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

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 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.


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!


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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Little Things

The more time I spend here in BA, the more I enjoy the little things about life. I’m not sure if this newfound appreciation is actually even related to being here in BA…maybe it’s just a slow and gradual way of learning to look at life that comes with getting older, living on your own, being a real person.

Actually, it’s probably more a result of the fact that I work from home and thus spend lots of quality time with myself, thinking about stuff like this. I’ve really got to get out more. Anyway, little things are great.

Things like a hot cup of tea on a cold day. Sitting on the balcony at 7 pm and watching day become night. Buying a new shower curtain. Watching a favorite movie (Top Gun—you know you love it) in bed on a rainy day. Discovering a new band and listening to their songs over and over again. Finding the perfect pair of black leather boots after 9 months of searching. Trying a delicious new recipe with great success. Going to the park on a beautiful day and people-watching for hours.

Little things are what life is all about, especially when you’re broke and in a foreign country and doing big things isn’t really an option. Back when I first got here, I got to do lots of the big things (taking trips, going to shows, etc). But that was when I still didn’t know what I was going to do, when I still thought I was going to end up on a plane back to the States within a few months. Back then, I could spend a little money because I thought it was all going to end relatively soon.

Now that my BA life has become a little more permanent, I can’t do as many of the big things. Paying the rent, paying the bills, and basically existing have become the focus and spending money on big things requires a lot of thought. Welcome to the real world, I suppose.

I am planning a big trip home to the States, sometime in late June or early July, during which I will stuff my face with all kinds of glorious food that you can't get here aka Taco Bell, Chipotle, Panera, Outback Steakhouse, and Chik-fil-A. But that's not for a while yet. In the meantime I'm heading over to Uruguay for my tourist visa re-stamping, oh joy of joys. At least I'm going with someone this time though...misery loves company (mwoohahaha)! Anyway, more later, I'm off to try making pierogies!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Rainy Day

It's raining. Not too hard, but still coming down pretty solidly. Rain in BA means a few things...the streets in some parts of town will inevitably flood, specifically in Palermo (BA drainage is pretty much nonexistent); I will enjoy my morning cup of tea in bed instead of on the balcony; and I will invariably bake something fattening and/or artery-clogging.

For me, rainy days are baking days. When you can't go out and window-shop, or sit in the park and enjoy the sun, or even do your work in the fresh air on the balcony, there's no choice but to get out the butter and sugar and make something delicious. That being said, cooking and baking here in BA has been an interesting experience. It's hard to find some ingredients, impossible to find others, and I've learned to make lots of things from scratch that you can find packaged in the States.

For example, here it is very uncommon to find jars of pasta sauce. In the States there is a whole shelf of them to choose from (Vodka sauce, Four Cheese, Onion and Mushroom), but here a lot people make their own. And it's surprisingly easy! Canned crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, spices, salt and pepper, a dash of sugar, a splash of cream and that's it. Who knew?

Anyway, baking is something I've always enjoyed, and today it's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies! Measuring things is still annoying sometimes, thanks to the stupid metric system the world insists on using for some reason. Every time I have to look up how many grams 2 cups of flour equals, I curse the metric system. But oh well. If the end result involves chocolate and sugar, I ain't complaining!

Of course, I didn't have any ingredients in my house (or any other food for that matter) so I had to go to the local supermarket, the Coto. I complain about going there just because it's a hassle, but the truth is that I am so lucky to live where I do...I have everything I could possibly need within 4 square blocks: supermarket, fruit and veggie stand (literally three doors up), hardware store, lingerie store, sporting goods store, movie rental, ice cream, Indian food, great pizza place, great shoe stores, printing place, liquor store, gym, tanning salon, hairdresser, kitchen supply store (across the street...I covet everything in the window), laundromat, key maker, and tons of other random places to spend money that I don't have. I love it!

Here's today's song...I've been listening to it nonstop: "Mariposa Traicionera." The band is called Maná and they're from Mexico. Their music is amazing and this song is absolutely beautiful. I was told today that the video for this song was actually shot here in Buenos Aires, so it's quite appropriate! Enjoy :)

The embedding link was disabled by request (why do people do this to me?!?!) so here's the youtube link.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Temazo Tuesday (Tarde)

Forgot Temazo Tuesday again. My B. Normally I wouldn't worry about it, just chalk it up to being busy...but this week I have a really great song, so I'm going to post it anyway. Pretend it's Tuesday.

But first, good news! The fleas are gone!!! Well, they seem to be...I don't want to jinx it. However, I haven't seen a trace of one in a week, ever since I used the best product ever, Silpatox. After mopping the floor three times (once with lavender-scented soap, once with poison-scented poison, and once with anti-flea pesticide) and washing all of my sheets, rugs, mats, and clothes about 18 times, I was still seeing fleas. (A few notes: 1. Mopping the floor three times creates monster blisters and an aching back...and a new-found respect for all people in the cleaning industry...props 2. Seeing a flea land on your sock after mopping the floor with poison is probably the worst feeling in the world...hopes = dashed cruelly.)

So after a month of living with the little bastards, I did what I should have done at the beginning and went to the vet's office up the block (which is probably where the cat picked them up in the first place) and asked if they had anything to kill fleas that persisted even after the original host was gone. The girl took a few steps back from me (it's not like the fleas were ON me at that very moment, sheesh), handed me a can of something and said press this button and leave the house for 2 hours. Which I did.

When I came back from a lovely, mosquito-filled stint in the park (for some reason, bugs seek me out) and entered my apartment, I was holding my breath partly because of the massive cloud of poison that filled the place and partly because I was waiting to see a cursed flea. After airing the house, I still hadn't seen one, and my hopes began to climb, slowly and cautiously.

It's now a week later, and I still have not seen a flea. However, I am still partially holding my's so hard to believe that they're just all gone. I pounce on every little speck of black that I see on my socks, my sheets, my feet, the floor, the futon, heart in my throat. But so far, it's always lint...or dirt...or food--I've sworn off mopping, can you tell? But no fleas! I venture a tentative "Yay?"

Anywho, back to the matter at hand. Today's temazo is an amazing song by the band Electric Six, called "Danger! High Voltage!" The video leaves me speechless every time I watch's that great. With flashing jock straps and a moose, how can you go wrong? Don't ask questions, just watch it and enjoy. And thank me when you're done. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Get a Certificado de Domicilio

But first, HAPPY EASTER! And happy 8 months to me...I am now into my 9th month here in BA and I'm prepping for winter...aka going SHOPPING! However, that's not so fun to blog about, so here's a how-to that I did a while ago. 

One of the endless pieces of paper that you will need if you want to apply for certain legal documents here in Argentina is a Certificado de Domicilio. Essentially, this is a little piece of paper that certifies that you are in fact living where you say you do. Out of all the documents you need in order to begin the process of “going legal,” the Certificado de Domicilio is one of the easiest to obtain.

To get this paper, you have to go to your local police station or “comisaría.” Depending on where you live, your comisaría will be different. To find the station for your area, go to this site and enter in your street name, then choose the number or “altura."

Once you know where your comisaría is, head on over and ask a policeman where to get a Certificado de Domicilio…they will point you in the right direction. When it's your turn to talk to someone, just say that you need a Certificado de Domicilio and they will ask for your passport. After they record your name and passport number they will ask for your address. They will also ask you what you want the Certificado for...just say "para ANSES." Then you pay the 10 peso fee.

After they take your information, they will tell you that someone will come around to your place of residence within the next 72 hours to verify that you do live there. However, someone will usually come the very next day. For me, I went in the afternoon on a Monday and someone showed up at 10 am on Tuesday…very efficient for Buenos Aires, to be honest.

When the policeman rings your buzzer, all you have to do is go down with your passport and show it to him so he can verify that you are the person who is claiming to live at that address. Then he’ll give you a little piece of paper (see below), stamp it and sign it in a very official manner, and then depart, leaving you standing there wondering “Is that all?”

The answer being yes, that is all. Like I said, a piece of cake compared to some other things that are required during the getting-legal process (aka FBI reports, fingerprints being sent across continents to verify that I haven’t killed anyone in the last 5 years, etc).

A few important notes: 1) It doesn’t matter if you are in a hostel, student residence, apartment, or house…the process is exactly the same. Just give the address of the hostel or residence and then make sure you are there when the person comes to check on you. 2) Alternatively, if you can’t be there (work, prior engagement, subway strike keeps you stuck underground for 45 minutes) give your passport to someone you trust (landlord, roommate, hostel reception, etc) and they can show it to the person who comes to check. Suerte!