Sunday, November 29, 2009

National Ñoqui Day

On the 29th of every month, Argentines traditionally eat ñoquis (gnoccis in English). Why, you ask? Allow me to explain.

There is a LOT of Italian influence in Buenos Aires. Much like the United States, Argentina is a country founded on immigration, and according to Wikipedia about 50% of the immigrants to Buenos Aires came from Italy, bringing their traditions and cuisine along for the ride. This is why pasta and other Italian foods are such a prevalent dish in the city’s many restaurants (and why BA is heaven for this particular carb-fiend). For those who don’t know, ñoquis are a traditional Italian pasta dish, and are delicious. Most often made out of potatoes, ñoquis are little dumplings, soft lumps of pillowy goodness that can be accompanied by any sauce or even just fried butter and parmesan cheese. YUM.

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Here’s the story. In Argentina, people get paid once a month at the beginning of the month, as opposed to every two weeks like in the States. This makes life quite annoying, because by the end of the month no one has any money left and the ATM’s are all empty (advanced budgeting skills are an absolute necessity in this city!) Therefore, at the end of the month when families are tight on money and have to wait until the 1st of the month for their next paycheck, they turn to cheap and filling ñoquis. Makes sense, right? I personally love this tradition, the carboholic that I am, and it’s yet another quirky little fact about Argentina. And who doesn’t love quirky little facts? I’m all about the quirk.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feliz Turkey Day!

While all of you back home are getting ready to dig into a big fat roasted turkey, this is what we’re eating down in Argentina.


Mollejas. A classic part of the traditional Argentine asado. Wanna know what part of the cow it is? No you don’t. But I can assure you it is a tasty part, especially when cooked in butter and lemon juice then crisped up (good lord that’s an awkward looking word: crisped, ick) in the oven. Served with chorizo, morcilla (main ingredient: blood), a side salad and a baguette, who needs turkey?! This is the real deal!


However, I haven't forgotten my sweet home Amurrican roots, so I will be eating some traditional Turkey Day food later tonight. A friend of Anna's from Chicago invited us over for Thanksgiving Dinner, so we'll be heading over there at about 9 for some more traditional holiday fare. Not that I don't love the mystery cow parts, but sometimes a little gravy and mashed taters is what's called for.

And now a list! I love lists, I make lists of everything, and then I have to make lists of my lists because I forget which list is which. Yeah. Let's just move on, shall we? This is a List of Things I Am Thankful For, on this, the day of giving thanks. I was also tempted to revert back to second grade and trace my hand on construction paper so it looks like a turkey, and then write the things I'm thankful for on each finger, but unfortunately I was unable to find construction paper (mainly because I went to the park and laid in the sun instead of looking for it, but eh). Anyway, here's my list:

Things I Am Thankful For
-Skype, for allowing me to hear the lovely voices and see the beautiful blurry faces of my friends and family
-Raid plug-in mosquito killer (oh, the power of pesticides!)
-my family, for supporting me and encouraging me on this journey/transition
-old friends, for loving me and staying in touch with me over thousands of miles 
-new friends, for making me feel like part of a family, opening new doors, and keeping me entertained
-the Spanish language, because everything sounds better in Castellano: profanities, sweet nothings, catcalls
-my health
-empanadas, fugazetta, medialunas, alfajores, choripan, and all other delicious Argentine foods that are the reason I now choose yoga pants over jeans
-my apartment
-Argentine men = so pretty!
-sunshine and puppies, because they make the world so much brighter (and cuter)
-the opportunity to travel, see the world, meet new people, learn new languages, live a new life
-fans (self-explanatory)

And here's the kicker...I'm thankful to NOT have a job. At least right now. In this moment. Not forever, duh. I've been enjoying life so much more now that I don't have to go every day to a job I hate, I'm meeting lots of new and amazing people as I network, and I feel like I've been given the chance to really think about who I am and what I want out of life. Of course, waking up at 10 and laying in the park all day drinking mate isn't too bad either :-)

So that's my list of things I am thankful for. Short and simple, but covers all the important things (kind of like my favorite dress...) And in the end, when all the thanks have been given, the blessings in one's life have been recognized, the small joys and pleasures have been expressed, all that's left to do is....EAT!

Hence, I'm off to stuff myself with stuffing. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving (no turkeys get burned, no pies fall on the floor, etc) and I'll be back tomorrow! Unless I'm unable to squeeze my turkey-and-mashed-potato-saturated self through the door, in which case send help. Chau!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More kindness, sweet relief, treasures from home

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised at the kindness Argentines show each other in daily life. I should really just get over it, but every time I see one of these acts of generosity or even just common courtesy, I fall in love with this country all over again. I think part of my fascination with this kind behavior has to do with coming from the States, where life is lived at a much faster and impersonal pace and it seems that kindness is often sacrificed to the greater gods of haste and efficiency. Also, I think that the juxtaposition of kindness with the sheer amount of people that live in Buenos Aires is impressive; you’d think that with so many people living so close together in such awful humidity, things would be tenser. I’m not naïve—clearly everything isn’t love and puppies and rainbows—but the little things I catch every so often really make an impression.

For example, yesterday I went to pay a late bill (I hear you gasping, Mom) all the way up in Belgrano. Sticky hot day, long sweaty bus ride, get to the office, take a number. Long line, per the usual. But as I’m standing in line, I see things happening. An older woman approaches the tiny seating area, and a young man gets up and offers his seat. A man trades numbers with a woman carrying a baby, so she can get her bill paid faster. And someone in the front of the line decides he’s had enough of waiting and gives up, passing his lower number to another person on his way out. This happens three times, and each time someone is the recipient of a lower number, they pass their number to someone behind them. Little things, people. I’m telling you. It makes my day!

In other news, I followed the advice of fellow blogger Elizabeth over at La Vida Desconocida (how awesome is that blog name?! I thought for hoooouuuursss trying to come up with one, and hers is just brilliant!) But anyway. Meet the newest member of my household:


Pesticide, beautiful pesticide. I don’t know how it does it, but this little thing kept the mosquitoes off me last night, and for that, I owe it my sanity. No more MMM, no more sleeping on the futon because the evil ‘quitos have taken over my room, no more sweating to death under my comforter because any exposed skin will be immediately devoured. SWEET RELIEF!

And in other little updates, I spoke to my aunt and uncle in Horsham, England today via the magic of Skype, which was lovely. It makes me happy when people I care about talk to me! If only I could get my Grandma online…unfortunately I think she’s well and truly stuck in the Stone Age. Oh well. Incentive for me to actually send out those postcards I’ve been promising people for four months now.  I also made a batch of ranch dressing using the dry mix Steph brought down for me among this mighty arsenal of fattening American food products:

It doesn’t quite taste the same as the stuff in the bottle, but it’s damn close and I can only imagine how good it’s going to taste on leftover fugazetta pizza crusts…droooool.

This little box of lovely I am saving for Thanksgiving day, or rather Thanksgiving night, because there’s no chance I’m risking anyone asking for a bite, which means I’ll have to make it under the cover of darkness then eat it all in one go so as to remove all evidence (also, please ignore the Chivas Regal, it’s not mine I swear...)

And the Nutella? Well, let’s just say the pictures were too obscene to post. I mean, I’ve had the jar a week, and I’m already hitting bottom. I have yet to spread any on a piece of toast either. It’s all about the spoon, baby. Don’t judge me too harshly. :-)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

my first fútbol game: a tearful experience

A little bit about me: I am blonde. I am tall. These two things combined make me stand out among the sea of petite, dark-haired Argentines that float delicately around Buenos Aires--I am a Viking among hobbits. For this reason I was a bit hesitant when asked to go to a local soccer game yesterday: I wasn’t too keen on being the only gringa in a stadium full of passionately puteando Argentines. But I was assured that nothing would happen, and I was going with a very (self-proclaimed) responsible guy, and I’ve always wanted to see a game here, so I said what the heck and went.

I met Joaco (a guy I met at the asado last weekend, who is the little brother of the friend of my friend el Negro, who begat…) and his friend whose name I can’t remember but who was definitely a member of the Tiny and Brunette Argentine club on the corner of Las Heras and Puerreydon, and we took the 118 bus alllllllll the way down Puerreydon to the Huracán stadium (la cancha). For those as ignorant as I was, here’s a little intro to Argentine soccer, from what I’ve gathered from various conversations with locals and from subsequent research on Wikipedia. La Primera División, or the First Division, of the Argentine football league is composed of 20 teams, including the famous Boca and River teams. Within the league, there are various rivalries which have a lot to do with local barrios (neighborhoods) and where stadiums are located, etc. When two rival teams play each other, that game is known as a “clásico,” which is where the famous Superclásico between La Boca and River Plate comes from. That game is by far the biggest rivalry in the league, but there are others, which you can read about HERE. The game I went to yesterday was the Huracán clásico, historically played between Huracán and San Lorenzo, and is also known as the Clásico del Barrio.

Once we arrived at the stadium along with hundreds of other Huracán fans sporting red and white jerseys, we passed through several different checkpoints where policemen did pat-downs for weapons, alcohol, etc. Unlike sporting events in the US which are often used as excuses to get wasted and take one’s shirt off, alcohol is not sold anywhere near a futbol stadium. It’s just not necessary. The fans are already so passionate, so quick to defend their teams, and if alcohol were involved things would just get out of hand, more so than they already do, and many more people would die. (If you’ve seen the film “Green Street Hooligans” you know how well that turns out).

The stadium is nothing special, but it was impressive to me anyway. The fans of the two teams are kept separate from each other during the whole process of the game: they enter at different times and locations, are kept on opposite sides of the stadium, and leave at different times and locations, to prevent any violent encounters. There are police everywhere, with helmets and plexiglass shields, trying to keep order. But the fans! Good lord. Considering that this was a game between two of the less-popular teams (compared to Boca and River), I wasn’t expecting the level of madness and passion that I saw. It was insane. I wish I could have taken pictures, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself as the gringa. The entire time—before, during and after the game—our side of the stadium was cheering, singing, jumping, cursing, beating on drums, and chanting in unison. It was really cool to see everyone wearing the same colors, singing the same songs, and sharing so passionately their love for their team. I’d heard how fútbol here in Argentina is a way of life, but it didn’t sink in until yesterday. There were kids running around in little Huracán jerseys, dads holding babies even as they shouted at the corner-kicker to go do something vulgar to his mother. It was kind of cute, in a way.

The amount of “puteando” that went on during the game was impressive, especially for someone such as I who revels in learning all the bad words. Every time a Huracán player messed up or a San Lorenzo player did something good, everyone would shout variations of “la concha de tu madre!” which I will not translate. That was definitely the curse of choice. Another curse, which was actually the main chorus to one of the songs being chanted periodically, was “la puta que te parió” repeated in varying octaves. Again, no translation needed. Also, whenever some poor San Lorenzo guy had to kick a corner, all the young Huracán fans would rush over to where he was, climb up the fence and start spitting on him and calling him names. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all the malas palabras, and might have even engaged in an “hijo de puta!” once or twice myself.

But for me, the best part was the tear gas. Gotta love tear gas.  Yeah. The other team’s fans got a little rowdy before the game even started, throwing things at the police and trying to start fights, so the lovely Policia Federal whipped out their crowd control training and tear gassed everyone. I’ve never seen that large a group of people move so quickly—all the San Lorenzo fans climbed on top of each other and huddled on the far side of their end of the stadium. We laughed at them, until the wind turned and sent the entire cloud of gas down to our end. If you’ve never been tear gassed, be thankful. It BLOWS. It gets in your nose first, and you can smell it and taste it in the back of your throat. And then it hits you full force, and your eyes start burning and watering and you can’t see anything and you can’t breathe very well and it sucks. Everyone turned their backs on the field trying to protect their faces in coats and tissues, but it didn’t really help. Eventually it dissipated in the rain (did I mention it was raining the whole time? Oh. Well, it rained the whole game, a nice, cold, steady drizzle) and then people went back to banging on their drums and puteando. Apparently tear gas is standard procedure at Argentine futbol matches. Who knew? 

Anyway, the whole game was quite an experience to say the least. Huracán lost, 2-0, which isn’t surprising considering they are ranked 19 out of 20 in the league, while San Lorenzo is up in the number 6 spot. But the fans remained loyal, chanting even louder and stronger after each San Lorenzo goal and then ending the game with a rousing cheer, something along the lines of “It’s Ok, we’ll get them next time, the dirty bastards!” Only slightly more vulgar. But I suppose I’m a Huracán fan now, since this is the only team I’ve actually been to see play. It makes me a bit sad because they are not good, but oh will be like supporting the Redskins all over again (3-6? Really?). I will definitely go to another game if I can, but this time I will be prepared: I’m going to learn all the songs, practice my puteando, and bring a gas mask, just in case!

*A side note: As I was going to post this, I was searching for images of the Huracán jersey or fans that I could use, and I found an article about how two people were killed at a Huracán game this past June. Kind of scary to read about after having been to a game in the same stadium. Nothing happened while I was there, I felt pretty safe, and I will still go to another game if I have the chance, but I just wanted to give some words of caution. Make sure you go with a local, and a trustworthy and preferably strong one. Girls, do NOT go alone. Also, DO NOT sit anywhere near the barra brava. The barra brava is the core group of fans who wield the drums and the banners and lead the songs, and they are considered the most dangerous and violent part of a fútbol game. Don't bring anything you value, duh, and just be aware that Argentines are volatile about their teams and can get extremely emotional. This isn't to put anyone off, it's an amazing experience so go if you have the chance, just be safe! If a 5 foot 9 blonde with blue eyes can go and come back OK, you should all be fine! Viva Huracán!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

riding the colectivo part 3: The Gringo on the Bus goes...

Welcome back! Its time for the next installment of Riding the Colectivo. So far we’ve covered the Guia-T and bus stop behavior, but at this point we haven’t actually made it onto the bus, which really is the whole point of the endeavor. So let’s go!

After finding the bus stop, waiting in line, and allowing all feeble people to board before you, what next? We’ll start with a word of caution. As I mentioned before, many colectiveros (bus drivers) will not wait until everyone is safely behind the yellow line before taking off (HA, safety regulations, what a joke). So, if you are the last one on the bus and it’s pretty crowded, get as far in as you can, hold on tight, then give the driver a quick “Dale” or “Bueno” so he knows its all right to go and there’s no one else trying to get on. Make sure your buttcheeks don’t get pinched in the door—I’ve seen it happen, it ain’t pretty.

Moving on to payment. Once you’re inside and intact (hopefully), you must tell the driver one of two things. First and easiest option: tell him the amount you wish to pay. The buses operate on a kind of distance-based fee system, where you pay different amounts based on how far you wish to go. In general, you will pay 90 centavos for a very short trip, within 10 blocks or so. 1.20 will take you up to 20 blocks, and 1.25 will take you anywhere further than that. These are the three main amounts, but occasionally you can say 1.10 and get away with it. This being said, if you say an amount and the driver puts in something different, just pay it, because there are some regulations about buses crossing into other companies’ areas and having to pay more or something like that. I don’t know the details, clearly, but the most you will pay is 1.25, so it’s really not that big a deal.

The second option is to tell the driver which street you would like to get off at or near. This works if you have a destination in mind and know that this destination is along the bus route. Once you tell him where you want to get off, the driver will put in the correct amount for that trip. For example, if you are riding the 152 down Santa Fe from Belgrano and know you want to get off at Avenida Puerreydon, you just get on, tell the driver “Hasta Puerreydon,” and he will push the little key that says 1.25, and that’s how much you pay.

Now, to actually pay you have to insert your coins (monedas) into the machine located right behind the driver. Once you tell the driver the amount or the destination, the fee will show up on the little screen on the machine. There are different types of moneda-eaters, but in general you just put the coins into a slot or into a little dish that has a motor in the back to pull the coins down, and that’s that. I once had an awful experience when I couldn’t find the slot for the coins (seriously, I was looking for it for like 2 minutes and couldn’t find it anywhere! Finally the lady behind me pointed it out, muttering something suspiciously ending in “-oluda.”) Point being, if you’re new to this and want to avoid appearing slow, watch the person in front of you and see where they put their coins. Also, with the dish-motor contraptions, don’t put all your coins in at once because there’s a good chance they will be spit violently back at you, hit you in the eye, and then you will have to crawl half-blinded around the floor looking for your last 5 centavos while people huff and sigh behind you. Hypothetically, of course.

After you have successfully paid the correct amount, a little ticket will print out of the machine. I don’t exactly understand the purpose of this ticket, since not once has anyone asked to see proof that I paid the measly fee, but you have to take it anyway, just in case! They usually just end up on the floor of the bus, but I personally like to roll it into a ball and flick at people with those ridiculous mullet-rattail hairdos (kidding! Or am I?)

*EDITED! I have now been asked to provide this slip of paper about four different times, so definitely make sure you hold on to it and don't mangle it or rip it into shreds. Occasionally a representative from the bus company will get on a bus and walk through, asking to see all the passengers' tickets, presumably to make sure they are paying the correct amount and not getting free rides. The man will board, announce that he would like to see the tickets, and then everyone will start rummaging around in their bags and pockets for the incredibly inconspicuous piece of paper. Then he'll come around, take your slip, put a little check on it, and hand it back to you. This has only ever happened to me on the 106 line, but I'm sure other lines have ticket-nazis as well, so keep that in mind!

Once you have your ticket, GO TO THE BACK OF THE BUS. This is a standard rule that everyone should follow. The seats at the front of the bus are reserved for older folk, women with kids, women who are preggers, disabled people, etc. If you sit there, not only will you have to face the rest of the bus and ride backwards, which is a little disconcerting, but you will probably also have to give your seat up relatively quickly given the number of afore-mentioned preggo/old/child-carrying people there are in this city.
And give seats up you must. If you are seated anywhere on the bus and someone who looks infirm or in need of a seat (ie with a cane, with a baby, etc) is standing near you or approaching, you should get up and offer your seat to them. This chivalry happens with amazing frequency, and I love it. Anyway, if there are seats available in the back part of the bus, feel free to take them. If not, you should go to the back anyway and take up a station holding the rails, praying for someone near you to get up. I usually pick the one person who is riding the ENTIRE line to stand near, and spend the whole ride glaring down at him and trying to force him with my eyes to just GET OFF already, where can you POSSIBLY be going that you have to sit there for SO LONG. Alternatively, you can stand in the little area in the middle of the bus where there is often a butt-rail to rest your hind parts upon but that really doesn’t do anything in the way of offering support or comfort. Your choice.

Another word of caution: watch your bag. Women: keep purses zipped and close to your body, especially if the bus is crowded. Messenger style bags are easy targets because they are so low down, so maybe keep a hand on the zip. If you’re wearing a backpack, I recommend wearing it on your front. Don’t feel silly doing this, because Argentines do it too…no one wants to get robbed! Men, you should already know this but keep your wallets in front pockets or, alternatively, wear jeans that are so tight you couldn’t get a credit card out of there. Again, your choice. 

So, that’s the bus! It’s easy, no? You’re on and heading to wherever you want to go, which is all fine and dandy. But what about getting off? No one wants to ride the colectivo forever, especially if it ends up in a barrio that is less than tourist-friendly. Enter the next installment: “Permiso, yo bajo.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

no hay mal que por bien no venga. i hope.

Last night was not a good night. You know that saying that bad things happen in threes? Last night I got hit with number two, and I just can’t wait to see what the third one will be!

The first bad thing to happen came on Tuesday, when I returned to work after taking a few days off while my best friend was here visiting. I arrived at the office only to find someone else sitting in my seat, so I went and asked my boss what was going on. He rather rudely informed me that he wanted to try someone else in my position and asked me to take the rest of the week off, and that he would let me know on Friday or Monday if I should come back. I was a little shocked at first, and upset, but this quickly turned into anger and indignation. I’m pretty sure it’s not legal to get rid of someone while they are on vacation, or at the very least it’s certainly not fair. But, in the end I think it is for the best. As they say, “No hay mal que por bien no venga.” Loosely translated, it means there is no bad thing that doesn’t come with something good. I really did not enjoy what I was doing at that company, and I often dreaded going into work in the morning. This might be the push I needed to get out there and find something I love. So, if my boss ends up calling me and says that I should come back, I really think I’m just going to tell him to put it somewhere the sun don’t shine. Yes, I need income. And yes, that job provided me with income. But at the same time I don’t want to waste days of my life doing a task that bores me, at a company that doesn’t respect me. Not my cup of tea.

What is my cup of tea is the level of kindness and generosity my friends have shown me. When I came home that Tuesday morning, my roommate Benja was very supportive and immediately started throwing out ideas and contacts that he could call on to help me out, and actually picked up the phone and followed through with them. We spent the morning updating my resume, job searching online, and thinking up various plans of attack. I also told my friend el Negro that I had left my job when we were talking online, and he immediately called me at the house to find out details, see how I was doing, and invite Benja and I over for some mate and relaxation. So we went over to his place, had some medialunas and mate, watched Ice Age and The Bourne Ultimatum, and just hung out for a few hours with Anna, Agustin, and Chimi. Once again, the sheer niceness (is that a word?) of Argentines overwhelmed me. I’ve known these people for less than a month, and some of them only for a week, and they were all offering words of support and encouragement as well as promises to keep their eyes open for any job possibilities. They really made me feel better about my situation, and I know that something will turn up eventually.

In that vein, yesterday I went and met with a woman who is a long time friend of Benja and his family. Benja just wanted to introduce me to her because she has a lot of contacts and might be able to find me a job somewhere. She was really nice and turned me on to a couple of networking events that I’ll go to, just to mingle and get my name out there. As I’ve said before, I really believe it’s who you know, not what you know, and at this point I know enough people here in Buenos Aires that I’m not starting from scratch, so hopefully that makes this job search easier.

Anyway, the second bad thing to happen came last night. I was snoozing, having fallen back asleep after the first mosquito attack and subsequent massacre of the night. I really need to figure out a way to deal with these blasted mosquitoes because they are ruining my sleep! Every night I get woken up at least twice by that god-awful “Eeeeeeee!” in my ear, at which point I immediately freak out, slap spastically at my ear in vain trying to smash the little bugger, then spend the next 10 minutes stalking him around my room until I finally manage to corner him and beat the daylights out of him with my flipflop. It’s less satisfying than you would think though, considering it’s MY blood that ends up smeared on the wall (see Exhibit A)

I digress. At about 3 am, my little nugget phone just dies. Lights up, shows the Nokia hands joined in friendship, then just goes black. Lights out. Donezo. I play with the battery, bang it on the table, blow on it, shake it, all the traditional cell phone resuscitation methods but nope. Nothing. Eventually something shows up on the screen: Local Mode. WTF is local mode?! However, this changes after about 5 minutes to say Test Mode. Again, WTF is test mode. GAH! I need my phone! It's my only connection to the people I've met here in BA, the only technological sign that I exist. If I don't have a phone, no one will be able to call me and invite me out to dinner or to go dancing! PANIC! But nothing I do will make this phone turn on, so I give it up for dead and go back to bed, wrapped in a sheet against the invading mosquitoes.

So, no job and no phone. Makes my to-do list for today pretty simple: get job, get phone. And maybe some more Off while I’m at it...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Weird, unique, confusing, awesome. These are the words that have been popping into my head almost daily, ever since I moved to Buenos Aires. I'll be walking down the street, or sitting (read: sweating) on the Subte, or having lunch with a friend, and all of a sudden I'll see something that just makes me go, "Hmm." Or if I were Canadian, “Eh?” Or, alternatively, “Sweet!” These things happen with such frequency that I figured I should start writing them down as a kind of tribute/memoriam to the oddities of Buenos Aires life. And thus we have WUCAT. I used my extreme creativity and extraordinary brainpower to come up with the sophisticated acronym WUCAT (Weird Unique Confusing Awesome Things), which I will document here on my blog. I know. How cool am I? Just go with it people!

Anyway, our first WUCAT is something I saw today but that reminded me how much I used to see it back in August, when it was colder: clothing on dogs. Now, I know Paris Hilton dresses her little dog in tutus and whatnot, and some “It” New Yorkers might deck their pooches in Pucci, but in Buenos Aires dressing your dog is almost the norm. Back in winter I used to see it all the time: little white poodles (the ubiquitous pet of choice for porteños, seriously they are EVERYWHERE) trotting around in miniature coats, scarves, and kerchiefs. Once I saw one wearing booties. Booties! Understandable on a sled dog in the deep Alaskan winter, but on a fluffy poodle in an Argentine winter? It was a little much, I have to say. But my favorite is seeing dogs wearing human clothes. I’ve seen plenty of larger dogs wandering around the city sporting T-shirts (front legs through the sleeves) of various styles. My all-time favorite was a gorgeous Irish setter wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt! A beautiful animal with good taste in music? Wish his owner had been around…

Next installment of Riding the Colectivo coming soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

best friend in BA!!

Well, I’ve finally recovered from a crazy week! My best friend Stephanie came to visit me for 6 days, and I think I got about 6 hours sleep total the entire time she was here. But it was SO worth it! She was my first visitor since I moved down here in August, and so she was the first one I got to introduce to the Argentine way of life. We did so much in such a short time, its hard to remember everything! One of our main goals was for her to try all the Argentine classics, and I think we got most of them. Here’s a run-down of all the new things Steph got to try: pizza (fugazetta, of course), empanadas from El Gourmet, mate (did not like, too bitter), Fernet (LOVED, took home a bottle all for herself), choripan (enjoyed, partially because it was one of the two words in Spanish she could remember, the other being “salchicha”), and helado (loved, but had to repeat the taste-test multiple times and at multiple locations ).

But let me go back. Last Monday night Anna and I went to meet Benja and some of his friends for drinks in Plaza Serrano, a little plaza surrounded by various bars and boliches. It was a good time, just drinking some beers and chatting. I was tired from work, but at about midnight I was mercilessly peer pressured into going out with Anna, Benja, Salvador (Benja’s cousin), and two of Benja’s friends (and brothers) Ernesto (but everyone calls him el Negro) and Agustin. We headed across the plaza to this place Madagascar, which turned out to be awesome! Monday nights in BA are usually laidback nights, but Madagascar was great: awesome music, dancing, cheap drinks. We stayed out for a few hours and had a great time.

The next day I was exhausted so I (GASP) didn’t go into work, but told my boss I would work from home. Which in BA apparently means do work for 2 hours then go out for a long lunch with friends...oops!  Benja and I met up with Anna, Negro, and Agustin for a light lunch al fresco near the apartment, and then grabbed some ice cream (#1) on the way home. That night Negro and Agustin invited us all over for dinner at their apartment, where Anna and I got called cows for eating lettuce and vegetables…typical Argentines and their meat obsession!

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I had requested off work so I could pick up Steph from the airport and spend the week showing her around my city. Wednesday we did some shopping, walked around a bit, napped (I was probably more tired than Steph), then went over to my friend Nate’s apartment for Taco Night round 2. It’s a great tradition we’ve started with about 12 people, both expats and locals, who come together and make delicious Mexican food. I make my now-famous strawberry mango salsa, Nate makes pastor (a spicy meat dish), and we have guacamole, nachos, refried beans, and all the delicious mexicanness you can’t really find here in BA. Enter food coma.


On Thursday Steph and I headed to Puerto Madero via Plaza de Mayo, to take some pictures and be touristy. We walked to the Costanera, got a choripan (which was as delicious as it was the first time, might be a new BA favorite!), and then some more ice cream (#2). Thursday night Benja and I invited some people over for a quiche dinner and some drinks, which was a lot of fun. We then all went out to Sumatra, a small boliche which was amazingly fun, although possibly the hottest and thus sweatiest boliche I’ve ever been in. Apparently the owners like it that way because they think people drink more. All I know is I felt (and looked) like I ran a marathon when we finally left at 5am!

Friday Steph and I went to the outlets on Avenida Cordoba and did some shopping, then got a well-timed lunch in Plaza Serrano at Maleva. We ate fajitas and raviolis while watching the rain pour down outside, then went back and hit some more stores.

Saturday I took Steph to the fair at Recoleta and we wandered around there for a little bit enjoying the sunshine before getting some ice cream (#3) and heading home because we had plans to go to a polo match at 4! We got a taxi over to the stadium in Palermo and got to watch two awesome teams play. I’d never seen polo before, so it was really fascinating to see how it’s done. The riders are amazing, and the horses are even better. I didn’t even really watch the ball, I was too busy watching the horses and seeing how the turned and stopped and galloped at the blink of an eye. Ridiculously skilled, rich, and not to mention attractive riders plus gorgeous horses? Yes please! Anyway, Steph and I had to leave before the match was over because we were getting a ride from el Negro and Agustin to an asado outside the city, in Pilar. However, Anna had just called and said she wanted to come as well, so there was a brief dilemma over transportation arrangements. But in the end, the boys made it work and Negro took the three of us in his car while Agustin and Chimi went by bus! I felt so bad that they had to go by colectivo (standing up the whole way as I was later informed), but they insisted and in the end we all made it and had a great time. Very caballero of them!

The asado was amazing. The meat itself was delicious, and the people were all really nice…I got to know some really interesting people. Some people left early, but Anna, Steph, Chimi, Negro, Agustin, some other guys and myself stayed up until 6am just chatting and singing karaoke, which was hilarious since the Argentines only knew about half the words to the English songs and just mumbled the rest! The only bad thing was the mosquitos…these things were seriously monsters! I’m pretty sure they were biting us through our jeans. We crashed for the night (morning?) in the spare room of the house and woke up to a houseful of relatives, including some adorable kids. Came back to the CF (capital federal) and promptly died. I was so cranky after not sleeping, so I had to take a nap. It was Steph’s last night though, so I rallied and we went to this kind of sports bar called Jobs near our apartment and played a few rounds of pool before getting some late night ice cream (#4). 

On the whole, it was a fantastic week! I’m so glad I got to see Steph—it’s really hard being so far away from all the people I love, and I miss her already! But she’ll be back and hopefully she will have learned some more words by then…salchicha and choripan will only get you so far (love you Stephhhh)!! As for me, I’m taking the time now to relax and try to detox my body from all the meat and ice cream and alcohol that was consumed, but knowing Argentina, I probably won’t have time before the next round of madness begins. Oh well. Bring it on BsAs!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

riding the colectivo part 2: Don't Be a Bus Stop Boludo

Welcome back! Hopefully the Guia-T introduction was helpful and you found a bus that can take you where you want to go (without too much flipping fatigue!) Once you find the bus stop, the hard part’s over! The only thing left to do is wait until said bus shows up and get on, right? Well, sure you could do that, but unless you follow some simple bus stop rules, people are going to know you’re a tourist and that’s never good (makes you more of a target for pick-pockets, for one thing). It doesn’t require a trip to Madame Defarge’s School of Deportment, but behavior at bus stops is governed by a implicit set of rules that, once you know them, are easy to follow and will make colectivo-riding much smoother (though not literally, the roads are still covered in potholes and suspensions are practically nonexistent—more like trampolines than floorboards).

First, LINES. If you approach a bus stop and there is a line of people waiting, you must go to the end of the line. This is common sense, but you’d be surprised. If there is more than one bus route number listed on the pole, as often happens along the main avenidas (Santa Fe, Puerreydon, Corrientes, Córdoba, Rivadavia, Cabildo, Belgrano, etc), there will still only be ONE line of people. This is important to note as it affects the next step: flagging.

FLAGGING a bus down is obviously a crucial step, because the bus will NOT stop automatically at every bus stop. The drivers (colectiveros) are operating a kind of mass chauffeur service, and will only stop when signaled, either by someone on the bus who would like to get off (bajar = to get off), or by someone on the ground who would like to get on (subir = to get on). So, unless you signal the driver to stop, he will thunder right past, leaving you choking on his smoke. To flag, stick your arm out, almost in a Hile Hitler pose (PC?), when the bus is about half a block away and keep it there until it’s within a few hundred yards, just to make sure. They will not signal that they saw you as taxis do, so none of this wimpy limp-arm nonsense: be a firm flagger! Sometimes you might have to step out into the street to signal your bus, especially if there are other buses around; in this case, modify the flagging motion so that you kind of point to the bus you want and maybe walk toward it a little, with a kind of “I want YOU” attitude.

If you are the first or only person at a bus stop, clearly you must flag your bus. However, even if you are at the back of the line, you should still flag your bus. There are several reasons for this. First, if the line is for multiple routes, you don’t know which—if any—of the people in front of you want the same bus as you, and so they might not flag. Second, there are several bus routes that have different ramales/recorridos (branches), and it’s often impossible to tell which one is which until the bus is right in front of you, so sometimes people will flag a bus but then wave it on if they realize it’s the wrong one. Third, the driver needs to know approximately how many people will be getting on the bus, so technically everyone in line should flag it, although not everyone does.

MANNERS are important in bus-stop behavior. In general, men will step aside and allow older women, women with children, or pregnant women to board the bus first, even if the man is the first in line. This is so that these women will have first choice of seats. Some men will even allow younger women to board before them; I’ve had plenty of men signal me that I should get on first and I am in no way old, pregnant, or burdened with niños. As a younger woman, I too tend to let older people get on before me, because it’s polite and my mama raised me right, plus the old people here are adorably classy and I enjoy it when they say “Ah, gracias querida!”

Finally, get your MONEDAS ready while you’re waiting at the stop: either have the correct amount in hand or easy access to where you keep them stashed. No one likes the boludo who has to fumble around for coins and keep the whole line of people waiting, particularly since the driver will continue on his manic way as soon as the last person’s foot has left the ground, regardless of whether the rest of his body is still hanging out the door.

In sum: wait in line, flag it down, be polite, be prepared. Coming up: You’re On! Now What?

Monday, November 9, 2009

a royal sentiment

In a gust of hot air, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, recently called on the Venezuelan army to prepare itself for war. After an agreement between Colombia and the US that would allow American soldiers onto various Colombian military bases, Chávez appeared on his regular and farcical television show "Alo presidente" to ask that the pueblo and the military ready themselves to defend the country. Some of the key phrases he employed, loosely translated, include "Venezuela will never be a US colony," and "the best way to avoid a war is to prepare oneself for war," as well as a warning that "a war against Venezuela would last for 100 years" because the country has many allies around the world.

There are many differing opinions about Chávez and what he stands for, but I for one agree with the sentiments of King Juan Carlos of Spain:


And in case you want something with a little more rhythm:


Gotta love kings gettin vicious! What do you think about Chávez? Any real threat, or is he just a big talker?

subte will not run tuesday nov 10

According to La Nación, piqueteros will once again halt service on all lines of the subte for 24 hours, beginning tomorrow, Tuesday November 10. Subte workers have been protesting heavily since last Thursday, when service was stopped for more than 12 hours, and this morning another complete stoppage was ratified. Metrovías has announced that it will attempt to take the necessary steps to ensure service, but the piqueteros are adamant in their demands. Basically, in a very small and simplified nutshell, subte workers are demanding that their organizations be allowed into the program of cooperatives created by the Kirchners, which would provide more jobs and benefits. Leaders of the relevant groups announced this morning that if lines of communication between the workers and the government are not opened by Wednesday and if steps are not taken toward the incorporation of subte workers, protests will return with more force to the streets and public spaces. It was made clear, however, that this new wave of protests will not include the taking of public buildings. These stoppages disrupt the flow of hundreds of thousands of citizens who normally take the subte and who must now find alternative methods of transport. In other words, if you're going somewhere, leave early, because the buses will be packed! It might also be a good time to get out the walking shoes and avoid the whole mess altogether.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

a good weekend

I love Sunday nights. After a long weekend of (insert vice here), they are a time to just relax, catch up on some reading, do a little writing maybe, have a nice light dinner and a glass of wine, and go to bed early. Well, as early as a sleep schedule in which you repeatedly hit the sack at 5 am will allow, so around 1 am. I had a great weekend, I must say. Friday night I went out with Benjamin and Anna to a new bar/resto called Sabbia, and I highly recommend it. It’s on Ayacucho in Barrio Norte, between Juncal and Arenales I think, and it’s a lot of fun! We arrived at about 1:30 after drinking several Fernet y colas in the apartment, accompanied as usual by some good loud music (los piojos) and indoor tennis—clearly the neighbors love us. The downstairs at Sabbia is a restaurant I think, with plenty of tables and two bars, and a good number of people already there. The vibe was classier than some places—think white furniture and blue lighting, lots of mirrors and a wall of Heineken bottles artfully arranged behind the bar. Upstairs there is another bar and some more tables, but if you head to the back, there’s a little area for dancing. The music was really good, a nice mix of reggaeton, pop rock latino, with some salsa and cumbia thrown in, so it was easy to dance to. Anna and I met some nice men to dance with, and I ended up serving as translator for Anna and this guy who spoke no English but clearly wanted to pursue her despite the language barrier. I don’t think I’ve ever told a woman she was beautiful as many times as I did that night! But así es. Arrived home at about 5:30, and woke up reeking of smoke, as usual. That is one thing I cannot stand about those clubs; my hair absorbs the smell of smoke like a freaking sponge, and it takes about three days before it’s normal again. Anyone else have that problem? Any solutions? It’s just nasty.

Saturday I went walking with Anna because it was a gorgeous day and we felt like crap from the night before and wanted to do some kind of physical activity beyond lifting a glass of Fernet. We went to the Parques in Palermo and wandered through the Rose Gardens, sitting on benches every so often and just enjoying the sunshine and green space. The gardens are really beautiful, you can almost forget you’re in the middle of the city. We almost saw a fight; one (cute) guy on a bike accidentally hit another guy because he didn’t see him and they were both wearing headphones, and the guy who fell off his bike got reallllllly pissed because his white pants were scuffed. This dude was a big sleazeball, smoking a cigarette and wearing this leather vest and a backwards hat, the closest thing to a guido I’ve seen here. Anyway he got in the other guys face and demanded money for his pants, and the other guy was like “What? No, they’re just pants, boludo, get a life,” and then the sleazy guy pulled the cute guy’s headphones off and snapped them. There was a lot of gesturing and some shoulder pushing, and then the cute guy got back on his bike and pedaled away, pretty quickly. And then this older lady behind me said “Ay, qué pelotudos,” and that was that. Anyway, we walked back to Anna’s place, got a not-so-quick Panini at a place called Panini (good grilled chicken though), and then I came home and just collapsed. Didn’t go out Saturday night, but instead stayed in and made some delicious guac(amole). Sometimes you just have to decide: party til the break of dawn, or homemade guac?

Sunday I had plans to go running in the Reserva Ecológica with some people from a yoga studio, so I went and picked up Anna after waiting 30 minutes for the 61 bus that never showed up, pinche colectivos. You’d think they would run more on the weekends since more people are out and would like to be able to go places, but NO, that would make too much sense. Anyway, we met up with the group in a park near the Reserva, across the diques in Puerto Madero, and it was absolutely packed! I had no idea this place was even there. There was music and dancing and stalls selling all kinds of stuff and tons of people everywhere, kind of like the feria at Recoleta but for Argentines instead of tourists and therefore much better. It looked like a fun place to spend a day, so I’m definitely going back soon. We ran for about an hour in the Reserva, which is an awesome place. The paths all lead to this playita, a little beach area where you can go and hang out and drink mate. Afterwards, Anna and I walked along the costanera just looking at all the things people were selling, and I got a choripan (sausage split in half on a bun, ‘chori’ from chorizo = sausage, and ‘pan’ = bread). DELICIOUS. Especially with some barbecue sauce and chimichurri, drool. Anyway, after my portable dinner we got portable dessert: helado! Chocolate with dulce de leche con brownie, 2 massive cones for the price of one, 11 pesos all this week from this place called Froillan in Puerto Madero. Go there ASAP, it’s good stuff! But seriously, how porteña am I, choripan with helado? Practically a native. And now, to bed.

Tomorrow I’ll post the next installment of Riding the Colectivo: Don't be a Bus Stop Boludo! Also stay tuned for WUCAT. It's new, it's exciting, it's coming soon to my blog!

Friday, November 6, 2009

riding the colectivo part 1: The Guia-T

Oh, Guia-T. How beautiful you are, with your tiny maps and seemingly orderless grids of numbers. It may look highly complicated at first glance, but the Guia-T (cute Castellano pun: guia-T = guiate = guide yourself….get it? ja.) is quite simple and insanely useful. It’s known as the bible of public transportation here in Buenos Aires, and for good reason: careful reading and interpretation will get you where you want to go, whether your heaven is Palermo, Retiro, or further abroad. But wait! There’s more. The Guia-T can also be used as a regular map if you just ignore the bus numbers, and it’s one that won’t label you an instant tourist. Pulling out a TimeOut or Lonely Planet will automatically mark you as a gringo turista, but whipping out a Guia-T, especially a ragged and well-thumbed one won’t cause much of a fuss…I’ve seen plenty of porteños consulting their Guia-T like it weren’t no thang.

So, how to acquire it. Go to pretty much any kiosk or magazine stand and ask, they’ll probably have one for about 5 pesos or so. Or you can wait until someone on the subte comes around selling them, I’ve seen them on the D-line most recently for 6 pesos (the new fancied-up 2010 version too, very classy.) The routes do change sometimes, so I would recommend using a fairly up to date one. My friend used a 2004 version recently and ended up in La Boca at about 9pm, not the best time for a visit.

Once you have the goods, its time to decipher. First, the front of the book has a zoomed out map of Greater Buenos Aires and its barrios, so you can see where the different areas are in relation to each other. (Btw I’m using the 2009 version, I’m not sure if the 2010 one is laid out differently, but it should be basically the same format). And…the map is actually the right way up, unlike those in TimeOut and other publications that turn the city so that the Plaza de Mayo is at the bottom…highly confusing and quite cartographically inaccurate. In reality, Puerto Madero is the furthest east you can go, with Belgrano up to the north, Boca to the south, and the rest of the city spreading out westwards. But anywho.

After this map is an alphabetical listing of all streets in Buenos Aires. All of them. This is where a colectivo virgin starts.

Step 1: Look up the name of the street you want to start from in the index. Once you find it, if it’s a longer street it will be divided up into segments according to block number. Find which block you are on and then go to the “plano” and specific square that is listed next to it, for example 16 B1.

Each page after this index is a plano, or map. These planos often connect to each other, ie if a road runs off the left of the page, it will say “continúa en el plano blahblah,” and then you just go to the right side of that plano and keep going. An interesting activity if you have an extra Guia-T is to cut out each plano and tape them together in order. I’ve done this (takes ages), but the resulting map is quite impressive; it really shows just how big the city actually is. There is life beyond Almagro people!

Step 2: Once you have your location (ours is 16 B1), find the corresponding square in the grid on the left page. All the buses that run through that particular map square are listed here.

Step 3: Now you do the same thing for the location you want to end up at: find the street, block, plano, and square. Then see if any of the same buses go from your home square to the final destination square. If there is a direct match, ie if the number appears in both squares, skip to the next step. If there are no direct matches, look at the surrounding squares on both planos to find a match--you might have to walk a few blocks to a bigger street. Note: using the Guia-T requires a certain amount of finger dexterity, as you often have to keep two or more plano pages open while also flipping back and forth between them and the route descriptions at the back of the book. Think of it as joint therapy.

Step 4: Once you find a match, turn to the back of the book and find your chosen bus number. Most buses will have two routes, “ida” and “regreso,” although some will have more complicated options such as different ramales or recorridos, but that’s another story. Ida or regreso doesn't really matter, you just have to make sure you get on the route that's going to the place you want to go, not coming from there.

This is where it gets tricky. Nowhere in the Guia-T does it mention where the actual bus stops are. The route descriptions in the back simply list the order of streets down which that particular bus travels, noting only when the bus turns onto a new street or when a street changes names. Annoying, yes, I know, but this is Argentina people, it’s a way of life.

Step 5: Find out which street in your home square the bus travels on. Do this by flipping back and forth between your plano and the description to see which of the streets in your square is mentioned in the description. Once you find it, that’s your street.

Step 6: Then, using the description in the back as a kind of trail guide, follow the route the bus takes. For example, if the description says: “Ave Cabildo, Ave Santa Fe, Ave Puerreydon, Ave Rivadavia,” that means that the bus starts off on Cabildo, which turns into Santa Fe (as you will see in the planos), goes down Santa Fe, turns on Puerreydon, then turns again on Rivadavia. Simple! It will take a lot of flipping at first, and following the streets can be hard sometimes if you don't know which direction they go, but with a bit of trial and error you'll get it!

Step 7: Finding the actual bus stop is a little hit or miss, but basically you just have to walk down the street in the direction the bus will be going until you find it. They tend to occur in groups…there will be stops for a bunch of different routes within the same block, and there will often be either a shelter or a marked pole with the number on it (although this is not a given, especially in the remoter areas of the city look for pieces of paper stuck to trees). There will also probably be a group of people waiting if it’s a popular route, so that should help. Or, when in doubt, just ask someone (donde esta la parada del (#)?) They might know, they might not, but it doesn't hurt to ask!

As you get to know the city better, it will get easier. Eventually you build up a kind of mental repertoire of buses that will get you different places, and you use those to get around. Also, find out which buses run past your house by looking at the various bus stops you see as you’re walking. Then use the Guia-T to look up those numbers and see where they go. That way you’ll have an idea of the different options available right outside your front door! Suerte!

Next up: At the Bus Stop

jump on board! riding the colectivo tutorials

I have many friends here in BA who have recently arrived and who are basically terrified to ride the buses. I mean, I don't blame them. The colectivos, as they are called, are notoriously loud and obnoxious beasts that spew black clouds of smoke as they hurtle violently from one stop to the next. From the ground, they are most definitely fear-inspiring, almost like facing a herd of stampeding wildebeest coming down a gorge (and we all know how that one turned out--thanks Disney!) Anyway, what with the size and the noise and blatant lack of regard for anything in their paths, combined with the stress of not knowing which line to take or where the stops are or how to pay, buses are clearly an intimidating option for general transportation.

However, they are also the best option, at least in my opinion. There are about 200 different lines that run in GBA and CapFed (actually there are a lot more, but numbers 1 through 200 are the most relevant for the average porteño/a), and between them they cover almost every block in the city. Additionally, they have windows. In the coming summer months, I guarantee you are not going to want to be underground in a little metal tube crammed with sweating Argentines. Just going down the steps into a subte station in January is like descending to the bowels of hell, only with BO instead of brimstone. And really, once you figure the system out and know a few tricks, the buses are actually really easy to ride. No excuses!!

Personally, I refused to ride the buses for the first few weeks I was here, because I was petrified at the thought of getting on one and ending up in Quilmes, or worse, in "Provincia"...the horrors! But, after doing some research online and reading some helpful articles, I got over myself, got on the 132, and the rest is history. So, for all those out there who are still (justifiably) intimidated by the colectivos, I've decided to write some tutorials on how to use the BA bus system. We'll be starting at the beginning, with the mother of all guidebooks: the GUIA-T! (cue clouds opening, ray of sunlight, choir of angels).

Talk about cliffhanger, eh? Stay tuned: Guia-T post will be up later tonight!

generosity and connections

Argentines are so generous! Last night I went over to this (amazingly beautiful) apartment with my roommate-ish Benja, and met a bunch of nice Argentine girls and an older couple. They were sitting at the dining table eating dinner when we got there, but they all got up and immediately found us chairs and plates and pushed glasses of wine into our hands and loaded our plates with ice cream, and I just kept thinking that if someone tipped up during dinner time in the States, unannounced, it would seen as the height of rudeness. But here, its just one more person for the party! Love that.

One thing I'm learning, and that has been proved to me many times in the past few months, is that in life its not what you know, but who you know, especially in a culture such as this one, where life revolves more around friendships and relationships than on things like work and money. In the months I've been here, I've been introduced to so many people, and honestly, if you have the slightest thing in common with someone you meet, you will most likely "make a connection." In the States I feel like making connections has such an impersonal tone to it--it's just another number to add to the rolodex. But here, connections are real. When Argentines say, "Hey, you should give me a call when you're in Rosario and we can get coffee," or when they tell you that they have a third cousin in Patagonia who has a ranch and sure you can totally stay there for free, THEY MEAN IT. It's not just something polite to say; they will actually take out a piece of paper and pen and give you their number and their email and when you do follow up, they will remember you and things will happen just like they said they would.

Also, this often comes from complete strangers, or from people you've just met. For example, last night I met for the first time about 10 Argentine girls and an older couple who are all old family friends of Benja. In a span of about 4 hours, in which beer and wine and conversation flowed freely (of course), I was invited to play soccer for three different teams, to stay at two different lodges down in Patagonia, to go horseback riding at a polo club, to take tango classes for free, and to come to any parties any of the girls might throw in the future. It's impressive, the generosity and kindness these people show. Definitely one of the things I love about Argentina!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Resto Review: Cilantro

I LOVE eating. Its one of my passions, and I really love trying new places and new foods. One of my main goals while I'm here is to basically eat my way through the city, trying all the key restaurants and all the little secret places until I have to walk through doorways sideways and can no longer see my feet (note, must find gym!). Anyway, I've been to quite a few places in the three months I've been here, so I'll be retro-posting those reviews in the future, but I went to a new place last night so I'll start there.

Last night I went to dinner with my friend Anna to Cilantro, a southeast Asian-style restaurant in Barrio Norte (Anchorena 1122), like 3 blocks from my apartment. Its a nice place, well-designed with interesting giant twirly vine patterns on the walls, reminded me of Dr. Seuss a little bit. They have happy hour until 9:30 with 2 for 1 drinks so we got 2 Fernet and colas for 22 pesos, which is a pretty good deal considering many bars charge 25p plus for just one! For some reason the waitress decided to eat her dinner at the bar before we had even ordered ours, which was a little annoying because she took her good sweet time and I was starving. I felt bad about interrupting her while she was eating, ironically, so we just waited and eventually she came and took our order. I got pesto penne, and Anna ordered sushi, which I got to try for the first time! The pesto pasta was FANTASTIC, capital letters required! I highly recommend it: the sauce was light and not too basil-y, but tasted exactly like pesto should. There were whole peanuts and a little hint of mint as well, and the whole thing was just heaven. And it was only 22 pesos, for a good sized portion, not too massive but not one of those snobby dishes that come out with like 3 noodles artfully arranged on a tiny leaf. Anna said her sushi was weird...I tried it and it tasted good to me, but I'm a sushi amateur so I wouldn't know. She got 10 pieces of Salmon Roll for 17 pesos. I also saw some other dishes come out that looked good: our table neighbors ordered alitas (wings) in some kind of sauce and a Thai noodle dish, both of which looked delicious as well. And the drinks! I kept seeing people with these tall glasses of something but sadly didn't have the dinero to try one.

In summary: get the pesto! It was that scrumptious. There were also a lot of sushi choices on the menu, and the drink list was quite extensive, so I would recommend trying one of their special drinks, because they looked amazing. The prices were very reasonable for the quality and quantity, nothing really exceeded 30 pesos and the portions were good-sized. Here is the review on GuiaOleo, just to compare my experience with others:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chocolate Love!!

I am SO HAPPY right now!!

I came home from work (long day as usual followed by a bus ride where not only did I not get a seat, I didn't get a bar to hang on to, so I had to spend the 30 minutes balancing in the aisle with bended knees so that the maniac driver wouldn't throw me to the floor every time he stopped or started, but I digress) and I had a PACKAGE waiting for me!!! I didn't even know I could get packages here! But I can, and that makes me so so happy. The package was from my Aunt and Uncle back in the States (Thanks Sheppards), and it contained a massive box of CANDY. Chocolate candy. Snickers! Twix! Milky Way! M&M! All the best American classics, which you cannot find here at all. I immediately ate one of each, then proceeded to hide them from my roommate who unfortunately has been to the States and so knows how good these candies are and is therefore a liability. So thank you to the Sheppards once again, I really appreciate you thinking of me way down here and all alone! Your gift will be treasured for approximately 3 hours, at which point it will have become but a fond and delicious memory. Chocolate is love, and no one gives love like family!

two summers in one year?! yes please!

So, not to rub it in people’s faces, but the weather here is absolutely gorgeous right now! Unlike the US, which I’m told is rapidly heading toward winter, Argentina is preparing for yet another sweltering summer. It's spring right now, with average temperatures in the 70's and a mix of beautiful sunny days and less fun rainy ones.

Summer in this city should be interesting, for several reasons. First, it gets insanely hot. We’re talking over 100 degrees daily, with temps not cooling down until well after midnight, and then only by a few degrees. This tends to make public transportation, close interactions, and really any kind of movement at all quite difficult and a little bit gross. Think lots of freely sweating Latin men with their arms upraised to hold onto the overhead bars on city buses, conveniently placing their drenched and reeking pit area precisely at face level…I can’t wait! Subte rides and dancing in clubs are already pretty sweaty endeavors, so I can’t even begin to imagine the state of affairs in the middle of the summer! It won’t be pretty. Also, and quite understandably given the afore-mentioned perspiration situation, many people flee the city in a sort of mass exodus during the month of January to take their vacations in less crowded areas such as Mar del Plata, Uruguay, and Brasil. BA becomes a ghost town, I’m told, at least in regard to the locals. Tourists continue to come, looking to escape the northern hemisphere’s winter.

Anyway, that’s what I’m looking forward to in the coming months. I of course won’t be able to leave for the whole month of January (work, what a downer), but I hope I can get out of the city occasionally and hit the beaches! For now, I will enjoy the sun and the manageable temperatures, go shopping for summer clothes and sandals YAY, and laugh when I think about all the Uggs that are appearing across the US of A. Suckassssss


Well, I’ve done it. I’ve given in to peer pressure, jumped on the bandwagon, and joined the crowd. I’ve decided to start a blog! These days it seems like everyone has a blog or a website or are twittering/tweeting/twooting/whatever, so I figured, why not me?

I’m actually living a pretty interesting life right now, at least in my opinion. This past August, after graduating from college, I packed up two (ridiculously heavy, over-the-airline-weight-limit-by-several-kilos) suitcases and shipped myself down to Buenos Aires, Argentina! I had a one-way ticket, relatively vague plans, a lot of unnecessary clothes, and that’s about it. After an initial panic attack upon arrival and the discovery that my pre-arranged rent was not what I thought it would be, but was in fact 6 times that amount, I hit a lucky streak and things got settled pretty quickly. I found a sweet job, a new place to live, a bunch of awesome new friends, and I’ve been living la vida loca ever since!

I absolutely love Buenos Aires! There is something about this city that really speaks to me, and every day is an adventure. Thus, this blog has several purposes. First, it’s a diary, so that I can remember all the things that I do, because honestly I do so much that sometimes by Friday I've forgotten what I did on Monday, and I don’t want any precious memories to fall through the cracks! Second, it’s a guide. I stalked a lot of blogs and sites before I came to BA, and found a lot more after I got here, and they all really helped me get a feel for real life in the city. So I figured I’d add my two cents and maybe a different perspective to help out others who are interested in coming to the land of wine and meat. Third, it’s a way for me to stay connected with people back home who want to know all about my life down in the southern hemisphere (hi Mom!). And finally, it’s fun! I like writing and I love Buenos Aires, so why not shout this love from the mountaintop known as

I intend to just write freely about my life here in Buenos Aires, with no particular structure or order, although I'll probably organize things eventually, because thats just what I do. I’ll include both the bigger events/things that go on as well as daily life stuff, because even though BA is a metropolitan city and is considered the “Paris of South America” (open to discussion), things are verrrrrry different here and the simplest tasks often require a certain level of effort, patience, and interpretation (see forthcoming posts about laundry, food shopping, mail system, walking down the street, etc, etc, etc). Expect posts about all the amazing things that I do, the crazy nights and the delicious food (more about food later), the trips and concerts and parties and all that fun stuff, but I’m sure there will also be a fair amount of complaining, nostalgia, and general bitching. Living in Buenos Aires is just like living in any other city: there are good things and there are bad things. However, for me the negatives in Argentina are just as fascinating as the positives—I love learning about this culture from the inside and just want to experience everything this fantastic country has to offer.

So that’s the deal! I’ve been here for about three months now, with no plans to return to the States in the immediate future. I’m actually really looking forward to writing this blog, and can only hope that my enthusiasm for this life I’m living translates! First real post will be coming soon, so hasta pronto! :)