Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Magical Intercambios and More

Our friend Lisa signed up for an intercambio, or a meeting in which English is traded for Spanish with a Spanish-speaking language partner. In an intercambio, you usually meet at a neutral location, for instance a cafe or a park, and speak in Spanish for one hour and English for the other hour. You help your partner along with English, and they help you along with Spanish. It is free and can be a great way to meet friends. Well, anyhow, our friend's intercambio was going quite well. So well in fact that she and her language partner began to email incessantly throughout the day, and then they began to text, also incessantly. This saga was unfolding back when we were in our TEFL course, and one day Lisa's phone buzzed during class. She began to glow slightly and leaned over to whisper that her language partner had just texted her because he was having trouble tying the knot on his tie. "Isn't that cute?" she wanted to know. ¨Lisa, this isn't normal,¨ I whispered back. ¨No, no, we're just friends. They're all like that here. Friendly.¨ Yeah right.

One month later and Lisa and her language partner are in the midst of a swingin' romance, going to the zoo on weekends, to the Tigre Delta on Columbus Day, movies during the week, and hosting asados on Fridays (much to our glee...). Asados are the most popular Argentine past-time. Picture the most delicious barbeque you can conger up: that is an asado. Lisa and her language partner boyfriend had us over and we all gathered around their barbeque pit. It's spring and although the days are hot, the nights are chilly, so the grill kept us warm (along with the countless bottles of red wine...), and Lisa's beau grilled us serving after serving of parilla--or grilled steak--and pork, and chorizos, with which we made mini choripans. It was beyond delicious...I thought I would nearly faint with culinary ecstasy when Lisa then carried up a plate of home-made empanadas, her roommate majestically appeared with a huge glass bowl of strawberries covered in whipped cream, and her roommate's boyfriend emerged with a bowl of divinely home-made potato salad. I was full to the point of being in pain, but I couldn't stop eating. Hey, I didn't know when I would get this kind of chance again! :-)

But, back to Lisa and her language partner. It is so funny and wonderful seeing them together now. After arriving here and meeting Lisa, all of us within our first weeks here, sea-legs not quite acquired, and hearing her timid little tid-bits about a cute language partner. And now look...They are as comfortable with each other as could be, and their story of how they came to be is one of the most memorable I have heard.

It is so nice forming these bonds with people we met in class. Everyone in class was there for a different reason--some were there to do something while applying for graduate school programs, some were there to become fluent in Spanish, some were there purely to travel, and some were there to try their hand at teaching to see if it could be a career to take home with them. While we all know that Buenos Aires won't be our forever, we will forever remember one another in this moment. I think perhaps because we are all so far from home and we all started at square one, or square zero rather, in terms of having a community here, we all reached out to each other quite strongly to make bonds. Which has made all the difference in the world. I was thinking about all of this a lot just this past weekend, which was surprise-party central. It was both our friends' Nick and Breanna's birthdays last week (confusing, I know!), and Brenna threw Nick a surprise party on Friday night, and Nick (her husband) and Nick (Cunningham) and I threw Brenna a surprise party on Saturday night. It was quite a weekend!

Friday night's party was hosted by our friend Bobby from class. Bobby is one of the most sincerely kind people anyone could meet. An elementary school teacher from Houston, TX, you couldn't find a person more perfect for working with children. But anyways, I keep rambling...Bobby hosted the party at his apartment's terrace that is just gorgeous...It has the loveliest view of the city, and just to stand and look over the streets and the river was just a wonderful reminder of how great Buenos Aires can be...It reminded me of the first week Nick and I arrived when we were just dizzy drinking everything in.

But, there was more to the party than just the view. Brenna made pitcher after pitcher of sangria, and grilled steak and chicken for fajitas. Our first Mexican meal since we got here!!! She was really the hostess with the mostest. It was delicious...Once again, I ate until it hurt. (I should probably stop doing that...) Nick (her husband) was so surprised, and so happy to see everyone from our class. It was a really magical night...Brenna did an amazing job, and she was so exhausted, I don't think she thought for a second that we were planning a party for her the next night.

Brenna's surprise party was not as glamorous (because it was at our house!), but still very fun. Nick and I hosted it at our apartment, and it was so much fun to have our Argentine friends over to our home here!! We ordered a dozen pizzas and stocked up on Quilmes and Malbec, and of course rum and Fernet as well, and our classmates trickled in. Lisa came with her beau, Nick and Brenna's roommate from France came, Leonor and Elsa, the Peruvian empanada-angel sisters came, and pretty much everyone else from our class! Brenna was really surprised, and it was such a fun, low-key night. Two surprise parties in one weekend...Not bad! :-) Here is a picture of our apartment, because I don't think we have posted any yet:

Nick and I were exhausted after the double-whammy weekend because not only did we have two surprise parties, but we sold empanadas on Saturday and Sunday! Unfortunately, we were not very successful...On Saturday, I left Nick all alone at our stand because I had to teach (yikes...minus points for me as a girlfriend...). I walked with him to Puerto Madero and helped him set up shop, bought him a choripan to cushion the blow, and then left him high and dry.

Two hours later, in the middle of my class, I got a text: ¨Calling it a day. Not very successful.¨ I came home to a slightly disappointed Nick who informed me that he sold a grand total of 5 of our delicious pastries. What the heck was wrong with everyone?? These babies are drool-worthy, let me tell you. Nick figured it out that Puerto Madero is really choripan territory, whereas the San Telmo Antique Fair is empanada haven. Therefore, we chalked it up to some market research and resolved to have a successful day at the fair on Sunday.

Sunday came and the alarm clock went off. I could not get out of bed. I was stuck. Like a tree. After a weekend of surprise parties, teaching, baking empanadas, cleaning for the party, my body ached. I didn't drag myself out of bed until 11 am, which meant we didn't hit the vending streets until about 2 pm. Which meant...We missed the noon rush! We had a difficult time selling our goods that day, although we did have some very sweet customers who helped the hours tick by. Three hours later, and down 36 empanadas, we decided to call it quits. But it wasn't all for nothing--we were left with a 25 peso profit, and about 50 empanadas for ourselves, which to me is a pretty fabulous coup.

When we got home, I promptly passed out for an hour and a half, and when I woke up, Nick had our spicy black-bean soup boiling away on the stove, and the Sopranos ready and waiting on the computer. What a perfect Sunday.

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