Thursday, July 31, 2008


One of the girls in our group came up with superlatives for each of us, which she presented at last night´s farewell dinner. The dinner took place in a posh restaurant in Puerto Madero, a posh, and wicked expensive, part of Buenos Aires that´s too good for a subte stop. (Here´s looking at you, Tyson´s Corner.) It was a buffet, and the selection was fantastic. At the end of dinner, we got to hear our superlatives. Mine was most enthusiastic about experiencing every part of Argentine culture. That should make my family happy.

reward for coming to class

Half the group didn´t go to UB today. I was one of the half that did, and got my grade. The reward for not being truant today? Busywork and a stupid film. What can they do if I decide not to be there for the film?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

home stretch!

Really, I´m not feeling angry at all right now. I just finished the first part of my final, and we had an essay section. I´d have been more than happy to write about how beautiful Iguazú was or how nice it was to practice my Spanish, and my Portuguese too on account of how many Brazilians I saw, or how I love reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in Spanish (I´ve read the end and the first five or six chapters, I only have the middle left) in Ateneo while sipping tea, or how nice Palermo was, or how entertaining my host family´s dog is, or how riveting last night´s tango show was.

Ah, tangent time. We went to Café Tortoni to watch a tango show. It´s the most clichéd of tourist attractions, but whatever. In high school, I remember my French II teacher, Mme. Lucy LaSalle, telling us that no matter how plain a girl looks, if she dances well she´ll be the most beautiful girl in the room. The same goes for guys. This thought comforted me until I realized I suck at dancing. In any case, the dancers were neither youthful nor sexy. That woman had to be at least my parents´age. Nonetheless, when she was on stage, she looked like a work of art, and her partner too. And they danced well, of course, and when they danced, suddenly they were indeed sexy. Youthful too. At the beginning of the show, the MC wanted a count of all the countries being represented there. There were Brazilians, Peruvians, Colombians, no Chileans for some reason, Brits, Italians, Americans... I needed to represent the motherland, so I shouted out, "¡La India!" which no one hears much in Argentina. Yet somehow the woman still knew the word "namasté." Maybe she was a Sai Baba devotée. She probably wasn´t from the Haré Krishna cult. "Namasté," I replied, and pressed my palms together to be more authentic. It didn´t occur to me to point out that a "Hello" with an Indian accent is how it really goes on in India these days.

I´ve made fun of Brenda many times for her brain farts (first when she was convinced that 2000 meant 10 p.m. and then when she was convinced that from the 11th floor you needed to take an elevator going up to the 7th floor) and that night I got my comeuppance. I was looking through the list of drinks and ordered a glass of cider, and it was listed as "copa de cidra" just like "copa de vino" and I had learned that "copa" is for alcoholic drinks, otherwise it´s "un vaso." It was also priced the same as the glasses of wine. I enjoyed it, impressed that I couldn´t taste the alcohol, and after I finished it, and said to Julia, "Huh, perhaps my tolerance went up, because I don´t feel so much as a buzz."
"Of course you don´t, cider doesn´t have alcohol!"

At one point, the tango dancers pulled audience members on stage to dance, and one of those audience member was Brenda. I´d have taken a picture if the flash on my camera didn´t suck. We both got pictures posing with the male tango dancer.

In any case, the essay section in our final asked us to write about something that we didn´t like during our stay in Argentina. There are all sorts of positive things for me to write about, but very well, now that the professor asks me for something that pisses me off.

I don´t like when I´m speaking Spanish and I make one small error that gives away that Spanish isn´t my mothertongue, and the Argentine who´s talking to me seems to think¨, "Ah stupid foreigner, probably American" and responds to me in English that really isn´t any better than my Spanish. This is while my family is paying through the roof to send me here and learn to speak the language properly. In our classroom, we´re told to avoid les calques (word for word translation) at all costs, and that´s something I know intuitively. Apparently foreigners learning English are exempt from that. While we´re told not to think in English while speaking Spanish, those Argentines I´ve heard trying to speak English are clearly translating in their minds each word in Spanish. I speak Spanish with care, or try to anyway, but it seems that English doesn´t deserve the same kind of care.

And I realize that Americans butcher their own language, but that´s no reason for foreigners to butcher it too. Isn´t speaking English incorrectly just another thing the rest of the world hates about us? Why emulate that?

And when Argentines respond to me in broken English, there are many times that I detect an air of disdain in it, and given their level of English, they have some chutzpah speaking to me that way. I´m trying (and paying) hard to learn your language. If you don´t want to learn mine properly, don´t treat me with contempt when I try to learn yours. Hell, even if you do speak perfect English (I´ve met only two people who fit this criterion, one is Alejandro and the other was our guide in Iguazú), work with me when I practice Spanish, respond to me in Spanish, don´t hesitate to correct me if I make a mistake, that really doesn´t offend me, certainly not more than responding to me in English.

In any case, even though that particular thing bothers me, I hardly ever actually encounter it, and the month is wrapping up really nicely. Also, I´m to eat steak tonight for my old professor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

foreign tongues from foreign tongues

I always thought that when the French spoke Spanish, they´d replace the [r] sound with a [R] or a [x]. (Look up the international phonetic alphabet and you´ll know what I´m talking about.) But according to the writers in Spain who made Harry Potter y las reliquias de muerte, the French replace every [r] with a [g], so Fleur always called Harry "Hagy." Weird.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Argentine domestic airports

The domestic airports in Argentina are not the most intelligently designed places in the world. Montreal´s airport (I can´t remember the code) made me cranky because it took forever to get rid of the luggage that I wanted to check in, and it was after passing through several types of lines for various customs issues, but at least the important stuff, like places to shop and get food and reading materials, was located after security. But in Aeroparque Jorge Newberry (AEP), the only newsstand is located before security. But at least AEP has a nice café-cum-bar and a fast food place and a duty free. The Iguazú airport (IGR) has its only restaurant before security, and no newsstands, just a bunch of expensive artisan shops. (Only one past security) So if your flight is delayed and you didn´t bring anything to do, you´re shit out of luck.

As I waited in IGR, then, I fantasized about Iguazú during a full moon night. For five days every month the Iguazú park offers moonlight walks all the way to Devil´s Throat. It´s a shame the moon was a waning crescent when we went, because I´d have loved to see the falls at night under the moon. That´s what I want for my honeymoon, I think. The photographs I saw of the falls on a full moon night looked less like photographs and more like the sort of artwork I put on my laptop wallpaper when it´s not Marlon Brando circa Streetcar Named Desire or JD from Scrubs. (The latter would be the one who´s so lucky as to join me in Iguazú by moonlight in my daydreams.) And perhaps we´d see jaguars and pumas and toucans and of course, more coatíes.

We did board the plane on time, which gives me hope for my flight home (well, to Miami). And I´ll say this much for LAN - the snack selection is far better than what I´ve seen on any North American plane. LAN doesn´t give crappy pretzels, it gives saltines, Havanna cookies and a little Havanna alfajor. Would that United would have offered Triscuit and Starbucks brand biscotti and madeleines. I hope dinner and breakfast are better than what United gave too.

It´s a magical world

Our flight to Iguazú was via LAN, the very airline I´m taking from Buenos Aires to Miami next week. I decided the flight to Iguazú would be my gauge of what to expect when I return to the US. At check-in, some LAN employees (on strike or something like it) were handing out fliers explaining how LAN is filthy rich and getting richer, yet the salary of the working class employees was pissant to began with, and had just gone down.

Our flight was supposed to take off at 11:50. First we heard it was delayed by an hour. Then the screen just said, "Consult agent." Finally at 13:15 we started boarding from a different gate. Then we heard we had another half hour before takeoff. Then we heard the same thing half an hour later. It was 16:15 by the time we arrived in Iguazú, and it´s only an 80 minute flight. To be fair, the Aeroparque Jorge Newberry airport was having issues with its radar, but I still don´t think this bodes well.

As we arrived we could see mist rising from what was doubtless the falls. We were not in Buenos Aires anymore. The hotel was something else. It was four stars, and spending three days there felt like a proper vacation. It offered a nice view of the sunrise over the forest in the morning. The breakfast was complimentary and a proper one, not the continental kind. There was a wide assortment of teas, honey, bread, croissants, dulce de leche... and fruit. And there´s nothing like having tropical fruit while you´re right in the tropics.

Nothing I say here will do our tour of the falls justice. We hiked through various trails and stopped at various points along the falls. It was followed by a boat ride that got us soaked. Brenda was terrified, and I had fun telling her the boat was going to capsize and there would be piranhas and leeches and crocs in the water. Then we saw La Garanta del Diablo, or the Devil´s Throat, and it looked like the beautiful vortex of death. The bridge that leads to it is 3 kilometres long and made of metal plates, and I´m terrified of heights. You can imagine how that went.

We didn´t get to see any jaguars or toucans or pumas, which is a shame, but there were plenty of cute critters like wild guinea pigs and coatis. Coatis are in the same family as raccoons and just like the hanuman langurs of India, they love stealing tourists´food. I had to resist the urge to grab one and cuddle it.

We got back to the hotel maybe an hour before sunset. Our hotel is about half a mile from a point where the Parana and another river meet, and it´s the tri-country frontier between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, and at sunset, the view´s sublime. Brenda and I hauled ass to get to it. I confused Brazil and Paraguay before I saw their flag colors because there was a city skyline on the Paraguay side and I assumed that must be Brazil, as Brazil´s more cosmopolitan. Then I saw the red, white and blue arrangement, and I thought, "Why the French flag in Brazil?" before it occurred to me that that´s the Paraguayan flag, and that on the other side was a pole that was yellow and green. We also managed to talk to a family from Mendoza, and I got a lot of practice with my Portuguese that day too.

At every moment, I was hit by my own insignificance in the vastness of the natural world. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Poor Niagara!" And Iguazú still isn´t the biggest waterfall system in the world, that would be Victoria Falls in Africa.

Two weeks from now I´m to see Niagara.

Mothers, gypsies, bokstores

In the 20th century, Argentina saw many disappearances. The moms of those who disappeared demanded that the Argentine government answer for all those disappearances by demonstrating in the Plaza de Mayo every Thursday afternoon. The government said it was illegal to stand there too long, so now demonstrating groups walk around in circles.

We went to see the madres de la Plaza de Mayo last Thursday. A crowd was gathered around one of the moms giving an important speech of some sort, but I could neither see nor hear her because of the crowd and because so many gypsies were pestering us to buy stuff, or worse, begging for alms. I bought a small pack of Kleenexes from one woman out of guilt. And I needed one at the moment. They´re serving me well.

Then a little girl came begging for money. We´ve been told not to give to children because what happens is that their parents exploit them to support their own drug habits, so the kids never see that money. So I asked the girl where her mother was. She stepped on my toes.

After more discourse that I couldn´t hear from the mouth of someone I couldn´t see, and because I was scared for my possessions, Brenda and I decided to go somewhere warmer and nicer, like the Librería Ateneo on the Avenida Santa Fe. I always frequent the one on Juramento, but it has nothing on the Santa Fe one. The latter used to be a grand theatre and got converted into a bookstore. It´s the second most beautiful bookstore in the world, and now I really want to visit the most beautiful one, whatever that might be. The Ateneo on Santa Fe has four floors and a proper juvenile section. It´s obvious that it used to be a magnificent theatre, there´s murals on the ceilings. Its cafe is as expensive as it is elegant. And that´s why we went somewhere else for tea and snacks, like Havanna.

Havanna is something of a cross between Starbucks and Lindt - you can have coffe or tea there, or to go, and I´m a big fan of who they´ll give it in a mug unless you specifically say it´s to go. The company also makes this cone-shaped alfajor, which it calls the Havannet. I bought a box.

That night The Hunchback of Notre Dame, or El jorobado de Notre Dame, was on the Disney channel. That film is, in my opinion, the most underrated Disney film ever. (I also like to fancy myself as Esmeralda because when I let my hair down and tease it, it looks a lot like hers.) It deals with some rather heavy themes and pushes boundaries, and somehow still stays rated G. I also love that the villain, Frollo, is the epitome of evil even though he´s obsessed with moral probity. Disney actually had a Bible-thumper for a villain.

When I watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a kid and in high school, I got a very rosy picture of the gypsies. Whenever school got tough, I fantastized that a handsome gypsy boy would fall in love with me and we´d live happily ever after somewhere in Prague and I´d never have to deal with integrals or full body diagrams or Joseph Conrad again. It killed me that I was watching the very film that gave me this romanticized and mistaken view of gypsies right after I´d gotten a reality check.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

School sucks, I know

Every week we have to attend a lecture, or una conferencia. The next day, I listen to everyone lie to the professor about how much they enjoyed it. The first one was given by an old professor who pontificated on Argentine history. He clearly knew his shit, but I suspect he could have talked about Harry Potter or orgasms or some hot button issue and still have put me to sleep. The next week it was the same guy talking about Argentine politics, with two girls who translated what he said into English every so often. Their English is marginally better than my Spanish. Their pronunciation is worse than my pronunciation in French. Their sense of how to avoid what´s known as un calque in French (example: translating¨"Aapka naam kya hai" into "Your name what is") was much worse than mine. Well yesterday we had a different speaker who was more engaging, and it was on Argentine art and literature. It was mildly interesting for the first hour and a half, but he was long-winded, and he had the translators, which meant twice as long a duration, and he used powerpoint even though that was absolutely useless, but it still meant the lights had to be off. I had already had a bit of throbbing in my head, and the darkness and my boredom and his yammering on and on and their yammering on and on and the darkening of the sky outside was too much. Even thinking about sex didn´t help me, it only gave me a headache. Thank God we only have to stomach one more of these things.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Museo de Bellas Artes

I have no pictures to show for it, because taking pictures inside is forbidden. The first floor is full of European art, and I was a big fan of this one Monet painting. There were lots of sculptures and paintings of languid and/or naked women, one of which was by Picasso. And there was one sculpture of a naked couple embracing. Upstairs was full of Argentine art. One side was from the 19th century and before, and the other side was more modern, and the color scheme of the modern side was a lot nicer, it was trippy.

Outside was a bridge leading to a law school, and on the museum side was a painting of Che Guevara.

I had been feeling tired since I got in, and the whole time I was there, I was counting the moments until I could get home and change into pajamas and have a cup of linden tea and a Tylenol. I remember getting back home, but I was in a kind of delirium the whole time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

border crossing

The Librería Ateneo is a bit like the Argentine version of Barnes & Noble (nowhere near as comprehensive, much more expensive, but the café service is phenomenal). I always go there to have a drink and read a little bit of Harry Potter y las Reliquías de la Muerte (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), and one night I went there, a guard stopped me and insisted I needed to leave my backpack outside, the one where I keep my journal and Spanish dictionary. I was rather attached to that thing, and suggested he just search it now and when I got out. In the middle of the search, the hot guard intervened, and said no searches were necessary, and came with me upstairs. The next time I went there, he recognized me and told the guard working upstairs to make sure no one bothered me.

I called the Premium Taxi company three times to confirm a cab for 7 a.m. Sunday morning to take us from the Librería Ateneo to the Buenos Aires port, and so we rode, arriving with time to spare, and even managed to get pictures of the sunrise on the Río de la Plata, and there´s no point in trying to describe it. I´ll put it up once I´m back in the USA. The boat ride wasn´t bad, although I wish we could have stepped outside or upstairs, and I wish anyone could have broken my 100 peso bill, but they didn´t.

Instead, I looked out at the sea through the dirty windows, and dreamed of Titanic and the hot security guard who saved my dignity as Jack and me as Rose (Gulab, maybe?).

The pictures I took of Colonia, Uruguay will do a far better job of describing it than I can. I´d have liked to have time to see all the museums, but on the other hand, I´m glad we got back to Buenos Aires before dark. I do have a magnet and some Uruguayan pesos to show for this trip. And about 300 Argentine pesos gone.

I can´t believe we have only ten days left. And exactly two months from now, Brisingr comes out in bookstores, and exactly four months from now, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince comes out in the movies. Looking forward to things is fun.

El Tigre

Saturday morning, we had an all-you-can-eat lunch in this casino in El Tigre which used to be called the Tigre Hotel until probably some casino by that same name opened up in Europe or Canada or Vegas, and now it´s called the Trilenium. Just like in the US, in Argentina you have to be 21 to even get inside a casino. Or maybe the age is 18. No one gave straight answers on that. In any case, Brenda and I were told to lie low, Brenda because she´s under 21 and looks it, me because even though I am 21, I could easily pass for 16 if I tried. So we stood in the middle of the group, and I gave Brenda my shades to make her look older, because at least I was of age even if I didn´t look it. We got into the buffet just fine though. I doubt any place outside the US is about to turn down a group of 16 people just because a few of them are underage, because that´s a lot of business lost.

It was a great buffet, with made to order pasta, etc. Dessert, though, was the highlight of the meal. In most buffets, dessert is mediocre, but here I got to try tiramisu, chocolate mousse, flan, fruit salad with whipped cream and dulce de leche and pears marinated in merlot. I needed a lot of boldo tea to wash that down (boldo is an herb from the Andes that has digestive properties just like peppermint and spearmint).

There´s this swing in El Tigre, a ride that starts off with a drop of a couple hundred feet. Alejandro´s done it and he said it was an amazing adrenaline rush, and I´d have loved to try it, but that´s best to do before lunch. I did not digest the meal in time to do that ride. Qué lástima.
El Tigre is famous for wicker furniture, and it didn´t occur to me to take pictures of all the wicker furniture stores, and I can´t very well bring any back as souvenirs, so unfortunately I´ve got nothing.

The artisan fair was much more provincial than the one in Recoleta, obviously. They were selling mostly windchimes and things that smelled - bath salts, incense, room sprays, body sprays, linen sprays...

The train ride back was much better than the train ride there, not least because we were lurking by the edge of the platform, so when the train door opened, we could be the first ones on it and get seats. It was also less crowded. The journey there was hell, even though Brenda and I had successfully gotten seats. We were packed like sardines, and most of the group was forced to stand, and because we were bundled up for the frigid air outside, we sweat like pigs inside because it was so crowded.

India and incense

I´ve seen more Nag Champa being sold here than I ever did in India, and I wondered why. Perhaps it was because Buenos Aires had a lot of Hare Krishnas - the woman who gave me a facial was one, and had changed her named to Madhura or something, and when she learned I was Hindu, she assumed I´d be friendly to Hare Krishnas. The facial was a damn good one for a good price, which was the only reason I stomached her broken English and exhortations for me to come to Hare Krishna things with her, and the only reason I tolerated these devotional songs in butchered Sanskrit.
But no, even in El Tigre, I saw incense from India, and I asked Alejandro why all this Indian stuff was there, as Argentina is no Edison, New Jersey. It´s not like Britain, whose Indian food I really look forward to trying. Alejandro told me that Sai Baba is a very popular figure amongst Argentines, because of his ¨any path to God is good¨ philosophy. And hence, incense from India caught on too, I suppose.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tool - Aenema, brownie points if you figure out the label of this post

When I was 16, my family took a trip to California, and naturally, one of our stops was Los Angeles. There I saw the excess and frippery of the rich clashing in a most blasphemous way with the ubiquity and pathos of the panhandlers. The designs of the McDonald´s franchises were luxurious, but the interiors were in dire need of cleaning, especially the bathrooms. And the panhandlers were outside, inside, everywhere. Alongside them you´d find the Paris Hilton types, living proof that we can indeed have silicon-based life forms. They´d be decked out in their Jimmy Choo shoes and Fendi handbags and Oakley shades and whatever the hell else labels they wear. Navigating through the crowds was an absolute nightmare.
Being on the Calle Florida yesterday made my memories of LA come back with a vengeance.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Main Street over Wall Street, part two

The bus route was subverted because of the manifestaciones going on. From the bus we could still see tons of people carrying Argentine flags, wearing Argentine flags, hanging Argentine flags, selling Argentine flags... and the full moon shone brightly at 4 in the afternoon. There was a kind of visceral thrill in the air that I felt, and I´m pretty sure the guys did too. Were I not too busy taking photographs, my thoughts would have drifted back to my mind´s eye´s version of Riquelme.

A few stops and a few hundred photographs later, the bus stopped outside the museum where Profesora Julia was waiting. We meant to enter, but everyone working there had joined the demonstration so the public couldn´t go in. That would probably be the case with the Japanese gardens too, so we did what anyone else who needed an educational experience would do, and ourselves joined the throng. It wasn´t dangerous, I wasn´t worried about getting injured or attacked, but I was worried about losing the group and about dehydration. I also needed a piss, although I got caught up enough in the moment to forget about my bladder and buy a quality Argentine flag.

Eventually we all felt hot and sweaty (in the dead of winter! And you doubt that global warming is real? The glacier in the southern tip of South America broke off recently, and it´s winter down here, not summer.) and thirsty and took the subte home. It wasn´t so bad, I got to sit this time. Julieta and Susana were positively ecstatic when I told them I bought a flag at the march.
So what was the march about? After biofuel caught on, the Kirschner administration decided to impose a high tax on soybeans, and the soybean farmers weren´t happy about that. Everyone is with the soybean farmers.

may Main Street prevail over Wall Street, whether in the USA or Argentina

So went my soapbox harangue yesterday during the demonstration.

The original plan yesterday was to go to the calle Florida to do the kind of shopping that makes me uncomfortable in the USA, the elitist kind you´ll find in Tyson´s Corner. That morning I´d received an e-mail from the American Embassy in Argentina that there were two demonstrations scheduled for that day, neither of which were at calle Florida although one cut close. Our trip to calle Florida got cancelled, and most of the students went straight home. But two boys and I were determined to follow the ¨carpe diem¨ mantra.

Alejandro and Profesora Julia decided we´d go to the Museo de Bellas Artes, as it was indoors. Profesora was to meet us there, while Alejandro took me and the guys from UB through Chinatown to catch a bus, but not before we stopped in a place that sold futbol jerseys. Alejandro assured us that it was the best price we could hope for. I asked for Riquelme but the lady kept showing me ¨Roman of Boca¨ shirts, explaining to me that Roman and Riquelme were one and the same; Roman is Riquelme´s first name. After Alejandro assured me these people knew what they were talking about, I went ahead and bought Roman. If Roman´s last name turned out not to be Riquelme, I´d just blame Chinmay for not telling me his coveted soccer player´s first name. (He never did know it.) Alejandro goes above and beyond when it comes to helping us - he took the liberty of asking a random man what Riquelme´s first name was. It is Roman. His full name is Juan Román Riquelme. Also, he´s #10 on the Boca team. So that jersey is indeed legitimate.

I am not a sports fan. I am only interested in the NBA out of loyalty to the Motherland (Michigan, not India). That and the odium I feel towards Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the dismaying insight into how sexual assault and gender roles work in the world that his rape case provided. And that´s why I celebrated when the Celtics won the NBA 2008 finals.

Anyway, as I am not a sports fan, I have no idea what Riquelme looks like, although Susana would assure me that night he´s ¨muy hermoso¨, and the name Juan Román Riquelme has an incredibly sexy ring to it, and so while we walked through Barrio Chino, or Chinatown, in all its skethcy glory, I kept myself sane imagining how hot Riquelme must be, until we boarded the bus.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

this better be worth it

It´s not easy carrying a full rucksack in full sun on an unseasonably warm day, while entertaining a visit from Auntie Flo, especially after a long, stuffy, crowded subte ride (DC Metro at rush hour in July is like an empty air-conditioned room compared to that), for what feels like forever until you reach the Buquebus headquarters, but I managed to stay standing somehow, despite the nausea I was feeling not only from Auntie Flow and the sun but also from the dulce de leche Oreos I´d enjoyed in excess (I know, I know, far be it from me to buy Oreos of all things when I´m outside the US, but come on, dulce de leche is authentically South American). Buquebus is the name of a travel company in South America, and it´s where we were going to buy tickets for a roundtrip ferry to Colonia in Uruguay. I´ve committed a whole plethora of stupid mistakes, including:

a. not making more than one photocopy of my passport. I took one with me when I came here and UB asked for it. That left me with none. Had I made two, I could have had my passport number and bought my tickets there, and for the better price, but more on the ripoff later.

b. not realizing I´d best have my passport or at least the number, with me when I went, preferring instead to take for granted Profesora Julia´s word that we probably wouldn´t need passports.

The idiots, like me, were advised to buy tickets online. I did that, but first I had to go home to get my passport. I retraced my steps, managing not to faint, got home, retrieved my passport, and headed out to the nearest internet cafe. Were my brain not so fried, I might have caught the tab labeled ¨promociones¨ which would have saved 45 pesos for a roundtrip journey. I ordered an ida y vuelta, i.e., roundtrip, for Buenos Aires to Colonia and back, just taking for granted that roundtrips are cheaper than two oneways. Well, this is true for travelocity and expedia, but not here. And it´s times like this that I miss the industrialized world (America, fuck yeah!) It cost me 250 instead of 205.

What would Mom and Dad say when they found out I spent 15 USD that I didn´t have to?!
I´m just grateful it was only 45 pesos/15 bucks in Buenos Aires rather than my passport and wallet and purse and cell phone in Prague the day I was to return home, or an entire suitcase in London Heathrow airport thanks to Gulf airlines (mierda, I think I just jinxed my suitcase). Well I injected some power into the sluggish Argentine economy. I´m a hero. I´ll tell myself that.
I´m cautiously optimistic about our trip to Calle Florida, and if all goes well, I´ll buy a nice swishy red dress.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


When I get back home, I´m making a beeline for our iSqueeze (a foot massaging machine, gift for Mom one Christmas). On Saturday morning, we met at UB, and the plan was to go to Palermo Forest for a picnic. We walked and walked through the city until we reached a bakery, where we´d order our food to eat there. Then we walked and walked until we hit a wine shop. I hoped against hope that would be the place we order our beverages. Of course we had only actually stopped there because it was on a big intersection. On we marched when the pedestrians got the OK signal, until we hit a park. We kept walking for another mile where we hit the real park in Palermo Forest. Then we walked a quarter mile to street vendors selling water and soda bottles, which we bought, and then we walked another half mile to sit down to eat. I gave the last portion of my sandwich to the ducks. I had meant to give it to the ducks, anyway, but it´s the pigeons who went for it.

In the center of the lake is a little island full of roses, but there´s no way to get access to it, and that pissed me off. At least I was calmed down by the greenery and ducks and dogs, to which we had ready access. Actually the place was very pretty and soothing. There are plenty of pictures waiting.

The journey back was as long and arduous as the journey there, and I kept alternating between feeling hot and cold. I´m not complaining though, it was good exercise. We took the subte to Catedral, where we walked along the Calle Florida, a very posh area, and there was this Native American show going on, and the music put me in something of a trance, and I tried to videotape their performance, but I don´t think I did too well. Shame I didn´t get any sound.

We then watched this documentary, and try as I might to find something about it on wikipedia, I´m finding nothing. Hmph.

Brenda and I had dinner with Profesora Julia. We passed over the steakhouse with the cow´s head on the door, because you should avoid places like those when you´re in Buenos Aires. We had Italian instead at a place that took Visa, and it was nice getting to know the professor.

We took the subte back home. I´ve already criticized the thing, but I have more to add. Aside from not being user-friendly, the subte closes at 23:00 and it´s crawling with peddlers and mendicants. I´d cling to my possessions when they came my way. Now this is hardly unique to Argentina. Believe me, there are some crappy undergrounds in other parts of the USA too (cough, NYC, cough). But this isn´t so much a complaint as it is a reminder of what makes the DC Metro so great. Beggars and people selling things wouldn´t dare step on board the DC Metro, and the thing´s squeaky clean, and that´s why I´ll wholeheartedly support any measure designed to expand, renovate, maintain and/or improve the DC Metro. So my next glass of Argentine wine will be in honor of WMATA. Here´s to you. *clink*

sweating, dancing, accents

We went dancing Thursday night with Alejandro, and it was much better than last week, because the beginner Cuban salsa lessons actually got through to me. The instructor made rounds amongst everyone, which definitely helped. And I think I know why everyone wore gloves to balls back in the day; the beginner dancers were sweating to a man, and it was warm in there... I liked that the place was right near my homestay.

A thing I´ve noticed is that Americans are accused of butchering other languages, and that´s a legitimate criticism, especially true with French. And I don´t claim to sound like a native Frenchwoman, hardly. But I can say with 100% confidence that at least I don´t cling to my American English phonetic inventory with the sort of jingoistic pride I´ve seen amongst other people, and that´s why I found it insulting that when I spoke in French to a bartender in Montreal he responded to me in English. And American professors who study French, like really study French, to become professors of French, well they try to sound French. But Argentines - even linguistics professors - keep their native accents with pride.

Friday, July 11, 2008

on UB

I lied about there being nothing special about Independence Day. There was an artisan´s fair going on, and I bought a non-touristy mate cup with bombilla, entirely handmade.
My Spanish class here is as fun as my French classes at UVA. Four hours a day, five days a week. I mean, I did that once, January 2006. Four hours a day for ten days. Then I´ve had my three-hour weekly seminars during my time at UVA. But I still maintain this tops them all. At least this gives me practice for grad school.

Argetina´s Independence Day

I woke up on July 9th feeling congested, and didn´t feel like going out to enjoy the nice sunshine, instead staying in and watching Mulan in Spanish (one more Disney film down), but Julieta convinced me to get out, but not before admonishing me to wear my jacket. So I heeded her advice and walked around, looking for any display of patriotism. I saw a few Argentine flags displayed, but not much else. I also bought 100 grams of cinnamon flavored cookies for 2.80. That´s less than a dollar, folks.

I met Brenda in a cafe where we split some Argentine red wine for a total of 18 pesos (9 from each of us) and it was good wine too. Can we get that kind of deal in the States? Well, I can pay a dollar to taste all five of the wines from the Loudoun County vineyard of the week in the Reston Town Center farmer´s market every Thursday. It came with complimentary seltzer, and I ordered herbal tea, which came with complimentary alfajorcitos, and a croissant, and hence we didn´t go crazy with the wine.

The cafes here are fantastic - they´re kind of like Panera, except they serve alcohol, and you´re served, you don´t order up front, and a 10% tip is positively saintly. And they´re not chains. So you could have an afternoon coffee there, or dinner, or after-dinner drinks, they´re just that versatile.

I came home and saw a bit of a Simpsons episode in Spanish, and realized The Simpsons don´t lend themselves to dubbing. Why not subtitle them?
So that was my Independence Day.
I also watched an episode of The Simpsons dubbed in Spanish

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Monday, continued

I went to buy two envelopes for two postcards I wanted to send. I went to the correo (post office) I always go to for its internet (Sunday offers a discount). I asked if they had envelopes for my postcards and the guy told me they don´t, but to try the bookstore just a block down. I went to that place and asked if they had envelopes for my postcards. They said they don´t, but to try the bookstore just a block down. This happened two more times before I finally bought two envelopes for 60 centavos (about 25 cents).

After that goose chase was resolved, I went back to my correo to send them, and the guy said to me in English, ¨OK!¨ I´m famous, I think.

I debated getting cocoa and a snack, and finally decided to go for it at the Cafe Bouquet. I asked for the palmier and pronounced it French so the guy working there thought I was Canadian, and asked for his English speaking coworker. I got complimentary alfajorcitos and a good jug of sparkling water along with my palmier and hot cocoa, and then talked with the English speaker, and it turns out he had spent some time in the US, by GMU, and I told him all about Reston. Yay making more friends.

Today I went back there for lunch with two boys in our group.
Tomorrow is Argentina´s Independence Day. Also, the sun´s out today.

Monday, July 7, 2008

first day of class

I had a poached egg along with my toast for breakfast today, which I greatly appreciated. My parents haven´t a clue how to make poached eggs, and I can´t make them either, so they´re a rare treat for me. Then I headed on to my first day of class, which was fine, until 2 p.m. when we had to listen to a lecture. And it was mildly interesting at first, but the professor was just lecturing, and the things was for two hours, and I felt a bit narcoleptic, and you can see where my pen just veered off. That would be where my eyes glazed over and I hallucinated.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

At UB, Profesora Julia told us to go to the Buenos Aires site to look for activities to do. When I visited the Internet cafe, I went to said site and saw a list of things, including tango. Sore about missing the show last Friday night, I went for the tango tab. A dialog box popped up saying this was an adult site and hence blocked. Now I realize that the tango practically oozes sexuality, but the site was a .gov, ¡por amor de Dios!

I then went looking for a nice cafe to have chocolate con churros. The first time I heard about this treat was Spanish 101. Our professor was of Cuban descent and had a sense of humor that´s weirder than mine. Would that my other professors were like that.

Our first project was to partner up and do a presentation on something dealing with the Spanish-speaking world. I´ve always been irritated by American laws. It wasn´t seven months ago that I could legally order Irish coffee for dessert. And it doesn´t matter how old I get, I´ll never be able to go to Cuba just for the hell of it, not short of renouncing my American citizenship. And don´t anyone dare tell me that if I don´t like it, I don´t have to stay in the United States. Why should I leave my country just because I disagree with its policies? I want to see progress in the United States because I love the United States. Patriotism is not blind acceptance of every policy.

Anyway, as Cuba was forbidden fruit, I got very interested in that country, although after learning about tourism apartheid, maybe not so much anymore. I asked the girl who looked like she´d get along best with me if she was up for doing Cuba, and so we looked for pictures of truly Cuban things to put in our powerpoint. I found a picture of a very Cuban dessert - chocolate con churros. Churros would be like sticks of those things you find in chichi bakeries, I believe they´re called palmiers. You dip those in the hot cocoa, or I did anyway, in the Cafe Virrey. Virrey is Spanish for viceroy, FYI. It was fantastic.

I had a few hours until Julieta came home, so I decided to get a pedicure for 34 pesos, or about 12 USD. I can think of any number of things - getting a tattoo, a full facial waxing, threading even - that are less painful than what I endured then. The lady dug and dug into my cuticles, and my Spanish wasn´t good enough for me to shriek, ¨What in God´s name are you doing to my toenails, woman?!¨ I was doused in sweat until we got to the nail color part (crimson, to hide the blood). I then tipped her 2 pesos. Why am I such a masochist?

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Now anyone who knows me knows I´m a sucker for anything regional or seasonal, especially flora and fauna, seasonal produce and of course, drinks. I´d already tried the mate, although I can no more claim that than an American who´s only ordered chai lattes from Starbucks can claim he´s tried chai. Besides the yerba mate tea, a very Argentine drink is the Fernet-cola. Fernet is this liquor that´s really bitter. I´ve been antsy for it for a very long time. Well that night at the Van Gogh cafe, I finally ordered it. It came with an endless supply of complimentary peanuts, chips and what looked like farsaan (sp?). Our waitress poured a bit of the liquor in a Collins glass and gave me a longneck of Coca-Cola.

At college frat parties, kids always tilt their glasses to avoid getting too much head in the beer, but I heard that head with truly good beer is a good thing (not a word from you, you know who you are). Well I didn´t bother tilting my glass or pouring slowly. Growing up, the head was my favorite part of coke, and I always like my cup of coke foaming. I believe I threw a temper tantrum because I didn´t get to my cup in time before the fizz was gone. My glass spewed like some sort of cocktail volcano and I desperately tried to clean up the mess with the little napkins on the table. I call them napkins, but I ought to call them oil-absorbing sheets. Rather than paying a pretty penny for fancy oil-absorbing sheets in The Body Shop or even CVS or Target, I think I´ll just jack a bunch of those napkins and bring them back to America with me. I wanted to use them on my face, but the mattifying oil-free moisturizer I bought here, OMS brand, 20 pesos, was doing too good a job. Anyway, as I drank my Fernet-cola, I realized in a trice why it came with all that food.

I came home to Julieta and Susana watching Erin Brockovich, subtitled, not dubbed. None of the four-letter words Julia Roberts uses got properly translated. It´s a bit like watching a movie on Fox. Then I watched Finding Nemo dubbed in Spanish. There were much fewer commercial breaks. I must say, as far as the Disney channel goes, I like it way better here than in the States, where all you see is Hannah Montana and the Cheetah Girls and teeny bopper and jock go to the beach and sing and dance.

on tombs and machismo

One time just for shits and giggles, I checked out the Not for Tourists Guide to DC from the library. It´s part of a series of books that help people that have to spend lots of time in some place. I believe there are editions for Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, LA, Philly, San Fran and Seattle. NB, Amy: I highly recommend getting the NFT Guide to Seattle. I really wish there were one for international cities, and I wish one of them could be Buenos Aires, and I wish I´d have that one in my hands.

Our GMU group took the subte to the Recoleta artisans´fair. I had left with 76 pesos, and after buying a purse, a coin purse, earrings and a necklace, I was left with 23. Then I went to the front of the cemetery, where we were meeting at a certain time. I looked around, took a few photographs, and realized all we needed was a man pushing a cart screaming, ¨Kulfeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyeh!¨ and we´d recreate Thana. It´s just got to be Buenos Aires´sister city.

As this excursion was a GMU event, lunch was covered, so I naturally went for the most expensive items on the menu. We met Alejandro´s fiancee, Natalia, and we got to taling about flirting and boys and stuff, and I told them about my argentino friend who hit on me at my least attractive. I said, ¨I learned that the less you obsess about being found sexy, the sexier you´ll be found,¨in English, because I can´t say that in Spanish. Well, Natalia probably couldn´t translate that thought in Spanish into English, so Alejandro translated, and Natalia replied, ¨¡Claro!¨ (¨Obviously!¨)

We found Evita´s tomb, surrounded by tourists, of course. One boy in our group remarked that it´s a bit like the Arlington cemetery. The desecration via tourism is the same, at any rate. Arlington is nowhere near as grand as Recoleta though. Evita is buried with the rest of the Duarte family. Actually, Evita had a hard time getting the last name Duarte. Her mom´s name was Ibarguren, her dad´s name was Duarte, and Evita was an illegitimate child.

Evita´s destractors say she didn´t so much help the poor as hate the rich. I´m reminded of a South Park episode showing Bono walking through a village in Africa, gladhanding and going, ¨Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!¨I have that same impression of Angelina Jolie, actually. But as far as hating the rich goes, I kind of don´t blame Evita for that. She had the hardest time growing up just because she had the misfortune to be sired by a stupid manwhore. Stories like this give me a rush of affection for my own father and of gratitude for the relative lack of machismo in our household.

Oh, and I met a Brazilian woman and got to use some Portuguese I learned this past semester.
But getting back to machismo:

Machismo is when the sex shop doesn´t stock the I Rub My Duckie vibrator (looks like a rubber duckie and can function as one too), nor does it stock the Screaming Octopus (a little bullet sheathed in a silicone covering shaped like a mauve octopus) nor anything else that´s actually designed for women´s pleasure (You mean such a thing exists?!), but instead favoring handcuffs and videos with names like ¨Anal Violation Part Sixty-Nine¨ and other items that make me cross my legs and the knees and ankles. It really upsets me that so many men exist in this world that are turned on by this shit that it actually sells. And instead of a sweet, non-threatening lady running the shop, it was a lecherous-looking man. Brenda and I got the hell out of there. We were on a quest for the bank anyway. She was, at any rate.

We got directions from a man who asked if either of us spoke French (perhaps we gave ourselves away as non Hispanic), and I piped up, ¨Moi, je parle français!¨ He wasn´t a native speaker, he was Argentine but had studied in Paris in his youth, and he butchered French Argentine-style. Thing is, even when Argentine´s are butchering cultures, they sound classy. I daresay I had an easier time understanding him than I ever did trying to catch what was said in Le journal. And their most ridiculous of dances, like these few songs they played at the dance hall, even those, looked better than our own electric slide, macarena, what have you. The francophone Argentine man led us to the bank and it worked out just fine.

Friday, 4 July part 3

The plan was a salsa lesson followed by a tango lesson, followed by an 11:30 show. Turns out the show was at 1 a.m., Latin American time. Tango is exciting to learn, but it was the show I was most looking forward to. Were the 13 pesos I spent that didn´t end up in a tango show worth it? Well, during the tango lessons, I managed to partner with a German boy who looked like he belonged on the cover of one of those teeny bopper magazines that girls secretly masturbate to. He worked for the Chamber of Commerce, so he may well have been rich as one of those guys too. I could kick myself for not moving aside to one of the tables to talk some more with him. I´d have an excuse too, because for the life of me, I cannot talk and dance complicated dances like tango and salsa, much less in foreign tongues. So I suppose the 13 pesos were worth it.

The 7 I spent on a pot of what was ostensibly red tea, i.e., rooibos, but actually just plain old black tea, was not. Beware of false advertising, folks. And note to self: if it doesn´t say rooibos, assume it´s not.

Friday, 4 July part 2

I greeted Julieta´s sister and Susana´s daughter, Maria de la Paz, who spent some time in the United States and was absolutely enchanted by our country. She is very eager to learn English, and to celebrate American holidays. Perhaps I´ll send her turkey this November, although I don´t know how that will work out, as we don´t eat turkey. Pumpkin pie, maybe. Anyway, she told me she had a huge American flag displayed in her place. I´m reminded of a British exchange student with whom I´ve interacted once, back in September at an 80´s party, who spent this last academic year at UVA. We had a model UN trip to Montreal at the end of January, and at least once every hour, he´d exclaim, ¨America, fuck yeah!¨ Paz is classier than that, I think. And mellower. Like a true American, she´s not a fan of fruits or vegetables, but loves most other things. It´s always fun talking to her.

I got ready for the night´s tango lessons with the sexiest attire and make-up I had on hand and met the group on the subte. The subte has a flat entrance rate, and the light goes red once it´s read your card and accepted it. If it´s green, it means no entrance, you need to swipe. I wonder if likewise, fire alarm sounds like elevator music. I finally miss the United States. Well, no. I´ve been on the underground in Chicago, Montreal and New York City. It´s Washington, D.C. that I miss. It took me a few swipes of my card to realize that I was good to go, and with each swipe, a certain amount was deducted. It´s a flat fee paid upon entrance. This is rather inferior to the DC metro system, in my humble opinion. To those of you who´ve never ridden the metro in DC, you pay upon exiting, not entering, and your card is simply scanned when you enter, so the number of stops you ride on can get properly calculated. That way you can´t get overcharged, and you don´t have to pay the same going one stop over as going ten stops over. Also, it´s a closed gate, and when you swipe your card, the gate opens. And the DC metro is far cleaner. And I realize that it´s in decline right now, but even so, it´s the best I´ve seen so far. I just wish the elitist snobs in the Tyson´s Corner area would stop filibustering the process of expanding the orange line so it will reach out to us Reston and Herndonites. Imagine, instead of parking at Herndon Monroe Park and Ride to take a bus to get to the metro station, that place could be my metro stop. Not that I´m bitter.

One interaction I´m sorry I had left me reminiscing about fourth grade in St. Luke´s elementary. One girl in my class was beautiful and stylish and rich, so she had all sorts of beautiful and stylish things too. And the American Girls collection of books, dolls and everything else was very much in vogue. (To this day, I´m a big fan of the books, which touch on all sorts of issues, like staying fair-minded in times of war, sexism, racism, class-ism, the works, although the merchandise, which is extortionately priced, not so much.) Well all I ever did was try to be friends with this girl, but even at the tender age of nine, she had learned how to ooze elitism. Suffice it to say, as far as she was concerned, I was her social inferior.
She was the kind of girl who´d demand all five American Girl dolls (in 1995, there was only Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly, and the Josefina got added, then Kit, then Kaya, and most recently, Julie. Right now, Kit´s movie is in theatres in the US, and it´s all about coping with the Great Depression, and it will probably hit home, and I hope it´s still playing when I get back.). She was the kind of girl who´d get them all, but then treat Addy like crap. Addy is the girl who grows up during the Civil War. Meet Addy is about Addy´s family´s escape from slavery in her cruel master´s plantation, going north to freedom. Yeah, Addy´s black. I don´t think fourth-grade-beauty-queen actually read any of the books in the collection, or if she did, I don´t think any of the stuff they touched on got through to her.
But let´s get back to happy thoughts, shall we?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Friday, 4 July

I had a proper shower with nice body lotion and fresh clothes for the first time this week. Julieta left before me and left a few pieces of toast and orange marmalade. I didn´t have much time, so I wolfed down two of the three pieces. I was locked inside for a good minute before I figured out that I need the key to let myself out as well as in.

At least something in Argentina makes me miss something about the USA. The prospect of never getting out terrifies me infinitely worse than that of any break-in. This is why most people´s flats in India make me uneasy. And the latrines are a downright nightmare, not because of the stench or the uncomfortable positioning, but because of the latch on the outside that anyone can use to lock you in. I did that once to my cousin as a prank. I´m pretty sure the punishment given to me is a repressed memory. This is why locks in the US are no longer made like that, not after one abusive husband imprisoned his wife that way. To be fair, he also disconnected the phone lines.

And I´m now looking forward to dressing up to learn the tango tonight. Yay. We´re now current.

Friday, 3 July part 2

The elevators were just like lifts in flats in India. You pull doors open and shut yourself. I reunited with Susana and met one of her seven daughters (there are two sons and thirty-something grandkids between the nine kids), Maria la Paz, or Paz for short. I unpacked my suitcase and found a lot of stuff sopping wet, but at least it was all there. I finally met Julieta, and she´s every bit as nice as her mom. She also has a dog named Canela, for her cinnamon colored fur. She´s a guard dog. Her first action was to growl and bark at me. Terrified, I kept saying her name, which was what Susana had told me to do when I saw her. Susana then added that I need to say it lovingly, not panicked, so I tried to inject as much affection as I could into it. The dog was still hyper active, but her tail was wagging. What she really wants was hugs and whatnot. She sidled up to me like a drunken coed at a frat party, and I was the frat boy.

The four of us ate a dinner of gnocchi and soy milanesa together while Canela tried to get past Julieta to partake in it. Afterward, we broke out the Ghiradelli chocolate I´d brought with me in that suitcase.

I watched some TV with Julieta, mostly Argentine equivalents of American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, etc. Then we watched the last bit of Cinderella III. Back in America at one point this summer, Cinderella 3 was a Toon Disney Big Movie Show one evening, and my cousin Manali and I began to watch it over ice cream. Unfortunately, Mom came home and demanded to know why I was watching kid´s shows. I had bitten back the urge to answer that it was because she wouldn´t let me watch adult shows.

Fast forward to Thursday night. Cinderella III was dubbed in Spanish and her name was now Cenicienta. Part III has been updated from the original Cinderella to suit the feminist sensibilities of girls like me. Cinderella/Cenicienta kicked some ass and Anastasia, one of the two ugly stepsisters, was a sympathetic character. I understood the dialogue way better than La belle et la bete, or Harry Potter et le prisonnier dÁzkaban.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

The hotel gave us breakfast for two, not three. Fortunately, Sara is not much of a breakfast eater, and the front desk was ready to send up extra orange juice. My suitcase was due to arrive at the hotel, but I would doubtless be gone by then. ¨Queda tranquila¨ was a phrase I heard many times that day, meaning stay calm. I was dropped off at a nice apartment building where I met the mother of my host mom. She was a very affectionate old lady, and after seafeplacing the stuff I had been carrying around with much trepidation for the last three days (I don´t trust the hotel safe), Susana came with me to a placed called Cafe Van Gogh, and the ambiance was very hipster. Would that more such places existed where I live, and less expensive ones. I washed down half a veggie omelette soaking in cream sauce with a mate cocido and complimentary alfajorcitos, or mini alfajores, or shortbread cookies with dulce de leche. I had to bounce then, as I needed to be at UB for the grand tour, and I left after paying and having Susana agree to take home my leftovers.

My - i.e., Sara´s, pants swept the streets that I walked, and I was devoutly thankful for the absence of dog shit. UB is on a street named Zabala, and it´s something like Embassy Row in Dupont Circle. It´s right across from the Australian Embassy, and close to the Turkish one.

Alejandro, our Venezuelan guide of sorts, came with me via subte - short for subterraneano or something, meaning underground - back to the hotel. I was mildly amused by his admonition not to put my card through the slot but to touch it to the surface - I´ve been using a SmarTrip card for years. It turned out to be a moot point anyway, as the guards let everyone through the gates. Alejandro explained that this always happens during rush hour. I too would want to get that many tired, disgruntled yuppies out of my sight, wouldn´t you?

It was stuffy there, despite the chill outside. I got my suitcase into a taxi and rode back to my homestay for 8 pesos, and Alejandro saw me off.

Wednesday, 2 July, 2008, part 3

Back at the hotel, I signed up for a breakfast for three people (another girl, Sara, had arrived on the 2nd because her flight got massively delayed, and she was placed with Brenda and me) at 8 a.m. I slept in only underwear for another night, but the next morning, at least I´d have Sara´s velour sweatpants to replace my now filthy, probably laden with dog excrement, cargoes. I slept marginally better, surprisingly free of the digestive issues I invariably get after eating Mexican dinners in the States. My meal had been very spicy indeed (nothing a true Indian can´t handle), but it wasn´t refried or reeking of cheese. That was probably it.

Wednesday, 2 July, 2008, continued

The group then took a tour of the cemetery in Recoleta, searching desperately for Evita´s grave. We gave up the search due to the cold and the fact that we were scheduled to spend the whole day there in a few days time. We warmed up with warm, sweet peanuts from the street vendor. I believe it´s the only think, besides chestnuts, that you should buy on the street. Oh, that and kettle corn.

Our final destination was the Universidad de Belgrano (from here on out, UB), where we went over the rules.

1. Stay dry at GMU events.
2. Don´t be reason number 328 that the rest of the world hates the USA.

Dinner afterward was not a GMU event even though Profesora Julia came with a bunch of us to a new Mexican restaurant named Frida Kahlo, whose namesake graced every square inch of the place. And so I could finally have alcohol. I split a bottle of Argentine red wine with two other people, and the bottle cost around 30 pesos. The wine was fantastic. After paying my tab, it dawned on me that just because luxury in Argentina is inexpensive in relative terms, it doesn´t mean it´s inexpensive in absolute terms. I was already down upwards of 50 pesos, not including the 300 I spent at Give Me Many Kisses, and it hadn´t been two days.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


At noon yesterday, we left for Dulles airport. I checked in, exchanged some dollars for pesos for free with my ISIC (after sticking to my guns that the card entitles you to free currency exchange), kicking myself for not doing it last month when the dollar was relatively strong, went through security, the works.

I think I know now why the three-legged flight was the cheapest - the original itinerary was from Dulles to Raleigh by United, Raleigh to Miami by American and Miami to Buenos Aires by LAN Argentina. Well the Raleigh flight went to shit. After several delays, we got on, then got told it´s deboarding. I panicked, and went to the United counter to see what my options were, as there was not a snowball´s chance in hell that I could catch the Miami to Buenos Aires leg.

United told me it´s down to LAN. LAN Argentina was useless, they told me they can´t do a thing. Meanwhile, Mom called United and got me a flight for the night of the 1st, which was the best I could hope for. I then went for my bag, which never showed up, and then Mom called me once more to tell me she had gotten me reissued for a non-stop the night of the 30th, and now here I am. Until I got that last phone call, I was dejectedly standing in line, vowing to make myself a stiff drink when I got home, but at least things worked out. And the parents and brother came once more to the airport to see me off, and Mom broached the subject of appreciating one´s luck.

me: Yeah, every time God closes a door, he opens a window.
mom: In your case, He closed a window and opened a door.
me: It´s like losing a knut and finding a galleon!
bro: I´d rather lose a galleon than a nut.

Anyway, went through security once more and was assured that I needn´t worry about my checked in bag. I met with the about half my GMU group, lucky me. We boarded, the flight was all right except for a few delays and some turbulence. But it just wouldn´t end, I do believe it´s the longest flight I´ve ever sat through. I had a fitful night of uncomfortable sleep, and finally we landed. And I found out my bag is in Raleigh. Luckily, it should arrive tomorrow morning. All My pajamas were in my suitcase though, I guess I´ll sleep pantless tonight. Anyway, our group leader, Alejandro, is nice. He assured us we can address him as familiarly as we wish, as long as it´s not a bad word.

I felt like a proper Argentine, though I really shouldn´t, when I ordered a mate in the Ezeiza airport cafe. It was a bit like yuppies in the US trying to be authentically Indian, ordering the chai lattes in Starbucks. Even so.

It´s colder than I thought here, my hoodie was barely enough, but I was still amused by the site of Argentines all bundled up with hats and scarves and mittens. The hot cocoa I ordered at the airport immediatley following the mate, as I needed to keep warm, was interesting. They gave me this bar of chocolate and a cup of foaming plain milk. I was to stick the chocolate in the milk myself. It was tasty, and I talked to the barrista and this other lady working there in my broken, but relatively unaccented, Spanish. They don´t call it español, they call it castellano, and they pronounce that ¨casteshano¨.

The drive to the hotel reminded me irresistably of the streets of India. And that has a charm of its own, except I had repeatedly told the parents and other members of the Indian community here that Buenos Aires is comparable to any European or North American wealthy city. Oops. I took a few pictures of things, and I´ll post them once I´m home.
So now, I wait for my bag. This is still nothing compared to Neha´s experiences in India.
Adios, mundo.