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 water...it'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 else...it'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, duh...you need your money to buy things!)
-be prepared to buy without trying on

Enjoy!

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.

Monday, August 2, 2010

One Year BA Anniversary!

It’s been exactly one year since I moved to Buenos Aires, and I have to say that I’ve never been happier. Sometimes it seems like I just arrived and I can hardly believe a year has gone by. I can still remember all the different things I had to struggle with when I first got here. There were the big things: finding an apartment to live in, finding employment, making friends, improving my Spanish. And then there were the little things: learning how to re-load my cell phone credit, buying fruit from the stands on the street, navigating the streets of BA without getting lost, stepping in dog crap, falling in a hole, getting run over by a bus, etc. But I learned. Slowly but surely I found my way.

First I had the amazing good luck to find my apartment…cheap, spacious, in a great area, and owned by a super generous and kind family. I had a series of jobs that taught me a lot about various things, specifically about myself and the kind of person I am and want to be. I made friends and acquaintances of all kinds that helped me in their own ways through the various stages of this past year. I met my boyfriend, who has made the last 6 months even better than I thought they could be. And last week I got a part time internship with a travel boutique, which will give me some great experience in the tourist industry and which allows me to get out of the house and meet more people.

There have obviously been some difficult and challenging times during the last year, but that can happen to anyone, anywhere. It’s just life. When it comes down to it, my BA life is pretty good.

Of course, I’ve had to adapt to living here in a huge city, in a second or third-world country, on the other side of the world from my family and everything I grew up with. As well as getting accustomed to things like eating late and only speaking Spanish, I have a list of things that I’ve learned to live without here in Buenos Aires, including air conditioning, a car, a clothes dryer, and a TV (until recently).

But I am proud to announce that in honor of my 1 year BA anniversary, I have taken one item off of my Without list, and I am SUPER pumped about it. Please meet the newest addition to my household:

YAY!

It’s really old, probably about 15 or 20 years, but it works perfectly! Acquired from a really nice guy who is relocating to Brussels for work for the grand total of 250 pesos, this machine is going to make my life so much easier. I like to cook, and when I do I tend to make large batches of things like pasta or mashed potatoes or soup. When it comes time to eat the leftovers, well…let me just say that reheating cold pasta on the stovetop is a challenge. No more! My new microwave will change all that. We had a little photo shoot today, Micro and I…doesn’t he look fabulous?


Work it baby.
Isn't it GLORIOUS!

Anyway, the acquisition of this high-tech piece of equipment was the highlight of my weekend, clearly. I also went to see Inception (El Origen in Castellano) with the BF, and I have to say it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in my life. I mean, I know everyone is saying that, but really, it was good. Jump on the bandwagon and go see it if you haven’t…it’s worth it. Also go see Despicable Me (Mi Villano Favorito) with Steve Carrell. We watched it online (gasp) and it was hilarious. Movies are perfect for cold days like we’ve been having, and recently there has been a slew of good ones to choose from. And yes, I just said “slew.”

Off to heat something up in my new microwave! Joy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Day At The Museum, and Folding Empanadas is Harder Than It Looks!

This is the story of my weekend. On Friday I went to meet two girlfriends for a quick beer at a tiny hole-in-the-wall parrilla, which turned into a three hour gossipfest accompanied by a very delicious choripan. Later that night I went to watch a Rolling Stones cover band at some Irish bar with a friend, who is the English teacher of the guitarist. The band was shockingly good, despite the fact that the lead singer aka Mick spoke very little English. We got to meet the whole band (groupies!) and they even shouted out my friend, calling “Teacher” over the mike and pointing in our direction. It was cute. Eventually we were approached by two American guys who had us pinned as foreigners (Could it be the hair? The height? The lack of plastic surgery?) Anyway, they turned out to be quite nice, and as it happened, the assistant coaches of the Men’s U-18 US National Soccer Team.

Now, as any girl would have done, I called bullshit. I mean, U-18 National Team? That’s kind of a big deal. However, they produced business cards and had the schedule and everything, so I was reluctantly impressed. We chatted for about an hour, then they had to go because they had a game in the morning against the Argentina Juniors youth team. I headed home and fell into bed around 3.

Saturday was painful because I twisted my ankle yet again playing soccer. I really need to find some kind of ankle support system, because this is getting ridiculous. Anyway, it hurt like hell. I proceeded to then freeze my ass off watching the boyfriend play his challenge match against some other team, during which he injured his back via getting slammed into a pole along the fence by some idiot. After that we limped home, freezing and broken in body and spirit. Fortunately, a hot shower and homemade pizza in bed mended the damage somewhat…we are simple people.

Sunday dawned (and I mean that not in the literal sense, considering SOMEONE woke up around 1:30pm) gray and gloomy, but we had planned to go to the Museo de Ciencias Naturales and I would be damned if I let a twisted ankle and rainy day prevent me from “doing stuff!” (see previous post)

So we went. The museum is located on the other side of Parque Centenario (the round park for those who know Buenos Aires…it’s very distinctive on a map) and was actually very interesting. It costs 3 pesos to get in, which isn’t too bad for a few hours entertainment. The museum isn’t huge, but it had sections on rocks, shells, birds, mammals, fish, insects, and dinosaurs.

Outside the museum. In the rain.

Apparently Argentina had some crazy dinosaur activity back in the prehistoric days…some of the bones and skeletons that they’ve found here were incredible! And yes, there is actually an Argentinosaurus…it was giant and a plant-eater (think Littlefoot). There were still some displays in progress, and there was an excess of small children due to the crappy day (“Let’s go to the Museum!” was the collective idea of the day), but on the whole I enjoyed it. Here are some pictures!


PG translation =  see my little golden bum. Tee-hee.

Big Dinosaur!
Minke Whale skull
rawr.

On the way home the BF and I stopped at a café for a hot drink and something to eat, then headed home via Subte. Somewhere along the way we decided to try and learn how to make empanadas, so we bought the “tapas” or crusts and some ham and cheese. Neither of us had ever made empanadas before, so it ended up being an interesting experiment.

The folding of the empanada is known as the “repulgue,” and I will admit it’s actually kind of hard to do at first. I mean, you’d think that molding soft dough into a pretty pattern wouldn’t be so complicated. You’d be wrong. Fortunately we had a good Youtube video to watch, and eventually I got the technique down (the BF not so much)…see exhibit A.

My first semi-successful repulgue!
Versus the BF's lovely fork-sealed empanada...

Final verdict: Más o menos. They poofed up in the oven and ended up being mostly hollow inside, but they tasted pretty good once you smooshed them down again.I’ll have to find out what kind of cheese people use for empanadas, because we were using a weird mix of tasteless mozzarella and really salty white cheddar-ish cheese. And the poofing has got to stop. But I will not give up! I have mastered the repulgue, and I will master the relleno. Failure is not an option! Here are the pics of our first foray into empanada-land. If anyone has any tips on making empanadas, they would be much appreciated!


Executed with varying skill
Hot and poofy out of the oven!
Success! I should frame it, right?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oh Hi, Remember Me?

Well, after a month-long hiatus, I’m back. I think. I’m currently still in the process of deciding whether or not to keep this blog going. Sometimes I feel like it’s become more of a responsibility than a pleasure, and I feel almost guilty when I forget to write something or don’t post that often. It’s kind of like having homework, and I outgrew that around 8th grade.

But then again, I still like sharing things that happen to me in this new BA life, however sporadically they may occur. I didn’t start this blog to earn money or win any popularity contests…it was just a way for me to write down things that I saw or did and maybe encourage or help out some other people along the way. Plus, in this day and age, who doesn’t have a blog?

The thing is, I haven’t been doing as many things as I did when I first got here. Not because there isn’t anything to do or that I’ve done it all already, but because I just haven’t gotten off my ass to go do them. Money and time have been a factor, but that’s really no excuse. I’ve been here in BA for almost one year now (August 1st), and my BA life has pretty much fallen into a routine. I have my (amazing) boyfriend, I have my circle of friends, I have my activities and my daily responsibilities, and that’s become my BA life. And while I greatly enjoy my life, I do want to do some different and exciting things every once in a while.

Ok, lament over. I just got back from a two-week visit home to the US of A, where I got to see all of my friends and family, get a bit of a tan, and stuff my face with all kinds of delicious foods (seriously, I ate for 14 days straight: chik-fil-A, Chipotle, Wendy’s, Panera!) It was a great trip, and I miss all of my loved ones so much (this is where the shout-outs would go if I were anything but a tall, blonde, white chick from the suburbs). But for now, my place is here in Buenos Aires and until that changes, thank god for Skype and let’s pray that plane tickets will come down from the astronomical prices they seem to have reached lately.

I brought back the usual arsenal of American products: Tabasco, Aunt Jemima, peanut butter, Ranch dressing mix, Reese’s peanut butter cups (which the BF apparently loves and from whom said candy must now be hidden), Worcestershire sauce, Stovetop stuffing mix, and various spices. Also in the suitcases: 1 electric hand mixer, 4 (yes 4) muffin tins, 7 pounds worth of bath products from Bath and Body Works, recipe binder, lots of new clothes (bought with money I don’t have, naturally), and various kitchen supplies including an oven mitt, measuring spoons and cups, and two graters. Let’s not judge, shall we?

Now that I’m back I can’t wait to get into the cancha and play some soccer, and I’m looking forward to getting some good parrilla meals in the near future. I’m also anxiously awaiting spring and summer, which are just around the corner. Kind of. Last spring I was recently arrived and didn’t really know too many people, so I was limited in my asado, fiesta, reuniones en el parque invitations. I plan to fully take advantage of the season this time around.

Anyway, in terms of this blog, we’ll see what the future brings. There is change in the air…I can feel it (coming in the air tonight).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Going Out to Dinner...Or Not

So, the BF and I finally went out to dinner on Sunday night, after several failed attempts earlier in the month. Going out to dinner sounds so nice but then when the time comes to actually get up and get dressed, our resolve tends to falter. A few weeks ago we got back from soccer and had plans to go out, but were too tired so we just ordered empanadas instead.

But oh, such empanadas they were! We ordered from Pekín, my favorite empanada place in Buenos Aires, and they were so good that we ordered them again the next night…the BF now informs me that he doesn’t even want to look at an empanada.

Anyway, Pekín is a pizza place located on the corner of Honduras and Godoy Cruz in Palermo, but their empanadas are the star of the show. Actually, I’ve never tried the pizza so it might be good too, but we’re talking empanadas here, so hush. At 3.50 to 4 pesos a ‘nada, they aren’t the cheapest you’ll find, although they are certainly nowhere near the most expensive, especially with inflation. I discovered the place with Eli a few months ago when we were walking around Palermo looking for somewhere to get dinner…a pre-dinner snack, if you will.

As far as standard empanada choices go, the carne picante is actually picante, the cebolla y queso has more onion than cheese (as opposed to the cheese bombs you sometimes get from other places), and the spinach is tasty and rich with a few walnuts for a crunchy surprise.

But the best empanadas on the menu are the cordero (lamb), cantimpalo, and pancetta y ciruela (bacon and plum). Many menus don’t have cordero empanadas, and this one is particularly good. The meat is well cooked and juicy, and there is quite a lot of it packed into the little pastry wrapper. As for cantimpalo, I had never tried it until the BF saw it on the Pekín delivery flyer and ordered it. Oh, the food jealousy!

You know when you order something and then someone else orders something different and you try it and theirs is SO much better than what you ordered and you feel really sad and upset and wish you could order what they got, but it’s too late now? I get that a lot. Diner’s remorse. Like buyer’s remorse but with more calories.

Anyway, when we ordered the same empanadas the next night, I got myself TWO cantimpalos because they are just that good! Cantimpalo is an orange salami (if I remember what the BF told me correctly, I was focusing on the empanada) that tastes a lot like pepperoni. Anyway, the empanada is stuffed with chunks of this delicious pepperoni mixed with sauce and some cheese, and it is heaven. I’ve never seen it on another menu, so call Pekín asap and try it!

The last empanada is the panceta y ciruela, and I consider it the dessert empanada. Stuffed with a mixture of pork, bacon, and dried plums, this ‘nada is slightly sweet yet smoky, the perfect ending to the meal. I will end my ode to Pekín with the the loveliest 8 digits in the world: 4833-9600. Call them and order today.

Well. After rambling on about Pekín for several paragraphs, I have completely abandoned the original post about the restaurant we went to when we actually did manage to get out of the house. I guess I’ll come back to that later today…must do some work before Argentina plays Greece in their last game of the preliminary rounds!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mundial aka World Cup 2010!

Today is the first day of the 2010 World Cup, better known in Argentina as the Mundial. I'm pretty excited that I get to be here in BA for this World Cup (or at least the majority of it), considering Argentina's team features the best player in world, Lionel Messi. Hopefully he'll do his thing tomorrow in the team's first game against Nigeria.

I was informed by the BF that he wants to watch the game on a "pantalla gigante" aka big screen, so I think we're going to a local bar tomorrow at 11 am to cheer on the Selección. I'm also doing a kind of World Cup March Madness bracket with some people from the office, betting 20 pesos each week. My bracket so far is not doing well, considering I put Mexico beating South Africa in the first game (they tied). Oh well. No one else put that they would tie either, so HA.

In other news, I have hot water again, and it is GLORIOUS. I will never again take hot water for granted.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hot Water? What is that?

Since we're on the topic of anniversaries (well, I'm on the topic anyway), today marks my one month anniversary of NO HOT WATER. Yes, it has been one month since the hot water tank in my building broke and I made a joke about it taking three weeks to get a new one. Ha. I'm laughing.

Actually, the new tank is here, in the building. It arrived earlier this week and is sitting next to the elevator, taunting us all with it's promise of easy showering and painless dish-washing, the scoundrel. But, considering that this is Argentina, it could easily take another month to get the thing installed. And no, that is not a joke this time.

The sad thing is, it's standard. Things just take forever to get done in Argentina, and I'm sure there are is a vast array of opinions on the "why" of the matter, from vicious cultural stereotypes to the more apathetic "It's just like that." Personally, I don't really care why things are so slow here...I've just kind of accepted it and moved on. 

It helps, as I patiently watch my bathwater struggle to a boil on the stove-top, to think of others in the world who have never had hot water available with the turn of a tap and to remind myself of the all the good things that I have going for me in my life. Either that, or I pretend I'm a medieval princess.

"Accept it and move on" is such a harsh way to describe the process of adapting to a new culture and a new lifestyle, but it's pretty accurate when the person doing the adapting has chosen to be where they are. Since I am here voluntarily, I have chosen to live with the bad things about Argentina as well as the good things...to accept them and move on. 

Other things to which I have adapted in my (relatively) new Buenos Aires life:

-living without a microwave, car, air conditioning, clothes dryer, or hand mixer (what? I like to bake!)
-the absurd amount of salt that is dumped on to savory foods
-ditto the absurd amount of sugar that is ladled into anything that is even near the realm of sweet
-the mild temperature (50 is now cold)
-olives on my pizza
-having to wear real clothes when going to the supermarket...unfortunately for me, sweatpants and hoodies are NOT acceptable attire
-being stared at, commented on, and generally appraised by complete strangers
-the direct and interrogative nature of most Argentines
-the lack of vegetables in the Argentine diet
-the "late" schedule: eat lunch late, eat dinner late, go to bed late

*Disclaimer: Note that these are not complaints, merely differences to which I have adjusted. When I go back to the States at the end of June for my two-week visit, I fully intend to suffer reverse culture shock (more about plans for the visit later).

Anyway, my water has heated itself so I go now to bathe (laboriously) and then partake in the weekend's festivities, such that they are. I think I'm actually getting taken out to dinner this weekend, since the BF just got paid for last month. Joya!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Real Person Anniversary

One year ago today, I graduated from college. Back then, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, except move to Argentina. I had no clue what to expect, and at that point, I was semi-sure that I would be moving back home within 6 months (HA).

I have been a "real person" (as college grads like to call themselves) for a whole year. 12 months ago, when I left the life I had known and loved for 4 years, I was nostalgic and anxious about the future. I had a plan (buy ticket, get on plane), but other than that, I had no clue what was in store for me. Being a "real person" was scary and exciting, feelings which were only intensified by the fact that I was going to have to make the transition from raging college kid to reality in a different country, miles away from anyone I knew.

I am oh so happy to say that so far, being a "real person" has been amazing. In the past year, I have done things I never imagined. I have learned so much about myself, about life. I've learned how to make friends in a foreign language, how to cope with the loss of a pet, how to deal with being unemployed. There have been some hard times and drama, periods of success and moments of failure. But on the whole, being "real" has been awesome.

The one thing I've learned from all this realness is that life is unpredictable. Things happen when you least expect it, and all you can do is go with it and seize the opportunities that land in front of you. Having a plan is all well and good, but it only gets you so far. After a certain point, you just have to give it up to life and let it all happen.

I had a plan, and it got me here. Since then, things have just kind of fallen into place and I couldn't be happier about it. We'll see where I'll be in a year!

My two best friends and I, back before we were real...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My 4 Day Weekend

Well, it’s been a while since I updated, but never fear, I haven’t given up yet. I haven’t been doing much, due to the current lack of expendable funds, but life is good nonetheless. Turns out lots of money isn’t a requirement for having fun, being with friends, and generally living richly.

The past weekend was a four-day weekend, thanks to the bicentennial celebrations here in Buenos Aires. 200 years ago, Argentina began its revolution for independence, which was won by General San Martín 6 years later.

I didn’t actually go to any of the festivities that were held in the capital, but I watched plenty of the parades on TV. The largest street in Buenos Aires, 9 de Julio, was closed off and there were various displays, attractions, exhibitions, and shows throughout the four days. Millions of people turned up to celebrate, congregating en masse in key areas throughout the city, which I avoided like the black plague. Milling throngs of humanity is just not my cup of tea. The effects of the celebrations were felt though, specifically in the fact that we didn’t have to pay bus fares on Tuesday (SCORE), in honor of the bicentenario.

I did have a good weekend though, despite my lack of adoptive country patriotism. Saturday was a going-out night, featuring a goodbye asado for a Danish friend from soccer followed by a late-night birthday party for another good friend. A bottle of wine may have been consumed solely by yours truly, but who’s judging. Topics discussed at said asado and party include: most Argentines’ lack of tolerance for spicy foods, brought on by my addition of a tiny spoonful of spicy salsa to the meat I was sharing with my weak-palated boyfriend, who proceeded to declare that his tongue was numb; the World Cup (of course); the origin of the word hydrogeology and whether English is more of a Germanic or Latin based language; and the efficacy of various pick-up lines in both Castellano and English, and the chances of scoring with the line “Would you like to come to the party in my pants?” Wrapped up the erudite conversation around 6 am and headed home, slept til 2 pm, woke up to rain, then did nothing for the next 36 hours.

On Monday the BF and I watched Argentina destroy Canada 5-0 in the last friendly match before the Mundial starts in a few weeks. Then on Tuesday, I went to meet my boyfriend’s family. Always a sweaty affair for me, sufferer of intense meeting-the-family-itis, the afternoon was lovely and no one ate me (which is always a fear). I met several aunts, lots of cousins, an uncle, a PRECIOUS six month old baby who unfortunately did not belong to the family, and Sergio’s mom. Everyone was very welcoming and kind, and the majority eventually got my name right, Amy being kind of difficult to pronounce correctly with a Castellano accent. Some of them might still think my name is Emilia, but oh well. After 10 months here, I respond to pretty much anything that even sounds close to Amy.

I don’t normally compare things from the States to things here, but as this was my first large family gathering of any nationality in months, I couldn’t help but think about how things were different and yet exactly the same. The food was different of course, most notably in the lack of vegetables here (besides potatoes). The customs were different—everyone kisses the birthday girl (or boy) after they blow out the candle, etc. But underneath the superficial stuff, it was quite similar to any of my family gatherings back in the States. The dynamics between siblings, discussions that begin lightly but degenerate into debates about politics or education, questions and catching up, kids in one room with the computer and older folk in another…it all seemed familiar, despite the fact that it was so different.

I’m still working from home as a writer, although I’m planning to start going into the office 3 days a week starting next week, just for a change of pace and to get out of the apartment for a few hours. I’m also still planning on coming home at the end of June for a 2 week visit, but have yet to actually buy the ticket. I’m loathe to part with 1200 USD, to say the least, but I think a visit home will be good for me.

And now some photos:
 Soccer crew at the asado
 


Group...getting late




Me and the birthday girl!



Sleepy time

Friday, May 14, 2010

Girl Power and Food Censorship

Costa Rica just elected a female president. While I am certainly no feminist, I think it’s pretty cool that having women in positions of power is no longer such an “OMG” issue. Laura Chinchilla (yes, like the animal) joins several other women who currently hold leadership positions in their countries, including Argentina. The highly controversial Cristina Kirchner has been president since 2007 when she took over from her husband, Nestor Kirchner. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has in strengthened her country’s economy and is a leader in the European Union. Other countries with female presidents and prime ministers include: India, the Philippines, Ireland, Finland, Iceland, Switzerland, Croatia, Bangladesh, Lithuania, and Liberia. Interesting, no? Girls Rule!

At the beginning of May, the Secretary of Commerce in Argentina declared that starting June 1st, all foreign-produced food products that have an Argentine-produced equivalent will be banned from the country. This means that products made in Brazil, Europe, the US, and any other country will no longer be allowed to be imported, if there is an Argentine equivalent. This includes many foods, such as pastas, oils, cereals, beer, chocolate, and deli products like ham and cheese.

The announcement was made to all supermarket chains, who will be required to comply with this new decision starting June 1st. The Secretary, Guillermo Moreno, says that this measure is being taken to protect national industry…after all, why should we Argentina import products that it makes itself? He cites the weakness of the Euro and the impending financial crises in Greece and Spain as possible threats to the national economy, and claims that prohibiting the importation of foreign-made food products will strengthen Argentina’s own manufacturing and agriculture industry.

The protectionist measure will affect larger and more international supermarkets such as Carrefour and Jumbo, both of which carry a wider range of imported and foreign goods. Apart from Argentines (and foreign people living here, ahem ME) not being able to buy Swiss chocolate or German beer, many supermarket owners have complained that this ban on foreign products will cause national producers to raise their prices, which will ultimately affect buyers. This, coupled with the current inflation problem, could make buying food a (more) expensive endeavor. LAME.

Monday, May 10, 2010

No Hot Water But It's OK, I'm Good at Bowling

Today I celebrate my 6th day without hot water. Apparently the thermo-tank thing in my apartment building broke, and we have yet to find/install a replacement. Which, considering that this is Argentina, could take another three weeks. I've been showering like they did in the olden days, heating water on the stove and then washing one part at a time...it's surprisingly effective but takes FOREVER to heat up the water, hence showers have been few and far between (overshare? maybe). Now I know why people used to bathe only once or twice a month...they just couldn't be bothered.

Also in the line of updates, I have a sprained ankle. Some large Australian who thought we were playing rugby instead of soccer tackled me a week ago and destroyed my ankle. It was puffy and blue for days, and is only just beginning to get better. I'll probably have to skip another week of soccer before I can play again, bloody Australians...

Other than these two minor issues, life is good! I had a submarino this past weekend, which I had been dying to try...chocolate bar melted into hot milk = YUM. Also, I went to this place called Acatraz in Almagro with the boyfriend and some soccer people on Saturday night, which was lots of fun. It's kind of like a giant sports bar, with food and drinks and table games like pool and foosbal. Plus, they had bowling!

 Boyfriend posing...


Don't ask about the hand gestures...I have no idea.


Group!!


Bowling fashionably (check the boots!)

For some strange reason, I'm actually pretty good at bowling. I don't know how or why, considering my arm strength is about nil and my hand-eye coordination isn't top-notch. One of life's mysteries. On the plus side, I did learn how the scoring works. I was always confused about it, but knew that there had to be some kind of logic behind the random numbers that appeared sometimes. The key is that every time you bowl a spare, the first bowl of your next turn counts double. And when you bowl a strike, both bowls of your next turn count double. I think.

Anyway, that's my life at the moment. Weather is getting colder day by day, so tomorrow I'm going shopping for a new coat. I'm waiting to hear back from a job offer before I buy my ticket home to the States for my visit in early July. I need a haircut. And that's about it! Isn't my life wonderfully thrilling. Hopefully I'll be doing some fun stuff soon...the only problem with doing things is that it requires money, which I don't have a lot of at the moment. Oh well. Positive thoughts!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Resources

Since I've been doing this blog, I've gotten a bunch of comments saying how helpful it is and how great of a resource it's been for people who are considering or planning to move down here to the lovely Buenos of Aires. Which is nice to hear, because it's always been one of my goals to help out other people who took the plunge just like I did (see first post ever).

That being said, there are lots of resources out there that contain a virtual goldmine of information and opinions about everything from the current inflation problem to the best place for pizza. I used some of these myself before coming down, and they helped immeasurably. Others I discovered after being here for a while.

In this post I'm going to list some of the different resources available to tourists, permatourists, expats, exchange students, and anyone else who has been drawn to this country. Because I'm super organized, these will be in categorized list form...I know how happy this will make you all. Oh wait, that's me.

GENERAL RESOURCES
Baexpats.org- forum for expatriates in Argentina; incredibly useful information combined with lots and lots of different opinions; use the search function for a more focused approach, or just browse the different categories and topics to see what people are doing, thinking, planning, asking

landingpadBA- another general information site, geared toward a younger crowd

transitionsabroad.com- general information about moving abroad; some useful links and information, be aware that some of it might be dated

www.cultura.gov.ar (Spanish)

www.museos.buenosaires.gov.ar (Spanish)

http://bloggersinargentina.blogspot.com/ - list of bloggers in Argentina (including me!); click randomly and get a fresh new perspective on the country

HOUSING
myspaceba.com 
apartmentsba.com
craigslist.org

 
NEWS
The Argentimes (English)- excellent source of current events, cultural activities, social issues, travel ideas
buenosairesherald.com (English)
clarin.com (Spanish)
lanacion.com.ar (Spanish)

COMMUNITY PROJECTS
couchsurfing.org- worldwide community of travelers; concept = people travel the world by crashing on other people’s couches; join the Buenos Aires community, and you’ll see lists of events, activities, trips, and general get-togethers with both Argentines and foreigners living or traveling through BA

wwoof.org- World Wide Opportunity for Organic Farming; concept = you live and work (for free) on an organic farm performing whatever duties the owners/family require, and you get a place to live, food, and a great experience (for free); check out the list of participating farms in Argentina and see what kinds of things you could be doing outside of the big city

ONCE YOU’RE HERE
Plataforma10.com (Spanish)- search for and purchase long-distance bus tickets to anywhere in Argentina and several cities in Chile, Brazil, and Peru

guiaoleo (Spanish)- highly used diner’s guidebook; lists most restaurants in Buenos Aires, and you can search for what you want by name, type of food, barrio, price, etc; also features descriptions of the resto, pictures, and reviews by customers

comoviajo.com (Spanish)- enter in your current location and final destination and figure out how to get where you want to go

ole.com.ar (Spanish)- diario deportivo aka sports journal, detailing all the happenings in Argentine and some international sports; because this is Argentina people, the site features mostly football

taringa (Spanish)- Argentine site for downloading or just browsing different things on the internet; features music, videos, programs, etc

compumap (Spanish)- downloadable program that is seriously awesome; similar to comoviajo, you can enter in your current location and final destination and find the exact bus route to get you there; also allows you to search for hospitals, fire stations, police stations, and government buildings; incredible map also shows all of Buenos Aires province with all the street names, train lines, parks, etc; there’s also lots of other functions that I haven’t figured out yet, but will ASAP—download this from taringa and play around!
 
BLOGS
Tourist2townie- great perspective from a guy who is attempting to go from tourist to local; he describes some of the more interesting aspects of Argentine life (ie the Man Kiss)

Saltshaker- blog by the owner of a closed-door restaurant here in BA; in his words “casting a little flavor (and a few aspersions) on the world of food, drink, and life” in Buenos Aires

The Argentine Post- one of my favorite sources for Argentine current events, presented clearly and concisely


So there you go! Hopefully some of these links will be of some use to someone out there! Oh and you can also check out my how-to posts for some explanations of how to navigate life in BA (section on the sidebar). Suerte!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Holy Colonia! A How-To, Illegal Tourist Version

I can’t believe I haven’t done a Colonia post! I mean, this little town is the source of my illegal tourist visa extension…I feel like I owe it at least a glancing description.

The coastal town of Colonia is located directly across from Buenos Aires in Uruguay, and is the definition of “quaint.” It has an historic section, a busier main street, and a waterfront. Basically, Colonia can be summed up like this: everyone drinks mate and carries a thermos with them, prices are significantly higher than in BA because it is a tourist destination, chivito is delicious, and mopeds are loud.

Old ladies walking down a tree-lined path = quaint


Stray dog (fleas!) under pretty flowers and ceramic street sign = quaint

 Cobblestones = quaint, always
A trip to Colonia costs anywhere from around 200 pesos to a lot more, depending on how long you want to stay. In my experience(s), a day trip is enough. This time, I paid 184 pesos for a same-day-return weekend ticket on Buquebus. There are two main companies that run ferries to Colonia, Buquebus and Colonia Express. If you’re planning a trip, check their websites for various prices and remember that weekdays are usually cheaper.

To purchase your ticket, just go to the website and choose your date, time, and type of ticket. Pay with your credit card and you will receive a link to the PDF file that is your ticket. Save this to a flash drive and get it printed at a locutorio or printing place near you. Once you have your ticket, you’re all set.

With Buquebus, there is a fast ferry that takes you over in an hour, and a slow one that takes you over in 16 hours. Actually, it’s only three hours, but depending on your proximity to the screaming children and apathetic parents, it can seem a lot longer.

This must be the fast ferry...check out that wake! Pretty sure the one I was on didn't make a ripple...
(photo ripped from lasescapadas.com)

The Buquebus terminal is located on the corner of Antártida Argentina and Cecilia Grierson, which is basically an extension of Avenida Córdoba. The best way to get there is to take one of the many buses that run up and down Ave Leandro N Alem, get off as close to Córdoba as you can, and then walk the two blocks over to the terminal. You’ll cross two big streets and some old train tracks, but the building is pretty big and you should see lots of people entering and exiting. Just follow the other lemmings.

Check-in is just like in an airport. Wait in line, go to the counter, give the guy your pre-printed ticket and passport, he’ll ask you if you have baggage to check, say no, then he'll direct you up the escalator to customs. Fill out the little form that the check-in guy gave you (if you aren’t Argentine), then go through customs.

That is one thing that’s different about the ferry to Uruguay...you go through customs before you get on the ferry instead of after arriving on the other side. So in BA you’ll go through Uruguayan customs before getting on the boat, and then you’ll get checked by the Argentine customs people on the Uruguayan side before coming home (this is where the anti-deportation prayers come in handy).

When you get on the boat, follow the signs for tourist seating by going up the stairs and heading to the front of the boat. Pick your seat and get comfy. I recommend arriving earlier rather than later, because the boat can fill up pretty quickly and if you want a seat by the window you don’t want to have to fight some histérica Argentine bitch for it. Also, bring entertainment. Three hours of gray water is boring with a capital B. Alternatively, you could just sleep. If you want food, they have a small counter with ridiculously overpriced sandwiches, alfajores, and beverages. For a bit of fresh air, you can head up to the covered deck and take in the sights (more water) and enjoy the brisk (hurricane-like) winds.

Hairstyle courtesy of the Rio de la Plata

Keep in mind that I have done this particular trip several times…hence the slightly sarcastic tone and somewhat jaded opinion. In truth, Colonia is a lovely town and I would highly recommend a visit for those who are looking to get out of the city for a weekend.

Artesanías = quaint

I won’t go into detail about what to actually DO in Colonia…there are tourist websites for that. Just a few things to keep in mind--> 1) it can get kind of windy/cold on the side closer to the water, so bring a jacket if you’re in doubt… 2) be prepared to pay jacked-up prices for food, as there are only a limited number of restaurants and they all cater to tourists… 3) that being said, get a chivito…it’s a DEELISHUS gut-bomb comprised of a layer of French fries, topped with a slab of tender meat, topped with ham-bacon, topped with cheese, topped with a fried egg. Oh, and for your veggies, you get more potatoes in the form of ensalada rusa. You won’t eat again for three days… 4) at around 4 pm, all the lovely teenagers on their mopeds and four-wheelers come out to play, so if you’re trying to relax in the sun or take a nap on the grass near the waterfront, fugheddaboudit…

So that’s it! Colonia in a nutshell, the illegal-tourist version. OH! And because I forgot TT again (abbreves rock), here's a good video by a band called Molotov. They're from Mexico and have an amazing rap-metal-rock-cumbia sound mixed with politically and culturally relevant lyrics...this one is called "Frijolero" and is appropriately themed around the topic of illegal Mexicans in the US. I've heard their next project is about illegal blondes in Argentina...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Santa Fe Now a Two-Way Street

I love how arbitrary Argentina can be. Like when Kirchner decided to not do daylight savings time this year. And when streets suddenly become two-way after 43 years of being one-way.

When I went out on my balcony this morning to see how cold it was, I noticed that a bus was coming up Laprida towards Santa Fe. This struck me as odd, since no buses that I know of run up Laprida. When the bus proceeded to turn right on Santa Fe, in the opposite direction to the normal flow of traffic, I waited anxiously for the imminent crash. When none came, I knew something was up.

 WTF??

A little bit of research on the Argentimes website revealed that the government has decided to make Avenida Santa Fe a two-way street, after 43 years of being one-way. The change was instituted this morning and is supposed to help with traffic congestion.


However, the street is only two-way for about 17 blocks, from Anchorena (which is one block from my street) up to Borges at Plaza Italia. So I'm not sure how much this is going to help. Apparently several bus routes, including the 64, 68, 39, 12, and 152, have also been changed to accommodate this new bi-directionality. Basically all the buses that used to go down Santa Fe towards the centro, now also go up Santa Fe for these 17 blocks.

Vehicles will not be allowed to turn left off of Santa Fe during this 17 block stretch, so if you want to head up into Palermo, you should consider taking another route such as Guemes or Arenales.

Apparently the government is trying to make Santa Fe a public transportation street, with private cars taking the back streets and buses and taxis being redirected to the main avenue. We'll see how that works out.

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's Cold. I'm a wimp.

Signs that winter is coming:

-I actually look forward to doing the dishes because it means I can immerse my hands in hot water
-getting out of my ridiculously comfy bed in the morning is now even harder
-for the first time in 9 months, the thought of ice cream has seemed unappealing
-the standard outfit is now jeans and boots instead of jeans and flip flops
-I am the color of new-fallen snow...apparently my tan decided I wasn't cool enough and went back to the beach :(

Anyway, it's cold. Can you tell? Good thing I work from my bed! On a side note, it's amazing how your body adapts to your circumstances. For example, I now consider anything less than 70 degrees to be "freezing," hence the two pairs of pants I'm currently wearing (current temperature: 57 degrees). My spice tolerance has significantly decreased because Argentines refuse to put anything that comes close to "hot" in their food. I also put way too much salt on everything I make at home now, because almost every dish you order here comes with a little mountain of the stuff on it. I'm sure there's more examples but my hands are turning blue from the cold...

Tomorrow I have to venture out into the harsh world and tackle the Buquebus to Uruguay so I can stay here for another 3 months. I'm kind of worried, since I've been reading things about people having trouble upon re-entering Argentina. But this is only my second time doing the Colonia run, and I'm going with a real Argentine, so hopefully it will just look like a fun day trip (HA). People have been exploiting this convenient migratory loophole for years at a time, but it would be just my luck to get chucked out after two trips.

I do have new boots though! I don't know how I went 9 months without buying a pair of boots, but I finally caved and bought some. Knee-high leather boots are pretty much a staple of the winter wardrobe here, and now I fit right in! They are lovely and soft and so comfortable and I will wear them constantly. Success!

The only problem is that they don't have any tread on the bottom, so walking on any smooth surface is a life (and dignity) threatening hazard. I've already done the awkward shriek-and-arm-flail recovery move about four times, much to the amusement of supermarket cashiers, loitering shop owners, and fellow pedestrians. But oh well. I like a pair of boots that keeps me on my toes!

Boots!

Whenever I buy boots, I always think of that scene from Friends where Rachel is out of work and looking for a job, so she goes shopping and comes back with a pair of ""I don't need a job, I don't need my parents, I've got great boots" boots!! Am I her? Possibly. 

In sum: I'm pale, but I have new boots. Uruguay < Argentina. I'm jealous of everyone in the States who is getting ready for summer. Anda a cagar, all of you. See you when I get back from Colonia, provided I don't get deported.