Jake and I devoured our leftover empanadas for brunch (?) and finally rallied around one or so to explore our neighborhood. We walked through Lincoln Park towards Millennium Park to check out the Bean and the Art Institute. Just kidding (the “bean” is the cover photo, called the Floralis Genérica). But both of us felt like we were in Chicago until we reached the city’s most famous tourist attraction, the Cemetario de la Recoleta. It was beautiful and mysterious, but wandering without a tour guide is only intriguing for about 20 minutes. We managed to catch some tango in a park just outside of the cemetery and it turned out to be the only time we saw the infamous dance in its city of origin.
After a nap, I dragged Jake back to Palermo for dinner to try a pizza place the guidebook recommended. Jake and I get along very well but when it comes to how we deal with money, we are complete opposites. The financial support my parents give me for college covers my necessary living expenses, and in turn allows me to use the income I generate on entertainment, namely food. I have always been a big fan of food and won’t hesitate for a second to spend $50 on one meal. (My friends and family acknowledge that this is ridiculous for a college student.) Jake, on the other hand, budgets that same amount for an entire month. If someone unfamiliar with contemporary American cuisine looked at how the two of us purchased food, I’m sure they’d think I try to spend as much money on as little food as possible, while Jake does the exact opposite. I’m convinced it took every fiber of his being to allow himself to spend $25 on pizza and a split salad that “didn’t fill him up”. It led to some fascinating conversations though on who we are now and who we hope to become upon participating in the Casa program.
But, with the anticipation of a semester with little time for partying, we called Juli and co. to show us the ropes. They came over around 1am for a previa/pre-boliche (pregame). We played a few drinking games with cards that were by far the highlight of the evening. Jake and I were familiar with a few of them but the Argentine versions proved to be far more entertaining. Our lingual and cultural differences provided so many hysterical moments. I feel it is important to note that one of those cultural differences is the lack of drinking that takes place in Argentine drinking games. The girls enjoyed playing for the sake of the game, not the drinking (six of them split a liter of beer over the course of an hour – that’s about 6oz each).
Because the girls knew how the men in the US dance, they showed us the proper way to dance with an Argentine woman before we left. (Hint: it involves much less grinding/juking/twerking/sexing on the dance floor.) We got to the club around 2:30am, but even after three hours of walking around, the only girls who would dance with us were the ones we came with. I don’t know if it was because they knew we were terrible at dancing or if we missed something altogether, but around 6:30, we gave up and left. On our walk back to the apartment, we agreed that despite our lack of success with the ladies, the guys all seemed way nicer than back home. Our guess was that this is probably because they weren’t belligerently drunk and relentlessly trying to pick up girls. Needless to say, we were tired, and went to bed.
Jake is far more involved with DePaul’s University Ministry, and for the second time he provided an invaluable connection during our brief stint in BA. Jake has a close relationship with a priest on our campus named Father Memo, and upon hearing of Jake’s plans to visit Buenos Aires, Father Memo connected him with a fellow Vincentian priest named Hugo. It seems that Hugo is interested in establishing some sort of program similar to that of the Casa network with DePaul, which may explain why he treated us like ambassadors. He picked us up around 11am and drove us to Luján, a town about an hour and a half outside the city. He showed us a truly breathtaking church that was built by a Vincentian and designed similarly to Notre Dam. Hugo also helps run a school in the town and took us there to show us where future DePaul students might work if the program comes to fruition.
The highlight of the day, however, was lunch. In the campo (countryside), meat is plentiful, and the parrillas (grills) often take on a new form: parrilla libre. It’s similar to a Brazilian steakhouse in that you pay a fixed price to get unlimited meat, but you order it instead of “gauchos” bringing it to you on sticks. I’ve been to many of Chicago’s top steakhouses and enjoyed plenty of fine red meat in the States, but without exaggeration, it was the best meat I’ve ever eaten. I was concerned about how to ask for my meat rare, but they didn’t even ask. It didn’t matter, though; it was so tender and melt-in-your-mouth fantastic that they could have left it on the grill all day without it losing its remarkable flavor. Hugo explained that the restaurant has a deal with a local cow farm (you can see it from the restaurant) and that our meal of grass-fed beef couldn’t be any fresher. Here was the best part: It was thirty pesos, which is around $5. I felt like a fool after our expensive dinner in Palermo, but Jake and I laughed it off and found it hard to care about anything other than the amazing food in front of us.
We arose out of our food comas back in Buenos Aires just in time to pack up and catch our bus to Córdoba. The bus was very nice (think business-class seating) and provided much entertainment with a remake of The Three Stooges dubbed in Spanish. We settled in and fell asleep anxious to arrive at our new home.
Overall, I enjoyed my time in BA, but its similarities to Chicago (or any big city) made it hard to appreciate for everything it has to offer. Granted, I know we saw a limited amount of the city and going with my family on a “sponsored” trip will offer a whole new perspective. But Jake and I agreed that if Buenos Aires is truly the “Paris of Latin America,” neither of us are dying to go to Paris. Big cities around the world are similar and have little distinction between them anymore in our rapidly changing, globalized planet. I can’t help but think of my grandfather who explained this to me many years ago, and that in fact the places that are most interesting to visit are the “second and third tier” cities and towns. He’s right. And I’m more than happy to head to Córdoba for precisely that reason.