TQM Baires

I don’t know what it is, maybe the weather? or maybe the creepy facebook photo stalking of my friends who went to Argentina with.. but regardless, I have this overwhelming, all consuming desire to jump on the next plane out to Buenos Aires.

I know I haven’t posted anything in ages, and I KNOW I’m a terrible blogger, but in my defense, my life has been pretty uneventful. Or at least uneventful enough that nothing warranted a blog post, that is, until now. Yeah, yeah, talking about how much I miss Argentina isn’t all that exciting, BUT as the memories flood into my brain, a growing emptiness is consuming me and so before I become an empty carcass, I wanted to share a little more about that goddam country that made me fall in love with it.

Before I start, I just wanted to inform everyone that, yes they use text slang in Argentina as well (for all you text slang haters) and TQM stands for “Te Queiro Mucho” or I love you a lot :) and Baires = Buenos Aires.

Okay everyone, get ready and brace yourselves for my epic love story (don’t get too excited as i’ll keep it G-Rated :P)

To be perfectly honest, much of my experience in Argentina was overshadowed by everyone’s enemy: drama. Who would have thought that no drama tolerating me would spend almost every single day of her living abroad experience deeply engrossed in a personal, dramatic soap opera? Anyway, to say the least, those were not happy times, so I’ll spare you the details. Sadly, I feel like I wasn’t able to take full advantage of the porteño (Argentine word for: Argentine) culture, thus leading to a dismal experience. So, by the end of my study abroad, I was ready to LEAVE and never look back. Not surprisingly, I was left with bitter feelings toward the country and its people as evidenced by my hatred towards them during the World Cup of 2010. I never thought that I’d want to go back, or that I’d even experience the typical “reverse culture shock” longing for my former host country. Of course, when I finally set foot on American soil, I immediately had the urge to leave.. haha but naturally, I thought that it was because I had been bitten by the travel bug and not necessarily that I wanted to go back to Argentina.

I actually visited my sister and her family in Brazil for a month after my stay in Argentina, and absolutely LOVED my time there. The people, the culture, the food —  all provided a nice change of scenery from my dramatic life. All I did was relax, do some art projects with ahjummas (middle aged korean women), and drink Korean instant coffee (which I am now currently addicted to.. it’s like crack and also very terrible for your figure). Ahhh the good old days, and of course because of my wonderful experience meeting so many diverse people from different countries all over the world (Argentina is pretty homogenous in terms of race/ethnicity), I automatically compared it with my experience in Argentina and of course, as you have probably heard from me, I loved my time in Brazil way more that in Argentina, or so I thought.

But today, I will fully admit to the error of my ways. I was quick to base my judgments on external factors that affected my stay rather than what this country had to offer. If I think about my experience there objectively, I did what I love to do most – EAT. One thing I regret is eating so much at Juana M (we became regulars to the point where different waiters recognized who we were), a hidden gem smack in the centró. Basically, it’s a trendy underground restaurant that not many tourists know about. My first time there, I immediately fell in love with the famous tantalizing, Argentine, 100% grass fed cow meat. And of course, we decided to make it a regular, weekly tradition. Unfortunately, each week, it left our wallets feeling a lot lighter since we’d dine and wine. But of course, I ate at many other restaurants including and American style diner, a milanesa (Argentine style breaded fried steak) restaurant where the milanesas were the size of a medium pizza from pizza hut, an Indian restaurant (my favorite!), several Chinese restaurants (those Chinese infiltrate every part of the freaking world), some Korean restaurants (Korean BBQ in Argentina>Korean BBQ anywhere else since the meat itself is so good), an authentic Argentina restaurant (another favorite), and many, many pizza restaurants, the most delicious being the famous El Cuartito “The Little Room”. It may seem like I’ve explored, but typical me stuck to the restaurants I liked and didn’t venture very far, unless I was travelling. However, there was one restaurant that shone like a bright star above the rest in terms of bonafide Argentine steak: La Cabrera. Huge tourist trap type restaurent with beautiful interior decor as well as hands down the best steak restaurant in the world. And that is a FACT. Nowhere else can you get such juicy goodness for the price you pay. Because it is a tourist attraction in itself, the prices are a little high for the regular Argentine, but, for foreigners its a good meal that includes a good sized steak, some wine and water (not free in Argentina), salad, and small condiments/appetizers for a whopping $30. Let me tell you, this place surpasses Ruth’s Chris by a million fold. While Ruth’s Chris steaks are delicious, they’re drenched in a little helpful ingredient we call butter. And their petit filet mignon alone costs about $30.. therefore, with the delicious simplicity of this Argentina steak, as well as a few other goodies (mainly alcohol), La Cabrera is my favorite steakhouse in the world so far (I doubt any other steakhouse can steal my heart away from this place). I’m getting hungry just talking about it…I think I have a post with pictures.. but the pictures don’t do the place justice.. you all will have to go to Argentina to try this place out for yourselves.

As you can see, little by little, this country started to steal pieces of my heart because it knew.. EXACTLY how to get it.. through FOOD. My best memories are of eating at restaurants, walking around EVERYWHERE to save bus/subway money (like $0.10 per ride HAHAHA) as well as attempt to exercise (running was out of the question since your lungs would burn the minute you sped your walking pace to even a slow jog due the the smoke and terrible pollution), and traveling to other parts of Argentina as well as some neighboring countries.

However, I realize now, that the final push for me to fall head over heels for this place, is the way it changed me. Being in Buenos Aires has molded my character and certain aspects of my life to a point where I know, I will hold these changes close to me for a really long (possibly forever) time. First and foremost is my love for sweets. Before Argentina, if I had to choose, I would rather spoon a mouthful of salt over a mouthful of sugar and I never fully understood when people said they ALWAYS have room for dessert. But now, as I finish my meals, with my stomach dangerously close to explosion from stuffing my face, I always, ALWAYS take a look at the dessert menu, and almost always order :). I don’t know how this unhealthy habit started but now, I have 4 cavities, all thanks to my sinful indulgence. Another aspect of my life that has changed is that I love the way Argentines take their meals. Dinner is the most important part of the day and it spans for hours as friends dine, talk, and of course wine! Which leads to another aspect of “foodtime” that I miss and that is having wine or beer at every meal and astonishingly, aside from shitty Quilmes (although better than most American beers like Budlight >.<), most beers in Argentina are passable and usually enjoyable. I used to buy 1.5 liters of Stella for $1.30 at the local supermarkets YUM YUM! I feel like in America, we scarf down our food as fast as we can and without saying a word, and drinking during the day is socially frowned upon. Another aspect that I’ve noticed is that I absolutely hate it when waiters give you the tab before you ask for it and sometimes before you even finish your meal! In Argentina, you are NEVER given the check unless you asked for it because it’s considered extremely rude and a sign that the waiter wants you to leave and for a country where meal-time is of utmost importance, this placing-of-checks-by-the-waiter-without-the-customer-asking-for-it would probably cause a heart attack for some Argentines. Lastly, I’ve noticed that, I’ve become brutally honest and verbally aggressive in true Argentine style. Some mistake my words as being “mean” but in all reality, its me being cariñosa or in other words “affectionate”. I do realize there are fine lines between being honest/blunt and being a straight up bitch, but I highly doubt that my words reflect the latter. All in all, just like a person changes to become more like his/her lover when in love, I’ve become more like an Argentine than I ever would have thought.

As I sit here, my body aching from sitting on the ground Asian-style rather than at a table/chair (we have no furniture at my new apartment), I continue to write this now long-ass blog post because I can’t stop blabbering about all the good memories I have from Argentina. Just like when your in love, I have spurts of giddiness and butterflies in my stomach when I think of going back.. and even possibly living there for a time.

(Sorry for the lack of photos, I promise in my next post I will photo whore this place up).

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One thought on “TQM Baires

  1. Cate says:

    So happy to see you writing! Loved reading this, I think everyone had ups and downs to the trip (for me, the drama of dealing with Graciella) and those downs can threaten to overshadow the ups, but when I look back I think about our trip to Bariloche and how blissful I was, how excited I was to be with amazing new friends, how funny it was watching Robert struggle up a 6 hour trek into the Andes with that crash pad, wanting to cry on that last stretch of the hike before we got to the refugeo but then the pay off of stripping down and diving into that crystal clear water, sitting on that rock in the lake watching that insane lightening storm, the talks on our 17 hour bus rides (especially the one either to or from Mendoza), laughing uncontrollably on the speed boat at the bottom of the Iquazu Falls looking up, dancing at Uni Club, and even that first night in the hotel talking with you and Alex. Meeting you, adventuring with you, going through ups and downs with you, I’m a changed person and when I look back I smile and think about those times. Missing you Hannah, I really hope our paths cross again soon!

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