Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday, January 2nd

Currency translations—Argentina

$20 USD = 86.40 pesos
$25 USD = 108 pesos
$50 USD = 216 pesos
$75 USD = 324 pesos
$100 USD = 432 pesos

20 pesos = $4.63 USD
40 pesos = $9.26 USD
60 pesos = $13.89 USD
80 pesos = $18.52 USD
100 pesos = $23.15 USD
200 pesos = $46.30 USD
300 pesos = $69.44 USD
400 pesos = $92.59 USD
500 pesos = $115.74 USD
600 pesos = $138.89 USD
700 pesos = $162.04 USD

Monday, January 2nd

We finally arrived to Buenos Aires after a 10+ hour flight on Delta Airlines. The flight wasn’t too bad because we got to lay out since the plane wasn’t full. We also received a complimentary dinner and breakfast. When we arrived at Buenos Aires, I could immediately tell it was going to be a hot day. It was about 70 degrees at 8 am and the humidity was incredible. We traveled through the customs line, paid our $140 reciprocity fee and grabbed our luggage. It was a very efficient process and I would say we got through all of the stops with our group within a half hour. All of the signs at the airport were in Spanish but they also had a lot in English too. My high school Spanish did help a little for reading the signs and basic communication. Our tour guide, Gus, arrived and after dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we began our tour of Buenos Aires. When we were driving through the city, I noticed many unique things. First off, there were cars sitting on the side of the road and many of the cars drove wherever they wanted to (including through the grass instead of the road). There was also a lot of honking and close driving. On our drive, I saw a lot of garbage siting on the sides of the road and streets and they also had a lot of litter throughout the city. There was also a lot of graffiti in Argentina (some was artistic, some not).

We took a bus tour through Buenos Aires to look at the major sites. Our first stop was to the ATM through to get some pesos. Most of us got around 700 pesos which was about $163 ($1 USD is equal to 4.32 pesos). We then traveled out to the main area where there were pictures set up to remember those who were killed in the riot from years ago. From that area you could see the rose colored building called the Casa Rosada. It is painted a rose color because it symbolizes the red and white parties coming together which was huge in Argentina. If I remember correctly, the president traditionally lives in the Casa Rosada. 

Above is the Casa Rosada with the protesting signs displayed.

We then went and saw the changing of the guards at the cathedral in the square. Inside the cathedral, there was beautiful artwork and stones on the floor. There were side chapels that you could go into and pray. This is a really neat experience for me because I am Catholic and Catholicism is huge in South America. They are very dedicated as well. Later in the day we stopped at another church and I was able to buy hand-made rosary beads outside.

 The Catholic Cathedral in Buenos Aires. Beautiful!
Representing the merging of the red and white parties. It was incorporated into the church. 

It was a Holy Day so the streets weren’t as busy as they usually will be. One thing I did note was the influence from Europe. There is European architecture and tons of food (Italian, Spanish, etc.). The details were so beautiful and reminded me of some of the architecture I was in Europe last year. We took a bus tour throughout the city and Gus told us more about the history of the city. We drove by one part of the university and it is a huge honor to attend the university there. One of the universities (not sure if it is all?) doesn’t charge the students. Agriculture is huge for students as well in Argentina and Argentina is one of the largest producers of beef in the world. It is the second largest country to consume beef as well.

We looked at a lot of the monuments and it was interesting because they all had such a unique story behind them. We stopped for lunch which was amazing. The people in Argentina have an appetizer, full mean and dessert typically (even for lunch). There were a lot of Italian choices and it was nice to get to know everyone in our group.

The soccer stadium seats about 50,000+ people. Huge!

We continued around the city on our guided tour. We went down to the port where there were a bunch of restaurants and bars. We got done with our tour and were free for the rest of the day. Alison and I decided to grab a taxi and go to the famous cemetery across town. I thought I would be freaked out in a cemetery but it was actually very beautiful and peaceful. The cemetery is for the wealthy or famous of Argentina and every grave looks like a small chapel. Family members can go and leave flowers, pictures, etc. for their loved ones. We walked throughout the cemetery and once again it was amazing to see all of the details. The cemetery closed at 6 pm and we decided to just walk around the area. We found a beautiful church with gold all along the sides and beautiful artwork outside.

The cemetery in Buenos Aires. Beautiful!

We went across the bridge which was painted pink with stripes and we looked at the outside of the university. The metal flower called the Flor de Metal was right next to it. It opens and closes every day and is a huge tourist attraction.

The Hard Rock Café was down there so naturally I bought another glass to add to my collection from London and Germany. We grabbed a cab and traveled throughout the city to a small café that is one of the most popular cafes in Buenos Aires called Café Tortoni. I tried out the Argentinian beer (Quilmes) which was very light and delicious. It was very busy—there was like a 30 person line outside! It looked somewhat like a pub on the inside but it had a lot of interesting history. The pictures on the wall seemed to tell a story. After the café, we decided to walk back toward the area our hotel was in. We found a lot of neat shops and bought some jewelry from Argentinian men at a market. My hardcore bartering skills came out then. We walked back toward the port and looked at all the bridges lit up at night.

We bumped into Dane, Adam, Chris and Ben on the way back and we decided to eat at a restaurant on the port. It was absolutely DELICIOUS. It was an Italian meal topped off with some Malbec (a famous red white of Argentina) that complimented the meal wonderfully. Then it was time to go night night!

So far I have loved Argentina. The culture is just so vibrant and different. I have noticed a lot of differences. One unique thing was in their advertisements. While they have many of the same products as us, they also advertise differently for them. There was one ad specifically that intrigued me. It was of a young woman and her grandmother and it said something along the lines of “listen to your elders” and it speaks very well of their culture. Instead of seeing older people as useless, the people in Argentina respect those with experience and wisdom.

Also, their driving here is crazy! (no offense) If there is one lane, there are at least 2-3 cars driving down it at once. It makes me wonder if their traffic laws are strictly enforced and also how many accidents there are per year in Argentina. Do they have insurance? My heart has skipped a few beats while in the taxis.

I have also noticed their body language here in Argentina. It isn’t uncommon for men to greet women with a kiss on the cheek and for men to hug. Alison and I got whistled at a few times but it wasn’t necessarily in a bad way.

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