The trials of tourist-hood

So I’m running a bit behind on updating everything that’s going on, but here’s a brief recap:

Last night of orientation was Thursday and we all went out to a fancy, buffet-style restaurant where you got all you can eat food, including the parilla (barbeque), as well as all you can drink of your choice (wine included). Then we went bar-hopping in Palermo (more on that later). Friday morning we got moved in to our various living situations around the city and I discovered that luck was on my side in a huge way in my housing arrangement (again, more on that later). Went out last night with my new American apartment-mate (our Argentine apartment-mate is out of town on business till monday), and we get along really well. Today I went to a town called Tigre which is on the delta of the Paraná river. A tourist-geared town, but still fun. We took a river boat ride and explored an arts and crafts market.

So, to rewind a bit, Thursday night we went to that buffet-thing and I finally tried the beef. They had this big steaming grill covered with every edible part of a cow you could imagine (and also some you couldn’t) and the cooks were there grilling away and you just pointed to the cut you wanted and said how big of a piece. And I’ll admit, it was good, but not good enough to convert me from trying to maintain vegetarianism.

The food here overall has been an interesting experience. I would consider myself a vegetarian in the US, but here I’m really just a picky eater. You can’t avoid meat entirely, as expected, but what has been a bit of a disappointment is the prevalence of ham in EVERYTHING. I am not a fan of ham, to say the least, and it’s most common companion here has been cheese, which is a pain since I’m also lactose intolerant. But for the most part I’ve been able to grin and bear it, and it’s just a matter of time before I’m shopping for my own groceries and cooking for myself. Breakfasts are nice and light with just coffee or tea and toast or medialunas (small, croissant-like pastries). Juice is an experience, since it’s certainly not from fruit but rather a mix of water, sugar, and food coloring. Sure there’s orange juice, lemondade, and others, but in my experience the only real differentiation between them is the color, which somehow psychologically convinces you it tastes somewhat like orange juice.

Dulce de leche is a big deal here too. It’s essentially an incarnation of condensed milk that has a unique taste but can be compared roughly to a caramel-chocolate flavor, but that really doesn’t do it justice. They have it in Chile too, but it’s called Manjar. And you see this stuff everywhere, as a flavor of ice cream, in between cookies and on top of every dessert. Luckily it’s delicious.

Dinner is quite the event. Eating before 9 is unheard of and you usually aren’t served until 10:30 or 11 and the meal lasts at least a couple of hours. Beef is king, but the menus are very diverse. And wine, my main interest, is pretty cheap. A couple of nights ago I spit a bottle of Malbec (the famous Argentine varietal) with a couple of friends and it only cost 7 US dollars and was about a million times better than anything I’ve had in my under-aged, college-budget experience.

to be continued…

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