I firmly believe that knowing a city requires exploring it by foot. Fortunately for me, one of my class’ first activities in Buenos Aires, Argentina was a downtown walking tour. This tour completely altered my first impression of a city with a European look and feel, which was formed by a bus ride. Walking on sidewalks and approaching buildings and graffiti up close uncovered a characteristic that was truer of the city: one of political charge and change.
Here is a list of phrases that I wrote to describe Bangalore immediately after returning to the United States: meandering cows, trash, spit bins, extended families, the head nod with multiple meanings, auto rickshaws, colorful saris, noise, outdoor eating, markets, no maps, two wheelers, temples, men holding hands, <i>masala dosas</i> (a Southern Indian omelet), spices, bucket showers, squat toilets, hard mattresses, crazy traffic with underutilized lanes, broken infrastructure, and learning to cross the street without getting killed.
Near the end of my six weeks in Bangalore, I was seriously craving American food. Masala dosas, curries, rice, vegetables, and limited amounts of chicken created a healthy diet, but at times I desired a big, juicy burger. I hate to admit it, but to get that fix of junk food I hopped an auto rickshaw to the McDonald’s on Brigade Road, a shopping mecca for trendy Bangaloreans and foreigners. Although I settled for a Filet-O-Fish, the familiarity of being inside a McDonald’s was almost comforting, albeit strange. Here I was, an American halfway around the globe, savoring a sandwich that tastes exactly like one I could’ve picked up at the McDonald’s down Massachusetts Avenue.
I returned to the United States with a penchant for tea. On late Buenos Aires afternoons, I’d join my family for mate, an Argentinian drink made from a holly-like herb. Each member of the house would take turns drinking the hot water infused with herbs from a hollowed gourd using a metal straw. After coming home from classes in Bangalore, my host mother would ask me if I’d like to “take tea” and would proceed to create her chai masala concoction of tea, milk, and spoonfuls of sugar. In Beijing and Shanghai, my hosts would serve tea after meals. While waiting for the tea to brew, they’d douse the cups with hot water to pre-wash, pre-heat, and pre-rinse them. Throughout our hour long conversations, they’d graciously pour and refill my mini teacup with fresh tea.
After I arrived in the United States from studying abroad in Argentina, India, and China last semester, one frequent question I received was, “What was your most memorable experience?” Many amazing events occurred — I rode an elephant bareback in Indian, bicycled to Beijing’s Olympic construction, visited a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires, and experienced locals’ hospitality in every city. However, one particular event stood out above all.
Every morning in Bangalore, my host father, Prabhakara, awoke at 6 a.m. to select fruits and vegetables from a freshly stocked sidewalk stand on the main road of Thyagarajanagar, his residential neighborhood. Afterward he stopped by a local restaurant to pick up warm idli (a white rice cake) or masala dosas that were neatly packaged in one sheet of thin wax paper, newspaper, and string. After his morning exercises and prayers, he prepared breakfast: sliced apples and carrot sticks, idli and chutney (think Indian salsa), homemade roti (flat bread) and curry, or my favorite — scrambled eggs packed with chopped vegetables and spices. Each morning I was greeted with a cup of chai tea and a food-filled circular metal plate with a vertical rim that I used to wipe away excess food from my eating hand.
In the Buenos Aires financial district, rusting metal riot blockades remain on the sidewalks near the banks, which are modern-day fortresses, outfitted in concrete and secured by guards. In public plazas, black gates surround statues of political figures to protect them from vandalism. Politically charged graffiti is littered throughout Avenida de Mayo, the street that connects Congress to Plaza de Mayo – Buenos Aires’ historical location of political protest. At dusk, <i>cartoneros –</i> who would otherwise be unemployed – pick through city trash bins in search of cardboard scraps to sell. At night, homeless individuals sleep in doorways of closed shops in the upper class Recoleta neighborhood.
On Commercial Street, one of Bangalore’s shopping meccas, our group was on assignment to bargain for and purchase various items. While buying a pair of turquoise earrings, I felt a slight graze on my upper arm. I turned and faced a middle-aged Indian woman with a baby. She brought together the fingers of her free hand and raised them to her mouth, motioning an eating action. Then she cupped that hand, presented it to us palm side up, and looked at us pleadingly.
A March 21 complaint against Lobdell’s Shinkansen Japanese restaurant prompted an inspection on the same day that found minor cockroach activity in the restaurant, according to health reports from the Cambridge Inspectional Services Department. The restaurant was exterminated the following day and three follow-up reports, including one from May 9, found no evidence of roaches, said Richard D. Berlin III, director of Campus Dining.