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


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.