Ryan Chartrand

Hola from Santiago, Chile! For those who do not know, that would be located in South America! As of today, I have been living in this continent for nine months and 16 days. It’s pretty unreal how the time flies and I would never even consider changing a single experience or memory for anything! Because Chile is located in the Southern Hemisphere, I had an awesome three month summer vacation, starting in December. I also had the opportunity to backpack through Torres del Paine in Southern Chile, visit Machu Picchu in Peru, party in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval as well as live for five weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina. And although I live in Chile, I am choosing to relate my experiences of my time in Buenos Aires, a city just as equally intriguing, interesting, culturally colorful and beautiful (though completely different) as Santiago.

I started off my summer vacation on Nov. 26 with a 7:30 a.m. flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was going to be living in a random apartment, with random roommates (that i had discovered on craigslist … weird that they even have craigslist in South America!) in a strange city – without friends – for five weeks smack dab in downtown. I had come to the conclusion that it was completely necessary that I remove myself from my Chilean (very American-English-filled) life and submerge myself in Spanish. Because I had been living in Chile for four months already, my Spanish was pretty good and had no problem figuring out a new city. However, little did I know that I would fall in love with the city and all it has to offer.

To begin, Buenos Aires is a huge and pretty diverse city. There are about 16 million habitants (almost three times the size of Santiago) and the city is never ending with sites to see, places to go, or things to buy! The first thing that is clear is that their stereotypical obsession with f£tbol, aka soccer, is completely true. Sarah Phillips and I were able to witness it when there was a soccer championship between the two most famous teams in Buenos Aires, La Boca Juniors and Los Estudiantes. We tried to go to a sports bar to see the spectacle, but discovered that it had been full of reservations for the last week in anticipation of the game. And this was only a bar!

Argentina is also famous for its Tango shows. I had the opportunity to attend a show at the famous Caf‚ Tortoni and take several tango lessons myself. It’s very hard and it requires so much control, but it’s also one of the most beautiful and sensual dances I have attempted to learn. But perhaps it just isn’t my thing. There are also plenty of street shows for pedestrian entertainment where you can watch and even possibly learn a dance a little (for a small fee of course).

Argentina’s food was also fantastic (really, their meat IS that good), though I’m going to have to say my favorite part of the city was (of course) its men, though perhaps for reasons other than them being absolutely gorgeous: They still haven’t lose their chivalry!! (However, I will admit, this is probably due to the fact that they are a very macho society.) Now, I understand that there are among you North American men those who are gentlemen, as I’m sure women will agree with me when I say they’re just harder and harder to find! To give you all an idea of the typical Argentinian guy, I’ll tell you of a friend of mine I met there. I was not allowed to open the door, pour my own drink, order, or walk on the side of traffic in case an oncoming car suddenly swerved off the road. Also, he always had to be in between me and the beggar on the side of the road (yes, I know, a bit extreme, especially for someone unaccustomed to really anything at all . but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?)

So yes, Buenos Aires is fantastic and I’m already trying to figure out some way to go back and live there, but it does have its downsides as well. There’s a different kind of poverty that you don’t really see in Chile, lots of homeless people, too many of them being children, and very severe classism. Also, the parties don’t even really start until 3 a.m.!! Half the time in California, the keg ran out four hours ago!

Traveling through Latin America is safe, it’s cheap, and I have met some of the most interesting people! Living abroad has given me the most amazing experiences I could ask for and I would encourage everyone to live abroad at some point in their lives. The different perspectives one can gain from such an experience are invaluable and help open our eyes to the world beyond the United States.

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