iPhone Photoessay: (Delicious) Things I Consumed in Argentina

First of all, I want to start with a moment of gratitude. This morning, I finished my morning run and had not accidentally adopted any dogs by the end of it. Pfew, a sigh of relief.

This blog began back in 2011, when I wanted to document my semester abroad in Argentina. Since then, I haven’t written a whole lot of meaty posts about the experience. The writing I was doing back then (on Tumblr) was mostly short, anecdotal or quick story-based with a photograph or two. I’ll have to remedy that, in due time, but for this post I’d like to reminisce on delicious Argentinian food. Because I’m hungry, and looking at a bunch of juicy steak is going to make that better, right? Right.

24 Jul 2011 1 Ovieda Apple Pancakes

Ordering in restaurants did not start out on the right foot, in Argentina. This was “pancake”. It was literally sugar, baked onto a metal plate with a little breading in it. Way too sweet!

27 Jul 2011 2 Alfajor y Cafe

A traditional alfajor, or sandwich cookie biscuit thing, usually covered in powdered sugar. For some reason, I just couldn’t get into alfajors, unless they lacked the outer covering and were straight dulce de leche. Then I was totally into alfajors.

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Speaking of dulce de leche, it was a key culprit of my horrible eating habits during this semester. I could never say no!

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STEAK! This was the first steak I ordered in Argentina, three months in, believe it or not, because I was actually a vegetarian before studying here. Needless to say, that didn’t survive my trip.

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The best part of studying abroad might be the melting pot of cultures all coming together in one place. His face hiding behind a camera, pictured is a friend from Argentina who studied in Germany. The cook, not pictured, is a German who was also studying abroad in Argentina and decided to make us a German meal.

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The panaderia’s, or bakeries were both my best friend and my worst enemy. I wanted to try all of the different pastries available, ever, so I made it my mission.

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This sandwich was literally as big as both of our heads combined. So we each ate half, and died finishing it. Gotta love absurd portion sizes.

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My attempt at “healthy” by eating a whole grain medialuna. or butter croissant. It was unsuccessful, but deliciously so.

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My apartment was directly above one of the most incredible empanada shops. They made them open faced, with little bread bowls and I ordered take out several times a month. So. Good.

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Oh look at that, more pastries. More dulce de leche. More drizzled chocolate, powdered sugar and other creamy white sugar concoctions stuffed into a butter-saturated pastry from heaven.

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I lived 20 minutes away from “Chinatown” (actually Asia-town), which meant I could go into the grocery and get an uncut giant roll of sushi, unwrap the plastic and just eat it while walking or sitting or on the train. It was awesome.

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Okay, so I didn’t consume all of this, but it was consumable. Bariloche in Argentina, or the little Switzerland of Argentina, makes their own chocolate and it’s SO GOOD.

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Sometimes you order a meal, and it’s just three different kinds of potatoes. Argentina has a LOT of different potatoes that you can buy, though, so that’s pretty awesome. Did you know there are 5,000 different species of potatoes? Now you know!

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THIS PIECE OF CAKE WAS DELICIOUS and I’ll never forget it. Ever. As you can see, Argentina is pretty talented in the cake/pastry/fattening sweets area.

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Argentina and wine go together, and tasting wine at a winery while in Mendoza, a wine producing capital? That’s just a must-do. Not tipsy scraping and destroying your knees while falling off of a bicycle on the way back, though. You don’t need to do that. Trust me on this one.

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Argentina is famous for its asado, or barbequed / outdoor grilled meat. This asado was a king of asados, I’ve never seen a layout quite so big.

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Bondiola, or grilled, huge pieces of pork put on a nice bun, covered in weird sauce and stuffed into your face as quickly as possible, before it gets cold or drips on you. I miss bondiolas.

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Instead of just plain ketchup, you should probably also opt for the mini fries on your hotdog. I don’t know why, but you should just do it.

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I wandered around Bahia Blanca for a long time, unable to find anything I wanted to see. This cupcake shop and peanut butter cupcake literally saved the day, and made sure I wasn’t a grumpy grumpy monster when I got back to my accommodation.

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Thanksgiving in Argentina: though I missed my family, I didn’t miss out on great food and company. Or eating bird.

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More asado, because it’s delicious. This time in someone’s backyard. Sausages and huge slabs of beef are the usual.

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And to round this little photoessay off, only more pastries would be fitting.

Did I mention I gained 15-20 pounds in those five months? Well, I’m sure you can figure out why. How is anyone supposed to say “no” to food this delicious? Or even stop at reasonable amounts? It’s just not possible. If you can stay skinny without upping your exercise in Argentina, I’m assuming your taste buds don’t work.

Good thing my next stop was Asia, or I’d have been in real big trouble. (Hehe punny me!)

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Confession: I’m No Vagabond

There are so many travel blogs on the internet and so many people who make their living heading from one place to the next and writing about it. It’s an exciting life, full of novelty and fresh faces, beautiful scenery and the percentage of the world that they’ve seen is constantly creeping up a little bit higher. It’s an important rite of passage into the well-traveled community to do a year long RTW trip, or something along those lines. But I have a confession to make: I don’t want to perpetually travel. I don’t want to wander without limits, forever. I don’t even want to dedicate a year of my life solely to seeing things in different countries. I’m not a vagabond.

I don’t feel compelled to walk down the untraveled path, just because I’ve never been down it.

So, why do I write a travel blog? Why did I go to Istanbul or Germany or Argentina and why the hell do I live in South Korea of all places? It’s not that I didn’t enjoy going to all of the places I’ve been privileged enough to see, on the contrary, I’ve had the time of my life and hope to continue the trend. But I don’t want to simply travel the world. I want to be a part of it. I don’t want to see all of the UNESCO Heritage sites. I don’t want to color in all the countries of the world on a map, one day. I want to do something in each of them.

How vague, Sally. Let me elaborate.

I want to spend time with the people in each region and make their lives better in whatever way I can. I’m talking about volunteering or meaningful employment, sharing, discussion. I really believe that every single person in the world has something to offer someone else that can improve life for both of them. It could be simply getting a cup of coffee and filling an hour with mutual laughter, or spending the time to braid someone’s hair or just sitting on the ground and creating sidewalk chalk art with a neighborhood kid. I’m not talking about monetary resources or marketable skills, although those certainly can be used to create happiness in someone else’s life. But those aren’t necessary: I believe that everyone has something to give, regardless of wealth of experience. It’s one of my priorities to use what I have, wealth, experience and otherwise, to add value to lives around me. It’s not enough to see the world for me, I want to create something positive in it.

My favorite lady monk did nothing but tell stories, but my life (and Korean!) was better for it.
My favorite lady monk did nothing but tell stories, but my life (and Korean!) was better for it.

One of the ways that I believe I can add happiness to the world around me forms the second and maybe the biggest motivator for my travels: I want to learn. The more you know about the people around you, the better you can make decisions that are considerate and kind. The entire world would be vastly different if each and every one of us took the time to understand and appreciate the strange cultures on the other side of the ocean. I think national politicians from every country should probably be reeducated in that regard. But that knowledge, that understanding and appreciation is why I want to see the world. It’s because I want to learn about it… all of it.

So while I’d be thrilled to spend a year traveling the world, I would hate spending that year only traveling the world. I want to volunteer with the world, I want to talk to the world, I want to learn about the world. The Taj Mahal is breathtaking, but the story behind it is infinitely more valuable and fascinating. Just like Croatia: the scenery is spectacular and it’s a beautiful place to vacation, but the history of Yugoslavia and each individual city in Croatia makes my eyes light up. I want to see the evidence of a different life in older times, or perhaps evidence that life was the same. I want to see how today’s economy is influenced by that history. When the history is sad, I want to cry with it and remind myself that there are things that we can prevent as moral human beings and it’s ultimately our responsibility to do so: the monkeys and camels of the world aren’t likely to intervene in an ethnic cleansing.

So while I don’t have itchy feet, longing to see something new and discontent with where I am, I certainly have a curiosity that has me by the neck. My insatiable thirst for knowledge and history and understanding cultures has the reins and is pushing me to ask questions. It pushes me to read books and talk to people and investigate the lives already lived and those that are still living. I’m a student and the world is teaching me every step of the way: division, reunification, love, hate, war, peace, destruction, restoration, cries and laughter. The how and the why of the past and their connections to everything going on today are what drive me forward, onward to new lands and people.

Germany isn't the only country that's faced division.
Germany isn’t the only country that’s faced division.

Traveling for the sake of travel has benefits and there are countless articles on that topic. Self confidence, understanding of your own culture, empathy and the release of materialism are all wonderful reasons to leave your hometown and set out for a bit to see something new. I’m not knocking the good in this, it’s real and it’s valuable. But, for me, travel has pushed me into all of this and then into a new arena: passion and a sense of justice. Everyone should have the chance to worry about “first world problems.” The entire world should be able to complain about their significant other buying the wrong kind of jelly at the grocery store. I’m not saying it’s a good thing to forget perspective, but it’s an evil thing to have perspective forced upon you by poverty, war, dying family or dysfunctional government. I want to contribute to eliminating circumstances like this, because I can and therefore I feel a responsibility to do so. I can’t simply sit back and watch, traveling country to country, buying the souvenirs and checking off the list. I need more.

So this is my confession: I’m not a perpetual wanderer of the world. I’m not a vagabond. I’m not pulled by adventure to see new horizons or complete a list of things to do before I die. At heart, I’m really just a slave to my curiosity, my need to know more about someone else, my desire to understand better and contribute where I can and add something positive to another’s life. At the end of the day, I’m nothing more than a naive, compassionate and curious nerd with no limits. I will go anywhere, give everything and talk to anyone in pursuit of knowledge and then follow that up with my time and dedication to making life better for all of us. That’s my big secret. My full, written and signed confession that I’m not a gypsy soul and I never will be.

And with that, I’m completely happy.

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Lessons Learned About Myself in Argentina

book coffee happiness

When you travel, especially when you travel by yourself (as I am currently doing), you learn a whole lot about yourself. You also learn small things, such as how to get around on public transportation, how to use and find maps, how to pack your backpack more efficiently. As helpful as these lessons are, though, they aren’t the real ones. The real lessons are about who you are and what you’re like, separate from home and perhaps despite home. These are the lessons that I am talking about.

Five personal lessons that I’m willing to admit to:

I am Cheap

I am really, really, really cheap. I buy the same three things when I go grocery shopping for a few days of food: bread, bananas, and sandwich meat. This usually costs about 20 pesos, or 5 US dollars. When I have the choice between reloading my card to take the bus or not, I won’t, and then I’ll end up walking 35 minutes uphill because I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the extra pesos. I also get uncomfortable when someone talks about going out to dinner; that’s for rich people.

I am Physically Lazy

When given the choice of two activities, one that involves physical activity but is worth it and one that doesn’t, I will generally choose to be lazy. If asked, I will claim that I like the former.

I Always Get Lost

I will, inevitably, without a single doubt or exception: get lost. No I am not joking. It always happens. Need to get to my hostel? Lost. Need to find the grocery store? Lost. Trying to find that one museum? Lost. This wouldn’t be nearly so bad, except for the next point…

I am Stubborn

One of these days I am going to wake up half transformed into a mule, like Shrek. This point plays into all of the other ones: I am stubborn and won’t spend money (hence being cheap) and if I get lost, I won’t ask for directions more than once. Even if I don’t understand the answer. If someone invites me to do something that I’m clearly not physically fit for, I’ll accept their invitation and then push myself to do the whole thing. You know, since I already claimed I would. My family can attest to this and now that this is on the internet, I really can’t argue when they say, “I told you so!”

I Only Need Two Things: Coffee and a Book

I could spend a whole day reading and writing in any cafe and I would be content and caffeinated. This may or may not be the first thing I do when I visit a city. Does this make me a bad traveler? Maybe, but I don’t care and I’m vividly aware of my lameness. Thankfully, that also means extra good posts for you guys to read!

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What has traveling, backpacking, studying abroad or just visiting a foreign country taught you about yourself?

You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.

Featured Photograph: Yellow and Grey

My feet in a city park in rdoba, Argentina.

(RIP my favorite grey Keds)

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You can also find me on the ABOFA Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. There’s also an email list, if you’d like to subscribe.