A glimpse of nature for our Intermediate students

Catching breath in Tigre
Catching breath in Tigre

Buenos Aires is a big city, yeah, we all know. We live surrounded by lots of cars and buses, lots of buildings, lots of people coming and going, lots of demonstrations, lots of… whatever you can imagine. Bla, bla, bla.

 Is there a chance to have a break from all this? Is it possible to experience nature and fresh air just after a few minutes by train? Continue reading A glimpse of nature for our Intermediate students

A taste of Buenos Aires different flavors

Yes, this is Buenos Aires too
Yes, this is Buenos Aires too

As many people know, Buenos Aires is a major gastronomic pole. Well known because of our “parrillas” (barbecue), what remains in the shadow for most tourists is the amazing variety of food that one can find in the city due to the influence of immigrants from all over the world.

This is a topic that students have the chance to discuss in our Spanish classes, while reading Beatriz Sarlo’s La ciudad vista, a cultural studies approach to the city of Buenos Aires and its many features. One of these groups of students, encouraged by the chapter about the city and its relation with communities of immigrants, went on a field trip in search of the traces of Corean Culture in Buenos Aires. Together with their teacher Celina, they ended the adventure in a Corean restaurant, where they enjoyed the most incredible food (with a little help of Jay, a student who is as fluent in Spanish as in Corean) and had a wonderful time.

Escape to the countryside

Group meeting at La Horqueta
Group meeting at La Horqueta

As every semester, it was time for the Human Rights Concentration´s (and Diversity, minority and gender studies) group to get away for a couple of days and enjoy some moments of nature and quietness. This time we went to an Argentinean estancia (ranch) located near Chascomús, 120km south from Buenos Aires’ City.

When we arrived, as part of the “break the ice” strategy, we dance a ritual song and then we were all ready to start the activities (see video).

The estancia La Horqueta has beautiful trees that turn yellow and orange during autumn and, while trekking amongst them, we enjoyed the company of Enrique Pierri, the owner of the ranch who has written a book about the existing types of trees in the area.  The estancia has also a vast green area were we could ride bikes and even horses! And finishes in a lagoon were we kayaked till dusk.

The days were very sunny so we enjoyed mate and conversation (some of the students had also their text books and apuntes!!) around the main house while waiting for the food to be finished… and we very much enjoyed the asado, empanadas and homemade pasta!! After dinner, on Saturday, we all sat for a typical night bonfire to share experiences and tell stories.

When you are studying in Buenos Aires, in the middle of the semester, with deadlines to come and exams to pass, a two-day get away is more than welcome!!! We hope future students can enjoy a weekend at the countryside as much as this group did.

The Cinema Concentration at a Tango Show


Fernández Fierro band in action

Tango music is one of the most widely recognized symbols of Buenos Aires and Argentine culture. After a long time of ostracism in which tango was mostly enjoyed and danced by elderly people, the last twenty years have seen a growing interest in tango music and its culture among the young ones. Nowadays the milongas – the traditional night dancing gatherings – are more and more crowded by girls and guys in their twenties enjoying tango lessons, dancing and chatting for hours. The offer is enormous, you can go to a different milonga each day of the week . Even more, Buenos Aires has a very popular gay milonga twice a week! Tango orchestras also used to be part of a very traditional circuit not very popular among young people. This has changed years ago; more and more young musicians and singers give their unique touch to tango and attract a new kind of public to their shows.

 And this is absolutely the truth about Orquesta Típica Fernández Fierro formed by nine talented performers and his one and only lead singer, Chino Volpato. But let´s talk first about the Club Atlético Fernández Fierro where the orchestra is based and where they perform each Wednesday at 11:30pm. In the 40s and 50s was very common that sports associations organized parties with tango orchestras and dancing during the weekends. Following this forgotten tradition, an old and abandoned garage was converted into some kind of a sports association with no sports at all devoted to music performances. This is the Orquesta Típica Fernández Fierro home and base, furnished with wood tables and old chairs.

 Yes, a long introduction, I know, but necessary to get (the feeling of) the atmosphere in which this fabulous orchestra perform each of their shows. To better describe what they do, they are a traditional tango orchestra but with the strength of a rock music band, powerful and defiant. No formal clothes anywhere around, flashy lights, fake smoke in the stage (fortunately, no smoking area!), fans asking for encore after encore: tango after tango the public answers with more and more enthusiasm giving the show its unique character as one of the most compelling tango shows in town.

A Weekend in an Argentine Ranch

A magic moment beside the bonfire

The Directed Research Program, the Literature Concentration and the Cinema Concentration all together organized for their students a fascinating weekend in a tipical estancia (ranch) in the Buenos Aires pampa area, 10 km away from Chascomús, 120 km south from City of Buenos Aires.

The estancia La Horqueta is located by Vitel Lagoon, part of a larger system of linked lagoons around Chascomús area. The principal house is one built in 1928 following the Tudor style, and is still decorated with its original furniture.

Before arriving to La Horqueta, we made a short stop to buy  and eat the famous medialunas (croissants) in Atalaya, a traditional stop in the way to the south area seaside. By the way, the medialunas didn´t reach the estancia J. As soon as we arrived, we checked-in and we had some free time to get to know the place before lunch. Beyond a eucalyptus wood, we reached the lagoon shore. During the peaceful and sunny afternoon, the students used the canoes to paddle the lagoon, having the chance to sight ducks, flamingos, herons, black-necked swans, moorhens and white-backed stilts.

For the ones who preferred to stay in ground, there were many options like bicycle ridings, ping pong, walks, and the always welcoming swimming-pool.  By mid afternoon we all received a delicious and succulent snack while watching the sunset across the forest. After dinner, all of us, students and coordinators, enjoyed a typical night bonfire to share experiences and tell stories.

As one would expect in the countryside, the night was peaceful and silent. The next day, students woke up with no alarm clock! They did it just when they wanted to, for breakfast. That was pretty late, so lunch took place later than usual, as a great farewell, with a traditional Argentine asado (different kind of grilled meat cuts) and meat empanadas.

Even though we had just a couple of days, the effect of the countryside is always both relaxing and refreshing. We’re eager to share this beautiful place with our future students!

IFSA Literature Concentration Goes To the Theatre (And Then… Pizza!)

Actors in action

Theatre is a challenge for everyone in Buenos Aires. It does not matter whether you are local or not, you may not know in advance what you are going to face. Over two hundred plays are simultaneously on stage. There are texts, directors, and actors for everyone. Some of them are famous and respected, and they always bright on the mainstream settings of Corrientes Avenue. Others (lots of them) are as experimental as you might imagine, and they are able to amaze the most expert audience.

This time we decided to take a risk and go to a play that had it all: in Salomé de Chacra, a well known director (Mauricio Kartun), three respected mainstream actors (Stella Galazzi, Lorena Vega, Manuel Vicente), and one extraordinary underground actor (Osqui Guzmán) recreate a classic tragedy (Salome) in a somewhat parodic way. XIX century in the pampa argentina is the perfect crossroad for a story that took us for a trip where Argentine History and ancient myths, independent theatre style and mainstream production, old and new Spanish, they all combine to make one unique experience. Not all of us understood everything (and who could have done that!?), but we all left the Complejo Cultural San Martín (one of the most important theater centers around here) with a smile and the sensation of having seen Something.

Anyway, that was not all at all.

Two blocks away from there, Güerrin –the best pizza in Buenos Aires– waited for us with a menu that contains more types of pizza than you can imagine. We choose fugazzeta, napolitana, champignones and provolone (everyone should have a slice of provolone at least once in their life!). Also, our students tried for the very first time the faina, an Italian food made of chickpea flour that is very common in Argentina (not for nothing have Italian immigration contributed nearly half of the population of Buenos Aires in the early twentieth century!).

For sure, this first act left us expecting for the second. Will you be there?

Weekend break with Buenos Aires Intermediate students group

Enjoying the sun by the river
Enjoying the sun by the river

After a month of Intensive Spanish, hectic trial period and stressful registration processes, our Intermediate students finally had a three day break.
On Friday 16th March we met at Buquebús terminal to board our ship to Colonia. The trip was swift and quick and soon we found a most warm welcome by Mario, our RD, at Colonia city. It was getting dark so we made a quick tour through the ancient city but it was enough to enchant our eyes and souls.
After that we went to Mario’s, where the combination of fresh air, nature and quietness offered a radical change of atmosphere to the students, after so many weeks (spent) in the BIG city. After a wonderful asado that included some interesting vegetarian options, some of us went straight to bed, but others… jumped into the swimming pool!
The next day was all we expected. The weather was perfect for a walk to the beach, a delicious picnic under the trees and, of course, swimming and relaxing by the pool. In the afternoon, we went to Colonia city to make a walking tour and explore its fantastic colonial secret streets, historical buildings and the most curious handcraft shops.  We had dinner at Drugstore, a cool restaurant with live music. It was fun to share experiences and impressions, as we sat outside at a table on the sidewalk. This also gave us the opportunity to witness not only one but two weddings that took place in the church just across the street!!!!  (It was so cute that many students started to make wedding plans that night… I will not give names, your secret’s safe with me guys!)
Sunday was another beautiful day to enjoy life outdoors, but it was also time to… study??? Indeed, we were invited to a cooking class by the chef, Sergio. He gave us a practical demonstration of how to cook a traditional Spanish dish called paella. It was fantastic to see the whole process, but for sure, it was much better to enjoy it afterwards!
Soon it was time to pack and leave, as time flies when one is relaxed and amused. We are back in Buenos Aires now, but soon we will have more adventures to share!

Volunteering opportunities: IFSA students collaborating with the community

Childs park renovation volunteering project

Many IFSA students do volunteering work during their semester and enjoy enriching and stimulating experiences: getting to know Argentine people, working in groups, sharing outings and activities, practicing Spanish, discovering new aspects of reality and daily life, having the opportunity of collaborating in a positive way as part of a reciprocity system in which everybody win. In IFSA we work hard so that each committed student has the chance of learning, sharing and helping according to each one interest, expectations, goals and schedule. We look forward to impulse all our student´s initiatives, and we support numerous projects and programs within a varied range of organizations that always welcome them. Volunteer students have worked in the past in many areas such as health, child issues, poverty, microworks, fair trade, environment, animal protection, social inclusion, migration, gender issues, diversity, education, etc. and appreciate the warmth and gratitude involved in the whole process. Actually, many of the students keep in contact with the organizations they´ve worked with and are the first ones to recommend volunteering while abroad for future students in their home universities.

As you may see in the pictures, a group of our students participated in an endeared project for which they worked all together in the renovation of a square in an impoverished area of the city, cleaning out abandoned rubble, painting children games and a mural in bright colors and optimistic signs. This is just one of the many examples of these opportunities and the wonderful results for the community as a whole.

Orientation trip to Colonia with IFSA Argentine Universities Program students

Each semester, the Colonia trip is a great opportunity for us all to share quality time with our students as we spend more time together without academic obligations in the horizon. This semester, the trip was a perfect time for the students to have to have a break during the orientation meetings and for us to get to know them better.

 

So, following our biyearly tradition, we met all together in the Buenos Aires river port, beautifully located in the middle of the new Puerto Madero neighborhood. As it was a Wednesday morning and vacations for Argentine people were coming to their end, we have plenty of space in the big boat so that some students spent the quiet three hours trip sleeping like they were in their beds! But most of them preferred to enjoy the deck of the boat as this was an amazingly sunny and fresh morning. As always, we were well equipped with sunblock to avoid uncomfortable burnings considering our students were just arrived from cold winter.

 

On our arrival to Colonia, we spent the first day in the city. After the check-in at the hotels, we had a great lunch in three different restaurants (too big a group for just one place!) all located, as the hotels, in the magical surrounding of the old town area. During the afternoon, a city tour and the chance of watching the breathtaking sunset in the beach before having dinner in yet another three restaurants. You might imagine the logistics involved in all this!

 

Thursday morning was quiet rainy; well, let´s admit, it was like a shower! We had an excursion organized to the President´s weekend house near Colonia, but walking was not an option so we just had a guided tour from the buses all around the place. That very same day Mario had organized the lunch for the whole bunch and we were afraid the plans could get soaked! But as soon as we arrive to Mario´s country house, the clouds disappear and the sky went completely clear. We all had lunch under the gazebo and pretty soon students divided themselves in two groups, one heading to the swimming pool and the other walking their way to the beach. Needless to say, if we wanted to see them we had to venture ourselves to the sun and… it was a quiet hot day! The day went smoothly and by sunset we made our way back to Colonia for a very well deserved rest.

 

Friday was mostly a free day for everyone. Most of the students had already decided to take advantage of the coming weekend and to extend their trip to Punta del Este, the exclusive beach town a few hours away from Colonia. So, by the afternoon, just a handful of students stayed with us and when we take the boat back to Buenos Aires the IFSA staff was all alone!!

Swimming-pool time at our RD´s home in Colonia

Breaking News! First Issue of Literature Concentration Journal Página 13 launched

One of our main goals on AUP Literature Concentration from its beginnings on 2009 is to encourage our student’s creative writing. They have a great opportunity to express themselves and make new friends in an artistic and bohemian environment, while they are improving their Spanish writing skills in the Creative Writing Workshops they take each semester at Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas, a cultural center that belongs to Universidad de Buenos Aires. At the “Rojas”, as students colloquially called, they write short stories, chronicles or poems, depending on the topic of the workshop they are taking. The results are really surprising, and many promises of future writers showed up!

In the beginning, our young authors read and exchanged their work with their companions, professors and friends, but we always had the project of giving them a proper space to share and show their literary exercises. Now, we are very glad to announce the publication of the first number of the Literature Concentration Journal. It is called Página 13 and it contains lots of articles by the students in the Concentration under the direction of Diego Peller (Literature Concentration Coordinator) and Darío Steimberg (Literature Concentration Academic Advisor and Spanish professor). The name of the Journal was chosen democratically by concentration students, it’s a funny allusion to one of the most popular newspapers in Argentina, called Página 12, and also plays with the fact that during the second semester of 2011 the concentration had thirteen students. 

Even when according to their contents Página 13 is maybe more close to a literary review than to a journal, we prefer giving it the general format of a newspaper, to remark that literature is a vital activity involved in everyday and common life, not a “special” thing. 

Página 13 first issue includes three interviews, one to the very well known argentine novelist Martín Kohan (who also teaches one of the Literature Concentration courses), another one to a volunteer that works on Casa Brandon, a queer culture club in Buenos Aires, and the third one to different argentine secondary school students. It also includes two chronicles, under the general title Estuvimos ahí (We were there), one of them about the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ recital on River Plate Stadium, one of the biggest football (soccer, not American football!) stadiums in Latin America, known as “El Monumental”.  The issue also has two pages of poetry, five short narratives, and critical reviews about local films and also about… local restaurants! (If you are planning to visit Buenos Aires in the near future please take note: Steph Gaspar, Nina Helfman and Alli Liebeskind state that Cumaná “is a restaurant with typical argentine food with high quality and low prizes”.) On the back page each collaborator wrote her / his autobiographical sketch, combining real facts with fictional ones. The results were very funny and showed a high sense of humor an auto-irony. 

With this start, what can we expect for the second issue of Página 13! Who knows? The answer it’s on our future writers and journalists’ hands. In the meanwhile, we can enjoy reading the first one!