All I held was a piece of paper with an address written on it. I could have cared less if my entire luggage had been lost; I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at last. Neither family nor friends for an entire month; just me. I was set free.
Driving along la Avenida General de la Paz, which separates the metropolitan city of Buenos Aires from the rural province, we proceeded to our exit and headed toward my Belgrano home-stay. I could see the famous obelisk at the intersection of El 9 de Julio and Avenida Corrientes, something that would eventually become a symbol of sentiment to me. I entered the apartment and couldn’t have asked for anything more — a place that resembled nothing of America: simple, but exquisite. The apartment was located a few blocks from the Subte (metro) and what I’d later discover was the most beautiful and my favorite street in the entire city, Avenida Santa Fe.
The GIC Argentina program [gicarg.org] set me up with a home-stay, Spanish classes from 9 am to 1 pm on weekdays, and weekend excursions to places like IguazÃº Falls and Colonia, Uruguay. On a normal day I would go to class and then explore town. Whether it be walking home across town by la Santa Fe, riding a scenic bus, exploring the famous cemetery of la Recoleta, or viewing the Japanese gardens, everyday had something new to see. At night, I’d go out dancing or to a restaurant with all my friends (both American and Argentine). With an exchange rate of 3 pesos for every dollar, Buenos Aires is a fairly cheap city that won’t put you over your budget. One cab ride across town won’t cost you more than 10 dollars.
During my stay, I was able to meet a few porteÃ±as (people from Buenos Aires) through a friend in the program that was half-Argentine. Fortunately for me, I am Cuban and already speak fluent Spanish, but I wanted to improve my vocabulary, so meeting and conversing with porteÃ±os (people from Buenos Aires) was a great way to practice. This group of girls gave us a very authentic look at Buenos Aires; even taking us to one of their weekend homes in the province for a classic Argentinean grill, an asado. Apart from the asado, they also took us outside the city to El Tigre, a mini-Venice of Buenos Aires, and Peru Beach in Los Olivos, a lovely little park along the Rio de la Plata where people can relax and watch the sailboats and windsurfers.
Before going on my trip I was worried I’d make no friends and miss everyone back home, but now I know that traveling alone might be even more fun than traveling with others. I was able to do anything and everything I wanted to do on my own schedule and was able to meet new people, who I still speak with today, over a year later. The trip allowed me to step out of my boundaries and into a world of delicious meats, beautiful architecture, traditional dances, diverse faces, and a culture that I hope to one-day share with my family. It was the most challenging yet best experience I’ve ever had in my life. I will never forget the summer I spent as a porteÃ±a.
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