Archive for the ‘Buenos Aires’ Category

Civilized

April 24, 2009

For a lot of reasons that aren’t worth getting into at the moment, most people here (including me) pay their bills by going to an outlet that’s equipped for bill-paying (could be a pharmacy, grocery store, post office, random kiosco) and paying them in cash. After finally getting hold of the phone company to explain an extra charge on my bill, I ran out to pay that and my gas bill this morning, thinking I’d get a jump on things by arriving just when the post office was opening at 10, but I wasn’t the only one with that idea! I was 11th in line outside the front door, but managed to get through the line and back home in half an hour (though while I was waiting in line I realized I had left one other unpaid bill at home; luckily it’s not due for a few weeks). On the way back, I passed my neighborhood police officer, who usually hangs out in front of the grocery store on my block, walking down the street towards his post (and not really from a direction where there’s a café nearby) carrying a little ceramic cup of coffee.

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Observations

April 23, 2009

I know a few people who upload a photo to their site every day (or try to), and it’s a cool glimpse of their world/lives. But I almost never carry my camera around, and it always seems like a hassle to hook it up to download pictures – I am definitely not interested in doing that daily! But, there’s no reason I can’t do the same thing in words, and try to give you all a little slice of life down here. I can’t promise to do it every day, but I’ll do my best!

This idea came to me this morning when I was walking around the big park by my house. It’s the best place in these parts to exercise outside and there are lots of people out and about, making for some great people-watching. This morning I saw lots of interesting characters, including a woman in her sixties wearing a T-shirt that said, “Yo! Juicy Girl.” When I was there the other day (I’m trying to exercise more often!) I saw a woman with a shirt that said, “You don’t even have a chance.” It’s pretty funny to see people in other countries wearing shirts with English sayings, especially because they often don’t know what they say (I can’t imagine wearing something without knowing what it says!). One day at salsa class my friend told a guy that she liked his shirt, and he asked her what it said. The answer? “This is my party shirt.”

Back in Buenos Aires

February 3, 2009

After another great whirlwind of a trip back to the States, I landed in Buenos Aires yesterday afternoon. I have to say, I did a phenomenal job packing (helped along by putting all the heavy stuff in my carry-on). For the first time I didn’t have to pay any overweight fees – my suitcase was EXACTLY 50 pounds on Delta’s scale! And no hassles at immigration – in fact, Argentina hasn’t even put into effect the visa fee that I was expecting, so without all those fees I spent nearly $300 less to get here than I had anticipated. Just had to get my carry-on inspected by hand (apparently the xray machines can’t see through steel cooking pots) and I was on my way – except for a pesky four-hour layover at JFK, which seemed tailor made for watching the Super Bowl, though having to board my next flight meant I missed the most exciting part of the game, apparently.

This week I’m staying in a friend’s apartment (while she’s out of town) in a different part of town, and it’s a nice change of pace. I showed up yesterday with my bags and the doorman (who had the keys) told me to wait an hour for reasons unknown (or at least unintelligible via intercom, with mildly rusty Spanish on one end). I sat down to wait – and a delivery guy who was also at the door said, “You’re just going to stay here? Why don’t you go to a café or something?” I said I didn’t want to carry my bags, etc. and he offered to help (and said he’d help bring my bags back later, too). Score one for everyone – I didn’t have to carry my bags and his ice cream shop got another customer for an hour! He was gone later, so I headed back on my own and the doorman was in place, as promised. Later I headed out to the grocery store and passed the same guy outside the ice cream shop, and he apologized for not being around to help on my return. It’s nice to be able to trust in a stranger’s random act of kindness now and then.

It feels good to be back. As I whizzed across town in a taxi yesterday many of my adopted home’s idiosyncrasies came rushing back to me, and I smiled knowingly at the crazy traffic and pedestrians, dog-walkers, delivery people, etc., feeling thankful that I get to live in such a vibrant, fascinating city.

Life Is Good

September 17, 2008

I have just over two weeks left until the end of the 1,001 days designated for doing these 101 things. When I saw the date approaching on my calendar I started thinking back over the list, and then read over the list today, and was kind of bummed at some of the things that remain unfinished. But I know that’s kind of silly, considering that many of the things haven’t been a possibility because I’ve been busy doing other awesome things, and because my life has changed way more than I anticipated back when the 1,001 days began January 5, 2006. If things like Move to another country, Meet lots of interesting people, and Experience something new every day had been on the list, they would have been checked off with ease.

I’ve been really busy – working most days, squeezing in some exercise and maybe a little knitting, and going out many nights a week – and when I have a rare quiet night at home I relish every minute. Quality-of-life and productivity gurus often say that if you’re “too busy” you need to assess your commitments and make sure you’re not saying yes to things you don’t want to do. But it’s pretty unusual that I find myself doing something I don’t want to do – it’s just that there are so many amazing opportunities and activities going on that I don’t want to pass up! These are just some of the things I’ve done so far this month: numerous nights playing games at various friend’s houses, a friend’s birthday dinner and salsa dancing, cooking dinner with friends several times, tango music concert and another show, weekly massages, dinners out with roommates and friends, several goodbye parties, a waterdance workshop with people from Couchsurfing, salsa dance class, Couchsurfing movie afternoon, and Peruvian cuisine cooking classes… and coming up in the next week a night at the theater, a voice yoga class, and being a model for a photographer friend’s photo shoot. Even though none of these things is on The List, how can I go wrong?

More Random Buenos Aires

August 26, 2008

From my vantage point from the treadmill on the second (U.S. third) floor of my neighborhood gym, I’ve seen the following things out on the street this week (and much more): a very bald man walking a very tiny dog (twice); look-alike golden retrievers with look-alike owners; more than one truck carrying bottles of water and soda; lots of cars parked in the “no parking” bike lane; a horse-drawn cart full of cardboard; one guy carrying some long boards get really annoyed when his partner dropped the other end because she was on the phone; a dumptruck full of fatty scraps from the butcher.

Random Buenos Aires

August 19, 2008

Random experience of the day… (Maybe this should be a new feature on the Nomad Chronicles? Weird stuff certainly happens here all the time.)

On the bus today, going to meet my friend C. for lunch at our (my?) fave pizza place (Romario, for those in the know), there was a guy singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Singing it over and over (he seemed to only know the chorus and part of a verse, which, to be fair, is more than I know), and loud enough that I could hear him, and recognize the song, from a few feet away. Besides the fact that singing out loud on the bus is generally a little odd, I also found his choice of song rather strange. I couldn’t quite tell what anyone else’s reaction was, but I have heard that Argentines don’t generally like the Evita musical, so I assumed they weren’t too into it. Lucky for me, we got off the bus at the same stop, and for a few blocks he was walking the same direction as I was (or following me?!) and I got to “enjoy” his singing a little longer. And then while I was waiting for C. outside the restaurant, another guy walked past, singing out loud – but the words were indistinguishable, and he had headphones on, which somehow made the activity seem a bit more reasonable.

This reminded me of a woman I was sitting across from at a café last year, who appeared perfectly “normal” except that she was laughing and muttering to herself. I realized that her behavior made me feel uncomfortable, then wondered if it wasn’t actually kind of sad that society generally believes that the person sitting quietly, acting serious and “put together,” is better off than the one laughing and having a good time, even if they’re all alone. Why is it that singing in the shower is “okay” and singing on the bus isn’t?

I Love the Nightlife

August 16, 2008

As I walked home tonight at 2 a.m., I thought about all the things I love about this city, and supposed that the late-night schedule is something perhaps only a true night owl can love. Walking past middle-aged men walking dogs, police on watch, teenagers huddled around a kiosco buying snacks, beer, who knows what, guys flagging down taxis for a night on the town, mothers with children, stray cats, etc., I felt like one of the few people on my way home – for those headed out to the nightclubs, things were just getting started.

Today was pretty mellow for me, but still exemplifies the kind of schedule that I’ve gotten accustomed to here – and I like it just fine, luckily. I got up around 9:45 (not bad considering I went to bed around 2:45, after a mellowish, earlyish belated birthday for me at a friend’s house, and after texting several other friends who decided to go home after dinner out instead of heading out to a bar). I did some cleaning and organizing, ate, and finally started working around 2 p.m. Finished work around 8, went to the gym, then got cleaned up and arrived at a friend’s house for dinner around 10:45. While we watched the olympics after dinner we debated whether we should go out to meet some other friends at a bar, and in the end I opted to go home, another earlyish night so I will be ready for tomorrow night, when I head off to a going-away party that starts at midnight. I’m not exactly bred for this like the Argentines, who take their kids out to dinner at midnight, but my parents’ more-nocturnal-than-most habits surely helped!

Boca Wins!

April 23, 2008

The smoke has cleared, my allergies are lifting, and I’m high from the crazy energy of a live fútbol game at La Bombonera, where the Boca Juniors just beat Maracaibo from Venezuela. Tonight’s game was kind of a big deal as part of the Copa Libertadores. Their win, and another game tonight in Chile that ended in a tie, means they’re on to the quarterfinals, and everyone was thrilled. Of course they won the Copa last year, so it was probably a given they would win tonight.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a professional soccer game in any country, but going to a Boca game in Buenos Aires is a pretty big deal. They are known to have some of the craziest, most loyal fans, and a good team to boot. I can hardly describe the energy—and the noise!—in the stadium. The most hyper fans were sitting behind the goal closest to us, and I don’t think they stopped singing/shouting and jumping up and down and pumping their arms at all the whole time we were there. There were drums, and firecrackers—the smoke was so thick at one point it was hard to see the ball on the field—and banners practically half the size of the field, unfurled over the top of the stands, one proclaiming “You can imitate us but you can never equal us.” The screeching whistle sound they use against the other team made it sound like we were in a cave full of bats, the sound echoing off the stadium walls. The fans in the “good” section where we were, high up in the vertigo-inducing stands, were a little more serious and actually quieted down to concentrate on the game now and then. But any little action on the field and they were shouting and (if there was a goal scored) hugging each other, or shouting and (if the team or the ref did something they didn’t like) throwing their hands in the air, and often jumping in on the songs coming from both ends of the stadium. I didn’t understand all the shouts, but I did catch enough to know I’ve probably never heard so much cursing in my life—the guy behind us was so emphatic we felt his spit raining down on us. And one of the songs said something like “I’ve been with Boca since the cradle,” which gives you just a hint of how fervent these fans are. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement, and I was pumping my arms, clapping my hands, and pounding the seat when they screwed up, just like everyone else. At the end as everyone was celebrating and slowly filing out (or staying and partying), I felt the concrete stands gently swaying beneath me.

Despite some of the rumors I’ve heard about the games, and being in the serious minority as a woman (I’d guess no more than 1 percent of the crowd was female), I felt really comfortable where we were—though I was awful glad we weren’t in the hooligan-filled mosh pits that were the cheap seats. We went with a tour, which felt pretty cheesy, and didn’t get us as much “tour” as we expected in terms of insider info, etc., but it was handy to not have to wait in line to get tickets, and to have a van waiting for us afterwards instead of trying to find a cab or bus in all the craziness. I’m so glad I finally got to be part of this very Argentine experience!

Con Mucho Humo

April 18, 2008

In case you haven’t heard, Argentine farmers near and far decided to burn thousands of acres of pastureland to clear it for crops, and the thick smoke has engulfed Buenos Aires. Buildings less than a block away are hazy shapes, my eyes are burning and my throat feels as if I smoked a pack of cigarettes yesterday (and that’s after being inside for a few hours), and there’s a general sense of discontent in the city. Everyone on the street looks rather miserable, traffic is crazy (maybe not any more than usual, but sitting in traffic with polluting buses is even worse than most days right now), and I had an epic journey this morning that led me from bus to nonfunctioning subway to difficult-to-find taxi. The taxi driver asked the usual questions—where are you from, how long have you been here—and when he heard I’d been here almost a year he said “So you like it, eh?” I said, “Yeah, obviously—but not today!” Today I’ve had enough.

The only saving grace is an ’80s party gearing up this evening and a cooking afternoon with friends tomorrow. If only I didn’t have to go outside to get there!

Fall Has Fallen

April 14, 2008

Fall has hit Buenos Aires with a vengeance. As if the plummeting temperatures weren’t sign enough, yesterday the wind whipped a crispy yellow leaf off a tree and smack into my forehead, forcing my non-coat-wearing, shivering (and slightly hungover) self to finally admit summer is over. Time to break out the sweaters and start cooking up some soup! And time to fire up the heater, but we can’t get the pilot light lit. If only the fix-it guy would show up when he says he will. In the meantime, I’m shivering inside as well.

Weather.com claims that it’s 59 degrees out at 3 p.m., but I don’t believe it for a second. It also says it will be 42 degrees overnight, which unfortunately I do believe. Thank goodness there’s a hearty lentil stew handy, cooked up by one of my roommates.

Yes, I said roommates. Plural, even. After 9 (great) months of living alone, I’ve reentered the world of communal living, but in the best way. I have two roommates (one from England, one from Puerto Rico) and we share the kitchen (and occasionally the living room, where I’m hanging out today since my heater isn’t working yet). My room is separate – outside through the patio, up the stairs, and across the terrace – and is huge, divided into living and bedroom areas. And I have my own bathroom. So I get the savings and community of living with other people (we have been sharing a lot of meals), but the privacy and quiet of living by myself. Perfect!

My camera is on the fritz, but I’m working on getting some pictures together. Soon.