Friday, February 26, 2010


SOOOOO EXCITED! Mi vieja is coming to visit me!!! I haven't seen her in almost 7 months, since she dropped me off at Dulles Airport at the butt-crack of dawn back in August. I mean, I've seen her, on Skype, but it's not the same. She's my second visitor--my best friend Stephanie came to visit me back in November--and I'm super pumped to show her around town. I want her to try all the food, meet all my friends, see all the sights, and do everything that I do in my new BA life (note: all she wants, in her words, is a bottle of white wine in fridge when she arrives! No te preocupes Mama, I got plenty of wine.)

I don't really have any plan for things to do when she's down here, but I know I want her to come to one of my soccer games and meet the group. We're also planning an asado for Sunday since we have meat left over from the last one, and I'm going to make her try all the nasty parts mwoohahahah. She wants to see Tigre, and I'm considering going to an estancia (suggestions??), just to get out of the city for a day and go riding (we've both been riding horses for about 15 years).

Also, I'm super pumped because she's lugging approximately 90 lbs worth of my crap down here. She's bringing jeans, shoes, tops, bags, a new computer, a new iPod, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and other assorted junk that I need/want. Joy! Especially the new computer. My old Dell, circa early 2005, is struggling mightily. It's had a great run and served me valiantly, but it's definitely time to put it to pasture or send it to a farm, like you do with sick dogs so they can get better and run and play allllll day! Oh wait. Nevermind.

I got a new iPod as well, which the mother figure is also carting down here for me. Mine broke a few months ago and since then I've been unable to block out the whispers of men as they walk past me on street--my vocabulary has definitely increased, to say the least.

I've been working like a mule lately, doing this writing gig from home (read: in my pjs all day). It's a pretty good set-up involving writing how-to video scripts. As an interesting side effect, I'm learning all kinds of useless facts about random topics. Seriously. Yesterday I learned how to throw a javelin, and today I'm learning all about how to apply cologne, roast coffee in a popcorn popper, and make my parents love me for who I am (you think I'm joking about that last one??) A plus: if I ever get on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, I'm set.

Here are some pics from my life recently. You'll notice they are limited in, soccer, me in my PJs taking pictures of myself...I've gotta get out more. I'll do some touristy things with my mom and document them, and maybe do a few posts about common attractions here in BA. Either that or we'll just both stay in our PJs all day and drink copious amounts of wine. TBD.

Most of the group, right after a game...sweaty much?

 Beers on the Street

 Soccer Boys (teehee...nice faces, chicos)

 How to Piss Off a Cat

Traguito's Lady Friend (kitten-sitting for a friend)

She was a close talker

And a fluffball!

I realize I need to stop taking pictures of myself with cats...I have already heard the first murmurings of "crazy cat lady" so I promise I'll stop now. Got a few job interviews soon, so maybe that will help. OK gotta go finish cleaning the house for Madre's arrival tomorrow! I'll try to post while she's here, depending on what we do. chauchau!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Butaca Briefing

I’ve gotten several questions about long-distance buses that I’m going to try and answer here. First, seats (butacas). I realize that Plataforma10 gives you lots of options, especially if you’re heading to a fairly common destination, like Córdoba, Salta, Rosario, or Mar del Plata. The seat names can be confusing, mainly because they are all so similar and also because they are amazingly non-descriptive—I mean, semi-cama? How semi is semi?! Let’s explore.

In general, Semi-cama seats are the least-reclining of all seats, usually tilting back to a 120 degree angle. Cama is the next step up, with seats that recline to about 140 degrees. Cama Suite, Coche Suite, or just Suite usually means 180 degrees of sweet, sweet recline, aka completely horizontal. These seats are often a bit wider than the other kinds and there’s more space between each seat. Seats with Plus or Super in the name are also usually 180 degree seats. Cama VIP, Cama Ejecutivo or just Ejecutivo seats are tricky—it depends on the bus company, but they are usually between 160 and 180 degree recline. If it says c/ servicio after the seat name, that means you get food. However, if doesn’t say c/servicio, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t get food. 

Since my descriptions are about as useful as tits on a snake, you can also use Plataforma10 itself (no, I don’t know where that expression comes from but it’s compelling, no?) When you search for a particular destination and date, the bus company will be on the far left side of the list that comes up. Click on it and you will be taken to a page that describes the different seat types--with degrees of recline--and service options that the company provides (comodidades según servicio de omnibus). It will also list all the principal cities the company hits on its routes. (Note: if the page shows up with no information on it, as it might occasionally, then you can just type the name of the company into Google and look up the Servicios section on their website.)

Of course, the Plataforma10 information is in Spanish which is pretty unhelpful if you don’t speak Spanish. Here are some of the more common terms you will find:

Butaca- seat
Bandeja de apoyo or apoya piernas- foot/leg rest
Mantas y almohadas- blankets and pillows
Desayuno- breakfast
Cena- dinner
Aire accondicionado y calefacción- heating and AC
Servicio a bordo- on-board service (entrada fría, cena caliente, desayuno = cold appetizer, hot main dish, breakfast)
Luces de lectura- Reading lights
Separador y cortina entre butacas- curtain between seats for privacy
Películas- movies
Café, agua, vinos, gaseosas- coffee, water, wine, sodas
Minibar- no translation required :)

No matter which bus you choose, there will always be a bathroom available, and there will always be a water cooler near the front if you get thirsty. Almost all buses have leg or foot rests for each seat, and curtains on the windows. If you are going on a long trip, they will feed you or you will be able to get off at certain stops and buy food. Even on shorter trips, the company will often leave a little box or bag of standard Argentine snacks, aka alfajores and crackers. They aren’t going to leave you high and dry on a long trip, but if you’re worried about food or drink, you can always bring your own!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

To Provincia and Beyond: Long Distance Buses Part 2

Welcome to the second half of my new series on long-distance buses: Retiro’s Bus Terminal or the Definition of “Quilombo.” A few days ago I covered the basics and how to buy tickets, HERE. Today we’ll go over the layout of the bus station and how not to miss your bus and have to go sprinting down a busy highway to where it has embarrassingly pulled over to wait for you. Yeah.

OK. So you have your ticket(s) in hand and are making your way to the Retiro bus station, about 45 minutes to an hour before your bus is supposed to depart. If you come by Subte, take the C line to Retiro, head up the staircase on the right after you exit the platform area and keep going straight, passing the train station on the left. Go almost all the way to the end of the street, passing all the little food vendors, stores, and restaurants (who goes out to eat in Retiro?!) until you come to the last building on the block. It’ll be a big green building on the left, and you’ll see an open entrance with a long ramp heading up into the terminal. Go in there and walk up until you sense that you have entered the tenth circle of hell. Just kidding.

There are about 120 slots or platforms outside for the various buses to pull into, which makes for a long-ass terminal. Consequently, the slots are divided up into sections A, B, C, etc, each comprised of about 15 platforms each. Your ticket will tell you the section your bus will be arriving in, but not the exact platform. For example, when I went to Villa Gesell, my ticket said the bus would arrive somewhere between Platforms 37 to 51 in Section D.

You will want to head to the section listed on your ticket, then check the large sign located at the start of each section to see if your bus is listed—the bus company, destination, and departure time will be displayed, along with the platform. Tip: the name of your bus company is on the top of your ticket, in the middle. If it’s not on the board yet, sit yourself down near one of the TV monitors that show the arrivals (arribos) and departures (partidas) of all the buses in Retiro and keep an eye out for your bus.

If all goes smoothly, your bus will appear on the screen along with the platform it will be arriving at shortly. Go to that platform. If you have luggage you want to be stored in the bottom of the bus, head to the back where there will be a man chucking bags inside the belly of the beast, and hand over your stuff. Then, go back to the front door and give your ticket to the men standing outside. One of them will read your ticket number and seat assignment to the other one, who will check it off on a little piece of paper. They will rip off the right side of your ticket, tell you if you’re upstairs or downstairs, and then you can get on! Donezo.

However, if your bus hasn’t shown up on the screen about 5 minutes before it’s supposed to depart, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you see a bus from the same company in a platform near you, show the men outside your ticket and ask if it’s the right bus. If it’s not, they might be able to tell you whether your bus is running late or not. There are often several buses from the same company leaving at around the same time, which is confusing, but again, don’t be afraid to ask someone. When it comes to Retiro, it’s always better to ask and look like a stupid tourist than to miss your bus.

Story time. When I and some friends went to Villa General Belgrano for Octoberfest, the bus never showed up on the screen, and it left without us. All 4 of us, plus 2 other girls, swore we had been watching the screen and the thing just never came up. So, eventually we ran upstairs to where all the ticket counters for the bus companies are located and told the guy there that our bus never came. He said that it had come, and had already left as well. Anyway, we freaked out—there was no WAY we were not making it to Octoberfest!!—and the poor guy called the bus driver to ask how far he’d gotten. Fortunately he hadn’t gone far and we ended up running, bags and all, down this highway to where the bus had pulled over onto the shoulder for us. It was highly embarrassing traipsing through the bus to our seats, but it turned out all right in the end---->


And now some tips for the journey. Wear pants and take a sweater, because it gets cold. Not kidding. I always end up huddled under my handy "pink thing" (it’s actually a giant pink sarong, and it does everything: beach towel, dress, scarf, sheet) wishing I had more clothes on. Socks are a good idea too. Books and iPods are always useful, especially for longer journeys, and consider bringing an eye mask and earplugs if you’re going to want to sleep—you never know where the screaming child will be sitting. 

 Pink Thing

And that’s about it! Apart from being really hectic all the time, the Retiro terminal is actually quite efficient, considering the amount of traffic it deals with, both vehicular and human. Just don’t buy gum there…it’s like 6 pesos for 4 pieces. Anyway, I hope this little guide helps, because it would be a shame to come all the way to Buenos Aires and not see the rest of the country. Those of you already here, you now have no excuse for not traveling, so go! Chau. Hasta luego. Nos vemos. Suerte!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Temazo Tuesday

Ay, I almost forgot again! I've been busy doing some work online and dealing with two cats in the apartment (I'm watching one for my friend), and almost forgot to post a temazo, horror of horrors. Anyway, today's temazo is going to be a song by an Argentine band called Los Autenticos Decadentes, English translation = the Decadant Authentic Ones. The band formed in the late 80's and plays a mix of ska and various other types of music. There are about 10 or 12 people in the band, and many of their songs are absolute classics here in Argentina. The topics of their temas are often amusing or silly, including the one I'm posting today.

The title is "Los Piratas," a term used to refer to men who go out at night and troll for loose women (gatos) in cabarets and strip joints. It's kind of a party anthem, and is also pretty hysterical if you watch the video...think Saturday Night Fever meets Vegas. But Latin. And 80's. Ridiculous.

The other day a good Argentine friend of mine threatened to abuse me physically if I didn't stop singing this song, so I get the impression that not everyone enjoys Los Autenticos Decadentes. But I do, so HA. "Despues del cabaret, nos vamos para el sauna!!!" Ahi va.

Monday, February 15, 2010

To Provincia and Beyond: Long Distance Buses Part 1

Apparently I'm obsessed with buses. Here is yet another bus how-to, just like my Riding the Colectivo series, except this time we're going long-distance baby! First part of the series: Basics and the Miracle that is Plataforma10. Vamos!

If you're coming to Buenos Aires for any period of time longer than a few weeks, you might want to get out of the city and explore other parts of Argentina. There is so much to this country besides Capital, and life really is completely different outside the Av General Paz. So get out there, OK?!

When traveling inside Argentina, and even to neighboring countries, the best and cheapest way to go is by bus. Plane tickets are absurdly expensive--flying to Santiago, right over the mountains, costs an arm and your first-born child, according to Aerolineas. Anywho, the long distance buses in Argentina are often called "micros" (not that they are micro in any sense of the word) or "omnis," and they go pretty much everywhere: Mendoza, Rosario, Salta, Patagonia, Córdoba, Mar del Plata, Bariloche, El Calafate, Iguazú, Brasil, Paraguay, Chile. I think there's even one to Perú!

They are also very comfortable. Considering how large a nation Argentina is, some might be deterred by 10 or 12 or even 24 hour bus rides, but it really isn't too bad. The seats on the majority of these buses are "cama" or "semi-cama," meaning they recline to a full or almost full horizontal position. None of that bolt-upright, 10 square inches of leg room nonsense they have on airplanes...these seats are the BOMB (couldn't say THAT on a plane either!)

The service on these buses is also excellent, at least from what I've experienced personally. I'm sure there are some bad eggs, but all the companies I've travelled with have been great. On longer trips they provide snacks and meals, which aren't stellar but certainly not awful. The bus I took to Octoberfest even gave us wine with our dinner, WITH free refills! Put me right to sleep. They also play movies of varying caliber, but honestly, we can't blame Nicolas Cage's bad acting on the poor bus companies, now can we. 

There are probably a hundred companies that offer service to various locations, but the best way to find a bus to your desired destination is to use a website called When you go to this site, enter in your origin (Retiro if you're leaving from Capital) and your destination, and the date you wish to travel. A list of all the available buses to that destination will appear, with the company name, time of departure, time of arrival, class of seat (cama, semi-cama, cama ejecutivo, etc), number of seats available, and price.

There are a bunch of different seat options, but basically the more expensive the seat, the more it reclines. However, keep in mind that even the cheapest seat option (usually semi-cama) reclines almost completely, and I've travelled in semi-cama seats on 8 and 10 hour trips with no problem.  

Semi-cama seat- check out that recline!

To buy your actual tickets (pasajes) there are also several options. You can buy directly through the Plataforma10 website using your credit card, which requires you to sign up and enter in a document/passport number--personally, I don't like putting that kind of stuff on the web. You can also call and buy them if your Spanish is good enough.

Alternatively, you can go back to the home-page and on the left side of the screen, click "Dónde comprar?" A list of locations will appear, organized by barrio, and you can choose the place closest to you, go there, and buy your tickets in person. There is a dropdown menu where you can change the province if you live outside Capital Federal.

The locations in Capital are usually locutorios, or sometimes grocery stores like Disco. There will be a black and orange Plataforma10 sticker on the door or window of the locutorio so you'll know you have the right place (the first time I did this I was so confused...I was expecting more of a travel agency place, and the dinky little locutorio was a surprise!)

To buy your ticket, just tell the person at the counter that you would like to buy "pasajes de Plataforma10" and then tell them the destination and date. They will kindly bring up the actual Plataforma10 page, just like you did at home, and then you can show them which specific bus you would like. You can also choose your seat, aisle (pasillo) or window (ventanilla).

They will ask for a document, so take along a copy of your passport. You pay, and then they print out your tickets. Easy peasy and with no risk of identity theft, always a plus! Up next, we return to Retiro (that place haunts my dreams, people) for the actual catching of the bus. Not as easy as it sounds, but no worries...I got you. :-)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Villa Gesell, Verano 2010

I'm baaaaack! The beach was wonderful-- a relaxing week of good food, sun, and waves. I shall now recap said week for your benefit, those of you stuck on the east coast of the US under 30 inches of snow!

After a good game of fulbo (lazy way of saying fútbol) on Wednesday night, I woke up at 6 am to a rainy Thursday and trekked out to Retiro (yay) to catch my 8:15am bus. No problems there, and the bus ride was uneventful…I pretty much slept the entire way, thanks to the comfortable semicama seats on all Argentinian long-distance buses. Arrived in Villa Gesell at about 2 pm and got a taxi out to Eli's apartment building.

Living room/my bedroom at the apartment (70's decor, note the rad curtains)

Villa Gesell is an adorable town about an hour north of Mar del Plata, far away from the joda and raging party scene I'm told rules the night down there. Gesell is more of a family location—lots of kids running around, flying kites, kicking sand, etc—and less bars/clubs/partying. The main street, Avenida 3, is lined with various stores selling beach equipment and various souvenirs and lots of restaurants and ice cream places. There is also a night-time artisan market and a little centro, where the street turns into a pedestrian walkway and performers do shows at night.

 Rather ungifted performer, but it was quite amusing watching him drop juggling pins...surprised he didn't fall off this thing...

Eli’s apartment was right on the beach, which was nice as it minimized the distance we had to lug chairs, towels, and the tent. Yeah, a tent. Apparently setting up tents on the beach is THE thing to do here in Argentina…everyone had one, so of course we had to get one too. It actually makes sense—with a little half-tent you can retreat into the shade during the heat of the day, protect yourself from the wind and blowing sand, and stay out on the beach all day! Anyway, big success with that.

 In the tent

I’d love to say that I did so many cool things at the beach, but to be honest I pretty much did nothing the entire week. Isn’t that what the beach is for? I read 4 books, three in English and one in Spanish, all very interesting. I suntanned religiously and am now a glorious shade of brown, thank god (pale Amy is significantly less attractive than tan Amy, at least in my opinion!) I swam in the ocean, which actually wasn’t as cold as I though it was going to be, and people-watched for hours. Listening to parents scold their children (“no tires arena!”) in Castellano is highly interesting, and watching families and trying to figure out the relationships between people is practically an art (Is she really married to him? Whose kid is that one, the one pouring sand down his pants? Are those two dating or is that her father?). It was a productive week.

 Reading book number 4 of 4 and suntanning...who says I can't multi-task?

On one of the two rainy days we took a day trip to Cariló, the rather posh little beach town directly to the north of Gesell. Lots of wealthy people have houses in Cariló, although for some unknown reason they refuse to fork out the money to pave the 5 mile long entrance to the community…I’ve never been on a more pothole-y road in my life. After a delicious pasta lunch and a drippy walk through the plaza, the sun worked its way out from behind the clouds and we headed back to our (more economical) beach.

 Cariló in the rain

The sounds of the beach are one of the things that impressed me the most. Villa Gesell might be a family beach, but that doesn’t mean it’s quiet or peaceful. First, there’s the music. There were two “balnearios” or beach restaurants/centers where you can get food, use internet, etc right near our little section of beach, and both blasted music all day, every day. The unmistakable beat of Argentinian cumbia (ch ch chh, ch ch chh, ch ch chh) was the background music for my entire week. Also on the endlessly repeating playlist of songs: reggae from Bob Marley and Fidel Nadal, “Paparazzi” by that chick, “Dejame entrar” by Makano (as featured on your’s truly’s Temazo Tuesday), “I know you want me, you know I wantcha,” and lots of Daddy Yankee.

Then, there’s the vendors. Men, women, and children walk up and down the beach all day, selling all kinds of random stuff: sunglasses, hats, bird-whistles, Bart Simpson bubble blowers, jewelry, skirts, bikinis. And food. So much food. All day long its “helado-helado-heladooOOoo!” or “fresquita la ensalada de frutaAAA” or “hay sándwiches de milaNEsaaa!” or “hay chuRRRRRos, rellenos y crocante los chuUUUrrrrrrOOOS!!” I can still hear the incantations in my head, a refrain of delicious and highly caloric offerings.

 Helado-man (and my slightly burned knee)

The best beach food by far is the choclo, or corn on the cob. For about 6 pesos it comes slathered with butter (or mayo, ick) and a pinch of salt, and is ridiculously tasty. Plus, it’s corn, so it’s good for you! Ish. Unlike the alfajores artesanales, of which there are several different local brands, each one as delish as the next. My personal favorite was Lithuen, and I brought home two boxes, one to share with the soccer boys and one all for ME (mwuhahaha).

 Choclos, calentitos los choclos!

Anyway, that was my trip in a nutshell! Caught an afternoon bus back to BA on Wednesday and made it home in time to play soccer that night. The cat was very happy to see me and began purring incessantly as soon as I walked in the door, twining himself around my ankles and crying joyously. His love was such that he felt the need to sleep two inches from my face and occasionally pat me softly on the head with his little paw, the darling. Although, considering I got home from soccer around 3 am and hadn’t really slept in 36 hours, it got old quick and I had to throw him out.

And so Life resumes as normal. Still hot in the city, sweating and wearing minimal clothing is required. Anxiously awaiting my mom’s visit in TWO WEEKS! Working as a freelance writer currently and making a few pesos from that. Also working on some how-to posts about traveling by micro and navigating Migraciones, so look for those sometime soon. And coming up soon, “Places My Cat Likes to Be.” It’s gonna be good folks.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I'm going to the beach, suckazzzz! I leave tomorrow morning at 8am and will arrive at Eli's beach-front apartment in Villa Gesell at about 1:30pm, ready for a week at the playa. I'm super excited because this is the first time I've been able to get out of the city the whole summer...since Octoberfest actually, eek. I'm also interested in seeing what Argentinian beaches are like--the last beach I went to was in Dewey, DE and I'm fairly certain Villa Gesell is going to be a whole different story.

A friend is coming to take care of Traguito while I'm gone, so that's all arranged. I've done the laundry and cleaned up the house a bit, and finished up the food in the fridge. All that's left to do is pack, although the furry little creature I cohabitate with is making it a bit difficult with his insatiable obsession with any kind of bag. This is what I'm dealing with at the moment:



"Yeah, I'm in the bag. What ya gonna do about it, punk?

 Gah! Once I get the damn cat out of my luggage, I'll be all packed and ready to go! I'm planning on coming back tanner, blonder, and more relaxed. I'm also reviving my digital camera and bringing that with me, so hopefully there will be some pictures of the trip...I know you're all tired of cat pictures. I don't know if I'll be able to blog while I'm at the beach, since I'm not taking my computer--the poor decrepit thing wouldn't last the trip to the bus station.

Anyway, I'm out! Gotta finish packing and then I have soccer tonight (pictures from my soccer experiences coming up in a later post, courtesy of fellow jugadores that actually take photos). Hasta luego people!! Besos!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Temazo Tuesday

6 months and 1 day. That's how long I've been here in Buenos Aires. Half a year since I packed up all my crap (read: clothes) and shipped myself down to the southern hemisphere. Half a year since I last saw my family and friends. Half a year since I've driven a car, eaten Chik-fil-A, watched TV. It's been half a freaking year since I left American soil, but sometimes I feel like I just got here. So much has happened that it kind of seems like a blur.

I've lived in two apartments with four different people, some of whom I will be friends with for life. I've held two jobs, one bad and one mediocre (the good one is coming soon, fingers crossed!). I've been to different cities, concerts, parks, shows, bars, clubs, and countless restaurants. I went to Octoberfest. My best friend Stephanie came and visited me. I got a cat. I've done things I never thought I would and I can only look forward to more great things (Patagonia and beach, here I come!)

On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I've been here forever. I have a normal life here now--I have a support system of good friends, activities, routines. I pay rent and I pay bills. I do laundry, I go shopping, I clean the apartment. I take the cat to the vet and threaten to throw him off the balcony if he doesn't stop whining. I go out for dinner with friends, drink beers, hang out at the park. I bitch about the heat and the government and the men. Sometimes it almost seems too mundane, but then I remember that I'm in Buenos Aires and not many other people can say that they moved to the city they love and started a new life from scratch. (Go me!)

Who knows what will happen in the future? I am in love with Argentina, and until that changes, I'm not going anywhere (unless I get deported, which is not a complete impossibility). I have no incentive to leave, and plenty of reasons to stay: the city, the language, the food, the nightlife, the culture, the people. The people alone are reason enough.

So in honor of my love for Argentina and also because I've been playing this song almost non-stop since I watched High Fidelity with John Cusack, today's temazo is going to be "I Believe (When I Fall in Love)" by Stevie Wonder. Beautiful song for a beautiful almost makes me cry. Or at least it would if I wasn't completely dehydrated from sweating day and night. YUM. Take it away, Stevie!