What a weekend! Thursday the 17th was my 21st birthday—a pretty calm day, all told, which was just fine with me! Casey made me breakfast, bless her—a fried egg on toast, which is neither especially fancy nor especially healthy, but it was delicious and it reminded me of home (‘Merica!), so it was a success! After class Leah and I wandered around the Fine Arts Museum (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes) for a while. Some things that caught my eye:
* This and this, both by Francisco de Goya. The first is from his series Desastres de la guerra (The Disasters of War), based on the absurdities and grotesqueness of the Spanish Civil War; the second is from his series Caprichos (Caprices), which is rooted in societal critique.
* A Monet work
* A Toulouse-Lautrec piece
* This piece by Charles Henri Pellegrini (a French engineer and painter, not to be confused with his son Carlos Pellegrini, who served as president of Argentina from 1890-1892)
On Saturday I met up with a group of friends for dinner in Palermo to celebrate two birthdays—mine and Farrah’s, which was earlier in the week. Lately I’ve been having pretty good luck with transportation, so I should have known I was due for a catastrophe. The Powers That Be chose Saturday night to remind me that it’s only by their grace that I manage to find my way around this city; I stumbled around on foot in the rain for a while before finally showing up to dinner half an hour late looking like a drowned rat. But the food (Vietnamese—I had some sort of tasty citrus chicken with corn and rice) was delicious and the company was lovely, so it was totally worth it. After dinner we checked out a boliche (dance club) a few blocks away that turned out to be not quite what we were expecting—a lot of Strokes-esque indie rock and a lot of hipsters standing around nodding their heads—so we didn’t stay long. We wound up going back to someone’s homestay to watch a movie, and the sun was definitely up by the time I got home in the morning!
On Sunday I went to the famous open-air market in San Telmo to get out of the house, do a little Christmas shopping, and get some language practice in. Market vendors are perfect for little one-off conversations—they’re always more than happy to tell you about their work, which is good listening comprehension practice, and bonus points for you if you can get a couple questions in edgewise. One vendor told me I had an Italian accent—never heard that before—one told me all about her trip to Miami several years ago, and one tried to ask me if I wanted to go out with him for a drink later. I scuttled away from him pretty fast.
The real reason I wanted to go to San Telmo yesterday, though, came up a couple weeks ago, when I was researching the history of Danish immigration to Buenos Aires for a class project. (We were told to research our own heritage; I’m part Danish.) I honestly didn’t think there would be much of a history, but lo and behold, there was! In the 18th century, economic reform (beneficial only for the upper class) coupled with a sudden population burst (less land for everyone) spurred lots of Danes to emigrate. Argentina seems like a strange choice for a destination country, but at that time there were strong commercial and diplomatic relations between the two countries. It’s estimated that 18,000 Danes emigrated to Argentina between 1857 and 1930, mostly workers and servants; many established themselves in rural areas, but some stayed in Buenos Aires. In my research I found that there’s even a Danish church in the neighborhood of San Telmo; it served as a source of community and culture in those days, and still gives services in Danish and Spanish today. Thanks to the power of the Internet, I found the church’s event calendar online and saw that there were a couple of small concerts being held there in mid-November. It was the perfect excuse for an outing.
I had no idea what to expect, but it wound up being a really lovely little choral recital. Pieces were sung in Latin, French, Spanish…beautiful. Lots of selections from operas, and one brave lady who tackled a part of Bach’s “Magnificat” even though she had a cold. All of the performers were very talented, and I’m so glad that I went!
(Sadly, I couldn’t find a whole lot in English about Danish-Argentine ties, except for a tiny mention in this Wikipedia article. If you do read Spanish, you can check out this article and this one too, as well as the church’s website.)
That brings me up to today! Can’t believe I have just under three weeks until I’m back in the States.