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Thanksgiving in South America

November 26th, 2009 No comments

…Isn’t celebrated in any formal way that I’m aware of.

So today I had the fun of more or less creating my own experience of the holiday, and the gratitude and thanks giving that it stands to evoke.  While walking along the boulevard and just ending another Spanish audio lesson re-run, my iPod jumped to the Office Space soundtrack classic, “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster”.  (There are times when I swear the people at Apple programmed magical clairvoyance into the shuffle mode, and this was one such time.)  Grinning broadly while soaking in the lyrics, I walked no doubt with that very walk that is described by others from time to time as that bouncy, long-gaited strut.

In the midst of my current life adventure it is easier than usual to recognize the many things these days to be thankful for, and the many people who have contributed to me and for whom I have gratitude.  The list of people to whom I’m sending this email overlaps quite well with the list of people I thank, so you probably know what I’m talking about when I say right here and now: Thank you for the part you play in my life and the contribution you are and/or have been to me.  (And if you don’t know what I’m talking about as it relates to you, please bust me on that and I’ll express more clearly to you my due appreciation!).

I’d also like to make a special shout out to all of you who are my teachers in life, namely for schooling me on subjects which include (but are not limited to) the following: math, business, dance, communication, being, science, music, poetry, computers, life, love, relationships, growing old, being happy, beers, design, being young, enlightenment, Spanish, programming, education, cooking and Aikedo.

Right then, with thanks now given, allow me to proceed to more centrally Argentine missives!

So my mom came to visit!  Between taking the city tour bus, hitting a handful of museums, and relating to the Lonely Planet city guide as benevolent gospel for a week, I am now finally tourist-trained in this town.  There were some good moments of being mothered, too: one morning while it was raining my mom sold me on wearing a poncho.  I resisted at first (my choice line of vintage middle-school regression being “But moooooooom… the Portenoyos are gonna laugh at meeee…”  “No they’re not.  They’re going to offer to buy it off of you.”) but eventually went with it for the novelty value.  Good idea, too!  I didn’t get any purchase offers, but while comfortable in the otherwise abandoned plaza in the downpour I took advantage of the most acoustic privacy I’ve had since my arrival by singing out a few crooner tunes to no one but the trees.

My mom also took care of me when I got wickedly sick on Saturday night.  She even ventured out alone on little missions to get me food, drug and drink when I needed it during Sunday and Monday’s recovery.  All without any Spanish, which was way cool and even more appreciated.  Thanks mom!

Now I’ve been catching up on things and otherwise kinda biding my time until Tracy gets here (inlikeahundredandtenhoursbutwho’scounting).  Maybe I’ll go to another tango milonga in the next few days.  The Argentine are, on the whole, an uncommonly good looking people.  At a milonga you get like a dose of concentrated Argentine hotness, so it’s not a bad way to spend an evening even if you are remiss about your own dance ability and feel it better to just sit and watch.

Ah, in case you were wondering what I had for my Thanksgiving meal: some fab sushi from the elegant sit down restaurant perched in the Japanese gardens, a street side vendor hot dog with the works, a chocolate ice cream cone in the plaza, and I’ll probably make up that chunk of tenderloin I got from Roberto just now.  It’s no turkey with gravy, but I can’t complain. :)

With all my thanks and gratitude on this fine southern hemispheric day,
John

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Evita: Still stuck in my head

November 15th, 2009 No comments

For better or worse,

A few weeks back I listened a time or two to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Evita”, starring Madonna.  This was intended as an admittedly feeble stab at acquainting myself with some Argentinian historical context, and a handful of songs from it even now play automatically in my head when I walk the bustling streets of Buenos Aires.

I started taking regular yoga classes at the studio of a laid back yet kinda intense/passionate instructor name Marcos.  He’s gray and there’s something cool about hearing yoga orders given to you in Spanish.  It’s has this soothing, almost musical tempo with all those flowing syllables, and the massive use of the phrase “vamanos chicos*” plays pretty well.  It would be “chicas” if I weren’t there: for the most part it’s just me and the [much older than I] ladies.  I like to think that Marcos was a serious mack daddy back in his day, and that this is what that looks like in retirement.  Also, his facial hair is rad.

While on one of the sunny hills around the Ricoletta market last weekend I discovered the joys of mate (and, due to the limitations of text as a medium of communication, let me hasten to add that I’m referring to a local sort of tea drink, pronounced ma-tay).  It’s this nummy thing that you make by pouring hot water into a hollowed-out gourd packed with the mate (which comes as sort of a twiggy puree), and that you drink from a specialized metal straw that filters all the shmokus from coming up.

They say that the caffeine (or caffeine-esqe) kick that it gives you is a mellow high, though I only came to understand what that meant at about 5:00am that night/next morning, when I noticed that I was still remarkably clear headed and energized, and put finally 2 and 2 together regarding my mate consumption some 13 hours earlier (the inquiry began with something along the lines of “Hey, why AM I still awake?  And how come web programming is still fun and efficient at this hour?”).

Yep, I think there may be something about that drink that qualifies as magical… the experience came with none of the usual feelings of punchiness/jitters that caffeine gives to my non-existent tolerance!  Sweet!  Today I bought my own magic gourd and straw from among the myriad artisan options at the market.  It’s the closest feeling thing to drug paraphernalia as I’ve ever purchased.

About two hours ago my mom hopped on a plane to come here and visit me.  My place is clean and I have just flossed.  I am ready for my first visitor.

John

* More or less translates to: “Let’s go, little ones”

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Valuable Experiences in Argentine Friend Making

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

As I do my programming kung fu while here in BA I am looking to get a second monitor.

Thanks in part to the miracle of Yahoo’s babel fish (http://babelfish.yahoo.com/translate_txt) I answered an ad in Craigslist for a used monitor.  Cutting and pasting to and fro to do translations (or, as it kinda felt like, encrypting and decrypting communications) made it a cinch!  (And fortunately my Spanish is good enough to catch whatever comically tragic mistranslations the machine spit out.)  (Um, I think).

In any case, communication worked well enough for us to arrange a time for me to pick up the monitor.  The plan was simply to take the subway out to Gabriel’s place and schlep a big ol’ monitor back to mine.  Thing is, the monitor, after Gabriel found and dug it out, didn’t work.  But it was cool: over the course of 15 minutes or so of him farting around trying to hook it up we started chatting.  Turns out we’re both web geeks.  His brother too.  So while I left their place without a monitor, I did leave with two new friends and the idea that yeah, we should go out for a beer sometime.

On my empty handed subway ride home I had a more lively spring in my step than usual (I’m still in that cute stage where a breakthrough in Spanish communication will do that).  I took to my subway seat in an admittedly flamboyant manner, and I reckon for it caught a smile from the cute gal sitting right across from me.  I smiled back and she asked “Where are you from?”.  I countered in the best Spanish I could with a comically defensive “How did you know I’m not from here?”  I sat beside her and we chatted the rest of the ride.  I basically shared with her everything about my trip that I knew how to say with my vocabulary.  As a professor who teaches Spanish as a second language, she was great about correcting my grammar, and took to pointing out cool things for me to do and see on my nice little touristy map.  Added bonus: because I know the magic vocab word “novia” (girlfriend), there was no concern of me being some random dude on the subway trying to pick her up.  And everyone thinks it’s way cute when I say my novia is coming to visit in a month.

Last night, carneceria man #1 (a.k.a. Roberto) and I were chatting about favorite recipes, and through much pantomime he gave me one for pork chops that involved apples and sugar.  I took to the challenge of making just that with my pork purchase.  (I’m now the proud owner of a kilo of sugar: it was smallest package I could find.  Mom, you wanna make cookies or something when you get down here?).  It turned out great, and to make the world a weirder place I made up a plate of the other pork chop, some asparagus, and a few strawberries, covered it in tin foil, and brought it back to Roberto with fork and knife.  He was dumbfounded at first but got a big kick out of it, and I met and chatted a while with his wife as he handled the early evening rush of customers.  As I left Roberto thanked me, and reiterated once more that if I ever have any problems, I should call him at the number on the cool little refrigerator magnet of his shop that he gave me.  I declared him and his wife my adopted Argentine papa and mama (actually at first I only declared Roberto papa, his wife chimed in to claim mama), and a good time was had by all.

Yay, Spanish!
John

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