Friday, November 24, 2006

¡Feliz Dia de Gracias!

Next time you travel around the holidays, you should know that it is really difficult to explain our tradition of Thanksgiving to others. It started with descriptions of settlers and indigenous folks all getting along and eating together for a day of peace, or a time of thanks, or...when we got the part about eating a lot and gathering together with your family then we started to make some sense. When we mentioned turkey and wine, we were speaking the same language, literally.

In order to avoid the sure homesickness that would come on this special day of thanks, we celebrated our first holiday together by finding an all you can eat and yet true blue Argentinan Parrilla. Picture a huge room full of friends and families gathered around tables with wine, all talking loudly and descriptively, hands waving everywhere, a long stretch of appetizers and all types of salads inbetween the tables including tortas and empanadas, and-the best part-a HUGE grill with 4 or 5 guys behind it just ready to serve up any cut of beef you can imagine and as bloody as you can handle it, or some lesser meat like chicken if they must. We found Thanksgiving here! Except for it was just a regular Thursday night at midnight for this place, perfect for us. And, for the record, one of the salads had some turkey in it.

Since our last entry, we have celebrated ¨El dia de la musica¨ which was fantastic! We were basically a small fan club of two running around this gigantic city´s many plazas, parks, and busy corners to see as many musical events as possible ranging from funk to jazz to folk to classical. For the morning we involved ourselves in a small parade with a creole jazz band hiding behind the tuba and ended the night after class in the midst of a huge celebration at the grand finale. There we learned about a type of music more Argentinan than tango with a dance that seemed even more difficult. Very beautiful.

Classes continue to go really well, we have a favorite teacher named Manuel with whom we discuss the many problems of the world, politics, religion, career, and friendship all through the perspectives of different countries and different people. He is a fascinating guy who has also been instrumental to our learning, especially because he is so encouraging and because we really enjoy talking with him. Our favorite thing that he says is ¨Miravos!¨ when you say or do something correct or interesting, it basically means ¨Look at you!¨ Always makes us laugh...

A parting story to tell: This week we have started to try and speak only Spanish, even with each other (exhausting but necessary). So last night as we entered the pharmacy while shopping for a phone card, we were feeling quite confident. I asked in my best castellano for a ¨tarjeta de telefonico¨ after which the guy nodded knowingly, left to retrieve it, and promptly returned with some pills. I shook my head and explained more-no for the phone, for calling another which he responded that they didn´t sell them there. We thanked him, still somewhat confused as to what had occured, and started to walk out of the store when he stopped us, ¨Wait, do you still need the anti-diarrhea pills?¨

And a final confession: This is Emily! Could you tell?

Love you all! Cant wait to see many of you soon!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Yesterday we were crossing the widest street in the world (Avenida 9 de Julio, 12 lanes in each direction) and we were talking English really loudly when a little old lady sidled up next to us and said in perfect English -

"I have a question for you... I am an English teacher here in Buenos Aires, and I've heard that people in the United States say 'Bologna!' (when something is ridiculous) Is that still true!"

Emily and I were stunned into silence for a moment, and then we stammered together, "Yes, actually, yes we do!"

"Thank you so much, I really wanted to know that. Enjoy Buenos Aires!" and she left us in the dust.

I'm sure the same vigorous old lady was at the ice cream place we went to last night at 1am. A well dressed gentleman was crooning his lungs out for an elderly audience, standing room only, at the oldest gelato place in town. We left them all to their music and their ice cream and went to bed - we have class to go to! I think Buenos Aireans have their priorities down.

On a final weird note, we have a building superintendent named Guillermo who is impeccably dressed, has a long ponytail and always pats you on the back when you leave the building. He is incredibly difficult to understand, however, to the degree that we have had a broken toilet for almost a week and no sheets or towels last night. How quaint.

One more final note. We went to this giant building last night, Palacio Correo, during the end of a run down by the waterfront. It was packed full of art exhibits, crazy audio and visual displays, and floors and floors of music, DJs, cafes, and fascinating cultural displays. For the next two weeks Estudio Abierto is going to be having art all over the city, and tomorrow will be a day of music with something like 100 musical events occurring all day. We're excited to explore it all, it's like nothing we've ever seen. We made the schedule of events our Spanish lesson of the morning, it was so interesting.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Our New Business(es)

We've had a number of business opportunities present themselves on this trip. We've mentioned some of them, the most recent being wine importation from Argentina. One of our teachers at the Spanish school has a small business as a wine distributor in Buenos Aires and we talked about possibilities of importing to the US - all in Spanish, of course. We feel pretty close to the guy, especially since we both kissed him. It's a Buenos Aires tradition to greet and leave people with a kiss on the cheek. Builds trust, that kind of thing.

We're on for another tango show tonight, this time professional. We've had one lesson so far, then we attended a Milonga, which is where regular people like you and me get out on the dance floor and strut their tango stuff (arguably semi professionally) and now we're on to the big leagues - tango show, night out, all that good stuff. We also attended a jazz/tango fusion concert which was REALLY great, and gave us a feel for the music. We feel up to speed on the tango, all except being able to dance it - we only watched at the Milonga, it seemed like you were supposed to know what you were doing. The women dance with their eyes closed, to give you an idea of the intensity. Maybe a few more lessons.

We've been shopping, and you might not recognize us if you saw us. Buenos Aires is notorious for shopping, and we've done a fair amount. We're just trying to fit in after scrubbing around in Chacos and quick dry shorts.

If you've heard anything about Buenos Aires, you may have heard about La Boca, a brightly colored neighborhood by the city's oldest port. On a weekend you can see people tangoing in the streets, outdoor flea markets, and crazy colored buildings - it's quite a trip. It's a little touristy but worth checking out next time you're in town.

We've got class, so hasta luego! (see you later)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You're Absolutely Right - It's Been More Than Four Days

Moreover, there were some other things in the last entry that were a little scattered and unruly. It was a test to make sure you readers were paying attention, and you passed with flying colors.

Today we got Mate (mah-tay) mugs with handmade designs of our favorite things about Argentina and customized names engraved. Mate is the national drink here, imagine it as really fancy tea out of a cool mug with a straw for a teabag and all the loose tea floating on top - I guess you need to see it to understand. The designs included an outline of the famous obelisk of Buenos Aires, a bottle of wine, a cigar and a tiny espresso coffee. We put the names "Emilia" and "Brian" on them, because that's what we're known as down here.

We enjoyed some time in San Martin park, doing our homework and looking at hundreds of giant hearts on display. Like the Northwest does occasionally with pigs or other creatures, Buenos Aires has a fundraiser where businesses sponsor artists to design giant (5 feet across) hearts of all different colors and designs.

We also enjoyed crossing the insanely busy streets of the financial district. It's akin to the battles of old, with the opposition waiting on the other side of the street for the signal to cross. You have to fight your way through the ranks, if you've watched fight scenes from Braveheart it's exactly like that only with shopping bags and briefcases instead of picks and axes.

Speaking of Mel Gibson, we've recently experienced the phenomena of understanding Castillano (Spanish) and can now understand (mas o menos) the conversations around us - just like in What Women Want when Mel Gibson can suddenly hear the thoughts of women in his vicinity.

One last clarification - Spanish and Castillano are ESSENTIALLY the same thing, but Spanish is spoken everywhere except Spain, Argentina and apparently Uruguay. In Castillano you use your hands as much as your mouth and it has an accent and a rhythym that will make your head turn. Otherwise, they are the same. Oh, and they say "Ciao" here.


Friday, November 03, 2006

A Lot Can Happen in Four Days

We made it to Buenos Aires on Tuesday morning, arriving right around 3am - apparently the perfect time to go out dancing, if we'd only known. This town is substantially cosmopolitan compared to all of Central America, which has sparked numerous conversations and desires to change hairstyles.

To give you Buenos Aires in a nutshell - even though it would be more at home in an adorable leather purse - imagine an inexpensive version of Europe, heavy on the Italian, beset with amazing restaurants, incredible wines, beautiful people, and abundant steak. People talk with their hands, drive badly, are passionate about almost anything, and live in the moment.

We got ourselves an apartment in the center of town, our first real home! We've been taking Castillano classes here (much cooler than Spanish) and trying to get settled in. We've explored a lot of Buenos Aires by foot, taxi, bus, subte, and foot. The many barrios (neighborhoods) keep unfolding, there's always something more to see, and the people are a hoot.

Then we got our camera stolen. The good one. Suddenly Argentina became a nation of thieves and brigands hell-bent on our demise. It didn´t take too long to realize that it could have happened anywhere, it's only a camera, and it could have been a lot worse. That and a really nice dinner made everything ok.

We've had a lot of interesting conversations lately, together and with our various professors. Today we were talking about the tragedy of high school shootings, and our teacher postulated that it was related to the concept of "winners" and "losers" in our competitive country. He said that, for better or for worse, Argentines aren't as ambitious or competitive which makes their lives less intense or he thought possibly less successful, but also somewhat more peaceful. In learning the nuances of the language, we found out that the word for "loser" doesn't exist - only for the result of a particular situation. The concept of someone who is worthless doesn't exist in the language or the culture... He asked us what we do with "losers" in our country, and thought that maybe children who are pegged at a young age as worthless are likely to be the ones so dissatisfied with their lives as to take it out on their peers. Interesting perspective to see your country from the outside.

We have also been talking politics and probably have better established residency here for voting than we do at home, citizenship aside that is. Hope the elections go well today and that you remember to vote! As a side note, anyone following Nicaraguan politics? Very interesting...

The language training is going well...we're able to converse about politics, ask about cameras, order several tiny espresso coffees a day with ease (very important if you want to fit in here) and get around the city. People talk with their hands here, which helps a lot when you can't understand someone but they're pointing and waving wildly in the direction you should go. Or at least that's what you think they're doing.

Something you must know about the Buenos Airean schedule - it's insane. Lunch is around 1pm (not too crazy), afternoon snack (coffee) is around 5pm (still reasonable), dinner gets going around 10:30-11pm (what!?) and, especially on the weekends, things really start hopping after dinner ends around 2am. We tried to get a table at one of the cities nicer restaurants at 11:30pm and had a 45 minute wait. There were probably several hundred people eating, every table was packed, and people were still coming in to eat when we left after 1am. You might be interested to know that very restaurant served me the best steak I've ever had in my short time on this planet.