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A Day in the Life

Students share a typical day on the Knox Program in Buenos Aires

Students give accounts of their experiences in the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires.

"De donde sos, flaco?" -- A day in the vida porteña
by Graham Troyer-Joy, Knox College

10:00 a.m. -- Your cell phone wakes you up -- good thing the exchange rate is favorable enough to own one or you'd have to own a real alarm clock. Don't forget to put on your shoes for breakfast -- it's impolite not to wear them while you're around the house.

10:15 a.m. -- You're full of galletitas dulces (cookies) and drinkable yogurt and your host mom is making your lunch while you chat. It looks like the milanesa (kind of like chicken-fried steak but less greasy) from last night with tomatoes on fresh-baked bread from the market down the street. Yum. A little bit of "salsa golf" and you'll be ready to go.

10:30 a.m. -- Time to bid your friendly (but very pregnant) rottweiler housemate goodbye and catch the bus. The system may be kind of confusing -- there are around 200 different routes -- but they come every five minutes or so, and they go pretty much everywhere you want to. If you're running late, you could always take the Subte (subway) but the bus is more direct.

11:20 a.m. -- Arrive at school. The bus is fast, but you live kind of far away. Small price to pay for having the best host mom on the program -- well, really, the best host mom in the world. And having an outdoor terrace. And living near the Rio de la Plata. And near a major street with a dozen bus lines on it.

12:00 p.m. -- Spanish class. You're learning about Lunfardo, the tango-influenced slang that they only speak in Buenos Aires. It turns out the word you picked up last night at dinner isn't really appropriate for classroom situations. Oops. At least your friends on the Barcelona program won't understand.

1:00 p.m. -- Time to get some coffee and media lunas (sort of like croissants) with your friends in between classes. Forget Starbucks, you have to sit down for this one, and it doesn't come with whipped cream. If your sweet tooth aches, try a cafe con leche or a submarino -- steamed milk with a chocolate bar on the side to stir in.

2:00 p.m. -- Your second class of the day. This time you're learning about The Dirty War fought by Argentina's bloodiest dictatorship, during which 30, 000 people disappeared. It turns out the most notorious detention center is five blocks from your house. That's a sobering thought.

3:30 p.m. -- Coffee again? Why not. You can order in restaurants without misconjugating by now, so you might as well. Besides, it's the coffee shop you like better, the one with the splatter paintings on the walls that plays techno music.

5:30 p.m. -- On the bus home. You didn't think this many people could fit in a motor vehicle, but somehow it's possible. That's what happens when you get a ride home at rush hour.

6:30 p.m. -- Home again! You share some Maté with your host mom and the neighbors and chat about politics and local gossip. There are plans to build a recycling plant nearby and some neighbors are organizing against it. You're learning more vocabulary here than you did in weeks of Spanish class.

9:00 p.m. -- You come down to dinner after catching up on your e-mail and calling the US on Skype (lucky for me my host family has internet). It's meatballs in a sweet sauce with a simple pasta. You watch your now-beloved telenovela with your host mom. Juan's ex-girlfriend is still faking her pregnancy, but now his current girlfriend just pushed her down the stairs at school!

11:00 p.m. -- Now it's "Bailando por un Sueño" the dance competition reality show. It's time to get away from the television. It's Friday, so you'll probably go out with some friends -- but not for another couple of hours. Nothing gets started on the weekend until 1 or 2 a.m. You'll have to get back at a reasonable hour, though (4, or maybe 5 a.m. at the latest) your host mom says that tomorrow you'll have an asado (a traditional Argentine barbecue). You would feel sorry for your vegetarian friends, but you can't think of anything else with Choripan in your mouth and the best beef in the world on your plate.

-- Graham Troyer-Joy, Anthropology and Sociology major, Oak Park, Illinois

"My love affair with Buenos Aires, Argentina"
by Polly Young, Knox College

7:30 a.m. -- Buenas! Rise and shine! There's no need for an alarm clock here -- the newspaper vendor setting up shop outside your window will do. You are quickly reminded, by the shuffling of feet outside your bedroom door, that you live with nine other people, and if you don't get out of bed soon, it will be impossible to use the bathroom. The race is on!

7:45 a.m. -- One piece of toast and a cup of coffee isn't much, but it's how breakfast is done here. As you savor the last sip of coffee, your host sister and your host brother have started World War III. Some things are universal!

7:59 a.m. -- Following Argentine custom, you kiss everyone goodbye -- one kiss for each cheek -- and run out the door as your host mom, shouts 'Suerte!'

8:00 a.m. -- Living in a city of 14 million people means that wherever you are, you are surrounded by a mass of people. This makes walking to school an adventure in itself. You could take the metro or the bus (super easy to understand and incredibly cheap), but with the morning traffic, it's just as hectic as the streets. You've come to love the craziness of the streets.

8:30 a.m. -- The walk to school is an hour, and that piece of toast has already worn off, so you make a brief pit stop at one of the thousands of pastelerias lining Corrientes, the main street you follow to school. You can't resist a good Argentine medialuna (croissant)!

9:30 a.m. -- Class was supposed to start at 9, but in true Argentine fashion, the professor is 30 minutes late...every time. Makes you wonder what clock he has used to set his wristwatch.

11:00 a.m. -- It's break time! Most classes are three hours long (rough to get used to), but you only go to each class once a week and in the middle of each class, there is a 15 minute break.

12:30 p.m. -- Class is over. Unless you have another class, you quickly check your email (it's very rare to have Internet in your house), say goodbye to your friends, and head to the nearest park.

2:00 p.m. -- You occupy your afternoons with your vianda (sack lunch) and a siesta. It's so rare to see grass in the city, so you opt to spend a chunk of each day in one of the city's amazing parks. The parks are filled with young people, a good place to make some native friends. You love Plaza San Martín, which is downtown overlooking the port, and Palermo, an area of woods and lakes -- one large park composed of many smaller ones.

4:30 p.m. -- It's your ritual -- this time everyday your host mom returns home from work and you have an early evening coffee on the balcony. You tell her about your day, she tells you about hers, you get her perspective on life, love, and happiness. You love the close relationship you have with your host family.

6:00 p.m. -- Dinner is not for another four hours, so now is the ideal time to aprovechar (take advantage of) the city. Whether it's a tango lesson, snapping photos of the Obelisco, playing in a pick-up game of soccer, shopping in the chic Recoleta neighborhood, or wandering through the antique district of San Telmo, Buenos Aires is never short of cool things to do.

10:00 p.m. -- Meal times run on a different schedule here -- no more noontime lunches and 6pm dinners. In your host family, dinner is mandatory. You all fit snugly around the kitchen table, talking about politics or the economy, and of course, you are eating beef, the staple of the Argentine diet. Dessert is an alfajor, a traditional Argentine treat. Better known in your vocabulary as a piece of heaven, an alfajor consists of two round biscuits joined together with dulce de leche and dipped in either white or dark chocolate.

11:30 p.m. -- Instead of shutting down, the city is waking up. The night is young and your options plentiful. Depending on the day and your mood, you have several options. You could watch Boca Juniors, your favorite Buenos Aires soccer team, you could improve your vocabulary by playing Scrabble with your host mom, or you could meet your Argentine friends and be part of the city's crazy nightlife.

-- Polly Young, Spanish major, Millstadt, Illinois

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