Thursday, January 29, 2009

This is my confession...

I have a confession, and this is it: I shut Chimba in the fridge. It was ajar, I slammed it shut with my foot and left the room. We heard Chimba noises which we largely ignore because he often walked around the apartment meowing at the top of his unneutered crazy kitty lungs, and its almost always about nothing. Almost...
Well, Josh followed the sounds, and they led to the empty kitchen. Chimba was freed from the fridge and sprinted into the living room and he was actually cold when I picked him up!! While this might seem like a cat's dream, he was actually slightly more traumatized than usual. I think me holding him afterwards he might have traumatized him even more!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today was a very successful day. It began with a good class, and a really good nap that got a little carried away and was a bit excessive. Yes Dad, I most definitely made it to stage 4 sleep, and it was awesome. But then came a big moment:
I successfully bleached a white dress of mine!!!
It had unidentified party stains all over it (most likely vino was the culprit) and it lay crumpled in my draw for about a month. Well...more. Since Christmas to be exact. But in my defense I was afraid that if I tried to clean it, and failed then I would have a ruined dress, and while it lay in my drawer it still had the potential to be clean. Recently I got up the courage to buy bleach, and a today I decided I would try it.
I really do feel very adult. So the rest of the day was great. I went to my first free Spanish conversation class where I learned a new word: Mandarse. This word means to move, as in to move out of a house. Yes my friends, this verb has suddenly entered my life because I you say? Moving out! We got the official go ahead from our landlady Beatriz who understands that we can't afford her somewhat busted apartment and we are moving to a house not far from here that is about 1/3 the rent! More to come on that later.
After the class I had a lovely time at my friend Tucker's casa. We hung out on his balcony and drank cold maté which chatting all kinds of things. Buena onda. The walk to the subte was wonderful and breezy and I was reluctant to get on it and end this rare and precious time alone on a beautiful cool afternoon. I thought about taking the bus home, but saved my precious monedas (also I wasn't sure which direction to catch it in) and ride the oppressively hot and boring Subte. I exited at the Plaza de Mayo exit and a cool breeze blew past the Casa Rosada and over me. It felt wonderful, and I walked home the long way. Now we are making dinner (soup that our friend Annie made once- yummo!) and then we are headed to this Dub music show. Ciao for now!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the "Issue of Chimba"

Now that W is out of office, our cat in residence, Chimba, or Mr. Chimba as I like to call him, remains quite possibly the most maddening figure in my life. I want to love him with everything I've got, but he makes it so hard sometimes. He has the ability to make me weak in the knees as he looks up at me with his big eyes, only to turn around and fill me with an irrational amount of anger towards him for single handily making our apartment smell like a used diaper filled with Indian food. Just when I think we've made progress, he goes and pees in my closet. One step forward, two rancid steps back. When we turn on the living room light after coming home from an evening out and disturb his golden slumbers, his squinty-eyed glances from his favorite spot on the couch make my heart flutter. But I want to wring his neck once he starts clawing that same couch after waking up. He's used our laundry basket as a litter box and our living room as a training grounds for chasing flies and imaginary things that only he can see. He tries his best to cover his scent when he does use his litter box, which is most of the time, and even goes so far as to try and collect pieces of litter that have scattered about the floor in the process into a neat pile. Sometimes, when you hold him - or rather, when he lets you hold him - he produces a soft, rumbling purr that reverberates through his entire body and tickles any exposed skin in contact with him. More often, he emits some sort of howling meow that makes it sound like we're hosting a basset hound, not a cat. I'm not exactly sure how to reconcile these competing attitudes towards his erratic behavior. I try to give him love, but then I almost throw up after looking for a pair of shoes so I'm forced to rub his face in his own urine so my footwear stays clean. Right now he's curled up in his spot and all I want to do is lay there with him, yet I'm pretty sure he's exposed a previously unknown allergy to cats that makes me a bit stuffed up and itchy when he joins us in bed (which could explain the aforementioned tickling sensation). In an hour, I wouldn't be surprised if he did something that makes me curse our decision to take him in and hope for Andrés' speedy return to Buenos Aires. But right now, at this very moment, he could stay as long as he liked. So, in concluding my "Concluding Unscientific Postscript...", I wish to offer some perspective for myself and for you all: if the figure causing me the most grief in my life is a rogue, unneutered cat, life can't be that bad, can it? A quick, yet giant, shout-out to our readers who braved the cold, early wake-up, and crowds to celebrate the Inauguration last week, I wish I could have been there with you and was obviously there in spirit. Also, a special shout-out to our faithful reader, Bristol, for correcting my grammar and exposing me to the hyperlink at the beginning of the post. Check it out, really incredible stuff.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is our president:

Monday, January 26, 2009


This is Chimba. I'm not sure if he's been properly introduced yet. His name is Chimba and he our friend Andrés' cat. Yes, Andrés did name his cat cool in Colombian Spanish which is rediculous. This cat is not chimba though. He is infact the nemisis of chimba. And we were doing so well. Just the other day I wrote this exert in an email to Lauren that had her laughing out loud at work:
"Also we are watching someone's cat for a month and a half and I hate it. At least he's stopped peeing on our stuff. Actually it was mostly Mia's stuff. Have you ever smelled cat pee? Who knew it was the strongest grossest smell. Dog pee dosn't smell like that and dogs poop outside where as this cat poops in his too small litter box and then kicks the poop onto the floor while trying to cover it up!!! Its gross, I am apparetnly not a cat person. also he's totally messed up cause he jumped off our friend's balcony to get at a female cat (oh yea, he's not nutered) and broke his leg among other things. Andres didn't want to pay the vet so he bandanged the leg himself. Now it doesn't bend right, and he's crazy. Atleast he doesn't eat with his hands anymore, or his paws I guess. That was weird."
Then last night he cuddled in bed with us all night long. Today we took a nap together!! And then he had to go pee in Josh's closet. Following the tutorial of Kenny (cat master) Josh rubbed his face in it and then had to go to a meeting about a job. So I bravely tood the cat by the scruff, held in in the bathtub as he hissed and flashed his teeth at me, a proceded to dump an entire bucket of water on smelly pee face Chimba. He proceded to hide in this weird wooden thing we have, and he looked so cute I had to take a picture of him. Almost cute enough to make me forget that he peed in our bedroom again...but not quite. Anyway, if you ever want to make your home life stressful and smelly as hell, get an unneutered cat and name him Chimba. And so the adventures of Mr. Chimba continue, as he ensures that our apartment will never be the same again.

Welcome Back!

Alright people, it's been nearly a month since my last real post, a time in which you've been treated to the musings and photos of Julia - although the pictures from Mendoza are of my doing, thank you very much. My most profound thanks to her for keeping the blog afloat, her gusto for keeping everyone updated is to be admired and imitated. So with that in mind, here is an update on the state of Josh, with my thoughts on the past month and life in general:

The city seems completely different than when we first arrived, and I mean this in two ways. The first and most obvious is that since it's the middle of summer here, everyone is gone. Buenos Aires feels somewhat empty, and not just because many of our friends vacated the city. Stores are close more frequently. Bus rides take less time with less traffic, which also makes our street seem quieter than usual - more on this aspect in a little bit - and allows keep our bedroom door open later in the morning before the noise makes it impossible for us to continue sleeping. Porteños do not saturate the public parks as they usually do. Restaurants are on vacation for weeks at a time. It feels as if we are in a tourist town during the off season, just for the exact opposite reasons: we are in the place that empties out during tourist season. Having been on the opposite end of this relationship for the first twenty years of my life, it's refreshing for the summer to be less crowded than other times of the year.

Secondly, Buenos Aires feels more like home now than ever before. This obviously makes sense in that anyone is more likely to feel more at home somewhere the longer they've been there, but it's more than that. When my family came to visit we were just a little more than a month into our (barely legal) residency in Buenos Aires, and for all intents and purposes still newbies in this vast metropolis. We tended to stay with what we knew, unsure of what more our new city had to offer. We got a little more adventurous with our visitors this time around, so now somewhere like Palermo is not just far off land with good nightlife but a place where we've spent a considerable amount of time. We're expanding our horizons, getting to know more and more of a city that has so much to discover. In addition, our visitors pointed out characteristics of Buenos Aires that we remembered being issues when first arriving, but by that point we'd come to accept as part of life. The noise level on our street, the poor quality of some sidewalks and what "paints" them, the thick, black exhaust of buses, wires zigzagging between buildings, all characteristics of Buenos Aires the Behar's and Kenny couldn't help but notice and rightfully lament - really, who wants to step in dog poop on the sidewalk? Or who wants to get pooped on by a bird that is sitting on one of the wires that crosses high above street level? (Note: I finally fell victim to the falling poop of one of these devilish pigeons. If it werent bad enough, it was on our way to Shabbat services, so Julia's father (who will be referred to as Roger from now on, since he is a major player in this post and it's annoying to keep writing had to clean off my shirt once we passed the entrance exam to get into synagogue. I'm still waiting for the good luck that is supposed to accompany any inadvertent interaction with animal feces on city streets, whether it comes from above or below.) Yet, these are all characteristics that we've gotten used to, embraced, and that help illustrate the backdrop of our daily routine. One of the first things Julia's parents would notice in a neighborhood is the state of the sidewalks, which became a running joke between everyone. Belgrano = nice sidewalks = a desirable place to live. Nice sidewalks deserved recognition, as did poop on the sidewalks so as to avoid stepping in it. Now we think about them a little more - the noise has given us further impetus to try and move to a quieter street - but I'm sure they'll once again fade into the scenery of our lives before too long.

Even more, the mere fact that we say things like "back to business as usual", or "return to real life" now that our visitors have gone back to the States signifies that there is a "real life" that we've built here waiting for us. After happily playing tour guides for the past month or so, we return to lives that are surely less fun than weeks of finding new restaurants to eat at and interesting sights to see, but more normal and our own. It was a joy to host so many visitors, but it's also really nice to be living like a regular porteño. In a way, we are like those city dwellers who are returning to Buenos Aires from vacation, except we've been here the whole time. It was great to be on vacation, but as Dorothy said, "there's no place like home".

A few personal highlights from our visitors:

For the first week or so of Kenny and Mia's visit, we played cards about 50% of our waking hours. Hearts, Deuces, Gin Rummy, and my new favorite card game, Pinochle, were our preferred pastimes. We used them as excuses to stay inside on the first few days of their stay when the weather was often nothing to brag about, and continued playing through the weekend after New Year's Day when we played porteño and flocked to Mar del Plata. In our hostel, on the beach, we were dealing out cards left and (or, to) right. I thank Kenny for teaching us Pinochle, even though it brought on some tense moments between Julia and I (apparently I wasn't playing up to her standards), and I will try and spread the Pinochle love, because it's all love.

Our trip to Mendoza was one of the most memorable weekends of our residency thus far. First of all, it was our introduction to overnight "suite" passenger buses, which offer: a fully reclining seat, a meal similar in quality to it's airline brethren, red wine and whiskey, and a film. In other words, it's the perfect storm for a good night's sleep when you would be getting a crappy night's sleep at best on a plane or lesser bus. Unfortunately they were not impervious to Argentine traffic, which delayed our reentry to the city and impeded us from going to work on Monday morning, but that's another story. Secondly, it was our first ever wine tour, which was very exciting in itself. As Julia wrote, we learned a great deal about all aspect of wine production, from the growing to the bottling. Along with the tutelage provided by Roger's impressive knowledge and contagious passion for wine, we are more knowledgeable consumers, but not like this guy:


Besides filling our minds with new and interesting facts about wine, our Mendoza trip was amazing in that it put us within sight of some of the highest mountains in the world. The city of Mendoza lies just east of the Andes, and to the southeast of Aconcagua, which holds the dual honor of highest mountain in the Americas and highest mountain outside of Asia. I know this sounds really childish, but being that close to those big mountains was really exciting to me. I kept saying, "Where are the mountains? I want to see the mountains!" because I've never been in such close proximity to such an impressive range. It's humbling to be in the presence of such immense and awesome wonders. Just as standing next to a skyscraper, looking out on the ocean or any other large body of water, finding yourself in the middle of a storm, or checking out the view from a plane makes you realize how small you are, seeing a mountain range of this size and beauty gave me an aesthetically pleasing sense of perspective that will have to tide me over until we make it down to Patagonia to see the glaciers.

One of the best parts of our visitors coming was the opportunity to get to know Julia's family (and Kenny) better. Our interactions had been restricted mostly to meals in Washington and New York or weekends in Montgomery, so two weeks with Mia and Kenny and then two weeks with Ann and Roger afforded everyone the chance to get a little (or in the case of our live-in visitors, a lot) more familiar with each other. Everyone got along swimmingly, and I got to appreciate Julia's parents' knowledge and ability to wittily apply tidbits of pop-culture. I don't remember how it came up, but we started talking about Julia's Towlie costume from Halloween of 2007, and how the character, who is a towel, tends to respond to people pointing out the fact that he is a towel by saying "you're a towel". Maybe he'd done this on previous occasions privy only to members of the Behar family, but Roger immediately took to this phrase and would whip it out and hilarious and completely appropriate moments. He didn't overuse it and wear out its novelty, but would slip it into conversation at the perfect moment. He wouldn't try and sound like Towlie, he simply delivered the line in his normal voice and normal demeanor, straight faced. He is at the bottom of the list of people I would expect to make a South Park reference in everyday conversation, which obviously made it all the more funny. I know what you're thinking, and I swear I'm not brown nosing right now - I genuinely thought it was funny and laughed out loud, and you would have, too, if you had been there, so stop staring at me with those accusing eyes.

Sorry again for taking so much time off, hopefully now that life is "back to normal" I will get back into the habit of contributing to the blog more and not have to burden you with long rambling posts. That is, until Zach and Evelyn (woohoo!) arrive in a month, and then all bets are off...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mendoza – 16-1-09 - 18-1-09

My parents were reasonable in their decision to cancel our trip to Mendoza, the wine country of Argentina. The flight would have cost a ridiculous amount, and there was no way they could conceptualize how nice it would be to take a bus there. The bus ride is about 14 hours and any person from the US would automatically cringe at the thought of 14 hours on a bus. But this is only because they are unfortunate enough to have been subjected to the “high” quality experience of the coach bus that traverses the United States at unreasonable rates. The Greyhound is more expensive than Amtrak at times, and not nearly as comfortable. So imagine their surprise when they finally stepped on board for their first Argentine bus experience. It took an Argentine (Ana: our amazing guide from Tigre) to convince them of what I could not, but once on board they understood why I had been bugging them to take the bus to Mendoza for weeks. There are different levels of buses here. The worst is semi-cama, which is nicer than a coach bus, but is somewhat minimal in its ability to give you the seat recline you deserve. The seats are wider and farther apart than in the economy section of an airplane, but not where I would want to be for 14 hours in a row. Cama is the next step up with seats comfortable enough to nap in for a few hours, but again not where I want to be for 14 hours straight. We took it to the next level with our Suite Style bus. For not very much extra dough you get almost fully reclining seats, dinner, wine and whisky, curtains to separate you from your neighbor for some privacy, blankets, pillows and headphones at every seat for the TVs dispersed through the cabin. It was wonderful. We left at around 9:30, were served dinner soon afterwards, and I slept from 11 pm until breakfast at 8 am. Then I slept again until 11:30 am. It was divine. I had not slept that much in weeks.
We arrived in Mendoza well rested if not a little wrinkled and went straight into town to the Ampora Wine agency who had made our arrangements for us. The taxi from the train station was very old and very small, and I think Dad almost had a conniption because he thought it might be his last ride seeing as it was about to busted open at the seams. To his relief we were soon in a more modern car headed for Casa Glebinias where we stayed for the weekend. The bed and breakfast is located in Chacras, a small and very sleepy town just outside Mendoza. The big house is reached after passing small two story apartments with a small half kitchen and two bedrooms. The backyard sprawls out behind the house, dotted with small sets of tables and chairs, fruit trees, a parilla complete with a brick oven, a big table with chairs that sits in the shade of a grape arbor, four amazing dogs and of course a pool.

Dad and I chill by the pool with a neighbor's puppy
Josh gets inspired and artsy

The town was literally asleep when we went out in search of food, and the only restaurants open were the ones on the main square. After a pleasant lunch and sufficient beer we head back to the B&B for some serious R&R. I got another nap and a swim in the pool before we headed in to the apartment to get ready for a nice dinner in Mendoza that we had promised ourselves after the mystery kabob from the night before.
Mendoza was very much alive for Friday night, and we walked around a bit before dinner. The town looks somewhat like Mar del Plata did, but beautiful squares abound here, and we walked from one to another until we found the fanciest hotel in town and poked around a bit before heading down the street towards our restaurant. My parents enjoyed the city, but were alarmed by the young people’s haircuts!! The Euro-trashesque mullet is very much the rage in Mendoza, and the youth walks around with some of the craziest hair I’ve even seen.
The restaurant was very nice, and the creative dishes were a nice change of pace for Josh and me after three months of plainer Argentine fair. We were also very charmed with their method for selecting the wine of the evening. Instead of a wine list you are ushered into the cold cellar where you pick your wine off the shelf. The sommelier is there to aid you and answer any questions you might have.
The next day we woke up early for our 9 am pick up. I’m sure my parents were excited to explore the wine country of Mendoza, but Josh and I could not wait to begin our very fist wine tasting/winery experience. Our traveling companions for the day were an older couple who turned out to be most interesting, and our guide was a cute young girl from Mendoza.
We started at a family operated vineyard where we toured the property and took in the morning sun among olive trees and of course many grape vines. I learned a lot about the growing process from our guide starting with different methods of growing grapes, and including how the vines are kept small to ensure a concentration of taste in each grape. Mendoza is the perfect place to grown wine because of the sandy soil and the dry climate. They do not have to worry about over watering the grapes, bugs or fungus because of this, but they do have to worry about hail. For some reason, Mendoza is plagued by hail during part of the growing season, and one good hailstorm can take out most of your crop. Because of this some growers use expensive hail nets to protect their best grapes, but St. Diego’s winery cannot afford the nets and it was nice to look upon the beautiful vines. Another interesting thing I learned was that wherever there are grape vines there are rose bushes. Because roses attract bugs, the roses will show if bugs are coming to eat the grapes before it happens. It also happens to be quite pretty.

Beautiful vineyard filled with vines and olive trees

We tried a sparkling Rosé and two reds over candied orange peels, walnuts from their walnut trees, homemade bread and raisins for a second breakfast. One of the reds was interesting because it had never been in oak barrels. Many people believe that a wine cannot age well if it has not sat in oak for at least a few months but the family at St. Diego is setting out to prove this notion false. It tasted great to me!!!!
The second vineyard was much lest personal. It’s a medium size vineyard and the tour was somewhat useless to me, but the tasting was great. My mom, Josh and I loved the Cabernet the most and I also really liked the Sauvignon Franc blend a lot even if my mom didn’t like the way it smelled. At this winery I sat next to our guide Maia who really encouraged me to explore the tastes and smells I was experiencing.

Next we headed to another winery for lunch where we had some nice rosé and some Malbecs with our four course meal that were a little boring after the tasting from the morning. I didn’t learn much about the vineyard or the wine, but we had really amazing Bife de Lomo (tenderloin) and I stupidly ate some ice cream. At lunch we also learned that the wife of the couple we were traveling with.

The last vineyard was my favorite tasting experience. The Benegas name has been in wine for four generations and they used to own the massive Trapiche winery. The 2001 crisis forced them to sell everything but the Benegas line, and the Benegas winery was opened by Federico Benegas in the early 2000’s. The winery is an old building that was reinforced by steal after an earthquake. Its also Federico’s home, and I regret that I could not figure out a way to crash his asado that was being hosted there later that night. The room we tasted in is an expansive space with the biggest parilla I’ve even seen and about 4 times the size of your average Argentine grill. The table went from one end of the room and ended at the longest set of white couches I’ve even been fortunate enough to sit on.

His ridiculously expensive poncho collection decorates the walls, and the next room is a small museum of old farm and wine equipment. The cellars are underground and beautiful. The wine is kept only in new and second use oak barrels and the wine is only fermented in concrete vats that fill the upstairs warehouse. Once the wine is bottled the bottles sit in what used to be the wine vats for about a year (if I remember correctly) until they are labeled by hand by four women who each hand label 400 bottles a day.

Oak barrels only used two times before sold

Wine wine everywhere and not a drop to drink!!! For another 10 min. anyway...

Concrete vats where the wine ferments and the table where the bottles are hand labeled

We tasted one white and two red. One of the red was the reserve Sauvignon Franc (100% which is rare) and the other was a blend. For the first time in my life I was actually able to smell something other than wine!!!! I’m not sure if everyone is going to be as excited about this as I am, but we slowly sipped the wines and I could actually smell and taste their evolution. I smelled chocolate in one, flowers in another, and noticed another grow from being mostly smelling of alcohol to smelling of berries and maybe a little chocolate as well to something even deeper by the end. It was kind of a religious experience, so forgive me if I ramble. Of course we could not stay forever seeing as Federico had a party to host, so we grudgingly got back into our van and went back to our apartment where we spent the night in watching Pirates of the Caribbean and eating really bad pizza and salad that we ordered in.
Today we took a hike up to an artisans craft fair where Josh and I got a few things for our walls and then we hiked back for a kick ass lunch at a local family place. The pasta was amazing even though the service was not, and we rolled ourselves back to the B&B to siesta in the shade until it was time to board our bus where I write from. This bus is Royal Suite! It’s the best one yet with fully reclining leather seats, individual TVs, a fancier attendant, and a view of the country side in the waning daylight. Maybe dinner will be better too! We will arrive in Capital Federal at 8:15 where we will sprint from our bus all the way to work. I know its crazy, but it was totally worth it. This experience in Mendoza will change the way I drink wine forever. Not that I didn’t grow up with a Dad who is practically an encyclopedia of wine knowledge, but there was something about drinking different wines all day with large groups of people without getting to drunk to learn that make me connect with the tastes and smells like I never have before. I can understand what someone means by the structure of the wine, and I can’t wait to learn more. As soon as I can afford wine glasses I am going to have a wine tasting. Don’t hold your breath, this might be a long time from now, so maybe I’ll find a friend who has some instead. Regardless, it was a great weekend.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tigre - An Adventure into the Delta

Tigre: a 50 min train ride from Beunos Aires that seems worlds away. A complicated rainy morning melted away as Josh and I met my family at the McDonalds (a real landmark in Tigre close to the train and the port) after work. The sky cleared and we made our way to the port for locals where our taxi was waiting for us. Here are Mia, Kenny, and Dad on the taxi boat:

and Josh and me happy to be done with work for the day.

When we arrived, Ana and Ralph were waiting for us on their dock. A little bit about the Delta: It is an area really unscarred by tourism, and while many of the islands are just restaurants for tourists and maybe a few for locals with hotels here and there (and an amazing museum that was once an old Casino), the majority of the islands house people who live in Tigre or people's summer homes. Every island has its own set of docks, or just one dock depending on the size, and all of the docks contain a name for the house, some chairs, or a nice fence, and often a dog barking at boats as they pass by. The houses are beautiful, and each one a more interesting color and design than the next. The houses are on stilts for when the water level rises and floods the island, and many look like villas, and others like shacks. One house is even on two different levels having suffered a small land slide on one side, and the woman of the house claims that they must have different size table legs to make the table even enough to eat off of. Ana and Ralph live in the Swiss house, and their house (like I'm sure many houses) has its own unique story. Because they island has been (and I guess still is) home to many wealthy people from Buenos Aires during the summer, the land where they now live used to be the club house where people came to dance and eat. They have built and or renovated much of the land, and their house looks like a modern log cabin surrounded by a wrap around porch, and situated next to their terrace and larger kitchen. The kitchen is the original kitchen of the club and has been renovated, however, it retains the same brick oven where Ralph now makes his homemade bread and the original wooden fronted refrigerator that Ralph put back into use after many years of dormancy. Their house may be an oasis, but it takes serious work to keep running. There is no working plumbing throughout the Delta, and so through a system of cisterns that Ana and Ralph must attend to frequently they have water to shower, wash dishes, and water their plants. Their drinking water comes from the supermarket boat that passes by their house twice a week. If they miss that boat there are other supermarket boats with all kinds of goods that pass by on other days, and even a Costco type boat that only sells in bulk, however I doubt if there is a membership fee. I think the only requirement for shopping is a dock in the Delta. When we arrived (technically a day later than planned and an hour or two delayed from the complications of the morning) we were greeting on the dock and given a tour of the house with an explanation and history for everything. We quickly learned that life on the Delta is not all paradise from the water to the mosquitoes. We also learned how it pays to have talented friends. Every part of their house and land had been fixed up by a friend and or them. One friend came with his wife from Switzerland (Ralph is Swiss) for two months and did all of the electrical wiring in their second house/the big kitchen as seen below with materials he had brought from Switzerland. Other friends make the jam we had with breakfast, other friends have done the translating and work for their website, etc. Below is the six of us enjoying a wonderful breakfast in their big kitchen with the wooden refrigerator in the background. We enjoyed several of Ralph's breads with local jam from the Delta, and tea.
After breakfast we got into Ralph's mostly homemade boat and hit the Delta. We rode around for a few hours admiring houses and wildlife before we stopped for lunch in a very secluded part of the Delta that we never would have been able to go to on our own. This was the second part of the Delta where very few people live, and the scenery looks largely like the picture below: greenery, water plants, lilies, some wildlife, and our boat. A little bit about our hosts:
Ana was a dissatisfied travel agent in Tigre who met her dream man in Ralph, the Swiss ex ship's cook who had sailed around the world and eventually settled in Tigre where he felt at ease with the culture and the language. He is a classically trained cook who put his talents together with Ana's to create Delta~Unplugged, an eco friendly day trip that is the perfect way to get out of Buenos Aires and breath in the air that is contaminated with some willow substance that when breathes causes people to relax and experience a small euphoria. They know their neighbor's intimately and waved high to everyone they passed on the Delta. They have been married for about two years and Ana obviously jumped at the opportunity to leave her unhappy office life for the seclusion and pioneer life of a couple living on the Delta. Ralph cooked us steak and chicken, and served us salads, empanadas, dips, pumpkin torta and rosti while anchored on a quiet section of Delta that in reality was full of noises coming from birds, bugs, and the breeze.

Both of the boys were overhelmed with whatever comes off the willow that encourages lounging and long naps were taken before and after lunch, some in unusual places:
After an hour more on the delta and some cool bird sightings, we slowly headed back to their house for an afternoon snack. I grew worried we wouldn't make it because at times there was less than a meter between the bottom of our boat and the river bed due to the low levels in the river, but we made it back in one piece sleepy and ready for even more food. At this point I hadn't been hungry since breakfast, but who am I to refuse homemade ginger and strawberry ice cream and cake with tea on the terrace of the most interesting couple we have even met. Did I let my lactose intolerance get in the way? No!! I forged on and duitifully ate my ice cream willing to pay the penalties that would come later. After our snack, Ana finally convinced my parents to go to Mendoza by bus (where I write from now) and made all of the necessary arrangements that would pave the way to many more relaxing days in other people's homes. But more of that to come later. Once back at the Hilton in Puerto Madero, we relaxed and had a light dinner (as if we hadn't eaten enough already that day). The men had their cigars:
and we took in the night breeze with a night stroll to the Puente de la Mujer where we parted ways for the evening.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Its Official...We're Illegal

The Blog has been silent for too long! Here are a few pictures highlighting some of the things we did for the second half of Mia and Kenny's visit. We went to Uruguay where the ferry was ridiculous and included live entertainment. We saw the mothers of Plaza de Mayo who protest every Thursday for their missing children and husbands that disappeared during the Military government's reign. And I auditioned for a Japanese dish soap commercial. All will be elaborated on, but let's just say that I learned quite a few things these past few weeks, and one is that having an unneutered cat really sucks. Off to Mendoza for the weekend with Mom, Dad and Josh. Enjoy President Bush's last weekend!!!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mia and Kenny's Visit Cont.

So where were we when we last posted...oh that's right, we were getting ready for New Year's Eve. For New Year's Eve we went to a friend's house in San Telmo where we had a pot luck and a lot of Champagne. We enjoyed the bottle that Mia and Kenny smuggled in from my Dad's collection in the privacy of our home (SSOOOO GOOOOOOOD) and then carried our meatballs and pasta salad to Jessica's. It was a great party, but things really got heated up at midnight. Literally. Even though there were advertisement all over the city attempting to convince porteños that lighting their own fireworks causes little girls to get maimed for life, the sky lit up at midnight in all directions. Out windows, off roofs, to the North, South, East, and West fire works lit up the sky and cheers rose from our roof top. We only lit sparklers because we care about maiming little girls.

Mia trusting the opening of the Champagne to no one but herself

Andrés and Josh on the roof

After the fireworks died down we made our way to Plaza Dorrego where a one man band was playing his drum set for all he was worth. We respectfully did the same with our dancing. Mia was shown some new moves by our friend Filipe.

My porteña friend Sabina who gets mad at me when I lie about understanding her...but she speaks so fast its rare that I do!
The next day we relaxed and recovered with some long walks. Typically EVERYTHING was closed, so our walk was limited to getting to know the city's streets a little better and the architecture of Palermo and Recoleta. The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn to make a 7 am bus (a nice precursor to my 7am wake up call that is necessary to arrive at work on time) to Mar del Plata. We had wanted to go to a less touristy beach, but all the hostels were booked and we learned the hard way not to plan a trip to the beach the day before the desired departure!! Everything turned out well though. The trip was only five hours and we arrived at our hostel with plenty of beach time left. Mia and Kenny have yet to get over the fact that the sky is light until around 9:30, and this light was put to good use on the most crowded beach I have every been too!!! It was also the loudest beach. Men shouting their wares walked the beach with corn, churros, cold drinks, candy and jewelry. People played music, and beach games I have only seen in Argentina, and filled the beach to maximum capacity. We barely found a spot for ourselves!!! It was beach time though and eventually we got used to the noise, and Mia even got a sun burn.
The hostel was the nicest I've ever stayed in, and at around U$S 14 a night we had our own room and our own bathroom!!!!!!!!! Mia was in shock and refused to touch the sheets, and tattled on me to our dad that I was forcing her to stay at a 1 star!! The outrage. Well, for her first hostel experience I can proudly say I showed her a nice place that even included coffee and media lunas in the morning and who also lent us beach mats and umbrellas.
The second day we decided to wake up early and make the longer walk to a supposedly nicer beach. This one was much nicer. The water and beach were cleaner, and the vendors were quieter. The whole crowd was more posh, and there were private beach clubs everywhere. We had a nice big spot that slowly shrank as the day went on. By the end of the day it was just as crowded!!! People lay, stood, walked, and swam on every inch of beach available to the public.

Here I am teaching Mia to do Terere, or maté with OJ

The Pinochle tournament continues


After an entire day on the beach we were tired and hungry, and Mia was a tomato. We relaxed for a little and then went to a Cuban restaurant for a change of pace (the parilla the night before was amazing!!!!!). The mojitos and camprianis were amazing!!! We noticed the walls were covered in signatures, and of course Mia had every color of sharpie in her bag!!

Kenny leaving his mark
Even though we had grand plans to dance all night and watch the sun rise, we pooped out at 4 after Kenny won $400 at blackjack!!! Not bad not bad. The next morning we took the bus back and arrived in BA in time to make dinner and plan our lessons for our first day of work!!! Of course that was after I almost got pick pocketed in Retiro where the bus station is. I noticed I was being closed in on and told Mia and Kenny to watch their stuff. I put a hand on the fashion fanny, but my heart dropped when Josh shouted my name with urgency. Me being the naive dummy had forgotten about the backpack on my back...where my wallet was. Lucky for me they fell back as soon as I turned around, but not before they had unzipped my back pack a little. Nothing happened, but lessons are learned. One should ALWAYS keep their pack to the front in Retiro.
To cheer us up we made a tarta as seen below:

Our first two days of work have been great, but have left us exhausted. Waking up at seven, teaching from 8:15 till 9:45 and then getting in a whole day of sight seeing has been taking its toll, but Friday is almost here!!! Our classes are small and the people are nice. The whole thing is very relaxed and focused on conversations and I have enjoyed my classes (especially sharing maté with my students today!!) Tomorrow we are going to Uruguay and we will keep you posted.