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...