have a lot of exploring to do in our new neighborhood but yesterday we did go to the pizzeria across the street. Delicious! Like, all Argentine pizza, it needed more sauce… but otherwise, it was really good!

That’s it for now. We’ll be sure to post pictures of the new apartment soon. And I’m going away for work next weekend, so I’m sure I’ll have a ton of photos from that.


Donde esta Lopez?

23 06 2010

Katie worked hard to make two photo collections this week: one of her route to work and one of the graffiti in La Plata. Comparing these to the earlier posts, you may notice our distinct photographic styles (she actually has one). Enjoy:

Here: Katie’s walk to work.

A little context for the second album: A lot of social and political commentary comes from La Plata, as it is both the capital of the province of Buenos Aires and a university town. In fact, it was considered one of the most repressed cities during the Dirty War for these reasons. The universities housed some true revolutionaries (from both the Monteneros and the ERP), leftists, Marxists, and Peronists from both sides of the political spectrum. Many students, professors and administrators (and their family members) were “disappeared,” tortured, and/or killed during the military dictatorship from 1976-1983. In total, somewhere between 9,000 and 30,000 were killed during this time period. Women were raped, babies were forcibly adopted to sympathizers of the junta, and prisoners were thrown from C-130s into the South Atlantic. Although the junta is long gone, “disappearances” have occurred in La Plata as recently as 2006, presumably by former officials in the military regime. In particular, the case of Julio Lopez has galvanized the city and is regularly referenced in its graffiti.

This album showcases a VERY small sample of the graffiti found in La Plata. As you will see, much of it is socially- and politically-oriented, often referencing the Dirty War and the disappearances.

Some of it, however, is just plain cool.

“We are going to have to kill 50,000 people: 25,000 subversives, 20,000 sympathizers, and we will make 5,000 mistakes.” – General Luciano Benjamin Menendez

Buenos Aires x2

6 06 2010

Part 1: Biecentenario

This may be a little late, but I feel the need to spend a little time describing the Bicentenario celebration in Buenos Aires on May 25th. The Bicentenario marked the 200th anniversary of the revolution against the Spanish, not to be confused with the country’s independence day. Katie and I went with the interns to check out the festivities, which included a 3 hour parade. An estimated 3 million people were in the area for the celebration. Everywhere we went there were unbelievable crowds and celeste and blanco, the colors of the Argentine flag.

While we dined a couple blocks away, Hugo Chavez, Lula, and Evo Morales joined President Cristina Krichner to watch the parade. The parade was unlike any I’ve ever seen (a bit different from the Sterling Heights Memorial Day parade). The floats were enormous and served more as mobile performances than the typical semi-static floats of the US. Each float represented a period of time in Argentina, from the time of the indigenous to present day. There were snow machines, giant torches, violinists sitting on taxis, flying acrobats, a float devoted to import substitution industrialization and two eerie, but moving, representations of the military dictatorship. Some must-see videos from the night can be found here: and

A few pictures:


Part 2: A weekend away

This weekend, Tim and I went to Buenos Aires. We left on Saturday morning, hopped on a bus and got to BA before noon. After checking into the hostel, we decided to go explore. We spent the whole day alternating between walking and eating. It was fantastic! We walked all around Microcentro, Puerto Madero and Palermo, stopping for a merienda (snack) in each neighborhood. For lunch, we found a little Middle Eastern place and enjoyed Shwarma and Falafal. BA is one of the only cities in the country to have a decent selection of international cuisine so we decided to avoid typical Argentine food for the day. After lunch, we walked around by the water and found a really nice park on the edge of the nature reserve. With bellies full of food and warm sunshine on our faces, we fell asleep on the lawn for a while. It was one of the best naps I’ve had in a long, long time. After our nap, we had coffee and cake at an alfresco cafe in Puerto Madero before we did some serious window shopping near our hostel. For dinner, which started at 11 in typical Argentina fashion, we went to a fancy Peruvian place. We sipped on Pisco Sours (mmm… Chile!!) before trying our appetizer: ceviche! Who knew I would like raw fish with lime, onion, spice and cream sauce? It was delicious! Hands down the best thing I’ve had in this country. Then our entrees came, aji de gallina for me and king crab ravioli for Tim. They were good, but after the ceviche they definitely seemed mediocre. After dinner, we grabbed drinks, crepes and coffee before heading to bed. I was hoping to drag Tim to a reggeaton club but I was too tired from all of the walking. Maybe next time.

Today we went to San Telmo for this great outdoor market. They were selling everything from scarves, necklaces and paintings to knives and cowboy boots. There were antique watches and World Cup jerseys and everything in between. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a nice time walking around, talking with the vendors and checking out all of the stands. We had milanesa and pizza for lunch, back to the usual Argentine fare, and finished it off with some ice cream before heading back to La Plata.

BA really is a gorgeous city. It has a very European feel. The architecture is beautiful, the monuments are great and there is plenty of green space in the city limits. It has a beautiful combination of the old and the new, often right next to each other, creating a really stunning contrast. The walls are covered in murals, graffiti and street art, much of which has really powerful social messages. Latin American capitals tend to get bad reputations (and for good reason!), but BA is different. It is one of my favorite cities I’ve ever visited, and along with Valpo, Chile is tied for the coolest LA city I’ve seen. I wanted to take pictures of absolutely everything, but luckily I had some self restraint. Here are those that I did take:

New apartment

4 06 2010

We found an apartment that we like! It’s a two bedroom on the ninth floor of a complex located just 8 blocks from the FSD office, steps away from the city’s biggest park (El Bosque) and right across the street from what we’ve been told is La Plata’s best pizzeria. We will be sharing it with Ana, who is 25 years old and studying math at the university. She has lived there for a while, at first with her sister and now with a guy from New Zealand. Ana is from the interior of the country and since her boyfriend lives in Cordoba she often travels on the weekends. She speaks some English, enjoys mate (who doesn’t in this country?) and stays in most nights to study.

The place is completely furnished, has a lot of light and is much more comfortable than any place we’ve seen yet. Although the bedroom is rather small, it has a large closet. The kitchen is quite spacious, as is the dining room/living room. It has a washing machine inside and a little balcony area for drying clothes. We’re both very excited to move in… and especially to start cooking again! Unfortunately, the room won’t be available until the 27th,  so we will have to wait a few more weeks.

In other news, we will be heading to Buenos Aires this weekend to explore. We will be sure to update with pictures and stories next week.