Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Temazo Tuesday

So it's Tuesday again! These weeks just seem to fly by, especially since they're such short weeks, what with all the holidays and such. Although, Tuesday might possibly be the worst day of the week. It's not Monday, which has the promise of a new week ahead in which anything might happen. Wednesday is "hump day" which apart from having a hilarious name means the end of the week is coming, and it's all basically downhill from there...Thursday and Friday are barely even real days. But Tuesday. Ugh. Tuesday has nothing going for it.

Today's Temazo is a strange song called "Nice Day for Ducks" by Lemon Jelly, and its pretty much an acid trip in video form (or so I've been told). I first heard this at my old (read: mind-numbingly tedious) job, where we played music all day as a way to escape from the dull reality of our labor. It's one of those songs that gets stuck in your head, and I figured since I already have it stuck in there, why not share it with the rest of you! Mwu-ha-ha-ha-ha!




Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Buenos Aires Christmas



Being away from home this Christmas wasn’t as easy as I though it was going to be. Since I moved to BA I’ve only really had one attack of homesickness—the kind with the incessant sobbing and fetal position maneuver—but that’s about it. I miss my family and friends constantly, of course, but it’s not a painful or depressing thing…more of a “Wow I really appreciate them and love them and when I see them it’s going to be amazing!”

The holidays are different. When you grow up having Christmas a certain way, it’s bound to be a little strange the first time you do something new, and sadness and nostalgia is going to creep in. This year, being so far from home, I found myself thinking about all the little things that make Christmas Christmas, at least for me and my family: driving home at night and counting all the houses with Christmas lights, decorating our banister with garland and tinsel, my brother putting the plastic candy canes on the tree, the dogs’ tails knocking off all the ornaments on the bottom branches. I can remember each Christmas decoration that we put up, and where it goes: the wooden train on the hearth, the miniature tree and the Nativity scene in the front room, the candle on the kitchen table. And the traditions that we as a family have established over the years—advent calendars, our particular way of opening presents, Christmas dinner, Boxing Day with the extended family.

All these things I missed greatly this year. But, thanks to my mom and the powers of Skype and international post, I was able to partake in some of our old traditions. Of course, being here in Buenos Aires I wanted to experience an Argentine Christmas as well, even while I was missing my traditional family celebrations. The result was a very interesting Christmas—a kind of cobbled-together holiday made up of parts that clearly aren’t meant to fit, but that come together in a lovely mess when forced, compelled by the conflicting emotions of melancholy, excitement, and curiosity.




Here is a compilation of my Christmas 2009, in list form naturally:

-bought tiny Christmas tree, tinsel, and bows, and decorated the apartment. Barely.
-package received from mother, contents included: advent calendar (yay!), ornaments for tiny tree, stocking stuffers…this beautiful package made my Christmas, totally worth the 3 hour wait at Retiro!
-new roommate contributes flashing red Christmas lights to the décor, which we hang around the picture of the horse in the living—it’s amazing how tiny little bulbs that glow in the dark say “Christmas”
- downloaded Celtic Woman Christmas CD and listened to it constantly—every day on the way to work for the week before Christmas, those lovely Irish ladies drowned out the roaring of the 106 colectivo…too bad they couldn’t help with the sweating
-made Christmas Cookies! Instant transportation back in time to when we used to make cookies at home, my brother and I covered in flour, decorating cut-outs of bells and stars and trees with blue and pink sprinkles, me eating the dough…some things never change
-early in the morning on Christmas Eve (3 am), I can be found sitting on a doorstep down some street, passing around bottles of Isenbeck with my teammates after an hour of intense indoor soccer…not a traditional part of Christmas back in the States
-received texts from new Argie friends saying “felices fiestas” and “Merry Christmas”
-watched the 1969 “Frosty the Snowman” and “A Christmas Story” (frah-gee-lay, must be Italian!)
-attended an outdoor mass in Recoleta on Christmas Eve, despite not being Argentine and not being Catholic. It was a beautiful ceremony on a lovely night, and reminded me of the church service at my aunt’s church that we usually go to (minus the cold, the flute solo, and O Holy Night)
-Christmas Eve dinner = 1 pizza with ham and red peppers, calamari, and 2 bottles of Malbec with Anna at Plaza Serrano. Accompanied by people-watching, Christmas fireworks (a tradition here, kind of like the 4th of July), and much discussion of men
-Christmas Eve became Christmas Day about halfway through the first bottle of wine
-stayed out until 6 am, tried to watch the sun rise from my apartment but the wine insisted on sleep
-Christmas Day!! Woke up slightly hungover but excited about the pile of presents under my tiny tree (courtesy of mother, of course!)
-Skyped family at home, opened presents together, saw my brother’s long hair, watched the dog unwrap gifts with her teeth—almost like I was there. Perfection.
-spoke to best friend on Skype while eating Christmas dinner (polenta, hot dogs, 5 Christmas cookies)
-watched “Love, Actually” and cried about 8 different times…gotta love Love, especially at Christmas time




So that was my Christmas this year. Different, yes. But different doesn’t always mean worse. And when it comes to love and appreciation and the true Christmas spirit, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are…Santa will always find you. FELIZ NAVIDAD!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Temazo Tuesday

OOPS! Soooo I completely forgot about Temazo Tuesday--I know you were all just breathless with anticipation to see what I would post this week! Well, what with the new job and the hour commute each way and the waiting at Retiro for three hours to pick up a package and the late-night soccer, it's been a little busy around here and I haven't been writing as much as I would like. I have a list of posts that I want to get up soon, so maybe over the holidays I'll be able to catch up.

As for now though, I have to go get ready for some fútbol action YAY...although I might have to walk the 22 blocks to the cancha because I don't have any moneda. I tried to get some yesterday and the kiosko guy gave me a pack of gum for 2 pesos instead of 3 because he didn't want to give me the moneda in change. It's ridiculous, this shortage of coins...the other day I chose to take an 8 peso cab rather than attempt to acquire 1.20 in moneda (of course, this was before I realized the taxi fare had gone up, from starting at 3.80 to starting at 4.60 and with a similar increase in the distance-traveled rate, que mierda).

So here is Tuesday's Temazo, posted on Wednesday, but whatever. It's a song that I looovvveee--the beat is amazing and it reminds me of some really fun nights out dancing. I present: "Tocarte Toa" by Calle 13.




Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do You Bidet?

Buenos Aires is a bidet culture (I don’t know about the rest of Argentina). It joins England, France, and most other European countries as part of an elite class of toilet snobs who continue to insist upon the presence of a bidet in the restroom (or “lavatry,” in British snob voice) regardless of whether the thing actually gets used. You know it’s true. I have one. You probably have one. But WHY? After discussing this issue at length with some friends over dinner, I decided to investigate bidet history and try to understand why these things exist, both here in Argentina and in general.



(http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/12/ed/d2/bidet-and-toilet.jpg)


While I knew the general idea behind bidets, I’ve never understood the specifics, so I did some heavy research (Wikipedia) and found out some interesting/disturbing stuff. First, “bidet” is a French word for “pony,” because apparently you sit on the thing much like you would sit on a pony (first mental image). As I’m sure you’ve gathered, a bidet is used for washing…private parts, and can be done facing forward or backwards. However, bidets are also often used for washing feet and as a bathtub for babies, although hopefully not all three. In general, a bidet will either have a tap and plug which you use to fill up the basin, or it will feature the always-popular jet propulsion function, in which a stream of water is shot forcefully upwards, effectively power-washing anything in it’s path, including the curious faces of people who just HAD to find out what that little knob does.

Wikipedia informed me that bidets are found in most European countries, especially southern European nations such as Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Italy, as well as in parts of Asia (Japan, India, South Korea), Africa (Morocco, Egypt), and most of the Arab world. In Latin America, bidets are found in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Cuba. While Wikipedia neglected to say why these porcelain enigmas are such fixtures here in South America, I would assume it is because the first immigrants from Europe brought the apparatus with them, unable to imagine a (GASP) bidet-less life. The things don’t exist in North America, which is why Americans are so often the victims of bidet assault—we just can’t leave well enough alone and have to go twiddling with all the knobs. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye to a bidet.


Creative!
(http://lh4.ggpht.com/_8s1TB229vsg/Sc-r0Az0jMI/AAAAAAAACP0/fvGHisb3jwA/bidet-beer_thumb%5B5%5D.jpg)


In terms of actual usage, I have spoken to a few people, the majority of whom do not use bidets in the way they were intended. They are either not used at all, or used as foot-baths, laundry basins, or storage tubs. I’ve heard that some Argentines rave about them, but I’ve yet to ask any of my close friends…it’s not really a dinner table question: “So, have you shot water up your bum lately?”

Anyway, I’ll leave you with that. If you would like more information on the subject, I hear Youtube has some informative instructional videos. Have fun!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Resto Review: Lotus Neo Thai

Argentines don’t do spicy. This is a recognized fact, and I should have known better than to have expectations this weekend when I went to a Thai restaurant this past Saturday night. I went with two couples (yes I was the fifth wheel): Anna and her boy Camilo and Anna’s friends Juan and Ana to a restaurant called Lotus Neo Thai, located up in the Barrio Chino (Chinatown) in Belgrano (Arribeños 2265).




Anna and Camilo and I got there at about 9:30, and already the place was full. We didn’t have reservations, and initially one of the waitresses told us there was no room for 5 of us, but since we had to wait for Juan and Ana to arrive anyway we decided to sit at the little bar and wait and see if a table opened up. It’s a cute place, with about 10 or 12 tables, a little 4-stool bar, and adorable lotus flowers painted on the walls. The lighting is low—there are candles on each table and dim lamps in the shape of lotus flowers—and two of the tables are set up so you can sit on the floor on cushions, in traditional Thai style (??? Do Thai people eat sitting on the floor? How ignorant am I right now).


(pictures are from Lotus Neo Thai website)


So we sat ourselves down at the bar and ordered some drinks—caipirinha for Camilo, strawberry daiquiri for Anna, and caipiroska with passionfruit for me—which were delicious and only moderately expensive (22 pesos each). While we were waiting for the table someone brought us these crispy, airy, wafery chip things (I’m sure they have a name but I have NO clue what it could be) and some dipping sauces, a sweetNsour and a more spicy one. The spicy dipping sauce was by far the spiciest thing I ate that night, which is a little sad considering Thai food is known for its delicious kick.

Once Juan and Ana arrived, we got a table and ordered four dishes to share between the five of us: chicken pad thai, pork with green beans, chicken with cashews, and a chicken soup with ginger and coconut called Tom Kha Gai. The food arrived pretty quickly, and in good portions. I was a little disappointed with the pad thai—it wasn’t spicy at all, and was actually kind of bland. The chicken with cashews was OK, the pork was flavorful although a bit salty, and the soup was good if you like coconut and ginger—it had a very strong flavor and I only had a few spoonfuls. All in all, I was underwhelmed. All the Thai food I’ve eaten in the past has blown me away and so I think I’ve been spoiled. There was just no spice, no kick, no zing. But oh well. Can’t win them all!

The prices weren’t too bad, about 36 pesos for a basic chicken or pork dish, to about 55 or 60 for a seafood platter or shrimp dish. They had a yummy-looking list of desserts too, such as sticky rice with mango slices and various sorbets, but we were all too stuffed to order any. We opted for coffee and tea instead—I tried an herbal red tea with cinnamon, fig, honey, and apples, which was pretty good and reminded me of Christmas with the cinnamon smell (I miss Christmas!! It soooo doesn't feel like Christmas here, and I'm kind of sad about it, especially considering my hometown just got 2 feet of snow and will be having a lovely white Christmas for the first time in years...typical...the one year I leave. Bah humbug.)

Anyhoo, to sum up Lotus Neo Thai: a big fat “meh.” Not bad, but not great. Nothing that offended me to the point of no return, but nothing that inspired me to make the trek back there anytime soon. I will say that the staff were really nice and helpful, and managed to get us a table even though we just tipped up at the door with no reservations whatsoever, so that's a plus. Maybe if I go again I'll take my own spice and just sprinkle it on discreetly. That's a thought. Check out what other people say on Guia Oleo. Or check out the Lotus Neo Thai website, here.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Temazo Tuesday

Hola! I feel like so much has happened since I last posted, even though it was only a few days ago. First, I got a JOB! Farewell to lazy days around the house, hello 45 minute commute and real responsibility--I'm loving it! Second,  I got a new roommate! My new friend Elizabeth recently moved into my apartment for a few months, most of which she will be spending at various beaches and luxury resorts instead of at the apartment, but hey, who wouldn't rather be at the beach?

On Sunday night I went out to dinner with Eli and two of her friends to a "puerta cerrada," a closed door restaurant here in the city. IT WAS AMAZING. I'm going to do a whole post about the experience as soon as I can put together 30 minutes of free time...this work thing takes up a lot of my day! I work from 1 to 8:30 (stupid West Coast clients), and have to commute out to Flores on the lovely 106, which unfortunately is often packed with tourists going shopping at the outlets on Córdoba, the lazy bums. Don't they have jobs?! I don't get back until about 9:15, and on Monday and Wednesday nights I have soccer at 11...I guess I'm just going to have to start getting up earlier...MUR.

Anyway, I'm not really inspired by any particular song at the moment, considering I am sitting on poof on my balcony watching an old man across the street scrape dried paint and chewed gum off his balcony rail...not really something that inspires poetry. So, I will post something completely lacking any kind of poetic grace: 'Bad Romance' by the one and only Lady Gaga. This video is...interesting. Kind of creepy, actually. But the song is catchy and it's fascinating to watch Lady Gaga do her stuff, especially if you keep in mind that lots of people think she is actually a man. Yeah.





Saturday, December 12, 2009

Resto Review: El Dorinda

Ah yes, another restaurant review! No unfortunate incident to avoid discussing in this one, however (if you would like to read about the thrilling events preceding my visit to the last resto I reviewed, go here).




Anyway, this place is too cute! I went to El Dorinda last night as part of a group of expats, partly because it’s fun to get together and meet new people, and partly because I had been sitting on my ass all day in my apartment and I needed to get out before I became glued to my futon. Located in Palermo Viejo (Guatemala 4487) El Dorinda is a restaurant and bar that serves “comida y bebida con mucho arte,” according to their website, and is fairly new on the BA restaurant scene. I don’t know about the art (there were a few pieces of interesting fabric-work hanging on the walls), but the food is amazing. The menu features an extensive list of mostly Spanish food, including tapas, picadas, pintxos vascos, and other appetizers, as well as a daily homemade “plato del día” and several salads, sandwich, pizza, and dessert options. Since we were a large group of about 20, we ordered lots of little dishes to share and then each got a main course.

The tapas we got included various cheeses, jamón crudo, salami, guacamole (very salty and lime-y) with tortilla chips, sardines with onions, bell peppers in oil, and a few small tapas sandwiches with toppings like olive spread, eggplant, and tuna. I recommend the bell peppers in oil (morroncitos en provenza), which was delicious on top of some slightly crusty French bread. Among the main courses ordered were a vegetarian sandwich (not too complicated, just some avocado and spinach on bread), a chicken dish with potatoes, and homemade hamburgers (which I ordered—they came with roasted potatoes and were delicious, although I did ask for some mustard to go with them since they came un-sauced).

But I must say I agree wholeheartedly with the reviewers on Guia Oleo: the star of the show was the Empanada Gallega (it deserves capital letters!). A whole portion would feed two people (for just 18 pesos!) and is really really good. They also have a half portion for 10 pesos. The crust is fluffy and buttery, the filling of tuna (I’m pretty sure it’s tuna) and sauteed peppers and onions is flavorful and perfectly seasoned, and the whole thing is just one big casserole of YUM! I really enjoyed it (clearly), and next time I will order a whole portion just for myself, fatass that I am.

The drink menu is also extensive, although we mostly stuck to beer and water. The service was excellent; we had one waiter for all 20 of us, and he was perfectly pleasant, got all the orders right, and brought out anything anyone requested (like my mustard). It is a small place, with about 10 tables inside and two outside (complete with comfortable wicker chairs instead of those awkward metal director’s chairs most places have), but the staff is truly very nice and attentive. The prices are quite affordable as well—most of the tapas are between 10 and 16 pesos and each pintxo vasco is 5 pesos. Pizzas are 24-34, salads and sandwiches are 17, and drinks range from a 10 peso porrón of Quilmes to a 36 peso Glenlivet 12 year Single Malt or a 70 peso bottle of Tomero Malbec.


(fotos from El Dorinda's website)

I would highly recommend El Dorinda; it's a comfortable place to sit and enjoy some drinks and tapas with friends. Get a few different dishes and try them all, and definitely order an Empanada Gallega. Or three.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm back in the game!

My body hurts. My legs are sore, my back aches, and I have blisters on my heels and on three out of ten toes. And it’s AWESOME! These pains are the price I’m willing to pay to do something I love: play soccer.


It’s been oh, say, 5 years since I played any kind of real soccer and given that those five years consisted mostly of drinking copious amounts of watery beer and drunk-munching on ranch-soaked, bacon-embellished megafries, I think it’s safe to say I’m a wee bit out of practice.

But I love the sport. Starting at age 4, my life was pretty much dictated by soccer: the only seasons I knew were fall and spring, holidays were marked not by family gatherings but by tournaments, and at the height of my career (high school) I was playing for not one but two teams and pretty much living in my cleats. Then college came and I reorganized my priorities, choosing to have friends and enjoy myself over another four years of practice, drills, fitness fundays, and weekend-ruining games.


Me (middle) in my prime...and with great bird's nest hair, eek. 


Moving to Argentina has reignited my love for the game, mostly because it’s everywhere. From Maradona’s latest weight gain to hopeful predictions for the Selección in the WC, from riotous fans honking their way down the street to the ubiquitous weekend pickup games in every green space in the city, Argentina lives fútbol. And now I’m a part of it all! Aside from being a reluctant Huracán fan (read about that special experience here) and supporting the national team in their journey to South Africa, I am once again a player of the world’s greatest sport.

I recently joined a group online called Couchsurfers, made up of people who travel the world crashing on various strangers’ couches and those who offer to host them on said couches (an interesting concept, no?) Anyway, some of the Buenos Aires Couchsurfers have been getting together to play small-sided indoor soccer games, and as soon as I saw their list for this week’s games I signed myself up!

I had a vague idea of what to expect, having played in similar situations before back in the States: mostly guys, lots of fancy footwork, a fast pace, and semi-violent contact. And lo and behold! I played Monday night with 1 other girl and 8 guys, and again Wednesday night, with 1 girl and 10 guys. The usual division is Porteños vs Extranjeros, with foreigners coming from all over the world: Germany, Brasil, the US, France, England, Corrientes (another area in Argentina). The pace is definitely fast—we play with the walls so there’s no stopping—and since it’s almost all guys, the play is hard and pretty rough.

Needless to say, I enjoyed myself immensely. That kind of soccer is exactly what I love, and I’m pumped to have found a group who lets girls play. Unfortunately, not many girls here play soccer outside of secundarias and colegios, and it’s almost impossible to get into a guy’s pickup game…they just won’t let chicks play (hijos de puta, the lot of them!) Anyway, I’ll just say that after these two games I think I’ve definitely proved that girls can play at fútbol.

On Wednesday after the game I got to fulfill yet another secret desire: I got to loiter on a dark street with friends. Yes it sounds weird, but you know you’ve seen them: raucous groups of young Porteños sitting in a doorway late at night, laughing and passing around liters of beer. And for some reason, I’ve always wanted to do this myself—it’s kind of like another step towards a more permanent life here…if you’re loitering, you’re living the real life. Or something like that.

Since two of the American players from last night are leaving soon, about 10 of us went out to have some drinks as a kind of farewell party. We bought a few liters of Imperial, retired to a comfortable section of sidewalk down a side street, and just hung out for a few hours, until about 2am. People would walk past and stare disapprovingly at the public debauchery, and I wanted to stand up and say “HA! Look how Argentine I am, drinking beer from the bottle on a public street at 2 in the morning!”

It was glorious.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Temazo Tuesday

It's that time again: Temazo Tuesday! This week I'm posting two songs that are seriously EVERYWHERE these days. They play them in clubs, they get blasted from car stereos, and the girl across the street dances to them on her balcony while simultaneously chain-smoking Marlboros, yammering away on her phone, and chugging Coca-Cola. It's a skill really.

And now to get philosophical. I don't know about you, but hearing certain songs can always bring on a wave of nostalgia. Our senses are the gateways to our memories, and just hearing part of a long-forgotten song, or catching the scent of a perfume our grandmothers used to wear, can instantly transport us to another time and place. For me, certain songs and albums are inextricably tied to specific people, places, and events, and whenever I hear these songs the memories come flooding back in waves. OAR's album 'Stories of a Stranger' will forever remind me of my freshman year of college; Kings of Leon is a good friend/ex-boyfriend; and my dad will always be "Hey Jude."

Point being, these two songs will forever remind me of my first months in Buenos Aires: sweaty from dancing in a crowded club, with the sweetly bitter taste of Fernet and Cola in my mouth, having the time of my life. That being said, for anyone else, they're just songs with good beats and catchy lyrics so enjoy!


The first is "Te Amo" by Makano, a club classic. 




The second is "Llorarás por mi" by Chapa C and is a fantastic song to dance to and will make you want to jump on a table and shake it! Seriously. Just try it, it's liberating, I promise. Also, the video is hilarious...gotta love the manly weeping--I can almost feel his pain.




Monday, December 7, 2009

Paying Bills in BA




BILLS. Everyone’s got ‘em. Everyone hates ‘em. But they have to be paid, otherwise we don’t get hot water or lights or Internets. Now, no hot water I could deal with, but no Internet?! Sweet mercy, not that!

Back in the States bills are mostly paid online, or by sending off checks in little envelopes the companies so generously provide along with their demands for payment. But here, bills are paid differently. In general, transactions in Argentina are done using cash (efectivo) as opposed to with credit/debit cards, and paying monthly bills (facturas) is no exception.



The easiest way to pay a bill in Buenos Aires is to take it to a location that has a Pago Fácil (Easy Pay) or, to a lesser extent Rapipago (Quick Pay). You can find Pago Fácils (plural?) in most Farmacitys and also in various grocery stores, locutorios, and some kiosks--there will always be a sign/sticker indicating a Pago Fácil location (see lovely Google images graphic). Rapipagos are fewer and farther between, but they will also have signs indicating their locations. It’s best if you can find a smaller location that is off the main roads to pay your bills at, because the larger stores like Farmacity tend to have ridiculously long lines of people waiting to pay their various facturas. For example, today I waited about 40 minutes to pay three bills. Typical.

Anyway, once you find a Pago Fácil, it really is very easy. You hand the cashier your bill, he rings it up as if it were a bag of cookies, he tells you the amount, and you give him the cash. Then he will take the factura and run it through a machine that that will print your receipt right on the actual bill. Say “Gracias,” and you’re done! Apart from the waiting in long lines sometimes, it really is a pretty effective system, and given the reliability of the Argentine post, I would say it’s a lot more trustworthy than sending off checks. Plus, a lot of “tourists” live here “illegally” and don’t have checks, so it’s great for people like us. With cash, no one asks questions. How mafia.

If you miss the window of payment (vencimiento), or both windows of payment considering they usually give you two, you will probably have to go to the office of the company to pay the bill. The address will most likely be listed on the factura, and when you get to the office the procedure will be the same. Present bill, pay, get it stamped, done. I recently had to do this for a Metrogas bill, and it couldn’t have been simpler. Now if only there were a South America Fácil…Argentina could use an Easy Button, fo sho.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Resto Review: Quiroz

Last night, after an unpleasant incident which I am hesitant to discuss considering my mother reads this blog, I had dinner with some friends at Quiroz. It was the second time I’ve eaten there, and I can’t decide if I like it so another visit might be in order- third time’s the charm right?

Located in the heart of Palermo on the corner of Malabia and Gorriti, Quiroz is a unique place, at least in terms of décor. Part Middle-Eastern, part Asian, part American pop-culture, the restaurant features hookahs (which you can order), a small cascading water-wall, and images of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis hanging over the bar. It’s an interesting mixture of “ethnic” and modern, but it works. There is also a small stage for live music, which last night featured a female singer with a good voice and unbelievably short skirt (dinner AND a show!) doing renditions of classic American songs, my favorite of which was Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

We arrived at about 11:30, but the place continued filling up until about 2, when we left. In terms of the food, I have mixed opinions. The first time I went to Quiroz, I ordered an appetizer—the vegetarian quesadilla—which was amazing. Stuffed with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and cheese, the tortilla was perfectly crisped (aka not to the point of crunchy) and it came with a hefty portion of delicious guacamole, for about 18 pesos.

Last night I was with three other girls, so we decided to get a bunch of different things and do a little sharing. Among the dishes ordered were mollejas with papas noisette, rabas, langostini, chorizo y morcilla, and two salads. The mollejas were ordered on recommendation from Elizabeth, who had gotten them before and found them delicious, but what came out of the kitchen was nowhere near what she had received before. In my opinion mollejas should be served crispy with a little lemon and butter, which was how they were cooked the time Eli got them before, but these mollejas were served with a heavy sauce with mushrooms which I did not like at all. They were still crispy, but I just couldn’t get past the sauce. The rabas were good, as were the langostini, which were huge and came out on skewers. The salads were basic, as most Argentine salads are--arugula with parmesan and lettuce with carrots--and there were some issues with various ingredients not being available. The chorizo and morcilla were delicious, and the bottle of Uxmal Malbec we split definitely hit the spot.

Prices are reasonable…the mollejas were about 40 pesos, salads 20-25, chorizo/morcilla 5 pesos each, and the bottle of wine was 38 pesos. The menu is pretty varied—they offer multiple appetizers,  7 types of salads, pretty much every cut of meat available in Argentina, chicken dishes, pasta dishes, pizzas, and about 8 dessert options. The drink menu is also fairly extensive, with many different wines, tragos, liquors, and a few beers thrown in for kicks.

To sum up, I would recommend Quiroz, but only if you go without expectations. It seems that the availability of certain dishes/ingredients varies day to day, and things aren’t always what they say they are. That being said, the prices are reasonable, the atmosphere is interesting, and the service is good. So if you’re feeling lucky, check it out!

Here's the Guia Oleo review if you want more info: Quiroz


Friday, December 4, 2009

A Colectivo Catcall

Yesterday I got hit on by a bus. No, not hit BY a bus, hit ON by a bus. Biiiiiig difference. I was on my way to the parks to go running, and as I was crossing a major avenue a bus (the number 12, I believe) whistled at me. (You know, that whistle people do in movies when a dressed-up woman walks into a room…it’s a bit difficultl to express in writing, but I’m sure you know which one I mean!) And not just once, not twice, but thrice did it whistle! I had my iPod on, so the first time I was only vaguely aware that someone was whistling at me, and I just assumed it was yet another of the many men who like to musically express their appreciation of my person. The second time I looked up and saw the number 12 looming over me, at which point it whistled again, and I realized it was the bus itself that was making the noise. Apparently the driver had installed a custom horn that catcalled women, so that whenever he saw an attractive girl go past he could just toot his horn instead of having to stick his head out the window and actually verbalize his admiration. How lazy can you be, honestly.

Now, Buenos Aires is definitely a city in which the catcall figures prominently. I personally don’t mind them, and actually find some of them flattering, especially if I’m having a crap day. While the traditional catcalls yelled from a passing car or from a borracho across the street do exist here, there is also a more subtle and more romantic (?) method employed on the streets of BA. Often as I walk past a man standing in his doorway (which seems to be a kind of sport here—who can loiter the longest), he will murmur something quietly, so that I can barely hear him. In my case it’s usually “Qué ojos!” given that I have rather large blue eyes. And the other day as I walked past two young men on the way home from dinner, one of them blew me a kiss, which was just too cute. I have of course been the recipient of some dirtier comments that I will not repeat, but in my experience Argentine catcalls tend to the more poetic and appreciative rather than the lewd and offensive.

In terms of responding to catcalls, I usually just ignore them, as do the majority of Argentine women, especially those who have grown up here in the city and have been on the receiving end of these comments since hitting puberty and getting their first pair of fake boobs (no really, it happens...that’s another post though). Sometimes if the commenter says something amusing or blatantly ridiculous, I’ll laugh, which usually elicits a kind of shocked look from the original perpetrator. Now, if only women could catcall men. Maybe I’ll start a trend. Gotta get me one of those horns first though…

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The BALife Gets Technorati

Just registered my blog with Technorati...fancy! Soon my little blog will be searchable on Technorati.com, which (hopefully) means more people will be reading about my BA life (and in all likelihood laughing at how dorky I am). I'm pumped.

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*ignore this code, it's so the Technorati people can verify that it is indeed myself who writes my blog, and not some blog-authorship-stealing imposter.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

riding the colectivo part 4: Permiso, Yo Bajo!

Welcome to the final installment of Riding the Colectivo! So far we’ve covered the Guia-T, bus stop behavior, and how to get on the bus without looking like a silly gringo or losing a limb. Yay! The next and final step is getting off the thing once you’ve managed all the above, and it’s really quite easy.

First and foremost, make sure you know the address/intersection you are going to—riding the bus is much less stressful if you know where you are going and don’t have to wing it. I also recommend looking at the route in the Guia-T before setting off so that you know approximately when you should begin the disembarking process. Whenever I’m going somewhere new, I look at the three streets that come before the street I want to get off at, so that I know when mine is coming up. For example, if I’m on the 152 coming down Santa Fe, and I want to get off at Billinghurst, I will look at the three streets before Billinghurst, which happen to be Salguero, Bulnes, and Coronel Diaz. When I see that the bus is passing these streets, I know that I should stand up and approach the door because Billinghurst is coming up.

So, as the bus is barreling down whichever streets its route dictates, pay attention to the names of the streets as you pass them in order to stay oriented. In general, bus stops are located every two blocks, so looking at the “altura” or street numbers can be helpful in determining where you are and when to get off (although they can be hard to see sometimes given the speed at which the buses go whizzing by). When you’ve calculated that your final destination is somewhere within the next three or four blocks, stand up and move towards the nearest door (except the front door, of course).

To signal the colectivero that you would like to get off of his bus, you have to press one of the buzzers (timbres) located on the poles near each door. Sometimes these buzzers actually make a noise that signal the driver, and sometimes they just make a light go off near his seat so he can see that someone would like to bajar. In any case, it’s best to press the timbre firmly and for about 1 second, just to make sure he got the point. However, if you see that someone near you has already pressed the timbre because they too would like to disembark, there is no need to press it again as that would just annoy the driver.

A word of caution: bus drivers here are notoriously violent in terms of their braking capabilities, so hold on tight when he begins the approach to the bus stop. Also, there is no guarantee that the driver will pull up exactly at the bus stop, so OJO when getting off. If there are taxis in the way, or other buses, he might just pull off to the side a little bit and then you have to be careful of oncoming traffic.

So that’s how it’s done! Once you’re on the bus, you can’t really mess it up, because even if you miss your street you can always just get off at the next stop. Unless you fall asleep and end up somewhere in Liniers when you meant to go to Palermo…that would be a big oops.

Anyway, hopefully you’ve learned a bit about the buses here in Buenos Aires and are no longer quite so intimidated by these monsters of transportation. Especially compared to bus systems in the US, the BA bus network really is a wonderful tool and the possibilities are endless once you figure out the basics. Just last night I was in La Paternal aka Pueblo Nowhere for the Manu Chao concert (oh.my.god.amazing) and had to find a way back to Barrio Norte. Out came the Guia-T, and I quickly became acquainted with the 108, 111, and 106, all of which conveniently run between here and there. Perfect!

If anyone has any ideas for more tutorials, just let me know…I’m always up for sharing the things I’ve learned the hard way. And believe me, I’ve learned everything the hard way.



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Temazo Tuesday

By the beard of Zeus!  It's December! How time flies when you're having fun, eh? Although it doesn't really feel like December, what with all the sweating that's been going on lately. I see all the Christmas decorations in the store windows, and my poor little brain just can't reconcile what I'm seeing with this weather! I suppose when we grow up experiencing things a certain way, when tradition is broken we can't help but feel a little weird. But hey, that's why I'm here, to break out of the mold and experience the beauty of life in a new way. That, and the Argentine men (talk about beauty)!

Anyway, since it's the first of a new month, I've decided to launch some new projects, two to be exact. The first is more of a personal initiative, one that I like to call Operation Get Off Your Lard-Ass and Go Running. After four months of empanadas, pizza, milanesas, and other such delicacies (meat wrapped in meat, meat wrapped in bread, bread wrapped in bread, etc), I'm beginning to feel the effects. Nothing irreparable, but with summer coming up and bikini season right around the corner, I've decided to get back into running. In college I ran all the time, but since I've been here things just keep getting in the way. So, I'm getting off my ass and going running every day, starting today. I swear. After I finish this churro...

The second project is actually relevant to all of you, and it's exciting! Wait for it........Temazo Tuesday! It's gonna be huge. Last night I figured out how to put Youtube videos on my blog, and I came up with the idea to post a new song/video every Tuesday, just to brighten everyone's day, because who doesn't love a good song? Why Tuesday? Because Tuesday rhymes with temazo, and I just can't resist a chance inject a little alliteration into the world. For those who don't know, in Castellano songs are often referred to not as "canciones" like we were taught in school, but as "temas." A particularly good song, such as a classic Beatles hit or a popular anthem, is a "temazo."

Today's Temazo is "Me Gustas Tu" by Manu Chao, in honor of me going to see him in concert tonight, here in Buenos Aires, for 15 USD! YEAH! Be jealous. Anyway, here it is...Enjoy!




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 well...tt 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

WUCAT

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?