A New Beginning

Apologizing in advance for the quick post. The taxi to take me to the airport comes in t-4 hours and I need a wee bit of shut-eye before I head to Perú. That’s right, Perú! And I’m beyond excited. This post is called a “new beginning” because my study abroad program has essentially ended, but it’s just the start of my 3-week adventure. Today, I’m heading to Cusco, where I’ll meet my friend Phoebe and we’ll see the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. I’ll be back in BsAs July 3rd, greeting my sisters and parents at the airport July 4th, heading to Salta with the fam July 7th, back to Buenos Aires and on to Isla Mujeres July 12th, and finally, POR FIN, back in DC July 18th. It’s an adventure.

How I feel right now:
– Exhausted
– Bittersweet

I’m hoping to take the next few hours of my sitting on a plane to reflect on this past semester and compose a better post of my collected thoughts.
In the meantime, VAMOS! Adventure is out there.


The Subte

The Subte

Thought I’d share this snap from the subte (subway) the other day.

It’s easy to hate the subte. It smells, it’s dirty, it’s crowded (I’m talking sardines, crowded, AKA 10 times worse than DC rush hour), people are constantly selling chotskies in it, it’s unreliable (like today when the entire Linea B closed with no explanation, just in time to leave me stranded at rush hour).
BUT, when comparing the subte to DC’s metro, the only similar form of transportation I really know well enough to make a comparison with, I might just take the subte. WHY? Because it’s full of life.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my multiple daily subte rides in Buenos Aires, it’s that there’s never a dull moment on the train. When I tried to explain to my host mom that you can’t sell things in the DC metro, that only recently have people been able to play music (after a lengthy permit application process that sounds like bureaucratic hell based on how it’s been described to me), and that there’s absolutely no eating or drinking whatsoever (remember when that 13 year-old from Missouri was arrested for eating a Twix bar?), she looked at me confused. “De verdad? [Really?]” she asked. She wanted to know how (or why) people seem to follow all those silly metro regulations, which is a very good question. And added that it sounded a bit boring. She’s right.

My most recent subte ride coming home from my internship is a perfect example of subtle, subte charm (point for puns? hah). After waiting on the platform for approximately 20 minutes (apparently there was some unbeknownst delay and there are no signs/anything indicating when the next train is coming into the station), I squeezed into the last car packed with porteños on their way home from work and school. Each time someone pushed their way in at a new stop, the car would give a collective sigh but most would grin an bear it, laughing at the situation, I suppose. And how can you not laugh? The subte at rush hour destroys any preconceived notion you ever had of personal space. Everyone is there. And every type of person is there, too. The subte doesn’t discriminate. Everyone rides it, young, old, rich, poor. Tonight, there was a screaming baby to my left and an stout business man glued to his phone to my right. Out of the middle of a crowded car, a man loudly says “Damas y Caballeros, su atención por favor! [Ladies and Gentlemen, your attention please!]” and suddenly there’s the sound of an electric guitar, followed by various indigenous instruments from around Latin America (drums, a flute, you name it).

This guy was doing some very cool, innovative, fusion-based music in the middle of the subte car at rush hour. All of us were captivated. The baby stopped crying, the business man looked up from his phone. This traveling musician had all of our attention. When he finished, the car erupted into applause and he passed around a hat which many were glad to throw a few pesos into.

It’s rides like these that make me easily forget about the crowds, the grime, the unreliability. The subte is ALIVE.

In about a month I’ll be back to riding DC’s red, orange, blue, yellow and green lines. Chances are that most times while in the metro, I’ll know when the next train is coming, and I’ll have a seat and some peace and quiet. But I’ll also most likely be pretty darn bored.

I like to eat.

In 17 days I’ll be done with all academics in Buenos Aires.  (This also means that in the next 17 days I need to somehow produce 50 pages of Spanish writing. Hmm…).

In 19 days I’ll be boarding flight to Perú to tour Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu with Phoebe.

In 25 days I’ll be welcoming my mom, dad, and two crazy sisters to Argentina.

In 32 days the Katz/Morningstar fam heads to Isla Mujeres, México for some much-needed sun after this South American winter.

ANDDDD in 39 days, I will be HOME, back in DC and reunited with so many people that I have dearly missed.

IT’S WEIRD.  It’s weird that in about five weeks I’ll no longer be in Latin America.  It’s weird that a month from now I’m saying goodbye to Argentina.   But in the meantime, I’m focusing on enjoying Buenos Aires for all that it has to offer these next few weeks, all while attempting to crank out those 50 wretched pages of castellano papers. So what does that mean? Lots of things. But one that I want to focus on in this post is without a doubt the most important: FOOD.

As most of you reading this already know, I love everything about food.  I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to go to restaurants, markets; even the grocery store is a good time.  So with less than a month left in this country with so many good eats, I’m chowing down.  I’ve luckily found some great foodie friends here in Buenos Aires, and together, we’re trying to conquer all that BsAs has to offer when it comes to comida.  Even though it’s a bit too early to reminisce about this semester as a whole, I believe it’s never too early to reminisce about food.  And thus, I present, FONDEST FOOD MEMORIES TO DATE. Feast with your eyes, dear friends:

1) LO to da MO.  Already featured in a previous blog entry, these steak sandwiches with the works are dabombdot.com. I had my first in Mendoza and haven’t stopped since. Same goes for its sister sandwich, the chivito, native to Uruguay and just as delicious.  I happened to eat two chivitos over the course of 24 hours last weekend while on a short trip to Carmelo, Uruguay with my derechos humanos group.


2) Alfajores. Cookies typically filled with dulce de leche, sometimes covered in chocolate to boot. OH SO SWEET (sometimes a bit too sweet for me, if I may say that…), but still tasty. Look at these fancy shmancy artisanal ones from a street fair back in March.


3) Parilla. ASADO.  Meat meat meat.  This photo comes from the IFSA asado at Mario’s beautiful house in Uruguay’s lemon groves.  There’s a nice hunk of perfectly seasoned beef, sweet potatoes, salad, and some clerico (essentially a sangria but with white wine) to wash it down.  And to think there was a time when I didn’t eat red meat… Never again.


4) Dulce de leche. I mean, the photo is enough.  My sweet tooth has grown to epic proportions here thanks in large part to this stuff:


5) VINO.  It is Argentina, after all, and the wine is always flowing (let alone super duper cheap).  This shot is from Mendoza (malbec on malbec on malbec).


6) CHEESE AND BREAD.  This spread will forever be remembered as the most epic wine-pairing ever.  Where? Narbona Vineyard in Carmelo, Uruguay.  I was lucky enough to go back to this place last weekend with the derechos humanos peeps on our weekend trip, and once again we nommed hardcore.  so much bread. so much cheese. so much wine. heaven.


7) Cheese on a stick.  A few friends and I happened upon this random little cart while walking around the Feria del Libro in April.  These genius women were making what they called “queso brulé,” by taking a blow-torch to a hunk of mozzarella and wah-lah!  Delicious.


8) Empanadas.  It also wouldn’t be Argentina without these lil’ dudes.  I’ll take ’em filled with cheese, spinach, corn, beef, chicken, you name it.  The ones below are fried and topped with sugar, and come from an empanada making class a few friends and I took last month with a friendly woman named Teresita.


9) MALVÓN.  I cannot say enough good things about this lil’ cafe located (conveniently) a hop skip and a jump from my apartment.  I go for tea, I go for cake, I go for delicacies like these airy English muffins with lox and creme fraiche.  I technically go with the intention of getting some serious work done, but I often find myself unable to concentrate due to incredible food I’m eating.  Nom-city, I tell you.  Going there again tomorrow.


10) Hot Pastrami.  I dedicated an entire post to this sandwich earlier, but here it is again just so you can all salivate. La Crespo’s hot pastrami with pickles on rye is ON POINT.  Reppin’ my Jewish roots and our lovely deli food. This is reason enough to come to Villa Crespo.


10) Ceviche at Chan Chan.  This is a new addition to the list, and definitely deserves its spot.  Chan Chan is a tiny, hole-in-the -wall, Peruvian restaurant in an mehh area of town.  But it’s always jammed packed and there’s a reason why: its food is reasonably priced and quite good. I went for the first time with some pals the other night and the highlight of the meal was definitely the massive platter of ceviche (which cost about $9 US, for the record).  Add some pisco to that and the meal is perfect. Ceviche at Chan Chan

11) Cheesecake at Cafe Crespin.  It’s delicious.  It’s one block from my crib.  VILLA CRESPO FOOD MECCA.


And with that, my friends, I sign-off.  Wish me luck as I continue to eat my way through Argentina!  Helloooo elastic pants.

Water Water Everywhere

Image^^THAT is Iguazú Falls, also known as Las Cataratas del Iguazú (Spanish), Cataratas do Iguaçu (Portuguese), or Chororo Yguasu (Guarani).  And they are even more breathtaking than they appear above.

This past weekend, two of my closest friends here and I boarded an omnibus and headed for Misiones, 20 hours northeast of Buenos Aires by bus, bordering Paraguay and Brazil.  Given my previous nightmarish omnibus experience, I was less than thrilled about the equivalent of almost a full-day spent on a bus, but surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad!  For starters, we had “cama” seats, meaning they were a lot roomier and flattened-out into a bed.  Secondly, we were served dinner and breakfast.  Also included was my favorite cheap Malbec, from Trapiche Vineyards in Mendoza (a couple glasses of that and I was knocked out for a good 5 hours at least).  So for starters, thank you, Via Bariloche (omnibus kings, I’d say), for making a 20 hour bus ride as bearable as possible.

And so, after 20 hours (yes 20 hours, veinte horas, LOTS OF TIME), we arrived in Puerto Iguazú, the city on the Argentine side of the falls.  That brings me to a bit of geography.  As you might have guessed from the many names listed above, Iguazú Falls lies in Paraguay, Brazil and, last but not least, Argentina.  Most of the tourism is split between Brazil and Argentina, with Argentina apparently being a bit more touristy than Brazil.  I wouldn’t know the difference because, a las, I did not get to the Brazilian side, in part due to a lack of time but mostly due to a lack of a Brazilian visa 😦  Next time!

Back to the wonderful Argentine side:  Upon arrival, we promptly found the closest place for a cold Quilmes and empanadas, both of which were much needed.  Then, we taxied to our hotel, La Aldea de La Selva, a cool jungle lodge conveniently located about halfway between the town and the entrance to the national park.  We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out and enjoying the sounds of the rainforest.

The next morning we woke up, ate a huge breakfast, and headed to national park.  First thought upon entering the park is that it looked a bit like Disney World. Every path is paved, there’s a little train that takes people throughout the park, and kiosks and souvenir stands abound.  Definitely not like the national park in Patagonia that my mom and I visited.  I was a little bummed about all this touristy-business, but then we saw what everyone was there to see, and suddenly I could care less about the concrete walkways and junk food for sale.

One of the cool things about all the paths in the park is that they allow you to see the falls from different heights and angles.  Our first stop was the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), essentially the big cheese of Iguazú.  This is the top of the falls, and to get to it, you walk on an elevated path above tranquil water for about 10 minutes before coming upon the deafening, monstrous, INCREDIBLE top of the falls.

Take a look:

ImageYEAH.  Lots of water. The sound was

We then did some more hiking down to the foot of the falls, where we boarded a boat to head INTO the falls.  I’ve never been to Niagara Falls, but from what I’ve heard, this boat tour was no Maid of the Mist.  This was like Maid of the DOWNPOUR.  We purposely saved this part for the end our day since we heard that you’d be absolutely soaked.  And we were.  It was oh so much fun.  See below:


This was the boat in front of us right before going into the falls.


And here we are right before I put my camera away and guarded with my LIFE  (aka lots and lots of plastic bags and apparently a water-proof rubber bag that looked questionable).

After the falls we headed back to our hotel to rest up, and then headed back to the park for the Paseo de la Luna, a moon-lit tour of the falls.  Mari booked the tour weeks in advance when she saw that we’d be there during a full moon, which is the only time they hold the tours in the first place.  We essentially saw the same sights we’d seen during the day (specifically, the Garganta del Diablo), but the only lighting was the full moon, and it was INCREDIBLE.  It was pretty hard to capture on camera, hence the lack of pictures, but let me just tell you that seeing a massive waterfall in the middle of the night lit by a giant moon is a very, very cool experience.

Our last day in Iguazú started super early with a jungle safari! We purposely booked the early one in hopes of seeing more animals, but unfortunately weren’t super lucky.  We did, however, see a group of monkeys briefly.  Love me some monkeys, but the lil’ buggers ran away before I could snap a pic. Some more hiking in the afternoon and a final few hours relaxing by the pool ended our time in Iguazú.  All in all, a very magical, quick trip.  Now back to the semi-real world of Buenos Aires and those pesky final papers I have to write…

THIS sandwich

THIS sandwich

Haven’t posted in a while and about to run out the door so I’ll make this quick, but CHECK OUT THIS SANDWICH. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a hot pastrami sandwich creation from La Crespo, a deli conveniently located 2 blocks from my doorstep. I popped in for the first time last week and keep going back (heading there for round 3 in 10 days tomorrow afternoon). Disclaimer: It’s not kosher (sorry, Dad), but for those who aren’t so kashrut savvy, check this place out. La Crespo, think hipster meets Jewish deli, is perfect perfect perfect. So far I’ve tried this sandwich (winner winner chicken dinner), the bagel and lox (good for BsAs but I do miss my Bethesda Bagels), a lox and cream cheese knish (heavenly), and a cream cheese brownie (another bite of wonderful).

Bottom line: I think I found my favorite sandwich. Here’s to putting on the pounds these last 6 weeks.

“One of those service trips”

The whole gang.

The whole gang.

This post goes out to all my Global Development Studies buds and professors, because all I could think about in the days leading up to the trip I’m about to chronicle was just that, G-D-S.

A few weeks ago I signed up for a volunteer service trip, here simply called “un voluntariado,” with the group Caminantes.  I heard about the trip via an IFSA email, and a few people I knew were going.  The plan was to paint a school and hang out with children, described to us as an opportunity to help people, “do good,” etc.  I read the description and immediately thought back to my GDS classes in which we bashed these types of trips.  The way I saw it:  A bunch of wealthy American students are bused out to a field with a school in terrible conditions, we’re greeted by people from all over the town and hoards of hungry young children.  We spend a few days painting a school, “roughing it” in a refugio with no hot water, play with some kids, take pictures with said kids to post on Facebook, and bus back to Buenos Aires, never to return again.  Yeah we’d paint a school, but they school would soon be neglected again.  Yeah we’d play with some kids, but we’d soon abandon them to never return, crushing their happiness.  The kids on this trip were going for self-fulfillment, to “feel good” about themselves, etc.  All the wrong reasons, all the wrong things.  It was a type of modern-neo-colonialism and it was a bad idea.

THAT was my outlook.  Cynical, eh?  Or critical?  (The cynical/critical question is a big one when it comes to global development, and academics, in general, I guess).  Either way, I was very skeptical of this trip.

And yet, I signed-up.

Why?  On the one hand, I wanted to go somewhere new and meet new people.  But there was also a part of me that wanted to see if my uber-critical view was right, if all these trips were really no-good.  This was to be a type of on-ground experience (field work?) to either prove or misprove my theory on white people doing service trips in poverty-stricken, foreign parts of the world.

And BOY AM I GLAD I WENT.  I learned A LOT.  I climbed-off of my high horse and realized that all of these trips aren’t necessarily that bad.  So after that obnoxiously long preamble, here goes a description of where we went, what went down, and what I took away from it:

Our group gathered on a street corner in Caballito at 10 PM last Thursday night in the drizzle, laden with backpacks, sleeping bags, pant brushes and snacks. The first surprise for me of the trip were those who came along, Argentines! I knew that the organization in charge of everything was Argentine (called Caminantes, check them out on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caminantes-de-Buenos-Aires/325324217482726?fref=ts), but I had no idea that  a bunch of Argentines, around our age, were coming on the trip with us.  This was a game-changer, especially given my pessimistic outlook.  One of the reasons I’d been skeptical of this trip was because I worried there would be no real connection to where we were going.  But we were with Argentines, and one of our team members personally knew the principal of the school, hence the connection.

After a 10 hour overnight bus ride in the boring rain, we arrived in Curuzu Cuatia, located in the Corrientes province (borders Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil!).  Curuzu Cuatia’s not a tourist destination by any means, and neither is the state of Corrientes, for the most part.  When I told people in Buenos Aires that I was heading there, most people responded with “why?” followed by  some comment on how poor the state is.  And they’re right.  There’s not much to do there. But that’s ok, because we had our work cut-out for us.

Upon arriving at Escuela No. 36, we got right to work.  The next 3 days were spent stripping paint, sanding walls, paining the ceiling, painting the doors, painting the walls.  Paint Paint Paint Paint.  It was exhausting and tiring.  But there was also something therapeutic about the whole experience.  For three whole days I had nothing to do, nothing to worry about, other than making this lil’ school look awesome. And it did look awesome.

For anyone who’s ever taken on any sort of improvement project, you’ll know that feeling of satisfaction and pride you get when you rip off that last piece of tape, paint that last piece of wall, step back, and look at what you’ve done.  It was just a paint job, but Escuela No. 36 looked pretty darn nice.  The afternoon of our last day, the directors of the school and some members of the community threw us a huge asado, comparable to a good ol’ barbecue in the US, but oh-so-better.  There was lamb out the wahzoo (José, who works at the school, killed two for us the day before), chorizo, salads and potatoes and postres.  Everything was so fresh, so delicious. The way food should be.

Post-the asado, a number of kids who attend the school came for some organized activities. We played some learning games, lots of soccer, just had a good time.  It was low-key, relaxing, and really fun.

Before climbing on the bus to head back home, we popped by the Doma going on across the road from the school.  What’s a doma, you ask?  Very good question because I had no idea, and neither did many of the Porteños on our trip.  It’s essentially a rodeo, and it comes from the verb domarse, which means to tame (like dominate, eh?).   It as gaucho central, and it was SO cool.   I wish we could have stayed longer.

I also want to throw in an anecdote:  We were sitting around a campfire one night after dinner, talking a bit before heading to sleep, when in the distant we see three people approaching us.  Three boys, none of whom looked older than 13, come out of the field and suddenly stop, observe, and listen.  After a few minutes, the eldest one moves forward and goes up to one of the Argentines on the trip, Leandro, and asks what language we were speaking and where we were from.   When Leandro told him English, the kid looked shocked.  He then explained that him and his friends didn’t go to school, they worked during the day, they didn’t have a TV at home, and they’d only heard English a few times on the radio, so they couldn’t recognize the language. They were fascinated.  A few of us went over to talk to them.  All three of the boys commented on how tall I was (the average male height in Argentine is about 5 ft 7 and women are much shorter) and asked if there was a way they could guarantee their own height.   I smiled and said vegetables, without a doubt.  It’s hard to put into words what this interaction was like, but talking to these kids was awe-inspiring.  Their lives are so vastly different. This is such an understatement, but it gave me perspective.

And that, my friends, was my community service trip experience.  It was eye-opening.  It was an opportunity for me to see something that I otherwise never would have.  It was a chance to see a different way of life, and do help fix up a school.  I didn’t do it for my own benefit, for my own feel-good experience.  I guess you can say it was a mitzvah.  I went with a critical view. I returned with an optimistic one.  Was this global development?  I’m not sure.  What I do know: trips like these, where you do something feasible, where you have a relationship that makes the connection sustainable, where both sides take something away from the experience, THESE types of trips are worth it.

I want to close with a quote written on one of the walls in the school:

“Sabías que el 99,9% de las personas del mundo no saben que vos existís? Pero acá va un beso y un abrazo del 0,01% que está feliz de que existas!”

In English:  Did you know that 99.9% of the world doesn’t know that you exist?  But here is a kiss and a huge from the 0.1% that are happy you exist!

That quote, as sappy as it seems, says it all.  I, for one, now know that Escuela No. 36 exists.  We’re now part of the 0.1% that know about this school, about those kids.  Those kids know that WE know.  And it matters.

Below are a few photos from the trip!  Thanks for reading this novel of an entry 🙂

Gaucho life.

Gaucho life.



Madre mía y Patagonia

Two+ weeks since my last post?!!  Oy.  My bad, guys.  I’ve been super busy with a combination of real classwork for the first time this semester (blah), and, most excitingly, my momma’s visit!  She’s now safely and soundly back in the US, and this post will largely sum up our fabulous time together.

My lovely mother touched down in Buenos Aires the morning of April 18th.  DISCLAIMER: the entire premise of this trip was the famous Morningstar “you can sleep when you’re dead” mantra, so we hit the ground running and didn’t stop until she departed this past Tuesday night.  First stop was Villa Crespo so that my mom could meet Rita and see my BsAs digs.   After coffee with Rita at my favorite neighborhood cafe, Cafe Crespin (they have THE BEST alfajores ever, sin duda), we booked it to our hotel in Palermo Hollywood.  But again, no rest for the weary, so we dropped our bags and headed to the Recoleta Cemetery for some walking.  Here’s my beautiful momma chilling by the tombs:


We walked and walked and walked and walked and finally paused for the first time for some afternoon beers and a nosh.   Then we walked and walked and walked some more back to our hotel, changed, and headed to dinner at Local.  Delicious restaurant in Palermo Hollywood, modern Argentine food.  All my BsAs buddies should check it out.  Dirección: Arévalo 2063.

Day 2 began with a 4:30 AM wake-up call, followed by our Aerolineas Argentina flight to El Calafate.  Just to give you an idea of where we were, here’s a pic of a handy map located in the Calafate airport:


The airport is located in the middle of nowhere.  You land, walk out the doors and are surrounded by beautiful hills and a river and blue sky but absolutely no people.  A cab magically appeared and we headed to our hotel, a good 20 minute drive away.  Exhausted from our early morning flight, we took the afternoon to walk into town, admire the beautiful Lago Argentino, and for the first and last time of the trip, relax.  That night my mom had her first true Argentina parilla experience at restaurant La Tablita.  Patagonia goat, choripan (for my pork-loving momma), steak upon steak, potatoes, dulce de leche crepes, and, of course, malbec on malbec on malbec.  It was a feast/nom-fest.

Day 3 was GLACIER CITY BAY-BAY!  On Day 3 we visited the glacier Perito Moreno and it was awe-inspiring.  Our tour picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the national park.  The first part of our day was walking along the “balcones,” essentially cement paths, in front of the north side of the glacier.   When we first arrived at the balcones, our view of the glacier was nada.   It was cloudy, cold, misty, and we couldn’t see a darn thing.  My mom and I looked at each other, sighed, tried to make the best out of our lack of a view, we were STILL in Patagonia, for goodness’ sake, and started back towards the lodge for a coffee.  AND THEN.  TAH-DAH! Out comes the sun and suddenly, SUDDENLY, we get this view:


It was something out of a movie.  Over the course of about 30 seconds we went from grey clouds to blue glaciers.  It was overwhelming, and prompted tons of photo ops like these:


Next up was actually walking around on said glacier.  We boated over to the glacier’s south side, stuck on some cramp-ons and followed our guide over a the blue and white ice.  Here we are about to hike on the glacier:


It was SO COOL.  But also exhausting and a wee bit cold.  Our tour for the day ended with alfajores (typpp) and a shot of whisky (delicious and much needed).

Day 4: We got up early to catch the bus to El Chalten, a tiny mountain town only settled in the ’80s and located 3 hours north of El Calafate.  Chalten’s claim to fame is the granite-faced Mount Fitz Roy (also the mountain featured in the clothing company Patagonia’s label.  FUN FACT!).  Just LOOK at this baby:


We hiked for a good 2 hours before getting to the lake pictured above. After a picnic lunch of cheese, cookies, apples and more cheese, we descended back to town, scarfed down some yummy waffles at this cool cafe and headed back to Calafate.

Day 5 was back to Buenos Aires.  We headed to my favorite cafe, Bartola, on Gurruchaga, for some munchies, then trekked to my Argentine history class at the famed and crazy UBA so that my mom could see for herself just how insane-in-the-membrane this place is.  Her reaction was perfect, lots of “wooahhh”s and “how different!”s.  It was cool to show her around (even if I’m still shocked myself every time I walk through UBA’s doors).  Dinner that night was at Sudestada, the best lil’ Thai restaurant in BA, rivaling Bethesda’s famed Sweet Basil.

Day 6: Breakfast at our hotel, walking around El Centro, and a very teary good-bye at the airport.

All in all, a fabulous time with my momma.  Can’t wait to welcome her back and welcome the rest of my fam to Argentina for the first time come July!

Chau chau!