Keiko, Outbound to Argentina

Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a great start to this year. Today I’ll talk about how I started 2020!

On the night of December 31st, 2019, we had about 20 people over at my house for dinner. We had an asado (Argentine meat roast/barbecue), but this time was different than what our regular asados look like. Normally, we eat various meats including cuts of steak, pork chops, chorizo (sausage), salchicha parillera (hotdog), and chicken. However, for this special occasion, we had a 33 pound steak rib roast!

Fun fact: The ribs were 33 pounds when purchased but after being cooked for 4 hours, its weight decreased by half.

As for the other foods that we ate, it was pretty much the same as Christmas (you can check the last journal for my Christmas experience). During the holiday season, the appetizers and desert are typically remain the same for large meals. The only dish that changed was the main course, which is the meat. On Christmas, we ate a piglet, and for New Years, we ate ribs. The typical holiday appetizers are chorizo seco (dried sausage), matambre (thin cut of beef), bread, salad, as well as escabeche de pollo (chicken and vegetables), and vitel tone (tuna and mayonaise). Desert is usually pan dulce (sweet bread), garrapiñadas (dried peanuts covered in sugar), mantecol (peanut butter blocks), and fruit salad.

After many laughs, conversations, and food, I fell asleep around 3 AM. Then, I woke up the next day on January 1st and did it all over again! 20 more people came over and we ate the same things for lunch. As you can probably imagine, a lot of food was made. I am so grateful for my host family here who make me feel included and a part of their family instead of an outsider. I know I will always be welcome in my home here, even after my exchange ends in July.

In my Christmas journal, I had written that Noche Buena (Dec. 24) and Christmas Day were not the only days for exchanging gifts here. Argentinians also celebrate Los Reyes Magos (The Wise Men) on January 6th. It is a date to remember the Wise Men and their gifts of myrrh, gold, and frankincense to Jesus. Young children would put their shoes out on the night of January 5th, and by the next morning, there were gifts in their shoes. This year on January 6th for me, the Wise Men gifted me traditional Argentine shoes! They are some cloth slip on shoes called “alpargatas” and are used by people who live in the countryside.

In other news, I went to Alberti on January 3rd alone and stayed for two days (Friday and Saturday). Since I go to Alberti so often (I go atleast once a month), the bus driver now knows who I am and we even have an inside joke! When I go to Alberti, I usually help out my grandmother, cook and learn her delicious recipes, and have fun conversations with my host grandmother, host cousins, and neighbors.

On that Saturday morning in Alberti, I sat in the kitchen with my host grandmother, her bother, and the house cleaner who had sat down briefly after cleaning. Being the type of person my host grandmother is, she instantly offered cookies and mate to her. As we all sat in the kitchen drinking mate, they reminiscently told me stories of how they celebrated Christmas and New Years when they were kids. On Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, streets would be closed off so that the neighborhood could dance and sing in the streets all night; things like your age, who you are, or what you do didn’t matter, the only important thing was having fun. Another tradition that they talked about with nostalgia was Serenata, which is where people sing, chant, and bang on pots and pans outside of a neighbor’s window. Then, the neighbor hears them, opens the window, and gives them a pan dulce (sweet bread) or wine! Things like this are my favorite parts of exchange: connecting with people in a authentic way and learning new things about people in Argentina.

The next day, I took a mini trip to the capital, Buenos Aires. The capital city is a completely different environment from Alberti. However, I had an amazing time there with my host parents, host brother, and my host brother’s girlfriend. From walking in the colorful streets of La Boca to browsing the most beautiful book store in the world and laughing in a restaurant with my host family, I have lots of great memories.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Europeans immigrated to the port-cities of Argentina. Among these cities, La Boca, Buenos Aires was where many Italians had immigrated. The immigrant and traditional styles of music and dance began to mix, which lead to new styles such as tango. Now, La Boca is a big tourist hub, a vibrant home for tango, and the home to one of Argentina’s most famous soccer teams, Boca Juniors.

After the visit of La Boca, we ate lunch at a restaurant nearby. Following a nice lunch, we went to Buenos Aires’ famous book store, El Ateneo, to relax and browse books. El Ateneo is a beautiful library that was originally a theater! The box seat-areas are now reading corners with furniture, and the stage is a converted cafe where you can order pasteries, coffee, cake, etc.

Before I end this journal, I want to share one of my main intentions for this year, which is to be present. Exchange goes by so fast and it takes my breath away when I realize that I am almost half way though. I’ve been living with this intention of being present from the beginning of exchange, but it is always good to remind myself to be present and live in the moment. Searching for what I can do where I am, with the people I am with, is how I plan to make the most of my time here.

Thanks for reading! And hope you all had a wonderful New Year!

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