Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harvard club, a la Buenos Aires

All images are courtesy of Danny Alexander, photographer extraordinaire!
(and I forgot to mention that I eat about 2 kilos of mandarinas a day. I am in heaven!)

With my first tango class under my belt, a trip to the pampas and a new apartment in San Telmo, I am beginning to feel like a real Argentine! I find myself surprisingly happy to be here. It is amazing to have weekends free to wander the city, sit in cafes and not be constantly worrying about the next paper we have to write. I guess this is what it will be like when I enter the “real world” again? I got a glimpse of what reality will be like after graduating from Harvard when I attended a Harvard Club de Argentina luncheon last week. I had received the invitation through a roundabout way, after meeting someone at the office of a professor I was interviewing and then finding out that the person who invited me was married to a woman with whom I had been corresponding before I got here. I think I would need to draw some sort of diagram for you to truly understand the connections, but suffice to say that we all finally connected and I met the alumni of Argentina.

I walked into a beautiful old building that had carved wood ceilings and marble floors. Men in suits were milling around as waiters offered you wine and tiny foods. I, of course, was not wearing a suit and stood there awkwardly for a few moments. After paying my 80 pesos (more than I have paid for any meal since arriving in Argentina), I was immediately introduced to an undergraduate from Harvard who was also from Mexico and helping to organize the intern program for under-grads. I won’t spend too much time on him, but suffice to say, I have yet to meet someone so pretentious and arrogant. After a meal of steak and salad (or rather just salad), a prestigious publishing magnate spoke about his experiences as a journalist, the recent election and the relationship between politics and journalism. It was interesting to be in a room where there were more than 50 men and only 5 women (two of whom work in some capacity for Harvard). The only nugget of wisdom I garnered was the idea that to have “free press”, a country needs to be highly economically developed and financially secure. I am not sure if that is true, but it would be interesting to hear what people think.

After giving out my card to several people and networking it up, I escaped to the streets where I wandered up 9 de Julio, nine lanes wide, the Avenida thought to be the widest street in the world. I was quickly surrounded by people as I walked the streets and it felt comfortable to be in this huge city.

Today I ran in the reserve which is close to my new house and was created when the Costanera Sur landfill was abandoned in 1984, seeds in the silt took root and resulted in an area that is now home to many birds, reptiles and small mammals. It borders el Rio de la Plata whose waves lap the shore and create a lovely environment for a run. It reminded me of learning that the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea was a spectacular natural zone because of the lack of human contact for the past fifty years. They only know this from satellite pictures that show the abundance of biodiversity. And if tensions between the two Korea`s continue, the DMZ will certainly be an interesting experiment to watch.

Last week I ran to Recoleta Cemetery which is the resting place to all the elite of Buenos Aires, as well as, Evita Peron. The cemetery is very similar to those I saw in Europe with it’s narrow lanes and intricate mausoleums. As I left, there was a funeral procession beginning. People wearing fur coats and large wool scarves hugged each other and were filled with solemn silence. It reminded me of being in Morocco and witnessing a funeral procession as I sat in a restaurant. It was incredible in that the people all sang together and as the process went down the street, everyone from the shops and restaurants stopped what they were doing and joined in the chanting. It was an unforgettable experience. How lucky I have been to travel the world and witness the differences between societies and how life and death will always bring us together.

There is still so much to share, but I need to begin making lasagna for a dinner we are hosting. I will try to write more this week to bring you all up to date, but I wanted to end with a list of interesting things I have noted since arriving in Argentina. There are not as many as when I was in Oman or Japan, but I did my best.

• Dog walkers: this is mainly in Palermo, where you will see people walking over 12 dogs at one time, an incredible site and these people are really talented at not getting tangled up.

• There is one tree that holds about 30 parrots in one of the Palermo parks. I don’t know why, but it was an interesting thing to come across.

• Antique keys: they still use the old keys and while it is very quaint, they are super heavy!

• People are very polite in lining up for the bus. Something I have never seen in Mexico or anywhere outside Asia.

• Dulce de leche: I just want to dedicate a little love to this amazing caramel textured amazingness. It makes me happy everyday that I get ice cream of this flavor!

• Matè: People here really do drink matè all the time and after seeing how late every stays at clubs, I think this is the only way work gets done in this country.

I hope all is well with all of you and you are enjoying your summers. Next time I will write about last weekend at the estancia with the cows and whether I am considering leaving Kennedy School to become a professional tango dancer. Anything is possible! Miss you all!


  1. sounds amazing! especially the dulce de leche!

  2. I think of you often as I stand under the big sky and think you might be looking up, too, so far away. Thank you for the tango. I look forward to more stories. Meanwhile, I am here, under the same big sky, wishing you well.

  3. Oooo mandarinas! I'm going to Japan on Saturday and their Mikan's may be the only small citrus fruit to rival mandarinas on my list of 'totally awesome peal-able citrus fruits.' I'll try to match your 2 kilos a day : )

  4. Hi there!
    I spent a great time last month in Buenos Aires. I rented a furnished apartment in Recoleta, Buenos Aires, near the down town. I suggest that service called ForRent Argentina: Buenos Aires apartments For Rent