This summer Fernando Alegre, a veteran instructor at Strommen, Inc., took a small group of students to Buenos Aires for a learning vacation that included tours, language lessons, cultural studies and organized events and outings. The group spent approximately two weeks in the city, and, as one of the group participants, I can testify to both the quality and management of the program. We had a truly amazing learning experience and a very enjoyable trip.
Almost everyday we had lessons either in the morning or evening, and instruction was geared to linguistic and cultural subjects that we would encounter in Buenos Aires. Needless to say, Fernando explained the minor differences in some pronunciation and vocabulary between Argentina Spanish and Spanish of the other Latin American countries. These differences are not great and easily learned in one lesson. He also taught us about particular foods, such as pizza “Fugazzeta” (pizza with cheese and onion) and the “alfajor,” a delicious cookie sandwich with a filling usually of “dulce de leche,” a sweet caramel-like spread that is the Argentinian “peanut butter” and is found in many pastries and other sweets. Fernando discussed some colonial and modern Argentinian history and the significance of each neighborhood we would visit. This way he prepared the group for the day’s excursion giving insight as to what we would see, as well as giving us practical information such as how to use the subway or how to order a coffee just the way you like it! Some lessons were conducted for the whole group, but many were individual lessons, which added to the value of the tour. While language lessons were an integral part of the trip, we were never overloaded with academic work and were given sufficient free time to explore the city on our own. I might add that Fernando never grew tired of talking to us about his city and performed his duties with admirable diligence and a good sense of humor. He spoke to us in Spanish comprehensible for our skill level and never became frustrated at our lack of understanding. Speaking and explaining things in very simple Spanish might have have taken a toll on most language teachers, but Fernando’s perseverance and good nature were what made the trip so successful.
In addition to language teaching, Fernando was a great organizer and secured housing for us in a large apartment building in the neighborhood of Palermo. Amenities included a full gym, pool and Jacuzzi. The complex was completely secure with a guard on duty 24 hours and a reception office where one could get assistance in ordering taxis, getting keys, apartment cleaning and other services. The apartment complex was located in a very pleasant neighborhood with a multitude of cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, and convenience stores all around and a shopping mall just a 5-minute walk away.
Of course, the core element of out trip was the various excursions and outings that we took. Fernando’s neighborhood tours are designed to show you Buenos Aires from the inside, from the point of view of a native, as Fernando surely is. While we saw all the important highlights featured in the guidebooks, such as La Boca, the famous neighborhood by the river with brightly painted houses of different colors and Recoleta with its famous cemetery where many prominent Argentinians are buried, we also participated in more diverse and unique activities. For example, instead of just seeing a tango show, as most tourists do, we were taken to a local neighborhood tango dance club where we saw the locals dancing and having a fun night out and where we could also dance. Fernando always tried to steer us away from tourist venues to more traditional places that the people of Buenos Aires themselves frequent. We also traveled to a small town outside of Buenos Aires to visit a working ranch, complete with cattle, horses and gauchos. We were served an outdoor barbeque and treated to a gaucho show with singing and performing horses. During our stay in the city, we visited its many different neighborhoods and we can now say that we truly have a solid impression of the major neighborhoods in Buenos Aires and of the city as a whole.
If you are interested in a unique language learning and cultural experience in Argentina, I can recommend traveling with Fernando Alegre and Strommen. You will have a wonderful cultural experience, improve your Spanish, and enjoy yourself tremendously.