November 2015. My second year at university and the time to decide upon where I want to spend my year abroad. I knew from the very beginning that I didn’t want to be in Spain. I love Spain and I know that because I have been there on so many different occasions. It was time to spread out further and take full advantage of the opportunities Leeds were presenting me with. Options were between Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay in South America. I could choose to study at a university as an Erasmus student, teach English through British Council or take up a work placement. Well, I decided within an instant that Buenos Aires was the place I wanted to be. I also knew that studying was the best option. I’m 21, these are meant to be the best years of my life as they say. I will spend the next 40 odd years working and crying over my long gone uni days. So without a single doubt, study it was. My friend Caela attended the same university that I will be at this year (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Argentina) and has helped me so much with pre-departure information. I got a little heads up on where to live, what to do, even directions on how to take the bus to and from university. Regardless of the preparation, all of this time I have been very nervous. I presume you know that I travel a lot, but this time it was different. It’s a completely different part of the world, and so far away. I’m accustomed to going everywhere life (and National Geographic) takes me, however, for the first time ever, I had bought a one way ticket to the very south of el sur de america.
The journey starts in Istanbul. A 12 hour direct flight to São Paulo followed by another 2 to Buenos Aires (shout out to Hatice who spent all her air miles to fly me business class – SO grateful). Brazil looks so crowded from up high in the clouds, I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like down on earth. Colourful buildings all scattered around randomly in between miles of greenery. As we fly over villages, forests and cities, not once did I move from my position in front of the aeroplane window. My eyes were fixed on the scenery and my mind on the adventures and the new life I was starting in this foreign place. I felt butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat, a twinkle in my eye and a pounding in my heart. It was now reality. After months of anticipation and excitement, I had finally made it to Argentina.
12pm local time, 4am British time and 6 am Turkish time, a very cranky and hungry student arrives at Ezeiza Airport. 3 bags, 2 suitcases and a 1 hour long taxi ride later my Airbnb hostess Camila greeted me at the front door of her apartment on Calle Thames (apparently pronounced literally as ‘ta-mehs’). We walk into an adorable little flat. Decorated with bohemian wall hangings, indian paintings and a covered with a strong and unique scent, this place feels like home away from home. I will be staying here until Saturday 11th August. During this time I will be searching for a room in a shared house to settle into before university starts next Monday.
I must admit, the weather was not expected. I knew it was winter here, I knew it was cold, I knew it all, but I didn’t know it was this bad. Having swam in our outdoor pool under a 30 degree sun just over 24 hours ago, last night’s sleep was something beyond what my body could handle. Vest top, t-shirt, hoodie, fluffy socks, quilt, duvet, another duvet and a blanket. This is how I went to bed last night. How is this fair? You know they say you don’t realise what you have until it’s gone? Well I realised I shouldn’t have complained about Istanbul’s hot weather because I would do anything to have that back right now. Even as I type, I’m sat here in the living room with layers of clothing, a scarf and an icicle hanging off the tip of my frozen nose.
So anyway, regardless of the weather related circumstances, I had a very good night’s sleep and headed out at 11:30am to view one of the houses I found on Craigslist. My main area of interest is Palermo, especially Palermo Soho. It’s literally as it’s called; the Soho of Buenos Aires. All the bars, clubs, restaurants, hip shops, galleries, anything and everything you can imagine is located in this area, as are the majority of international erasmus students like myself. The first house I visited was not to my taste so on to the next. But before that, is it time for food yet? I think so.
As per usual, Happy Cow managed to find me a cosy and hip little vegetarian/vegan cafe located on Avenida Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz 2012. Not 2 pieces of furniture, not 2 plant pots, nor 2 plates look the same. Colourful, bright and most importantly warm (both metaphorically and literally in this case), the front of Casa Munay welcomes it’s customers with a mini health shop leading onto the seating area and open kitchen towards the back. From natural shower gels to vegan cheesecake bites, this quirky cafe also has high stools and bar tables surrounded by a variety of items a health freak would go crazy over. Marble garden tables are presented with wheatgrass pots in the centre whilst an open door way escorts you into a small ‘living area’. There is also a bookshelf overflowing with novels, recipe books and city guides to accompany your scrumptious meal. I opted for the famous “La casa de los espíritus” by Isabel Allende as we recently studied this writer’s work in my Modern Spanish Literature module at university.
When I first arrived, the waitresses were very attentive and bought over a basket full of warm toasted brown bread with a beetroot dip. As a main I went straight for the “3 x bruschetta”. It’s literally as it says on the package. 1 square bruschetta topped with roasted mushrooms, one with homemade pesto and sun dried tomatoes and another with hummus and caramelised white onions. As an avocado addict, I also asked for an extra side of sliced avocado which came with fresh beansprouts. It was delicious. However after all of this bread I was in need of some tummy soothing as well as wanting to waste some time before heading off to a second house viewing. A cute wooden tea tray was placed on my table to choose a herbal tea bag. Me being the indecisive person I am, I went for the brightest package without looking at the content. The chosen green tea with camomile was presented in a very visually appealing tea pot decorated with Chinese designs and served with a side of organic brown sugar. Before paying the bill I also decided to get myself a quick breakfast pot for tomorrow morning. Quimya Yog is an Argentinian business, the first in the country to produce vegan yoghurt pots. These scrumptious and filling pots are made with coconut milk yoghurt topped with seeds and granola (flavours include, fruits, vanilla, blueberry and mango & passionfruit). Highly recommended as a grab and go breakfast, after meal dessert, or small snack!
Continuing on with the day, I made my way to the second house located in Plaza Armenia. Although this place was just as cosy as the homely Casa Munay and however perfectly located it may be, yet again this house was just not for me.
Another 3 hours to waste until the next viewing lead me on to the second meander of the day around the complicated streets of Palermo. So much to see and so much to do. All sorts of cafes, wood design shops, wacky furniture stores, vintage clothing stalls, I even walked passed my dream car. It will be one day, i’m sure. I’ve already fallen in love with the place I will be calling home for the next 12 months. I have been here for no longer than a day and I never want to leave. Despite the freezing cold at the moment, I can’t begin to imagine life in the picturesque city during the summer months (October-March).
18:00 hours and I am stood outside the gate of Bull Dog Estate waiting for the 3rd viewing of the day. Jennifer, the young Argentinian home owner showed me around the place which seems perfect. The prices are a little high however I will only be renting until the end of November as I will be travelling until March. Plus, I’d rather not live in the same place all year and try to emerge myself into new areas around the city. I am now sat in Camila’s living room with a huge mug of coffee as I need to keep awake. It’s quite late here but I have to contact as many landlords as I can. You see, due to my cousins wedding on the 30th July, I had to stay in Istanbul and ended up being labeled as a ‘late comer’. All of the houses which I had in my mind (large double rooms with an en suite) have already been snatched up by the ‘keen-beenz’. As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm…
I have until Wednesday to find a place. I don’t know anyone here, I missed the orientation week, university doesn’t start until next Monday and I have no idea what else to do until then. But that’s all a part of the experience. I am more than happy to find my own way around, discover and explore as always. UCA has a Facebook group for it’s international students. It seems they’ve got welcome parties and walking tours arranged for this week as well as the rest of the year. Maybe I should go?
That’s it from me for now. Must get back to emailing every contact possible on Craigslist and the entirety of Buenos Aires…