Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas

It feels more like the fourth of July than Christmas. On Christmas eve, starting around 11PM, there were fireworks booming through the night. I could here the children in the apartment above romping around at 2AM. I guess Santa doesn't mind.

Christmas Day was warm, and everything was closed during the day, while people have asados (barbecues) at home. Some restaurants opened up for dinner in the evening, and the streets livened up a little with people out for evening walks.

Overall, it was a mellow holiday, a quiet day at home for us. An Eddie Murphy marathon was on TV (dubbed though, not subtitled), and an improvised home-cooked dinner.

Feliz Navidad!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Frustration

Our internet connection has been a little flaky, so we called a technician in to fix the problem. The chronicle so far goes like this:

1. A technician comes out and says our signal is low, and the problem is with the wiring on the roof. But to get to the roof, he needs to go through the restaurant next door, which is closed. Someone will come mañana. Fine.

2. No one shows up the next day. When I call, we have an appointment scheduled for the next day. Fine.

3. The next technician shows up (two hours earlier than his scheduled appointment) and says our signal is low and the problem is with the wiring on the roof. (Yes, I know.) After half an hour of waiting to talk to someone next door, he finally informs us that he can't get to the roof because they just re-did the floor in the restaurant and no one can walk on it. We need to call back and have someone come again in two days.

4. The next technician shows up (three hours earlier than his scheduled appointment) and says that he knows what the problem is because he is the technician that serviced the restaurant next door. We need an amplifier, but he is not the person who installs them. We need to call and ask for a different department to install the amplifier.

5. I call the service provider, but can't communicate what we need because my Spanish is too poor. She is asking for the administrator of the building (we don't have one) and a bunch of other stuff I don't understand.

Our next step is to get someone who speaks Castellano to help us negotiate this . . .

Hey, I know..... Let's change all the clocks!

Surprise! The government announced yesterday that Argentina will be going on Daylight Savings time starting Dec. 30, turning the clocks forward an hour. That's a whole week's notice for the country!

Link to the article in the Buenos Aires Herald

Monday, December 17, 2007

Watch Out, NASCAR, Here comes... Formula 7!

Auto racing is alive and well in Buenos Aires. Here's a glimpse:

The driver being interviewed and ready to race...


And here's what he's driving!

Here's a video of part of the race.


video

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Field Notes Buenos Aires: Safety


One of the biggest warnings we heard before we came to Buenos Aires was: be careful. Keep a close hold on your purse. Call a taxi rather than hail a random one. Make sure you are not followed after using the ATM. Etc., etc.

Yes, it's true. There is a lot of petty crime here in Buenos Aires (and some violent crime as well), and possibly more than in some big cities because the recent economic collapse has created more desperate people. It is wise to be careful. But not enjoyable to be paranoid.

Paranoia can slip in easily in an unfamiliar city, especially when you don't understand what people are saying around you, and you don't know what the signals are that let you know you are in danger. Strange noises keep you awake at night, and your heart will start racing when walking after dark. We are afraid of the unknown.

As I have become more familiar with the area I live in, the paranoia has started to subside. Yes, I watch my purse. But I also notice how many parents are walking with their children, how many women are comfortable walking alone, how the delivery guys at the restaurant next door recognize me and say hello.

Looked at with a wide-angle lens, it is a big, scary city. But zoom in closer, and it is a collection of neighborhoods, each one its own community. The neighborhood I live in is one of the safest. The longer I live here, the chances are greater that someone might steal my purse, and the truth is, as long as I don't carry credit cards with me, they will get about $300 U.S. But as long as I don't do anything stupid, I don't fear for my physical safety.

There's a balance between being aware enough to feel safe without feeling paranoid, and I'm starting to strike the balance.

Buenos Aires Field Notes: Little salt, please?


I think we discovered the mystery to Rob's fainting. The clues were these:

1) I see a lot of people (especially on hot days) drinking this stuff , which looks like soda, through a straw. I thought it was soda, in fact, because so many people drink that too. Coca-Cola in bottles is very popular here. Then, in the grocery store, by the Gatorade, I noticed it-- water with electrolytes added. Aha!

2) People liberally salt everything. In a café, you typically have a salt-shaker on the table, but no pepper. And when everyone gets their food, the first thing they do is pour salt over everything. I thought this was a little weird.... until....

3) Rob's acquaintance (an Irishman met in the same ex-pat bar), asks him if he's getting enough salt. That's the medical advice he got when he first arrived and wasn't feeling well.

4) We're sweating. A lot. I'm not a very sweaty person, and on a normal day without a lot of exertion, my blouses are wet under the arms. Imagine how much water we are losing through evaporation that we don't notice.

So. I bought the water + electrolyte stuff at the store (which costs 1/2 the price of Gatorade because it is made in-country), and after we each gulped down a bottle, we felt like we had more energy than we had had since we arrived. And Rob hasn't fainted or felt light-headed since. We had already been drinking water, but I guess it wasn't quite enough.

Lesson learned. Don't take salt for granted. Yes, you can have too much, but you can also have too little.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Field Notes Buenos Aires: Quelle Bonne Surprise !




Tonight, we walked down the street a block and a half to a little cafe that serves crepes. We have seen the large lady in the window who makes crépes on the flat round griddles as we pass by, nd have been wanting to try them. So tonight we tried them.

What a nice surprise! We had crepes with yummy fillings (the crepes were a little overcooked, but I will forgive them since they came from the kitchen and not from the lady in the window), and glasses of champagne.

One of the waiters sang songs in French accompanied by guitar. He came to our table later, and said ( I don't know how we understood each other since we speak about he same level of Spanish) that he is from France and has been here three months. (He was totally adorable.)

A little later one of the other waiters started playing his accordion, and accompanied by the cute waiter with the guitar, led the restaurant in a sing-a-long. A couple of the tables were filled with French people, who sang enthusiastically.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Who knew there was such a little gem only one and a half blocks down the street? We'll have to go back, and linger a little longer.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Field Notes: Good Things About Big City Living


We saw Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola and Jean Luc-Ponty in concert the other night.

We saw the ad in the subte (subway), looked up the address of the theater in a newspaper, took a cab there, bought two tickets in the second row, and bada-bing, bada-boom. Culture. (The tickets weren't a bad price, either, considering what they would be in the U.S.)

It was a great show. The porteños loved it. Funny thing, though. They aren't very animated during the concert. Only a couple of guitar geeks were bouncing around to the music in the front row (and me a little bit). Everyone else just sits still and listens. But you can tell they love it when they applaud.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What Would Jesus Do? Vote No, Apparently.


You can't read the text, because my Mac took it as a mirror image. But it says, "Cristo: Primer Revolucinario" (Christ- the first Revolutionary).

I guess a majority of the people don't see him as a savior.

Thank God.

Breaking News: Kenpo Faints In Ex-Pat Bar




So the other day, Rob is out walking around Buenos Aires in the 32º Heat (89º Fahrenheit), and it is very humid outside. He goes into Shoeless Joe's, the ex-pat bar, has a couple of drinks. He gets up suddenly, becomes light-headed, tries to make his way to the men's room, and faints. That's right-- faints.

He wasn't drunk. The employees rushed over and helped him. He popped up, had some food, and made his way home.

He says it is the most embarassing thing that has ever happened to him. So of course, I have to blog about it.

Poor thing. He's so fragile. Delicate, really. I'll have to keep an eye on him.

Field Notes: Caffeine, Please?

I hate to sound like one of those snooty ex-pats who wants everything to be just like it was back home. I like to think of myself as pretty adaptable, really. And I will try to keep my blog posts balanced about the good things and bad things that I experience. There are just some things that are easier to adapt to than others. That said.....

I have a problem with the coffee down here. Not only does it taste different (which I will get to momentarily), but it doesn't seem to have the same caffeine content as in the U.S. Several days after my jet-lag should have worn off, I still felt groggy in the mornings. That is, until I found.... ta-da! Cafiaspirna!

It was a revelation. It's aspirin! It's caffeine! It's Cafiaspirina! Two pills have about the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee, so I can ween myself off my Starbucks addiction gradually.

Now as to the taste: well, it just tastes different. I'm not a complete coffee geek, so I'm not sure, but I suspect they brew their coffee at a high temperature which gives it a different flavor. That, and the beans are from a different area than I am used to. Whatever the reason, I can only manage to suck down café con leche, which is a mixture of about half coffee and half milk when I go to a café.

As for the ground coffee for sale in the grocery store: it has sugar added! That's right. Sugar. It tastes awful. I managed to find a brand with no sugar added that is decent, so that is what we use at home at the moment.

We have been told that Bonafide is a coffee shop with gourmet coffee, but of course, as with anything imported it actually costs more than what we would pay in the U.S., so it will have to be many degrees better to be worth it.

Well, they say Starbucks is coming soon to Buenos Aires. I'm sure the locals won't like it, but I suspect there may be a line of ex-pats outside the door opening day. I don't think people will be running around with paper cups of coffee everywhere, though. People don't have coffee to go here. You drink and eat sitting down. The only exception I've seen is a few people sipping soda from a bottle with a straw in the heat. So Starbucks will have to adapt to the café culture here. Let's just hope they keep the same flavor as back home. I can adapt to a lot of things, but my morning cup of coffee is a bit sacred.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Field Notes: ¡Béseme!!


Lots of kissing going on in Buenos Aires. Everyone kisses hello: a single kiss on the right cheek. Men kiss hello as well, which is a little awkward for some yankees. If you meet a friend on the street, you kiss them hello and everyone with them, whether you know them or not.


Lots of public "necking" as well. It's not uncommon to see a couple sitting on a park bench kissing away, blissfully unaware of what's going on around them.

In fact, I would say there is a lot more physical affection here in general. People will routinely touch you when they talk to you, either on the shoulder or arm. Couples hold hands while walking down the street, even septuagenarians. Many couples choose to sit next to each other at a restaurant instead of across from each other, so they can cuddle.

Romantic, really.

Mmmmmwwwa!