...You Can Dance If You Want To: A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Lollapolooza outside of Buenos Aires in the lovely town of San Isidro. The music was great, the weather was decent, and only beer was served inside the event so everyone remained conscious and in good spirits. The most striking thing about Lolla was the realization that Argentines don't dance at concerts. Walking through the gates of Lolla was like entering the tiny town of Bomont from the 1984 classic Footloose, where dancing is strictly forbidden. Sure, head to the nearest boliche on any given night and you will find the floor packed with all walks of life girating their bodies as though inflicted with mild cases of epilepsy. Even in daylight hours, you can find couples intertwined in tango down the allies of any barrio, yet outdoor concerts are apparently the only exception. Rather than dance, Argentines listen intensely to the music. Listening intensely apparently requires silence to concentrate because I was shushed by surrounding audience members on multiple occasions- yes, I was shushed at an outdoor music festival (although it took a few well-aimed glares for the shushing to have its desired effect).
There is one terrible exception to the "No Dancing Allowed" policy. As the night progressed and the music and atmosphere became increasingly wild, mosh pits began to form. For those who are unfamilar with moshing, it basically involves creating large open spaces in the middle of the audience then rushing togther simultaneously in one chaotic, femur-snapping jumble (then: repeat). 10/10 would not mosh again. But all in all, quite a fascinating experience.
Uruguay-not?: If you come to study in Buenos Aires, most likely you will reach a point when you say to yourself "Well I have $100 in my bank account and 2 days to spare, why not hop across the river to Uruguay?". That, my friends, will be a great decision, as long as you follow these simple rules...
- Rule #1: Don't take Colonia Express: You'll see the prices, infinitely cheaper than the superior Buquebus, and think "Hey, I could stand to save a few dollars!" This will prove to be a fatal mistake. Two hours into your five-hour delay on a Sunday night, as you count the remaing hours until your 9am class the following morning, you will rue the day you booked with Colonia Express. Sure, they may give you a free bottle of water to apologize for the delay, but does the really make up for all the times they lied and said "The boat will be here in an hour!" when in reality they knew the boat was sitting in a port two hours away leaking enough motor oil into the sea to kill a family of orcas? I think not.
- Rule #2: Plan Ahead (Duh): Don't plan a beach vacation in a town where the beach is the sole attraction without accounting for the possibility of gale-force winds and torrential downpours. Additionally, if you plan on traveling during major holidays- for instance, Easter in a very Catholic country- consider the possibility that the shops and restaurants of the town will likely not remain open during this holy time to cater to tourists (no matter how well-intentioned, if clueless, they may be).
- Rule #3: Keep Your Ducks in a Row: Travel with a group that is small enough to keep track of. Or before you know it, six of you are in a hostel in Montevideo while another two are in Punta del Este and a third is stuck on a slow-moving bus with no final destination. The bigger the group, the bigger the fun, but the reality is it's more heads to account for. Thus, travel in small herds and meet up with people once you arrive.
Don't get me wrong- despite a few missteps I had an amazing time in Uruguay over Easter break! But nontheless, accept the sage wisdom I am imparting so that your potential trip may go smoother than mine.
The City of Love: Seeing as Argentina is a very Catholic country, I am constantly surprised by the amount of PDA I am forced to bear witness to on a daily basis. Please don't misunderstand- my single status is not the source of my scrooge-like attitude towards the young lovers of Buenos Aires. All I'm saying is, on my walk to school at eight in the morning I don't want to see two 15-year-olds groping each other outside the local middle school. When I'm trying to eat my lunch in the park at midday, I prefer to keep my food down rather than choke it up out of surprise from seeing a couple going at it in the open grass. Argentines are very expressive with their emotions. Catcalls are complimentary in nature, rather than explictedly sexual (not that that's an improvement, simply a cultural difference). Of course, this whole topic brings to light the United States' difficult relationship with sexual freedom and expression (after all, we were founded by Puritans, who weren't exactly known for being 'sexually liberated') but I won't get in to all that. Coming from Minnesota, where the polite thing to do is to leave an "etiquette bubble" of 2 feet around each person, witnessing this level of aggressive personal contact takes a bit of getting used to.
As a final thought, check out my friend Kerry's awesome photo blog about brunch places in Buenos Aires! She has a great personal blog too, but come for the photos of brunch and stay for the helpful travel guides/emotional personal narrative. http://www.kerryannwheeler.com/food/
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<p>My name is Catie Seltz-Drew. I am currently a junior pursuing a degree in International Studies. My semester in Buenos Aires will be my fourth experience abroad following a year in Italy in high school and two previous semesters abroad in Rome, Italy and Seoul, South Korea while in college. I have a passion for cooking and eating; I love learning about a country through its cuisine. After my semester in Argentina, I will graduate from Loyola and hopefully continue to travel and eat my way around the world.</p>