Heading out

My stuff is (mostly) packed, I’ve bought (almost) all the snacks I want to bring back, and I did early check-in, so really at this point it’s just waiting for a last-minute shower, dinner, and then the taxi to take me to the airport where I get to begin my super awesome 24-hour traveling adventure of planes, trains, and automobiles. (seriously, though, I have an hour ride to the airport, a 7 hour flight to Panama City, a 4 hour layover there, a 5 hour flight to Newark, a 2.5 hour layover there, a 3.5 hour train ride back to CT, and then a short car ride home.)

Long trip home aside, here are some highlights from my trip:

  • working with the lovely folks of La Poderosa Media Project to learn about the anthropology of food and how important it is to a community
  • not getting sunburnt until my last day in Ecuador…
  • being able to see some neat shows with Mente Argentina
  • getting to the point where I was comfortable walking around Buenos Aires on my own (during the day…)
  • writing for The Bubble and getting my first professional journalistic hate mail because even though I’m still annoyed with the inability of some people to understand how science and science journalism work, it was a good article and I’m proud of it.
  • and getting to try all the food, whether it be a 3-hour manabita classic, a Pick Up the Fork “restaurant for cheap bastards,” or milanesas and ice cream with my host family.

It’s been fun, guys.

Stocking up

Tonight’s my last overnight in BA, so I had today and tomorrow to get all my last-minute stuff before I leave at 1am Monday morning. I didn’t do a whole lot today because I didn’t go to bed until 2:30ish, partly because my host family sister had friends over blasting Britney Spears (many songs of whom I still remember the lyrics…) and partly because I was watching more Let’s Play Cloudberry Kingdom because I suck at actually playing video games and I needed something to do because sleeping obviously wasn’t an option.

Also because it’s, you know, really entertaining.

As for my food, lunch was a little lame because I didn’t wake up til 11 or so, so I had a cookie at 3 and a choripán with a fried egg (chorihuevopán?) at 3:30 while waiting for Fuerza Bruta to start. For those of you who don’t know what it is, imagine Cirque du Soleil with less acrobatics and more acid, and that’ll get you a rough idea. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a lot of confetti, mist, fans, and flashy lighting. It’s pretty wild.

It’s also probably the closest I’ll ever get to a rave (or doing drugs), and I’m ok with that.

After that, we went back to the divey parrilla we went to on… whatever day that was earlier this week (Monday I think), and technically it wasn’t open yet, but they recognized us and let us sit inside and chill out til 7 when it actually opened. Since I had a choripán earlier (three and a half hours earlier…), I didn’t want another one, so I ordered what I thought was a half-portion of flank steak. It came out as a pretty sizeable piece of not flank steak, which I was ok with because it was delicious and more than enough food. I mean, this steak probably would’ve been 15 bucks in the States and I got it for the equivalent of roughly 6. Definitely glad we went.

Tomorrow will probably just be packing and stocking up on all the chocolate and cookies I want for the flight I MEAN TO BRING BACK FOR MY FRIENDS. I’ll just buy dulce de leche at Wegmans and deal with the fact that steak is more expensive back home.

Winding down

Today was a nice and relaxing day full of bread and walks and friendly people, which is a refreshing change from the two previous days. I mean, my meeting got cancelled without me knowing and the line at the post office was freakishly long because the system of the one I usually go to was down, but hey, pick your battles. Besides, 42 pesos for two delicious filled croissants and a sizeable baguette from the French bakery near my bartending classes makes up for it. And I ate all of it because I could (also because bread like that goes bad quickly).

Anyway, I only have two more days left here in BA (and no SUBE card…) so I’m just going to take it easy and chill. I will miss the practically ubiquitous access to bread and chocolate, but it’s probably for the better that I can’t just walk downstairs and buy chocolate when I’m at home or school. At least here I have to walk a half hour on average to get lunch, whereas class is only a 20 minute walk from the apartment and I don’t get any walking in at home because we have no sidewalks and I enjoy living.

Related: I will definitely be stocking up on dulce de leche and chimichurri when I get back. Neither of those sound like they travel well, especially since they’d likely be eaten if they were in my carryon, but Wegmans sells Argie dulce de leche and I found a good chimichurri recipe, so I should be set.

I did enjoy it here, and I hope to come back if I can, but I’m also ready to go home and start class again. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do when I graduate because working doesn’t seem as fulfilling as being in school, and there’s no way I can afford grad school at this stage in the game when I already have $80K+ of debt waiting for me. Plus if I have to deal with anti-science haters more often…

(I know, dealing with people who don’t understand what you’re writing is part of the job, but if I can avoid flame wars, that would be lovely.)

Taking a step back

Those of you who know me personally know that I get into arguments very easily, especially about things I care about. Unfortunately, the things I care about are also things that are often very controversial for varying reasons of varying degrees of validity. Combine that with two long family lines of stubbornness and you can probably guess that the war started yesterday was not very easy on me. But at that point, what can you do? I’m not going to give up because their arguments are invalid. They’re not going to give up because they’re not listening to me anyway. Was my article super awesome and perfect in every way? Of course not. Am I proud of it? Damn right I am. So I’m not going to waste my time with their inability to comprehend the situation.

In lighter news, it was supposed to rain today, so I ended up staying close to find lunch rather than walking an hour to the place I had in mind (I had to hand in my public transportation card yesterday and the bus costs twice as much without it). I chanced upon a cute little cafe where I had pizza with arugula, mushrooms, and brie, and it tasted good but the toppings were thrown on right before serving, so it was more like a salad on top of a pizza rather than a pizza with said toppings. I know that’s how pizzas with arugula work, but still.

I also made a run to the post office because I had 5 letters left to write and I needed something to calm me down last night. It’s kinda funny in an annoying way how every time I go to the post office, I’m told that the letters are 23 pesos each, not the 20 I put on each. I’ve been to the post office several times not only during this trip but also since the price jumped from 20 to 23, so I know that each costs 23 pesos rather than the 20 I put on there, but I only have stamps in 10 peso increments. That’s kinda why I’m at the window with varying amounts of pesos in my hand telling you where each letter is going. I know my Spanish isn’t stellar, and I know I don’t say “estampizhus” correctly, but I used more than 400 pesos worth of stamps in six weeks, so I kinda know what I’m doing at this point. Also it doesn’t help when they make me cover the envelope in 25-cent stamps because they don’t have bigger ones adding up to 3 pesos but don’t think to use the label printer. Nevertheless, writing letters is one of those weird things I like doing, and it’s only fitting to include Argentina in my personal mission to singlehandedly save the postal system, one country at a time. The stamps are certainly expensive enough.

Fighting back

Today’s post will not be so much about my food romp (beef shawarma with a pomelo drink) because I’m currently getting shredded for the article I published yesterday. I can’t say I didn’t see this coming because I’ve been around the science journalism scene for long enough to know that anything about GMOs will get you lots of angry mobs of the anti-science and anti-Monsanto persuasions. Of course, explaining in the article that there are thousands of studies indicating nothing wrong and that I don’t agree with the politics did nothing for me because no one ever reads articles before flaming them, plus I know better than to expect people to change their minds.

Which brings me to two rules that should be established before commenting. I also know better than to expect that to happen too, but one can dream:

  1. Read the article first. Seriously, you’re going to look stupid in the comments if you bring up stuff I already shot down.
  2. More importantly, if you’re going to tell me I’m wrong (and if I am, by all means, tell me), you better have proof. I’m not talking some random site that agrees with what you think. I’m talking a peer-reviewed and published study, more than one if you can find them. I’m not going to believe you otherwise.

Rereading the comments too much makes me mad, which doesn’t help when I’m trying to respond in the most civil fashion I can when dealing with people who don’t bother to look up the information. With the exception of one commenter who pointed out a very valid grammatical error on my part (my editor is fixing this as we speak), they’re resorting to using the very misconceptions I addressed in the article with only mild variations, not to mention logical fallacies.

I don’t know what I expected.

Wait, yes, I do. I expected people to be smart enough to do their research before posting crap like that. 33,000+ articles don’t lie. A quick Google search of university sites (not even .org sites can be trusted with this one) doesn’t lie.

Welcome to science journalism.

Trying my luck

Overall, I’ve been pretty lucky foodwise in my adventures abroad.  Aside from those stomachly-questionable salchipapas I ate in Ecuador and that chicken empanada last week with surprise peppers and onions, nothing I’ve bought has been terrible, and really most of it has been pretty good, which is nice. I know that having hits and misses is part of any experience, food or otherwise, but I’ve been surprisingly lucky.

Today was a little different. Of course, I kept my string of good luck because my lunch was quite yummy, but we didn’t get to the Peruvian restaurant til almost 2, the service (for us, anyway) was horrendously slow, my friend’s dish wasn’t that great, and the waitress kept my change as an assumed tip. The only reason why I didn’t put up a fight is because my dish was worth the tip. It was ajiaco de conejo, which translates to something yummy with rabbit. I don’t know what was in the sauce, but it was seasoned really well, and this is going to sound super cliché but the meat really did taste like chicken, though maybe a bit meatier. The potatoes were really good too, and the rice soaked up the excess sauce. Good stuff.

I also finally got my second article published, which was a relief after working on it for almost a month. My editors and the postdoc researcher I interviewed were super helpful in making it happen.

And finally I got to visit El Ateneo, which is this cool bookstore that used to be a theater house. I had walked past it several times without really looking in because I just assumed it was a plain old bookstore, but then a girl in my program posted a link about it, so I had to go back and check it out. The old balconies were transformed into reading rooms, and the stage was the eating area. I’d post pictures, but my laptop is still broken.

Breaking the mold

To kick off the food romp, I did something I don’t normally do: order something that isn’t chicken tikka masala at an Indian restaurant. I know that’s super lame, especially when I’m all “I’ll try everything once,” but I’m still working on my heat tolerance and it just tastes so good that I can’t help but order the same thing every time. (Un)fortunately for me, my friend from London (whose family is from India) refused to let me order it, plus it wasn’t on the lunch menu anyway, so I ordered a 19-spiced lamb dish that was really good. I’ll admit, I’m glad she put the threat on me because even though I could eat tikka masala sauce on a tire and probably be happy, part of me has also been wanting to order something else. Don’t worry, chicken tikka masala, you’re still my go to if things get scary.

(PS: The restaurant is also literally within throwing distance of my bedroom and I’ve been wanting to go there ever since I got here.)

I’m also just about done on my second article. For those of you keeping track at home, yes, I’ve been here for 5 weeks and haven’t published my second article, but it’s about GMOs, which is as huge a deal here as it is at home, so my editors wanted to make sure I had everything covered in case I got shredded. Of course, that implies that someone outside of my family is reading them, but one can be hopeful. As frustrating as it was, it was neat because my editors got me in contact with a postdoc researcher at a molecular and cellular biology research institute in a nearby city, and she not only gave me a lot of valuable points but also thanked me for being one of the handful of people not against the technology. Balanced sources are few and far between in this topic, so it’s exciting to be one of the few.

Last hurrah

Would you look at that, I fell off the posting bandwagon again. To be fair, I hadn’t done a whole lot aside from making a complete jerk out of myself by ordering 110 pesos worth of food when I only had 100 on me at the time and narrowly escaping a super creepy guy in the one and possibly only time I’ll go out to a dance thing.

BUT. This is my last week here, so I need to make this special. How? With a food romp, of course. I realized this when talking to my mom yesterday because she asked what I had planned for my last week, adding that I could take out a little extra money if I needed to so because I might not be able to come back, and aside from the Feria de Mataderos, all the other places were restaurants. I’m not terribly surprised, though: I hit the museums I wanted to see, I don’t have money to go to Mendoza or Patagonia or whatever, and I’m not terribly fashion conscious (plus they have a weird obsession with platform shoes here). So what does that leave? Food. And with my unofficial goal to hit as many PITF joints as I can (eight so far), I have my work more than cut out for me anyway.

Today: delivery. I know that’s kinda lame because I can get delivery at school, but I still wanted to give it a go, plus I’m weird about walking around at night by myself. Unfortunately, the sushi place I wanted to get delivery from had a higher minimum than what I had (and was capable of eating), and then the burrito place I was going to order from didn’t deliver to the apartment, so I settled on a teriyaki steak stir fry thing. The veggies weren’t terribly exciting (tasted good but just shredded cabbage and carrots), but holy goodness the steak was tender. I was also bad and made a barebones version of my bartending project with vanilla ice cream, a bit of Baileys, and cookie crumbs.

The slightly more official food romp starts tomorrow with lunch with some of my program friends.

Life’s lemons

One of the main things I’ve learned on this trip (and I guess in life in general) is how to work with what you have. Here, it’s been things like the limited funds I’ve allotted myself or my certainly-less-than-fluent-but-mostly-functional Spanish skills when interacting with my host family and people at restaurants. At home, it’s been things like working on an early schedule and finding stuff to do when my friends aren’t a room away. And at school, it’s been things like cooking for one because it’s a lot harder than I thought.

But when I think about it, I don’t really have a method to my coping skills, whether they’re applied to tchotchke things like the aforementioned or serious things like death or divorce. I just… do it. It’s really frustrating because I’ve gotten to the age where these things happen more often, and I’ve been through them too, but either I’ve been so removed from it (my parents got divorced when I was six and I turn 21 in a month and change) or I haven’t been in exactly that situation, so not only can I not directly compare, I can’t explain my coping process to help others. This trip has been especially weird for that, having one friend’s parents start a divorce and three framily members lose a close relative in the span of a month. Obviously it’s all about them and their feelings, and I want to help, but I’m not much help when I just… do it.

Maybe that’s just it, then. Maybe there is no method, no rhyme or reason to how one adjusts to significant change or really any change. Maybe everyone just… does it, but getting there is different, and maybe all we can do to help our friends in times like this is to pick them back up and put them back on their own track.

And provide ice cream. Ice cream always helps. Happy National Ice Cream Day, estadounidenses, and happy Día de los Amigos, Argentines.

Delayed recovery

I was going to add this as an edit to the bottom of last night’s post, but I decided it should get its own. In addition to drinking two cups of coffee and actually being somewhat sociable Saturday, my laptop decided to crap out somewhere between the first café (con leche) and the 3D printing café. Thanks to the lovely full-time staff in the IT department at school, I knew how to at least diagnose my problem, though seriously, all you do is type in the problem and chances are someone will know what it is and how to fix it (it’s actually our first line of defense after turning it off and turning it back on again).

Anyway, it appears my BIOS battery has kicked the bucket, making it impossible for my crappy little Gateway laptop to get past the Gateway loading screen. It seems like a pretty easy fix, just open up the back, replace the little battery (it’s like what you put in a watch), and then off you go. The problem is that I don’t have a screwdriver here small enough, and I don’t really want to attempt PC repair here in Argentina, mostly because I don’t trust my Spanish enough to explain what I need without sounding like I don’t know what I’m talking about beyond “computer,” “broken,” and “screwdriver” (thank you, bartending classes).

To be fair, it’s also five years old and *ahem* still runs Vista, so it’s not like it’s a brand new computer, but if I can salvage it, that’d be cool. It crashed several years ago when my dad still had it, and he was able to bring it back to life, but other than that, there wasn’t anything wrong with it until this. Chrome works fine on it, Word works fine on it, Inkscape works fine on it, and none of my Steam games are compatible with my Mac, so…