Posted by: kyastrei | February 10, 2009

finding my inner zen

I am not what you would call a spiritual person.  Rarely have I turned to some sort of higher being for guidance, acceptance, love, etc.  I’m pretty cynical and also skeptical about religion in general, which is why it may come as a surprise to learn about one of my latest guilty pleasures.  


When I was abroad almost a year ago (I cannot believe time has gone by that fast), my roommate told me about these itunes podcasts she started downloading to help her sleep better.  The streets of Buenos Aires don’t exactly provide the most soothing of background noise.  I didn’t really have any trouble sleeping, but I thought I’d check out what she was raving about.

Let me introduce the wonder that is the Meditation Oasis podcast (just search for it on itunes). 

All it took was one night of listening and I was hooked.  Before then, I never listened to music, TV, or anything else while falling asleep. I actually found excess noise to be distracting when trying to get to bed.  But something about this woman’s voice was addicting.  It wasn’t creepy or preachy or plain bizarre.  It was just as if she were speaking directly to me (not in a god-like way–just more of a conversational way).  I could not go to sleep without listening to one of the podcasts.  I didn’t even matter which one (she has meditations about “body awareness”, discovering love, and finding your “inner child”, etc.), I was less interested in the content and more so in the soothing quality of her voice.  

Here’s the thing though.  After listening to these podcasts for the past eight months or so, I couldn’t help but listen to some of what she was saying.  All of a sudden, I noticed myself breathing deeply, feeling the weight of my body, and all that other spiritual stuff. Was I actually meditating? It’s hard to say: Did I just happen to have an especially good night’s sleep, or did I discover my inner body-love child?  Either way, I’m still hooked.  

It’s probably a little weird that I listen to these podcasts without knowing the first thing about meditation.  Part of me feels like the Meditation Oasis woman would be angry with me if she knew I was using her meditation lessons as my own version of Ambien.  But there’s no way I’m giving it up.  I swear, these podcasts will change your life–or at least the part you spend in bed. Plus, I do feel a little more zen these days. 


Posted by: kyastrei | February 7, 2009

some end of the week thoughts


*Crying will not get you far with the Ann Arbor Parking Supervisor Man. It will, however, be a great help when on the phone with a AAA dispatcher named Janice.

*Is there a reason why ALL of the characters on the kid’s TV shows I watched while babysitting speak with a British accent?  I can’t imagine trying to relate to Doug, Patty Mayonnaise, Tommy Pickles, etc.  when I was younger if they started busting out British slang. 

*Reading the feedback I received from my English class about the essay I wrote is one of the most entertaining and humbling things I’ve done in a long time. In my essay, I make a comparison which involves a hypothetical pedophile, and, without realizing it, I use the pronoun “he”, completely ignoring the fact there are a number of female pedophiles in the world as well.  Refreshingly enough, nearly all of my classmates corrected me on that one (n.b. obviously, I know there are both male and female pedophiles; my essay had no intentions of implying that they are only men.)

One of my favorite comments from a classmate said, “This is your moment to have your Romantic Comedy. Hebrew fairy tale narration. Walk us through it. It’s one of my guilty pleasures getting to read shit like that.”  Classic. 

*I think almost every girl I know has already seen or is going to see the movie He’s Just Not That Into You this weekend.  While I thought parts of the book were funny, the preview for this film just does not  look good.  With such a stacked cast, it’d be silly not to have high expectations for it, but the only thing I can tell from the preview is that it has absolutely no plot.  As of now, I’m resisting any urge to go see it, but we’ll see if I succumb to temptation by Sunday night. 

*I’m starting to get really nervous about graduating.  Because of this, I find myself every few days frantically searching on job posting websites and craigslist and don’t stop until I apply to at least three jobs. I’m still not even completely sure what I want to do when I graduate, but at least I eliminate some stress in submitting my resume and cover letter to a few places.

Have a good rest of the weekend!


Posted by: kyastrei | February 4, 2009

starting up again

When I got home from Buenos Aires more than six months ago, I decided to stop blogging.  This originally was only supposed to be for me to keep an account of my time studying abroad, so there was no need to continue blogging once I came home.  But now that I’m about to graduate and have a little more free time, I think I’m going to try to blog again. It’ll give me an excuse to write more often outside of class, and it’ll also help me see if writing is something I want to pursue as a possible job/career.  My goal as of now is one or two posts a week–I’ll try to make it happen. 



Posted by: kyastrei | July 31, 2008

I’m Home

Actually, I’ve been in the United States for a little over two weeks, but I spent most of that time in New York City.  But now, I’m officially back home in Michigan trying not to forget where I was the last five months. Sometimes I feel like if I didn’t have pictures or this blog, I would forget I was even there.  I came home and expected things to be different or me to feel different, but everything is and feels the same.

 They say that studying abroad is a life-changing experience, and I admit, there were definitely moments where I could see myself growing and having realizations about my life.  These were especially present on my Córdoba trip, during the time in which everything finally clicked for me in Argentina.  But since being home, nothing really feels different.  In fact, I am just significantly more bored, with no job and most of my friends off interning on either side of the country.  In some ways, I feel like I am regressing, distancing myself further from all of those revolutionary thoughts about my future I had while hiking in Argentina.  Being back at home feels like a step in the wrong direction. 

 Of course there have been moments in the past two weeks where I have experienced what they call “reverse culture shock,” when I felt out of place in my own country.  When I was in New York, I also experienced inexplicable and unnecessary anxiety over things.  Every single day when I left the apartment to go out, I would obsess over what to wear. Suddenly I was worried about being judged, while in Buenos Aires I didn’t think twice when me and Rachel left our apartment with makeup from the night before still caked on our faces and jeans that were so stretched out they would sag on our bodies because we were too lazy to do our laundry.  Another thing I suddenly worried about in NYC was that I had left my wallet at the apartment.  Whenever I was in line to buy coffee or lunch or my ticket to the MoMA, I panicked and thought to myself I have no money with me. I’m going to be laughed at up at the cash register. Even after I felt around in my purse to make sure my wallet was there, I still had this irrational anxiety.  My comfort zone, something that took weeks to cultivate in Buenos Aires, was suddenly lost in New York City, the place where I had spent almost 100 days out of the past year.  

Sometimes I get a surge of memories flooding my brain and all I want to do is write them down as quickly as possibly, so that I don’t leave any detail out.  I want to remember conversations I had with people, songs I danced to, meals I ate (or threw out, in some cases).  But then I think, to what level do I need to remember Argentina?  Is it really necessary for me to remember the entire process of the day I took the bus to the airport in order to pick up a package that was being held at customs, something I thought would be so simple but ended up taking eight hours and costing $100?  Is it really necessary to remember each time that Stefani and I would skip class and hang out at the café down the street from school, the one that had the best dulce de leche treats in the whole barrio of Belgrano?

People ask me how study abroad was, and I don’t know how to answer them.  I usually just say, “It was the best.”  This is because a) it was the best, and b) I know they don’t really want a full explanation; most people just ask because they feel obligated to.  But then there are the few people who want me to tell them stories from Buenos Aires. When this happens, I give them a blank stare.  There are so many things I could tell them (how I was mugged in Brazil, how my host mom wrote me passive-aggressive notes, the way me and my friends would go into clubs and dance like fools on purpose), but I don’t think I would be able to truly get across the essence of these moments and why they stand out in my mind. So instead I just say I don’t have any stories.

Rachel and I rented an apartment in Palermo for the last ten days we were in Buenos Aires.  We’d had enough of the home stay and wanted a little more freedom, especially since we were done with classes.  We told our host mom we were renting the apartment with five of our friends (a lie) so she wouldn’t feel bad about us leaving.  We told her we wanted to have a final goodbye dinner a few nights before we were leaving the city for good, and she said it sounded like a great idea and that she would call us later in the week to arrange.  Friday came around and we still hadn’t heard from her.  For some reason, neither of us had her cell phone number so it was impossible for us to reach her.  We never had the dinner and I never said goodbye to the woman whose apartment I lived in for over four months.  However, on my last day I did say goodbye to the family who I would buy fruit from almost every day, which was more important to me and probably impacted me more than any goodbye with my host mom would have been.  They all gave me a hug and wished me luck.  As I walked outside, they said they would look for me if they were ever in Michigan.  Something tells me this won’t be for a while.

Posted by: kyastrei | June 30, 2008

I am not faster than a Brazilian man

I just got back to Buenos Aires on Thursday night after spending a week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After going through the ridiculous process of getting a Brazilian visa ($150, copies of literally every personal document I have, including credit cards, student IDs, and bank statements), I thought to myself, this better be worth it.  So finally, Rachel, Rita and I flew to Rio last Friday morning hoping for a week of relaxing and laying on the beach, looking at the beautiful Brazilian people. 

Rio is a lot different from BA. First of all, it’s a beach town, so that’s the main reason why you would visit there.  It also has a lot more, or at least noticeable poverty than the areas I hang out in BA.  The wealth gap in Brazil is much higher, which also creates an interesting contrast within the city. And Rio is notoriously very dangerous, which every single person I know happened to warn me about before I came here. 

We arrived at the Mango Tree Hostel (so nice and clean with really helpful staff) and were immediately greeted by a friendly Belgian named Octave who invited us to come watch the sunset on some rocks overlooking Ipanema beach. It was a gorgeous view and a perfect way to start our vacation. Rio is a lot more mountainous than I thought, and it’s cool to see the mountains almost frame the beach, with the city right in the middle.

After sunset, we were starving so we went to a place called Delerio Tropical to eat dinner.  The food was really good and had way more vegetarian options than in BA.  Back at the hostel, we heard that everyone was going to an area called Lapa, where every Friday night there is a giant street party.  We went with a bunch of guys from the hostel and walked around.  It was insane! There were so many people crowded in a few streets, it was almost hard to move.  We got some caipirinhas (local Brazilian drink), and just took in the whole vibe.  Tons of people were dancing in the streets and music was blasting everywhere.  

Then, a little bit later, as we were walking I felt someone come up behind me and grab my purse that I was clutching in my arms. My immediate reaction was to turn and run after the guy, and so I left my friends and sprinted for about a minute through the streets of people.  The thought that the guy might have a gun or knife or anything to hurt me never crossed my mind.  Eventually I tripped and fell while running and I completely lost sight of him.  I saw a police man and tried to express to him what had happened in Portuguese but he was not interested in helping at all.  Defeated, and at this point, crying,  I walked back to my friends and they knew the night was over.  So me, Rachel, Rita, and this other Belgian guy we had met took a cab immediately back to the hostel.  In the cab, I completely lost it. I was in a rage and no one was going to stop me. Rachel tried to calm me down because she was afraid the cab driver was going to drop us off in a bad neighborhood because I was yelling so loud.  Of course, the Belgian guy who I had literally spoken two words to had to put his two cents in and say, “He rob you because you are pretty girl.” And that’s when I went nuts.  I was seriously considering booking a flight back to Buenos Aires the next morning. The good thing is that I didn’t have my passport or any credit cards or a lot of money with me. The bad thing is that my brand new camera was in there.  Being robbed makes you feel completely violated and unsafe, and it was a shame that it had to happen to me on my first day in Rio, because it definitely shaped the rest of my time there.  At least I was safe and only ended up with badly scraped and bruised knees and a hole in my favorite jeans. 

Saturday was a beautiful day and we woke up early so we could spend the whole day at the beach.  I was still a little shaken from the night before, so it was good to just be able to relax and not have to worry about anything for the day.  Ipanema beach is public, so it’s extremely crowded with people, which makes it fun to look at the ridiculous bathing suits worn by the men and women.  Brazilians are definitely not afraid to show off their bodies.  It started cooling down, so Rachel, Rita and I got some food.  Brazil has amazing fresh juices made will all different kinds of exotic fruits.  My favorite were the ones made with acai.  That night we hung out at the hostel and then went to dinner at a place down the street called Zaza’s.  It was a great atmosphere, with a bohemian sort of style.  We ate sitting on cushions on the floor with our shoes off.  The food was delicious, and we didn’t realize how late it was when we finished, so we just went back to the hostel and slept. 

On Sunday it was rainy all day so we couldn’t go to the beach. We heard about a Hippie Fair going on in the center of town, so we decided to check it out.  It ended up being sort of a craft fair, but with nicer things.  It reminded me of the ferias in Buenos Aires.  There wasn’t really that much stuff to buy, since most of it was either really touristy or just tzotchkes.  For lunch we ate at a place called New Natural that also had a lot of vegetarian food.  Brazil has tons of restaurants that are “pay per kilo” and buffet style.  It’s interesting because in the US the idea of a buffet doesn’t sound good at all (mac & cheese, jello, etc.), but here the food was really good quality.  After lunch we went back to the hostel and played card with some of the guys we’d met.  At night we went out to a bar a few blocks away called Shenanigans.  It was basically an Irish pub, filled with a bunch of foreigners and a few Brazilian girls.  It was fun to go out, but it definitely wasn’t that great of a scene.  

Monday was another rainy day. Of course the one week we decide to go to Rio it has to rain most of the time.  But that didn’t stop us from taking advantage of the day.  We went on a city tour, which first took us through Tijuca National Park.  It was really lush and green, which I didn’t expect in Rio.  There were waterfalls and monkeys hoping around on roofs.  From there, we drove up to the Christ statue/monument that everyone who goes to Rio probably sees.  It’s a giant (130 ft. high) statue that is on the peak of a mountain in the National Park and overlooks the whole city.  Aside from taking funny pictures with the Jesus, the location of the monument also offers a great view of Rio.  Something tells me this statue wouldn’t fly in the US.  

The next stop on the tour was to Santa Teresa, another neighborhood of Rio.  It was definitely more of how I’d pictured Brazil.  The streets were really narrow, people walking all around, tons of graffiti, etc.  Afterwards we went to the futbol stadium that hosts “the best soccer team in the world” (so they claim).  The tour was exhausting, but it was fun to see some different parts of Rio.  For dinner, we went with some people from the hostel to a restaurant called Frontera, which was another buffet style place.  The food was so good. I wish Argentina had food like this.  Back at the hostel, we didn’t go out since there wasn’t much going on on a Monday and I also wasn’t feeling that well, so we just watched a movie. 

On Tuesday we woke up, ate breakfast, and then went downtown to explore the center of Rio.  It was raining once again, which is why we didn’t go to the beach.  The centro area is definitely not as pretty as Buenos Aires.  It’s much more run down, with not as many nice buildings.  There were some areas with shopping but I don’t think this area is the reason people come to Rio.  We ate lunch at a “famous” cafe called Confeitaria Colombo, which apparently is historic.  The place reminded me a lot of Cafe Tortoni in BA, with the high ceilings and art deco style. After that we did a little more walking and then went back to the hostel. I wasn’t feeling well at all, with a bad cough/cold mixture, so I didn’t go out, but Rita and Rachel went to a club called House, which they said was fun, but super small and played certain genres of music and certain times throughout the night. 

Wednesday we woke up and got smoothies before going on a Favela tour.  Favelas are Brazilian shanty towns, mainly located in Rio, where 1/4 of locals live.  There are literally thousands of shacks made from different materials stacked on top of and next to each other.

 They definitely have a bad reputation for having lots of organized crime related to drugs, and also just a lot of poverty.  I was a little hesitant about going on the tour, not because I was worried about my safety, but because I didn’t want to feel like a was invading the space of the people who live there, like I was being a voyeur.  But apparently the people don’t mind, and the tours are designed to change your perspective and image of favelas.  First we went to the largest favela in Brazil, Rocinha.  We walked through the streets (this favela actually only has one main road going through the whole “village”) and we also went into one of the houses to see how they live.  The second favela we went to was a little smaller and there was a school there that is part of a program to increase the educational system in favelas.  The whole tour was really informative and it was incredible to see how these people live in such poverty yet are still smiling all the time.  Obviously, I didn’t see what goes on in daily life in the favelas, so it is hard to say if what they were showing us on the tour is actually how they live day to day. This was probably one of the best parts of the Rio trip.  After the tour, we ate dinner and then went out to a club called Baronneti.  It was cool to see the difference between Rio and BA nightlife. This club had two levels, and the first floor was so crowded that it was impossible to dance, so we went upstairs where they played electronic, which we like better anyways. The guys in Rio are definitely more forward than in BA. They would literally come up to me or Rachel or Rita and say two words to us and then expect us to kiss them.  The dancing was also a lot more sexual, which is normal in the US, but not at all in BA. So it came as a sort of shock when I saw people getting their freak on like back in the States.  Another thing worth mentioning is the amount of older women that I saw at the club.  Women I would never expect to be out at a club like this were on the prowl looking for foreign guys to entertain them.  We decided they were probably prostitutes.  The club was a great way to end the trip and I was surprised at how fast the week went by. 

The next morning we woke up and packed up our things and headed to the airport. The Rio trip was great but probably would have been even better if the weather was nicer and we could have gone to the beach more.  It was cool to see another big South American city though, to get have something to compare with BA.  Now I’m back in Belgrano and ready to enjoy my last few weeks abroad! Miss you all! xo K

Posted by: kyastrei | June 1, 2008


They each know something about me: my fruit of choice (I prefer strawberries to apples), my favorite ingredients on my salad (lentils & olives), what time I go out and then come home (late and later), my daily route to school (straight down O’higgins, left on Zabala), my North American outlet (Lost dvds).  

I don’t know anything about them.  They have entered into my life but they do not let me into theirs.  There is an invisible wall and I don’t know if I want to break it down.  They don’t reveal any information, I’ve never seen them out of context, I know nothing personal about them.  This is what I know: the place a block away where I buy fruit is owned by a man, and his three sons work there every day for him. One of the boys is young, and would probably be in Junior High.  But it is clear he does not go to school.  The other two are probably around my age, and seem like they would be fun to hang out with.  But our conversation never goes beyond the usual small talk, as they weigh my grapes in the plastic bag.  Here is something else I know: There are three different doormen at my building.  One is friendly and always asks how I am. Another is the night doorman; he is quiet and likes to do the word games in the newspaper.  The third is young and I have never heard him say anything else except “Hola.” 

 Is it just that I’m not interested? Is it that I am too busy going about my time here and I don’t even realize that these are the people I rely on every day?  All of these people are constants, signs that I have formed a routine here without even knowing it.  Do they recognize and remember me like I remember them?  Do they anticipate seeing me every day, or am I just another one of their customers, just another North American passing through their town for some time, easily replaceable?

I will never see these people again.  Even if I come back to Buenos Aires, it will not be the same.  I will not be the same.  So the question is, how do I leave my mark, my fingerprint on this city I’ve grown to love so much?  Or rather, should I leave my mark?  Or should I just walk away in less than two months with my memories all for myself and whatever other North Americans I choose to share them with (though they will never truly understand)?  Do these Argentines think of me? Are they saying to their wives at the dinner table, “Honey, today that girl I was telling you about walked all the way home in the rain without an umbrella. I was about to offer her mine…”  I am probably being idealistic, and maybe even a little bit selfish to think that they would spend their free time talking about me and my habits.  

And when I leave, do I say goodbye? Or do I leave without a trace, leave them guessing where I’ve gone?  I don’t even know their names.



                        *the sunrise out my apartment balcony



Posted by: kyastrei | May 12, 2008

the shock of the culture

I was cleaning out my room yesterday morning when I came across a packet that my study abroad program gave to every student the first day during our orientation.  I was flipping through it when I noticed the heading, “Culture Shock” followed by three pages detailing the various stages of the term.  I was curious to see which stage I’m in, and according to them, I fall into the fourth stage called Adaptation and Biculturalism, which says that “the person realizes that the new culture has good and bad things to offer.” 

I’ve been in Buenos Aires for over two months now, and based on my personal experience, I think that’s a pretty accurate statement.  However, I’d take it even one step further and say “the person realizes that the new culture has good and bad things to offer and is willing to accept them for how they are.  It’s strange because I feel like in the past couple of weeks, I’ve reached a turning point in terms of my expectations from the Argentine culture I’ve been trying (moderately successfully) to immerse myself in.  Things that used to frustrate and annoy me so much no longer even phase me.  Two days ago, I was eating lunch at a great restaurant in Palermo with Emily and we asked the waitress for the check when we were finished.  Fifteen minutes later, she still hadn’t returned with the bill, and finally Emily stood up and handed her our $100 pesos, without even knowing how much the meal cost.  Then, another fifteen minutes later, she came back with our change without the bill!  So we couldn’t even see if she gave us back the correct amount. This would not fly in the U.S.  But while a month ago I would have gotten angry how long we waited and demanded to see the bill, we just laughed it off.  

Another “bad” thing I’ve come to accept are the cabs.  Twice in the last two weeks, I’ve gotten ripped off in taxis.  Once with Adam and once with Rachel.  And not the type where they take a longer route to take you to your destination–no, this is when their fare meter goes up way faster than it should.  In both situations, I noticed it and then told the cab driver not to cheat us, that the meter was going up way too fast in price.  The drivers just deny there’s anything wrong, so we end up making him pull over and let us out of the cab, which leads to us being stranded both times late at night on the side of the road, having to look for another cab who will actually take us home.  The first time this happened, I got so angry.  I wanted to scream at the driver and tell him how cheated I felt, but the whole not-being-so-great-at-Spanish thing prevented me.  The second time, though, I wasn’t even surprised.  Since I had now experienced the exact thing so many people had warned me about (cab drivers cheating Americans), I knew it wasn’t even worth it to argue.  Me and Rachel just shrugged and got out of the cab, paying what we owed.  To tell you the truth, the only thing I was mad about what having to wait outside in the cold for the new taxi to come. 

Okay, so these are the “bad” things I’m willing to accept as part of my transition out of culture shock.  But honestly there are so many more good things, I can’t even compare the two.  

When I last posted, I had just gotten back from Córdoba, so I was ready to get back into the swing of things.  That Thursday was especially exciting because a certain someone named Adam came to visit.

 It was so great to have him here and show him where I’ve been living the past two months.  We did a lot of the touristy things that I’ve already done, but everything felt different since I was in the position of being the “tour guide”–this time I was the one who knew where to go, which bus to take, how many subte stops away things were.  I didn’t even realize how well I knew the city until I was the one who was “in charge.”  We went to San Telmo, Recoleta, Puerto Madero, Palermo, downtown, the zoo, etc.  We ate at amazing restaurants, like Sucre, Cabaña Las Lilas (a parilla in Puerto Madero), Novecento (in Las Cañitas), Zadvarie (Peruvian) and a few others.  It was so nice to go out to dinner, since I usually just eat whatever my host mom cooks for me.  We drank great Malbec wine and I’m pretty sure Adam had at least a few good steaks while he was here.  On the Monday he was here, my host mom also had us over for a nice homemade meal, which was surprisingly better than usual.  He got to meet my friends and go out with us to the boliches.

 It was so much fun having him here so I could share my experience with him.  It was also strange, because it was my first taste of home since I’d been here.  I was afraid that I’d start to get really homesick right after Adam left, since his visit “broke the seal” on my physical isolation from home. It was really sad when he left and hard to say goodbye, but after a few days, things relatively went back to normal. 

 Of course, without question I miss everyone at home, but it’s almost like I don’t even think about home when I’m here.  Down here, I’m having constant stimuli in my face at all times, that I sometimes does realize I have a whole life in the States.  I’ll go days or even weeks without talking to some people, and it’s not because I’m consciously ignoring them.  It’s more that time goes by so fast for me here, so sometimes I just lose track of it.  

On another note, midterms started for me last week, so I’ve been busy “studying” for them.  It’s crazy that I’m just on midterms, and people are already out of school for the summer or even forever.  Speaking of, I should probably get back to studying.  I hope everyone has a great start to their summer! Happy Mother’s Day Mom & Nana!!! 

xo K


Posted by: kyastrei | May 5, 2008

subway game

Two scenarios.

numero uno: I’m sitting on the Subte with Rachel directly across from a group of three boys. I say boys, because they were most definitely younger than me, and probably in high school. I notice that one of the boys starts staring at me. Not just a little flirty smile with a couple of quick glances. No, this was a situation where every time I would look up, his eyes were plastered to my face. After about five minutes of me feeling slightly uncomfortable, I watch him reach into his backpack, pull out a piece of paper and start writing on it. I ignored what he was doing and continued talking to Rachel.  Minutes later at the next Subte stop, the three boys stand up to get off and the intense eye-contact boy walks up to me, sticks out his hand with the piece of paper in it, and says (in English) “Take.” This is the note:

I was going to try to protect his shameless identity by covering up some details, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it.  So please, just don’t e-mail him…and seriously? I think I used to write exclamation points like that in 6th grade. I knew I found a real catch.  I mean, writing love notes before words had even been exchanged? Could it get any better?  Oh yes, it could…

numero dos: I’m sitting on the subte.  On my left is Rachel and on my right is a middle-aged unassuming man, whose eyes keep closing probably due to exhaustion. I, too, am exhausted beyond belief after a long day of probably doing nothing that important.  Regardless, I’m not in the mood to talk, be looked/winked/smiled/etc. at, so I was happy to have a mildly pleasant subte ride. I looked over at the man to my right a few times, envious and wishing I had the skills to doze off in this sweaty, crowded place.  A few minutes later, the man opens his eyes, mysteriously knowing it was his stop.  And I’m just sitting there keeping to myself, when just before the man is about to walk through the subte doors, he turns to me with a look in his eyes that I hope to never see again and says in a long, drawn out voice, “Hi sex.”  And then, he’s gone. I turn to look at Rachel, and she is as stunned as I am. 

So, who do you think has a better shot with me?

The romantic teenager who should learn it’s impolite to stare, or the sneaky but blunt businessman who already picked out his pet name for me?

Posted by: kyastrei | May 3, 2008

the scenic route

Hey everyone! I know it’s been forever since I last posted, but I’ve been busy and haven’t had time to sit down and actually write. But I’m back, so don’t you worry (cause I know you all were). Anyways, two weekends ago I went on a trip with the whole CEA group to Córdoba, a province Northwest of Buenos Aires. I, along with a bunch of other people in my group, had heard amazing things about Córdoba, like it being another big city with good nightlife and just overall fun things to do. So you could say I had pretty high expectations for this trip.

On Thursday night we all got on the bus and settled in for another 10-12 hour ride. I was not feeling well at all, so I was awake coughing pretty much the whole night. On Friday morning we arrived in Córdoba, and it was slightly different from what we were expecting. Instead of being in the downtown city, we were in a much smaller town called Villa Cura Brochero, which is about 3 hours from the city. Immediately we all knew this was not the trip we thought it was going to be. Our roach motel “hostelería” was okay, and Rachel, Emily, Rita and I were all in a room together so that was fun. We were given time to relax and explore around the town, which took all of about fifteen minutes, since it must have been three square blocks, MAX. After lunch, we had the option to go on a hike, so about half of the group went. I thought we were going to be in the mountains, since they were all around us, but instead we went on more of a “nature trail” type thing. It was boring in the beginning, but then we started climbing on tons of rocks along a river, which was fun and reminded me of my camping trips out West and in Alaska. The air was also much cleaner than in Buenos Aires, so it felt good to be outdoors.

That night, we realized there was virtually zero nightlife in this small town, so we brought the party back to the hostelería. We made a campfire, played drinking games, and just hung out outside the whole night. It was actually a really good time, and made me feel like I was at camp.

The following morning, I woke up early because there were horses available for us to ride around the town. I hadn’t been horseback riding in such a long time–the last time was probably on the beaches of Jamaica. So I was a little nervous, but I figured I could get the hang of it quickly. My horse, Mora, was sweet and didn’t seem too wild when I first got on her.

her looks are deceiving
When we began moving, she kept wanting to be up in the front with another horse, so she would start to trot a little, which was fine. I could handle the trotting, even though it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. After some time though, it was just me & Mora and another girl in my group with her horse all the way up in front. I was kind of nervous because the man who brought the horses didn’t give very clear instructions on how to slow them down or get them to stop, but I figured all I had to do was pull on the reins and yell “Pare!” (stop). So we’re just trotting along, and all of a sudden, two dogs run out in the middle of the road and start barking and running at Mora. Mora started to pick up some speed and I tried calming her down, pulling her reins and telling her to slow down. Well, that didn’t work, and before I know it, she is in a full speed gallop down the dirt road. Visions of me getting thrown off the horse ran through my head and my panic level rose to a point where I was no longer calmly controlling the horse. Instead I was screaming “Pare! Despacio! Heelllppp!!” over and over again with no results. After what seemed like 10 minutes, but was probably only 30 seconds, Mora finally slowed down and I began to breathe normally. Luckily we were close to the hostel, so I didn’t have any more wild dog encounters. While it was fun for the majority of the time, I’m not sure if I’ll be going horseback riding anytime soon.

That afternoon, the whole group went on another hike all through the rocks and river. We just hung out and laid outside while some people went swimming and jumping off the cliffs. At night, we weren’t allowed to hang out at the hostelería since the whole group got in trouble for being too loud and making too much of a mess the night before, so we decided to venture into Mina Clavera (the town next door) since we heard their nightlife was slightly above zero. We ended up going to this boliche called Que. At first, it seemed okay, and the music was decent, but after a little while, we looked around and realized that everyone here looked like they were at most 15 years old. That, combined with the sudden and unexpected shift to merengue music, was convincing enough for us to leave and just go back to the hotel. I was still feeling sick, so I wanted to get some sleep anyways.

Sunday morning we woke up and took buses to a random place with a river and different activities for us to do. One thing I didn’t like about this Córdoba trip in general is that it didn’t seem like CEA had planned enough concrete activities for us to do. Instead they would just take us to a place and give us way too much free time to just sit around. While it’s a lot of fun to lounge with the group and get to know people better, I would have liked it if there were more actual activities. So at this place, Rachel, Rita & I lay out by on some rocks by the river for part of the day, while some other people went horseback riding (never again).

The people who owned the land that we were at cooked a giant asado for us, and the vegetarian dishes were also surprisingly good. An asado is like a giant barbecue, but with a lot more meat–I think they eat every single part of the cow here. After the meal, we stayed for a little bit longer, but then took the buses back to the hostelería so we could pack up our things and get ready to go back to BA. We were told that we would head back to BA around 7pm, but when we came back to pack our bags, the buses weren’t there and our group leaders said they weren’t going to be back for about 1.5 hours. I was kind of annoyed because I had class early the next day. Well the buses didn’t end up coming for almost four hours, because apparently our bus drivers decided to take their own special trip to Córdoba (the city) and forgot they were responsible for taking 60 students back to BA. The bus ride back was not pleasant, as I was still coughing and sneezing the whole night. We didn’t get back to BA until 11am the next morning, just as my class was about to start. Lucking, we were all excused so I could go home and relax for a little bit. Córdoba was definitely not what I was expecting, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised. I’m thinking, though, I might take a trip back to the city if I have time a little later to see what all of the hype is about.

More updates to come! I miss everyone so much and I can’t believe it’s already summer for lots of you. xo K

Posted by: kyastrei | April 17, 2008

my weekend begins at 7pm every tuesday

Another week has gone by in Buenos Aires, and I’m back to tell you all about it. Since I only have classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, a lot of people have been asking me, “Kyle, what do you do with all of your free time? Don’t you feel like it’s too much down time?” Well let me answer those questions so there’s no more confusion: NO. Even on days where I don’t really do anything except walk around the city, I still wouldn’t trade that for another day sitting in class listening to my professors ramble in Spanish. So here’s a little taste of some things I’ve done in my “down time.”

Last week I decided to go to a yoga class. I was a little nervous because I’m not that great at yoga and I’m not that great a Spanish, so I thought I might be a little lost in the class. But I decided to give it a shot and walked over to the studio by my house. When I went to the front desk to register and pay, the instructor asked me my name. I told her, but she didn’t understand, and so she had me write it down. “Oh, Kee-lay!” I just smiled since I didn’t feel like correcting her. Immediately asked where I was from. I told her, and from then on, she assumed I didn’t know a word of Spanish and started talking to me really slow and loud, as if that would help me understand her better. She even announced to the rest of the women in the class that I was American, and then asked if any of them spoke English. Everyone turned and stared at me, and finally one girl said she did, and the instructor seemed so proud of herself for establishing that connection, like me and the girl were going to become best friends. Sometimes I wish I could just blend in… Anyway, the class ended up being great, and I would just look over at the other people in the class when I couldn’t understand what she was completely saying. The only part of the class that bothered me was when the instructor kept asking me to repeat my name, even during the meditation parts of the class. There was no way she was ever going to say it correctly. I’m convinced it’s impossible for Argentines to pronounce my name. They just can’t make the vowel sounds that are necessary to say “Kyle.” I just tell people my name is Kayo and it makes things a lot easier.

Last week I also went to a Tango show with my CEA group. I’m in a Tango class here at school, so I thought it’d be interesting to see if I recognized any of the dancer’s moves. I noticed a few I’d learned, but they were dancing wayyy faster than we’ve ever danced in class. It was a good experience to get a taste of the Argentine culture, but it just felt extremely touristy to me. From what I’ve been learning in my Tango theory class, the dance used to be much more sexual and underground and “raw,” whereas this just seemed really showy and almost too overdone. Plus the dinner they served us was terrible.

Last Wednesday, I walked around Avenida Florida with Stefani and Catie. Florida Street is supposedly known for its amazing shopping and it’s where you can buy all of the leather goods that Argentina is also known for. I thought the stores were okay, but they all sold the SAME EXACT CLOTHING at nearly every single one. And every article of clothing comes in 20 different colors. I don’t know, it was just kind of strange.

During the day on Thursday, I went to the Holocaust museum with Molly and Stefani. For those that don’t know, Argentina has one of the largest populations of Jews in the world, so I really wanted to see what the Holocaust museum here was like. It was interesting, not as big as I thought it would be, but still effective. One of the most moving parts of the museum is on one giant wall they have enlarged individual pictures of survivors and then next to each person is their story told in their own words. Stefani & Molly said it obviously wasn’t as impacting as the one they went to in Israel, but they liked this one too.

Thursday night was the night before Rachel’s birthday, so we knew we were definitely going out. Some friends told us about a pub crawl they said was really fun that they went on last week, so we decided to check it out. A ton of CEA people came, so it was good to be with everyone. The organizers of the pub crawl took us to 4 different bars in Palermo for about 45 minutes each, and then the fifth place they took us was a hip-hop club called Lost. This place was…interesting. Right when we walked in, there was hardcore breakdancing going on on the dance floor which lasted about 15 minutes. And it wasn’t the type of breakdancing where you’re at a club with people and all of a sudden a circle is formed and then each person takes turns doing their signature move. No, these people were not amateurs. Lost was fun because it was such a different since than the other places I’d been in BsAs, but I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be running back there.

Friday was a super eventful day. First of all it was Rachel’s 21st b’day! In the morning I didn’t really do much, but I had heard that the Olympic torch was coming through Buenos Aires today so I figures it would be a good activity for the day. After reading about all of the protests going on with the Tibetans and Chinese relating to the Olympic torch, I made it my mission to be a part of all the action. Plus, BsAs is the only city in South America that the torch went through this year. So Rachel, her friend Colin & I walk over to where we heard that the “running of the torch” was going to end, and when we got there, there were hundreds of people all standing around waiting. There weren’t really any major protests since the police had controlled them, so that was a little disappointing. After waiting around for about 1/2 hour, finally there’s some action and an Olympic Argentine runner came towards us with the torch in her hand.

It was kind of a bigger build up than seeing the torch actually was, but I guess it’s still cool to say that I’ve seen the Olympic torch in person since I’m guessing most people haven’t.

Friday night was so much fun! All the girls went to another club called Rumi to celebrate Rachel’s birthday. We ate dinner there and then danced the whole night. So far I think this is my favorite club here.

There weren’t that many “gringos” (Americans) and all of the people were really fun to dance with. We were out really really late, which was kind of a problem, because…

on Saturday we had to get up really really early to meet up with our CEA group at the boat “station” because we had a daytrip to Colonia, Uruguay. We were supposed to go there at 8am in order to catch the 9am ferry, but I woke up at 8:30 and looked at my clock and freaked out. Immediately I called my group leader and asked if we left now and took a cab, would we make it on time? She said yes, so Rachel and threw clothes on, hopped in a cab, and told the driver to take us to Puerto Madero “muy rápido.” About half way there, I looked at Rachel and said, “Do you have your passport with you?” “No.” “Me either.” AHHHH. We completely forgot that we were going to a different country and therefore needed our passports. So we told the driver to take us home, and our group leader ended up getting us on a little bit later ferry, which was actually the “Rapid Ferry” so it got us to Uruguay in one hour instead of the 3 hours that it took the rest of the group. So in the end, we all made it there at the same time.

Colonia was a nice, small town with a lot of rich history. There wasn’t really that much to do, except take a bus tour around the city and then walk around the “downtown” area. Their idea of tourism is to rent out mopeds, golf carts, and go karts to people so they can drive around the town in them. So Rachel, Rita, Kate & I rented a golf cart.

It was fun, but got kind of boring after a while.  Plus, you know you’re in trouble when this is their way to attract people to their town.  Later in the afternoon we just went back and took the ferry back to Buenos Aires. I was so tired from getting only 2 hours of sleep that I just went to bed right when I got home.

So that was last week in BsAs and now you know how I spend some of my five-day weekend. I’m off to Cordoba for the weekend so expect a full review sometime next week! Miss you all. xo K

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