Home is Where the Asado Is

I’m sure you will all be proud to hear that this week I concentrated quite a bit on my schoolwork. It was difficult getting started, though, because the way studying and exams are approached here is extremely different. For example, I haven’t been given a syllabus in any of my classes nor any information on what format my exams will be in. We aren’t even told what to be reading out of the text book. It’s a very “figure it out” approach. I have to hand it to the students here – they’ve definitely had to learn to organize themselves. It turns out it’s not impossible to just study without having any guidance; I take good notes so the ideas are easy enough to follow.

Cozy studying at Libros del Pasaje
Cozy studying at Libros del Pasaje

And, since this coming Thursday I have my first midterm followed by another next week, it was time to buckle down. Suzanne introduced me to a great café close by to our place. I’m glad to have found it because studying in a house with seven other people is a bit difficult and the wifi at school is not the best. Plus, I study best in the cozy café atmosphere. Something about it keeps me from getting bored and makes me much more productive.

But not all my homework requires a “buckle down” attitude. For Contemporary Argentinian Art I get to go to wonderful museums and analyze/compare works of art. This week, we were sent to the Xul Solar museum to discuss the work of, of course, Xul Solar. The museum itself had such an interesting architecture, and my tour guide said that it reflected Xul’s work. There were ramps and stairs all over the building, which were also very common in his paintings. He spoke much of transcendence and movement through dimensions. He was a very interesting man.

Palacio Almi - one of my favourite paintings in the museum
Palacio Almi – one of my favourite paintings in the museum
Dos Mestizos de Avion y Hombre
Dos Mestizos de Avion y Hombre

He didn’t actually make a living as an artist while he was alive, but instead as an astrologist. He was an expert at mapping the stars and signs and was a deep believer in horoscopes, despite being Catholic. To me, his paintings look like a child’s dream.

By Thursday I had gotten enough school work done, so I went to a show with my friend Izzie at Club Cultural Matienzo. It was a really cool bar/venue with murals on many of the walls and a great upstairs terrace area for escaping the noise from down below. Izzie knew about it because she takes a street art class there. They seemed to have a lot of community activities and cultural events, which makes it a very unique and interesting music venue. We were there to see Hermanos McKenzie, a cool Argentinian indie band I had never heard of before.

A lot of the performance, from the singer’s amazing silver dress and red eyeshadow to their somewhat synthy sound, reminded me of David Bowie. The singer was effortlessly cool and danced around on stage with an infectious energy. Her voice blended well with the rest of the band, not overpowering it but not getting lost either. My favourite part, though, was the saxophone. It added a jazzy sound which contrasted well with the rest. I was disappointed to find that it’s not included in their recorded stuff; I guess it’s just a live treat.

Hermanoz Mckenzie at El Club Cultural Matienzo

Hermanos Mckenzie at El Club Cultural Matienzo

 

Enjoying myself even though we weren't allowed to go inside the greenhouse
Statue in el Jardín Botanico
Statue in el Jardín Botanico

On Sunday, for a bit of a change of pace, I took a walk in el Jardín Botanico (Botanical Garden) with two of my roommates, Juan Pablo and Max. It’s strange that I hadn’t ever visited since the garden is just a few blocks away from home. We had a lovely time strolling and taking in all the plants, even though it’s fall now and there wasn’t much in bloom. I would really like to go back and spend some quality time there. I miss my sunny afternoons in Plaza San Martín and I think this is a perfect alternative.

As if to completely erase the peace I had found in the garden, that night I joined my friend Edith (from Montreal) to watch the Canadiens game at probably the only place in Buenos Aires to show hockey games – Casa Bar. I’m going to be honest, I wouldn’t really call myself a big hockey fan (or a hockey fan at all, for that matter). Still, it made me feel nostalgic to watch with her; it reminded me of home. Some of our French friends had come along for the novelty of it and it was funny listening to them make fun of the game almost as much as they make fun of Edith’s accent. I know they had fun watching their first hockey game and hoping to witness a proper fight.

Pato's perfectly prepared Asado.
Pato’s perfectly prepared asado.

By the time Suz and I got home our roommate, Pato, had prepared a whole asado. My favourite thing about this house is that everyone loves to do things together. We hadn’t all shared a meal in a while and even though we were missing Joanna (excused for traveling with family) we had a lovely time. Pato’s asado could not have been better. He had included all the essentials – morcilla, chorizo, carne and even roasted peppers with eggs cooked inside (the most vegetables I’ve ever seen on an asado platter).

Today, my friend Charlotte and I headed to San Telmo to visit the MACBA (Buenos Aires Museum of Contemporary Art). Being such a fan of contemporary art these days, I was well overdue for a visit and quite excited to go. However, although it was great, I had definitely expected it to be bigger. The permanent collection was currently somewhere in the USA (so much for permanent collection) and had been replaced by an exhibit of a Chinese artist named Liu Bolin. His photographs were really interesting both conceptually and in execution.

Beijing Magazine Rack, 2011
Beijing Magazine Rack, 2011
Hiding in New York - Tiles for America
Hiding in New York – Tiles for America

If you look closely you’ll see that there’s a man standing in the middle of each of these paintings. Bolin paints the model to exactly match the background. At first I thought the camouflage was done with photoshop, but it turns out he actually paints them by hand. The series is called Hiding in the City and although I would have loved to see the rest of the museum’s collection, it was definitely worth the trip.

What I’m realizing is that it’s always worth the trip. As big as this city is, these parks and museums and bars and cafés are always worth the bus/metro/walk. Every time I see something new (which is pretty much every day) I feel like I’ve uncovered another part of the story of this wonderful city.

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