Sunday, February 21, 2010

there's a little tortuga on my porch and dani's going into the army in a week or so...

There's a little turtle on my porch,
and it tried to come inside the house...

I just arrived at my new homestay (where I'll be staying for one only week) and actually spotted a turtle trying to come inside the house from the porch and somehow it crazily reminded me that Dani (my little bro) is going into the Israeli army on March 8th. EEEEK!

so now I'm going to freak out a little..

what the heck!?
(oh, goodness. i just watched a video of him (dani, not the turtle) licking the floor of the shuk or market in Jerusalem!! He is one silly, crazy dude!! The silly things 18-year-old's do to impress their friends? or themselves? and win some money for it...or it's probably just Dani...)

Anyhoo. Somehow watching that video really calmed me down. He's still the same ol' silly absolutely ridiculous Donster!!

...Back in Buenos Aires - basically I signed up to take intensive language classes for three weeks, leaving one week open before my actual study abroad program would start, so that I could travel if I wanted to. But since I didn't find a travel partner for the one week, I decided to continue taking language classes for another week - really practice my Spanish - and stay with a new family (since my original family had planned a vacation for this week since a while back...)

Now I'm staying much much closer to my school in the Belgrano neighborhood - my host family lives only 6 blocks away! And there's a lovely large porch right next to my room that's filled with greenery AND...apparently a turtle too!
It was really a blast to stay with my first host family - since Adriana was almost like a "host sister" instead of a host mother since she's only 29.
But I only just met Maria Cristina (who's middle-aged and actually like a "host mother") and already, I'm just as excited to be staying here too. She was so friendly and welcoming - and since I'm starting afresh, with three weeks of intensive spanish under my belt, I feel that I can communicate with her in Spanish so much more than with my first family!
She also has one child still living with her- and I'm not sure if it's a guy or a girl (it's early Sunday morning and they're still sleeping now), but I know that he/she is likely older than me, probably in their 20's...

I'm off to have a little siesta now, so I'll post more later or tomorrow...besos.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

tres semanas en Buenos Aires!

I've been in Buenos Aires for three weeks already!

Of course it feels like I've been here for months...
and of course the second week went much faster than the first, and the third faster than the second...

The Spanish classes have only been getting better and I feel more confident using (the non-existent Spanish that I have) while I'm out on the street.

Two Sundays ago, I met up with Karen for lunch in the kosher area in Recoletta (on Av. Tucuman) and had my first meat (well, chicken) in Buenos Aires! I had delicious milanesa which equivalent to our schnitzel (or breaded-chicken). Karen had to run off to a bike tour with her program, and I just wandered around the kosher area for a bit, planning to just walk around the city a lot and eventually walk back to my apartment.

So I walked into a kosher supermercado (supermarket) without an aim to buy something specific, rather to find someone I could chat with in Hebrew or maybe even in English....since they had a sign on the front of their shop that said "we speak Ivrit and English," which was a friendly sign to read! So, I asked the cashier if he spoke Hebrew or English and he directed me to a random customer, named Damian who I was able to chat with in Hebrew about my studies here, and about the Jewish community in Buenos Aires. As most Argentinians are really friendly, he gave me his number in case I ever needed anything!

And so,
since that Sunday things have only been getting better...

The day after that I went to this fantastic outdoor concert called La bomba de tiempo - which is a group of percussionists that perform every Monday night, or as some websites like to call it a "a weekly percussion extravaganza," which is definitely a suitable name!
I'll definitely be going to La bomba again and will be sure to post some pictures or sound clips....

During the second and third week I spent more time with my host family Adriana and her son Lucio (and her boyfriend Paolo). I taught Lucio how to play the card game Set, which was a fun relief from the language barrier we had, because he caught on to the rules pretty quickly! After we played once, almost anytime I came home and Lucio was too, he wanted to play Set a million times - like all nine-year-old's like to play the same game over and over again! Luckily Set wasn't the only game we played (though I am a big fan) because I also became really good at the mini-est version of table pool you've ever seen, and along with Adriana and Paolo one night we played a fun game of Pictionary (in Spanish - which was quite the challenge for me, especially late at night).

Meanwhile, I wandered around the city a bunch these past weeks - I spent a big chunk of time in Palermo - the biggest barrio (neighborhood) in Buenos Aires, enjoyed one afternoon in the botanical gardens, and wandered around Palermo Soho - which is named for it's similarities to the soho neighborhoods in New York and London.
I went to the MNBA museum (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes), one afternoon, which is a wonderfully extensive art museum that I must must must go back to because there is so much to see...
Last Sunday I went to a beautiful fair in Recoletta Park and besides wandering around the fair, I happened upon some of the most beautiful trees, called Ombu trees, in all of Buenos Aires!
(Since I don't have a camera at the moment - check out some of these photos - )

And of course I also had a few fun nights out - dancing salsa, reggaeton, and more! Going out on the weekends is very different here since most parties don't start till 3am or later, so it will be pretty normal for me to stay out till 7 or 8am on some Saturday nights, like one week ago...

In more recent news....!
...the weather here has been pretty crazy and quite scary the last few days - just yesterday (Friday the 19th) there was an intense rain flood in the main parts of the city that I got caught in (luckily on a bus, and not in a taxi) while on my way over to the family I was staying with for Shabbat. It was almost as if the Río de la Plata spilled right into the city blocks!

I found some photos from local newspapers that really captured similar images to what I witnessed from the window of my bus --- though the normally 15 min ride took me over an hour, we luckily didn't get stuck in the water...

(photos came from here: and and )

Saturday, February 6, 2010


After one long and splendid first week filled with intensive Spanish classes and fun/funny tango classes, Friday afternoon finally arrived and my Shabbat plans were not yet arranged. (classic last minute Eliana act!)

Since it's the summer here, apparently a lot of the Jewish community is away, and even though I asked various folks to find me a religious family with whom I could stay for the weekend, no plans came through.

About two hours before Shabbat I frantically called up some Chabad families/houses to find a last minute place to stay, and practically no one answered their phone, and the one or two that did answer, only spoke Spanish (no English and not even Hebrew)!

So at the last straw, I tried calling that original Chabad that had responded to an e-mail I wrote to them, or who I thought was that Chabad, and this friendly woman named Chana, who luckily spoke English, answered and gave me some great advice!! She told me to contact the Chabad Olleros - which is in the Belgrano neighborhood - about 10 blocks from where I live now, right next to my Spanish school - the same 30 minute walk I did twice each day this week!

So the whole time, my friend Karen (from UMass) and I had been planning to meet for Friday night services/ dinner, so instead of meeting Karen near her host family in the Recoleta area, she met me at this Chabad Olleros - close to my family (and close to our schools, in the Belgrano neigbhorhood). This worked out really well since she isn't shomer Shabbat (will use transportation on shabbat) and was glad to take the subway there and back, while I could took the bus there and only had to walk 30 minutes back.

So, as I mentioned briefly in my last post - there has been a LOT of rain this week (and it is supposed to continue for most of the month of February...) Only twice this week did I get caught in some serious downpours walking to or back from school, but I almost enjoyed getting COMPLETELY DRENCHED because it's really warm if it's not raining, so the rain realllllly cools everything down. Anyway, the amount that I got drenched this past Wednesday on my way to school and actually yesterday (Friday) on my way home from school, was nothing compared to the down pour last night!

Even though I was able to catch the bus to Chabad before Shabbat started, I still had to walk a couple blocks to the bus stop and by the time I got there, I was drenched down to the bone! And when I arrived at the beautiful Chabad house, of course, their air conditioning was on full blast! Though it was hard to take my mind off how freezing I was, I put that aside and was just really excited to be in a place that felt so familiar to me. Karen arrived shortly after me, followed by a few girls wearing teva sandals, the first Israelis we encountered! Besides us and the Israeli girls, there were only three other women - local Argentinians, though the men's side filled up relatively quickly.

After a very exuberant davening - (with a Dvar Torah in Spanish that was easier to follow that I had expected - likely because divrei Torah often repeat themselves, and include lots of Hebrew phrases) - we befriended these Israeli girls - Lior, Shani and two others...who not suprisingly were traveling around South America now that they had finished their sheirut leumi, (national service - that lots of religious girls do instead of army service). They were staying at a hostel very close by (a hostel that was filled with young Israeli travelers - mostly religious ones. They were glad to invite us to have dinner with them but it had to be paid for, so they felt out of place, and wished us luck and headed out.

So we went out into the hallway and walked up to some boys who were also obviously Israelis - and one of them, who was also a local asked us if we had a place for dinner or if we were waiting to be invited somewhere - to which we replied the latter, and he, Sebastian (or Sebi), welcomed us to eat with him at this same Israeli hostel that HE created.
Basically, he grew up here in Buenos Aires, moved to Israel when he was 6 years old and then came back here recently (after the army) and started this hostel, and after this summer when he will be traveling around central America, he's going to start school in Buenos Aires for hotel management.
For what was a very last minute plan - our night turned out to be really fun!

This hostel, that was a few minutes away from the Chabad was beautiful! It was very modern, air-conditioned (too cold for that wet, rainy evening), strictly kosher, and had plenty of guest rooms. When we arrived a long table was already set for dinner and kids (all our age more or less) began to sit down, including the girls we had met earlier.

Karen and I were so happy! We felt so at home, being able to talk Hebrew, instead of our broken Spanish, though for the first hour or so I kept slipping in Spanish words as I switched over to Hebrew! Also, Karen kept on noticing that since we're two hours of ahead of EST, and UMass starts services at 6 and dinner at 7, we had sat down to both services and dinner at the exact same time as them.

Dinner was delicious and we stayed a while after for some singing and chatting...and as the rain continued to come down in heavy buckets (!!) I turned down an invitation to sleep on a couch and instead walked the 30 minutes back home in the pouring rain, getting drenched all over again for the second time in one night...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010



it's definitely raining!

only the second day here, and the weather cooled down drastically!

A tidbit about the late night food:

First of all, I have a great first impression of my host family! Not only is Adriana really relaxed, friendly, welcoming, generous, etc. but so far (crossing my fingers) she has been cooking some delicious dinners! (And dinner isn't supposed to be a big deal here!)
So the fact that, so far, we haven't sat down to eat until 10pm each night, is something that I'll just have to get used to...meaning either: bigger lunches, or a medium lunch and a light evening snack.
Sadly for me, my favorite meal - breakfast - has not been so impressive...

For those Bronstein food fanatics (and others) out there here's the low-down:

the first night Adriana made fried berenjena (una palabra that I understood right away since Grandma Mary always called her eggplant dish by the Spanish word!) and a delicious arugula salad. all in small but delicious portions. just those two simple things set my expectations really high,
and after the main dishes she brought out some delicious fruit
-oranges, grapes, apples, bananas.
followed by a spoonful of dulché de leche!

also, of course her son, Lucio is adorable and very skinny and doesn't want to eat his dinner (reminds me a bit of Yishai a year or two ago...) and always wants the center of attention!!
(More Lucio anecdotes on my next post...)


tonight, she made a beautiful empanada filled with delicious vegetables - onions, peppers, etc. which definitely topped the eggplant dish!

so basically, I can't wait for tomorrow night's dinner!

Monday, February 1, 2010

an arrival of all sorts

I made it!

I am now sitting on the porch of my host family's apartment. With a view of trees covering the street below, and tall apartment buildings all around.

With minor complications (the taxi that was supposed to pick me up never showed, or went to the wrong terminal or something!) so I waited for a while (about 45 min or so) and then just took an official taxi from the airport instead. Of course my taxi driver didn't speak any English, so I tried to talk to him in my non-existent Spanish and all I could really say was that the weather was beautiful and VERY HOT! compared to New York, where it's freezing and snowing. After that, he tried continuing the conversation, but of course I really didn't understand much, so that was the end of that!

But Adriana, my host mother who says she doesn't speak very much English- has very good English when she does speak it. Though she doesn't really like to - which means that I can really challenge myself and try to speak ONLY Spanish, after I go to classes for a few days to refresh my memory, that is.

Ciao for now,