Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Just Have A Lot of Feelings

So maybe I do have a lot of feelings, and maybe I have a limited view of how Ultimate should be played, but I left the field and our third game very disappointed, and more than a little upset.
The weekend had been a good one. We took it easy Friday night, and I woke up early on Saturday to teach a make up class. It rained all day so I came home and hug out around the house until we headed to dinner at Erin's house where she make kick ass meat balls with fresh pasta. Her friend Yaz and Yaz's boyfriend were there too and I welcomed the refreshing opportunity to hang out with some different people (I had dinner at their place not to many weeks ago) who happen to be Argentine and very good at English. They are both translators and very intelligent and I enjoyed the conversation immensely. We drank wine, listed to Kabul (el ultimate estation en el radio and the best I might add) and Yaz brought only water based ice cream so I was able to eat all the flavors! (its the little things in life). At midnight Yaz and her boyfriend headed home and we headed to Bomba del Tiempo's third cumple. Yes, I forgot my camera at home. I apologize profusely Mom.
As some of you might remember, Bomba del Tiempo is the drumming group that plays every Monday at the Konex Center. For their third birthday they had an all night show on Saturday in the indoors and decorated part of the center. The event began with a great DJ, and really got going when an "amateur" drumming group played for at least an hour. Having arrived somewhat early by Argentine standards we were in the front row and danced until we were pressed together to tightly to move around too much. Next came Bomba, and it was much less enjoyable seeing as I felt like a buoy on a stormy sea only that my feet weren't attached to the ground, and there were also hundreds of other buoys surrounding me. It was unpleasant. Then a mash pit really got going, or a pogo as they call it here, and we decided to give up our front and center spots for some calmer waters.
Uli showed up with Analia and dragged Josh and I into the fray at intervals, and we left at around 4 having enjoyed ourselves and exhausted our energies. We took the 24 home and got a nice nap in before waking up at 9 to head to Frisbee. Cruel, I know.
So, you can understand why I was so pissed at 11 when only Paula had showed up. Eventually Diego and Felipe showed up in a cab and Ken (my new recruit from Brooklyn and an Ulitimate veteran who had unfortunatly pulled a muscle at practice on Thrusday) and Antonio showed up not to long after. We could no longer postpone the inevitable and began the game late with only six players. We were holding our own at 1 to 1 when Sebastian finally showed up and we played with 7 for the whole game. Sebastion was the only one without some bodily complait. We were all in pain before we began.
We played Aqua, the newest team to form in Buenos Aires, a team full of fiery Columbians and lead by a young buck named Andrés and nicknamed Chapi (for his last name) who holds his young team to high standards. I too often found myself marking an 18 year old who ran around the field as if on iceskates and always seemed to be a few steps ahead of me until she sat out crying and left for a while as she got over some team politics. There was a lot of muchismo shouting and I felt like an electric current ran through the field waiting for a drop of water to light the whole place on fire. Added to this all was Antonio, our Venezualian player. He plays Frisbee like a soccer player too often for my liking. Its kind of hard to explain to a non Frisbee player, but the easiest way to explain it is that he had no spirit, and he was killing mine. I had a splitting headache, and his constant mala honda was killing me. In between points I asked him to chill out, but after Felipe made an amazing body sacrificing block he and Chapi bumped shoulders as Antonio gave a zealous glory shout (the kind that belonged in an American football game or a hockey game) in his face. It was too much for me, and I was just to ashamed to be a Cadillac that day to take it anymore. I stormed over to him shouting that I'd rather play with six and loose than share the field with him if he kept up this attitude and got my point across. For the rest of the game he was more tame but I had to remind him to stay out of arguments that were none of his business. By the end of the game I was glad the other team had won so that we could end it all, and as my worst game of Ultimate cane to an end I walked off the field feeling that the Cadillacs spirit had been lost. While I was proud of us for playing hard till the end, I was more disappointed about the whole thing that ever before in my athletic history.
After the game I gave a long explanation of my feelings in Spanish, and while I know most of my grammar was horrible and I had to substitute a few words in English with Josh as a translator I got my point across. I explained that when we joined the Cadillacs Josh and I coming back to Frisbee not for a love of the game itself, but the buena honda we experienced there. When we were both in terrible shape and our skills so lacking that we found little enjoyment in the game there was always the people, the positive spirit and the cheerful, positive playing that nurtured our skills and showed me that not all sports need to make you angry. At my first game with the Cadillacs I was proud to have been asked to join this amazing team. Today, if it had been my first time at Ultimate I would have run for the hills. As you can all tell, the Cadillacs has been a backbone of our time here, and I felt that the rug had been pulled out from under me.
So while everyone agreed with me, and I got my point across, we will have to see what happens. My charge was for us all to think about the direction our team was headed, and that I hoped it was a direction I could be proud to be a part of. Only time can tell.
I'm feeling better now after a three hour nap and some of Josh' amazing curry and I leave tomorrow for a week long trip with CII. The theme is Camilot and its going to be awesome. Friday is a free day and Saturday and Sunday are one day camps (spy camp and another Camelot camp). I have an eight hour ride back in which I plan to rest with the aid of medication and I hope to arrive home to team with a new outlook.
Buenas noches!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Nice Butt

This NY Times article struck a chord for me:
Cigarette Butts: Tiny Trash That Piles Up
Not only do I live in a house full of smokers but I am daily disgusted by the number of people who smoke here and how many butts there are on the grounds and on the beaches. At less than two dollars a pack I guess you can save up for your medical bills that will begin to pile up down the road. However, its still shocks and saddens me was I see a young mother exhaling into the face of her toddler as she walks down the street. When we went to Mar del Plata the beach closest to the Casino was so littered with butts I gave up trying to relocate them and plopped down in the midst of them. Anyway, now I know that they aren't just unsightly! They are also bad for the environment! One point for the non-smokers!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I had a new student today at the Banco Francaise (interestingly enough there are many "international banks" here and all of them are actually Argentine banks who use a European country's name to help people have faith in the institution holding their money). The building was beautiful and old. So old that the marble stairs I climbed to get to my class were worn with the indentations of many feet. That's old. It was also kinda pimping because they gave me water in a real glass and not in Styrofoam or plastic.
My student is an intelligent man who works in acquisitions and mergers for the bank and spends most of this time in Brazil since that's where most of the work is right now. Apparently no one wants to merge or acquire with Argentina right now. This was elaborated on as our conversation progressed as he explained some of the intricacies of the money situation here in Argentina. He seemed very informed and explained things very clearly, so I now relay things to you as he did to me.
So, we were discussing the differences between the US and Argentina. While I focused on the relaxed life, maté and other customs that I love about this place he shed some light on why Argentines can't understand an expat's desire to leave the land of the free. He explained that in the States progress is possible. I think this is something we take for granted. We go to school, maybe get some loans, get a job, pay them off, then we buy an apartment, a car, and our savings grow and grow. Here that is impossible for most people even though University is free. Before the crisis in 2001 people had a lot of money. Their salaries were the same, but the peso was equal to the dollar so many people were making much more money than people in the States. The devaluation of the peso meant that everyone had one third the money they thought they had, and its only gotten worse since then. Annually, the interest on your money in the bank is seven percent. But if inflation is fifteen percent (I'm assuming he was using that real data and not the made up data the government spits forth here) then everyone is really losing seven percent of their money every year. Many people can never save anything at all. Oh, that sounds familiar, I though. I was thinking of my roommates, Uli and Santi. Both over the age of 25 and with nothing to show for it. Neither of them have savings to speak of, and at the end of the month things are tight because they live pay check to pay check (like us). Uli just turned 30 last week and he is sharing a bedroom for 450 pesos a month and he is often strapped for cash at the end of the month like we are. Another point Pedro made was that the Kerchners run on a platform to support the poor, but all of their policies hurt the poor. It sounds like a hopeless situation.
This explanation also explains part of what motivates porteños to live the way they do. He said that while people in the US live by the predictions they make for the future, this practice has been proven impossible in this country. You never know what will happen from one day to the next. One day you have a private pension, the next its has been taken by the government. One day you have a house, the next you don't (something that is becoming much more common in the States). Therefore people live like there is no tomorrow because their might be no tomorrow! During the 2001 crisis this country had five presidents in three weeks, all who retired on a standard presidents salary. It was a good segway to the idiomatic phrase "it keeps you on your toes."
Anyway, it was a very interesting discussion that reminded me of Ivy Kenelly's class and the cake of capitalism that just grows and grows and everyone's piece of the pie gets bigger and bigger. In Argentina the tarta (let's say chocolate and dulce de leche flavored) stays the same size, and certain people's pieces get bigger and a lot of people's pieces are getting pretty tiny. The talk put things in perspective for me and explained my instinctive feelings that when its time for me to really think and plan for the future I will be planning it in the States and not here. However, I hope I can still preserve the things I love about this country when I leave. Ted told me that he was more culture shocked upon his arrival home than when he got here. He said "people just have so much here." That's not the first time I've heard that reaction from a person who has just arrived back in the States, and I hope that when I return I can keep in mind what is truly necessary and what we buy compulsively in the States to keep up with appearances, or just because we can. For now though, its eating out once a month and no clothes shopping while our meager savings are saved for a future vacation. Thanks to Pedro I am now aware of how awesome it is that my savings are in a "hard currency" and not the Argentine peso.

Lost In (Bad) Translation(s)

I feel like a less depressed Bill Murray, but equally lost in this foreign land. It's not because I've come to the realization that Scarlett Johannson forgot how to act, and it's definitely not because I've had too many Santori times: it's because I've been lost in bad translations. Whether it's at museums, restaurants, or any other signs on or around tourist attractions, this city abounds with just plain awful translations. I don't know why I notice it here more than in Madrid, I'm sure there are just as many mistranslated items in the Spanish capital. But for some reason or another, I find myself noticing sub par translations more and more. I did do some work as a translator when we first got here, which may have sharpened my eyes to such miscues. I'm probably not shocking you when I say that translating is not a walk in the park - it's actually quite tough. It takes more than just broad vocabulary and having mastered all the verb tenses and direct/indirect objects; you must know (or in my case, figure out by looking on the internet) the way people actually say things, you need to interpret meaning which you then recreate in your own language. Many phrases translate between languages with relative ease, but others have no real equivilent, so for these you must extrapolate what the phrase is trying to express and figure out a way to express that same feeling in your native language. I, by no means, am an expert translator, but I think I do get the idea behind it (I did take a class at GW about translation between cultures in terms of language and culture itself, so I've done some meditation on the topic) and find it to be a fun and interesting challenge.

It also remains a potential source of income while here, although I haven't had much success thus far. At one point, Julia or her parents suggested I offer my translating services to such institutions that attract plenty of English speaking tourists, and thanks to our new housemate Dan, I may have found the perfect restaurant to start with: La Bodeguita del Medio (LBM). The following is taken from a leaflet Dan received from said restaurant, with the Spanish version, how I would translate it, and how they decided to translate it. It is obvious some of them come from putting a sentance or phrase into a standard online translator and doing a simple cut and paste. Others baffle me, I have no idea where they come from. Just about all of them are pretty funny, so enjoy.

Promo 1:
Spanish: "Milanesa con guarnición"
Me: A milanesa, which is a thinly cut fliet of veal, beef, or chicken that is battered and then fried, with toppings or garnishes (guarnición), which always includes a wedge of lemon. A milanesa can also be served as a sandwich, but it will usually say so if that's the case.
LBM: "Milanese with Garrison." Really? Garrison? Couldn't even begin to think of where this one came from.

Now that's what I call a Milanese with Garrison.

Promo 2:
Spanish: "Pastas a elegir"
: It literally translates to "Pastas to choose", and it usually means that you can choose your type of pasta and the sauce that accompanies it. It's common for there to be four or five choices of each and usually serves as a consistently good, albeit plain, choice for dinner.
LBM: "You graze to choosing." Even when correcting the errors in syntax, it's still "You choosing to graze", which would presuppose you are an animal that likes open spaces and plenty of grass to eat. Was this supposed to be "glaze" instead of "graze"? That would have made a bit more sense...maybe. I really like this one.

Taking the "fat American" stereotype to a new level.

Promo 3:
Spanish: "Pollo al verdeo con guarnición."
Me: We've seen this "guarnición" before, and "pollo" is near-universally known by even the most novice Spanish-speaker to be "chicken". The real mystery is verdeo, which I found to be a green sauce comprised of green onions and olive oil. So put it all together, and it's "chicken in a green onion sauce with garnishes". That's a pretty rough translation itself, but it's light-years beyond...
LBM: "Chicken of verdeo with garrizon." If you noticed, they didn't even stay consistent with the Garrison translation and changed it to garrizon. I really have no idea what this would be. And quite frankly, neither does Google. Maybe I need to Twitter it...

Promo 4:
Spanish: "Saltiado de verdura."
Me: Couldn't find any translation for "saltiado", I'm guessing it's a misspelling of "salteado", which means "sauteed", and that would translate to "sautaed vegetables".
LBM: "Saltiado of vegetable". Again, I attribute the mess-up of this ordinarily straight forward translation to a misspelling. The syntax of "of" is a common direct translation from Spanish to English. This one is at the top of the "correct" list.

Promo 5:
Spanish: "Lomo salteado"
Me: They got the "salteado" right this time, making this one really easy: "Sauteed tenderloin".
LBM: "Jumped loin". That's right. Jumped loin. Yes. This one definitely "jumps" off the page at you, and it's merely the result of typing "saltado", which is the present perfect of "to jump", instead of "salteado". You gotta love how one letter turns a delicious plate of beef into a tenderloin that's practicing the Fosbury Flop. Thank you, Babelfish, you should have gone with Word Reference.

And you thought only dolphins could catch some air?

Promo 6:
Spanish: "Tortilla de papa a la española."
Me: Now, this one hits really close to home for me since I would eat it regularly while in Madrid. This plate is a thick potato omelet complete with diced red peppers and small slices of Spanish sausage. My host mother made a mean tortilla española. Even better, she did a slight variation on a sandwich roll for when I would go on day-excursions. I like to think it was because she loved me so much and didn't want me to go hungry or spend money when I was out. Plus, she was contractually obligated to provide me three square-meals a day. Whatever, I'll believe what I want. I digress. Either way, this is a great dish that would attract any non-Spanish English speaker who likes eggs, potatoes, and sausage. That is, if they were lucky enough to read that kind of description. I guessing you can see where I'm going with this...
LBM: "Sandwiches of ham and cheese". Wait. What? Really? Sandwiches? Ham and cheese? I see NONE of these words. Toasted ham and cheese sandwiches are absolutely delicious, no matter how plain they may be. I've even given in to the temptation to eat one on numerous occassions. But those have NOTHING to do with tortilla a la española. What would you do if you ordered what you thought was a ham and cheese sandwich, and instead got a giant, round, potato and sausage filled omelet? You may like what you see, but it would undoubtedly be a great shock and make you question your own ability read the English language. I'm stil scratching my head on this one. I assume they changed the menu and forgot to due the translation...or did they put in the translation without changing the Spanish version? I'm seriously wondering which one the waiter would bring out if I ordered Promo number 6. It's only 10 pesos - it may be worth finding out the conclusion to this mystery. Stay tuned, I may have to update this post.

Feast your eyes on this lovely Shephard's Pie, brought to you by La Bodeguita del Medio.

Promo 7:
Spanish: "Bife con papas a la española."
Me: "Bife" is some form of beef, and it's served with potatoes in the Spanish style, which I've seen as either a potato omlet as described above or as potatos cooked with parsley, garlic, and olive oil. Either one of these options, maybe accompanied by a glass of the house Malbec, would be a steal at under 20 pesos.
LBM: "Beef-steak with dads fried." This, my friends, would not be a steal. They were doing so well when they inserted "beef-steak" for "bife", but it all fell apart from there. They translated "papas" as dads, and to do so they would have had to spell it "papás" when putting it into whatever translator they used. Next, they completely ignored the "españolas" portion and put in "fried", which makes for a sickening side dish of fried fathers. It may be a very silly translating mistake, but it sounds like a villians modus operendi from Wes Craven thriller starring Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love-Hewitt. I can see it now: Meyer plays a former dad -- turned serial killer after his own child dies in a horrible deep frying accident, who abducts fathers out of his jealousy induced insanity
and kills them in the deep friers at McDonalds across the state of Missouri 36-hours later; Love-Hewitt plays an FBI agent who goes to visit her father one evening only to find a Happy Meal Box on his doorstep, which is obviously the calling card of the Deep-Frying-Dad (or Father, you can satisfy the necessary alliteration either way). She's been tracking this guy for years, she knows him inside and out, but now it's hit home and everyone's unsure if she can put aside her personal involvement and work the case objectively. Of course, she gets taken off the case about 4 hours in, but she continues hunting him as a rogue agent, actually figures him out, making for a suspenful climax in the third act where she has to decide whether or not to arrest him or just kill the son-of-a-bitch him since the FBI hasn't figured him out yet. I won't tell you, but there's a crazy twist at the end that would make even M. Night Shyamalan giddy. Thank you, La Bodeguita del Medio, for inspiring more potential crap from Hollywood.

Who's really pulling the strings here?

Promo 8:
Spanish: "Filet de merluza con guarnición."
Me: This one would be a filet of hake with garnishings. Pretty straight forward. But if you've learned anything from this post (or M. Night.
, for that matter), nothing as simple as it seems...
LBM: "Chicken to the oven with salad." This is another one I'm going to attribute to forgetting to copy and paste the new promo, which ever one it may be, because no matter how horrible the crackpot translating service you used, it would never spit out "chicken to the oven with salad" after you put in "filet de merluza con guarnición". Both use the word "con", or "with", but that's where the comparisons end. And while Promo 6 inspired some future reconnisiance mission due to its low price, I would be afraid to eat a filet of fish when it only cost 10 pesos. They may be low, but I do have my standards.

Alright, so that's it for this edition of Lost in Translation. I will be sure to post any further translating mishaps, and please bring to my attention any other hilarious instances you've encountered. Sorry if this ran a little long, I hope it gave you the chance to have a few Santori times yourself.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Non-Wintery Weekend

It was a beautiful weekend, and rather hot for the majority of it. After last night's rain it finally feels like a crisp fall day, but the weekend felt more like the end of May in the States than the beginning of winter in BA. Reminded me of a certain graduation that occurred over one year ago! So where to begin...oh, well we had ANOTHER three day weekend here in the country that loves to work.
Friday night we were all booked up with a duel birthday party with the Frisbee folk and then we jetted over to a boliche (club if you haven't caught onto the Spanglish yet) for our friend Martin's art show. He had about 7 pieces on display, and all were very surreal and provoked some good Spanish conversations. We stayed to dance for a little, and the Rihanna came on, and then Madonna, so we got sucked into staying longer than we expected. But really, could you just up and leave with those two pumping out the speakers? Maybe you have more will power than me. I just had to shake it and luckily Josh felt the same way. At 3:15 we decided to get out while we could and took the 10 home from Shopping Abasto. No floggers hanging out that late at night...sad...sad.
Saturday we slept late and then went to Frisbee. We actually arrived somewhat on time and threw for a few hours before enough people showed up to make four teams and we played pick up till dark. My team was called CARDIAC ATTACK! and we had this kick ass cheer where we would make a big heart beat and then end it with a flat lining sound. By the end of the day I felt like I was going to flat line, but I scored lots of points and played well. We hung out and had a beer, but we didn't eat any fries because we are on a new diet!!!! Its all about portion control and no fries after Frisbee. The idea began after another night going to bed with an extended belly and a sick feeling in my gut. I've successfully turned down food from my roomates, and so far so good.
Saturday night we stayed home for Uli's birthday party. It was a pot luck and about 15 people showed up with all different types of food and lots of booze. Then, the lights went down and the strobe light went up and a wild dance party began. Lucky for me I had Erin there and we hung out and also spoke to some of Uli's friends. When I let her out at 3 I went into our room to take five and the next thing I knew Josh was waking my up at 6 telling me to put trade my jeans for pj's on. Guess Frisbee tired me out a little more than I thought. Mala honda alert: Dan was out of town and when he came back yesterday he discovered he was missing 200 pesos. It had to have been taken during the party. The sadest part is that Uli and Santi knew everyone at the party. Maybe Mia was right: you really never can know anybody. Either way it put a damper on everything and again makes me want to keep our doors closed to all guests.
Sunday morning turned into Sunday afternoon as we slept late and and relaxed around the house until some friends came over for tea and then we headed over to the free concert in honer of the bicentennial at the obelisko. It was sooooo cool!!! Loyal readers will have read of Josh's mild obsession with 9 de Julio, the widest or second widest avenue in the world (its debatable). Well, the widest avenue in the world (for the sake of dramatics) was shut down for three or four blocks and a massive stage was built in front of the Obelisko. We got there early so we wouldn't be too far back and sat in the middle of 9 de Julio and drank maté. It was pretty tripy. The show started with Bomba del Tiempo, the drumming group that plays at the Konex Center and followed with lots of Argentine performers who sang Argentine patriotic songs, and a famous actor even dressed up as General San Martin and sang songs about the Liberator. It was amazing.
We left around 10 because Josh's back was hurting and my feet were tired, and we walked home along Avenida de Mayo to a supper of leftovers. Monday I had organized a picnic/soccer game for all who cared to come, but I wasn't as on top of invites as I should have been, so only 8 people showed. We still played a really fun game, and while the Columbian guys kicked my butt I was better than the other girls (still not great for having played my whole life, but I have been dedicated to Frisbee...). We of course were drawn to the nearest parilla like spagetti sauce to a freshly laundered white shirt, and Josh and I shared a Bondiola:
Imagine this with lots of toppings...yea... we shared it

Post parilla we hopped onto a bus and and I practically ran from the bus stop to get to my warmest sweater. Precipitation we had avoided, but a chill was setting in and I needed baby alpaca to protect. We used our new blender (thanks Kat!!) to make a yummy sauce and had a nice family dinner around Boludo and then I headed to bed early for my early morning class. Had class today at 8 and spent the day being domestic. I went to the market, conversed with my favorite traveling veggie guys (who told me that my boyfriend shouldn't let me come here alone and chided him for sleeping through our weekly Tuesday veggie run: I replied with my best feminist Spanish and said "Soy una mujer independiente!" Of course I said it wrong, but they got the point), made soup, banana bread (very ripe bananas: 2 kilos for 3 pesos = ridiculously cheap banana bread), and drank maté over some still warm banana bread (could I say banana bread one more time in this sentence?) with some of the Dulce de Calafate that Ted brought us back from Patagonia. We miss you Ted, and Santi even did his imitation of you so we could feel your presence. Now its time to get some of our soup ready for dinner and do some work for the record three classes I have tomorrow. Not sure how that happened.
Hope you are all enjoying your warm weather!!

Photos from my morning walk:

Josh and the puppy:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dos Cumples

Two days ago, on the 19th, it was Brian and Uli's birthdays. Here are some photos:

Santi bought Uli a piece of cake for midnight so he could start his birthday off right. It was called "Sopa Inglesa" but couldn't have been more Argentine. It was sponge cake layered with Dolce de leche and cream with fruit on top...loved it.

The puppy is the size of the cake!

I just can't stop taking pictures of her!

From the other morning...

Analia puts together a delish picada: cheese and ham cubes, break, salami, and olives. After this who needs dinner? We made spaghetti and meat balls anyway.

Now for the real Argentine cake: Milhojas. Its flakiness layered with dulce de leche...perfection. That night Uli was sang to in 4 different languages.

Santi and his personal photo shoot

Brian comes home from his own birthday dinner...drunk

All in all I think it was a good birthday for the two of them. We got Uli a vest from the market for his birthday, and I think he likes it. This weekend is a holiday so he might be having a party for himself this weekend, but all I know is that I won't be cooking for it...and hopefully not cleaning as much this time either.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My walk to Puerto Madero was chilled and grey.
The tallest of the buildings were cloaked in an opaque haze that hovered above the neighborhood.
Smoke streamed from a chimney and rose to meet it with little effort on its part,
adding to the slowly shifting grey that overlapped and sprawled over lighter pink clouds
creating a bruised look on the sky.
A bruised sky...
As the sun rose it began to break through the haze
it reflected off of the buildings comprised of hundreds of reflecting mirrors,
a sliver of sun and a sliver of hope for a nice day
I hustled along regretting my choice of a thin sweater and grateful for my scarf.

A sleepless night full of Manzitas cryitas kept me yawning through class
as my most boring student went on about his weekend in his low tone that makes me want to close my eyes and drift away over the city.
When I emerged from class earlier than expected the port had transformed into radiating sunshine.
The bruise had dispersed and with it I walked briskly home to find Josh flat on his back in bed with Monzi rising and falling on his stomach with his breathing.
It was...really adorable

Monday, May 18, 2009

In With The Cold, Out With The Brit

Ok, so maybe it's not that cold.

At long last, cooler winds have descended upon Buenos Aires and Casa Cochabamba. The cold, rainy weather we had heard would come months ago finally came, and quite honestly, I'm not thrilled. Early mornings, however relatively few they may be, have become unbearable. Even with a now-functioning hot water heater and radiator, I emerge from my shower around 7:30 AM needing a jacket to keep from shivering all the way to my room, where the pain of getting dressed is akin to a rite of passage that rhymes with reenrage smirkskumskission (read: painful). A sweater or jacket is now necessary for the full day, not just when leaving the house. (Brief aside: My work wardrobe screams "business casual", usually consisting of jeans or khakis, occasionally donning some nice gray slacks, with at least a polo shirt, but usually a long-sleeve button-down shirt that would be appropriate for any night jaggerbombs. One building requires an access card, while I can walk in and out of others without so much as an odd look. True, there are plenty of suits coming and going, but the majority of workers remain informal, so I usually fit right in. Except one brisk day, when I decided to wear a track jacket instead of a sweater - I didn't even make it half way to the elevator before the security guard asked me where I was going. Maybe it's time to find a more professional coat option...) Last week, we had multiple days in a row of cold, dreary weather that made me long for spring in New England. I'm not saying it's unbearable by any means, but rather, my previously held dreams of evading winter's icy breath for more than a year may be of the pipe persuasion.

No, not that kind of pipe.

Luckily, it wasn't too cold last Friday night when I lit up the parrilla in my first bout as head griller of a grand asado in honor of Jess's last weekend in Buenos Aires. I can't take all the credit - Ulises and Nick provided much needed support. But by and large I was in charge of cooking meat for the masses, and masses there were. I would say the head count topped off at 50 when the house was at it's most crowded, and thanks again to the fact that the rooftop was a bearable locale, all those people were spread between both floors so it wasn't too crowded. Granted, when the food was out on the table and those greedy pigs surrounded it like pigeons landing on an old man handing out bread crumbs, the bottom floor resembled a boliche. Luckily for me, as the first person to see the cooked bits of beef, pork, chicken, and sausage, I could reserve specific morsels of juicy goodness and only had to push through the artery-block of people to gain access to the fixings (shout out to Phil who made a delicious red-pepper sauce that really hit my spicy taste buds). Once people dispersed from the table area, which of course coincided with the end of my tour of duty on the parrilla, the downstairs cleared out a little bit, more people migrated upstairs (for space and a spot next to the heat producing parrilla) and speakers started blasting electronic music (louder than it should have) on both floors.

Well, maybe not that crowded.

We decided to start politely ushering people once five-thirty rolled around, tired from more than seven hours of cooking, hosting, and general revelry. Everyone seemed to have a great time, most important of which was the guest of honor and the fiesta's raison d'être, Jessica. She departed lovely Buenos Aires to return back to Foggy London Town on Monday after spending nearly a full year in our fair city. When all is said and done, she definitely will be nominated for "Best Supporting Actress in Our Blog", and who knows, she may walk away with the award. Her resume includes (sorry if this reads like a biography from a high school Shakespeare production, I swear it's not what I intended): being the reason why we live in Casa Cochabamba, my most consistent Lexulous nemesis and first friend from England, the titles "Bringer of Cheer and Merriment", "Official Supplier of Marmite", "Fastest Speaker Known To Man", and "Guvna' of The House", member of Super Hands, champions of the Monte Hermoso Beach Ultimate 2009, devoted Cadillac, dance instructor to Santi, volunteer at ACORN, and newsletter writer at WIKD. She is an enthusiast of pesto, dancing til the wee hours of the mourning, and buena onda. She will be sorely missed at Cochabamba 478, and I genuinely hope that we cross paths somewhere down the line. We got a new female roommate, and while she is incredibly cute, she will ultimately fail to fill the void left by Jessica. But onward and upward, chin up guvna'.

Governor? Yes, for now. Guvna'? No way.

Not So Quick Post Script: You know what is the problem with commencing the writing process 4 days ago? First, it gives Julia time to write 10 million posts in the meantime, while mine is buried at the bottom since it's published by the date I started writing. Secondly, it gives conditions on the ground time to change; the past two days in Buenos Aires have resembled summer with plus 25 degree Celsius weather - that's above 75 degrees Ferienheit for all you out there unfamiliar with Celsius.

What's funnier is that my blog-posting gaffes are nothing compared to the upcoming midterm elections in Argentina, which have been moved up to late June instead of late October due to the crisis. However, the representatives-elect will still talk office in December, just as if the elections had taken place in October. Amazing, right? Doesn't it make more sense to get these newly elected public officials into office on an equally expedited schedule, seeing as the elections were moved up in order to combat the current state of affairs (or so they say), instead of heeding the traditional one that was trumped in the first place by, no less, the wife of the very President that banned the moving-up of elections in the first place? Doesn't that defeat the so-called purpose of holding early elections? Does any of this make any sense? Who are they trying to fool with these games? Can you imagine if that were the case in the US, especially with this last election? If the election had taken place in late August, much less July - I know, at both of these points neither party had held their conventions and thereby had yet to officially put forth a candidate, but bear with me - there is a very strong chance that John McCain would be President right now and (gulp) Sarah Palin would be Vice-President. Without the economic crisis hitting hard in September, and John McCain's subsequent mismanaging/playing politics with the situation, he could very well have emerged victorious. What a thought. Even though the US electoral system has it's shady attributes (easily hackable electronic voting machines, all types of voter fraud, etc), I think we've got this one right.

The weather may turn back to the cold we experienced earlier this week, for the forecast predicts rain alllllll weekend, which reminds me, Happy Memorial Day everyone! We, too, have a three day weekend, thanks to one-half of the two-part Argentine independence, because let's face it, one day just isn't enough. We need a Constitution Day, End of the Revolutionary War Day, or We Burned The South To The Ground, Stunted Their Economic Growth For Decades To Come, And Left Blacks Out To Dry By Failing To Enforce The Reconstruction Acts But Preserved The Union Day, or something like that. Let's make this happen people, YES WE CAN!

Also, I will not go all Maureen Dowd on you and not give credit where credit is due, and admit that my photos and captions were very much inspired by those included in our friend Andrew's blog posts reviewing the new Star Trek movie. If you haven't read his blog yet, please do (if for no other reason that it's his birthday), he's much better at this stuff than we are. Also, I used this same joke (Maureen Dowd and plagiarism) in commenting on one of his three blogs, so you can see how uncreative I am. Beat that joke to death, baby, no mercy!

Cadillacs for Life!

Cadillacs won the second game of the fall season against Discosur. It was a secure victory at 15- uh...11 or something (I can never remember these things). The Discosur's played well, but we had amazing flow and I was so proud of how well we have pulled it together as a team in the face of everything! It was the second time we had a last game with flaco Nick and Jess' last game. Below is one last team photo.
From the left: Sebastian, Jess, Me, Big Boy, Felipe, Diego, Paola, Josh, Antonio, Nick

Cerveza, cerveaza, cerveza, chori, chori, chori PAN PAN PAN PAN!!!! Vamos Cadillacs!!!!

Now We Are a Real Family

Its official...we have a puppy!!!!!!! And not just any puppy, but the cutest puppy in the whole mundo. Her name is Manzita, and she is a 41 day old furball of love. You'll just have to see for yourself though:

She's totally winning Brian's affection

Santi hates sunshine and puppies...but really he's just concerned about the mess

One last family portrait...

Brian: "I'm cooking tomorrow, we're eating Korean food" Santi: Not if I eat Manzita tonight!"

Jessica bogarted the puppy all night seeing as it was her first and last day with her

She's so pretty!!! And she crosses her legs like a lady!

Josh is clearly smitten

Height: Less than half a coffee table leg

Jessica's Despedida

First order of business, mom: here is my new haircut cut and styled by Ulises:

Next...Jessica's gone. Ella se fue, y estoy un poco triste. Not only because I am not the only girl left in our house, but because a member of our family has gone and who knows when we will see her again. Of course, I will also miss my friend and her crazy version of what she calls English We had a lovely ravioli dinner last night with only members of the house, and it was a fitting last night in BA. No clubs, boozing or dancing, just relaxed dinner with good Spanish conversations and a delicious sauce prepared by Dan, the newest member of our house. We all went to bed, and when I woke up she was gone. Very strange...
But before all of this we of course had a rager at our house. It was supposed to be a dress up party. We were supposed to dress as something Argentine or British, but Analia (a friend of Uli and now of us) and I were the only one's who took it seriously. She dressed as a styling gaucho, and I dressed as a previously posted about flogger.

Uli was...just Uli and that's really Argentine

Of course the party was an asado, and Josh was our head Asador. He looked very adorable and worked the coal mining look with his blackened hands and my bandana:
As the guests arrived the music pumped and Dan played DJ for most of the night unless Jess' boss was attempting to blast his 80's beats at top decibels at 5 o'clock in the mañana in between bouts of me yelling at him in crap Spanish:
We never use our bar as a now its a DJ booth and the home of our new fighter fish that we inherited from a friend of Jessica's named Fred. The fish is named Boludo. His amigo Che passed out of this world and into the next a while back.

The party was fun, even if I got stressed out and miserable at the end due to the noise and my inability to relax at my own party, and a large majority of the guest included Frisbee people that I hadn't hung out with in a while. Mike was sporting his new facial hair design. I can't get enough of it, and am in the process of convincing Josh to follow suit:
Other Frisbee friends from the left: Achmed (the guy that was a Cadillac but never shows anymore), Sabina (my favorite porteña who yells at me when I pretend to understand her but don't) and Santi.

The BYOM (bring your own meat) policy was a success (so much so that we found raw chicken in our kitchen yesterday that hadn't even made it to the grill) and the clean up was taken care of by a sleepless Dan and a mopping Analia in the morning. Everyone has been telling us they had a great time, so as usual our party was a success, and nothing was stolen! I even made it to Frisbee the next day, but that was the fault of my family who thinks its OK to call someone at 11 am when they know they had a party and probably didn't go to sleep until 6 am!!!! Love you guys...

UC Davis Orientation

So it turns out that waking up early to free breakfast and a day of working with young people is so much more motivating that waking up to teach Javier (a Kimberly Clark employee and uninspired student) for an hour and a half. I did just that last Thursday, and for once I had amazing fortune with the location. I received an email the night before telling me the location had been moved to a university only six blocks from my house!!!!!! Of course I arrived when I was told and no one came for over 20 min, but cafe and two medialunas restored my good humor and we spent the day preparing a group of Argentine students for their three week trip to California. There are many differences between University life here and University life in the States. Two examples are: the majority of Argentines live at home while they are in school, and the practice of raising ones hand in a class room is non existent here. Apparently people just shout over one another. So we shared some of our unparalleled wisdom with them and played a few games. We had a very Argentine lunch of empanadas, miga sandwiches (the classic Argentine crustless sandwich that brings you back to kindergarten that is also a double decker with ham and cheese). After lunch we helped them plan some field work they would be doing in order to explore our strange culture, and for an hour I felt like my Sociology degree was really useful. I was kind of jealous of these kids who get to explore the amazing history and cultures of California which is home to so many subcultures and underground movements. Some of them were truly excited about this assignment, and of course others just wanted to make sure they were in a group with their friends. All in all it wasn't a bad days work. I made $80 (pesos) for the day, had two free meals, an alfahore, and took home two almost full boxes of chocolate milk along with some food and a coke for my house. Josh is a very big fan of Cindor, the boxed chocolate milk that is sold everywhere in Buenos Aires. Considered a luxury item in our life, I'm pretty sure I made his week.
One other interesting occurance occured. After lunch we were privy to a view of some crazy drama happening on the autopista (highway) which our ninth floor window allowed us to see with an unadulterated view. A man (who I later found out had his child strapped to his chest) was trying to just off the part of the highway that looped up and around the rest of the highway. He was at least two stories up in the air, and while the fall might not have killed him, his child certainly would have perished in the fall. There was a hullubaloo and a half when we happened to notice what was going on. There were police, an ambulance, a crane, a giant truck blocking traffic, and lots of people standing around or trying to talk him outo of it. The man was crouching on the other side of the railing for about an hour, and just as the orientation ended we say him being hauled over the railing to safety and hopefully some serious physciatric help. What interested me the most was one girls reaction. She said, "This never happens here." I was surprised. I guess we are so used to hearing about suicides in the states it doesn't faze us like it did them. I really can't begin to comment on these societal differences, but let me know your thoughts if you have any.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Long in the Teeth...or Hair

Before our game on Sunday, our friend, Frisbee counterpart, and fellow prolific blog writer (that's right, three hyperlinks for three separate blogs) Andrew made a great point: you could almost tell how long a male North American had been in Argentina based on the length of their hair. We looked around and cataloged our fellow expats and their hair, all the while running our hands through our impressive manes: there is Joe, a teacher who was previously living in another South American country whose name escapes me, and before that was in the Peace Corps. He is an expert expat, consequently his hair is super long. Then there's Nick, whose risky business in the front is more than complimented by the extensive party in the back that runs well below his ears. It shouldn't surprise you he's been here longer than us. We thought about Steve, a math professor who has been living here for years, and assumed that his playful Jew-fro contained hair that would prove to be pretty lengthy if ironed. I thought about how much longer my hair would be if I had not cut it on my return, my hand still combing my luscious locks. I couldn't give you a physical approximation, but rather a temporal one: it would be more than 7 months long. That's right, we've lived here now seven months, the anniversary having come and gone without any serious thought or recognition. Last Thursday, like the month before that that marked our half-year anniversary here, warranted no celebration, no special notice; it was just another day for us in Buenos Aires. Now, we are the part of the old guard of Yankees in our Buenos Aires circle, when it feels like just yesterday we were the newbies.

Please notice my choice of words - living, not staying, or just being, but living. We are not here on vacation, this isn't our year off to "find ourselves", nor is it a permanent move. Simply put, we are living here. We're dealing with making enough money to support ourselves, establishing ourselves in a new place just as other college graduates, just on a different continent. True, we came here without promise of work, but we've since found it and are doing better financially bit by bit. After knowing a single person before we arrived, we now have more friends than we can count through Frisbee, Julia's TEFL class, our roommates, and other people we've met in our travels. Although our apartment may appear to be a hostel due to the traffic of visitors and relatively high turn over of residents (the latest coming next week with Jessica's departure - a post recounting her fiesta de despedida will come, featuring many of the blog's favorites, don't fret), we try as best as we can to live like a big family. Life here is not carefree. We are not partying all the time, we have to budget ourselves quite strictly at times, and now know what it feels like to live from paycheck to paycheck. Granted, we have more time on our hands than most people our age, and I work as much in a month as most of my friends do in a week, which makes me feel a little worthless from time to time, but that's OK. We've gotten lucky, had opportunities not work out, and managed to survive for seven months so far. When I look back on this experience, even if it ends next week, next month, or next year, I will not refer to it as the amount of time I spent in Buenos Aires, or the time I stayed in Buenos Aires - it's the period in which I lived in Buenos Aires, and I think that does make a difference. As Julia's post illustrates, we may not be legal residents, but we do live here.

People on this continent and the one up north always ask us when we will return. Two primary but not mutually exclusive reasons why they ask us this question immediately come to mind. First, some people genuinely miss us and want us to be back in the States. They have tired of Skyping, Facebook stalking, and want more than just reading the blog or chatting on GMail while wasting their days at work (I'm looking directly at all you young professionals out there), and want some face-to-face contact with their children or friends. I'd like to think the largest percentage of those asking us falls in this camp, even if it's just to soothe my ego. Secondly, people view our time down as I described before, as a passing whim that is meant to satisfy our need to get away for a bit and take a break before starting real life, wondering how long we will let it run, assuming it can't be much more. A few question what it is that attracts us to living outside of the States, and why we don't just come back. Others may even think we can't do it, or are surprised we've lasted this long and expect us back in the very near future, and I admittedly count a fraction of my-anxiety-induced-doubting-self in that faction. Also, at the beginning, I wholeheartedly intended on returning to the States by early October, in time for my friend's sister's wedding and ready to throw myself into the next phase of my life, and that is what I told anyone who asked. Maybe I said that because it was easier to put a limit on it for myself and for them; leaving it open sounded like a scarier prospect for both parties, one filled with much more uncertainty that comes with not knowing the next time you will see someone. Obviously, I still want to be back in New England for her wedding, but at this point the only way I'll be there is if I lose my job and cannot find work so I will have returned for good, or if an anonymous patron chooses to fund my jey-setting. I don't anticipate either of these will occur - but then again, a lot can change in five months.

So when will we abandon our new found South American home and come back to the United States for good? The short answer: we are not sure, whenever we are ready, whenever that is. I don't see that being in the immediate future, but definitely not in the distant future, as well. would prefer that we leave on our own terms, not because we have to. For those readers in the States, don't take this post as a sign of frustration over being asked when we come home, or as an order to stop asking us that very question. If that were to happen, we may jump to the conclusion that you've stopped caring about us! Who knows, maybe we'll leave once we have gone too long without any of you fine visitors coming down and bringing us peanut butter. Or maybe it will be because my hair is too long.

The Jewish Couple

That's us, the Jewish couple down stairs. Our new roommate Brian has taken to calling us that, and jokes that I cook like his Jewish mother. For the second time this season he came downstairs to find us making soup (cause its damn good and finally getting cold down here). He said in a Jewish mother accented wine, "I was just telling my mom that the Jewish couple downstairs is making soup again!!!" Well, soup we made from start to finish! For the first time we used a chicken carcass to make the broth first and then we made a really yummy vegetable noodle soup. So while he might make fun us, he's jealous after its made and he wants some.
While we are making our own stuff at home most of the time and saving money on food, we have begun to splurge on one thing. We have stopped buying the longest loaf ever of crappy white bread for 7 pesos and instead we are buying a shorter, more satisfying loaf of multi grain.
I read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn a long time ago, but a few images have stuck with me after what must be almost decade. The way the father always had his pants perfectly hemmed, that they read from the Bible and Shakespeare everyday and that no matter how poor their family was the mother always let her daughter have a cup of coffee in the morning even though she never drank it and it always ended up in the drain. At one point in the book her friend chides her on how wasteful this morning routine is, and she responds that they may be poor, but things are so bad that they can't waste a cup of coffee. Something struck me about that. No matter how poor you are you need some sort of luxury. For us, this luxury has now become our yummy bread that has an actual taste. Things are getting better bit by bit.

The Solution is to Become Illegal Immigrants!!

Funny cartoon from "The Week" shows a possible fate we have avoided by running away to South America:


See Star Trek (not Star Track like I thought it was for years). Its amazing. The sound of warp speed was even more realistic sounding - if that is possible. I loved it and I loved that it opened internationally and that I didn't have to wait for it. I want to see it again. See it.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I've done it. I've officially quit a job for a reason other than the fact that I was leaving the geographic location of the job. For the first time I've quit a job because a better one came along! I have quit my job with Casoc, which was regrettable since they were the first institute to hire us here and I earned my first peso with them. After a misunderstanding with the schedule I was left with only two classes for the remainder of the year and since they pay me the least I decided I would have to quit Casoc in order to make room for other classes that could be switched to those times. I have my first official day of work for Colonias Idiomas International on Thursday and I am being paid $80 (pesos) for my full day's work. First bummer: I have to BE AT THE OFFICE at 7 am. Good news is its over at 3 and there will be time for a nap before Frisbee. Wish me luck!

Random Observations

The street cleaners in Buenos Aires have all gotten brand new brooms!!!


Yesterday was the opening day for the fall Ultimate Season here in Buenos Aires, and what a day it was to play. We wore our back Jerseys thinking it would finally be cool enough to get away with running around in the sun in black...we were wrong. It was another hot day with minimal wind and perfect Ultimate conditions.
Two games were scheduled for the day: the first match was between Aqua, the newest team to join the league, and Discosur, the first team in Argentina. The other game was between the Cadilllacs (the 2nd team in Argentina) and Big Red (the 3rd team). I'll focus on my game because I was there.
The two teams were pretty equal in terms of skill level, although I could tell Big Red had been training hard and working on defense. For the majority of the game, points were scored back and forth at an equal pace. About ten minutes into the game who should arrive but Nick Stulk!!! The veteran Cadillac and awesome handler had arrived in Buenos Aires the day before for a week long visit and once again became an integral part of our team.
With Jessica's absense and near departure there are now only two girls on our team. This means both of us have to play for almost the entire game which means I have even more opportunities to do good things for my team. Not to brag, but I had an awesome put (an assist in Frisbee talk). I caught the disc on the line and threw a hammer right over Emiliano's head into Big Nick's (at Frisbee big Nick is simply called Big Boy and younger Nick is just Nick) waiting fist. Its a really difficult throw to aim, and one I'd never used before in a game, but I saw no other options and decided to go for it. It was awesome, and putting never felt so good.
With Nick's help we secured a two point lead and eventually won the game 15-13. It was a hard game and I was running for almost and hour and a half. I'm not sure if it was the muscle relaxing pill I took before the game, but my back felt fine and I felt great (except when I felt like I was having an asthma attack, which was all the time by the end). Our victory was sweetened by the fact that our opponents were really good and that our team has struggled lately to find new players who are dedicated enough to show up when needed. Those who showed up were the core of our team, and it was an exciting new beginning. Go Cadillacs!!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spy Camp

Carcaraes, a hotel surrounded by beautiful grounds where Colonias de Immersion al Idioma holds most of their three day immersion camps for young Argentines who come on schools trips to get immersed in English language and culture. I arrived late Monday night after two bus rides and a lot of traffic. We ate alfahores, talked about the camp, and went to bed. I was already exhausted seeing as how I'd taught a class at 8 am and I had not taken a nap.
We woke up early the next morning to get ready for the arrival of the kids. There were 54 of them and we had to get together folders for them, name tags, other counslery stuff. They were divided into color groups as well as spy groups. I was assigned to the CIA, and the other counselors had the FBI, Scotland Yard, the KGB, and MI5. We breakfasted alone for the last time, and then reported to our stations just as the kids arrived.
I had volunteered to work customs and had no idea what i was getting myself into. It was my job to confiscate all contraband from the kids. This meant anything with English had to be removed, bagged and labeled. Sounds easy enough, but when kids start begging to keep their hair gel things get sticky (hehe). After that was thankfully done we started spy camp. We didn't start activities with our agencies until nightfall, and instead did activities in our color groups. We did games like the the human knot and the human chair (the human chair was terrible, didn't work and I almost crushed a pre-teen. I became an instant favorite because my intro rhyme was...well it was awesome. I only remember the first line:
Yo my name is Julia and I hail from the States,
I came to Argentina to meet some new mates!
I think it was the delivery that sold the deal though...
Meals are eaten in the hotel's restaurant with specially created menus of "US, English, Irish and Australian" food. We had fried chicken and baked potatoes for lunch, a kind of Shepperd's pie and roast beef for dinner, and eggs, bacon and pancakes for breakfast. I say the least I ate too much, and was never hungry. Part of this had to do with the fact that we ate at US times. Breakfast was at 8:30 am, lunch at 12:30 and dinner at 6:30. Of course there was a snack before bed, and endless amount of hot chocolate and coffee. I gained weight...and lucky for me my jeans stretched a bit (for all worried parties I'm back in BA and back to normal with a mix of Frisbee and healthy homemade food.
The first night the campers had to break into their agencies and crack a code to find their agency leader. I was informed that I had to wait for my campers to find me under a bench near customs. As I wondered out into the dark without a "torch" (flashlight those of you with a US lexicon) and found that it was impossible to hide under a bench and instead wedged myself under a table in between the table and the bench. And there I lay for...a long time. I was in the dirt with spider webs for company and getting cold not to mention the fact that I was about to pee myself.
Finally, the figured out where I was and with some awkward maneuvering I pried myself out from under the table and helped my group create a secret handshake. I then told them two true facts about myself that would later be used to confuse them further on which one of us was the terrorist they they had to find and capture in order to save the world.
The following day was full of more of the same. James Bond theme music, rolling on the ground to get to the next pillar, and even some Frisbee with the kids while the rest of them were being interviewed for their "jobs." The camp does this activity where the kids apply for jobs and then get to do them. They could be a radio DJ, run the bank or the store, or create a newspaper. I elected myself to bring the disc to Cacareas, but there were only two discs for over thirty kids, and for the most part they ended up kicking it like a football (wow, sorry, I meant a soccer ball) and laughing at people who couldn't throw it. Very bad spirit if you ask me. But in the end I got a game going girls vs. boys, and while none of them fully got the concept they had a good time.
The second night we had an extra special activity: Casino Night!!!!! All the kids had brought their fanciest dress and after a camp fire they showered and dressed for an evening of gambling and entertainment. I was the blackjack dealer in my black DVF dress, black tights, porteño black wedges and white scarf for warmth. The added height proved to be fatal for my back seeing as I was bending over the table all night pretending I knew how to be a blackjack dealer and giving out chips I had won when I felt it was appropriate. Then the British councilor named Joanna sang Diamonds Are Forever like a professional lounge singer and then it was time for cake, hot chocolate and bed.
The last day we finally did the mission that Will and I had come up with. The mission was based on the idea that a bomb was somewhere in camp and that people had gone missing trying to find it. The Irish male counselor had gone off in search of the bomb, and unbeknownst to the campers Will had taken the spokespeople from every group off on a survival mission of sorts. The kids really were worried. Where were their friends? Where was Fiachra, and where the devil was our director?
The mission went well even if the orienteering activity was a failure because apparently I don't know how to use a compass (I do now), but in the end they found Fiachra bound and gagged in a shed and suffering from memory loss. It was great. Finally, after I auctioned out the last of the clues and all of the kids piled on top of Fiachra when they found out he was the terrorist we kissed them all good bye and put them on the bus.
Forty minutes later we were in Fernando's car being driven back to Buenos Aires. I was overwhelmingly exhausted and slept lightly for a short period of time, but spend most of it chatting with Australian Sonia, looking at the flat countryside that surrounds the capital, and fighting the urge to gasp every time a car cut us off or we swerved around another car. People here drive like maniacs...
I have now finally recovered from my sleep deprivation and hopefully will have a meeting today with Fernando to go over a schedule for the upcoming months. Yay for a new job!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Just got back from spy camp and am thouroughly at the brink of exhaustion. Going to write about it tomorrow, but it was awesome!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Last Friday night we finally took advantage of an offer made to us more than three weeks earlier. As Julia mentioned at the end of her Passover post, an Argentine family invited us to their home two Friday's ago to join then for dinner, an opportunity we had to postpone til a few days ago due to Ted's return to Casa Cochabamba, the final stop on his farewell tour of our fair country. Thankfully, no surprise (yet much loved) guests impeded us from attending an authentic porteño Shabbat dinner this time.

That's not the colectivos did not attempt to sabotage our evening from the very beginning. We waited nearly thirty minutes for our bus arrive, the only silver lining being that it gave us enough time to slip into the nearby kiosco and grab a bottle of wine for dinner. The bus let us off just a few blocks from the synagogue, but by the time we walked into the sanctuary the service was well underway and our surrogate family was nowhere to be seen. We knew there was an upper-level of seating, so we did not panic and figured we would catch up with them after the service if they did not come in after us. Luckily, about two-thirds of the way through the service I caught someone waving at me out of the corner of my eye, and sure enough it was Sylvia, the mother of the family. She way by herself, which made me wonder whether or not we were supposed to go to services in the first place or just meet up with them afterward, but soon after I saw her retreat back to a seat by her husband, Fabian, so I knew we were in the right place at the right time -it turns out they just arrived even later than us. From then on, I could relax and pay attention to the service.

A little about the service itself. As other blog posts have described, we've only frequented one of the synagogues in Belgrano each time we've celebrated Shabbat, and we've had little to complain about - beautiful synagogue, beautiful service, just all around good. This service was not quite as good, even though it was more conventional in that there was more reading directly from the prayerbook, not just impossible to follow freestyling by the Rabbi. The head Rabbi, a genial man who we later learned also teaches a course at a Rabinnical School in New York, was accompanied by two women on the stage, or bima, and I was unsure of their official titles. They could have been any combination of assistant-Rabbi, Cantor, or vocal accompaniment. Both had beautiful voices, but one of them seemed better suited for Mariah Carey Night on American Idol. In addition, musical accompaniment included a piano, a flute, and a saxophone, so it sounded like a bad Kenny G concert (is there any other kind of Kenny G concert?) when they employed the latter. However, the real problem lay in the sound system that belonged at Quilmes Rock, not a synagogue. The sound was so incredibly loud and extremely close, and the Rabbi and vocal accompaniment, especially Mrs. Nick Cannon, sang even louder into their micorphones, when a more reserved performance may have mitigated the effects of speakers turned up too high. Our ears continued to ring well after we left - both of us noted that even as we were going to sleep, we could hear high-pitched reverberations of the Aleinu that were anything but soothing.

Fabian, Sylvia, and Julian, their spark-plug, motormouth of a thirteen-year-old son who had been sitting upstairs, were waiting for us in the foyer as we exited the sanctuary. Actually, Julia and I only remembered Julian's name for two reasons: first of all, we weren't sure we ever got the father's name, and simply forgot to look at the mother's business card before departure; and secondly, Julian is to thank for our invitation in the first place. He spent the majority of Passover dinner standing next to Julia practicing his well developed English, clearly enamored. Soon after he went back to his table, his father approached and informed us that Julian indicated they must invite us to Shabbat dinner, yada yada yada, we got into the back of their car and began to drive to a restaurant. They apologized for having not prepared a meal at home, but due to the national holiday that day, they could not purchase all the necessary ingredients for a proper Shabbat dinner. We settled on a Lebanese restaurant, which more than satisfied our occasional hunger for non-Argentine food. As they promised the food was delicious, especially the humus and tabbouleh we shared to start. And for having never met these people before, we had a really strong rapport and enjoyed a constant flow of conversation that bounced between English and Spanish. In fact, for the first time in a very long time, I talked about September 11 - not how I felt about the attack or their long term ramifications in the international realm, but where I physically was when I learned what happened. It was very interesting to hear their memories of shock, horror, outrage, and empathy recounted with such detail, except for Julian who was four-years-old when it took place but knows he was watching Sponge Bob Square Pants. We also learned that Fabian's parents owned a shop a short distance from the AMIA building in Buenos Aires that was also the victim of a terrorist attack by Islamic extremists in 1994. He said their windows were blown out by the blast, but that they were unharmed, an incredible feat given that the explosion killed upwards of 90 people and injured hundreds more.

Not all the conversation was so somber. Julian told us that he has a girlfriend and that they've been "going out" for five or six weeks now, Fabian and Sylvia told us of their near move to Washington, DC and how much they both love it (which scores major points in our book), and Julian shared various applications on his father's iPhone and the fact that Fabian was the first person in Belgrano to own one. They even came to his house and took a picture for the local paper. Unfortunately, after a few minutes of searching, I've given up on finding that picture on the internet. One of these applications may very well change they way I interact with the world around me: Truco for the iPhone. I love playing this card game with anyone who will challenge me (Santiago owes me two massages for the ass-whooping I laid on him), and now that I'm in possession of a hand-held version, I may abandon all non-necessary human contact and get completely sucked back into my iPhone. The best part? One game takes seven minutes, at the most, whereas a person-to-person game lasts up to thirty. You can't beat that kind of instant gratification, baby, I am a product of my society.

As if they could not have been any more generous, they drove us home after dinner. We offered our fine (fifteen pesos, we were not messing around) bottle of wine as a token of our appreciation, but they reminded us the next time we have dinner with them it will be at their home, so save it for that occasion. Granted, we've since drank the wine. But with the promise of another wonderful evening with our new favorite family in Buenos Aires, this time a home-cooked meal, we're ready and willing to buy another - not to mention sit through another deafening Shabbat service, as well.