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Oh, the joy of making friends with the butcher man!

October 27th, 2009 No comments

Language is a funny thing.

The course of living here with the modest Spanish ability that I possess (which is a bit less in practice, relative to what 45 hours of audio lessons had led me to believe) has given me a profound appreciation for my fluency in English and the free flowing self expression that it affords.  So it made my day today when I chatted with the butcher at his counter in the fruitteria this morning for about 15 minutes during the course of ordering some bacon, 2 hamburguesa patties, and another delicious Argentinian steak.  We talked about learning languages, what I’m up to for my two months in Argentina, and some of the finer distinctions of why Argentinian beef is the best.  It was all in Spanish.

On a related note, I had my first Spanish lesson yesterday!  It appears to be working.  For me it is becoming clear that connecting with people is a huge part of why I’m here, and learning the language is the foundation for that.  So onward I am diving into a few hundreds pesos worth of lessons!  Money well spent, perhaps even more so than that great Argentinian beef.

I went with Liz to explore famed Ricoletta Cemetary.  Before getting there I wasn’t sure what could make it so noteworthy.  Then I got there and saw: it’s like a little spooky village of little/big tomb buildings on perfectly straight little streets.  The effect was amazing and I kept thinking how heavy the whole place must be, what with all those huge slabs of granite, stone and marble everywhere.  About 20 minutes through my wanderings of the aisles, my brain got the brilliant idea to play Micheal Jackson’s Thriller on a repeating loop.  I don’t think it stopped until we went for ice cream at a place right outside the cemetery, some 45 minutes later.  Rad.

Last Saturday I think I OD’d on empanadas: if 1 is a tasty power up, 4 is a belly ache.  For it I wussed out on going to a tango milonga starting around 11pm with the gang, so no tales of tango to speak of yet.  In an effort to get myself back into the Argentinian social rhythm (this whole being tired around 10pm just isn’t cutting it) I slept until about noon today.  I actually woke up at 7:30am, and then decided to make use of these wicked sweet wooden slats that serve as industrial grade blackout curtains and are ubiquitous here in BA: our mini-blinds in the states seem paltry and weak by comparison.  Instant cave effect in my humble abode.  My body is a bit banged up from the Aikido lesson last night (I learned technique for a graceful rolling way to take a fall–not yet mastered), so sleep came easily.

On firm recommendation I found a place to watch the soccer (or futbol, as it’s known in these parts) match between Boca and River, the two teams of Buenos Aires and one of the great rivalry games to experience.  I wandered far down Avenida Corrientes in search of a pub packed with rowdy Argentinians watching the game: but in fairness I hardly know how to find such a thing back in the US, so I shouldn’t feel surprised that I utterly failed to find one here.  I settled on a nice restaurant/bar with about 20 people seated and staring at the flat screen above with the game on.  I was pleased to see that River was up 1-0 when I first started watching (having learned that that is the team I’m supposed to root for), and I don’t mind confessing that I didn’t know which team was which until a goal was scored by one of the guys in black, and the score turned 1-1.  By then I was settled in with beer (served with a try of 3 salty items–good move, Cafe de la Ciudat) and empanadas, so it was starting to get good.  By the end I had enjoyed 1.5 liters of beer, and those who know of my comically low tolerance will tell you that that has me fairly giggly and tipsy.  Soccer seemed like the best damn thing in the world, and I was bummed to see the game end.  That, and Spanish seemed much easier to speak. :)

What adventure is next for me?  I’ll let you know what has transpired in a few days!
John

On firm recommendation I found a place to watch the soccer (or futbol, as it’s known in these parts) match between Boca and River, the two teams of Buenos Aires and one of the great rivalry games to experience.  I wandered far down Avenida Corrientes in search of a pub packed with rowdy Argentinians watching the game: but in fairness I hardly know how to find such a thing back in the US, so I shouldn’t feel surprised that I utterly failed to find one here.  I settled on a nice restaurant/bar with about 20 people seated and staring at the flat screen above with the game on.  I was pleased to see that River was up 1-0 when I first started watching (having learned that that is the team I’m supposed to root for), and I don’t mind confessing that I didn’t know which team was which until a goal was scored by one of the guys in black, and the score turned 1-1.  By then I was settled in with beer (served with a try of 3 salty items–good move, Cafe de la Ciudat) and empanadas, so it was starting to get good.  By the end I had enjoyed 1.5 liters of beer, and those who know of my comically low tolerance will tell you that that has me fairly giggly and tipsy.  Soccer seemed like the best damn thing in the world, and I was bummed to see the game end.  That, and Spanish seemed much easier to speak. :)
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Life in Buenos Aires? Well Underway!

October 22nd, 2009 No comments

Dear All,

Greetings from the southern hemisphere!  (Or, as I like to think of it, Spring ’09: version 2.0!)  Now that the duration of my trip is quickly encroaching upon the 1-week mark, I feel it about time to let you all know that I DIDN’T perish in a plane wreck in the Andes, but rather instead made it here in a safe and relatively uneventful fashion.

After about 26 hours in transit in some form or another (it’s cool: several of those hours I was just sitting around eating a big sandwich or the like), I stepped out of the Buenos Aires airport where, like magic, the cold rain of Chicago had been replaced by the sunny warmth of oncoming spring.  A quick bus and a shuttle ride later and I was dropped right in front of the building of Liz and Ana, my fab hostesses with the mostesses (thanks Liz for setting up and orienting me so well, and thanks Ana for letting a complete stranger couch surf at your place for a few days!).

The social life got off to a kickin’ start: the first night (with benefit of a nap and a meal beforehand), I joined Liz and Ana to Kabuki Studio (a place which holds lessons of dance AND martial arts, a rad combination if ever I heard of one) for a little swing dance party, complete with a midnight ordering of about 20 empanadas enjoyed by the gang.  (Empanadas are these little hot pastries with things like meat & cheese in them that cost around 2 and a half pesos–$0.65 US–and are available like everywhere.  If “John in Buenos Aires” were a Nintendo game, empandas would most certainly be a power up item in it.)

The second night, after going to a street fair with some folks (complete with a little dancing to a band that played a bumpin’ rendition of some Sinatra tune whose name I forget), 5 of us threw an impromptu dinner party.  We hit a grocery store, collected items that at least one of us knew how to cook, and made a fab 4-course meal that was ready to serve around midnight.  I never thought that Argentinian tradition of doing dinner super late would ever agree with my always-hungry metabolism, but it turns out it does  The meal included butternut squash soup, pasta with marinara made from scratch, garlic bread and steak.  If it could be said that I had a 5-quetzal-a-day coconut habit in Guatemala (and it could), it could also be said that I have a 5-peso-a-day steak habit here.  Jury’s still out about which one is ultimately better for me.

I got a place 2 days ago after some relatively minimal googling about for “buenos aires furnished apartments”: it’s a little (yet fantastically sufficient!) studio and you can see pictures of it here: http://www.apartmentsbaires.com.ar/BN01in.htm.  There was something quite satisfying about getting the keys to a place to call my own in another country (even if for a meager 45 day lease), and I suspect it shown in my step as I made the rounds to the gather goodies at the nearest super market, bakery and fruit stand.  Ah, to delight in the little things!

More tales to share, but I’ll cut off now before long turns into obnoxious.  As I go through my Argentine adventure during the coming 2 months I’ll send the occasional update like this (not unlike Eurotrip ’04, see http://www.pohlman.us/john/ for complete details), but I don’t wanna spam none of y’all.  So if you’d like to be on the distribution list for such missives, you MUST shoot me a quick reply to let me know–I would love to hear from you AND it would be a delight to have some communications in English coming my way for a change of pace!

Best,
John

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