Archive for the ‘Buenos Aires’ Category

Quickie update

April 1, 2008

I’ve been back in BA almost a week, and I’m enjoying the buzz and seeing old friends. And, I found a place to live! A fabulous place. I move in tomorrow. More soon.

Re-creating the Holidays

December 20, 2007

It’s December 20th, and I hardly notice that there are, as they say in the US, “just four shopping days left until Christmas.” Sure, there are random decorations around town, including trees made of lights in the parks, shooting star–type light sculptures on lampposts, and a menorah in the plaza down the street, but it’s also 80-some degrees outside. But this isn’t just some freakish Florida-style warm-weather holiday season, it’s not even winter—there are flowers and trees full of lush leaves everywhere, sunset is just after 8 p.m., and the snowmen and totally overdressed santas I’ve seen for sale here and there are complete anomalies. I’ve been cracking up thinking about cutting up and hanging in the window some of those paper snowflakes we used to make in school. This weekend, maybe.

But it’s not just having my seasons turned upside down that’s making this year different than most. Since my parents and brother have gone to considerable expense and effort to be here, we’ve decided not to exchange presents this year (something I think we’ve been slowly moving towards for a while now)—each other’s presence is the present, and we’re all really looking forward to the time together. I certainly don’t miss braving the crowds at the mall, nor the mindless checking off of lists or the pressure of coming up with gifts just because it’s expected. And in the absence of that pressure has actually come inspiration, and I’ve happened upon some fun “just because” gifts. Being in a country with an unreliable mail system and expensive postage also leaves me feeling free to not send many holiday cards this year. So while I wouldn’t exactly say I’m not busy, little of my time is being spent on stressful holiday stuff, which is nice. Of course, trying to come up with food and activities to supplant our usual traditions is a unique challenge, and it’s the first time in many, many years that we won’t be relaxing in front of my parents’ big-ass tree on Christmas, listening to Garrison Keillor or whatever new CDs we’ve received. I have a feeling this won’t be the last Christmas we spend in a new location, so I hope we can start to create some portable traditions—there’s certainly no space in a suitcase or backpack for a live 12-foot tree and Grandma’s hand-knit stockings.


The Temptress

November 19, 2007


This is a long one, but I hope you enjoy it…

Almost exactly three years ago, on one of my first days in Buenos Aires, I wandered the streets of San Telmo during the weekly Sunday feria there. Tango was in the air, and I stopped to watch a tango orchestra playing on the street. I was hooked right away, particularly enthralled by the bandoneón players up front—the sound the instrument can make, and its integral role in tango music, mesmerized me. I thought, I want to be able to make that sound! But instead, I bought the group’s CD, and continued on my merry way, enjoying everything that Buenos Aires had to offer. (more…)


November 9, 2007

I know I’ve been absent without blogging for a while… There’s just so much going on, it’s hard to focus on one thing to write about! I promise more substantive posts soon.

For now, here’s a recap of the last few weeks:

I took my first two tango classes ever, plus a “rock” (swing) class—so much fun! Hope to do more of that.

The couchsurfing crew in BA is awesome—a few weeks ago we had a picnic in the park by my house and I think 40 people showed up. This past weekend, we had a halloween party at a bar/club, with another fabulous turnout (I think estimates are way over 100 guests, between local couchsurfers, travelers, and friends)—what a night!

Last Friday I rocked out to one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a long time: The Killers. If you have a chance to see them live, you won’t regret it. For the first time in years, I was right up in the middle of the action, jumping up and down and singing along with all the Argentines (some of whom I could tell didn’t really know the words, but just mimicked the noises, like I sometimes do with songs in Spanish!). The last show I remember with so much energy was my brother’s band Marathon‘s last show in Syracuse a few years ago.

I’ve also been to a few excellent dinners with a friend who’s writing an article about slow food in Buenos Aires. So many restaurants to explore here!

Oh yeah, Argentina also elected a new president—the first woman elected president here, and the wife of the current president. I’m honestly not sure when she takes office—if I was reading the newspaper like I told my Spanish teacher I wanted to, I’d probably know that! Speaking of Spanish, I had a test last week after two months of taking classes (2 classes a week, 2 hours each) and I did a lot better than I expected—looks like I’m finally making some progress!

Taking classes in Spanish is tricky but I’m giving it a go—yesterday was bandoneón (much more on this soon!), and today body pump at the gym I just joined! OW. I don’t think I’ll be able to walk tomorrow. To treat ourselves after three days in a row at the gym, my friend Emily and I are headed out for a tasty dinner tonight!

There’s also just a handful of new pictures on Flickr, check them out via the link on the right!

Where in the World Am I?

October 24, 2007

Check out my latest brush with fame at World Hum.

Trying to Make a Difference

October 15, 2007

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

It’s Blog Action Day! When I first heard about it, and read that this year’s topic is the environment, two vivid images immediately came to mind—the colectivos (city buses) in Buenos Aires that belch exhaust into the air here day and night, and the masses of plastic bags, plastic bottles, and other garbage I’ve seen along roadways, streams, lakes, and fields all over the world, from the U.S. to India. I also remembered how, years ago when I became a vegetarian (which I no longer am), the effort seemed rather futile—I wondered, What difference can I make? I still often feel that way, about many issues, but the increasing number of vegetarian/organic/etc. food that’s become available in the States in recent years is proof, I think, that one person’s choices—combined with a lot of other people making the same choices—can make a difference. At least, that’s what we all need to believe, and trust, if we’re going to save this world before it’s too late.

A quick web search (and a skim of some government documents using my middling Spanish) suggests at least a few people in Buenos Aires are thinking and talking about ways to reduce air pollution, noise pollution, and more in this noisy, dirty city. But I also read that BA doesn’t have an air-quality monitoring system in place, which it seems will hamper any efforts to truly improve air quality, and that “Like many major Latin American cities, Buenos Aires has struggled with little success to curb the level of automobile emissions through stronger regulations on automobile exhaust systems, planning for public transportation or the promotion of clean-vehicle technology. Most experts remain skeptical that Argentina will be able to fulfill its voluntary promise of 2%-10% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010.” (I read this here, but a little more quick research didn’t turn up any reliable sources for this info.) And since the buses are all run by private companies, instead of the government, I imagine that will make it harder to get them to change their ways. Not to mention all the economic struggles this country has been through—is the environment really a priority for this and other cash-strapped countries?

And the other question in my mind is, what can I do about it, if the public transportation that I rely on—supposedly better than so many private cars—is one of the main culprits? And if the exhaust those buses creates sometimes makes walking less pleasant than being inside the belching bus, away from its fumes? A bus ride is really cheap here—on average 80 centavos, less than 30 US cents. I’d certainly be willing to pay a little more for a ride—if I knew the money was going towards purchasing electric buses, for example—but would anyone else cough up the extra dough?

It certainly seems that a lot of the environmental efforts we make in the States—recycling, reusing, etc.—hasn’t caught on here (and in a lot of the world), and from what I’ve seen definitely isn’t advertised as something hip, at least in the mainstream. On numerous occasions, when I remember to use my reusable shopping bag (similar to this one—thanks Mia!), people look at me strangely. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s because they don’t understand what I’m saying when I fumble through some version of “I don’t need a bag, I have my own,” or because the concept of using reusable bags is foreign to them. Yesterday, I finally made a breakthrough (maybe) with one checker at the supermarket I usually go to—I kept saying I didn’t want a bag, I have my own, etc. etc., and she kept reaching for the plastic. But when she saw me unfold the super-compact bag, she said, “Ah, ecológica! Que bueno!” Even so, there’s a huge pile of plastic bags threatening to take over my under-sink kitchen cabinet. Where are all those bags going to end up?

As a traveler, I’m also aware of the cycle of buying and throwing away plastic bottles that it’s easy to fall into, and that is an issue in so much of the world—even in places where it’s perfectly safe to drink the water. There are ways around this issue, of course, that don’t seem that hard to implement if we all make the effort—use water purifiers, either built into a reusable water bottle, a pitcher, or attached to the tap, and work to improve water sources around the world. And, in places like the U.S. and Argentina, just get used to the tap water!

Being in Buenos Aires, where there’s trash collection every day, and cartoneros (people who sort through the garbage looking for reusables and recyclables like plastic bottles and cardboard) often end up scattering trash far and wide, has also made me more aware of trash as a general issue. I think much more about what I throw away and where it’s going to end up. I remember reading about a man who reduced his garbage—maybe it was for a month?—to one regular-size plastic grocery bag. He was certainly a little obsessive about the whole thing, but we could all certainly stand to find ways to reduce our garbage. There are some helpful tips here, including buying things in bulk—with less or no packaging—and fixing or mending things rather than getting rid of them. Think about whether you’re “buying garbage” when you buy something new that has a lot of packaging, or some other part that you’ll just end up throwing away. Keep things longer, making do, so in the long run you’ll throw less away. By some people’s standards I should have replaced my falling-apart umbrella long ago, but it’s still keeping me dry, and I cringe at the thought of throwing it away—to go sit in a pile of garbage for hundreds of years—and buying another one.

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the Green Triangle, which I recently read about. The three points of the triangle are Environment, Health, and Money. If you make an action at one point of the triangle, it pretty often affects the other two as well. For example, if I decide to walk instead of taking the bus because I want to save money, it also happens to be better for the environment, and healthier, too. It’s pretty handy that making a difference for the environment can also make a difference in one’s health and finances.

Other Blog Action Day posts about the environment that I’ve enjoyed:
Bekka – did you know that antibacterial soap is bad for the environment?
Freelance Switch – since I’m working abroad, I already follow a lot of these tips on being an environmentally friendly freelancer
LifeHacker – do something simple—bring your own utensils to work instead of using the plastic ones in the lunch room!
Sexy Spanish Club in Buenos Aires – on how it’s possible to live a “greener,” more simple life here than in Portland, Oregon (I think this blog is actually where I first found out about Blog Action Day)
Zen Habits – this post syncs up with what I was saying about the Green Triangle

I Love the Nightlife…

October 8, 2007

What a week! I realized yesterday that I’ve been out every night since last Tuesday, and instead of spending a mellow Sunday night at home, as I had planned, I was out again last night. So why, oh why, did I wake up at 6:30 this morning, unable to get back to sleep?! It’s not that my nights have been particularly crazy, or late, by Argentine standards, but that’s a lot of nights in a row! The good part is I’ve been speaking a lot of Spanish. Here’s the rundown of all the times I’ve been out of the house (well, not counting mundane things like grocery shopping) in the last week:

Tuesday: pub quiz (we came in second out of three teams this week), then to a bar, Gibraltar, where I hung out with Italians and a woman from Uruguay, who all speak better Spanish than I do

Wednesday: Spanish class, then to Gallery Night in Palermo (all the galleries were open in the neighborhood, this happened in different neighborhoods every night as part of Art Week) with a new friend from Brazil (I always seem to speak Spanish with my friends from Brazil, even though I think their English is probably better than either of us are in Spanish), then to Xalapa for Mexican

Thursday: dinner at Bangalore, the Indian place where I had my birthday, with American friends (no Spanish that day!)

Friday: Spanish class, bandoneón class (in Spanish), then a late-ish, mellow dinner and drinks with another friend from Brazil

Saturday: shopping (was looking for a jacket, came home with CDs and a book instead) in the afternoon, then La Noche de los Museos (the last night of Art Week—amazing—over 100 museums in the city stay open until 2 a.m., it’s free to get into all of them, and there are lectures and films and music and more happening everywhere) with same new Brazilian friend (from couchsurfing), later met up with other couchsurfers for the closing concert of Art Week, home at 4:30 a.m., the latest night out this week

Sunday: afternoon picnic with huge group of couchsurfers, when the sun went down and it started to get cold we all went for coffee—about 20 of us took over a café—then a smaller group to someone’s apartment to order pizza and beer

I would say that I’m starting off the week with a mellow day today, but I have a meeting for work this morning, bandoneón class this afternoon, then a bunch of us promised a girl we met yesterday that we’d all go out tonight for her birthday—and I might be having a new couchsurfer, a guy from Germany I also met yesterday who wants to move out of the place he’s been staying.

Phew! Never a dull moment here… I love it.

Around Buenos Aires

September 30, 2007

I’m taking a much-needed break from work to drink the cerveza artesanal I brought back from Tucumán (it’s tasty, but not as hoppy as I’d hoped) and share some pictures with you, dear reader. The photography class I took last weekend was inspiring and motivating—it’s got me thinking about a new camera, something that’s hardly crossed my mind in the three years since I bought my first digital camera, which I love—and I spent about three hours wandering around Palermo with my friend Kevin on his second-to-last day in town, taking pictures with abandon. I think it was the first time I’ve wandered around with my camera since I got here, and it was lots of fun. I’m determined to schedule another photography outing soon. In the meantime, enjoy the fruits of that day.


September 23, 2007

There are police officers stationed on many street corners in BA—tonight there was one on the corner where I waited to board the bus, and another at the corner where I got off the bus. They seem more useful/reliable at night, I suppose—during the day I feel like I often see them hanging out together near the McDonald’s, smoking cigarettes. The other day a young policeman was standing in front of me on the bus—presumably off-duty, since he had his headphones on—so I was checking out his uniform. Pretty standard issue, black pants, black shirt, black bulletproof vest, black holster of black weapons. Then I noticed that all of the patches on his sleeves were attached with velcro. I spent the rest of my bus ride pondering the pros and cons of attaching one’s Policía Federal de Argentina and other patches in such a temporary manner. Do you buy basic black shirts, and they hand out the patches at headquarters, including additional stripes when you advance in rank? Do you take the patches off when you wash your shirt? The patches did look much dirtier than the shirt. What if in a tussle a shady character grabs your police patch and runs off with it? I guess at least you’d hear/feel it happening…


September 5, 2007

I’m positively buzzing with energy today. So many good things happening! Here’s a sampling.

* My team won pub quiz last night, for the second time in a row.

* I finally bought a freestanding drying rack and can now dry laundry and take a shower at the same time.

* Had a meeting today with my new Spanish teacher, Gastón, who seems really cool, and I will finally be starting classes next week.

* After the meeting I went to buy a new notebook for Spanish and found the air-mail stationery and envelopes I’ve been hunting all over for.

* There are bright-green buds on the trees outside my window.

* Tonight I’m going to a free bossa nova show.

* Am going to the bus station tomorrow to buy a ticket to Tucumán province for the empanada festival next weekend.

* Last weekend I met a guy who works at the hospital right by my house, and I’m meeting him there tomorrow to have someone look at my foot, which has been bothering me since something went awry while running to catch the bus a few weeks ago.

Whoo! May the good times continue…