Wednesday, March 24, 2010

La Dia de la Memoria

As I arrived on Avenida de Mayo, I was definitely overwhelmed by the amount of marchers that filled the avenue until calle Piedras – where the march began towards Plaza de Mayo. La Dia de la Memoria is a national holiday to commemorate the people who disappeared during the military dictatorship in the late 1970's and early 1980's. May 24, 1976 was the day of the military coup and this year is a day for the whole country to reflect on the 34 years that have passed since then.
The moment I arrived near calle Piedras a drumming band clad in colorful costumes began belting out a complex yet catchy rhythm that reverberated up and down the blocked-off avenue. Passersby and other marchers were all captivated by the drumming group. Even though the majority of people present were actually marching, there were plenty that were just watching, like myself. Those watching filled the sidewalks, sat on top of bus stops, on top of cars and trucks parked on the street, on railings and ledges of nearby buildings, and I even spotted an older man perched up on a telephone pole.
The Madres de Plaza de Mayo marched close behind, holding up banners with images of los Desaparecidos, flags, signs, drums, whistles, and megaphones. Whatever excitement I had felt from the drumming group soon began to disintegrate, since the serious atmosphere breathed a tortured past, a revolutionary reaction, and an overwhelming serious present. The slogan NUNCA MáS was written on almost every sign and banner carried towards Plaza de Mayo, and when I noticed individuals holding signs with images of the desaparecidos, it made the widespread national message reach a much more personal level. As I made my way down to La Plaza de Mayo, I passed political groups, teacher’s organizations, and students all marching and chanting in memory of those they lost. I was not surprised to pass young socialists, anarchists, and hippies along the way, some who were passing out white cutout hearts to me and those around me to tie onto our clothing or bags.
When I reached La Plaza de Mayo, the mood of the crowd became more intense and more serious, as the announcers called upon the masses to make room in the center for the Madres as well as the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo. Despite the serious and emotional displays of personal sadness and anger that I saw at the march, as a foreigner, the intensity and strength that spoke at a national level was what reverberated back at me most of all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

El Tigre!

This past Saturday night I spontaneously met up with a friend Joanna (who's from Alaska) and we went with her Argentine friends to a party on an island in El Tigre - a town about 17 miles north of Buenos Aires that sits on an island created by several small streams and rivers!

First we took a long bus ride to a suburb in the outskirts of the Capital Federal - the city of Buenos Aires - and as we hopped off the bus on the side of a highway, in the middle of nowhere, it strangely felt as if I was traveling in Israel. It's really an amazing feeling to leave the city every once in a while...

Off we trekked into a quiet neighborhood with beautiful houses and soccer fields - where it was quite dark outside. Soon we arrived at their friend's beautiful house (whose name is Ary - shout out to mi hermano Ari!). After hanging out in his house for a while, we drank some coffee to wake up a bit (mind you it was already 2 am), then drove out to El Tigre blasting a mix of Latin music and of course some Bob Dylan and Beatles to add into the mix. The car ride felt like a blast from the if we were in some other decade!

We arrived at this quiet street, parked the car, and walked off to a deserted port. The clear and starry sky reflected off the shimmering water, and an overwhelming feeling of calm washed over me. We wandered around the port area, called “Puerto de Frutos,” expecting someone to magically appear, but not a soul was to be seen! Eventually our Argentine friends made some calls and we began walking to a different dock when all the sudden these two guys appeared at the original area and called us over! We turned back, paid for the boat ride and party, and hopped in to a little motor boat - that served as a shuttle to and from from the island. Though this was the epitome of all sketchy moments in my life, it wasn't until I arrived on the island that Joanna and I looked at each other and realized how sketchy this random boat ride really was. It was probably because, as we rode along the river, in the dark and starry night, with these goofy Argentines, the calm feeling I had multiplied tenfold. We all leaned back and stretched our necks to gaze at the bright bright stars that spilled across the sky for miles on end.

After about just 10 minutes, but for what felt like an eternity, we arrived at the island, hopped off the boat, walked through a marshy pathway that led us to a run-down building with about 60-80 people crowded around outside watching a guy juggling fire! It was absolutely surreal - being on this island in the middle of a jungle! It wasn't until about 3 or 4am that they started the music and we danced through the night and early morning hours...eventually arriving back at my apartment in Buenos Aires at about 9am!

Friday, March 19, 2010

it's about time!


It's been quite a while since I last posted!

Things have been, well, the past two weeks have definitely been quite a transition, to say the least.

And so, my lovely 4 weeks of intensive Spanish classes came to an end. I said goodbye to the Belgrano neighborhood, goodbye to my wonderful host madre, Maria Cristina, goodbye to our cat named Gato, goodbye to her 29-year-old son Juany, and of course goodbye to Juampy, the little tortuga...(yes the turtle's name was similar to her son's name...and her older, married son's name was Juan Martin ---lots of Juan's in that house!),

On Sunday midday I called up my new host family, una senora named Paula, to find out what time I could go over to her house. I dialed, connected and said,`Hola Paula, es Eliana Bronstein, el estudiante de los Estados Unidos, en el programma de IES, que vivirá contigo...´ (Hi Paula, this is Eliana Bronstein, the student from the U.S. , on the IES program, who will be living with you...)
A softspoken, quiet voice answered, `Hola, *pause* pause* - ¿Eliana?, ¿vos no es Sarah Bronstein?´ (Eliana?? you're not, Sarah Bronstein? )

Basically, what was clarified later, was that the housing coordinator on my program had told her that my first name was Sarah, not Eliana! ( This was my first encounter with the disorganized nature of my study abroad program! )

One taxi ride later, I arrived at my current homestay in the heart of Recoleta, an upscale ritzy neighborhood. The building I live in has a beautiful lobby, and the actual apartment is a nice size, though she is an older woman and the house was relatively dusty at first sight. She led me to my room which was a much larger bedroom than the first two places I stayed, with two small beds, a desk, a large closet, even enough floor space for me to do some stretches in the morning!

Then she showed me the bathroom, where I could put my toiletries, next to some other toiletries - which belong to the other student that lives here, Paola explained, Lauren is also from the U.S....
About a half hour later, at about 1 in the afternoon, out walked sleepy-eyed Lauren, (also from NJ) who was living in the same homestay as me!
Though I had not been told there would be another American student living with me (and soon found out that it's not allowed on my program), I was actually not so surprised. I had met two other friends who both requested a Jewish/kosher family and were placed in the same homestay since there are not a plethora of those types of special requests for a host I was not taken aback to see Lauren there (who I very soon learned came from a Conservative Jewish background). Though Lauren is generally more outgoing and talkative than I am, we got along really well right off the bat!

Since then, I had a tiring and boring orientation for my study abroad program, met some wacky / some fantastic other students, came down with a silly cold and cough, and met some wonderful new families in the Jewish community and in the broader Argentine community as well.

I also had a rough patch adjusting to my new homestay (though lots of things have been great, I've finally vocalized the underlying feelings I've had for the past two weeks - of not feeling as comfortable here as I could/should - and so I am currently on the search for a new host family.)

This past week I finally started classes and have the weekend to do some serious introspection and figure out which classes I want to take!

Tonight, I just came back from from an event at the local Moishe House - which is a gathering space for young Jews in their 20s and 30s to create a community within the larger Jewish community. There are Moishe Houses in about 20 cities around the U.S. and in about 10 international cities...Buenos Aires being one of them! I tried my best to listen a very long speech about Pesach, given by some Rabbi (in Castellano, of course - which required extra attention). Afterward, I met a few of the local Argentines and even met one guy here on a visit from Uruguay who was very excited to help me arrange Shabbat plans when I travel there!

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to tomorrow night - I plan to go to a free sushi dinner at the Chabad house in Palermo!