Friday, July 31, 2009

Veinte y dos no mas

There are to ways for the average person to measure their year. One way is with the standard calender invented by Julius Caesar that begins on January 1st. The other is by your own personal calendar that begins and ends each year on the anniversary of your birth. If we are going by the second, on Sunday I will be finishing the twenty third year of my life and entering the 24th. Its strange to have this event taking place during the winter and it really doesn't feel like my birthday is happening, but like it or not another birthday is coming and will soon be over. And what a year this one has been! It was a year full of landmark life events, new experiences, and its certainly been a year full of learning whether in the classroom, on the field, or in the street.
So let's see, on this date a year ago I was living in New York City and I was getting ready for an all day birthday bash by the pool at my parents house with a few friends. I had just finished college and there was a big scary world waiting for me while I was stuck for a few months in the glass cage of Origins selling beauty products. I brought in my new year with a few good friends and my family. A steak dinner and plenty of spirits was the perfect way to celebrate on a perfect evening.
So since then...I've moved to Argentina, lived in two different apartments, learned how to play Ultimate Frisbee, gotten much better at Ultimate Frisbee, I've gone from being a beginner at Spanish to at least a lower-intermediate, I've made many new friends, lived with foreigners for the first time, earned a TEFL certificate, began teaching English, tried out for two commercials, eaten more beef in ten months than in my whole life in the States, and moved in with my boyfriend. I've also traveled to Mendoza, Iguazu, Colonia in Uruguay, Monte Hermoso, and Mar del Plata. I've learned how to make empanadas, tartas, and I have become a master soup maker. I have been pretty much financially cut off from my parents for the first time (except for those once a month dinners that we cherish and a little help with vacations) and learned how great it feels to pay for your whole rent with your own hard earned cash. I've become an undocumented worker, an illegal immigrant, an expat and a team member. I have learned how to network, and how to survive in the urban jungle of a foreign city and it has given me the confidence that if I put my mind to it I really can do anything (with a little help from the Guia-T and Josh)(and of course the support of family and friends). I have finally learned my limits, I got the flu, I have learned to dance Salsa and I have seen the sun rise on more occasions this year than ever before. I've put on weight, lost it and put it on again, I've started wearing leggings, and I got my first pair of Frye Boots. I saw Iron Maiden and Monu Chau in concert, and learned for the umpteenth time that when you judge someone or something before getting to know them you are wrong more often than not. I have learned that the keys to a happy life are compromises that don't hurt you and good communication and that life is too short to do something you don't want to do and to not do something you want to do. I've become addicted to maté in any form, and I now know that you have to drink tea every day no matter how hot it is outside and that while I took a good many things for granted in my home country that it still might not be the best place for me to live. I've also learned how hard it is to be away from your family and that in the future its important to be close to them geographically.
That said I know that in one year I have learned and done a lot, but that it is only a tiny fraction of what there is to be learned and done and so instead of getting upset about growing older (and noticing the wrinkles on my forehead!) I am trying to look forward to another year that promises to be as full as this one.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I can't believe I keep forgetting to blog about our first Obra de Teatro!!! So here goes, its out of order with the way things go down, but deal with it. OK?
OK. Joe Barret (amigo de Efie and Josh):

The guy on the right as I will remember him, with a big grin

was visiting on a much deserved vacation (that is in danger of turning into an extended stay) so we went about BA with him to see some of the sights and even brought him to Frisbee. He really wanted to see a play before he left, and found out that Agusto, the adaptation of August: Osage County was playing for $30 (pesos) on Wednesday (his last) night.
We arrived late and so we didn't get to appreciate the beauty of the theater until intermission when the lights came on but when they did I realized I was in one of the most beautiful theaters I've had the pleasure of seeing a play in. We were in the up most balcony, but still had a fine view of the stage and the elaborate set where the crew had literally built a cross section of a house.

The poster with the complete cast that included MANY famous Argentine Actors and Actresses

The play is a twisted tale of a very f-upped family on a lot of drugs and alcohol and everyone is sleeping with everyone. OK, that is an exaggeration, but the older generations responsibilities lead to some accidental incest among the younger generation, there is almost some rape, and LOTS of fighting so it was pretty wild. I was pretty excited to find that while I missed most of the jokes and was very confused about the family tree until intermission when we could look at the playbill, with the help of those next to me I had a pretty general idea about what was going on. Yay for Spanish immersion!!!! It was also kind of cool to know that we had seen this famous play with a very famous Argentine cast for less than ten dollars when it is SOOO much more on Broadway. Of course I would have understood the 75% I missed last week, but who is really counting.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Feet

It's been a few weeks more than six years since I went to Costa Rica on a school trip, but the experience continues to effect me to this day. I'll spare you the cliché-laced description of how it shifted my world view and reordered my priorities in many ways, and stick to something a little more topical: while in Costa Rica, I first learned how to salsa. Despite the awful stereotype that Jews have no rhythm - these people obviously have never been to a Jewish dance - I consider myself well suited and quite comfortable moving my body to the beat of music, but as I please. Don't get me wrong, I'm no (fill in the blank of either Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Usher, etc.), but neither am I like this. So when I first confronted with the intimidating dance that is salsa (and in this same trip, merengue), I mastered the rudimentary steps and could feel that clever devil known as confidence creeping down towards my sliding feet and shaking my hips from side to side. All in all I felt 100% ok about my progress, that is until I stepped aside and let my host brother show us how it's done with his sister. The music commenced and they fluidly matched each others' movements in a perfect balance. Turns, spins, more turns, more spins, and beauty followed. Good salsa dancers are a site to behold, I assure you. It all looked so natural, I envied their skills so much.

Fast forward to the Saturday evening before last, when we all came together to celebrate our friend Felipe's birthday. First, a word about Felipe: he's our Frisbee coach (not to be mistaken with our Frisbee captain, Diego), and after that fateful first day of Ultimate almost 10 months ago, I wasn't sure what to think of him. Truthfully, I was a little intimidated; I was the new guy, he was obviously more experienced and knew everyone. He was never mean to me, but this was one of our first interactions: I went in for one possession during the game, dropped an easy throw which immediately led to a score, Felipe told me to go back to the sidelines, I wholeheartedly accepted. But over time he has proven to be one of our strongest and most consistent friends. He still has that competitive fire from when we first met, but now I realize it's the on-field personae of someone who is creative, caring, and coquettish off it. And another thing about Felipe: he loves to dance salsa. He's from Colombia, where it seems exquisite salsa dancers grow like corn in the midwest, and for his birthday he wanted to find a club where we could dance salsa. So after a delicious dinner at San Telmo-famous Des Nivel, we headed out to a salsa dance school where our other friend Stephanie (not to be confused with our Fanie) was holding her despedida. We arrived around 1:45 but I don't think I started dancing until 2 or so - let's just say that while Quilmes does not necessarily give me that aforementioned confidence, it's definitely a good bait to lure it out of its hiding place. I did my fair share of salsa-ing with Julia, Paola, and even Felipe, and by no means did I embarrass myself or my family name, but I felt painfully over matched by the other gentlemen whose feet and hips so naturally swayed from side-to-side, back and forth, without even thinking.

Part of it's definitely because I dance salsa once every 2 months and each time only retain about 20% of the skill/confidence from the previous session; but more importantly, dancing is something that we as citizens of the United States who come from European descent do not learn at a young age. The same could be said for fútbol, which is why we're painfully behind the rest of the world in the only global game on the planet, but while we were busy watching Saved by the Bell, reading The Boxcar Children, many if not most Latin American children were learning to salsa, meringue, or any other dance. North American children would be embarrassed to learn how to dance from their mothers or fathers, paired with their brothers in sister; Latin American children embrace the chance. I don't intend to over generalize, and I consider what I'm saying to be a compliment because I'm intensely jealous of this aspect of Latin American upbringing. I wish dancing salsa were so natural to me, that I wasn't falling over myself trying to keep move my hips side-to-side and forward-to-back at the same time, all while leading an experienced dancer in front of me through the varying twists and turns the dance requires. To reach the point of comfort I would have to increase my salsa-ing ten fold, something I don't think will happen, but who knows. It's at these times I really wish we lived in the Matrix so Felipe could install the steps and collective memory of all salsa dancers in my brain in a matter of seconds. Also, then I could dunk.

Or I could find a magic pair of shoes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wet Wednesday

Que pena esta la lluvia!!! This rain is a pain in my cola!!!!
When it rains in Buenos Aires its like snow in DC. Nothing works and everything is postponed until the incessant downpour lightens to a less drenching state. Lately, Dan and I have been taking lessons from the same Spanish teacher (the lovely Veronica). Yesterday Dan was scheduled to take a shockingly early (well for him) class at 9:30 and I was to follow at 10:30. I woke up to torrential downpour, thunder, and a text from Veronica saying she her train was delayed. I snuggled deeper into the very warm covers. I next received a text saying the subte was delayed! Her last text was to say that we would have to make up the class and an email asking me about our Friday class was the last either of us have heard of her!
Since then, I've had students canceling all over me, and I've been late due to the weather and the return of my serious back pain. Maybe the back pain always coincides with rain? A theory, we'll have to wait and see about that one. Kinda like my churipan mixed with too much sun rash. This city does wierd things to my body.
But it is decidedly so that we will be spending as little time outside as possible because when its not raining there is a cold wind that I keep reminding myself is nothing like a northeast of the US in winter, but is cold enough to make me dread leaving the house even with hat, gloves and scarf. That is until the arrival of Alex and Trevor!!!!!! Even though we just had a visitor (Joe Barret: Mass. resident and buddy of Josh's brother) the return of Alex to Casa Cochobamba has been eagerly awaited by all, and her boyfriend Trevor and some of his freinds will be a welcome addition. They are even going to be here on my birthday (coming up soon!!!) so that promises to make it a crazier birthday than hoped or desired. Oh well, its BA so I'll go with it. Hopefully their arrival will scare away this nasty July weather!!!!!! Oh and three Thursdays till I board my flight to the US!!! I can't believe it!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Morning Muse

Monday morning is grey and chilly, and water droplets drip down most of the windows as it is thankfully warmer inside than out. Most of us had slept in Efie's room last night because the party downstairs for dia de los amigos was too loud. Even on the roof I could hear the thumping of Sweet Dreams are Made of These, and Like a Virgin as every yells "WOooooHHH!!!" in the middle of every chorus right before Madonna claims he makes her feel like she's being touched for the very first time. I come back downstairs with Josh as he gets up for work and snuggle with the covers trying to get another hour of sleep before going to the bank to cash a check that we desperately need cashed so we can eat today but that I'm dreading cashing because I have to go to a bank a half hour trip from here. There are things racing through my mind, which is unusual for me since I moved here. Normally I sleep the sleep of the innocent with not a thing passing through my conscious as I drift easily away, but at this moment I know there is no more sleep for me so I get up to make some breakfast. Amazingly I am hungry even though I ate half a pizza last night. The pizza was homemade by our friend Noel who is also a professional chef and makes pizza even better than Ulises. Of course the sauce Josh made was also a key ingredient.
Someone has already done the bulk of the cleaning from last night, I'm guessing after everyone left and right before they fell into bed and passed out in the new silence that ensues when the computer is shut, the bass is given a rest and our neighbors and us can finally fall asleep and the last guess is walked downstairs and the door locked behind them.
Putting away the dishes is like playing Tetris backwards, a perfectly piled mess that I am careful to disassemble for fear of the startling sound of crashing dishes in this amazingly quiet house. I go around and close all the windows now that the smell of stale cigarettes has been dispersed for now and get to the business of making breakfast. Fried egg on toast with butter and marmite accompanied by some maté cocido should do the trick and I set about timing it all correctly so that the tea and the food are both perfectly hot when I eat them. I pick at raisins left over from yesterday's oatmeal raisin cookies that I sold yesterday at the market as I soak up the solitude like I would sun on a warm day in Argentina's July knowing it won't last for long.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eco Reserve at Sunset

Here are some lovely photos from a quick walk we took to the Ecological Reserve on Friday before Shabbat:

The highway to nowhere - so Argentine

Camilla's smiling British face - In case you forgot it

La Gripe A: Its kinda a big deal

La Gripe Porcina is kinda a big deal. People know her. Her apartment smells like rich mahogany....ok, too far, but La Gripe A does seem to have bogarted all of the advertising space in the city of late. It has also given me the opportunity to teach a class from home because the office I go to Wednesdays at 1 pm every week is closed for two weeks to prevent an epidemic. The schools all closed two weeks early for winter break, and everyone used La Gripe to turn last weekend into a four day weekend with Thursday off for Independence day and Friday a National Gripe day. As I said, its kinda a big deal. The death toll has been climbing and of late La Gripe has claimed over one hundred souls in this country. I don't know anyone with it, but I do know people who know people who have it.

The city's advice: Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover you mouth and nose with a mask, in case of symptoms like fever, cough, or something stay in your room - permanently, and don't self-medicate - go to the doctor!)
My advice, fortify yourself with dulce de leche, medialunas, steak and maté (of course don't share your bonbilla though!) and play Ultimate. Then eat more dulce de leche.

For a really well written and accurate account of the scandal surrounding La Gripe and politics check out Andrew's Blog and his post on La Gripe Porcine.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A New Chapter

And thus begins a new chapter in the lives of Julia and Josh's Trip to South America (one day we will leave Argentina and fulfill this promise to visit other unknown lands of this southern continent). The nine month anniversary of our arrival came and went as any other Tuesday would have. I went to work at eight am and taught another class at four. We ate homemade pizza and empanadas for dinner and had guests. However, as we ask on Passover, why was this night different from all other nights? Because one of the new people at our big wooden table that weighs more than Santi was not a guest but our new flatmate Stephanie (aka Fanie). To get ready for her arrival I rearranged her furniture and built her a closet (my specialty: fruit crate furniture - one day this will be more than a hobby) and thought the place looked a bit more homey.
She arrived at night and slipped in like Cinderella's foot in that glass slipper. Her immersion into the house was seamless and yet is noted in the considerably lessened Frat House atmosphere that had been cultured in the petri dish that is Casa Cochobamba when Brian lived here and I was the only female occupant. I have found myself making crude frat joke of late, and the arrival of this vibrant female could not have come at a better time.
To say the least, I am fond of this girl and her arrival comes at a great point to metaphorically end one chapter and begin another of our lives here. Sorry, there was no cliff hanger. I'll try harder next time for the suspense novel enthusiasts.
It also happened to be the end of the fall league in Ultimate and it ended with a tournament to see which team deserved best team in the league bragging rights. I'll save you the suspense on this one. Its not us. Actually, we are the worst team in Argentina when looking at the stats, but Frisbee is of course about so much more, so I still like to think of us as the best at everything else that matters like churipan eating and beer guzzling.
So Saturday was one of my worst days that I've had in a while. We played Big Red. I knew this team had been training, but man did it show. They kicked our little tucheses. And while I never enjoy loosing the day was more of a personal struggle for me. I was ill equipped to handle the Big Red girls. They all arrived in Argentina with more experience than me, they are all faster than me, and they all have been training a lot harder than me. Don't get me wrong, I've been to all our practices, but our coach hasn't been able to make them for months, and my rapid improvement has slowed of late. As my breaths became more rapid and more difficult to make, I felt the frustrated kind of tears rising up in the back of my throat. All I needed was a good five minutes on the sideline to take some water and calm down a bit but seeing as we only have two girls that was not an option. So cry a little I did and this led to more frustration at what a baby I was being and the rest of the game was a struggle to get through and I was happy when the game finally ended at 3-15. When I found out the next game was at 10 am Sunday morning I started to complain like only I know how and kept on going till 10 am the next morning. Josh's patience was at its breaking point and I had succeeded in making him almost as miserable as I was.
But the sun was out, and my aching body loosened as Nick lead us in our first few laps around the field. I had forgotten how much fun Discosur is to play even if Sabina runs around like a wild banshee and tires me out like a bucking bronco. My habitual smile returned to my face and I thoroughly enjoyed the game even though I again had to play for the whole game. We didn't loose nearly as badly this time, and afterwards there was the promise of a giant meat sandwich!!!
Nick, Josh and I hobbled over to the Parilla that is our home away from home and ordered our various sandwiches. Josh got Lomito, I got bondiola, and then we traded halvsies for variety.
I love me some meat sandwich

I also came to the conclusion that I am officially a bondiola fan and will now be able to focus all my energies on my sandwich of choice. This realization is kinda a big deal...
Beers in hand we watched the finals on the sidelines with members of Discosur and I got to enjoy a beautiful afternoon while watching some of the best Ultimate I've ever seen. It was great to hang out with all my friends from Discosur after an absence of hangout time of late, and we passed the afternoon in that most enjoyable way.
We left after a round of team photos and 130ed it all the way back to San Telmo where I caught some much needed nap time on the couch while we waited for Nick and friends to arrive. Finally, we headed to the park to toss a football and play a little wiffle ball while drinking maté with two random 16 year old porteñas. Why not take the best of what both worlds have to offer? We wiffled until dark and headed back for what turned into a party. Shocking, I know. A party in Casa Cochobamba? Unheard of. We were 12 in all, so Fanie, Camilla and I headed to Leader Price to aid Stephanie in her first attempt to feed the masses. Along the way we stopped to watch a little Tango in Plaza Dorrego and bumped into our old student Alejandro, and waved hi to many of our new vendor friends as we wandered down Defensa. It felt cool to be in with the vendor croud, the only crowd really worth being in with in my book.
At Leader Price Fany
bought all the ingredients she needed for 60 pesos! and we headed back to make stir fry.
As the cooking commenced beer pong competitions broke out. The onda was hot and the beer plentiful. Amazingly we fit everyone around the table and we feasted on Phanie's culinary commencement.
Of course things went from great to amazing and a dance party ensued. The strobe light was on, as was Michael Jackson. I somehow wound up going to Amerika, finally my first adventure in a gay club, and I somehow found a leeeeetle bit of energy to shake my tusch with the rest of 'em. I then somehow lost a close game of rock paper scissors to Dan and ended up doing to MC Hammer on the little wooden stage in the middle of the dance floor, and then Dan tricked me into walking miles to the 29 but he sweetened the deal with empanadas. I was in ecstasy as I fell into my bed at four am and with my last drops of pilas (energy) I pulled the covers up to my chin and fell fast asleep.

Wiffle: pronounce it Wiflé in Spanish and you sound and look so much cooler

Friday, July 10, 2009

Crisis Averted

I mentioned a somewhat recent post that I've been studying to take the LSATS, which are actually offered here in Buenos Aires. I took the test back in December of 2007, but did not invest the necessary time and effort to reach my potential score. I knew I could do much better, and always planned on taking them again if I were to apply to law school. Apparently, there are enough expats, (children of) diplomats, and/or Argentines like me looking to attend law school in the States to administer a test this September, but not enough for a December date, too. Regardless of which date, taking them on either would allow me to apply to law school for the fall of 2010, even on the chance I don't enroll at that time. Upon figuring out I could take the test down here and not have to wait until I return to the States, I dispatched a messenger (Nick) to North America to fetch me prep materials so I could commence my studies. I've been going strong for the past month or so, making visible progress in the turd sandwich of all turd sandwiches, the Analytical Reasoning section of the test, better known as puzzles or games. But this boludo of all boludos stupidly put off actually signing up for the test until Tuesday night, assuming it would be fine as long as I did so before the first deadline, after which they tack on a hefty fee. As such foreshadowing may give away, it was not all fine and well: the test center had filled up, so I put my name on the waiting list and hoped for the best.

Honestly, my hopes were not too high. I've never had good luck with waitlists, getting rejected from two different school's waitlists while applying to college. Plus, who the hell signs up for the LSATS in Buenos Aires unless they intend on taking them? While retelling my predicament to Nick, he told me that one of his friends informed him he or she might be coming to Buenos Aires just to take the LSATS. I didn't like my odds one bit, and my other options weren't much better. The test is available on both dates in Honduras, but I'm guessing those who signed up for either of those will be getting a rain check sometime soon. Potential lawyers in training can also take the test in Brasil in September and December, yet that would require purchasing a tourist visa that will run you $150.oo USD, which combined with the fee to take the test would add up to nearly $300.00 USD, and that's without even thinking about airfare. I'm financially restricted from traveling to Brasil as it is, much less while paying an extra $135.000 USD, so that option was not feasible, the same went for going back to the US to take the test.

I was telling my student about my situation this morning and it afforded me the chance to teach him a good phrase: game changer. If I can't take the test in September of December, I can only apply to law school with my previous, underachieving scores from almost two years ago, something I was not ready to do, which would eliminate a possible call back date, which would definitely alter the nature of my stay in Argentina. Fall 2010 could turn into fall 2011, which could turn into fall see where this is going. My future was in the balance, I was face to face with a serious crisis.

I've kept studying for the past few days, hoping some good fortune would eventually come my way and that I would get in. And again, as such foreshadowing may give away, my luck changed shortly after explaining the situation to my student this morning. I wandered into McDonalds for my regular inter-class reading/coffee/breakfast sandwich break when I got an email telling me I had come off the wait list and had a spot in the test room. McDonald's coffee has never tasted better, I assure you, since I skyrocketed to Cloud Nineteen, feeling so much better about my future which once held more restricted options. Who knows what will happen, but now I'm back to playing with a full hand. Add to that the fact that I picked up some more hours today at 35 pesos an hour - that's right, I'm getting dangerously close to earning $10.00 USD an hour - and you could call it one of the better days I've had in a while. Now all I've got to do is study my law loving butt off so another underwhelming score doesn't limit my options for 2010, because that would be a real crisis.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Newbie

First there was Ted, and then came the forgettable Frenchman Florencio, only to be followed by Uncle Brian. But now, after weeks of dormancy, the room on the roof is proud to present to you Miss Stefanie DeAngelo! Yes, at long last we once again occupy a full nest after my friend from home arrived in Buenos Aires Tuesday night. Surprise surprise, she's here to teach English, but luckily she got the memo that the late spring is not the best time to try and establish yourself in that trade and came with plenty of time to get plenty of work before summer vacation hits and the city empties. I've actually known Stefanie for at least 20 of my 23.5 years, since our parents met and worked together shortly after mine moved to the Berkshires. We were amongst an impressive (not so much in numbers as quality of personalities) group of children who grew up in the Thomson's backyard in the late 80's - early 90's, but our paths diverged for the next decade or so given we went to different schools. In actuality, we only reunited after my junior year (her sophomore, she's a grade behind but nearly 2 years younger) when we went to Costa Rica in the summer of 2003. Ever since we've been much closer, and now she's come to live with us in Buenos Aires. We welcomed her with homemade pizza and empanada night, complete with Quilmes and electronic music, and she's already started to mesh really well. So for all you reading at home, here's a new person with whom you wish everyone get familiar with her name, because she's now a supporting character in our blog. Welcome Stef!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One and Other

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with South America, Josh, or myself.

Maybe England isn't so bad after all. Actual, London is looking pretty f-ing cool right now besides all the fashion and cool underground bands that Nylon brags about. Instead of a giant statue, the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square is now being occupied by a different person every hour who gets to do whatever they want for a whole hour. You can even get naked!! (Although if its art it would be you can even get nude!!! I think...) I read about it yesterday in the New York Times and found the One and Other website that features a live web cam with 24 hour video footage of the fourth plinth. I'm obsessed and I think Josh is tired of me talking about it so I turn to you all in hopes that someone thinks this is as cool as I do!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Hi, let me introduce you to my friend Skype. She is this amazing service that many of you have downloaded on your computer, and you have some vague idea of how amazing it is, but did you know about the amazing feature that allows you to automatically sign into Skype when you turn your computer on? A similar feature exists in the AIM program. I know you've all used that one. Well I invite you all to automatically sign into your Skype accounts so that we can communicate more often.
I am the first to admit that I have a reputation for being bad at keeping in touch. This I know to be true. But the amazing thing about Skype is that its just like a telephone, and that while I can't call you guys as often as I'd like, by automatically signing on we could all talk to each other so much more often. Even for five minutes. And I know I'm the one that decided to move to Argentina and put this great strain on our friendships, but with Skype this doesn't have to be! The whole skype date thing can be cool, but seeing as I'm me I sometimes forget, or something comes up and I can't make it in time. Things happen.
Anyway, I just wanted to make it clear that if you are on Skype I will communicate with you, I'll do all the initiating if you meet me half way and have it automatically sign on. Now I know there are a few of you who already do this, and you have no idea how much it means to me to be able to give you a quick call to see how you are doing. Tonight is our nine month anniversary here there are many of you I haven't spoken to in quite some time so do go on Skype more often. Please...

This could be us

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tribute To Erin Greene

I met Erin Greene during my first week of "Julia and Josh's Trip to South America" in week one of TEFL course (an adventure consisting of getting ripped off). After my first day I confided in Josh that I was afraid I had forgotten how to make friends and that it was harder than I remembered. As the weeks progressed this worry became a forgotten memory and amazingly lots of people wanted to be friends with us. One of these people was Erin.
Our friendship began slowly as good friendships do, and for me it began with admiration. Erin was one of the three other girls born in my decade that had come here on their own without knowing a soul. I was amazed by her bravery and hoped I would have done the same knowing I might not have.
As friendships do, ours grew, and we saw each other often. In the good old days we would get coffee or drink white wine with sausages on the roof of our old apartment. As we got poorer we hung out even more but consumed less luxurious food and beverages while our conversations were richer than ever. I slowly learned more and more about my first close friend from Vermont. We talked about the past, the present and especially the future over cups of tea (for her a digestivo and for me a maté cocido and then lately over cups of ginger lemon tea) and medialunas. Finally I had found someone to "reflect" with after being rejected angrily by my sister many times while attempting to verbally wander around the things that had occurred in my short time on Earth. While the rest of our friends at home thought we were on perma-vacay, we discussed the trials and tribulations of our lives down here, because that's what we had discovered it had become. "I have a life down here now," we would say. We had worked hard to create social networks not realizing how hard a task it would prove to be, forever going to interviews and suffering the many disappointments and the few successes that come from working for institutes or the many other crappy options available for expats with less than amazing Spanish.
We bonded over our poverty and our inability to go out to eat, buy an article of clothing or go for a beer. And through it all, and despite our meager budgets, we cooked wonderful diners and on occasions even managed to drink too much cheap wine. Other times we went for one of our many walks and observed and discussed our observations made about this country that is so different from our own.
Standing in her kitchen we made note of the fact that being poor sucks, and that my previous intentions of never having too much money after reading Walden were quite silly. It wasn't that we wanted to own cars or expensive clothes. We just thought it would be cool to be able to buy a piece of art, or go to the theater every once in a while.
In her last two weekends here Erin became more than a friend. She became my business partner in our baked goods business and walked with me up and down calle Defensa shamlessley selling our baked goods in chef hats and guarding the cookies and our faces from the unwanted kisses of the unwashed and drunken vendors that had interest in things other than our baking. We loved the non guilty feeling of buying something something afterwards! How fun to see something you want and to buy it then and there.
Erin told me she was leaving about a week and a half ago, and I think I was in denial until I waved goodbye to her with my for once manicured hands (we treated outselves to this luxury on Friday while shopping in Palermo) through the tinted windows of her taxi. I went over to her place one last time today for empanandas and ice cream (dairy overload in the name of friendship). As all others who have left me here she left me with a bag of stuff like shampoo and the cotton balls I've been too lazy to buy for nine months. But Erin left me with so much more, and I will treasure these things long after the shampoo is gone and the books she left me have been read and passed on to someone else. She is an amazing friend, and as always when I meet someone like her I felt lucky that our feelings of amistad are mutual.
As her taxi pulled away I wiped a tear and headed to the 29 with a bag of her stuff and a head full of memories that will not be forgotten. Erin, we will all miss you, but I think I will miss you most! You have made my time here better even if we are incapable of speaking Spanish when out together. We have joked about people replacing you, but it won't happen. Selfishly, I wanted you to stay, but I know we will see you soon. Hopefully by then we can still bond over dinner about what we want to be when we grow up but hopefully with a little more cash in our pockets for champagne.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Forth of Joooolllllllllyyyyyyyy

Happy Fourth everyone, and a happy fourth it was here in Casa Cochobamba. While it is technically winter, a strange climate from a gringa who is used spending this special day in her bathing suit, the weather was beautiful and as long as the sun remained above the horizon it was warm enough to grill and hang out on the roof. We invited all the gringos we know and then a few extra showed up, not to mention a slew of people who were not from the States who also wanted to celebrate the Independence of our fabulous country

Yes we can Brian, yes we can drink only Budwiser which isn't even an American beer anymore and brewed aca.

This guy (Alex) is 1/2 from the US and not afraid to show it

These guys are 100% not from the States and Camilla (in the middle) is the OPRESSOR!!!
From the left: Rojelio (Erin's roommate), Camilla (the evil Brit) and Luis (Tucker's friend)

Tucker, loves the Budwiser so much he matched his clothes to it

Our teraza in use even though its winter

Jeremy, 100% British and proud dressed up in our colors that we totally stole from his kind, fashionable and fabulous as usual

Wouldn't be America day if it weren't for FRIES!!!! (not chips British folk!)

Erin and I getting ready to play beer pong: stretching required

¡stretch dancing that is!

I was glad someone took the dress code as seriously as I did

Our new friend Kirt made a FLAG CAKE!!!!!

Dan gets serious about preventing swine flu

In the end it comes down to this: To guys from the US sitting on the couch enjoying some Bud. Maybe life down here isn't so different after all.

Of course our day time party switched into a night time party as people showed up to hang out before going out to Hotel Voodoo. The porteños loved beer pong, and for once someone in our vicinity was playing music louder than we were. The party ended early by our standards and as the kids went out Josh and I hit the sack. While others may be stronger than I, I am incapable of partying from 4 in the afternoon till 6 am. I have to draw the line somewhere though, no?

Photos from the Contemporary Ballet

Photos from the Contemporary Ballet

Looking sharp

Photos from the first piece

Taking a bow

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Peña Mania!

Tears were shed, meat was consumed, wine was downed, and guitars were strummed last night at Peña de Colorado where we headed for Erin's despedida dinner. Having never been to a Peña I was very excited to see this traditional Argentine dining option. A Peña is a place where one can go to dine on typical Argentine fare and as the night wears on and the vino keeps emptying itself into people's ever extended glasses, the guitars come out and patrons begin to sing and play traditional folk songs from Argentina.
We were a big group of 12 , a mix of people from the US, England and Argentina going to show how many people from how many different backgrounds Erin has not only met, but who liked her enough to join her at a restaurant and part with some of our precious pesos to enjoy a big dinner with her one last time.
Cast of characters:

Josh, Erin and Rogelio (Erin's flatmate)

Myself and Jeremy

Erin, Rogelio, Yasmin and her boyfriend Sebastian

We ordered and shared some delicious Bife de Chorizo, Vacio, Provoleta, lamb empanandas, salad and dessert. Oh, and lots and lots of red wine. Oh do it to me every time...
After dinner and sometime towards the end of dessert, guitars magically appeared in the hands of two men at the table behind us and song books were pulled out of backpacks. They started singing beautiful folk songs, and their pepper and salt haired friend sang harmony while holding one ear and staring at me. It was creepy and Jeremy made fun of him mercilessly. More guitars appeared and other tables joined in on the action and I wished I had known the songs so I could join in as well. When I swaggered over to the bathroom I discovered a back room with more people, more guitars, and more folk songs. I love that this stuff isn't for the tourists, but for the Argentines themselves who all seem to be talented and who aren't ashamed to sing in public. All I could think of besides my full bladder was how much I love this country.
I only cried a little when we toasted Erin, and after we paid our complicated bill we headed back to Erin and Rogelio's for some more wine and then Dan, Josh and I took the twenty-nine home and arrived at the house around five am. It was a great evening and I had a wonderful time. I am still in serious denial about the fact that Erin is leaving but at least we still have one more day to sell banana bread together before she leaves.

An end of an era

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Workout Plan

One of Manzi's distinctive and quite possibly funniest features when she arrived in Casa Cochabamba was her backside. Let me put it this way: the girl was operating with some serious junk in her doggy trunk. For such a small pup, she had such a disproportionately large butt, and she would uncontrollably shake what her Mama gave her as she walked. Coupled with her equally active, stubby tail, the simple act of her walking would crack me up. Now that the rest of her body has caught up to her early blooming behind, neither the size nor the shaking are as noticeable, although the latter comes out (along with trickles of urine - oh puppies) when someone returns home.

But therein lies the problem - her once svelte figure that merely looked bigger due to her Dr. J-esque afro is now approaching Lane Bryant For Puppies territory! Nearly everyone who frequents the house on a semi-regular basis makes note of her increase in girth, remarking "Ay, ¡está gorda!", or "¡Que gorda está!". It's worth noting that Argentines will affectionately use gordo (fat one), viejo (old person), loco (crazy person), and boludo (stupid person) as nicknames for friends, and flaco (skinny person) for a friend or in reference to an unknown person, but when we call her "gorda" it's because, well, she's gotten a noticeably tubby.

Most if not all of this trend can be blamed on us: while we cannot account for genetics - hence "shake what her Mama gave her", which could have been bad genes in addition to a generous helping of ass, chances are we spoil her food-wise (we have just switched to actual dog food after a month or so of cooked chicken, beef, liver, veggies, rice, and other dog-friendly items we eat ourselves). And since she hasn't gotten all her shots yet (also not our fault), she can't go out to the street or park for walks, resulting in a somewhat sedentary lifestyle where she gets exercise from the occasions when someone comes home and she sprints to the door. Today I tried to change that by giving her a workout on the latest mountain she has conquered: our stairs. I planned on having her go up and down the stairs five times to start, but on her second descent she started yelping between steps - she's had a nagging injury to the front-left paw that acted up. I thought she'd gotten over it, but evidently it's still bothering her and severely limits her capacity for strenuous activity. So I will wait until she gets better, or gets her shots, so she can lose her proverbial "freshman 15".

I can identify with the young pup because I've also been nursing a few injuries. In fact, I've gone three weeks now without running more than a few meters due to a bum knee and a (I guess) strained hip flexor. My knee had been bothering me for a few weeks previous, but I kept playing for three reasons: our team, even with me there, struggled to field enough players to hold proper games, so my absence would have meant forfeit. The other two reasons why I kept playing can be attributed my high tolerance for pain and ultra competitiveness. Julia calls stubborness, or stupidity, but hey, I saw to-may-toe, you say to-ma-toe. I finally took a break after the latter injury, which occurred while running at full speed and hitting an uneven patch of grass that caused one of those lovely athletic situations in which one half of your body moves in one direction and the other violently goes in the exact opposite direction with my left hip flexor suffering the consequences. It was so bad later that day that I could not lift my left leg without doing so manually. Walking, especially up stairs, was quite difficult. My normally upbeat gait turned ginger and pain accompanied many a step. Frisbee Thursdays, Saturdays, or Sundays became tortures sessions. All I could do was sit on the sidelines while others competed or simply enjoyed the sunny days by running around, something I simply could not do even though both injuries do feel better. I've done my best to maintain a regular exercise schedule of sit-ups and push-ups so as not to fall completely out of shape, but I miss running and jumping. Luckily we've had a giant influx of new players in the past few weeks, and I hope to come back from my time on the disabled list to help them out in the coming days when we will try to shock the world and win our play-offs as the last seed. Pray for us, we may (really) need your help. And if my injuries flare up, I may have to postpone all athletic activities until Manzi gets her shots, at which point we can both begin our new workout plan.

Also, happy 4th of July everyone reading in the States! I've tried to convey the importance this day should carry for all mankind but the Argentines are reluctant to adopt my way of thinking. Oh well, do expect a blog post with pictures galore documenting the glorious day. America!

Ballet Contemporáneo del Teatro San Martin

My good friend Erin is leaving, but more on that later. To make the most of her (gasp) last week in Buenos Aires we decided to check out Teatro San Martin. While exploring el sito de web we came across the Ballet Contemporáneo del Teatro San Martin and we were sold. We headed out last night accompanied by Josh for the 8:30 show. Even though the web site said the tickets would cost $25 they were actually $35 but that was the only disappointing moment of the evening.

The building that houses Teatro San Martin is in Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires and is one of many venues in a big but not super nice building. The theater itself was clearly old but our seats were right in the middle and we had a wonderful unadulterated view of the low stage.
We committed the faux pas of not paying our Usher a tip for the program and got the dirtiest look I've received on this continent, but when we figured out the cause of it by watching other patrons and we didn't feel badly enough to make up for it. I'll be ready next time though.

The performance was in three parts.
The first was called "Rotunda" and began with the company running around in a circle on the stage. There was a lit up circle on the floor with lines that served as paths for the dancers to use as they left the circle to cross paths, change places, or do a quick dance move before returning back to the circle of sprinting dancers. The girls wore cheeky (as in you saw a lot of cheek and not the kind on the face) short silk dresses and the guys wore t-shirts and pants and everyone wore jazz shoes which I'm sure made the fact that they were sprinting for 20 minutes straight a little easier. As the dance progressed it got more and more complex with more dancers leaving the circle and doing crazy things, and then they broke out of the circle and did more cool and crazy running. Well, it was really cool and I can't believe they could remember such complex coreography. I also never really noticed anyone panting so I'm guessing they all had to quit smoking for a while because I could never have run like that for that long and I'm not a smoker. Pretty impressive.

came next after a short intermission. This piece was a couples based piece and the women were dressed again in short silk dresses but these looked more like night wear while the men wore pants and deep v's. Like...really deep v's... The stage had too large lamps hanging from the ceiling and a rectangle of light displayed against the back wall, and the piece began with the dancers spread out over the stage. Some were on the floor, some lounging on one of the two couchy benches, and some were standing. The first to move was a man wearing antlers. We still haven't figured that one out. As the dance progressed the couples would switch, or join together, but the sensual slow and then fast, combative and then harmonious dancing between the couples was beautiful. The almost frail looking female dancers would be like puddy in the hands of their male counterpart and then in the next moment they would be the one controlling the dance, taking the man by his head or foot and swinging his body around hers, pushing or pulling him away. I thought it was beautiful, sad, and happy. I would find myself smiling without meaning to. In the end the antlers came back and then the lit rectangle had phrases in Spanish about body parts touching, and I totally missed that the couple dancing on the side had shed the majority of their clothing and only wore bottoms. The piece ended with the half naked couple writhing and moving together and ended in a collapse on the floor and darkness.

Lejos - From Far Away ended the night. Its a famous dance by Mauricio Wainrot that has been performed all over the world.

The costumes were more of what we expected from a contemporary dance piece, and it was the piece with the most ballet. It was breathtaking to say the least. Much more group dancing, with traditional movement across the stage or moves like the one above. This piece showed off the real potential of our bodies and the mind. The choreography was some of the best I've seen and the dancers showed us how beautiful the human form can be with clean long lines, and perfection in control and movement. The whole thing was jaw dropping. OK, so I really liked it. I also couldn't stop thinking about how much my sister would have enjoyed it and how much I wished she was there with me. Now that I know about this theater every guest I have will be taking a trip to it for one thing or another!