Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

Empanadas and More

September 22, 2007

The main reason I went to Tucumán Province last week was the Fiesta Nacional de la Empanada, which sounded like an only-in-Argentina kind of experience, and a chance to see another part of the country. Different regions of Argentina (and other countries) have their own versions of empanadas (similar to pasties and other savory pastries of dough surrounding filling). In Tucumán, traditional empanadas have only these ingredients: beef (cut with a knife, not ground), hard-boiled eggs, white onions, green onions, and specific spices (I’m not sure what all of them are, but I saw some kind of non-spicy ground red pepper, and salt and pepper). The empanada festival featured lots of different ranchos, pavilions run by different social groups in Famaillá, the town where the festival was held. Each rancho sets up tables and chairs and serves empanadas, maybe one or two other food items, and drinks. They also each sponsor one person who will compete in the empanada cooking competition, held the last day of the festival. The first two days the festival takes place only in the evening, when people come to visit the different food and drink stalls, shop the artisan and not-so-artisan stands, and hear live folkloric music in the amphitheater. On all three days, the decibel level is incredible, with each rancho and stall blasting its own music on a speaker about ready to burst. At one point I stood still and thought I counted music coming from six different sources.

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#18

August 24, 2007

Our last morning in La Cumbre, I was lying in bed reading when there was a knock on the door. It was Cristian, the great guy who runs the hostel where we were staying. “Wanna fly?” he asked. I was thrilled. “Really!? We can go?” “Today’s the day. Be ready at 10:30.” Knowing we’d finally get to go paragliding made all the less-than-stellar weather and waiting around worth it. None of our complaining mattered anymore; the less-than-perfect moments of the week were erased in a heartbeat. Even though there was still a possibility that conditions would change out at the launch site, I was optimistic—and a little nervous on the ride there.

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Recovered

August 22, 2007

It seems I’ve been sick a lot since I moved to Buenos Aires, and a lot of people I know here have also been sick frequently and/or also feel as tired as I do—seems we can never get enough sleep no matter how early we go to bed. But a week away has done wonders for me in these respects. I definitely slept well out in the country, where it was quiet and dark and I had lots of warm blankets on a comfortable bed. And Carolynn and I laughed a lot—we may have just been overtired, or feeling the effects of that second liter of beer, but we found ourselves nearly on the floor in gales of laughter in three different restaurants, with the other diners glancing our way while we dried our eyes with our napkins. It seems I don’t laugh like that very often these days, but it’s definitely good medicine. And the Irish agree, apparently. Just found this proverb: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” It’s especially fitting since I’m editing a guidebook to Ireland right now, and also just said goodbye to an Irish friend.

Chillin’ in La Cumbre

August 17, 2007

When we were trying to decide where to go for our little vacation, Carolynn and I first talked about going somewhere warm—lying on a beach in Brazil was sounding pretty good after so many cold months in Buenos Aires. But the cost of plane tickets, or the hassle of getting a visa, or some mysterious force, led us to look domestically, and we ended up on a bus headed to Córdoba, the next province over from Buenos Aires. We didn’t know too much about it, but despite having several Argentines tell us the provincial capital was feo (ugly), we had good feelings about it—a university town, near mountains, with old colonial buildings, sounded pretty good to us. It was even a place that for some reason we both thought we might like to live. We ended up in a really great hostel, but the best part about Córdoba ended up being the weather—we arrived just in time for a freak two-day heat wave and enjoyed feeling the sun on our bare arms for the first time in months. But during our afternoon rambles a dark smog-looking cloud above town turned into a whirling dust storm—it felt like the end of the world, like you see in the movies, and we sought refuge in an office building—and later we both had to admit that yes, Córdoba was a bit feo (I realized that just because there are colonial buildings doesn’t mean they aren’t surrounded by other modern, unattractive buildings), and we decided to head to the small town of La Cumbre, two hours north, in the foothills of the Sierras de Córdoba, and a prime place for paragliding, which we really wanted to try. Luckily La Cumbre has been a nice place to hang out, since we are still waiting for the right weather and wind conditions to get to go paragliding. It’s pretty cold here, but we have hiked up to the big Cristo Redentor statue on the hill above town, enjoyed plenty of tasty food (always a priority), wandered around town, and we got sort of lost this afternoon on the dirt roads outside town—turns out the tourist office’s map isn’t so good for actual navigation—but luckily we flagged down someone to drive us back to town. I’m really enjoying some lazy days of doing nothing, and we’re not feeling particularly motivated to go anywhere else. It’s looking like we might just stay here until it’s time to get our bus back to BA on Sunday.

Travel Bug Bites Again

August 12, 2007

After almost three months here, it was high time to get the heck out of the city, the provincia, and even the country! First, a visa run to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, founded by the Portuguese in the mid-1700s and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bidding my fair city farewell:

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Three hours later, we disembarked in Colonia. It was a beautiful day, and Brian, Virginia, and I had a great time wandering around, and a fabulous lunch outside in the sun (I told them I always eat well when we’re together—a good sign!). Some other friends who’ve been to Colonia during my time here didn’t seem to think much of the town, but we really liked it. The good weather helped, I’m sure, but it was such a welcome getaway from the city—so quiet and tranquilo—and much prettier than I expected.

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I’d definitely go back to spend more time there; we found some information about horseback riding and other excursions in the area. Staying overnight would be nice—it was a really long day trip. Left home at 8:15 this morning, didn’t get home until 11 pm!

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I took a lot more pictures, but these will have to do for now—the pictures section of my website is still down (my own fault) and there’s no time to fix it, because I’m off again tomorrow! This time to Córdoba Province for a week with my friend Carolynn. We’ll start in the city of Córdoba—about 9 hours west of Buenos Aires—then venture off to some smaller towns for relaxation, hiking, etc. Can’t wait to get on the road!

Action-Packed

July 3, 2007

My blog hasn’t been very active lately, but I have! Since I wrote last, the winter (not a typo!) solstice has come and gone, and I’ve gone out for tasty regional Argentine food (from the northwest) and Mexican (spicy, tasty, but expensive); done laundry in my new apartment; spent SAE volunteer day painting a family activity center in the province; won the SAE pub quiz night (it was in English) with my teammates from Italy, England, and Ireland (rematch next week); went to a party sponsored by Club Europeo at the beautiful Palacio Paz at Círculo Militar (the room with this beautiful domed ceiling was the dark, smoky, disco ball–decorated dance floor and bar); started and finished knitting a pair of fingerless gloves for myself; stayed out late; worked about 70 hours; and went away for the weekend. The weekend probably makes for the most interesting (or at least most current) story. (more…)

La Choza

June 11, 2007

Okay, you smart asses, I didn’t spend last weekend at church, or at the mall. I was at Fundación La Choza, an organic farm about 40 km from the city that’s connected to the Waldorf schools in the area. The previous weekend, I was at the clubhouse for a movie, and a middle-aged Argentine man saw the sign out front and stopped in, then stayed for the movie. Turns out Bernardo is the director (?) of the farm, and we spent quite a bit of time talking to him about it. And it turns out Virginia, the Argentine girlfriend of one of the guys who volunteers at the clubhouse, even used to work in a Waldorf school, and had been to the farm before—the students visit the farm as part of their education. Mia, who’s in charge of volunteer opportunities for club members, also wondered if it might be possible for SAE people to help out there and wanted to check it out.

Bernardo invited us to come visit anytime, saying they have a huge old house with plenty of beds, five dollars a person a night, etc. We were sold—and immediately started planning a trip out there for the next weekend. Virginia offered the use of her car, and the five of us (me, Mia, Virginia’s boyfriend Brian, and James, who was also at the clubhouse that day) met in San Telmo to head off for el campo. (more…)

Teaser

June 7, 2007

Guess where I spent last weekend? Here are a few obvious clues…

Full write-up later; I have work to do first.

So Far So Good…

May 22, 2007

The last 48 hours have been a complete whirlwind, but a good one. Once I stopped trying to meet the 50-pound-per-bag checked baggage requirement, the packing finished up in a breeze, and I paid $50 to be able to take two heavy bags, one 66 and and the other 63 pounds. Worth every penny to speed up the packing, save my back (by avoiding heavy carry-ons), and bring what I want. I had three seats to myself on the overnight flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, so I wasn’t completely zonked when I arrived, but still pretty close. Got my bags, got money, found a taxi, and was on my way. (The taxi dispatcher even said my Spanish was good, so I started out confidently—or was he just being polite?) The minute I arrived at the place where I’m staying, in Palermo (long story—the other place in San Telmo didn’t work out, but this one’s just fine), my landlady for the next month started rattling off at break-neck speed about keys, internet, hot water, etc. etc. It was completely overwhelming, and a little frustrating, and I felt very ill-prepared, but I managed. She headed off to work and her daughter came over to study, and she talks even faster! Phew! I’m going to have to ask her to slow down. I missed most of what she said. I know she said she loves this city, she has relatives and friends moving all over—London, Barcelona, NY—but she doesn’t want to leave. And I think she said people think there are crazy people living in the States. Hmm. Will have to find out more about that next time I see her. (more…)

Buenos Aires FAQ

May 2, 2007

It feels like I’m having the same conversation constantly these days, and I remembered yesterday how it was the same way before I left on my RTW trip. It’s nice that people are interested, and are bothering to ask questions, but sometimes I’d rather talk about something else! Unfortunately most of those people probably don’t read my blog, but here’s the rundown, in case I haven’t already had this conversation with you.

Q: Where are you going? Do you have a place to stay? A: I’m planning to be based in Buenos Aires, but there are a lot of places in Argentina and the rest of South America I want to visit/return to. I’ll need to leave the country every three months to renew my visa, so that will give me some built-in travel time. I have a room reserved for the first month in an apartment in San Telmo, the “bohemian” neighborhood of the city—I stayed in San Telmo last time and loved it—which will give me time to find my own place. I’m excited to finally be headed somewhere I can afford to live alone, and I understand there’s usually a good market of furnished, short-term sublets available.

Q: Why Argentina/Buenos Aires? A: My RTW trip provided a great overview of lots of places—many that I loved—but also left me wanting to stay longer in one place abroad, which I’ve never done before. I knew I wanted to go back to a Spanish-speaking country, so I could continue studying the language. I also considered Arequipa, Peru, and Valparaiso, Chile, but for now, Buenos Aires has won out. The city seems to have the best combination of affordability and a rather familiar standard of living (you can drink the water, Internet is readily available, etc.). Plus, how can you turn down great steak, wonderful wine, and the tango?

Q: How long will you be gone? A: I’m not sure. I bought a one-way ticket, and I’m excited to not have a definite plan at this point. I do know I’ll probably be there at least seven months, because my parents are talking about coming down for Christmas.

Q: Do you have a job lined up down there? A: Nope. I’m planning to continue freelancing with the same clients I have now—the beauty of my work is that I can truly work anywhere I have an Internet connection (which shouldn’t be a problem; my first place has WiFi!). I’d love to also do some volunteer work in the city, but I’ll figure that out once I get settled in.

Q: Do you know people there? A: I know a few Argentines I met while traveling, and also have phone numbers of friends of friends, etc. The Internet has helped a lot—through Couchsurfing and BootsnAll I’ve made some contacts that have led to a few messages along the lines of “Let’s have a drink when you get here!”

Q: Do you speak Spanish? A: Well enough. I’m reviewing/remembering a lot of what I learned during my time in South America (and from Spanish classes in San Francisco), and am sure I’ll pick up more every day. I’ll probably seek out some more formal lessons to work on some of my weak spots.

Q: What are you taking with you? A: Good question! I’m definitely not taking any furniture or shipping anything significant, but am certainly not packing as light as I have in the past. I’m hoping to fit everything in two huge suitcases (up to 50 pounds each, as allowed by Delta) and two carry-ons. My computer, plus other books and gadgets and ergonomic stuff for work, will take up more space/weight than I’d like them to, but that just means I’ll have to buy clothes there—which should be fine, since I remember them being cheap and cute!

Did I miss anything? This is your chance to ask those burning questions…