Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Holiday Weekend in Buenos Aires.

As luck would have it, even though I was oh 6,000 miles give or take away from the states I still was able to get a three-day weekend in Buenos Aires. On May 25th Argentines celebrate La Revolución de Mayo. I'm still not 100% sure what the holiday is all about, something about an epic battle in the cause for independence but not quite independence day (it kind of reminded me of Cinco de Mayo in that respect). All I know is that I took advantage of the weekend and did some of the 'must sees.'
On Wednesdays the MALBA museum is free if you show your student ID. This was the sole Frida Kahlo painting in the museum, but it was beautiful!
Mostly I took a picture of this piece because it reminded me of something that was in a local taco bell  in Compton when I was growing up. My grandmother and I would sometimes walk to taco bell and there was this thing that looks almost exactly like the piece above that sat by the cash register except it was filled with water. On the top of the thing you had slits where you could put quarters in and if your quarter landed on a colored circle you would get a free taco! The trick was the circles moved (& actually, so did the circles in this piece). I was getting all nostalgic in the MALBA thinking of my grandmother.
Saw these murals on my walk towards Andrea & Alyssa's apartment. I had to snap a take a few shots.
I was blessed to discover two more BYU interns here! :) I'm sure there's more of us in the city that I just don't know about. Andrea and Alyssa have become new sightseeing friends. We went to go see Caminito in Boca—a beautiful, brightly colored series of streets. Major tourist location with your typical series of souvenir shops, but still a place you HAVE to experience in Buenos Aires. 
Even the trees are colorful!
La Bombonera where Boca Junior play. Sadly, I won't get to go to a game BUT the stadium was just kind of nestled into a neighborhood it was really interesting.
I had almost given up on having my tastebuds satisfied in Argentina. The food here is very European, kind of bland but this is also coming from someone who has probably killed her tastebuds by eating spicy foods and strongly flavored cuisine. Anyways, on my list of things to do here was a pizza place called Las Cuartetas. I am STILL dreaming about that pizza. We ordered the Super Napolena. It was pure deliciousness!
Paid our tip partly in pesos, partly in dollars.
Ended our day at Feria Puro Diseño, a weekend long design fair. If I had to describe it in anyway it would be a fair featuring Etsy sellers. 
With it being Sunday, we tried to do things that wouldn't require us spending money, so we went to Recoleta Cemetery to visit Evita's grave. Surprisingly even though she's probably the most famous resident of the cemetery, her grave wasn't anything too luxurious or special. We also couldn't find it at first and I joked about asking 'Siri'. I looked it up and people said they had done tour groups. As soon as I read that we saw a tour group pass by and we though, "maybe we'll get lucky?" Wouldn't you know it, Evita's grave was the next stop on the tour!
Climbed a really sketchy ladder (probably illegally) to get this shot.
So, one of my best friends Shelly told me once that her Mom takes pictures like the above in cemeteries, you know as if you're taking pictures with a spirit??? Recoleta seemed like an appropriate place to take just a photo...
There was a HUGE political rally on the 25th of May downtown as tons of Cristina supporters flooded the streets in front of La Casa Rosada. Our plan had originally been to go see the plaza de Mayo and La Casa Rosada. took about 20 minutes to get around one block so we abandoned that plan.
Alyssa, Me, and Andrea inside of Cafe Tortoni—Buenos Aires' oldest cafe.
delicious Medialunas!
We all ordered hot chocolate and split medialunas and churros. The churros: not my favorite.
It's a national tradition to eat locro and empanadas on the 25th of May. So we went to a local restaurant called Ña Serapia and did just that. Locro is a stew that has corn, white beans, potatoes, and meat.
That little pin that Andrea is wearing is called an escarapela and is traditionally worn throughout the whole week leading up to the 25th of May. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The most important lesson I've learned in Argentina...

I learned from Franc.

It was late, REALLY late one Saturday evening and we were seated on a cornflower-blue colored couch just talking. Real talk talking. I was explaining my beliefs, showing him clips about the Church, laughing at how excited he was to learn that Clayton Christensen is a member (he's read his business books—but of all people to be excited about being Mormon!?!?!?!?!?!)

I'm perfectly fluent in Spanish, but my personality was made for the English language. So we conversed in our own perfectly understood way, me in English and he in Castellano, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Somehow identity made its way into the conversation. I explained to him how my Dad is Mexican, but my Mom was born in the states, but she is also Mexican. '¿Como puede ser que to Mamá es Mexicana si nació en los Estados Unidos?' Well, her parents are from Mexico, so she's Chicana. 'Eso es confuso.' You know, just like how I'm Chicana.... 'Si vos querés luchar para igualdad en la educación, la primera cosa que tenés que hacer es quitar todas las distinciones. ¿Mexicana, Chicana? No entiendo, vos sos white!'

My first reaction was o u c h.

It was an impulse, a signal to my brain to put up the defenses. Because I've just grown accustomed to having that be an insult. Because somewhere along the way society taught me that being white is a negative thing. I mean there's that Jay-Z/Kanye song whose opening line is "'ello, 'ello, 'ello white America, assassinate my character."

But, wait why is it this way? What is race, but the color of our skin? Some of my greatest heroes and inspirational figures are white, but yet it's a plague of unspeakable-ness to avoid at all costs, and you must do everything in your power to avoid being labeled 'white' or even worse the dreaded 'white-washed'. Some of my closest friends are white. For the longest time I've been in this, 'oh, it's okay that they're white, but I'm definitely not' mentality. In reality what Franc was trying to say is that I'm 100% American and that's 100% accurate.

There's an identity crisis in the United States. For some reason as multiracial people of the US of A when someone asks us what we are, we list off the names of the homelands of our parents or ancestors or identify with the color of our if we need qualifiers or an explanation for why we're here. Why?!?!! Why is that a thing? I have never once heard someone who is of lighter complexion explain that they're German or English or Dutch unless a) someone is inquiring about their family history or b) they have a noticeable accent. & then there's the 'where are you from?' question. Because you know, being a person with darker skin or different facial features automatically means you're outside of the country...

I'm American.
Born here.
Bred here.
Happy to be here. (okay, so technically I'm writing this from Buenos Aires, but you get the point...)
I've been to Mexico a few times and while I love to visit, I wouldn't ever consider it home.

It hit me hard, REAL hard. All these thoughts all at once. I was silent for a good minute. I told Franc it was divine discontent. I tried to explain President Crawford's phrase and then was worried that perhaps the phrase is meant to be confined to use in a strictly religious context. Wikipedia informed me otherwise. 

We as human beings have this distinction mentality, an impulse to label. If you do these types of things you fit into this category; if you do these types of things find your seat over there.

When did certain activities only become okay for certain races to do?
Why can't I love musicals and camping and baseball games and going on adventures and hiking and witty British dramas and bucketlists and have my favorite food be hamburgers without being labeled 'white'?

Or wear timbs and love hip-hop so much that I write a research paper about the grammar of it, but because my voice sounds the way it does ("really 'white'") I somehow couldn't possibly be from Compton, CA (the 'hood')! Yo, I have the DMV issued drivers license to prove it!

Is there a mold that we need to fit to validate where we are from or what we do? I don't think I signed up for that anywhere. I have too many categories I could be a part of, and no sole label feels 'right' to define me as a whole.

Why do we reinforce distinctions by having slogans like, "black lives matter?" Doesn't everyone's life matter? Or focus on the "latino vote" or "black vote" and try to win over certain races when it comes to political hot topics? Or claim we have poly pride, brown pride, black pride? Why? WHY? whhhhyyyyy? Aren't we just creating our own mental form of segregation? Sorry white people, you're not allowed here. What about proud to be Americans? Why is that a scary thing for us to say as multicultural people? Maybe the whole reason racism still exists is because we keep talking about how we're different, and we often times use our differences as ways to explain how we're better. Of course we never admit it because nobody wants to be labeled 'racist' but we are still fighting an inner mental battle with ethnocentrism.

I'm all for loving your culture, don't get me wrong. I love the traditions of my ancestors, and they contribute to who I am today, but my traditions don't make me better than someone else and they're not things that have to stay within the realms of my skin color. Other people can love Mexican food and make good salsa and learn to dance folklorico if they want. This is 'MERICA!

I mean hello, my name is Lauren Marie Flores, and that name embodies perfectly everything that I've just babbled on about. The beauty that is the Melting Pot. That is my America.

I'm American.
Or even Yankee if you prefer.
I accept it.
I embrace it.
My ancestors are from Mexico.
My last name, that probably came from Spain.
Above all, me and everyone else on this planet is a child of God.

In my quiet solitude, my moments of divine discontent after Franc called me 'white' the words of 4 Nephi 1: 15-17 flooded into my mind as if someone were reading them to me, 

"And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of —ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God."

I shared the general background story of this passage with Franc and explained that his words had really just reminded me of what I already believe in, but maybe haven't been the best at putting into practice.

& then Franc did some fancy thumb work on his iPhone, pulled up Youtube and started playing this song (John Lennon's Imagine) and all I could do was laugh, because by this time it was 3 in the morning and I just couldn't even handle what was going on. 

circa 2002 when most of my wardrobe came from LimitedToo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

¡Buenos Días, Buenos Aires!

Surprise! I'm in Argentina for a month.
My morning view!

Sometimes I feel as though the Argentines are speaking a completely different Spanish than the one I know. They speak heavily with the "sh" should and throw in a 'che' and 'vos' every now and then for good measure. It's fascinating to hear them talk, I've been so quiet this trip because I'm mostly just intrigued and want to hear everyone keep talking! I'm not sure if I can quite describe the city. When I first got here, someone told me that Argentines are Italians that speak Spanish, who wish they were French. I'm starting to think that there's some truth to that statement.

Buenos Aires has New York City traffic with the most incredible parallel parking skills I've ever seen. There are no stop signs in most of the neighborhood street and I am amazed that I haven't witnessed one accident yet; several close calls, but no scratches! The one way streets signs are hidden and there will be places where two way streets suddenly become one way. I've been in a situation twice already where the car has been going against the flow of traffic!

The cuisine: meat, pastas, and empanadas with a strong emphasis on ice cream and cute little pastries. The pastries are so pretty and dainty—if I had to personify them I'd even go so far as to describe them as poised.
My breakfast. every. morning. It's very European here, very continental breakfast-y. Although, usually this would be accompanied by coffee or a strong tea. 

I often have to remind myself to look up when I'm walking around the city which is hard to do when I'm trying to sidestep dog poop. It's everywhere. It makes for an obstacle course on the way to work in high heels. Truly.
(Each building in Buenos Aires is responsible for maintaining it's own sidewalk. It makes for a mosaic of patterns every couple of steps you take. There is no boring concrete in this city, it's all splendid tiles)

My first Saturday here, the Senior missionaries invited me to go with them to an Estancia. Think of Estancias as the gaucho version of the Polynesian Cultural Center. It is fall here and I am grateful to be able to wear sweaters!
Horse stalls that have been converted into a hotel
Argentines are well known for their meat. It is tasty, but I have to admit, I'm not much of a meat person. (oops!)
Typical side dishes. Bread with olive oil, basil, & vinegar; carrot shreds; a tomato-lettuce-onion salad; and a waaaay less fatty version of potato salad.
GUYS. The horse just went limp and did whatever the gaucho asked him to do—horse whisperer!
A pastry stuffed with membrillo (apparently the english word for this fruit is 'quince?')—I hadn't heard of this in my life! If I had to compare the taste I'd say it's similar to guava. kind of?

There is a beautiful bookstore here called 'El Ateneo' it is literally an old theatre that has been converted into a four story bookstore. It was an incredible sight!
This is Julia. She is a native of Argentina, who hasn't spent too much time in the country the last couple of years and she's headed to BYU for summer term, so we're essentially going to try and see all the sights together before our time here runs out!
^^That my friends is an helado from 'Un Altra Volta'. Argentines are VERY proud of their ice cream and I'm beginning to understand why. I had a scoop of Dulce de Leche Volta (dulce de leche with almonds and hazelnuts covered in carmel) and Chocolate amargo (Dark Chocolate). 

This past weekend I had the greatest blessing to go to do a session in the Buenos Aires Temple. Literally, that was the first thing on my Buenos Aires bucketlist. No matter where I am, once I step into the temple, it feels as though I am home!
This weekend was extra special too, because it was the dedication of the Cordoba Argentina Temple. I went to Julia's house and watched the cultural celebration with her family and then on Sunday watched the broadcast of the dedication. I can't begin to describe how wonderful this weekend was. There are some things that happened this weekend that are just too personal to share on a public blog, but let it suffice for me to say that I know I am where I am supposed to be right now.
Julia MADE me try mate. ^^that was my reaction.
These are alfajores. They're like the Argentine version of tea cakes. I probably would love them if I actually loved sugary sweets, but they just aren't my favorite. Honestly, I've been wanting popcorn SO badly. There are hardly any salty snacks here, every time I step into a corner store or pharmacy I'm met with nothing but cookies and candies. Salty food, I miss you!
Sunday evening, I joined the YSA at a FHE at the Bishop's house. The topic-->hermanamiento (fellowship). The topic was absolutely PERFECT. 

You see, 6 hours before I left Provo I got a call from my Bishop asking me if I would serve as Relief Society President. Seeing as how I'm 1000s of miles away, I've been having meetings via skype every Sunday with RS leadership. We have a goal as a Presidency to really focus on fellowship and so you better believe that I was writing down all the ideas that were presented at this FHE. Inspired, I tell you!

More than the sights or the food, I have loved getting to know the people that surround me during this trip. I love the people of Buenos Aires.