Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Life, according to a napkin

I dedicate this one to Nicky, who's been telling me this all semester!

"Eat, drink, love, slowly, very slowly. Make your life last longer!"
-Cafe Martinez

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Un Cumpleaños Muy Feliz

It was a very happy birthday indeed!

Remember the logic model pic in the last food post? It had a little chocolate covered, dulce de leche topped cookie? Well, this here tarta is its BIG sister. And also my birthday cake:) WOW!

 I have a lot of THANK YOUs to go around. First, thanks to Daniela and Rosario for this decadent tarta! And thanks to all of those who helped me eat it. I've never had a school or office party because I'm always on vacation during my birthday (que pena, no?), and they did this one up fancy! (And then let me off early to enjoy the afternoon).

Thanks to who told me about La Galeria Pacifico. I felt like such a posh Porteña wandering around this beautiful gallery mall all afternoon:

Despite the alluring elegance of the art and high fashion, it's only for looking and not for buying (at least for a broke student like me).

Thank you to the girls for taking me out to Tango...and to Allyson for making sure I got that glass of Malbec I had been craving all day.

We danced the night away...well, we tried anyway. It being the first lesson, I was doing more stumbling than dancing, but that brings me to my next declaration of gratitude. To my dance partners, especially Santo, I really appreciate the patience and time you spent trying to teach my two uncoordinated feet to move like a Tango dancer's. And I'm really sorry if you're own feet were a little sore the next day. It must have taken 10 tries for me to stop stepping on toes and to master just the first sequence of steps!

Not such good form.
That's better...concentrate.
Okay, it's better that we forget the technicalities and just dance!
And finally, many thanks and Argentine besos (kisses) to those who wished me happy birthday from afar via facebook, phone, and email. I miss you all so much and it meant a lot to hear from you!! (Seriously, more than you know).

To my fellow classmates...lots of CSPS love! Keep writing - I enjoy hearing about all your adventures on blog and facebook. I read it all! Best of luck in this last half of IPSP...may it be filled with many more kumbaya moments and flat Stanley-worthy photo ops!

And of course, to my family and friends...I miss you! See you in five short weeks, but until then...stay cool!

Finally, to MADDIE - I hope you're French birthday was every bit as good as my Argentine one!! I miss you and can't wait to hear all about it. Here's to 13 years of friendship and twin-sisterhood. Love you!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Culinary Treasures

I can't really pin down where I developed my insatiable appetite for all things cuisine, but food has developed into a hobby of mine over the past few years. I threw my first fancy dinner party freshman year of college, which felt like a part of the right of passage into adulthood. Then, senior year, the craigslist search to fill the empty room in our apartment turned out a roommate that could teach me a thing or two in the kitchen (Melissa has her own food blog and dreams to own a bakery one day!). Or maybe it was in Spain, when my travel entourage got into the habit of checking out markets rather than souvenir stands in foreign countries. We always grocery shopped and picnicked...in Parc Guell...on the steps of Versailles...before a Spanish botellon. So, in addition to all of my tourist-y ventures around the city, I've also been frequenting a few markets and cafes in search for whatever culinary treasure there is to find in Argentina. Here's the loot so far:
After a few days of living in the hostel and surviving off BA's abundance of meat and potato type dishes, I went in search of something fresh for breakfast. I ordered a fruit plate and ended up with this spread of fresh-squeezed oj, yogurt, and fruit salad with a cherry (and of course the standard flag) on top.

This is actually the typical breakfast in Buenos Aires- coffee with two medialunas or sweet croissants (along with some dulce de leche, if you're feeling decadent)

 However, in order to maintain somewhat of a healthy balance, I usually eat cereal with yogurt and fresh fruit from the fruteria (but I'm not skimping on the dulce de leche)
Most days, I make my lunch and take it to the office with me. Occasionally when I'm out and about, though, I'll splurge on some of the great mediterranean food this city has to offer. Like cannelloni ...

...Or tarta de jamon, queso, y tomate (ham, cheese, and tomato quiche)

And when I'm hungry for a snack, Flat Porteña usually accompanies me for an afternoon coffee and alfajor (dulce de leche sandwich- an Argentine staple) to get some work done.

 Yes, friends, that is indeed a logic model in the background! And that giant hershey kiss looking dessert is a cookie topped with dulce de leche and covered in dark chocolate. I can't get enough!

I've also been trying my own hand at Argentine cooking. It's a lot of pizza, pasta, and empanadas, so I started out with the easy stuff first.
Milanesa (thin, breaded beef filet) sandwich and baked steak fries! Another typical dish. Thanks to the ladies at work for telling me how make it right (mine still aren't as good as theirs are. Whenever we eat lunch together, we pass around and taste each other's meal. I don't know if they were just trying to be welcoming to me in the beginning, or if it's a common courtesy, but either way I like it!)

Aaaaaand....I even tried my hand at empandas!

These are the typical- ground beef with onions, olives, and golden raisins (with a few other veggies thrown in for color).

A peek at the filling...mmmmmm!
The final product accompanied by the strawberry-banana-kiwi fruit salad from my childhood. I like to throw some American stuff in there occasionally too...

Like homemade brownies! With - whadya know!- dulce de leche on top:)

And with this, I'm just getting started, folks. After sampling some of the more exotic pastas (like gnocchi and red pepper angel hair), I'm going to move on to some of the more complicated and antiquated dishes like humita (a tamale-like dish with origins in the northern Salta province). Until next time, friends, Buen proveche!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

El cementerio de la Recoleta

I had the day off Friday, so instead of working from home (like I sometimes do to keep up with my work plan), I decided to go exploring. The decision to go to the cemetery was an easy one - it's really the only touristy thing I'd heard of besides another European-looking chapel - and God knows I've been to my share of those (pun intended). Before going, my roommate said, "The cemetery? It's not really that pretty," which didn't really discourage me at all. I can see why walking among the dead's remains would be unappealing for some, but I also now understand how it is indeed appealing to others.

Cemeteries such as this are not generally sad places. Rather, they strike a sense of reverent awe for the love and emotion (and probably some amount of pride for the family's wealth) that went into making sure loved ones had a proper and unique resting place.

After walking around just a few minutes you find that each bóveda, or gravesite, has its charm.

Some you can see into, and some are private.

Some are modern with their black marble facades, while others are classic white marble fashioned in the Baroque style.


                                        Some have a style all their own.

After my visit I went to Freddo, the best heladería, or ice-cream shop in town. I found a seat overlooking the great walled cemetery and contemplated on it a while.


Evita's gravesite starts out "Don't cry for me..." and that's just it - I didn't want to cry for her. Therein lies the beauty of a cemetery. It not only offers solace for mourners, but also a tangible, emotion-provoking experience for strangers of the loved ones. In this way, cemeteries really do carry the memory and a sense of the immortal for those who no longer walk among us. Their story is still told years later, though it's hidden beneath a little bit of mystery and a lot of chiseled stone.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I "Like" my project, you can too!

I can't believe that on Monday I will be starting my fourth week of work! Because you all have been asking me about it, I've taken this post to explain a little about my project and the organization I'm volunteering for.

It took me no time to get settled in the BA office of Cruzada Argentina because I work with wonderful girls - Daniela, the CEO, and Mariana and Rosario, the assistant staff members - in this fancy office building:

          The gigantic one in the center with modern, metallic-looking windows.

Our little office on the fourth floor..
Though Cruzada Argentina's field work takes place in the impoverished, scarcely populated northern provinces of the country, all the planning and organization goes on here.

Cruzada Argentina has an extensive list of ever-present and helpful board members and collaborators; however, those three ladies I mentioned above are the ones pushing the papers and making things happen day-to-day. And the other FCA workers, the ones that implement the projects, are the teachers and community leaders that live in those northern provinces, along with some outside consultants. Talk about involving your stakeholders and community experts! 

...with a balcony and a view.
The High School Support program is one of the two initiatives of the organization, and the one on which I'm doing my IPSP (International Public Service Project) for the Clinton School. Basically, it finances rural development projects in high schools that are designed to teach students a vocational skill alongside their regular studies. This enables the students to be productive citizens upon graduation without having to move to urban cities. Rural flight is a major problem in Argentina...about 90% of the whole population lives in urban areas, and that number is growing.

The HSS program carries out projects in carpentry, computer technology, sewing, farming, to name just a few. They take care to develop trades that are fruitful in rural zones and that the wider community can take part in by selling, marketing, and operating certain areas of production. Furthermore, the work that they do is sustainable - one of our favorite Clinton School words. Not only do they teach the students how to type on a computer, for example, but they involve the students in constructing the space and furniture necessary for a technology project, installing the computers, and then give lessons how to operate them.

**For some reason, I can't figure out how to imbed this video in the blog. It has something to do with the fact that it's unlisted. But anyway, you can watch it here if you'd like.

It's a 6-minute informational video about Cruzada Argentina's rural development efforts.

 My project, specifically, deals with the evaluation of the program. As Dr. Bavon taught us, data about project outcomes is very important for those who are funding the projects, and great for spreading the word to other potential donors and collaborators. Even though Cruzada Argentina already does a pretty good job at collecting and reporting data, I'm trying to set up a standardized method for them to do it. That way, anyone can take on the task of process and outcome evaluation on the various projects, and the results will come out in a more uniform and hopefully more effective manner.

I'm also doing some side projects like analyzing grant opportunities, looking for potential partner organizations to expand the rural development network internationally, and checking some of their English language documents for errors. If it sounds a little dry, you'd be surprised! It's actually very interesting and rewarding to be riding the ebb and flow of a very successful non-profit organization. I stumble over my Spanish sometimes, especially when it comes to the writing department, but I'm learning so much!  I LOVE it!

In tandem with my efforts to spread international love for Cruzada Argentina, I would be very honored and appreciative if you all "liked" our Facebook page:)

We are trying to make it to 200 "likes" and we have 199 so far! So, here's my proposal:

The 200th person to like FCA will get a present from me - something genuinely Argentine! And for the rest who "like" it after that...I'll whip up some homemade and truly Argentine empanadas and we can have a party once we're all back in Little Rock! Once you've liked it, let me know via facebook or email (jessica.aux@gmail.com). Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dancin' in the Street

The Argentine Tango as seen on Calle Florida. This is the second time I've encountered a midday mini-show in the street. It sure beats that Michael Jackson character on President Clinton Avenue...just sayin'

Saturday, June 4, 2011

From a Gelato Aficionado:

This is the BEST I've ever tasted!!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My First (and last) 6pm Subte Ride

Rush hour. I know I'm an Arkansas gal and in Little Rock, rush hour is like a normal Sunday afternoon compared to other capital cities. But I've been to Madrid. I've ridden the metro in Paris. And I've still never seen anything like the B.A. subte* at 6:00 in the afternoon.

People squish in the already small, rectangular train cars with a certain ruthlessness so they are not the one stuck waiting for the next to come. Once the doors close, though, there is this common feeling like...really? Even sardines aren't canned into spaces this compact. And we are doing it to ourselves!

At one point my laptop, though still hanging on my arm, got separated from me by a person shoved in the sphere of my underarm. Two stops later, my laptop and arm were suddenly wrapped around my back while my other hand was wedged between myself and the guy's wallet in front of me. I thought to myself "If I were a thief, this would be the perfect opportunity! Since I'm not, it's just a little bit awkward." Thank goodness the word 'awkward' doesn't exist in Spanish, then we both would have felt it.

I'm glad I had the foresight to buy a bag of assorted caramelos, or chewy caramel and chocolate candies, on the way to the station. Those are my vice just as cigarettes are a smoker's vice. Once I got off, it only took me two blocks to eat through half my stash. Then I was okay. Those candies were expensive, though! They cost almost as much as the bottle of wine I bought last night ;)

Alas, after 2 hours, 3 errands, 7 blocks and a sigh of relief, I'm home! I'm tired, but it's the good kind of tired. The kind that's satisfying because you know you've had a productive day. And this was an experience to check off the list of things I must endure to become a city girl! So from now on, I know I'm not missing anything if I stick with the bus.

*what they call the subway

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Two Weeks Later

And I've finally arrived at the honeymoon stage!

I know that usually this phase happens from the very first day in a foreign place. For me, it was different this time, though. I've enjoyed my first two weeks in BA, but ther've been some frustrations and rough times. It all came together, though, today.

Por la mañana - Morning
I got up early to move into my new apartment! Thanks to all of you who offered words of encouragement on my last blog post. Seriously, it really was helpful to have some sort of affirmation about my crazy considerations regarding which apartment to choose. As much fun as it sounded to dabble in an ascetic life for two months with nothing but a mattress and the big city as my living room, I decided that I'm here to work. Without a couch, I would have been much more motivated to spend my days meditating rather than completing an IPSP project. So I decided to save that adventure for another trip, and I waited a few days to see if anything else came up. With a turn of luck, it did! Here's my new little casita:

The living room

The kitchen (fully stocked :)

My new room...spacious and equipped with a fancy persian rug for my tired dogs

The view

Por la tarde - Afternoon
Put in a productive half-day of work today. Well, semi-productive because the internet at the office was going slow. I left a little early to run an errand before meeting up with another of Sr. L's friends, Gaby. (Details about work to come later).

My afternoon tea time with Gaby was great! She is my Mom's age and helps run the incredibly successful family business, which is a chain of high-end leather shops (one of the commodities Argentina is most known for). Going into her shop was like going into a leather version of Coach...it was beautiful! Sr. L put me in touch with Gaby so that I would have some semblance of a family when I was here. She and I talked about all sorts of things, exchanged book titles, and she promised I could invite myself over anytime I wanted or needed to. She speaks English wonderfully and compliments my Spanish, so we get along quite well!

Por la noche
- Tonight
I'm celebrating my honeymoon phase with a platillo de fiambre for dinner - basically an assortment of meats and cheeses, usually paired with olives and red wine. I'm not quite ready to cook yet (still getting used to my new kitchen), and I've been craving this all week. I couldn't eat it because I had nowhere to store leftover food.

This, for me, is Spanish comfort food. I needed a little something familiar and foreign, and this was just what the doctor ordered!
Spanish chorizo (just like from the home country!), queso sardo (medium-level stinky cheese of some variety), classic Spanish olives with the pepper piece in the center, pate de Jerez (as in sherry, or the city I lived in while in Spain), and whole grain crackers. YUM!

Oh yeah, my dinner was accompanied by a bottom shelf bottle of Argentine Malbec, straight from Mendoza - the wine region. It cost me 10 pesos, which is about US $2.50. Don't let the price fool you...it isn't table wine. It's actually very good!

All in all, not a bad day. I got a lot accomplished and will sleep well tonight! Tomorrow - a full day of work to make up for missed time today. And catch-up blog posts because I still have some fun pictures and videos from the last week to show.

Buenas noches a todos!