The Beauty of Argentina: A Summer's Recap

By: Emilee Martichenko

Summer 2018 slipped by in a whirlwind of friends, flights, good books, sea breezes, and empanadas. How did that last item earn its place in the list of nostalgic, transitioning back-into-class reflections? While I sampled a variety of new foods during my six weeks abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the empanada won the award for most reliable and frequently sampled dish. Stuffed full of carne, pollo, or jamόn y queso, and warm to the touch, the empanada is one of the thousands of treasured highlights I carried home to the United States. 

It is impossible to capture the beauty of Buenos Aires or the richness of its culture in a single article. Prior to embarking on this experience, I’d received numerous reports of the city’s charm.

“It’s the Paris of Latin America.”

“You’ll never want to come home.”

Praise after praise for the city’s vibrant life fed my excitement, and I was not disappointed.

Photo Credit: The Teatro Colón by Emilee Martichenko 

For starters, Buenos Aires does have a distinctly European feel. Its antique yet polished buildings, multitude of cafes, and fashionable population contributed to the sense of strolling through a European city. Buenos Aires, however, was in no way limited to this aesthetic. In one short afternoon, I glided wide-eyed through the luminous hallways of Teatro Colόn, admiring French influenced architecture, only to find myself absorbing the rainbow of vibrant color that characterizes the street art of Buenos Aires’ famous La Boca barrio. Buenos Aires is a treasure trove of cultural complexity that shines through its art, architecture, food, and gente, leaving a lasting impression of wonder.

Few things emphasize Buenos Aires’ cultural identity as fully as its beloved tango. Originating on both sides of the Rio de la Plata, the tango is an enthralling composition of grace, lust, subtlety, grandeur, and love unparalleled to any type of dance I have previously witnessed. I had the opportunity to dine before a professional show of dancers, as well as participate in a step-by-step lesson. The show was simply incredible. The dancers possessed a fluidity in their movement that permitted them to glide like silk across the stage. I sat enraptured by the perfect execution of every move, marveling at the comfort, playfulness and flawless skill the dancers displayed in their craft.

My dancing skills were put to the test during a memorable tango lesson my classmates and I clumsily yet joyfully stumbled through. Every trip, misstep, and minor detail (such as a flimsy wrist) exponentially increased my appreciation for the professionals we watched execute the movements before our beginner eyes. When practicing, I was constantly trying to remind myself of the impending move in the given sequence. The instructor, upon noticing my incompetence, guided me through the steps in a smooth sweep across the room. For a moment, I had the brief illusion that I had mastered the simple movements I was instructed to practice. I am no dancer, but I am forever happy I got to learn the preliminary steps to this dance.

Photo Credit: Emilee Martichenko

Our trip to La Distancia, a rustic yet expansive farm where we experienced the culture of the Gauchos, was easily one of my favorite outings. Atop a chocolate brown horse, I ambled through the open fields of the Argentine countryside, admiring the surrounding horses and asking my guide about his life dedicated to duties one can only do from a saddle. Our hosts cooked us an exquisite meal on the giant parrilla, and I savored the rich flavors of chicken and beef that only the giant grill could produce. The warmth of the sun coupled with a glass of red wine only added to the bliss of that afternoon.

Photo Credit: Emilee Martichenko

Lastly (for if I tried to pack every detail into this article, it would likely turn into a novel) I was privileged to live with the kindest host mom the city could have provided me. I will never forget the smell of coziness that overwhelmed my senses every time I came home from class. Nor will I forget celebrating a victory in the day’s World Cup pair-ups at the dinner table while "mi mama anfitriona" laughed at the Argentine flags painted onto my cheeks. It is nice to know I will always have a home waiting for me in a part of the world so distant from where I live now.

Photo Credit: Emilee Martichenko

Should you have the opportunity to study abroad, do not hesitate to experience the life and culture of someplace different from your own. I will forever carry the beauty of the tango and the flavor of empanadas in my memory.

 

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