Thursday, October 21, 2010

Update: Where did spring go?!

It's hot! Or maybe I just sweat more than most people. But either way, the weather in BA has been more than spring-like lately. Not that I'm complaining...I'll always take hot over cold! It's been a while since the last post, so here's a brief update of my life, for all four of you who still read this sporadic, hopefully not soporific, site of mine.

For the long weekend of my birthday (October 12, which is Colombus Day in the States but the Dia de la Raza here and a much bigger deal, hence the holiday) I went away with the BF to a charming little town called Chascomús. It's located about 2.5 hours south of BA, and is on the shore of a lake. It's absolutely beautiful and it's a great place to go and relax and be outside and enjoy the company of someone you...enjoy. Redundancy is my forte.
Happy and relaxed in Chascomus! :)

Along the costanera

Never ridden a bike so much in my life...

Picnic by the lake!

Lovely sunset, no?

I won't go into details, but it was a perfect weekend filled with sunshine, laziness, bike riding, exploring, eating, laziness, and more eating. Exactly what I needed after a rather hectic first month at my first real, long-term (hopefully!) professional job...and apparently it only gets worse as we go into the high season, so don't hold your breath waiting for more posts people!

Said job is going very well, and I'm really having fun. I really like all the people I work with, which is so important (as I've found out the hard way at previous jobs), and I'm never bored. Big difference from my life before!

In BA news, the garbagemen are currently on strike, meaning large piles of trash have been accumulating on every street corner for the past four days. I can only say I'm glad it's not the middle of summer, when the heat would have made the city a rubbish-flavored sauna. The starting rate of taxis has gone up again as well, which I noticed when we took a taxi about 15 blocks and paid about 15 pesos...absurd! When I first got here the ticker started at 3.50 when you got in a taxi, then a few months ago it rose to about 4.60. Now it's up again to 5.something. So that's 5 pesos for just placing your ass on the seat of a taxi. Inflation's a bitch.

Mmm what else? Soccer is fun again, after a brief period where everyone just seemed to be all pissy at each other (or maybe it was just me), and the sweaty season has returned, much to the joy of everyone. Oh, and I accidentally overstayed my visa this time...oops! I just didn't have any time to go to the Migrations office, and the last weekend that I had free I went to Chascomus--no way was I giving up my glorious weekend away for a day at Migraciones, ni en pedo! So hopefully they don't deport me...I guess I just have to pay a fine the next time I leave the country, although god knows when that will be. Probably next summer when I can afford a visit home again.

Anywho, that's my update. Hope you enjoyed it! See you next time I get a breather.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spring in Buenos Aires

Spring has sprung, with all its (SAT word alert!) fickle weather- rain, wind, and sprinkling of sunny days. The sudden appearance of strawberries in all the fruit stands, and the addition of freesia to the flower stands are also clues. Walking past any of the flower vendors is like breathing springtime, as long as you don't get hit by one of the ones sending smoke signals with incense sticks.

I've been ridiculously busy this past week and so haven't had time to update this lovely blog, but that doesn't mean I haven't been doing lots of exciting things! I have some pictures that I took from my cell phone, as proof that I haven't just been sitting on my culo doing nothing for weeks...

Fresh flowers!
Then there's the McDonald's we got after I went to the hospital to get my rib checked out. It's all better now, thankfully, and I'm now back to playing soccer every Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon. Time to burn off all the afore-mentioned McDonald's calories...

I went to see The Expendables at the movie theater one weekend with the BF, and then we got ice cream afterwards with allllll the available toppings: three flavors of ice cream, candy, strawberry sauce, and chocolate sauce...someone is a little sugar-crazed!

This is the meal we ate while shopping on Avenida Avellaneda (see previous post)...fried meat with fried potatoes, a classic Argentine lunch!

We also went to a soccer game a few weekends ago, San Lorenzo vs Velez at the San Lorenzo stadium. This was my second game and I'm happy to say that we were only tear-gassed a little bit this time, yay! The game ended in a tie, and the other fans were so excited that they didn't lose that they stayed in the stands for 20 minutes after the game, cheering and taunting the San Lorenzo barra brava until they busted out of the police line and ran around to the Velez side to kick some ass. The police are completely useless in situations like this, and they didn't even try to make the Velez fans leave or stop their taunting. When the situation got out of hand they finally stepped in a threw tear gas and shot rubber bullets, but it all could have been prevented quite easily if they had just made the other fans leave. Police in Argentina are a joke. 

Anyway, I got a sweet new San Lorenzo jersey out of the deal, which is awesome as they are now my team as well as the BF's. Vamos Ciclon! :)

I've also been traveling a lot within the city, picking up money and showing apartments and doing check-ins and check-outs at different apartments, which is sometimes nice and sometimes annoying. If it's a nice day I'm glad I don't have to be stuck in the office all dat, but if it's rainy and gross and I have to be out in the elements, it's not so nice.

It looks cloudy, but it was actually a really nice day...waiting to pick up money in Puerto Madero

This past weekend I played soccer, bought new boots on sale, got pooped on by a bird, and went to the BF's house for a nice lunch with his family outside on the patio. In two weekends we are going to Chascomus, a little town about 2 hours outside of BA for my birthday weekend, and I'm so excited! It looks like an adorable town, with little beaches bordering a series of lakes, and you can bike ride and take walks and relax by the's going to be awesome to get out of the city and just be tranquilo for a while, and I can't wait! Gah!

Anyway, back to work!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Avenida Avellaneda aka Budget Shopper's Paradise

Most people come to Buenos Aires with cow fever (beef! leather! beef!) and want to buy things like leather bags and leather coats and other bovine-related products, and that's fine. If I had the money, I would too! But for those of us who have been here for a while, or who plan on staying for the long term, or who just don't have 800 pesos to spend on a pair of calf-skin boots, there is hope in the form of Avenida Avellaneda.

Located in the neighborhood of Flores (Floresta), this avenida is famous for its cheap clothing stores (over 1600 according to this article) and is the place to go if you want to spend less dinero and wear more cute stuff! The main shopping area starts at Avenida Nazca and extends out towards Plaza Velez Sarsfield for about 10 blocks, and the side streets are also packed with shops. There are clothing stores of all kinds, including mens, womens, childrens, and lingerie, and there are plenty of vendors with blankets laid out on the curb offering other products like perfumes, toys, shoes, wallets, and bags. It is highly recommended that you go early in the morning, before 1 or 2 in the afternoon, because it gets PACKED.

The stores on Avenida Avellaneda sell their clothes in two ways: "por mayor" or "por menor." Por mayor is basically buying in bulk (like Costco!), and there is often a lower price for buying por mayor (usually 5 or more items). Lots of people come to Avellaneda and buy clothing in bulk at a low price, then take it and sell it at a marked up price somewhere's how plenty of people make their living or supplement their salaries. Anyway, most of these women (and it is almost all women) head to Avellaneda in the afternoons with their massive bags and carts in order to load up on the day's wares, and it gets pretty annoying having to weave between said women and dodge around said carts every two seconds as people stop to stare into store windows or contemplate the meaning of life while gazing off into the distance.

The other way to buy is por menor, which means one article at a time, aka "normal shopping." There are some stores that only sell por mayor, and they will often have a sign outside that says "solo por mayor." If you see an article of clothing in a window and it has two prices, the lower price is por mayor, so if you're just there to browse a few items, then that won't apply to you.

The BF and I went the other day to stock up on some spring-time clothes, and we had lots of success! I picked up two t-shirts and a summery cover-up kind of thing for about 60 pesos, which in any other store would have cost over 100 pesos, and I need to go back again soon to get more...brings new meaning to the term "spring fever." Things are generally about half the price they would be anywhere else in BA...a simple cotton t-shirt for about 15-20 pesos, a pair of jeans for about 70-80, leggings for 10-15, etc.

In general the quality is good, but you have to pay attention for little things like rips or loose buttons. It's a great place to go for basic pieces like t-shirts, tank tops, leggings, cardigans, and other things like that. For guys its a great place for pretty much everything. One important thing to keep in mind is that most stores will not let you try things on (because many people buy with the intent to resell), so if you want to buy jeans or things that require a more precise fit, you might want to go somewhere that lets you try stuff on.

Anyway, that's my review of Avenida Avellaneda! It can be a hit or miss operation--the first time I went I didn't like anything and the second time I went I liked it all--but you should definitely check it out if you want a different shopping experience. In sum, here are my AA tips:

-go early, and if you're buying por menor, saturday is the best day to go
-pay with cash as most places don't accept credit cards
-watch your purse (as in any crowded location, need your money to buy things!)
-be prepared to buy without trying on


Monday, September 6, 2010

Parque Rivadavia: Pirated DVDs and Garrapiñadas

It’s a beautiful day in Buenos Aires, finally! It’s been depressingly cold the past few weeks, and so today’s warmth is absolutely heavenly. It’s been a while since I wrote anything, but I’ve just been so busy with the two jobs that it’s been hard to find time to do breathe, let alone write a blog (although breathing is limited anyway due to the cracked rib). My two ventures are going well so far, even though only one is paid. They are both really good experiences and are teaching me a lot about different things, including the value of free time. Gone are the days when I would just stay at home all day, working sporadically and doing lots of nothing. I’ve discovered that I would always rather have too much to do than not enough, because honestly, it was rough not working. I felt so useless and without direction, almost without purpose, although not in an emo “my life is worth nothing” way…I was just bored and mentally un-stimulated, which is never good.

Anyway, I am now busy, earning money, and loving it. Plus it’s getting warmer outside and the parks are calling…yay! This past weekend I went with the BF to Parque Rivadavia (Rivadavia and Acoyte) because it was a nice day and we wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was not working--one of my jobs requires some long weekend shifts, which is kind of a downer, but we’re working on hiring more people so that the shifts are shorter and ruin less of the day.

While we’d been to Parque Rivadavia before, I’d never seen the booths with all the pirated DVDs. On the far side of the park near Acoyte there is a row of stands selling every DVD you can possibly imagine, from the latest American releases to old classics, TV shows, and Spanish language movies and shows.  They had everything, including all the seasons of Friends, House, Weeds…basically all the popular American TV shows, so if you’re looking for some cheap reminders of home, this is where you need to go!

Each stand has several tables with thick binders holding laminated images of the DVD cover, in no particular order. Each DVD has a number, and you can browse through the binders until you find what you are looking for. Then just ask the stand owner to bring you the DVD using the corresponding number and you have your pirated movie! If you can’t find what you want, just ask the stand owner if he has it and he’ll usually be able to help you. Standard DVD movies are usually 10 pesos each.

The stands also have several binders of pirated CDs, as well as some compilations that have been so thoughtfully made. So if you’re looking for The Best of the 80s or a cumbia mix for your next party, head to Parque Rivadavia. All around the park other people have set up stands or blankets on the ground to sell their various merchandise, much of it handmade, used, or fake. Sunglasses, imitation perfumes, toys, scarves, and decorative crap are all displayed for people like me to observe and say “Oooh, I need that!” There are also several mini mobile kiosks that sell food, as well as carts for cotton candy (just like at the county fair!), homemade baked goods, and garrapiñadas.

Garrapiñadas are basically peanuts that have been cooked in a mixture of water, sugar, and vanilla and are a Uruguayan treat that has migrated over the river. You can find people with carts all over the city, cooking the nuts and keeping them warm in a large copper pot. A packet of them usually costs 2 pesos, and they’re a great snack for when you’re taking a stroll or waiting at a bus stop.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Like Food

This past weekend I went to my first tenedor libre in Buenos Aires, and let me just say, it was awesome! For those who don’t know, a tenedor libre (literally “free fork”) is a type of restaurant where you pay a set price and then order as much food as you want. It’s kind of like a buffet, except you get served by adorably cute old waiters instead of serving yourself.

The BF and I went to a place called Puerreydon out in Flores with another couple on Saturday night, and we had to wait outside for about 40 minutes. The place was packed and there was a waiting list to get seated, but eventually we got in and sat down. The menu was pretty extensive, with different sections for appetizers, parrilla, pastas, sides, etc. To start with our impressively mustached waiter brought us four different appetizers to try, including marinated tongue and this dish called vitel thone, which is basically thinly sliced meat in a tuna/mayo/cream sauce. It sounds kind of weird, but it was absolutely delicious.

Then we all ordered our first dish, which in my case was an amazing chicken breast in a white sauce with chives. The BF ordered bondiola and papas fritas, which were perfectly crispy the way I like them. At this point I was full but there was no way I was stopping at one dish. For a second dish I ordered ravioles in 4 cheese sauce, which is pretty much my ideal pasta dish. Again, delicious. The portions aren’t super huge like in a normal restaurant, so it’s definitely possible to eat two or maybe even three dishes (I’m not just a huge fatty, everyone was doing it!) As a side note, you also get unlimited water and soda with your meal, which is awesome considering most other places charge 7 or 8 pesos for a bottle of water.

For dessert I got a cup of ice cream with the works (chocolate sauce, whipped cream, fresh fruit) and the BF got a dulce de leche filled crepe and we shared…the perfect ending to an interesting and delicious weekend meal! And it only cost 61 pesos. I’m definitely going to have to investigate this tenedor libre scene more thoroughly!

Sunday was also a great day. It was beautiful weather outside, so the BF and I walked to Plaza Francia to look at the Recoleta Fair, which he had never been to. We strolled through all the stalls and looked at the stuff, I discovered that I have a severe addiction to rings, earrings, and silver in general, and then we went and sat in the sun in the park across from the Bellas Artes museum. After a bit we decided we were hungry so we went back to the fair and got a stuffed bread, a dozen churros (half chocolate, half plain, all filled with DDL), and a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice. Honestly, I don’t know how we aren’t the size of buses, considering the amount of crap food we eat on a regular basis.

In the States I ate super healthy and was always conscious of what I was putting in my body. Unlike the lovely comment left by some disgruntled reader on a previous post who deemed me a “typical American brat” who lives on fast food, I almost never ate fast food in the States and wouldn’t have touched a Whopper with a ten foot pole.

Here it seems like all I eat is potatoes, pizza, pasta, and pastry. And meat. And of course the occasional Whopper with onion rings. And yet somehow I weigh less here than I ever did in the States. It’s interesting. I shall have to do further research. Anyway, I can’t wait until the warmer season starts so I can start eating all the delicious fresh fruit that my local fruit and veggie place sells. Strawberries in particular, mmmmm. Fatty signing off!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Broken Rib in BA

So, I was sick last week with the gripe/flu/cold/whatever you want to call it that's been going around lately...and we're talking the works: aching head, sore throat, runny nose, and a horribly racking cough. To make a long story short, said racking cough was so severe that I'm pretty sure I cracked a rib.

After extensive research on the internet (WebMD, you're a lifesaver) I discovered that it is quite possible to crack a rib if you have a severe enough cough, and according to the symptoms, that's what I have. I can't say for certain because my visit to the hospital was a bit shorter than planned. Story time. My traveler's insurance ran out last month and I have yet to get a plan down here, so on Tuesday I went to one of BA's public hospitals hoping to see someone who could tell me what the deal was with the stabbing pain in my side.

Needless to say, the visit did not go as hoped for, but almost exactly as anticipated after a year of living under Argentine governance. We got there and waited in a line to go up to a counter and present my problem, just as people in front of me were doing. The woman behind the glass window was apparently some kind of gate keeper who got to decide who got to see a doctor and how soon. Anyway, I gave her my information and what I thought was wrong with me, and she (quite rudely) said that I had to wait around the corner and that there was "muchisima demora." Translation: at least 3 hours wait, if not longer.

So...basically I said fuck it, for several reasons. First of all, hospitals creep me out. I feel like I'm coming down with ten diseases as soon as I get within 10 feet of one. Secondly, the woman pissed me off which made me not want to wait. Third, there isn't really anything you can do for a cracked rib, except take pain medication like aspirin so that it doesn't hurt too badly when you breathe or cough. Fourth, knowing this I didn't really want to pay someone, without insurance, to tell me something that I already knew. So after about five minutes we left and went to McDonald's for dinner. One Big Mac, fries (complete with 2 packets of ketchup, of course), and an ice cream sundae later I was satisfied. In pain, but satisfied.

It still hurts when I cough and when I take a deep breath, which is really hard to do sometimes. I feel like I can't expand my chest as much as before, and it hurts really bad if I try. It also hurts if I press on it, so I try not to do that too much. Also I can't really move quickly or do any heavy lifting, or play soccer since there's the potential for actually breaking a rib. If it's just cracked like I think it is it should take about 6 weeks to heal. I don't want it to actually break, because that's when you get things like punctured lungs and other inner organs. Ouch.

Anyway, that's my update/rant for the week. Oh, I also have to switch internet companies at some point because the goverment decided that my provider isn't actually legally allowed to be a provider or some crap like that. Joy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Burger King, Ketchup Nazis

I think it’s finally getting warmer! Today is really mild, which is glorious because the past week was really chilly, and I hope it stays like this! When I first got here last August I remember being really cold, probably because I was coming from a really hot American summer and was also in denial while packing (it’s Latin America, it’s never cold!) and subsequently did not pack enough socks. Or a coat. Amateur. Anyway, I’m praying it starts getting warmer now so I can go back to all the fun summer time things I used to do: drinking beers in the park after soccer with friends, sitting on my chair on the balcony reading a book, lounging in the grass in the park on the weekends with the BF, stuffing our faces with facturas and drinking mate. Ah the good life.

It seems I only ever write on Mondays after the weekend, which is when I tend to actually do things. During the week I’m at my internship, which I really enjoy. Then there’s Tuesday date night, soccer on Wednesdays, and I’m also starting a part-time gig which will take up my Monday and Thursday nights. Add finding time to pay the bills, go grocery shopping, clean the apartment, bake muffins (a necessity, obviously) and you’ll see that the weekends are where it’s at.

This past weekend was relatively tranquilo. I played soccer on Saturday, which is still fun and a great workout. It’s turning into a bit of a mess though because so many people want to play now that the list fills up in five minutes, with little cliques forming between people who always sign each other up. In an effort to control the madness, the capitán that is my novio has declared that everyone must sign themselves up, so no one can put five people on the list as was happening before. Anyway, after the game we went back to my place to shower and change and then headed out to the Abasto mall with some friends to eat Burger King and see Inception again (it’s that good!) We finished the evening in classic Argentine style with some ice cream from Munchi’s, then went home and crashed.

Time for a tangent about fast food restaurants in Buenos Aires! In the States, fast food is cheap in relation to other kinds of food. But here, going out to eat at Burger King is kind of a big deal, at least for me. A combo with a burger, fries (or onion rings in my case, yummmm), and a drink costs about 30 pesos. This might not seem like a lot, but in relation to what people earn here, it’s definitely not cheap.

Also, what is the deal with the militaristic rationing of the ketchup packets?! Every time we go to Burger King or McDonald’s, they only ever give us two measly packets of ketchup. One each. Which, if you know me, is pure insanity. I am a true American, obsessed with condiments of all kinds, and ketchup is king. In the States, you can actually pump your own ketchup into little paper cups and enjoy as much of the stuff as you like! Land of the free and all that. But here, two packets is what you’re given and if you don’t like it, tough. Every time I’ve gone back to ask for more, which is once, I was given a dirty look and then handed 2 more packets. GAH. How am I supposed to eat a Whopper and a whole thing of onion rings with TWO packets of ketchup. THEY’VE ALL GONE MAD! I know Argentines don’t really use a lot of ketchup, but it’s not like they don’t have buckets of the little packets behind the counter…I’ve seen them! Just hand them over for the gringos who DO use the stuff. Anyway, I’ve decided that the next time we go to the BK Lounge, I am bringing my own bottle of ketchup disguised as a mate or alfajor. Have it your way, my ass.

Aaaanywho, Sunday was a lazy day at home with the BF, although we did animate ourselves enough to make a massive and delicious lentil stew (guiso de lentejas) with chorizo, beef, salchicha parrillera, and pancetta. It took a while and was somewhat of a process, but it turned out really well. Accompanied by garlic bread, it was a perfect winter dinner. We also watched a movie with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigel (however you spell that) and Tom Selleck (yum). We then moved on to Shutter Island with Leo Dicaprio which, by the way, is a very creepy movie involving crazy people, mind games, disturbing flashbacks, and little girl ghosts. I did not sleep well.

Until next weekend, unless Burger King pisses me off again before then.