Friday, February 27, 2009


February 27, 2009, 8:25AM: For the third Friday in a row I find myself sitting alone in room G on the 13th floor of the Cargill building, waiting for my three students to come, knowing they never will. I’ve stopped slamming my head against the table long enough to share a few thoughts with you, but will probably recommence this practice once I remember that I’ve risen at 7:00AM three consecutive Fridays to sit in a conference room without any company for an hour and a half. The worst part is that I've truly gotten used to my students not showing up. If I were to call attendence as if I were a grade school teacher, 1/4 of the time this month I would have heard crickets. That's right, out of 12 classes I offered in February, on 4 occassions no one came, including an imressive 2 consecuative session streak two weeks ago. Granted, I’m still getting paid, but as if I didn’t have enough qualms with waking up so early to work for just an hour and a half, now I’m doing the same thing without ever working. To boot, I have to suffer through another hour and twenty minutes of people walking by my open door and giving me the “what are you doing all alone?” looks that suggest I must have driven off my students with boring lessons, which is obviously (or rather, hopefully) not the case. My self-worth is at an all time low. But hey, at least now I can listen to my podcasts and update the blog without ostracizing myself from my roommates! Thank you, Cargill, for making all my dreams come true.

On a more positive note, Zach and Evelyn’s visit has been even better than expected. Obviously they are both great company and have given us an excuse to walk extraordinary distances around the city again, but more than anything, they’ve been our most independent visitors to date. After so many visitors who received our full attention from the time we got off work until we went to sleep, it’s a nice change of pace to have Zach and Evelyn tell us they are going to go off on their own adventures for the day and that they’ll see us the next day. And this has happened twice in five days. Don’t get me wrong, we wholeheartedly enjoyed dedicating so much time to our previous visitors and it even allowed us to get to know the city even better in the process. But there is something to be said for not having to switch up our routine to accommodate visitors, however much we have enjoyed doing it.

Status update, 8:50AM: this one guy just walked by my room three times in two minutes, each time giving me a more disbelieving glance. I have since closed my door and used it to hide my presence. My students aren’t coming, there’s no reason to keep fooling myself.

At the time of publishing Evelyn’s caught some sort of traveling sickness that has rendered this fine young lass who is normally brimming with energy to be a shadow of her former self. We delved into the pharmacy in our nightstand and delivered some drugs, and we desperately hope for her return to fitness, for tomorrow we venture off to Gualeguaychú for the best that Argentina has to offer for Carnaval. Sure, it’s no Rio or New Orleans in terms of pre-Lent madness, but it’s a wonderful alternative for two reasons: first, it’s only 3-4 hours by bus and in Argentina so we don’t have to pay any tourist visas; second, it’s relatively cheap. Our bus tickets cost around 25 USD round trip, we’re bringing sandwiches and libations so we don’t have to buy as much there, and instead of staying the night in a hostel we decided to take advantage of our youth and simply stay out all night and take the first bus back to Buenos Aires at 6;00AM Sunday morning. There will be a large group of us even if Zach and Evelyn have to cancel, so we will all be each other’s biggest cheerleaders to make it through the night. But seriously, it’s only 6AM, nothing a bunch of transplants in Buenos Aires can’t handle.

Status update, 9:38AM: One of my fellow teachers, the very person who showed around the building before we started working here, just left her class and headed towards the elevators without so much as a nod of acknowledgment. Maybe her class also failed to show up and she didn’t want to make eye contact with me out of fear that I may judge her. Or, maybe she’s the one judging me, and is simply disappointed that I’ve chosen to continue occupying the room even though it’s obvious my attendance will be 0 once again. I’m guessing it’s the latter. Clearly I have too much time on my hands, it may be time to seek alternative employment. Luckily, at this point, it would seem appropriate to pack up my things and call it a day (of work). We’ll be sure to offer words and pictures about Carnaval, it should be a great time. Until then, have a great weekend, I’ll be spending the next one with you all in the States!

New Feature: Graffiti del Dia

For our newest instalment to Julia and Josh's Trip to South America I decided to start with a picture from our old street Peru.

I also thought it would be appropriate to show you what the average graffiti artist looks like in Buenos Aires, so there you go!


No idea why these stencils are spray painted all over BsAs. Either someone just loves it, or they have weird reaching tentacles spreading the word. Either way, its perfectly applicable to our life right now...since we still aren't paying rent. In fact, technically we're squatters. We haven't even signed a lease. Everyone keeps talking about how chill this Reid guy who is the property manager is, but I'm starting to think he's downright lazy...or our of town. Either way...for the first time I can really jump around in my PJ's with a hair brush belting the lyrics of rent and mean it!!! Well, everything but the AIDS part...

In other news, Zach and Evelyn's trip was going really well until Evelyn got a little sick, but we are hoping for a speedy recovery. Before that though we made sure that she downed ludicrous amounts of meet, including the greasiest of the greasy sandwiches from the parilla trucks down by the ecological reserve. The reserve was beautiful as well and the necessary walk to at least make a dent in the calories we had just consumed was hot but peaceful.

In other news....there is no more for now except that tonight is Shabbat...Shabbat Shalom!!! and tomorrow to celebrate Shabbat in style we are going to Gualeguaychu for Carnival. Not much rest will be involved, but plenty of dancing!!!!
Also, they finally wrote a song about me:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This One's For You Shelley...

Quick update on the arrival of Zach and Evelyn (Josh's brother and his girlfriend). They arrived Sunday with no problems to speak of other than sleep deprivation and turned down our idea of Salsa classes which I selfishly had presumed they would have the energy for. It has been almost 5 months since I've flown to a different continent forgive my memory. Jessica and I went anyway while Josh showed them San Telmo and our house. After working up an appetite and learning some new steps I came back to the house and after a few hands of Truco we headed to La Brigada for the most scrumptious dinner I've had the fortune of having in Buenos Aires. It was recommended to us by one of Jessica's friends and it lived up to its expectations. Of course I ate myself sick and somehow dairy sneaked into my dinner again and I spent the rest of the night doubled over on the couch watching the Oscars.
Today we hit up some of the good outdoor sights seeing as it was a beautiful day. We hit up Plaza de Mayo and took Avenida de Mayo all the way to the Congresso pausing for a coffee. We then walked to the Recoleta Cemetary which never ceases to be a favorite site of mine. After we headed back to San Telmo to do some dinner shopping and then to La Bomba. La bomba turned out to the a bust again and is in fact being shut down because it has become too big and is causing problems. There must have been 1,000 people milling around the streets, selling or eating empanadas or burritos from this guy who is a genius and making bank. People with tickets couldn't get in, so we had no hope. Zach and Evelyn made a getaway and headed back to San Telmo for the night, and Josh and I headed to our friends Mike and Kyla (who we had seen in line) for some poker and beer with Andrew and his visiting friend. All in all buena hondas. I won one hand!!! We took the convenient colectivo 24 to our street to our bustling house, had a bit of dinner, and now its time for bed.


What would we do without Nick? Well we certainly would have less friends, and I certainly would speak a whole lot less Spanish, and we would not be living in Casa de Cochobamba. Likewise we would not have been invited to our second real asado at a porteño's house. After playing pick up Frisbee on Saturday we headed over to watch some of the game that was going on. Sebastian (Sebas), one of Nick's best friends in Argentina (who also happens to be his boss) was about to leave and we did the whole: "Oh, what are you doing tonight?" exchange. As luck would have it we had no plans and he was having an asado. He invited the four of us (at this point Jessica was there as well but had other plans) on the spot and I sent daggers from my eyes to Nick's as he walked the maybe line between yes and no. "Yes, yes, YES!!!" my eyes attempted to shout as I wiggled my eyebrows attempting in every possible way that this would be the best thing EVER for us to do tonight. After a second he said, "Yea, why not?" and I did a little dance, more subdued than the dance Nick performed for the Superbowl's ending, but a little dance none the less.
We arrived late having taken the wrong bus and the intimate party was underway with a picada plate, or a plate of meats and cheeses. The crowd was mixed: Porteño couple, other porteños, girl from the US dating one of the porteños, a girl from the US whose mom is from PR and speaks fluently, Nick, Josh y yo (me). Needless to say there was much Castillano, and I was lost for much of the night, but more on that later.
The food was amazing, and I again found myself in a really beautiful house, welcomed by someone who barely knows me and me him, and greeting with delicious food and wine. The house is amazing and so full of books other collected things there seemed to be room for little else. There was a lifetime of stuff, and then some and I didn't even wander the upstairs rooms. As I tuned out of the Spanish chatter I thought to myself yet again how ridiculously lucky I am to be here and how fantastic that in less than five months I have weaseled my way into these intimate places only locals know.
Later that night, after the dishes were washed and the crumbs wiped away, the porteño couple graciously taught us how to play Truco, the classic Argentine game requiring a special deck that we had bought accidentally in one of our first weeks here while searching for cards. I say graciously because it is INVOLVED. Josh had already learned from our new roommates, and luckily was there to translate the lot to me because without him it would have been hopeless for me to follow the kilometer a minute explanations in Castillano. There are tons of rules, the point system seems to have no particular order, and when played with four people instead of two there seem to be twice as many rules and face signals to exchange info about what cards you have. Eyebrows were raised, mouths twitched away, and noses were shrunken and my team won!! Girls rule...
Then, as if we hadn't been lucky enough already, we headed out of the door and towards the car of one of our professors de Truco. We thought we would kiss good bye and walk to the bus in the down pour, but no, we were to be driven in the most opposite direction from this guys house and dropped off half a block from our tricky iron door. We fell asleep full and content with our social escapades and rested up for the arrival of Zach and Evelyn.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pictures of What We've Been Writing About

The stair case I fell down SOBER on our second day in the house that resulted on a one by four inch bruise on my left bum.

Jessica cooking!!!!

Alex and me and our empanadas!! Ulises really should be given the credit..

Chimba's handiwork, no words needed by...fea (dirty in Spanish)

Nick after his team won the Superbowl

Chimba loves me...sometimes

Tango music band in San Telmo
Yes they bring that piano with them every week

Josh and his love, Chimba

Friday, February 20, 2009

Homer Simpson Most Popular Figure in Buenos Aires

--Buenos Aires, Argentina

Move over J.L. Borges, Carlos Gardel, Diego Maradona, Evita Perón, and even Ernesto "Che" Guevara, there is a new king of the cult of personality in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires. Recent surveys conducted by Clarín coupled with record numbers of viewers, film revenue, and DVD and poster sales showed that Porteños most admire Homer Simpson by a fairly wide margin. In fact, the only posters that outsell those bearing his image are maps of South America and diagrams of different cuts of a cow, cheat sheets for any potential geographer or asador.

Cultural traditionalists and young radicals alike reacted with outrage, shaking their heads in disappointment and disbelief. They could not fathom how their nation, one with such a rich history in the arts, athletics, and transcendent figures, could possibly regard an animated drunkard with a abusive tendencies towards his son with such veneration. "It simply astounds me that my fellow countrymen expressed such opinions through their words and their actions," said Alejandro Silva, lifelong Peronist and self-described 'Eva fanatic'. He continued, "There is nothing that I love to do more than come home after playing fútbol with my friends and sit down in my favorite chair, turn on a Carlos Gardel record, and immerse myself in some Borges while sipping on maté. Have you ever read 'El Aleph'? It's the finest prose you will ever lay eyes on, and it's from Argentina."

An early twenty-something donning a red Che shirt and what looked to be designer jeans took off his MP3 player long enough to convey his disgust with the findings. "I mean, this is just another example of western corporatocracy spreading its empire all over the world. It's bulls--t, man, the revolution is coming and there's nothing the fat cats can do to stop it. Che, man."

Indeed, the shock waves reverberated throughout the South American nation, leading back to Fernando Balboni, who led the research team. In an exclusive interview with Clarín, he admitted that the study was not intended to unearth such breathtaking data, but rather serve as a publicity stunt to promote Argentinian culture and history by calculating the prevalence of such ubiquitous figures as Borges, Evita, Maradona, Gardel, and Che. It was meant to reinforce cultural norms, not redefine them. "Remember how the West was caught completely offguard by the Iranian Revolution in 1979? Or how far the leaders of our Junta's jaws dropped when they realized the British weren't just going to forfeit the Malvinas without a fight? Yea, that was basically our reaction after our tabulated results told us Porteños look up to Homer Simpson, an unintelligent, overweight, alcoholic, cartoon character from the United States, more than anyone our country has produced over the past two hundred years," stated Balboni. "Is he even this popular in the USA? Does anyone even watch that program anymore? I'm speechless."

Analysts have come up with several reasons to explain Mr. Simpson's unexpected and homeric rise to prominence, most of which attribute his lofty position to a confluence of different variables that actually have little to do with his strengths but the weaknesses of the other contenders. "In hindsight," said Natalia Burgos of Konex Cultural Studies, "we should have seen this coming; the writing was on the wall." According the Konex, each of the luminary characters from Argentina's past have suffered from one backlash or another, all of which manifested themselves in this study.

Borges was the most obvious, thanks to what social scientists have termed "the dumbing down of literature and culture in general in order to satisfy base desires as quickly as possible", a trend that has reached all corners of the Earth. With such a profound cultural and historical lexicon that ranges from veritable to apocryphal references and often times requires research to extrapolate truth from fiction, it was only a matter of time before the principle of instant gratification won out. Plus, as one teenage girl put it, "Borges is totally a Tévez. Maybe if he looked more like Kün Aguero, I would read him, but as it is, his drooping cheeks and oversized nose are totally not hot". Although not taken as seriously, the "hotness factor" cannot be understated when explaining his demise in the polls.

As for Gardel, the tango crooner's star has been in decline for years. Besides the fact that there has been an undercurrent of anti-tango sentiments thanks to its bastardization in order to cater to wealthy tourists who prefer the glitz and glamor of big stage tango more than its subtly and nuances (see: "the dumbing down of literature and culture in general in order to satisfy base desires as quickly as possible"), tango music itself has vanished from most playlists, especially amongst the younger population. Gone are the days of sitting around the phonograph listening to the Abasto's finest, or learning to dance tango to his lyrics longing for love. Today, the sounds of cumbia and reggaeton blare from cellphones all over the country, leaving Gardel records to collect dust.

Before Princess Diana captured the world's attention for championing noble causes, her obvious beauty and impeccable sense of style, Eva Perón was quite possibly the most famous, and notorious, first lady in modern history. Her ascent from rags to riches is well documented in popular culture and serves as an inspiration to men and women alike across the continent. Yet she did have her enemies. Political opposition continually attempted to smear her image and cast her as nothing more than an opportunist who latched on to a powerful man solely to increase fame. Well, thanks to current President Christina Kirchner's massively disappointing first year in office, the idea of a beautiful woman in charge of Argentina has unfairly tipped the scales against Evita. Said one disgruntled Porteño, "I want her to forget the make up on her face and figure out how she's going to make up for the fact she just robbed my pension! No more Gucci shoes!" A certain political candidate up north may have benefitted from a similar message just a few months back.

Even more inspiring than Evita, Che Guevara has come to symbolize the unyielding communist revolution which he died serving while leading insurgents in Bolivia. He is seen as a martyr and, along with Chairman Mao, his face is on FAR too many t-shirts and posters on university campuses and counter-culture enclaves. If this weren't enough, Steven Soderburgh's recently released self-indulgent 4 hour film about Che has provided another avenue for someone to profit from the image of the deceased revolutionary. A letter to the editor written by an history professor at the University of Buenos Aires, in reaction to said film, has become a sort of mantra amongst those who consider themselves enlightened individuals. It reads: "I am sick and tired of the exploitation of Che's image and message. Our communist hero has been turned into a cash cow by capitalists, and everyone has gone along with it claiming to support the revolution - there doesn't seem to be any contradiction in this? He was preaching the revolution of the masses to overthrow the shackles of the ruling class, not for the spoiled children of the ruling class to wear t-shirts with his face on it to look cool." In addition, his perception as not being a "family man" dipped him below Mr. Simpson, who in his own right was highly commended for loving his wife and children, even Bart, who deserved the tough love he received.

More than the others, Maradona's descent seems somewhat counter intuitive given his recent promotion to Manager of the national squad and the success they've enjoyed under his tutelage. Even though Lionel Messi challenges for world football supremacy, often times producing eerily similar goals to his most famous predeccesor, Maradona remains Argentina's darling child in a long list of successful footballers, considered by most to be one of the greatest to ever live. However, Argentinians actually loved him more when he was a bankrupt, drug-addicted, flame-out in the 90's than now, after he has salvaged some of his reputation and appears to be turning the corner. They embraced him for who he was, in all his perfect imperfections, but now see his image as somewhat manufactored and unauthentic. Both porteños and tourists liked to believe that the man walking around El Caminito posing as Maradona might actually be him. Now, like 8 year-old Jorge who witnessed his parents, not Santa, putting presents under the Christmas tree, they know he's not real.

Mr. Simpson, simply known as "Homero" in the Spanish-speaking world, did more than just back into this prestigious honor. In fact, the study showed porteños admired many aspects of his character. First and foremost, unlike Maradona and Evita, no one could ever accuse Homero of being unauthentic. He wears his imperfections on his sleeve. Whether its his enormous beer belly, his perpetual five'o'clock shadow, or the 4 wisps of hair that crown his misshapen yellow head, what you see is what you get with Homero, which was one of the reasons why he is so well liked. He may not be as funny as Bart, reasonable as Marge, smart as Lisa, or gosh-darn-cute as Maggie, but he never tries to fool you into thinking he is. "I admire his honesty," said thirty-year old Andrés Guitérrez, who has never missed an episode. "He's just a normal guy, he doesn't set some impossible standard to live up to. Actually, if my Dad were obese, yellow, and had a drinking problem, he'd remind me of Homero. And I love my Dad."

Other positive reviews came from females, surprisingly enough, who cited his marraige to Marge as a big indicator that he knows how to look past the surface and appreciate someone for who they are on the inside. Marta Vega commented that, "Even though she might not be the prettiest flower in the garden, you know, with her Everest-like blue flat-top, that didn't stop him from giving her a chance and getting to know an amazing lady. I wish all guys were as great as Homero".

Guys, on the other hand, applauded his ability to hold his booze. "I can't imagine putting down that many bottles of Quilmes and still having a functioning body and marraige. But don't tell my wife I said that," said one participant who wished to remain anonymous out of fear that his wife might suspect him of alcoholism.

Interestingly enough, a sizable bloc gave Homero such high reviews simply because he is everywhere. His visible presence at just about every news stand and on various buildings and restaurant awnings throughout the city conditioned unknowing passersby to expect him to be someone important, otherwise why would his image be plastered all over the place? Many of these people own neither televisions nor computers and have never heard of The Simpsons, but have been duped into think Homero is worth praising merely because they see his face everyday. In fact, many participants could not identify Mr. Simpson by name and only rated him so highly after they saw his picture. "To be frank, I have no idea who this gentleman is," said Humberto Humberto of Humberto Primo 1, a known recluse who loves literature and has a pension for taking fancy to nymphets. "I'm not sure if he's alive, dead, or if he ever lived. But I see him everyday, so he must have some significance."

It is also worth noting that Mr. Simpson received an unusually high amount of votes from the elderly community, apparently because they confused him with the Greek poet with whom he shares his name. Outraged at the prospect that their votes had been miscounted, senior citizens who claimed to have voted for Mr. Simpson have taken to the streets, demanding a re-vote. At the time of print, the issue remained unresolved. So for now, Homer Simpson will remain the king of Buenos Aires, regardless of how long he gets to wear the crown.

Green With It

"Do you want to know a secret, can I whisper in your ear...oo-wha-oo?"
Ok, here it is, I have blog envy! Jill's blog Vegemite is for lovers is clever and awesome and if you are bored, curious about Australia, or...bored check it out.
Nothing but rain today, which made for a cool "photo shoot" this morning. One of the girls I met at my random venture into the world of casting for random commercials here asked me if I would pose for her. She's staring a photography business here and needed a few photos to hand out to models at fashion week (which is apparently next week) and asked if I would model for her. She tempted me with free pictures of myself...and I am totally vain enough to have accepted, so I did. Also she advised me that I should send some of the photos to modeling agencies because the competition here is very limited (for people from the States) and you can make a bunch of money. Why not? Can't hurt to try. Well, not physically, maybe my ego a little. So had a nice rainy rooftop photo shoot and now I plan on spending the rest of the day being deliriously lazy. Its actually almost nap time. My life here is so difficult...well, best get to it!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'm Not Complaing, But...

It's really frickin' hot in Buenos Aires. Our new housemate, the wonderful hairstylist-chef-general buena onda extraordinaire who goes by the name Ulises, told us it is usually only this hot in January, the equivalent to July in the States, and that we're experiencing something approaching an anamoly. Besides the week my Mom, Hannah, and Jacob came in November and maybe a few stretches in January, this is definitely the hottest it's been while we've been in BsAs. Quick side story as I write this post: Julia just walked out the door with Ulises on a mission to sharpen the dulled down, large knife we inherited. They're going over to the butcher, who provided the delicious sausages in the aforementioned asado which debilitated me and might have given me time-travel sickness. Julia wrote a script for the dialogue that is about to ensure. Ulises is accompanying her in case he strays from his lines and Julia cannot understand. This is but one example of how great it has been to live with Argentines, but more on that in a later post. For now, just imagine little Julia approaching the fat butcher with a cloth-wrapped knife in one hand, a skinny Argentine with a day-glo-pink swimsuit and long and previously permed hair by her side, and share a smile with me. Yes, this is our life in Argentina. Back to where I yea, it's super hot here right now. You know how sometimes if you're in a house without air conditioning it's better to be outside than in, for there might even be some air flow? Well, even in the spot where I'm sitting beneath a ceiling fan that doesn't work, with my hands resting on a computer that could fry an egg and minimal wind, it is still much cooler in the house. Julia and I went out to grab our laundry and I vowed I wouldn't go back outside until the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees (F), a vow I am on the verge of breaking since I have to go to Frisbee, but you get the idea. Ulises and one of our other housemates, Jessica, were coming home this morning as we were leaving for work (notice how casually I dropped that tid bit? Again, welcome to Buenos Aires) and they spoke of getting pushed in a friend's pool. I, too, want to be pushed into this pool. The heat tsunami is crashing into us just in time, for Zach and Evelyn escape the bitter Michigan cold for the good but hot airs of our fair city. . Hopefully it won't be like pouring scalding hot water over frostbitten extremities. My exceedingly warm fingers are crossed, I'd prefer if my brother and his girlfriend didn't suffer any permanent cell damage ever, but especially right before a Bat Mitzvah.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In Which Alex Comes for a Few Days and Then Essentially Moves In

Alex Behles was one of the first people I met at GWU, and she was in fact my Colonial Inaguration (GWU's fancy name for orientation) roommate. For three days we lived together, and then for all intents and purposes forgot about each other until Senior year. Our last year at school we happened to have very similar friends and went to a lot of the same parties, and she also dated one of Josh's good friends from basketball. For all these reasons and more (the main one being lack of money after more than a month of travelling) Alex came knocking on our door looking for shelter and a floor to call home for a few days. Turned out to be more than a few days, and it also turned out to be one of the happiest coincidences that led to her staying here for in Alex we found a new friend and of course a place to stay in Cusco!
Hmm, so she arrived on a Sunday, and it was a most lazy Sunday. That night we helped end Alex's boycott of red meat with juicy cuts of Argentine steak with Nick, and Dan Cowell. I'll just take a moment to explain how Dan Cowell came to be at our table, because it just goes to show how ridiculously small this world is. My friend Erin (who happens to be childhood friends with Alex's old roommate and our friend Liz Hall) is friends with a Colombian who is Dan's roommate. While we were over for dinner one night Dan was there and said, hmm, GW, do you know Alix Behles? HAHAHAHAHA, we laughed, "she is staying on our couch next week!" (Turns our she is allergic to cats and Chimba had rubbed his furry little body all over that couch so that didn't work out as planned). Lucky for us Dan is super into cooking and the meat was perfectly cooked, and the wine was delicious, and the company even better.
In the week that followed we took in various cultural sights, ate more steak, and moved to our new place on Wednesday. Ulysses (new housemate) taught us how to make empanadas!! and we cooked big dinners and went out for a few more.
By the time Friday came we were all ready for our first Asado!! Lots of people showed up, and while we still had some chorrizos left, everyone who came got their fill of churripan or hamburgers, and more than their share of beer and wine. After kicking everyone out and throwing back a few more we headed out to the Red Door sometime around 3 and stayed out till around 6. Poor Josh was in bed with a migraine from the smoke for a day and a half, but he is better now.
After sleeping for a few hours and waking to take care of Josh around noon, Alix and I headed out to see the Botanical and Japanese gardens. We talked about college, and what we are doing here, and it was nice to have someone to talk to about what we are doing and why, who knows what its like to move to another country very different from your own. For her it is a bit more extreme seeing as she is in Cusco and went somewhat alone, but in another sense its easier because she has the security of a job with a stipend. All in all there was much to discuss. Also, we witnessed some amateur sumo wrestling. Never before have I been so comfortable with a strange man approaching me in his underwear with a sumo thong on top, but the fact that he handed up pink origami hearts made it that much better. However, when he asked us to enter the ring I was glad I had my bruised bottom as an excuse. Those guys were big and sweaty.
Que suerte! (what luck) there was a bus across the street that took us to Frisbee where we played a close game with Big Red and Alex jogged a few laps. We returned home tired from the day but ready for dinner and a big night our with our new roommates. They had put our names on the guest list of Voodoo Motel (very confusing because everyone kept pronouncing it Boodoo) where we headed after our homemade empanadas for a night of dancing.
For the first time we drank canned beer from a straw because Ulysses insisted on it (something about cockroaches) and we danced the night away until I could literally dance no more. It was 5:30 and time to go home. Of course we were the only ones who wanted to leave, so we walked to Santa Fe and with mucho suerte we caught the elusive 29 which dropped us off half a block from our new casa.
There we passed out until mid day and made a thwarted attempt to go to the Ferria in Matadero and instead walked around the good old San Telmo market and watched Tango in Plaza Dorrego. That night Alix took us out to DesNivel where the chicken was more than disappointing, but everything else was great (wow, its lunch time and this is making me so hungry). Monday Alex took a disappointing trip to Tigre (it rained all day) and Josh and I did...nothing and it was wonderful. At night we attempted to go to Bomba del Tiempo but were thwarted by ridiculous crowds and the raid made by the police the week before where they laid a large fine on the Konex Center for over crowding the place. The after party was weak as well because they had raided it too, but we went and had empanadas and drank cervezas in Plaza Serrano until Ulysses finally let us go home where I passed out until only around 11. Alex left at 7:30 and now life returns to its routine for another week until Josh's brother comes!! I'll take advantage of this week by doing nothing and getting to now my house a little better. We'll miss you Alex! It was an awesome week, and one of our happiest here.
Pictures to follow.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Turn and face the strange, Ch-ch-ch...

oh sorry, got a bit carried away there. But really, lots of changes happening here: most importantly our new house!!!!! On Thursday we moved to a PH as they call it here (pronounced peh-hache). No, we did not move to a pent house, but it is the upper story of a house. We have four bedrooms, a big dinning area, a living room area, a very large kitchen with a table, a courtyard, and a MASSIVE roof terrace. Josh and I debated over the room on the roof, and the room we chose. Ted took the room upstairs instead. YeS!! We are living with Ted now, as well as two porteños, and our friend Jessica from Frisbee. We had an additional house member while Alex was visiting for nine days, and now that she's gone it feels like a member of the house is missing.
More about the house: to reach our front door you must first do battle. Once you cross the moat and take the drawbridge by storm you must insert your archaic looking key into the elusive key hole and wage mental as well as physical battle withe the door. Once all that is past you, you must traverse a long outdoor hallway with many other doors until you reach a marble staircase which I have already fallen down once. I now have the largest bruise in the world on my left butt cheek to prove this. While it was a brillinat array of purples, it has recently turned to green. At the top of these slippery steps you reach our wooden door and you have arrived!!
To the right are three bedrooms and a full length mirror that makes me look like I'm back in Italy, and to the left is the rest of the house. The hallway opens into a large room with an amazingly large table. This table is my dinner party host's dream come true!! Also we have a bar that I hope to stock one day, and the the room opens up to the left into our living room with three couches, a TV, and a coffee table. There is also one bathroom with a shower and one powder room. The next room is the kitchen which is large and amazingly dirty. Slowly we are changing this, but the people who lived here before us had obviously not cleaned in...I'm not sure how long. Outside the kitchen is a lovely courtyard containing a large tree, and stairs up to our roof terrace where Ted lives. Also up there is a BBQ and tons of space for awesome parties, one of which we've already had. There is exposed brick, pictures on the walls, and even a wooden gecko on one wall. Its a house with character, paint, and sweet tile floors. I love it!!! While Ted and Jess are leaving in a few months, Ulysses and Santiago (our porteños flat mates) are planning on staying for a while, and so are we!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Brewing Thoughts

Hey guys, here are some random thoughts that you would probably hear if we spoke on a regular basis. And stay tuned til the end for an exciting announcement! Here goes:

One of my favorite activities while walking down the street in Buenos Aires is to make eye contact with the gentlemen who happen to take a gander at Julia. It’s worth noting that men in general here are neither shy nor sly when visually sizing up a member of the opposite sex, and since Julia happens to be an especially pretty girl, I get plenty of opportunities to take part in this fun game. My motives do not stem from any sort of jealousy, insecurity, or male chauvinism. I never get mad when I witness someone look her up and down without any intent to hide their viewing. In fact, I’m mostly amused by the fact that someone would shamelessly checkout a girl walking by, even if she is walking hand in hand or arm in arm with someone who appears to be their significant other (a phrase, I might add, I taught one of my classes last week. Cultural consultants, at your service). I can imagine them trying to sneak a peak out of the corner of their eye, or full on gazing if the object of aesthetic desire and her partner are none the wiser, but basically face-to-face in broad daylight? That’s something new to me. So what do I do when I happen to view someone admiring the lady who so often walks by my side? I try and make the situation as awkward as possible for them by catching their eye and making a funny face, or simply sporting a giant smile, sometimes even nodding to agree with his assessment. I don’t give him a look of “I don’t think so, buddy”, “what the hell do you think you’re doing?”, or “she’s mine, lay off”. Instead, I shoot a look of “heh, how’s it going?”, “not bad, right?”, or a sheepish grin that exudes “gotcha”. My aim is to make them feel as uncomfortable as possible, and quite frankly, it’s great fun.

The way our job works, at least during the summer, is that we go month by month with classes, switching up some while keeping others whenever we turn the page on the calendar. So while I’ve kept two of my classes from January, all of them are in different rooms. Today, unlike Tuesday, I actually knew in which room my class would be held, but upon reaching the 10th floor, I couldn’t find Room H. For all those non-Spanish speakers out there, H is pronounced “ah-che”. I swear this will factor into the story. So after searching the floor my room without any success, I poked my head into someone’s open office. I asked the man, in Spanish, if he happened to know where Room H was located. He looked at me, quite puzzled, and said, or so I thought, “well, this is Room H, why are you looking for it?”, to which I replied, “I am an English teacher at my bosses told me that my class would be in Room H”. Suddenly, the light bulb went off over his head and he started laughing. “Ohhh, you’re looking for Room H,” he said, “my last name is Atche, I thought you were looking for me.” So, of all the offices I could have looked into, I happened to ask the one whose last name happened to sound just like the letter H. I laughed for a few minutes at this “casualty”, as Mr. H put it.

I owe so many thanks to Mr. Chimba. First and foremost, he has taught me to neuter any animal I plan on keeping as a pet. As I wrote before, I owe many of his personal deficiencies to the fact that he has all his man parts, proof positive being our latest peeing incident that took place Saturday morning after I had just refilled his water and food. Normally, you would expect a nice act such as that on my part would normally win some respect; but instead, he proceeded to deposit his liquid waste on or near our laundry. Secondly, I now know what it feels like to have a child trying to wake me up in the morning, as last week he started pawing at my head in an attempt to rouse me from my sleep. I successfully ignored his advances and kept sleeping, a skill I hope to be able to apply when an energetic toddler dares to disrupt my slumbers on a Saturday morning at some unforeseen date in the future. Finally, thanks to Chimba, I can now pick out the scent of said cat piss anywhere I go. Walking down the street presents a smorgasbord of territory-marking evidence, which I don’t think I really noticed until I was confronted by the sour smell emanating from my closest or laundry. This new found scent detection actually makes walking down the street a little less enjoyable, for now that I know what it smells like, even the faintest whiff of cat pee excites my olfactory in the way. I cannot avoid the stench; it’s quite the burden.

Speaking of burdens brought on by Mr. Chimba, I woke up this morning at 8:30 or so to let our friend Alex into the apartment. She’s spending the year in Peru running an afterschool program for girls in Cusco, and was wonderful enough to bless us with her presence during her holiday travels. While sleepily approaching the phone for our buzzer, I couldn’t help but notice a bunch of feathers scattered across the floor. My first thought was that Chimba had torn up one of the pillows or cushions from the couch in an act of revenge after we had punished him for the aforementioned incident Saturday morning. But after further investigation, I saw a gray lump on the floor, and it took me a few moments to realize that it was a dead pigeon. That’s right. Chimba killed a pigeon on our balcony and then dragged it all the way over to our door. I’m not sure if he did it in order to impress us after we rubbed his face in his own pee. Who knows, maybe this marks the start of a new day for Chimba, in which he does his best to please us instead of providing endless frustration. I was shocked, amazed, and completely grossed out – but not nearly as much as Julia. She immediately woke up to go down and fetch Alex so I could take care of the pigeon, refusing to remain in its presence for any longer. She even knocked before reentering the apartment to make sure that I had disposed of the corpse. My jury is still out on whether or not I should shake his paw and congratulate him. Either way, worst comes to worst we can depend on Chimba to put food on the table if we ever run out of money.

As Julia mentioned, we encountered an incredible display of subliminal advertising in a club last weekend. If my eyes wandered away from the vertical blue lights located at three corners of the room, a blue camel would appear for a split second. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t avoid it and it got on my nerves. It’s kind of like once you realize your nose is always in your vision you can’t help but notice it and just hope you forget it soon rather than later (your welcome for planting that seed in your mind). Honestly, it really diminished my experience since I couldn’t escape the vision of the blue camel while I was trying to have a subliminal advertising-free evening. But more than anything, I really wished I could at least try and document the phenomenon. And to do that, I would need my iPhone, which brings me to my next point: I miss having a functioning iPhone that I have with me at all times. On one hand, not having it on my person decreases the chances of getting it stolen by about 100%, which is strong argument for not unlocking my phone so I can take advantage of its full potential. But on the other hand, not having it on me equally decreases my opportunity to document strange moments and write down random thoughts. It really sunk in when, after lamenting the fact that I couldn’t try and shift my iPhone and take a picture at the instant in which the camel appears in order to capture it, I went to the bathroom and saw the backside of the stall door all tagged up. In my semi-inebriated pseudo-artsy state, I wanted to snap off a picture. In the United States, I reach into my pocket, take a picture, and have it to look at it the next day. In Argentina, I start to reach in my pocket only to remember it’s on my nightstand collecting dust, waiting to be used as an alarm clock. I don’t feel this way most of the time, but there are instances when I do really miss it, which brings me to the exciting climax for this post: my iPhone will be put to good use in less than a month, for I will be returning to the United States for ten days for a family gathering. If the chance to see family and friends after being away for so long wasn’t enough, I get to resume using my favorite toy for a week and a half. This prospect genuinely excites me, true story. So on March 7th when I walk out the doors of John F Kennedy International Airport my phone will be on and ready, and for far more than just to receive calls.

The Chronic WHAT cles of Chimba

Lots to blog about, but I'll start with the good stuff. So Chimba and I have not been on the best of terms lately. Friday night I was administering some unwanted love, and afterwards Chimba attacked my leg, drawing blood. Afterwards we went out and came home to a nice smelly puddle in our bedroom. Being slightly inebriated and already mad about the cut on my leg I was a bit rough with him. We haven't talked since. Its been awkward. Today we woke up early to let Alex Behles in (who is staying here for a bit of her summer travels). Josh arose first and a few confused sounds reached my ears before I hear "you have to come look at this." My blurry vision first adjusted to focus to the sight of feathers similar to the ones in our couch. My thoughts had matched Josh's: Oh no, Chimba ripped up the couch. But no, its better. One step further and there lay the origin of the feathers. Chimba had killed his first bird. And not just any bird, but a big ass dirty street pigeon. And it was laying with its neck broken in the entry way. Clearly I could not handle this so I ran downstairs to let Alex in while Josh dealt with the broken bird. I thought waking up to dead cockroaches in New York was bad. This is way worse. Chimba and I have still not communicated or touched since Saturday morning, but Josh believes he did it to make us happy. I think he's just getting clever and more creative about how to ruin my life and make me miserable and a cat hater forever. Leaving the door to the balcony open all night to make the air fresher in the apartment was a bad choice. Just like milk.

In other news we had a nice week and played a lot of frisbee. We went to a summer camp for kids with the Discosours (one of our rival teams and click on the link for a picture of us with the kids) where we brought the disc to the wealthy children of Buenos Aires. In reality I think the counselers had more fun, but the kids loved it. Also, turns out they start the kids young here. They were all protesting the entire time when they didn't get to play, shouting "INJUSTICE" in Castellano at their counselors for playing before them and "Pedemos jugar!!!??" or "can we play?". This countries rich history of useless protesting lives on. They did not get to play and the people's pension plans are still nationalized.
Also we are moving on Wednesday to our new home. We will still be in San Telmo, but in a house ten minutes away. Our housemates consist of a British girl, our friend Ted, and two porteños. Yes, that's a lot of people for one shower, but its also like free Spanish lessons and free cooking lessons (one used to be a chef) and maybe free haircuts (that same guy is now a hair dresser). Either way its going to be great. We met them last night and in typical fashion they were two hours late because of course they were probably eating dinner at 10:30 or 11 when they were supposed to be here. How silly of us to pick that time. But they also brought a pot of sangria and three friends, so it turned into a kinda of pregame (except we were about to drop dead with exhaustion after a whole day of Frisbee so we called it a night at 2:30 when they left to go out). They are very cool, and so are their friends, and I think its going to be good.
Tonight we are going to free movie night in this park. Picnic and maté will be in order and I might bring a book since the movie is in Spanish. Until then, its another lazy Sunday in Buenos Aires.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Techno music blasted from the speakers, a disco camel radiated laser lights, and smoke periodically filled the dance floor. The DJ was great, as I sucked down the strong finish of my Cuba Libre I started to really dance. It was about this time when Josh noticed something and whirled towards me to seek confirmation that he was not hallucinating. Among the disco balls (and camel), laser lights, and other club paraphernalia there were blue lights arranged in a vertical line set up in different corners of the room. You are dancing, thinking of nothing but maybe your next dance move and the next thing you know you see the flash of a blue camel out of the corner of your eye. You think, weird, and your eyes snap back to the spot to find nothing but a vertical line of blue lights. It happens again 5 minutes later on the opposite end of the room, and you realize that no, you aren't crazy, but that you are being subjected to subliminal marketing by Camel cigarettes. Very strange. Other than that it was a typical night out with a twist seeing as we were surrounded by British people (we went with our British friend Jess) and oh, of course, by the fact that we were actually out for the first time in weeks. We danced till 4 in the morning and took the bus home.
Today we have had the most laziest of Sundays made so much better by the discovery that they sell tortillas at our supermarket. Breakfast omelets were of course in order, and we had a feast to fill our empty bellies. After a whole day of Frisbee and a night of dancing we deserved it! Tonight we are hosting a Superbowl party complete with wings and pizza (we are making the pizza, Nick the wings). Unfortunately for me I don't think the commercials will be as good here.