I was pretty nervous to fly out of JFK airport to Buenos Aires Sunday night. I would not consider myself an experienced traveller and the only time I really travelled out of the country was to Greece, and the flight back from Athens to Philadelphia was a nightmare. So mentally preparing myself for the flight was most definitely a challenge. Thankfully two hours into the flight and after three consecutive Tavis Smiley podcasts, I fell asleep for a couple of hours and finally arrived to Buenos Aires in the morning. We took a bus from the airport to a hotel where we’d be staying for the first two days. The Hotel is conveniently located on the corner of a major intersection in the center of Buenos Aires. It was built in 1978 in preparation for the World Cup. Argentina at the time was under a military dictatorship that was ushered in by a military coup backed by the United States. Developers were given loans by the government to build the hotel. Fast forward to 2001, the loans were never paid back to the government and the Hotel was abandoned. The workers at the Hotel Bauen feared they wouldn’t be able to find work especially since in 2001 Argentina was going through one of the worst economic crises in the nation’s history. The workers occupied the Hotel and with the support of a variety of organizing collectives were eventually recognized as a cooperative by the Argentinian government. We met with the vice president of the cooperative who gave us a lecture on the history of the Hotel, the workers movement to occupy the Hotel and the symbolic meaning of the workers resistance. He said that the Hotel Bauen was linked to a specific class of people in Argentina: the elite, the wealthy. The workers at the Hotel took something much more important than just the structure and business of the hotel; they took their symbol of class and power. First two days in Argentina and I was amped!!!
Equally as exciting, I met my homestay family on the third day. I’m staying in a nice apartment a few blocks from the Hotel and about a fifteen minute walk from where my classes are held. My homestay mother picked me up along with a fellow classmate on the program and walked us to her apartment. On the walk to the apartment we ran into her husband and their dog, Kenzo. After getting settled in, my homestay father, roommate and I went out to find a wine opener in the city. On the way we talked about family and school, about the European influenced architecture all over Buenos Aires (it really is beautiful!!) and finally found the perfect wine opener for 35 pesos. Just to make sure we got the right deal, my homestay father checked into four other shops to compare prices. He was quite funny, talking to everyone in the stores and on the streets. It made me miss my grandfather, who shares the same charm and attitude towards strangers. I am forcing myself to learn Spanish because it is quite necessary both in the streets and bars of Buenos Aires, but also in my homestay. I do have two phrases down though. My first one “Que Paso Kenzo??” or “What’s up Kenzo?” My homestay mother finds it funny, so I keep doing it especially around her. The other one is “Puedo tener cafe, por favor?” or “Can I have coffee, please?” which I ask my homestay mother in the morning where my roommate and I sit at the table as she cooks toast and listens to tango music. Those have been the moments I look forward to every day!