Today is the fifth day of my time in Argentina and the impressions have been many!
My host family is really nice - Maria and the two girls, Elodie and Alison, who also live here, are really nice too. Today me and the girls went out to see the city of Cirdoba - a city full of people, cars and shops.
Yesterday I had my first day at my job in CeCam. The girls are so nice and as soon as I learn more spanish I will be able to talk more and more with them.
About the spanish part; it is difficult but I think I do better and better.
Of course there are a lot more to tell, but as written, there are so many new impressions.
So - all for now.
Many volunteers have requested this recipe for the very delicious and typical Argentine pastry, medialunas. Similar to the French croissant (but again, with an Argentinean twist) this pastry is eaten for breakfast, taken with coffee for a midday snack, or just eaten anytime, anyday.
Future volunteers, consider yourself warned, you are sure to love this delicious pastry and will surely realize how much you miss it when you return home! Former volunteers, I know it won't be quite the same, but give it a try!!I found this recipe online and hope it will help make up for the lack of medialunas in your lives!
4 c. (500 g) all-purpose flour
2/3 c. (150 mL) whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tsp. (10 g) salt
1/3 c. (65 g) sugar
0.9 oz (25 g) fresh yeast
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 tsp. lemon or orange zest
2 sticks plus 2 Tbsp. (250 g) unsalted butter
egg wash [1 egg yolk plus 1 Tbsp. milk]
sugar glaze [see directions below]
Making the dough:
Combine the first seven ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix with a dough hook at low speed to achieve a dough that is soft and slightly sticky, about 15 minutes. If kneading by hand, continue for an additional 15 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes.
Preparing the butter:
While the dough is resting, place the butter between two large sheets of plastic wrap. Pound the butter with a rolling pin to soften it slightly (you want the butter to be malleable but still cold). Roll out the butter until it forms a uniform rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and sprinkle the lemon/orange zest evenly over the butter. Chill the butter while rolling out the dough.
Rolling out the dough:
Turn out the dough and roll it out on a lightly-floured surface, lifting and stretching the dough and dusting with flour as necessary, into a large rectangle. Arrange the dough with the long side nearest you. Place the butter in the center of the dough so that the short sides of the butter are parallel to the long sides of the dough. Fold the dough like a brochure: the left third of dough over the butter, then the right third over the dough. Brush off the excess flour with a pastry brush. Roll out the top and bottom edges of the dough a bit, and then fold them over as well, completely encasing the butter.
Once again, roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Do your best to avoid tearing or puncturing the dough to prevent the butter from escaping. Fold the dough again in thirds, taking care to remove excess flour with the pastry brush. You have just completed your first "turn." Place the dough on a cutting board or sheet pan lined with parchment and sprinkled with a bit of flour, and allow the dough to rest for about an hour in the refrigerator.
Make two more turns in the same manner, chilling the dough about an hour after each turn, for a total of three turns. If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with flour to prevent the dough from sticking. If the dough develops small cracks or tears (and it will, trust me), try to fold strategically so that the offending portion gets covered up by the top flap of dough. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill it overnight.
In the morning, roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Inspect the dough for any large clumps of butter. If you see that some of the butter has still not completely incorporated into the dough, do one more turn before proceeding with the next step.
Assuming that the dough is ready for the next step, using a chef’s knife, divide the dough down the center into two large pieces. Place one piece to the side (or chill it in the refrigerator) and cut the other in half horizontally. Then cut the dough into long triangles.
Shaping the medialunas:
To shape each medialuna, gently tug and stretch the dough to elongate the base of the triangle and then pull slightly to lengthen the triangle. Carefully begin rolling the base of the triangle toward the point. Continue rolling up the medialuna with one hand as you stretch the point lightly with the other hand.
Place the medialuna on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, making sure to keep the point tucked underneath. Bring the two ends together and press lightly to join them. As you form the medialunas, arrange them fairly close together on the pan (they should be touching). Repeat the cutting and shaping procedures with the remaining piece of dough.
Proofing and baking the medialunas:
When all the medialunas are on the pan, place them in a fairly warm, draft-free area. Allow the medialunas to rise slightly (you don't want them to double in size) and then brush them lightly with egg wash.
Bake at 400º F (200º C) for approximately 20 minutes or until deep golden brown. You may need to rotate the pan halfway through to ensure even browning.
Sugar Glaze | Almíbar
The ratio for the sugar glaze is two parts sugar to one part water. Feel free to adjust the following amounts, taking care to respect the ratio.
2 c. (400 g) sugar
1 c. water (200 mL)
a few drops of vanilla extract (Note: do not add vanilla to the sugar glaze if you opted to add it to the dough)
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar completely dissolves. Bring the sugar syrup to a boil and continue cooking for about 3 minutes (do not stir the syrup after it comes to a boil and while it's cooking), until you reach the thread stage (230-233º F or 110-111º C).
[Note: Even if you don't understand Spanish, check out the following videos from myvirtualcook on YouTube: Medialunas de Manteca y Facturas Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. It can be really helpful as they walk you through each step of making the medialunas.
Spring Day is an informal holiday in Argentina, celebrated on 21 September, the conventional date of the beginning of spring! Though this is not a work-free public holiday, it coincides with Student's Day, which is a no-school day for students on all the levels of the education system. The holiday is therefore mostly observed and dominated by teenagers and young adults, which massively take on public parks, beaches and other outdoor venues in the larger cities, and enjoy sports or picnics. Moreover, local administrations usually offer the public a number of entertainment shows, such as free concerts.
Projects Abroad Argentina also celebrated spring last week, September 15th, at our monthly social. We had all had about enough of winter and it was time to welcome spring! Volunteers dressed in their brightest clothing and joined us in the office for a choripaneada (delicious chorizo sausage cooked on the grill served with bread) and sodas. We were about 35 in total and volunteers sat in a large circle chatting. We decorated the outside with colorful banners and small candle votives decorated the orange tree.
After we filled ourselves with food, it was time for the fun to begin...KARAOKE! The staff opened the night (and set the bar pretty high) by singing a hit by the Backstreet Boys. After we awed the crowd ;), the rest of the volunteers quickly formed groups and were singing. We heard Michael Jackson, Robbie Williams, Queen and Cindy Lauper (and many more). Many volunteers were laughing, dancing and singing along. It was a hit!
By the time the night ended it was pretty obvious that we were ready for spring. Watch out for summer and the fiesta we will have then!
Feliz primavera a todos!
Thursday September 1 marked the beginning of the 26th annual Book Fair in Cordoba. The fair is held in Plaza San Martin and the historic Cabildo government house and will go until September 26th. About 80 exhibitors and vendors are there selling books of all subjects and for all ages, giving life to this great literary festival.
The theme of this year´s book fair is 'The Book in the Digital Age', giving emphasis to the permanence of the book in a time of rapid digital communication. Throughout the month there will be many presentations, documentaries, lectures and debates covering a wide range of subjects. Intellectuals and writers such as Richard Forster, Atilio Boron, Marcos Novaro, Martin Malharro, Leonardo Oyola Eduardo Sacheri and Mabel Pagano will come to give lectures and discussions, all open to the public.
Organized by the Chamber of LIterature, the National University of Cordoba, the City of Córdoba, the provincial government and the Argentina Society of Writers, the fair breaks records every year and brings in more then 200,000 visitors from all over the country and the world, making it the largest cultural event in the province.
It is something not to be missed!
It is 7 pm, and while I am looking for the keys to unlock the gate to the area in which my house is located I notice that I have another set of keys in my pocket. Noooooo, I forgot to lock up! What do I do now? Okay, I will text Agustin, see what he thinks:
Me: "Agustin, I forgot to lock up and leave the keys. What should I do?"
Agustin: "Go do it. Sorry but the nuns need the keys. [It] is their property. If not ill have problems with them"
So I go upstairs to my house mate and ask her to come with me. We take the bus back to Copa de Leche, and get there pretty quickly. Inside we meet Mica, who asks why we are back, I show here the keys and say "Porque yo tengo los llaves." and she understands. I lock up and give her the keys which she then gives to the head nun, "La Madre".
Phew, so now that's done, right? We go to the bus stop and the guy who is standing there tries to tell us something. Is he trying to tell us that the bus doesn't stop here at this time? I think so, so we choose to walk instead. I vaguely remember the way the N11 bus goes, and we go that way. We have been told that the neighbourhood is dangerous, so we are cautious, try to not catch eye contact with the cars that pass. I kind of stand out, being 187 cm tall, blond and with blue eyes.
Half an hour or so later we arrive at the house. I text Agustin: "Mission Accomplished!"
The thing about the blue eyes brings me to another point: When I went to Argentina I did not really know what I was coming to. I did not expect the locals to have blues eyes, but some of them, including my host sister and Spanish teacher, do. However, in the neighbourhood we work, no one does. Many of them are from native American descent, while their blue-eyed fellow countrymen are from quite recent European descent.
Our newest care placement is with the Asociacion Civil Ayuda Solidaria los Boulevares. It is a daycare located outside of the city center, about 20 minutes from the Projects Abroad office. The center offers childcare service to low-income families who bring their children here while they are working.
There are about 35 children that come to the daycare on a daily basis, ranging in age from 45 days to 4 years old. The volunteers will be helping with the daily tasks at the care center, including preparing breakfast and lunch, as well as playing with the kids. The center welcomes ideas for organized games and recreational activities by the new volunteers!
The center does not receive any governmental funding, so relies heavily on
the support of the community and the local staff. The staff fundraises by baking cakes and sweet treats to sell the community, and puts the money towards the day care.
This new placement allows the opportunity for volunteers to work with young children. The center is very excited to receive our volunteers and we look forward to working together in the months to come!
Before leaving for Córdoba, I had no idea of what to expect from the trip. I knew I would be working and living in Argentina, and eventually I knew the name of my host family as well. Better that I hadn't formed any ideas before I left, however, because nothing I could have dreamed up would have done justice to the incredible experience awaiting me.
Admittedly, the first two days after my arrival did not very well predict the rest of the trip. Wary of strangers welcoming me with kisses and a bit uneasy at the idea of living with them for the next two weeks, I was less than receptive. Now, I wish I could have those precious two days back, just to stay a bit longer in Córdoba. Not only the children at my placement, but also the projects employees and the others in my two week special would turn out to be some of the most vibrant people I've yet to meet.
After the initial introductions were past us my group began what we had signed up for with Spanish lessons in the morning. I have never been in a class with teachers and peers who were as ready to discuss and learn as this one. My instructor, Gabriele, was involved in our class and willing to shape the discussion around the topics that most interested us all. If I had that kind of support in my classes at home, I think I'd be thinking in Castilian by now.
Even as much as I enjoyed my classes in the morning, nothing could top Copa de Leche, my placement. Before going to Copa on Tuesday, my group of three had been warned in induction that we were working at the "poorest, most difficult," location. I entered the neighborhood clutching my purse to myself to ward off juvenile muggers, but left considering these kids and teens my friends I could trust and talk to. Copa may not be the gentlest placement, but I quickly learned to forgo all personal space in favor of constant attention from the kids. Attention, which, came in a myriad of ways, including hugs and kisses, awkward questions, and frequent playful insults. Working with my incredibly creative supervisor, Agustín, my group and I played different games with the kids each day. One day we even put on a mini carnival, in which he proved to me it is possible to create games with strings, pennies, and pens.
One of the things I found most remarkable about Copa was how little these kids cared that I barely knew what they were saying. The language barrier I'd imagined did exist, but made little difference in how I connected with the kids. The things they argued over and talked about weren't much different than those that fourteen-year-old girls in Florida might be saying. We were able to learn from each other as well- trading words, music, and dance moves. Though, honestly, any seven-year-old in Argentina can still beat me when it comes to reggaeton dancing.
Agustín was always involved in anything we were doing at Copa, and put supreme amounts of energy into making ours the best placement- sometimes, by being indistinguishable from the teenagers and occasionally by putting everything back in its right order. Each day, after Copa de Leche, my roommates and I would trek the thirty minutes back to our host house, hands covered in dulce de leche and dirt, yet entirely satisfied.
One day after working at Copa, my host mother came into my room and found me singing to myself while my roommate and I were getting ready.
"Ella esta muy contenta, no?" she asked my roommate, pointing at me.
Sophie laughed and said to me, "You're always like this after Copa."
And as for my host family, more hospitable people couldn't be found. Sarah would not even let us clear our own plates after dinner. She constantly checked to see if we had everything we needed, yet went then beyond just the role of caretaker. She, her husband and son, often spent an hour talking to us after dinner or lunch. We told her about our families back home and about our day at Copa de Leche, while she talked to us about her college years and past volunteers.
And finally, as if I haven’t already effused enough, there was Córdoba itself. I absolutely loved being there. It was such a contrast from the usual stress of rushing to get things done, and yet I never felt idle. Everyone had something to contribute to any task or conversation. I was able to talk to the people I was with without double-checking everything I said. I felt so accepted that there was no need to impress.
The projects staff, especially, made sure we were all propelled into Argentinean culture and left us no chance to be self-conscious. I loved every second of being with these people, including the well-traveled, diverse group that was in the same two-week program as me.
The incredible experience this program provided me with wasn't the result of efficiency or immaculate organization-it truly was so much better than anything that could be scheduled. Rather, it was just a taste of what I want the rest of my life to be like. I'd like to feel like I am always at Copa de Leche- meeting and talking with incredible people and occasionally being challenged, yet enjoying myself immensely all the while. I would love to come back for a longer stay, but for now, I've got plenty of amazing memories to keep me dreaming.
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