29 December 2008

Voyage de rêve en Europe s'approche!

Notre trajet de rêve en Europe s'approche, et on met lentement les détails au point. En ce moment, je voudrais mettre l'accent sur le fait que c'est seulement un plan, mais quand même, il consiste des choses suivantes:

•On a déjà fait des réservations dans un hôtel (en fait, une auberge) à Paris, à Amsterdam, et à Genève (sans parler de Madrid et Bordeaux, qui sont à suivre)

•On a finalement achèté des billets d'avion pour le Maroc en Mai! Depuis mon adolescence, c'est un rêve de voyager à Casablanca et p'tête, Marrakesh

•Économiser l'argent pour que nous ayons assez pour manger au restaurant

•Très prochainement, on va achèter deux cartes d'abonnement d'Eurail

Il y a trois mois et demie qui reste jusqu'à ce que nous quittions Buenos Aires. Pour l'instant, l'essential, c'est de profiter de notre temps là dans cette ville énergique et ne pas considérer rien comme allant de soi. La vie est belle ici, juste come celle d'Europe occidental!

26 December 2008

Christmas in Buenos Aires

LB and I spent our first (and probably only) Christmas in Buenos Aires. At first, it was a little difficult for us. After all, it didn't feel like Christmas, at least not until Christmas morning: Christmas Eve was 90 degrees, for fuck's sake. People were shooting fireworks once the clock struck midnight. The streets were practically abandoned. Very few windows were adorned in Christmas lights, there were no snowmen, or kids running around with plastic sleds in their hands, and holiday jingles were a complete rarity here (except for in the supermarket). Maybe most sad of all, neither my family nor LB's was here, making us feel isolated in the Land of Barbecues. I guess what I'm saying is that at first, it felt foreign to be here, which, if you think about, is surely the very opposite of what Christmas is supposed to feel, which is warm and familiar, like something that comes out of the oven. Christmas Eve felt like the fourth of July, not the advent of Winter or the changing of the guard.

And yet, by the time we'd woke up (we slept in somehow), Christmas in Buenos Aires turned out to be calm, simple and beautiful. It was everything we needed. Sure, we missed our families terribly, but I think we also felt so much closer, like we were going through this moment of loss + joy, isolation + celebration, together. And that made us feel close + strong, something every couple needs to feel. So, Christmas in Buenos Aires was simple, calm and beautiful. Here are some of our blessings:

From This Angle It Looks Like alot of Presents
Point of View: Christmas Present
Before We Opened up Presents, We Decided to Raid Santa's Snack Cabinet and Drink Some Tea. In this Case, the Tea was Delicious Organic Black Tea, and the Cookies were Homemade, Using LB's Secret Recipe of Raspberry Preserves and Chocolate.
Giving Zoe the Sniff Test: Of the Three Bones Zoe Got for Christmas, She Decided on the Carrot One
My Necklace from LB
Making Me Feel Allpowerful . . .
A Wisdom of Tibet Calender My Mom Sent Me All the Way from Socal
Earrings I Bought for LB
Healthy, Fruit-Juice Flavored Lifesavers from Trader Joe's, Courtesy of Mom
Is It a Teardrop? A Giant Comma Made from Stone? No, Of Course Not, It's a Quartz Whale for Lighting Incense. Like Duh.
Paper Envelopes and a Sketchpad for LB's Artistic Side
If There's One Rule I've Learned in My Meager 34 Years, It's that . . .
Jewelry = Instant Kiss
What the Hell is in This Bag Anyway?
Sigh: A Beautiful Black Porcelain Mate
Opening a Card from My Mom
So Sweet and Loving
Family Portrait, at Least a Nuclear One
Zoe + LB
Posing in front of Our Makeshift Christmas Tree
LB with Her New Scarf and Braceleta
Some Dogs Think They're God's Gift to Humans . . .
So Beautiful
Zoe, amid All the Chaos
For Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs + Organic Pears and Plums
For Dinner, a Bottle of Local Chardonnay from Mendoza
And Homemade Pasta Salad, Vegetarian Stuffing and My World-Famous Chocolate Banana Bread.
Here We Have the World's Worst Gravy of all Time (Totally My Fault), LB's Veggie Meatloaf and my Vegetarian Paella (Yes, of course I included Saffron)
Here's a Closeup. Maybe You Can Even See Those Little Red Strands from Here
Finally, the Perfect Way to End the Day: Christening My New Porcelain Mate.

23 December 2008

Gol: Comer Orgánico en el Capital Federal :: Score: Eating Organic in BsAs

(es) Bueno, al aparecer, es posible comer vegetales orgánicos en el Capital Federal después de todo. Quizá, suena raro, pero la enfermedad del estómago que LB y yo teníamos la semana pasada, se convirtió en una bendición. Era sólo después de tener un dolor fuerte de cabeza, la nausea, retortijones en el estómago y una falta de energía, que decidimos volver a nuestra dieta antigua en Chicago (más ensaladas y verduras, no productos lácteos o carne claro, ni mucho azucar, y incluso entonces, la azucar negra). Por eso, por primera vez, intenté a averiguar si hubiera una verdulería orgánica, y resultó que hay un negocio que se llama El Rincón Orgánico, que vende (y entrega) alimentos orgánicos, por no mencionar las galletas, pan, mermelada, jugo, quinoa--¡todo, completamente orgánico! La semana pasada, hicimos un pedido para entregar al domicilio que finalmente llegó hoy. La caja incluyó:

Puerros, espinacas, tomates, tomates cherry, limones, cerezas, jugo de kiwi, jugo de uva, acelga, zanahorias, albahaca, perejil, manzanas, ciruelas, galletas, peras.

Fue un paraíso de nutrición. Tengo que confessar que la vista de tantos alimentos sabrosos y saludables en esta carnetopia, casi me hicieron llorar, ¡y justo a tiempo para la Navidad también!

(en) Well, apparently, it is possible to eat organic vegetables in Buenos Aires after all. Maybe it sounds weird, but the stomach flu that LB and I had last week has turned into a blessing. It was only after having a severe headache, nausea, stomach cramps, lack of energy (and other stuff I'm not going into) that we decided to return to our former diet in Chicago (more salads and vegetables, no dairy products, and of course no meat, not a lot of sugar, and even then, black sugar). Because of that, for the first time I tried to find out if there was an organic produce store here, and as it turned out, there's a place called El Rincón Orgánico that sells and delivers organic vegetables in the city, not to mention cookies, bread, jam, juice, quinoa--¡all of it, completely organic! The past week, we placed an order for home delivery that finally arrived today Inside the box there was:

Leeks, spinach, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lemons, cherries, kiwi juice, grape juice, kale, carrots, basil, parsley, apples, plums, cookies, pears.

It was nutrition heaven. I have to admit that the sight of so much delicious and healthy food, particularly in this carnetopia, almost made me cray, and just in time for Christmas too!

20 December 2008

Christmas Shopping in Plaza Serrano + Wine, Water and Conversation in Belgrano

I went Christmas Shopping today for LB in and around Plaza Serrano, in Palermo Soho. The streets were buzzing with girls in short skirts doing last-minute shopping, couples holding hands, tons of vendors drinking mate and smoking, a thousand bottles of Quilmes + Brahma at virtually every single table outside in the square.

As for me, I was doing my thang. I really enjoy buying gifts for people. I do my best to think of them and channel their desires + energies, to try and match what they're feeling with what I'm looking at. When something feels really good, I just buy it if I can. Well, we'll see how good my channeling was after the 25th.

After bringing home gifts, and a bag full of tortilla español, peanut butter granola bars + pudin from Esquina de las flores, Erika and I ate snacks, drank mate and watched an episode of "Yakitate Japan" one of my fave anime series. It's dorky I know, but there's some great shit out there, some of it, very clever and postmodern.

Finally we took the Subte to Belgrano and walked to Don Bar, where we met some of our friends outside on the terrace, and LB and I ate Arroz con Mariscos (though the Peruvians do it better, I have to say), Shrimp Linguini, Calamari Rebozado + an exquisite hot brownie dessert that literally melted in your mouth. The conversation was fantastic, but our Friend Anna was moving back to Sweden soon, giving the night a lot of silent gravitas.
Here's one view from up there
Here's another . . .
God, what a beautiful tattoo. Whose arm is that, anyway? Oh, that's right, it's mine.
This is exactly how Erika felt after drinking 2 glasses of wine
As we were walking to the colectivo stop, we stopped and laughed at this sign. For those of you that haven't cracked open your Spanish textbook yet, it says: this is a new traffic light that we installed for you. Respect it, motherfucker. Okay, it didn't say motherfucker, but it might as well have. The reason this sign is funny is because:

1. Porteños don't respect anything that doesn't come in a baby stroller, least of all, a stop light
2. It's only because Porteños don't respect stop lights that they put this sign up in the first place
3. Even after putting this sign up, Porteños still won't respect it

We took a colectivo home, and I was amazed at how many people were still out at 3 in the morning, drinking and chatting. I saw couples sitting on stoops, too-mature-for-their-own-good teenagers standing in line at night clubs, whole groups of people hanging out at pizzerias, hiply-dressed 20 somethings hailing taxis to go to the next great thing. Today was hot and humid, loud and furious, and basically perfect in between.

16 December 2008

Être Malade en Argentine

(fr) Putain, je peux pas vraiment racommender les maladies d'estomac parce qu'elles sont de merde! Elles sont les pires. Je vais pas préciser quelles symptômes que j'avais, mais ça va sans dire que pendant ce temps-là, quand j'étais à plus bas, si vulnérable, craqué, malheureux, pitoyable, cloué au lit d'une fièvre, j'ai pensé aux choses suivantes:

1. Maman
2. Ma vie en Afrique Occidental quand j'ai vomité pour 24 heures sans trève, pensant le long de cette nuite à Maman et mis ex-copines
3. Les États-Unis, l'air fraîche, les draps nouvellement lavés, les magasins plein de jus de fruits biologiques, et d'autres aliments naturels
4. Les glaçons
5. Combien mon ancien régime aux les États-Units me manque
6. Comment va t-elle la sensation d'un vrai lit au desous du dos
7. Le Jello
8. Une carafe de limonade, sucrée et gelée
9. Une infirmière qui fassait pénétrer des glaçons, morceaux de Jello et des fruit citriques biologiques dans la peau

13 December 2008

Some Differences Between The EE-UU and Argentina #4

64. Traffic lights turn yellow for a second before turning green, like they're saying "On your mark, get set. . . "

65. It's a fine line between animal cruelty + tough love for dogs here. Here are a few examples: one morning when I was walking to the Subte, I watched an owner who grew impatient with his dog and finally just lifted the poor animal into the air by its collar, carrying him across the street with its little legs dangling. Another time, I watched a pasador (dog walker) try to carry a disobediant pooch on its back, it's paws flailing madly. And that dude was in charge of taking care of other people's pets. Later I discovered that in order to make as much money as possible, pasadores take on way more dogs than they can handle, then they tie them to metal railings or benches or lamp posts, and then they walk them in smaller groups, often in the middle of a busy street. And one time, LB and I were talking to her Argentine cousin about Zoe, our Shia-Poo, when she finally told us "No la tratés a Zoe como un humano," (don't treat your dog like a human--which is exactly what Americans do). The irony of course is that Ines, LB's cousin is studying to be a veterinarian.

66. Hinchas will actually kill you for wearing the wrong football jersey. I saw this first hand in Boca when a bus full of San Lorenzo soccer fanatics started stabbing people in the streets. Okay, I exaggerate to prove a point. But you really can die for wearing the wrong colors; it's like gangland, only with soccer

67. Tights pants + short skirts = corporate garb, not necessarily a statement of sexual liberation at all

68. On a related note, I seriously doubt that the term "sexual harrasment" even exists in the workplace

69. In America, men with long hair = surfer dude or rock star. Here it means soccer hero. Not only that, but I've seen men with long hear wearing head bands, which is culturally forbidden in the US

70. Americans don't know how to hide their nationality sadly (e.g. shorts, bad language skills, baseball caps, Tevya sandals, t-shirts with the names of NBA teams and universities on them, random shouts of "USA! USA! USA!"). Argentines, on the other hand, don't want to hide their nationality. For example, LB and I could spot the Argentines a mile away at Machu Picchu in February: they were the loudest of all the South Americans, they smoked every chance they got, even at Machu Picchu (our Guía scolded them for it), they wore scarves, even when it was hot, and they pranced around in high fashion to hike through dusty trails and rotting vegetation. Not to mention you heard a "che, boludo" every two seconds.

71. A guy sleeping with a prostitute seems about as taboo going to McDonald's: two things that are culturally verboten in progressive circles back home

72. In the subway, most commuters don't move away from each other the first chance they get

73. Stop signs don't mean anything, or if they do, they simply mean just go

74. Lines are a fact of life: lines for the ATM machine, lines for the colectivo, lines that go on for four blocks for the first Madonna show

75. Porteños don't cover their mouth (or their nose) when they sneeze. It's amazing

76. What's beautiful about Buenos Aires is also what makes it a bad fit for those with a weak stomach. Everything is in your face: for example, sometimes, beggars will line up (see #74) in the Subte at Congreso de Tucuman. The first person will be a man without arms asking for change (he collects change with a neck bag, in case you're wondering). Then a blind person will walk through all the cars, bumping into you. Then a woman carrying two passed-out children in her arms. Finally, a burn victim with all of her face melted and a small strand of hair sticking out of the back of head will make the rounds. And that's before the subway has made it to Plaza Italia

77. Canvassers do this weird snapping thing with the paper to get your attention

78. The sexual criteria for beauty and success are different here than in the States. In the US: men are supposed to be handsome, hard-working and hopefully wealthy. Here they just have to be tall, charming and funny.

79. Loneliness + boredom is far worse for Argentines than being overstimulated, claustrophic and stressed out

80. Sometimes in the morning, we hear the sound of a horse trotting down our street

81. Mullets are not ironic in Argentina, and even chicas have them

82. 16-year old girls look and act like 30-year olds, and 60-year old women have (fake) tits like 16-year old girls.

10 December 2008

Working in Microcentro

All Dressed Up and Ready to Go to Work :: Bien Vestido y Listo para Marcharme
The Pink House (Not to Be Confused with a Brothel) :: La Casa Rosada, Non se Confuda con un Burdel
Oh, Look, Another Protest :: Che, Mirá, Otra Protesta
Well, Maybe I'll Just Take a Quick Look :: Bueno, A Lo Mejor, Echo un Vistazito
A Beautiful Corner :: Una Esquina Bella
See, You Can Recycle in BsAs :: Ya ves, Sí Se Puede Reciclar en Capital Federal
The Capital Building :: El Capital
A Common Sight in Microcentro: Minutemen :: Una Vista Communa: la Policía Antimotines de Guardia
The Argentine Flag :: La Bandera de la República Argentina
Now Let's Go Home and Do it All Over Again Tomorrow :: Ahora, Hagamos Regressar a la Casa y Volver a Hacerlo Todo Mañana

05 December 2008

How to Avoid a Virtual Kidnapping

The other night as Erika and I were drinking mate and eating Quinoa chocolate chip cookies, we got a strange phone call. Erika picked up and this guy starting talking to her in rapid-fire Spanish about how there had been an accident on Santa Fe + Callao, and how one of the victims gave him our phone number, and wasn't this the address of Luciana Rial at Gorriti 5733, and who was he talking to, was she Luciana, no, she wasn't, who was this, did she know anyone involved in car accident, no? And then:

--So what is your name?
--Why do you want to know? LB asked.
--We need it for our documents.
--It's Ana, she said, lying.
--And do you live alone?
--No, I live with my boyfriend.
--What's his name?
--Why do you want to know that?
--He might have involved in this accident.
--He's working right now.
--Does he take a taxi or drive?
--No, he takes the Subte
--Well, there were some pedestrians involved too in this accident
--He's working right now.
--I don't know, someplace in Microcentro.
--You don't know where he works exactly?
--No, I just know it's somewhere in Microcentro.
--What's his full name?
--Why do you need to know that?
--Just to make sure he wasn't involved.
--He wasn't, she said, looking at me.
--What's his name?
--Luis, she said, lying again.
--Why don't you give me you cell phone number and I'll check and see.
--I don' think so.
--Okay, then hold on, let me get a detective on the line.
--I'm hanging up, she said.

We were so confused. But the next day, after talking with my students, I learned the following things:

1. These kinds of calls are actually common in Buenos Aires. One of my student's mothers got a call from some dude with a mafioso voice saying "Dondé está Francisco?" Like a smart, superstitious woman, she hung up the phone.

2. They are trying to solicit information to be used later on, probably for a virtual kidnapping. A VK is when criminals, armed with the names of tenants living in an apartment, call them up and say something like "I have Luis, and if you want to see him again, bring a 1,000 dollars to Café Almargo or you'll never see him again." Of course it's a lie, but many people are so freaked out they don't bother to check until later on. Once they get you to a café, then they can either really kidnap you, extort an incredible amount of money from you, or ask you to buy 50 phone cards to call the "prison" where you virtual boyfriend is being detained.

3. Now LB and I understand why we've gotten these strange people buzzing at our door before:

--Quién es? A strange man asked.
--Para qué buscás, LB asked.
--No, who is this? He continued.
--No, who are you looking for, she said again.
--Who am I talking to?
--Who are you looking for?

And then he'd disappear afterwards.

So, the morale of the story is, don't tell strangers personal information, because it will be used against you later on. Also: remember when you thought Porteños were paranoid? Turns out they're just scared. And if you have any sense, you'll be on your guard too when shit like this happens.