Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mia and Kenny Arrive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mia and Kenny are here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They arrived on time with ALL of their luggage, and big smiles on their faces as they shed their layers and emerged into el sol. We taxied it home and began sight seeing!

Here we are in front of the Casa Rosada. I had no idea you could get this close.

Really big trees

We observed an interesting custom that our porteña friend Sabina said she had never heard of where people rip up their entire calender and throw it out the window or off the roof of their office building. It really snubs the cities recent campaign to keep the city clean and ignores the street cleaners' feelings.

Kenny got an old fashioned shave with a straight razor. Mia was freaking out with visions of meat pies and Sweeny Todd.

More really trees!

Outside of the public library

At dinner!

Mia and Kenny at the bar

In San Telmo

Mia in the San Telmo market

Tango dancing in Plaza Dorrego

No explanation necessary

Parque Lezama

So now we are getting ready for the New Year and making food and getting dressed up!!! More photos to come!

Christmas In Argentina

Christmas in so many other things is the opposite of Christmas in the States. For one thing they don't do real trees here.Here is the big white Christmas tree next to the Obelisko and of course many blooming flowers.

Sweet classic wooden Santa on Florida St.

The Duracell store was decked out. Here's a closer look:
And here are some of the decorations in San Telmo. Points for funny, but very different from the excessive amount of decorations one would see in the States. Another big difference is that the decorations go up much later and you aren't bombarded by Christmas commercialism starting the day after Thanksgiving. For the first time in years I didn't get sick of Christmas songs and I didn't feel overwhelmed by the buy buy buy mentality that often comes with Christmas every where you go in the States. That feeling is slowly coming, but Christmas culture is in the middle of a transition here. This was seen at a mall where we met for a meeting with a teacher we will be working with next week. On the ground floor we walked by the ever present Santa set up that transcends borders across the world, but this one was a little different from what we are used to in the States. Instead of being flanked on both sides by elves, this Santa sat next to a camel. According to our new co-worker, when she was a child it was the Wise Men who had a set up in the mall (at that time the only mall in Buenos Aires was Harrod's) and it was the Wise Men who you handed a letter with a list of desired presents to. The camel is left over from those days. Amazing. Anyway, we spent Christmas Eve (much bigger here than Christmas day) at our friend Filipe's house. We brought our menorah and had everyone light the candles. For most there it was their first Hanukah experience. There were fire works, and then dancing in the kitchen to salsa and meringue. Christmas day the city was deserted as it had been for the past two days, but Florida Av. was still buzzing. We saw a movie and relaxed and enjoyed Christmas in the Jewish way!

In Case You Missed It...

I'm not sure if my last post was explicit enough: LOST STARTS IN 3 WEEKS! That gives me and all the other Lost geeks out there 21 days to re-up on Jack, Locke (or Bentham, whichever you prefer), Ben, and the rest of the gang on or off the island. And anyways, where is the island?! And what is time? AHH! Here is something to pique your interest, maybe it will convert all you nonbelievers. I can't wait, and you shouldn't be able to, either.
Check it out, and Happy New Year once again.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It Only Took Three Months

Mom, you will be happy to know that Josh and I have officially been made a job offer. We rejected. Just Kidding!!! Why would anyone in our position reject the offer of 6 hours a week each at 24 pesos an hour four times a week at 8:15 am? Yea that's right. Josh and I have a job!! And in January our hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:15-9:45 in one of Buenos Aires' largest office buildings. Its only the beginning though. Starting in March there should be more hours, and there's always the hope of a second job...
For now the unemployed exploits of two expats continues. Today we met Julianna and Austin at the X-British clock tower (It used to be known as the the British Clock Tower until the Faulklands War and now its called the Tower of the Air Force or something because the Air Force is the only part of the armed forces that succeeded in the Faulklands war). Enough history. We were there to say goodbye to Austin properly, and of course this involved maté and wine...and a grapefruit. I'm not sure where the idea came from, and I've never seen or heard of it before, but drinking maté in a pomelo, or a grapefruit is something done here in the summer. ITS AMAZING!!! Sorry, getting ahead of myself. So, Austin brought all the necessary materials: knife, grapefruit, mate, bombilla (the metal straw one drinks maté with), and orange juice. Instead of a gourd, a partially hollowed out grapefruit is filled with maté and then instead of hot water the grapefruit is filled with orange juice. The bitter flavor of the maté, the sweetness of the orange juice (citric brand of course) and the pomelo flavor mixed together to cause a sensation that my mouth decided was the perfect summer treat.

This guy doesn't even like pomelo...but even he was won over by the amazing combo of tastes

After the OJ ran out, we dumped the maté and put the grapefruit half to good use as a wine chalice. Again the pomelo flavor mixed with the wine to create new flavors in our mouths and we reveled in our genius.

We moved to a spot in the sun and threw the disc about while we finished the wine.

Some last minute disc time

And then it was time to say goodbye to Austin. Besides Julianna and Bennett (who aren't leaving till January) Austin is the last of the extranjeros (foreigners) to leave without the intent of return. We had a goodbye dinner for him at an amazing parilla last night, but this was for real. My overwhelming feeling was that I just didn't want him to leave. He was one of my most enthusiastic Spanish and Frisbee teachers, but he also brings a positive excited air with him everywhere he goes. Possibly the most genuine person I've even met with a greater desire to learn, try, experience and grow than anyone I know. He will be sorely missed. I know more people will come and we will make new friends, but the dynamic will never be the same and none of our friends who have left can be replaced.
I couldn't help but think back to my study abroad experience. When I left Italy I left no one behind. All the friends that I made left with me and my main impact on the place was an absence of pasta and gelato. When I missed Italy it was the streets, the restaurants, and the tastes I remembered. No people. These people we've had to say good bye to these past few weeks are not only leaving us behind, but Colombians and Porteños too. Their host families will miss them, and so will their friends. The team they left behind will be sorely affected by our loss, and they made our time here far better than it would have been without them. I admire them so much for really having become a part of the community here and realize that Josh and I too have a life here now. We are no longer visitors even if our visa says we are. At dinner the other night I looked around and noticed there were four North Americans and five South Americans and of course the conversation was mostly in Spanish and I felt honored and lucky to be there.
Anyway, to drown our sorrows and to celebrate the festival and our new jobs we had a Hanukah party!!! Champagne, leftover meat from dinner the night before and latkas!!! Erin celebrated her first Hanukah and brought homemade apple sauce and eventually Julianna arrived with the potatoes and the grating commenced. Soon after we began to fry our potato pancakes and soon enough dinner was ready.
Team Latka Friers

So we continue to enjoy beautiful Buenos Aires, but with fewer people for now. Hopefully all those who claim to be returning will return and I know there are knew people in our horizons. And visitors!!! It is the official 5 day countdown till the arrival of Kenny and Mia. All of the places we have tried to go to but have been thwarted from doing so because we always go on the one day everything is closed will be visited, and the beach better make room for us. Hope everyone has a very merry Christmas or a happy Hanukah!

Bittersweet Symphony

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." While it may be hyperbole on both accounts to use Dickens' (possibly most) often cited quote to describe our current state of affairs in Buenos Aires, it does help illustrate the situation in which we found ourselves at this time. Even though many Porteños flee the city with their families to enjoy the holidays on the beach or simply away from the hustle and bustle of BsAs (with buses running less and with so many people outside the city, traffic and noise pollution are at an all-time low, which you know is pleasant for us if you've read previous posts), a tangible excitement still sweeps the streets and illuminates the night sky. As a predominately Catholic country, Christmas reigns supreme in Argentina. While it may not get as done up as other cities, Buenos Aires does a good job of bringing Christmas cheer to is residents, although it looks quite silly to, as Julia puts it, "have snowflakes on the windows of stores selling air conditioning units". The northern half of the northern hemisphere definitely has a clear advantage in terms of realizing dreams of the white Christmas in which Santa's sleigh treads softly atop snow covered rooves before placing presents underneath the Christmas tree, but that doesn't stop Buenos Aires from lining store fronts with wreaths, Holiday Lights, and other staples of North American Christmas/Holiday/Winter decorations.
In a way, it reminds me of being home during this holiday season, this being the first that I will spend completely away from Great Barrington. But, as occurred when most of my family came for Thanksgiving, our homes will come to us to celebrate the holidays! In five days, just in time for New Years but just after Hanukah ends, Julia's sister Mia and her boyfriend Kenny will arrive in Buenos Aires to spend a few weeks with us (note: I wrote most of this post some time before I actually published it, so bear with the Lost-like bending of the space-time continuom). I know they are excited since they bought their tickets months ago and have had an entire semester to look forward to escaping the bitter cold of the Northeast in favor of the summer breezes of South America, and we are definitely excited to welcome more visitors to our newly adopted city. It gives us an excuse to act like tourists and go out to dinner more often than usual, which is always fun, and we'll try and do some day trips so they can see as much of the region as possible. We'll definitely be going to Uruguay for at least one day, for Julia and I have to renew our tourist visas, lest we remain in Argentina illegally...

All in all, it looks to be an exciting few weeks of romping around the city, but not nearly as much once January rolls around because...we finally got jobs! I know, some of you thought this may never happen, but truth be told, we finally obtained some sort of steady employment. Granted, it's only 12 hours a week between the two of us, at 24 pesos an hour, and the hours (8:15-9:45AM) are not ideal for two people who have been lazily rolling out of bed much later than they should, it's still a start and may develop into something more profitable down the road. And given the fact that we have visitors for the next bunch of weeks (Julia's parents arrive a few days before Mia and Kenny depart), the time and volume of our hours will allow us to be gracious hosts while still bringing in some dough.

"The worst of times" does not refer to our impending forfeiture of unlimited free time - but after we are waking up every morning at seven, it very well may - but rather to the departure of so many of our friends in the past few weeks. We knew many of these students from all over the world for just two months or so, but they left an impression on us so strong that the city will feel very different without them. These are the people who welcomed us to our new home, initiated us into a new culture, and welcomed us into the lives they had been building long before we arrived. Whether members of Julia's class or our Frisbee team, they helped make our introduction to Buenos Aires so pleasant and rewarding. One of our friends, Austin, urged us to continue what everyone started in bringing good spirit and friendship everywhere we go, persist in our self immersion into this wonderful city and culture, and take advantage of the incredible opportunity afforded to us. Overall, I do sense that I carry myself with a more positive and energetic air, much of which I credit to the company that I've kept since coming to Buenos Aires. Their enthusiasm for life and seeking out new and exciting experiences, however cliche it may sound, continues to rub off on me. I only hope that we can do the same for someone else who comes to BsAs in the future, wherever they're from, whatever their story.

So here is a big thank you to any of them that read the blog. To those of us who are still here, going strong, I'm incredibly excited to start a new year in Buenos Aires. And to everyone back in the States, Happy New Year, may it be better than the last, and I'll be thinking of how cold you are while I'm (hopefully) on my way to the beach tomorrow. Cheers!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Best News EVER!!!!!!

Happy Hanukah to all you Jews out there!! It is that time of the year where we get together, make really fatty foods, sing fun songs, light candles and celebrate that fact that while they've been trying for centuries, no one can seem to wipe us out. The fatty food of choice at Hanukah is of course the latka, or the fried potato pancake, and I am very excited to make them for the first time this year. However it would feel like cheating if I only made latkas and did not light the Menorah! But seeing as a menorah was not on my top ten list of things that needed to make it to Buenos Aires with me (I'm pretty sure it wasn't on any list) I headed out today in search of one. Having received the number for Chabad (spelled Jabad here) from a random Lubavitch, who is from Brooklyn and who has lived here for 30 years, in the Farmacia named Pini I decided to try out my mad Spanish skills on the phone while Josh was sleeping. I was informed that I could buy a menorah at Jabad for only 12 pesos, and after receiving the address I got ready, ate one of my favorite breakfasts (toast, avocado, eggsald and tomato compiled into a heavenly tower of love (shout out to Dad)), and hopped on the 29. Well actually I didn't hop onto it. I looked for it for about 1/2 hour because of road work and then jogged to make it before the bus driver pulled away with people hanging out the door. After a lovely bus ride I made it to Jabad only to be informed outside the door that "Hay nada mas" or that there were no more. However! (there is always an however), the Kosher minimarket right next store had some.
I wandered into the store and my eyes lit up brighter than the candles in my new menorah will tonight. Here was a mini wonderland of Kosher fare, including Philadelphia cream cheese, Sauerkraut, gelt, and...(drum roll please) PICKLES!!!!!!! That's right, there were pickles in several different shapes and jar sizes. Now anyone who knows me here has heard me say ATLEAST one time (probably more) that the only thing I really miss besides a good bagel with cream cheese and lox is pickles. Pickles, Pickles, Pickles. Kosher Dill, half sour, sour, you name it, I miss it.

So with muffled joy I brought my menorah, candles, gelt and ¡PICKLES! to the counter and put my plata on the counter in case the man was shomer nigea (he follows the Jewish rule that men and women should not touch unless married or immidiate family) and set off to find the bus.
On the bus I proudly had a mini coversation with the mujer next to me about how bad the trafico was, and then I pointed out in Spanish that there was work being down in the street all over the city and we both kind of shook our heads because the bus was taking ¡forever! and lurching all over the place to boot.
Finally, three hours after I had left my apartment I arrived home with my goodies and tried my first pickle in months. While it leaves something desired in the way of crunchiness (I hope this is improved when eaten cold) and depth of taste, I am so happy I found a place where I can go to get my pickle fix. Amen

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Drum Circle and Business As Usual

4am and I'm brushing my teeth on my balcony watching but mostly listening to a drum circle mostly obscured by trees in the mini park across the street from my apartment. Singing, dancing, clapping and drumming at 4 am on Peru y Chile! I love it. Just a typical night here in Buenos Aires. We had our friends over for Shabbat dinner after going to services at the NCI congregation in Belgrano. There I lit candles with the other women and danced with the congregation during L'cha Do'di. While I know I'm not one of the congregation yet it felt great to be accepted as usual in a Jewish community wherever one is in the world. It also felt great to have Shabbat dinner again after so long. My friend Juliana and I compared Challot, and while mine was the more aesthetically pleasing of the two, hers was the tastier. She put lemon zest in for flavor!!! I am very excited about this new development into my Challah baking explorations. I am also VERY excited for Challah french toast in the morning.

Just went downstairs to check out the drum circle. They were Brazilians!! Just one drummer, a cow bell type thing, and singing in Portuguese. Then this girl pulls a wood block out of no where and hands it to this guy. That was ridiculous. It also added a whole new element to the drum circle. Good old wood block. Then they were all singing, the girls were trying to harmonize, and they were dancing. When I took African dance a lot of the moves and beats were from South America and I was so excited to see these girls dancing like this to these beats that I recognized. Then the cops came. Typical. I guess they were making a lot of noise for 4 am though...

Saturday morning in Buenos Aires I wake up at 1 pm to the smell of camp fire? I look out that same balcony window and yes, there is a man tending a camp fire in the same square the drum circle was in last night. He has a table set up with corn, sausage, and a lot of lemons. Curious. I wonder how this is legal. Asado in the mini Plaza! Hopefully I'll see him do something good before we leave for Frisbee. This is our first Saturday missing all of our friends and teammates who went home this week. Mostly people from the US, but some Colombians have returned home as well (I can't wait for an excuse to visit them, mostly because I really can't wait to go to Columbia). The Cadillacs have suffered much from this departure, but really we suffer more because we have spent the week saying to many good byes. Luckily I have high hopes that we will see everybody again someday soon.

Asado update: The parilla attendant has placed a grate over his well tended coals and is placing corn, ribs, and other kinds of meats on top. In the plaza across from my apartment. This is amazing. And now it looks like an entire family has arrived. I guess when one's roof lacks a parilla you have the licence to take your asado to the street!!

Job update: Josh and I had an interview yesterday with a group we were put in touch with through an introduction my Uncle Howard made for us (Thanks Howard!!). The group is a group of English teachers who need to keep a couple of people from the US on board to teach classes or for one on one instruction where being a native speaker is necessary. Things like cultural information, accents, idioms, ect. are usually taught by native speakers. They offer a measly 24 pesos an hour but the classes are all an hour and a half. Its extortion and rediculous and they probably will only be able to offer us 12 hours a week in the begining, but its a start. They should let us know next week about the summer class schedule.

That's all the news for now on our front. Send us some emails with yours!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

We're Famous!

As an addendum to my previous post, here is a television piece they were recording during the tournament. It's in Spanish, so you won't be able to understand it all, but you'll see where we were and what we were doing. Both Julia and I make appearances, the former in broken Spanish (but so much better than when she arrived), and me in action since they shot the game in which I was playing. The much talked about Dave, our Australian friend, also makes an appearance. Watch til the end and see me eat sand!

Pilgrimage to Tierra Santa

On Thursday, after eating a late breakfast at my friend Erin's new place, I was delighted to hear that Santa Tierra didn't open until 4 pm and that I would still be able to meet up with Josh, Bennett, Nick and Emery in time to check out the park. For those of you lacking in Spanish vocabulary, the park is called Holy Land and holy it is and holy it must be treated. On the dock outside the park we did a little bit of research in Bennett's guide book and discovered this is park is no where near being a joke, it is actually more of a place of pilgrimage that might be as close as some people will ever come to the Holy Land and in reality its the closest any of us will come to the Holy Land at the time of Jesus' death. So without further adieu I bring you our pilgrimage to Tierra Santa because the pictures really speak for themselves:

Outside the park getting serious before entering

Sign before entering the park giving a history and background

Ticket window: Everyone who works in the park is dressed in the garb from the time of Jesus

Josh and Nick in one of the many tunnels that network around the park with strange displays

Adam and Eve

I'll bet anything there were no "No Smoking" signs in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus

The Annunciation

Visitors to the park are on somewhat of a schedule. There are different shows that go on a schedule meant to keep visitors moving around the park. First for us was the nativity scene. The show works by lighting up different parts of the stage at different times to create amazing effects like this one. Angels in the sky and laser lights!!

The Nativity scene

Walking around the park there are statues EVERYWHERE. Not one inch of space is wasted.

The synagogue was across the street from the mosque where you had to remove your shoes before entering. The synagogue had little display windows with Jewish artifacts in them. The whole thing was like a crappier version of a religious Epcot.

Shrine to Gandhi...not sure what this has to do with anything

Statues you didn't have to pay to use or wait in line for!!

Me as a Holy Land Lady

Josh as a Holy Land Lady
S@$& gets real

Last Supper show


Getting checked out by a Roman Soldier while Josh isn't looking

Wailing Wall that people have actually placed paper notes in as if it was the real one

Fountain of Angels, and Nick


Yes, this is a forty foot Jesus that came out of the mountain to the Handel's Messiah. Out of Control!!

And then the forty foot Jesus returns into the mountain.

Crucifixes in the sun.

A view of the Holy Land in front of a view of Buenos Aires


The Sacred Heart

Our Last show was Creation:

Everything was in Spanish...but in the beginning there was nothing...and then GREEN LASERS!!!

The moon




One by one animals were brought out and then made their sound and did some movement. This elephant's trunk moved up and down.

A giraffe that munched on leaves

And last but not least Adam and Eve!

The park was great and I can't wait to go back when Mia and Kenney come, but this time we will go at night because I have a feeling there is a whole new level of intensity when the resaurection happens at night and everything is lit up and even more dramatic. I would recommend this to anyone whole comes to Buenos Aires no matter what your religious affiliation. It is not to be missed.