Monday, August 31, 2009

The Dog Days of...Late Winter?

I remember about 3 months ago, just before winter began, when Nick excitedly told me: “Alright, here comes mate season”. That’s not to say that Argentines don’t enjoy mate year-round, irrespective of the season, just like British people with tea and North Americans with chicken sandwiches in which the chicken is the bun; rather, he was looking forward to the cooler weather that would make drinking mate an even more desirable pastime. Now, it’s worth noting that Nick is one of those lunatics (aka people from Vermont) that revel in lowering temperatures, but his point was not lost on me: Buenos Aires would get cold. And even though it took a while, it was legitimately cold for days at a time. I’m not talking about the brick-cold of the northeast, where in high school we actually observed a “cold day” because the temperatures were dangerously low for students waiting for the bus, but definitely cold to the point where I almost paid for my habitual under dressing. It became normal to wear a winter hat to Frisbee practices during the day, and practices at night were approaching unbearable. Some days were even rainy and cold, my least favorite combo. But, sure enough, I would often look forward to escaping the elements and sitting down with a steaming mate (which, taken out of context and read as an English word, could be quite unseemly). For the first time in sixteen months, I had to experience winter, albeit a tamer version.

Those days, my friends, have fallen by the wayside. Although today produced in-climate weather that is more winter-like, the forecast for the rest of the week looks like that of last week: sunny, mostly clear skies, low 80's. Late last week I spent my morning on the terraza enjoying the uncharacteristically warm weather, Manzi by my side. After exerting energy by running around in circles for no apparent reason, she was forced to seek refuge under the lounge chair and then under the table. And for the first time in my relationship with Manzita, I witnessed her pant. That's right, our puppy is outside and panting in the middle of winter. Just one reason I enjoy living in Buenos Aires...that is until it gets oppressively hot and I can't leave the house without losing five-pounds of water-weight.

Speaking of our devilish hound, Manzi finally received the vaccinations necessary to take her outside, and we wasted no time in taking advanage of it yesterday afternoon by bringing her to the park. She met the wide world outside Casa Cochabamba with a hint of trepidation, at first preferring to be carried rather than walk on her own, but before long she was at ease walking at our heels. As Julia noted, since we've had Manzi since she was so young we really are her parents and she can't imagine life without us, which therefore makes her less of a flight risk than other dogs might be. Thus we brought out Manzi sans leash without a problem. She trotted alongside us and obediently stopped at each of the two street crossings, waiting until we told her she could go. We sat in the grass and she calmly sat with us, occasionally barking at people walking by but desisting after a few yelps. She and I even did a quick lap around the park, with her beside or behind me all the while. It showed last night, when she was completely exhausted from her big day exploring the world. True, she continues to do her business wherever she pleases, but hopefully we can get her outside more and start training her fickle bladder. And if this weather continues, she'll have loads more dog days of summer to do so before the season even arrives.

Club Cultural Matienzo

Last night I had the distinct pleasure to accompany Stephanie to the Matienzo Cultural Center in Palermo. I had idea what to expect, but I was on my way to one of the cooler "hole-in-the-wall" (favorite new expression that I have taught to Marina) locations that I have been to in this city. The cultural center is located in an old house and has various rooms filled with various degrees of furniture. There were a few people lounging on couches, eating food prepared from the house's kitchen that functions as a small cafe, or drinking beers. Most people there, however, were there for the Sunday night movie which was held on the roof top giving us a chance to enjoy the cooling breeze that would soon be bringing the Santa Rosa (a famous storm that visits the same time every year. The seating arrangements were rows of beach chairs and thin mattresses with pillows on the floor, and the small roof was filled with very cool looking people (what the Argentines call Bo-bo which is short for Bohemian bourgeoisie and we eagerly shared our favorite version of the phrase: bougie bi**h. Their's is nicer sounding). The movie that night was Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a movie about an East German who's sex operation goes wrong and become a punk rock star in the states. Oh, and its a musical keeping in theme with their Sunday night theme: Héroes Musicales.
We were invited by Steph's student/amigo David and I was happy to make a new friend, see a movie I'd never seen, and discover a cool new place all at once!!! I can't wait till next Sunday. At 6 pesos, comfy beach chairs and free baskets of popcorn the evening is not only a good deal but very fun. The rooftop is also beautifully painted with trippy flying pigs among other things and an inspiration to what could be done with our own drab roof top terrace...hmmm....could be good. I'll get back to you all about that idea.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Passion, so in Fashion

Sorry I haven't posted, we've been sans Internet for a few days now...don't ask...

Returning to Buenos Aires was like jumping into a pool with 70 degree water. You wait, you hover, you avoid, you retie your bathing suit, you almost dread impact. Then you take the plunge because you know you have to. There is one split second when your body is smashed with a shock of colder wetness but all at once you are submerged in the familiar water and it feels great. You by the time you reach the other side of the pool you are warmed up, adjusted and so happy you dove.
While missing my family was only made worse by my journey, returning to BA has been wonderful. The people here are more beautiful than ever, the buildings are interesting to look at, and the culture tantalizing and absorbing. I luckily arrived in time to absorb the second week of the Tango Festival held by the city every August. I happened upon the festival as I meandered to a shady spot where I could eat lunch in between classes. The old Harrods building in Buenos Aires has been abandoned since the late 1990's when the crisis killed many business and business prospects. The once grand building has remained empty for at least a decade and I've been dying to see what the inside looks like since I first walked by it months ago. I'd heard that Harrods was used to hold events from time to time, but this was the first time I'd ever seen the store open in my almost (gulp) 11 months here. I wandered in (smiling at the free entrance sign) more to explore the building than for the festival itself. A professional dance class was taking place in the front with seats set up for viewers and I made a mental note to return after I had explored the downstairs of what was possibly once the grandest department store in South America. It did not disappoint.

Original wood counters

The space had been cleaned up and filled with irises for the event, but the original dark wood counters and the beautiful chandeliers were original and luxurious. There were also shoe stores with fun t-straps of all colors and more.

Men's shoes

Amazing women's shoes

Sizing up...

A real "Sea of Shoes"
When I returned to the dance practice they were just starting from the top. I recognized the basic tango step but this was a modern dance and it was stunning. The dancers started half on one side, and half on the other. They breezily tangoed into position, and as the music started the men embraced the women with strong and sure hands. One couple caught my attention and I remained possessed by them for the rest of the class. He would put his hands on her waste, and she was like liquid in them, only a lovely liquid that he worshiped. They must have been lovers in real life, or else he is trying to make her his lover, or he is an amazing actor. Either way I was convinced. He nuzzled and caressed her like a lover and moved with her as if they were one and as if she was more a dream that he held onto tightly for fear she would disappear if he didn't give her incentive to stay. Tango is basically a glorified, and effective foreplay. I slowly understood our old French house mate's flow of women. If I danced with a man like that I might as well be cast under his spell and whiled away to the rooftop bedroom next to our milonga to complete the hours we had spent in the company of others locked in the same embracing caresses as ours. The thing is friggen sexual is what I'm trying to say, and at that in that moment I would have given a lot to take the place of the tall blond in the arms of the dark long wavy haired moustached stranger that knew what he was doing if only to feel how wonderful it must be to dance with such an artist for only a moment.
My favorite part of the dance was after each of the 7 odd couples had taken a place on the floor and in turns would crouch down and then stand up and dance only to crouch back down in a lover's embrace once more. Then, all at once, when all where close to the ground, the left most couple sprang out of the crouch, the woman was lifted above the man with her legs wide and fell over his shoulder only to be followed seconds later by another couple moving similarly to this. Then my favorite couple released their position and he lifted her up, one of her arms gracefully above her head, her knee in the air, over his shoulder, and she bent over him with her back arched as he easily moved her across the floor and she slowly descended without haste or regret.
Sadly they finished the class without completing the dance, and I sorely regret not finding out where I can watch them perform.
Progression of the dance:

Crouching embrace

My favorite couple and their graceful lift

more traditional moves

and lean...

look up at the sol!

unwilling to end their embrace as the others stop...

Chatting afterwords, I'm creepy...but can't wait for Josh's hair to be this long!

It also was good evidence as to why people here are so open with their affections. Public necking is to be expected everywhere you go, and couples do not hesitate to show their passion on the bus, in the street, in a park, or even in a restaurant. And no wonder!! Their national dance is an education in seduction.
Maybe I will take a few tango classes before I leave...but I'll have to be sure to bring Josh with me. I can't be held responsible for what could happen if he weren't there!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bittersweet Return

And so I return to Buenos Aires with my new backpack and let the adventures truly begin again. After a long but somewhat easy journey (Delta has the best food!) that began in a car at 1:30 pm and ended at 10 am in a taxi I returned to a quiet and startlingly clean house. Those who were home weren't up yet, and I got to enjoy my ritual of unpacking the way I like to: alone and with no questions or sounds. A moment in my hectic life to decompress and ease back into life here. Of course in reality I was welcomed by life here and a cloud of cigarette smoke the moment I stepped out of the airport after an easy walk through customs (such a great country to be an undocumented illegal immigrant in).
Leaving the States was much harder this time around, and my departure was full of tears. I didn't want to leave my parents, and couldn't stay and they wouldn't fit in my new backpack so I held them as close as possible and remembered why I went to Argentina in the first place and that I couldn't come back till I was somewhere closer to fluent in Spanish than now and held them close again and kissed them again and wiped away my tears as I went through security.
Growing up is so hard.
It is good to be back though. Steph and I went for a walk today to the Congreso and then I had my favorite liquado (peach and strawberry) at La Poesía (an excellent cafe in our neighborhood) and cooked dinner for Josh (he deserved it after cleaning the whole house for me!)
Much reflecting must happen but I don't want to go all cliché on anybody here, so I won't blabber about it now, but it certainly was weird to be back. For now I want to thank everyone I saw while home for going out of there way to make it to see me and for the good times. Also to my parents and Mia for being incentive enough to come back one of these days. It was first time we took vacation and didn't go anywhere and the best vacation we've had. Miss you all already but I hear the plane tickets are getting cheaper!! And the peso is going down!!!! And Josh cooks a mean steak on the grill!!! So what I'm saying is get on down here!!! and goodnight...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Failed Expectations and Diagnosis

Last week I was readily awaiting Saturday's arrival, for not only was it the beginning of a long weekend (celebrating the death of San Martín, the Argentine equivalent of George Washington for all you Yankees out there), but also the commencement of a Frisbee hat tournament! For those of you who don't know, a hat tournament is just what it sounds like: a tournament full of teams picked out of a hat. While that's not exactly how it works, the spirit behind it is to mix up friends and foes for one weekend and strengthen the Frisbee community as a whole. Plus, there are some sweet prizes to be won, so the competitive aspect is also not lacking. I even slept at Nick's apartment so I wouldn't have to wake up so early since the tournament was held in Parque Sarmiento, more than an hour bus ride from San Telmo.

The park, which is in a part of town, as Stefanie observed, that looks more like you expect South America to look (read: non-European), is a massive complex that houses dozens of athletic fields. Our rag-tag group of players occupied two od these fields, and even though we killed our bodies the night before, Nick, Alex (a relatively new addition to the Cadillacs, his father is Argentine but he grew up outside of DC) and I were some of the first to arrive and we immediately started to help the others set up. An innocent enough process, one would think, but during the first twenty minutes or so I managed to tweak my knee. I have no idea what I did, there was no noticeable moment of injury, I heard no pop or anything else of the sort. Rather, it was a slow realization that my knee felt really weird and that it actually hurt quite a bit. I proceeded to test it out a bit further, but apparently it was not in the cards for me to play. I couldn't straighten my right leg, and when I got close to doing so, I could see and feel a little bulge right below my knee cap that clearly was not supposed to be there. So my wheels stopped working before I could even enter the fray, and I left the tournament feeling let down and in pain.

My knee has felt better as the week has progressed, but I was still experiencing a bit of discomfort so I finally caved and went to the doctor. After not as much waiting as I thought, I saw a doctor who diagnosed me with an inflamed meniscus, and that if my knee continues to improve as it has since Saturday, it will heal on its own after enough rest. But if it gets worse, I must go back for X-Rays, something I'm looking to avoid at all costs because I'm scared of what they'll tell me. See, that's why I don't like going to the doctor: either they tell me something I already know (I have to rest my knee for a while), or they tell me something I don't want to hear (you need a new knee, or something of the like). But no matter which way I look at the situation, it's bad news bears all around. Let's just hope it keeps getting better.

Also, I'm hoping that since I brought up the subject of knees again, Austin will reemerge from whatever hole he's dug himself into and post a 2 paragraph comment on the blog. The over-under is 12.5 lines.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Family Fun

The lingering taste of port and cigar is so nice I almost abstain from brushing my teeth, but having just been to the dentist a few days ago I figure I better keep up my stellar rep there and brush. This night though, I do not floss but head directly to bed, stare at the clock for ten seconds and with better judgement turn the light off and past out with the red digits still blazed in my eyelids: 10:30.
It wasn't hard to fall back to this early schedule with my family. While at first I marveled at how early we eat I also marveled at how early we rise. 7:30 walks to beat the heat, swim in the pool, breakfast, and I'm already thinking longingly about a siesta. The non-existent siesta. There is too much to do and never enough time, and while I once snuck one in that I could not have lived without I was sad about missing some family by the pool time.
Since then my parents have started vacation and there has been an abundance of family pool time. I believe that my family has never spent so much time with all of us physically in the pool since we moved in. But the humidity, our sweaty walks, and the fact that the pool is 83 degrees has even gotten my mom and my sister in the pool almost every day of the week! To top it all off an angry horse fly even forced my sister underwater in an attempt to escape a nasty bite.
During one of our errands I bought a Frisbee at Target and my dream came true when we had a family Frisbee session in the pool. Even Kenny was there and everyone was showing off there throws! Mom is secretly an amazing thrower and Dad's got some good moves too.
We also hosted a pretty kick ass party last Saturday complete with two 1/6 kegs (Blue Moon which we are still working on and Samuel Adams Summer Ale) and Sangria. Some people got drunk a little too early, and others though they didn't drink enough, but Mom out did herself with Fajitas and it was a big mix of young friends, family friends, Grandparents! and family. There were cousins, aunts and uncles, people I hadn't seen in over a year, and some that I hadn't seen in much longer than that. Since then we've been running errands, avoiding the heat and spending a lot of quality time together.
The only blip in our happy happy time together has come when I clashed with my family over various subject for one reason or another. I underestimated my "culture" shock and my inability to deal with it without sounding judgey. I suppose I have a lot of reflecting to do one of these days but for now I'm going to enjoy this last full day with my family for a long time.
The longer I'm away from Buenos Aires and the longer I am here I compare my situation there to the various situations my friends are in now and I realize that what I have come to think of as normal is actually quite ridiculous. Living with smokers has taken more of a toll on me and my stuff than I care to acknowledge. There is ash everywhere and it gets into my cloths, my computer, my lungs, and my skin. The crazy hours also make me a lot more cranky than I ever was before I moved to BA. Of course there are also so many things that I would sorely miss if I was staying here for longer than two weeks. We'll see how I feel when I get back.
The most surreal part of my time home so far was last night when we went to the ONLY bar in our town, The Tiger's Tale, for bingo night. Everyone was there, and I saw people that I haven't seen in years. It was kinda crazy...but you can't beat $3 bud lights and bingo. Kenny won a t-shirt! However it was so insane to see all these people who never left, returned or were back visiting. Some people seem to have not changed a bit, some have a lot, and some just have more muscles.
OK, enough reflecting for now... time to get back to watching my dad pack up my sisters stuff and then to lunch. I'll try to get some photos on here eventually!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In Case You Were Wondering...

I've been asked "What is Argentina like?" countless times by people back in the States. I do my best to describe it, to varying degrees of success, but thankfully I've found someone who can do it better than me. Yes, it's from 1932, but overall, not much has changed. Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Name Game

(Disclaimer: If you watch this video long enough, you will encounter some naughty language. Watch at your own risk.)

Pay attention to the first part of this stand-up routine from Louis C.K., a reasonably funny guy who I thought was a no talent hack after seeing the commercials for his series on HBO (he still may be a no talent hack, but this bit is kinda funny). We as North Americans have become accustomed to hearing all kinds of crack pot names, largely thanks to celebrities deciding to buck conventions (just like George Clooney said) and name their children all kinds of weird crap. That, and LSD. Here is an abbreviated list of my favorite celebrity baby names, compliments of "Read The Smiths" (notable parent in parentheses): Diva Muffin (Frank Zappa); Dusti Raine (Vanilla Ica); Jermajesty (Janet Jackson), which is not to be outdone by Ya'majesty (T.I.); Audio Science (Shannyn Sossomon); Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee); Tu Morrow (Robert Morrow); Bogart Che Peyote (David "Puck" Rainey, of Real World fame. And I need to say this is quite possibly my favorite. It incorporates so much! Bogart could mean hogging something or simply refer to Humphrey Bogart; Che could be directly inspired by Che Guevarra, or just by Argentine Spanish's version of "dude"; and peyote, well, is peyote. It's like Jerry Garcia naming his kid "Magic Mushrooms".); and Moxie CrimeFighter ( Penn Jillette from Penn and Teller). These names make Tom, Katie and Gweneth Paltrow look relativey sane for the names the chose. What's next? LovelyRitaMeterMaid? Don't get me wrong, I fully support naming your child as you please, whether that means having a John Smith or giving your baby a unique name that may break from familial tradition. But Diva Muffin? Really? Again, thank you LSD...and peyote.

I learned from my students a few months ago that this problem does not exist in Argentina, for there is a law against such practices. According to one online guide book, which gives a good translation, the law states: "(i)t is against the law in Argentina to give children names that are 'extravagant, ridiculous, contrary to our customs, political or foreign.' The government reserves the right to veto any name, though it kindly provides a list of 'acceptable' names for new parents." They told me that an Argentine child born in Argentina could not have my name, much less Moxie CrimeFighter. They described some of the other naming traditions, which I've since forgotten, and many names get repeated play down here. I know plenty of Santiago's, Gabriel's, Mariano's, and Natalia's, just as you'll find a slew of Micheal's, Jessica's, or Joseph's up north. That's not to say that I haven't met Argentines with interesting names. For example, one of Uli's friend's name is Rocio, the Spanish word for dew. A little strange, yes, but all together sweet sounding and beautiful in the image it evokes. Sadly, I can't say the same for Audio Science.

Above and below, Audio Science.

Odd Spanish names have several redeeming qualities; North American/British ones imply the parents blindly threw a dart at a board full of random words they picked from the dictionary. So while I may never meet an natural Argentine who shares my exact name, I also won't meet one named Ma Ñana. However, I should not curse the name-Gods for allowing North Americans and Brits to give their children excessively weird names. If these people had not been able to exercise their inalienable right to "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness which definitely includes giving your children awful names even if that means they will suffer through middle school, high school, and require several years and multiple thousands of dollars worth of therapy in the future", Soleil Moon Frye would not be Punky Brewster.

At The Other End of the Sunday Spectrum

As documented on this very blog, last Sunday was a mimosa and whiskey drenched celebration of Julia's birthday enjoyed by one and all. Every once in a while we find ourselves having rambunctious Sunday's which often times include gringo trips to the park to play wiffle-ball, throw around a mini football, and attract curious gazes from Argentines unfamiliar with our silly games, but this Sunday I wanted something different, something more...tranquil. It just so happened that in the midst of all the noise and consumption of last Sunday fellow Cadillac Paola invited Nick and me over for some calm, afternoon fun, with the promise of hot cocoa featuring delicious Colombian chocolate. We accepted without hesitation, and I'd been looking forward to it ever since.

Fast forward to yesterday's afternoon of glory, in which I successfully aided in the preparation of arepas (thin, flat, unleavened breads made of just white-corn flour and hot salt water, about the size of a small pancake) topped with cooked ground beef and onions with a small batch of guacamole to garnish it. They were so delicious, especially when paired with the hot chocolate. What really struck me was that Paola casually whipped out a bottle of Frank's Red Hot. I sat there with my jaw knocking against my knee cap as she added quite a few healthy spoonfulls of my hot sauce of choice, floored by the fact they have Frank's in Colombia. I add this to the long list of reasons why we must make it to Colombia before leaving this continent.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I'm jazzed up on maté (Brian's phrase) and missing you, my blog. Anyway, this totally counts as a part of the adventure, and apparently I can't stay away.
My trip home went off with out a hitch once I remembered the $800 in US cash I had received to buy things for various people. Previous to this I realized it had been dumb not to bring the 300 pesos I needed to escape Argentina's borders without bribing and a border dash and that my card wouldn't work in any of the cash machines. I pretty much was on the verge of a serious break down with mental images of me missing my flight and stuck in BA forever and was going to one more ATM (which didn't work) when I remember the cash. The immigrations guy thought I was insane and told me to chill out. I for once was not offended by this advice seeing as I needed it.
The plane made me a little nervous because the overhead compartments wouldn't stay shut during take off, but the dinner was shockingly delicious for plane food (I had the chicken and it was quite moist!) and with the last sips of my second mini bottle of wine I swallowed a delectable expired sleeping pill and spread out over the three empty seats I miraculously had all to myself. I woke up just in time for breakfast.
Customs was disappointing since I didn't get my "Welcome back to America" from the grumpy customs man that I was so excited for, but we arrived early to Laguardia and while it took a while for Mom and Mia to find me we were reunited and it felt so great!!! The drive back took forever, and we spent the rest of the afternoon running errands, seeing Grandma, picking Patrick up from the train station. We took a refreshing dip in the pool, had an amazing cocktail called "lot's o passion" and had a killer Shabbat dinner. All I can say is its so good to be back.
Also, that the Clean Air Act is amazing. We pulled up to the house and my first though was, "Wow, its smells amazing here." The summer rains have left the grass lush and green and smelling sweet. Its loud here too, but with the sounds of birds, cicadas, and an occasional BMW or 4x4 driving by.
Driving Patrick home from the train station I had my first moments to myself since I've been back, and after I got over the fact that I am actually a better driver than when I left I started to process what its like to be home. I got this weird feeling in my stomach that I have yet to discover the meaning of, but I can't wait to get Erin's number so I can call her and trade stories and talk about homecoming with someone who just did it a few weeks ago. As she said when we skyped a week ago, I already feel so far away. Unlike Erin I'll be going back in two weeks, but my visit is saddened by the fact that I may never get to come back to this beautiful house again. I'll take advantage of the pool everyday I can, and I think truly appreciate our home more than I ever have and what a paradise we inhabit here. As Ted observed when he returned: we just have so much here. So while Mia, Mom and Kenny are picking up a coffee table (the first our family has ever owned) I will go for a dip (even though we walked more than four miles already today) and then get ready for the Electronic Music Festival Patrick and I are going to tonight in Brooklyn. And of course I will keep on enjoying the good life here at 34 Colfax rd that is so at odds with living la vida loca at Casa Cochobamba.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hello, Goodbye

This post chronicling the transitional period of our stay in Buenos Aires is in honor of one of the more underrated Beatles songs ever (if I were writing a music/pop culture blog, I would definitely do the following two Beatles-related things: first, dedicate an entire post (or two) to the subject of the most underrated and overrated Beatles songs, with tracks such as "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away", "Dear Prudence", "I'm Only Sleeping", "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey" , or "I've Got a Feeling" counting for the former, and "Yellow Submarine", "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" and even "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" finding themselves in the latter, but what do you all think? I know it's hard to generally define overrated/underrated in terms of songs, but it would be a fun debate. Secondly, I would do a series of posts all using titles from Beatles songs. Honestly, with my relatively low volume of output and the scope of emotions their oeuvre covers, I could name every single one of my posts after a Beatles song, but that would get boring, kind of like this tangent...) since there have been a few new developments in Casa Cochabamba and our lives in general. So, without further ado:

Hello, a bed all to myself. One of the great compromises I make in the name of love is sharing a bed. If I had my way, I would be able to spread myself out as much as possible with as many pillows as are necessary to assure my comfort. The saying going "let sleeping dogs lie", but for me it would be "let a sleeping Josh sprawl out in his bed like a butterflied chorizo , no matter what crazy position that may be". That doesn't mean that you're likely to find me in some strange side-show contortion when I sleep alone, but I subconsciously sleep better knowing that I need not worry about bumping into my bedfellow. In short, I'm happy when my only confines are the size of the bed. This stipulation even limits how much I can enjoy the instances in which Manzi jumps into bed, for she holds down the territory around my feet, an area that is by no means without movement.

Goodbye, Julia, or, more appropriately, "See you later, Julia". My lovely lady departed South America for the first time in ten months when she boarded a plane destined for New York City Thursday afternoon. To your right you can see Julia was deep in thought over how she could not wait any longer for a cinnamon-raisin bagel with a heaping portion of soy-cream cheese from Bagel Barn. These looks became more and more frequent as she approached her date of departure, so part of me is really glad I don't have to look at them for a while. She will be gone until the 23rd of August, just more than 2 weeks in total, and it was obviously sad to see her go but not too bad since time will fly down here as usual and she'll be back before I know it. And even though I will enjoy my new found excess of space in bed, I will miss my roommate who all too often hogs the blanket and has a penchant for swiping my pillow if she goes to bed before I do. Clearly, she's got to be pretty special if despite all these negatives I still hang onto her. It also doesn't hurt that when she gets back I will be able to say...

Hello, brand-new MACBOOK PRO!!! That's right, Julia will be bringing me back a new toy. And moments after welcoming Julia back after her 17 day absence, I will rive through her luggage to find my new model of asthetic and technological excellence - dare I say perfection. I am excited if for no other reason than I will be in the possession of a computer that can operate when it's not plugged in to the closest power outlet. As if I needed any more reason to cross off the days on my calendar until Julia returns. I would write more about how excited I am to have this new computer, and all the cool things I will do with it, but I imagine it would quite boring and somewhat off-putting and I'm not trying to decrease our readership...but then again, check out how long this post is!

Goodbye, Powerbook G4.
A piece of my charger, which at this point was taped to the port just so that it could actually bring electricity to my computer, broke off inside the port (I'm really not sure if that's the right word, but work with me). The result? No more aluminum covered 12" Powerbook G4, a wonderful piece of machinery.
The origin story of this warrior is well known to many, so the very fact that she was ever in my hands was a fluke in itself, an occasion in which Fortuna's Wheel finally bequeathed a bit of luck to me. In all, she lasted me 4-plus years, lived on three continents, helped me get through college, and, last but certainly not least, allowed me to watch copius amounts of Lost online until I caught up to the present (in our time, not the wormhole infested timeline that, along with the overarching themes of redemption, reason, faith, good, and evil, is currently driving Lost's narrative - only 6 more months until the last season starts, apparently I'm looking forward to it). Technically, she's the second computer I've ever owned, but I really consider her the first; for all intents and purposes, I merely got a free upgrade on my first Powerbook, not a new computer all together.
Saying goodbye may be a big premature, since Ulises plans on investigating whether or not he can bring her back to life. But I'm moving on, as evidenced by the previous "Hello", so farewell fair computer, thanks for the memories.
My first, my last, my everything...

Hello, more disposable income.
Although I may be jinxing myself/ourselves by making this declaration, especially since Julia is missing 2.5 weeks of work, but overall we are making more money than ever before. We've each picked up more hours and I will start doing some part-time work for a friend in the states in which I will make...(drumroll please)... US Dollars. This gig is also very temporary, so it won't permit us to throw caution to the wind and live large, but it also won't serve as the finger in the dike that saves us from financially drowning. As it is we're trying save as much as possible for traveling once our time here ends, but for the time being, while we're here, we don't need to be as frugal as we were before without risking the emergency escape from Argentina due to a lack of funds. So if you were counting on us making a bankruptcy induced return back to the United States, that would happen for at least a few more months.

Goodbye, disposable free time.
Long gone are the days of simply waking up at 7:00 AM, working for an hour and a half, coming home and having the rest of the day to do whatever we please. Granted, these days have not existed since February, but you know what I mean: our schedules are filling up more and more as we speak. True, I do not work 40-hour weeks like many of our readers, but I'm getting close when factoring in all of my various worklike activities, which are: my (repeated) commutes (at least 1 hour a day), lesson planning (depending on the number of classes and their nature, we'll say about 45 minutes on average), the time I dedicate to studying for the LSATS (at least 45 minutes a day, sometimes hours if I'm taking a practice test/multiple sections), and the extra 10 hours of work (from home) I will be starting this week puts me right around 40 hours. Plus, unlike many others with 9-5's, I can't compartmentalize work time and free time with the same amount of ease since most of it is very similar in appearance and location (read: me, sitting at the dining room table, looking at a computer screen or at a book) - I don't get to go to work and then come home from work once it's over. Just the opposite, most of the "work" I do is not at work at all. Throw in Frisbee and a cheeky puppy and the former surplus of freetime I once had has dwindled to mere moments in comparison. I'm not complaining, no sir, I just need to adjust to this more "normal" life and better manage my time.

Hello, Manzi (and Uncle Brian)!

Just looking for an excuse to include of our incredibly cute but equally maddening pup. Sadly, Brian just can't measure of to Manzi's puppy cuteness, but Brian does have a lot going for him: he's a human, he's a lawyer, and he's house trained. None of these traits apply to Manzi.

Goodbye, Gripe A:
After being held hostage by the ruthless and unrelenting grip of the gripe, Buenos Aires has finally returned to normal. Schools are back in session for the first time in a month -- the last two weeks of July are always vacation but they cancelled school for the two previous weeks, too -- which means I now when I'm out on Cochabamba at 8:00 AM there are school children and their parents joining me. Public transport, especially the subte, are enjoying their normally suffocating number of passangers, thanks to the aforementioned reopening of schools and also the end of "sick-leaves" for at-risk populations (old, pregnant, with young children, etc). I still can't figure out of the government was drumming up all of this hysteria in order to distact the public from their crushing defeat in the most recent elections, if they had under-reported the situation beforehand as to prevent said crushing defeat from coming to fruition, or if the government was honest in its response to a problem that really flared up directly after the elections took place. Either way, it's nice to have the city back to normal, for now.

Hello, Goodbye to our numerous visitors over the past few weeks (and to this post).
Besides bringing us loads of uncharacteristically warm weather, the last month has brought us a slew of wonderful visitors. First off, we enjoyed the wonderful company of Mr. Joe Barrett, a lone ranger hailing from the Shire who came to Argentina in search of good meat, fine wine, and buena onda. His friends joked with him that they were afraid he would like it so much down here that he wouldn't return home. Based on what I saw from his 5 days in Buenos Aires, I'm surprised to see he made it back to the States. Before our South American reunion it had been a long time since Joe and I had spent such a considerable amount of time together, and I'm genuinely glad we could reconnect 5,000 miles away from home. Next up was one repeat offender, Miss Alex "Goes to Perú" Behles, along with her friend Lindsay, a fellow GW alumnus, Alex's boyfriend Trevor, our friend and also a GW graduate, his friend from home Kevin, and finally Trevor's friend Charlie who, like Trevor, is a member of Teach for America in Oakland (goooooooo). We treated these rogues to two asados in Casa Cochabamba, the latter installment being a bit more intimate and a lot more...blurry. As it was with Joe, it's very cool to be able to hang out with people you know from one place in an entirely different context, and I only hope all these people will be as welcoming when we crash their cities once we're back up north.

Our best unintentional impersonation of Abbey Road, captured by Alex.

One last Goodbye to the tree lived on our patio. Due to it's excessive weight and overly explorative roots, both of which were to the detriment of our neighbors below, Washington removed our tree. Now we have kitchen splashed by more sunlight, but it's at the expense of our prepetual housemate, the tree on the patio.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Departure is Imminent

Or not as imminent as I thought. My flight actually leaves at 8:30, not at 6 but better to have assumed an early time, right?
So I'm leaving Argentina for the first time in exactly 10 months. Its the longest I've ever been away from home and its been about seven months since I've seen my family. Another record. Luckily with the invention of Skype they don't seem as far away, but movies like The Wrestler reminded me that while snowy strip malls and forlorn country roads might not normally make people homesick, New Jersey is where my family is and it will always be a home of mine.
Things I am excited for:
PICKLES!!!! (clearly make the top of the list)
Hanging out with the family (really this should come first)
Seeing the friends that I haven't see in almost a year
Being in my quiet home
BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER (and the fact that there will be more than five brands)
The family's cocktail repertoire that has apparently been seriously augmented since I left
The easy access to small change

Things I will miss about BA:
Speaking in Spanish
Ultimate and my Ultimate team
Meat Sandwiches
My friends and housemates and Josh
Cobblestones and my love hate relationship with them
Some of my students (especially the ones that gave me bday presents!! But you too Oscar)
The buena honda
My life here...

Don't worry though, I'll only be gone for two weeks and then my adventures in South America continue! Although, on second thought, I'll probably blog a little while I'm home because while Josh's posts are generally very good they are few and far in between. Can't have the blog fall silent so I might have to step it up. And for god's sake, when I get home somebody better have given Manzi a bath!!!

Gauchos Have the Coolest Boots

And the silliest hats...
Or so I discovered at La Rural, a fair that happens once a year in Buenos Aires that can be likened to a county fair in Indiana but in BA with Gaucho culture.
You could smell the cows before entering the building, and then I realized it was more than just cows. The first large building held all kinds of livestock.

Lamas and goats and cows oh my!

Definitely a prize winner:

Just chilling...

So cows are REALLY big. I realized I've seen many cows in my life, but never this up close, and never this many kinds. They really are beautiful.

Kind of like a colorless Argentine flag:

Nick and his Vermont Holstein (all I could think was Ben and Jerry's):

Udders are so funny looking!!! And these weren't even the fullest!

I saw this and thought of you Patrick:

After the livestock room we went outside and saw all there was to see. There was a lot going on, but sadly no fried dough.
Gauchos with horses getting ready for the fair:

Wind energy display:

Cheese and sausage and ham shops.
I got a few free samples, but they weren't as readily available as I had hoped.

Next came the bird house complete with a peacock!:

Hens and Roosters can be a lot more beautiful than I previously realized. I could see many future hats made out of these feathers...

Say something...or get close enough and this rooster will f you up

Very regal:

Next we went outside to horse track where Argentines were dressed in their estancia finest. I really liked these beret like hats that can be worn with a brim or a neck protector. Your choice.

A blur of horses :

I couldn't believe this rabbit was real. He was definitely up to something. World domination perhaps, or how to get Jessica rabbit back.

While it was kinda stinky, La Rural was a cool expose of rural life in Argentina. While I didn't get a good photo, the Gauchos by far are wearing the coolest boots in the city. Lucky for me the tickets were free from Nick's flatmate, and if they were free again next year I would probably go back! (mostly just to leer at hot Gauchos in hot boots and silly hats)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

23 And It Feels So Good

My birthday luckily fell on a Sunday. Sundays are my favorite here because I don't work Monday so I can truly relax. No Ultimate, no work, no worries. It was just a normal Sunday with Josh and Effie on the grill:

Nick juicing oranges:

Dan on his computer while walking around....

But we had MIMOSAS!!!!! That made it extra special!

It was a beautiful day only tainted by the fact that Uli had gotten beat up the night before. Well, two 16 year olds attempted to mug him, he still has his stuff and he says one of them might be dead. Not to sure about this story but his face did take a small beating.

Of course he still looks fabulous

All my expat friends were there and sadly none of the Argentines showed up. I guess they didn't take the brunch invitation seriously because they don't have brunch here? I'll go with that one because I know I'm too important in all of their lives to have them not show up for any other reason.

Manzi becomes the star of her own photo shoot while I'm not looking

The night ended with cards and whisky and while Uli was shocked that we would eat with breakfast he took it in stride and joined us like a champ.

Thanks for all of you who showed up and for all the birthday wishes from my friends in the States (and all those random people on facebook that I haven't talked to in years but have too much time on their hands)