Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Things Argentines Like: PDA

As I've written about before, Argentines loooove them some PDA. Its very common to see a couple making out on the street, or even in a restaurant (that one was pretty shocking for me- sitting down at a restaurant and seeing the couple at the table next to you just goin at it).
Its not just public DISPLAYS of affection that they love, they also love public DECLARATIONS of affection. Take the sign pictured below, it was hanging in front of the university building by my house. It reads "Xavier- I fell in love the moment I saw you". This one is a bit unusual because its from a girl to a guy, but nonetheless - can you imagine seeing something like this in the US? It seems like Argentines are much more free and open with their feelings. I'm not saying we should go around hanging signs everywhere to let the whole world know that we love our significant other, but maybe we could learn a thing or two from this? Who doesn't like to hear that someone loves them?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

my gym's pool

Yesterday I tried to go swimming at my gym for the first time. Its summer here in Buenos Aires which means that its about 90 degrees and humid every day. What that really means is that its WAY too hot for my Upstate-NY ass to go running. I decided that the pool would be a much more comfortable work-out option. Little did I know how much would be involved...
As everything here seems to be unnecessarily complicated I had the sneaking suspicion that there might be some hoops to jump through here as well. Two days ago I asked the girls at the front desk if I had to do anything special to use the pool. "No just go in", they replied.
So yesterday I got into my bikini and headed over. I went upstairs to the womens locker-room and looked (unsuccessfully) for the pool entrance. I asked the attendant there.

A: Do you have a card?
Me: What card?
A: Your pool card. You have to go back downstairs to reception and get a card and then get checked by the doctor.

So, I went back downstairs, got a card, and then went back upstairs to the attendant. "Ok, I'll bring you to the doctor now", she said. This is where things got really strange. He checked if my feet and hands were webbed. (Is it good or bad that I don't have webbed feet? Wouldn't I swim better if I did?) Then he checked my armpits. I still have no idea what that was for. I guess I passed because he signed my card and sent me back to the attendant who finally showed me the way to the pool.
I got down to the pool and handed my card to the lifeguard.

L: And where's your swim cap?
Me: What? I don't have one.
L: No swimming allowed without a cap.
Me: You've got to be kidding me.
L: Go back to the locker-room and see if the attendant has one she can lend you.

So, back up to the locker-room I went. When I got there the attendant said, "Oh you don't have one? I figured you did." I wanted to shout at her "Lady, I'm standing here in a freakin bikini at the gym's pool. I don't even have a real swimsuit and you assume I've got a swim cap?!?!?!?"
Anyways, she handed me a swim cap and some goggles and I went back down to the pool. I handed my pool card to the lifeguard for a second time.

L: And you can swim?
Me: Yes.
L: Ok, hop on in. If you share a lane stay to your side.

What????? After all that you don't want to see if I can actually swim??? How much sense does that make??

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My second expat Thanksgiving

As I've spoken about before, one of the hard parts about being an expat is of course, feeling homesick around the holidays. I think the funny part was that this year, for thanksgiving, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. Unfortunately, we didnt get to have thanksgiving on Thursday because everyone worked (I spent half the day watching thanksgiving sitcom episodes with my students). However, we did have 2 awesome thanksgiving dinners, on Saturday and Sunday. One of the tricky things about thanksgiving as an expat is that they dont celebrate it in other countries so its not easy to find things like say.... turkey. We had to pre-order turkeys a week in advance. As we are all 20-somethings who are busy and scatterbrained, planning a week in advance does not come easily.
Saturday Thanksgiving was awesome--- shout out to my friend hannah who cooked the most amazing turkey i have ever eaten in my life. There were about 15 of us at this dinner and I think that Hannah and I were the only Americans so it was really fun to share this tradition with people from other countries. I made potentially the most sinful gouda mac and cheese known to man (an easy 2000 calories per portion) but it was awesome.
Sunday was really nice because while there were definitely some thankgiving first-timers, there was also a group of us long-term US expats. In a life that is often very transient, I felt really happy to be able to share thanksgiving with these friends for the second year in a row. The food was amazing again, and we made blueberry sauce that was unbelievably good!! (Cranberries don't exist here, but I discovered that blueberry sauce on turkey is actually really really good.)
Hope you all had a thankgiving that was as good as mine! I know I definitely had a lot to be thankful for...
Pictures to come soon!

things i would tweet 2

So today I saw a man in the most awesome pair of cutoffs. It made me a little homesick.

Monday, November 15, 2010

mood regulation...

One of the absolute hardest things about being an expat is learning to regulate your own moods. As a woman especially, we are often dependent on our support system to aid us in mood regulation. At home, if something crappy happens in your day, you call a girlfriend, bitch about it, she tells you it will be ok, and you move on. Crisis overted. As an expat, and especially an expat living in a country where cell phone calls are prohibitively expensive, thats just not an option. Its funny because I often feel like a baby, ferberizing myself. Just as babies have to learn to calm themselves down when something happens, or when their parents leave the room, we as expats, also have to learn to calm ourselves down all on our own when something bad happens.
The other day a friend of mine had a very unfortunate and disgusting run in with some perv on the subway (she had to go fill out police reports and everything). She commented that it wouldn't have been so bad if she were at home; she could have called her mom to come down to the police station and fill out the report with her, but having to do it alone just made the entire event hit her harder.
Thankfully, nothing quite so horrifying has happened to me, but I too have my bad days. My business is kind of always in flux. I get new students all the time. I also have students drop me (yet thankfully not ALL the time). Today I got dropped by a student, and while its not at all a dire situation, it just kind of sucks. Being dropped by a student sucks because you often become quite close to your students (as you spend several hours a week talking). Its kind of like getting dumped, except it has financial implications instead of romantic ones. The first thing you always do after getting dropped by a student is calculate what percentage of your income you just lost. The next thing you do is think of who can console you, tell you it will be ok. Can you go home and call them?? Is it worth the insanely expensive cell call? If you decide that you cant go home and you cant make a cell call, you then go through the process of trying to calm yourself down. Repeating in your own head "its ok... its only money.... you picked up a new student last week... it all evens out..."
The flip side of all of this is that when you have a really good day, or a high, its like extra extra high. you feel like "that was awesome!!! and i did it all on my own!!!!" I guess its just like I've been telling myself - it all evens out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

things i would tweet

So I decided to start a new section of mini-blog posts called "Things I would tweet... if I had twitter". I don't feel like I should actually get a twitter account because I would tweet maybe once a week at most, but the mini-blog posts will work just fine.
here goes...

So today, I saw this long line of really overweight people. I was confused because on the whole Argentines are thin, and you almost never see people who are severely overweight. The whole scene seemed really strange to me. Later I found out it was a casting call for a reality TV show on losing weight - like an Argentine version of "The Biggest Looser". oooohhhhhhh.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween madness!!!

AHHHHHHH!!!! Happy belated halloween everyone! So, I had a wonderful halloween (but more about that in another post). This is actually a follow-up post to one I wrote a month or so ago. I was recently informed that Paula Deen dressed up as butter for halloween a few years ago. A quick google search revealed that this was true! Check out this picture!!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Re-creating Roma

I think most of us (by us I mean those poor, sad souls who are completely obsessed with food) have a meal in their head that was the best they ever ate. Mine was spinach gnocchi in gorgonzola cream sauce. I ate it in Rome, about 3 years ago, and have dreamed about it since. The gnocchi, so perfect and light. The gorgonzola cream sauce, so tasty and creamy. This meal was haunting my dreams--- I had to have it again.
So, Tuesday, after a particularly difficult day, I came home and decided that THAT was what I was going to eat for dinner. Lucky for me, I happened to have a professional chef coming to dinner, who helped make my dream a reality. We substituted Roquefort cheese for gorgonzola (because Roquefort is randomly a staple of Argentine cooking, and thus much much cheaper than gorgonzola).
Let me tell you, it came out AMAZING (picture above). it was soooooooooooooooo good!!! It was definitely rich, and not at all heart healthy, but 100% worth the calories. A bit of red wine made the meal perfect. Right now I have a bit of uncooked gnocchi dough left in my fridge and i feel like its screaming out to me "eat meeeeee!!!". We'll see how long I last...

Things Americans Like

So a few weeks ago, I returned back home for a brief visit. I've been living abroad for about a year and a half now, so I'm a little out of the US cultural loop. It was strange to return back home, yet to see things with the eyes of a tourist. So, here are a few of my cultural observations...
Things Americans Like:
1. Having an insane number of options. My first trip to the supermarket was a shocking experience. Granted, they haven't changed much, I had just forgotten. Anyways, this supermarket had a whole ketchup SECTION. like different brands of ketchup and all different sizes, etc. There were easily 300 bottles of ketchup there. I was amazed at how much ketchup there was! I was thinking "what, are they afraid there's gonna be a sudden run on ketchup???" My local supermarket has about 10 bottles of ketchup.
2. smartphones. it seems that EVERYONE has them in the US. Do we really need to have access to our email at all times??? Or is this just a sign of our collective impatience?
3. Highways. maybe its just because I live in a city and its been a long time since I've been on a highway but it just seemed like there were a lot of them.
4. apartment complexes. this one i'm sure isn't just me. there are definitely more apartment complexes than there were before. not that they're not nice, it's just that there are definitely more of them.
5. the jersey shore. people seem to LOVE it or love talking about how much they hate it. This one is not just the US though. The Jersey Shore is also on the air here, and they play commercials telling people to "JerseyShorearte" or "Jersey Shore yourself".
6. doggie bags. This one I think we actually have right. Restaurants serve horrifically huge portions, but at least we have the option of a doggie bag. this doesnt exist in other countries (and definitely should-- otherwise they're just going to throw that food out!!!)

All in all, it was a great trip and I was so happy to see everyone!

Monday, October 4, 2010

coming to (North) America!

After a 7 month absence, I'll be taking a brief trip to NY!
Here are the deets:
Binghamton/Ithaca from October 10-15 or 16 am.
NYC: October 16-17.
If you're around send me a text (or call--- do people still do that in the States? We don't here because cell phone calls are super expensive). I'd love to see you all!!!!!

Foods that I want to eat (keep in mind that I earn my salary in pesos so feel free to treat me):
1. Leroys (I mean any good West-side kid HAS to crave that). Also I'd like some good New York-style pizza.
2. Bagels (any good Jew has to crave that)
3. China Lake (ditto to the Jew thing)
4. Mac and cheese
5. Delgados/ any good Mexican food
6. good diner breakfast. I'm talkin pancakes, french toast, bacon, etc. MAPLE SYRUP.
7. chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream
8. Indian food!!!! I would do just about anything for a samosa and some saag paneer.
9. Shawarma
10. Wings and/or ribs. also corn bread. ok, I want dinosaur bbq. b alt this one is aimed at you.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

ohhhh paula

So the other day I was indulging my food porn addiction and looking at one of my favorite sites for everything heart-attack inducing, www.thisiswhyyourefat.com. That was where I came upon this little gem: Paula Deen's deep-fried butter balls. Its literally little balls of butter that are frozen, and then battered and fried. You can see the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/paulas-fried-butter-balls-recipe/index.html
My friend Kevin has this theory that Paula Deen secretly (slash not so secretly) works for a butter conglomerate. I'm becoming more and more convinced that he's right. I mean I love that Paula takes liberties with those trans-fats. I also love how on those travel episodes, where she goes to places like France or Italy, she gets plastered on the local wine and then attempts to sloppily make out with the men who work in the markets as her big-bearded husband awkwardly looks on. I also loved that time where she randomly had Jimmy Carter on the show and called him Mista Jimmy every three seconds and flirted with him so much that he became visibly uncomfortable. Classic Paula.
But really Paula... deep-fried butter balls? I don't know if you've heard but America is suffering from an obesity epidemic. You just took your show from bubbly Southern to semi-homicidal. Shame, shame Paula. Shame, shame.

Crabby on the Collectivo

So I’ve been feeling inspired by Julia’s “Sassy on the SEPTA” series (check it out here: phillyinsideout.blogspot.com --- its awesome), and thought I should throw in a little bit of my own adventures in public transportation. I’m calling it “Crabby on the collectivo” (collectivo is the word we use here for “public bus”).

Anyways, as previously mentioned, spring has finally arrived in Buenos Aires. People here kind of make a big deal about the first day of spring- everyone buys flowers, people wish you a happy spring, etc. It’s actually quite nice. So there I was, heading home from work, on the first day of spring. I was in a good mood because it was gorgeous out, and it just kind of seemed like the whole city was in a good mood. Except… this one woman on the collectivo. Apparently, another woman accidentally pushed her in an attempt to get out the door before the driver drove away from her stop. The first woman (the crabby one) was holding a huge bouquet of gorgeous flowers. Anyways, she proceeded to rip this complete stranger a new asshole. It was brutal, and oddly hilarious. I think it was the probably the first time I’d seen someone holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers verbally abuse a complete stranger. The contrast between the beauty of the flowers and the hideousness of this woman's attitude was great…

new beginnings...

So after a grueling winter that lasted almost a full 8 weeks (can you sense my sarcasm???)... spring is finally here! And with spring, comes new changes (and apparently a cliché blog post about how spring symbolizes a new beginning).
Well, to begin with, I have finally quit the rest of my institute classes and started my own business! I mean obviously its not a legal business as I'm not even in this country legally, but nevertheless I am finally my own boss. Its great because I get to work less and make more (win-win, right?). Well, theoretically. Now, if I want to spend my Tuesday mornings sitting in the park reading a book, I can do it. Well, theoretically. The thing about being your own boss is that your salary depends on... YOU. Last week I got offered a ton of editing jobs on the side, and as I'm still new to this whole being my own boss thing, I accepted everything. I ended up working like a crazy person all week, and spending the better part of Sunday working as well. So, I don't exactly have that whole working less part down pat yet, but I'm hoping I'll get there.
Sunday night I had another first--- I went to my first movie in Argentina! I know, its a bit hard to believe --- I've been living here for a year and almost 4 months now. Well, this is basically what happened; movies here are kinda pricey, and also really easy to download and watch for free online. Also, I wasn't making so much money before, so going to a movie meant that I was foregoing a night out with my friends (something that I was obviously not willing to do).
So the movie.... Hugo was super-boyfriend and indulged my "food porn" addiction by agreeing to go with me to see "Eat Pray Love". I loved it. Well, actually it was one of those movies where you don't really need to hear what they are saying, you just want to see the pretty places and amazing looking food. Later that night we were talking about all the food in the movie and I said, "You know that scene in Italy, where they place that BEAUTIFUL plate of pasta pomodoro in front of her with the fresh basil leaf as garnish? All I could think, the entire time she was shoveling it into her jabber, was how much better it would be if she cut up that fresh basil and ate that with it!" I know, I think I have some sort of sickness...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

politics and the internet

So my internet here is terrible --- I mean REALLY terrible. It cuts out all the time and we constantly have to unplug it and restart it. By constantly I mean several times a day. Its annoying. In the past month it has gotten even worse - sometimes when it cuts out it signal isnt restored for a few hours. One day I was sitting at lunch, eating my empanadas, reading the paper (super argentine of me, right??) and found this whole long article about how the government is trying to outlaw my internet provider and how within the next few months its likely that everyone who has my internet provider will have to switch companies. The article didn't really explain WHY this was all being done.
Then, a few days later, I was complaining about my internet to a friend and he told me that the company that owns my internet company has been speaking out quite a bit against the government, and therefore the government has been trying to sabotage my internet company by cutting their signal all the time (and then also that little thing about trying to outlaw the company). WTF???? How crazy is this? Not cool Cristina... not cool.

(PS Cristina is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentina).

I'm losing my ability to speak English

It's true. I'm definitely losing my ability to speak English. The other day I was talking to an American friend and I asked him to "pass me the direction" of a place where we were going to meet up. What I meant was "send me the address", which in Spanish is "pasame la dirección". Not good, not good. I have frequently made the mistake of saying "For me" when I mean to say "I think" or "In my opinion". In Spanish, they say "Para mi" (literally - "for me") to give an opinion. Yet again, not good.
I think part of the problem is that, aside from my job, I don't often speak in English here. This is a double-edged sword --- on one hand I love that my Spanish is improving a ton. On the other, it's a little alarming that an English teacher is starting to speak in Spanglish. In my job, I speak English with non-native speakers of English-- they make a lot of mistakes. However, I've been teaching many of my students for so long that I always understand what they mean to say, and even worse, I've begun to internalize some of their most common errors. For me, this is not a good sign...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Birthday madness

Birthdays (and holidays for that matter) are tricky as an expat. On one hand, I have wonderful friends here who have become my Argentine pseudo-family. We are all expats so we work really hard to make holidays special for each other. On the other hand, the meaningful part of any holiday are the traditions you have, and it is often just simply impossible to re-create those traditions away from home. Though we have been lucky enough to find great friends to celebrate birthdays and holidays with, sometimes its just not the same as doing what you do every year, surrounded by the people who have known you the longest. This year, I faced my birthday with mixed emotions. I love birthdays (especially my own hahaha), but was a bit depressed about not getting to spend it with my family and life-long friends.

So a few weeks ago it was Hugo's birthday, and he was also feeling kinda down in the dumps about it. I wanted to do something really special for him, so I, being a nut job, decided that I would throw him a surprise party. I think I kind of wanted to prove to him that although he wasn't back home with his family, there are lots of people here who love him too. The funny thing is, in the end, I think I actually proved it to myself. The party turned out to be a much bigger undertaking than I ever assumed it would be (making a full Colombian lunch for over 30 people!) and I soon realized I was in over my head. What was really touching though was how much everyone was willing to help. Throughout the week before the party I was beyond stressed out (at that point I was still working like a 50 hour work week) but I received countless messages from friends offering to help in any way they could. We had friends who made birthday cakes, friends who dealt with distracting Hugo on that day and getting him to the party on time, etc. Hugo's aunt was AMAZING and helped out a ton with the food. In the end the party was a success--- Hugo was surprised (despite me being a dumb ass and repeatedly sending him text messages about he party that were intended for other people). Anyways, we ate really well, danced, drank, and had a great time. Only one thing was missing....

Monday, August 23, 2010

argentine medicine

One thing that's interesting about living in a different country is that you get to see how different medical systems work. For example, as I've told some of you already, here, the pharmacist has a much more active role in your care. A far greater quantity of drugs are available over the counter here so anytime I feel sick, I just go to the pharmacist, tell him my symptoms, and he (or she) gives me the medication.
This Saturday, my boyfriend had to get his wisdom teeth pulled. The dentist instructed him to go to the pharmacy an hour before surgery to get some medication. What was surprising was when we arrived at the pharmacy it turned out that said medication was in the form of a shot, and was to be delivered by the pharmacist (they had a special room in the back for shots). So, Hugo disappears with the pharmacist into the little room. As he's having oral surgery, I'm assuming its a shot of Novocaine that is going in his gums. About a minute later, the pharmacist opens the door and walks out. Hugo is standing there, half bent over the table, with a pained look on his face, clutching one ass cheek. He limps out into the pharmacy. "What happened??", I ask, desperately trying not to laugh. "They gave me the shot in the butt", he whimpers. At this point I completely lose it and start laughing uncontrollably (I know, I'm a terrible girlfriend). I was just so surprised! I thought that only happened in the movies... do we still give people shots in the butt???

the time my entire bathroom fell apart

So, about 10 days ago, we had Alberto, a general fix-it guy, in to do a few things around the house--- fix some blinds, hang some shelves, etc. First, he fixes the blinds. We now have working blinds that go all the way up and all the way down. Great success. Then, he moves on to the shelves. This is where everything starts to go to s**t. Before I can explain exactly what went wrong with the shelves, theres one thing you have to know about toilets in Argentina. They aren't like toilets in the states -- here, the tank is built in to the wall. Agostina's room (where the shelves were to be hung) shares a wall with the bathroom. Now, I may not be a licensed plumber, but even I would hazard a guess that it may not be best to hang the shelves directly behind the toilet. Alberto, apparently did not share this same assumption. He drilled away (drill, baby drill???) until....wait for it...... toilet water started gushing out into Agostina's room! Alberto goes "oh shit" and sticks his finger over the stream of water in an effort to plug the leak. As he soon realized that he was literally up shit creek without a paddle (and Agostina was starting to get REALLY pissed off), he told her to turn off all the water in the apartment while he called a plumber.
Cut to 30 minutes later. Plumber friend arrives. Looks at wall. "Yes, this is bad. There is a whole in your wall and toilet water is going to flow out of it every time you flush. That is not ideal." Plumber friend inspected in the toilet, in the wall, etc. and said "Well, you need a new '________' (insert name of part that I don't remember). But the issue is that I can't get it for you or install it until Wednesday. So, I'm gonna put a temporary patch there now, but I have to leave the toilet top open, so you'll have to reach in and pull up the stick to flush until Wednesday ". As this was a Saturday morning, I was not so pleased with the promise of a Wednesday solution. "Ummmm why not today?", I asked. "Well, its that its after 12, so the store is closed now, it wont be open tomorrow or Monday (Monday was a holiday), and Tuesday I'm busy. No worries, Wednesday I'll come."
Can you imagine what someone would say in the States if their plumber told them they were going to have to live with a broken toilet (that possibly could gush water into a room of their house) for 4 days?? No doubt, they'd flip out. Here theres nothing to do but sigh and say ok.
Later that evening, I got another nice little treat, when, after coming home from a run and hopping in the shower, I found that we had no hot water. No matter what I did, I could not get hot water to run in the shower. Sweet, I thought, we get to flush by sticking our hands in the wall cavity and pulling up a little stick, and now we have no hot water... in the middle of winter. Alberto you are a GEM. The next afternoon, things reached a new level of disgusting. I had been trying to flush the toilet, had reached into the wall cavity, lifted up the little stick and flushed. Then I was trying to push it back down into its hole so that water stopped running into the toilet. I was not successful. The stick floated on some water and then fell over sideways into the vast wall cavity. OHHHHH SHITTTTTT I screamed. I quickly rushed to shut off the water and then screamed for my boyfriend to come help me. The two of us stood on chairs in the bathroom, shoving a mangled coat hanger into the wall cavity, unsuccessfully trying to locate that stupid little stick. Eventually, I had to roll my sleeve up to my shoulder, and stick my entire arm in there and feel around. ECH. I managed to locate the stick and put it back in its proper place, and later that night Hugo fixed the hot water, but the toilet situation remains unresolved. Anyone know a good Argentine plumber?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

such cultchahhhhh

So lately I've been trying to take more advantage of all the cultural opportunities available to me here in BA. I was starting to feel pretty lame for living in a city with so much culture, yet spending most of my time working, watching TV (have you guys been seeing the new episodes of Mad Men??), eating disgusting amounts of food, or hanging out with friends. These activities, while all wonderful in their own right, can be done anywhere. Right now, as I have the good fortune to live in a big city with lots of activities available to me, I figured I should get my act together and start getting some cultchah. Here in Buenos Aires there's a vibrant theater scene (Avenida Corrientes is kinda like the Broadway of South America), museums, galleries, a million restaurants (most of which I cant afford), and of course lots of clubs.
Last Wednesday I went with a group of friends to see this show called Fuerza Bruta. It was AMAZING. Seriously, you should all go on youtube and search Fuerza Bruta, there are some videos up. I think the best way to describe it is like Cirque du Soliel but even more cracked out and with lots of audience participation. The entire time I was watching the show I just kept thinking, "soooo this is what taking acid is like". They do crazy visual stunts, like the performers walking on the walls. They come in to the crowd and dance with you and break these boards filled with confetti over your heads. My favorite part was when the performers were in this pool that was lowered down above the crowd. They slid across the pool (kinda like a slip and slide) and walked on water, etc (picture above). The show tours all around the world so make sure you go see it if it ever comes to your city. Its seriously one of the coolest things I've ever seen.
Last night, continuing our cultural tour, we went out dancing at this club (I'm gonna do a post on this later). It actually turned out to be this reggae concert, which was fun even though the performers were not that good. Well, either way, I'm counting it as culture. Tomorrow is a holiday (we have an insane number of holidays here), so instead of my usual Monday night classes I'm going to La Bomba de Tiempo, this huge drumming concert that takes place every Monday in a former warehouse. August is Tango Month (or so say the posters all over town featuring a woman who looks shockingly like RuPaul), so I think I'll also try to go to some of the free tango shows downtown. Maybe I'll go see a show in the theater? Maybe I'll sit on my couch and watch 16 and Pregnant like I usually do? Who knows? The possibilities are endless...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

wow! Your accent is wonderful!

So I think I've mentioned before that many stores, food products, etc here have English names. However, when Argentines say these names, they pronounce them with an Argentine accent. For example, Burger King is "bowr-gouhr keeeng", and Nike is said more like bike (we pronounce it like "niy-key"). Anyways, its really hard for me to pronounce these English words with a Spanish accent. It just gets way to confusing. If someone asks me where something is, and its next to the Burger King, I just say "está al lado del Burger King"; I really can't bring myself to say "está al lado del bowr-gouhr keeeng". Its just too much.
As part of my job, I often create worksheets for my students that I then need to print out. As these worksheets have to do with English grammar or vocabulary, I always give them names in English (really fascinating ones, like "Non-defining Relative Clause Review"). So, I save the aforementioned worksheets on my pen drive, and head down to the corner store to print them out. About a week ago, I went to the kiosko to print. I handed the lady my pen drive, and asked (in Spanish, of course) to print out some documents. She plugged in my pen drive and, noticing that there were several items on the pen drive, asked me for the name of the document. "Non-defining Relative Clause Review", I replied (in my normal Upstate NY accent). She stopped, stared at me for a second, and then goes "wow, your accent is wonderful!". I chuckled and responded "well thanks, I've been practicing".

PS Here's a picture of one of my new favorite terrible English names: an ice cream store called "Wimpy".

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Roomie

In other news, I have a new roommate! The day after we got back to Buenos Aires, Pame (my old roommate) moved to the US where she will be working as an Au Pair for a year. I moved in to Pame's old room and am sooooo excited to have a real bed again! We live by the train, and sometimes when it would pass by, Hugo would jump in his sleep, and due to the incredibly close quarters, punch me in the face. Let me tell you, waking up to a screeching train and a punch in the face is not the most pleasant way to get up in the morning, so the extra space is much appreciated.

Anyways, Agostina, my new roommate, is impossibly sweet. She came and re-painted the entire apartment before she moved in! She's also been buying a lot of little things to give the house a more homey feel. It was funny having Agostina move in because she came with a moving truck! Any moves I've ever made in my adult life (and there have been over a dozen) have either involved me shoving everything I could into my car and driving it up to Ithaca, or me shoving everything I could into the two suitcases I was allowed to bring on an international flight. It was kind of shocking to see how much stuff she has! Most of my friends are also in the "everything I own must fit into two suitcases" club, so we simply don't hold on to things that long. When I finish a book, I give it away to someone else, or trade it with them for a new one. Anything I buy, I always think, "Am I going to be able to fit this in my suitcases?"

I know, its been too long...

So for about the past month or so, as I've been sitting (well, more like standing in a complete cluster f*** of people) on the subway, or walking in between classes, I'd come up with little pieces of information and try to remind myself to put them in my next blog post. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and the aforementioned post just didn't materialize. The past month has been quite the little flurry of excitement.
First, we had guests!!!! Hugo's sister came to visit for 5 weeks, and one of my very best friends, Ben, also managed to come down for 8 days. It was soooooo great to have someone from home come visit me. It was especially great to have Ben here as his love for meat products meshes perfectly with Argentine culture. While I spend a lot of time writing about my life here, or talking with people on skype, its hard to really understand what my life is like until you're here. (Was that a solid enough pitch for you all to come visit???) Anyways, when Ben got here, we basically did a meat-centered tour of Buenos Aires for the first few days. Then, the four of us (Ben, Hugo, Claudia, and I) went on a short trip to the waterfalls at Puerto Iguazu, and had an absolutely AMAZING time. Going into this trip, both Hugo and I were a little worried about the blending of our markedly different families. The biggest concern of all was that Ben does not speak any Spanish, and Claudia does not speak any English. Amazingly though, the two managed to communicate using hand signs (and of course Hugo and I as translators), and we all bonded over a shared love of excessive drinking and eating.
Iguazu is potentially the most beautiful place I have ever been. The waterfalls are enormous and completely breathtaking. I think the best way to describe them is kind of like Niagra, but bigger, and with a lush Brazilian jungle behind them. On the second day there was a huge rainbow over the falls! We all left Iguazu saying "Wow, that is one of the most stunning places I have ever been". I would seriously recommend it to anyone (though I'd say don't go in Dec-Feb as summer there is over 100º every day).
Before he left, Ben, who is not usually one for words, shared some interesting insights with me. He said that after spending about a week non-stop with Hugo and Claudia, he felt pretty close to them, yet at the same time, oddly aware of the fact that he may never see them again. I think that's something that us expats deal with all the time. In this lifestyle, friendships tend to become intense quite quickly as we lack our traditional support networks. However, these friends almost invariably move away at some point, and while you tell each other that you'll visit in your respective countries, you are left wondering if you ever really will.

Monday, July 5, 2010

An Expat 4th of July

One of the funny things about celebrating US holidays like Thanksgiving or The 4th of July as an expat is that we go all out and get EXTRA American to make up for the fact that we are not actually in the US with our friends and family. In the days coming up to the holiday, we become overly friendly. Any American that we meet, be it on the street or at a bar is instantly given the invite "Hey! Come to my (insert American holiday here) party!"
This 4th of July was no different. We had a huge party at my friend Fanie's house, complete with everything American we could find. We bought Budweiser beer, grilled disgusting amounts of meat, ate macaroni salad and potato salad, apple pie, and even found some Cheetos (though they weren't real cheetos and the quality was suspect). We played lots of American songs, like Born in the USA, America the Beautiful, and the National Anthem. It was impressive to see how many people from other countries know the words to the American National Anthem. We set up a beer-pong tournament (we recently taught our Colombian friends beer pong and they've been really into it). For the extra-special grand finale, we set off some fireworks at the end of the night!!!
As I stood on the terrace of Fanie's house, watching the fireworks come down, I thought about how bizarre my life is. Here I was, standing on a roof in Buenos Aires, in a mixed crowd of American, British, French, German, Italian, Argentine, and mostly Colombian kids, celebrating the 4th of July, watching some smuggled Paraguayan fireworks go off as America the Beautiful played in the background. It was a surreal moment, that was quickly broken when I got hit in the leg by some falling firework shrapnel. Guess those Paraguayan fire works are not top quality either. All in all, it was a great party and probably most typically (well, stereotypically) American 4th of July I've had in many years.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The End of Freshman Year

One year ago today, I arrived in Buenos Aires for the first time. I remember how the cab driver gave me his own personal city tour as he drove me to the house where I would live for my first month here. I remember sitting in the car and thinking "now I'm struggling to remember all these names, but soon these places will all be familiar to me"... and now they are. This anniversary has gotten me thinking a lot about the concept of "home". Where is MY home? Is "home" the place where you're from, or the place where you live? How long do you have to live in a place before it becomes your "home" and your old home becomes the place you used to live?

They say that after college is when your "real, grown up" life begins. With the exception of the 3 weeks immediately proceeding my college graduation where I went to the beach with my high school friends and spent my time tanning and binge drinking (not super grown-up activities) I have lived my entire "real life" here, as a foreigner in a country that is not my own. This is the place where I have "grown up" and first done all of those things that grown-ups do; work a full-time job (not just for the summer), pay rent, bitch about the state of the economy. Its been wonderful! Don't get me wrong, I love my life here, and wouldn't trade it for anything. But, like many expats, I feel like I have the Clash song "Should I Stay or Should I Go" on constant repeat in my head.

This weekend has been kind of an intense weekend to complete one year here. Friday night we had a "despedida" or goodbye party, for one of my friends who I've known almost the entire time I've been here. It really got me thinking about a lot of the issues involved in "growing up expat". To start with, most of my relationships with my friends, not to mention my relationship with my boyfriend take place in a language that is not my mother tongue. I keep in touch with my friends and family "back home" via Skype. I try to be responsible and save money, but then I can't put it in a bank account because I'm illegal here. I've made amazing friends here, but they're pretty much all expats themselves (from different countries around the world), and most of them will eventually leave. On one hand, it can be hard being a more "permanent foreigner", but on the other hand, I wonder if I, myself, could really leave. Could I learn to be a grown-up somewhere else, in some other way? I was initially only planning on staying in BA for one year -- a number which has now doubled, and even that seems too short to me. At the despedida, I had a long conversation with one of my friends who is also in a mixed-nationality expat couple. It was interesting because I discovered that they consider the same problems we do. If they move, where do they go? His country? Hers? A completely new place? Should they trade off a few years here, a few there? What's fair?

While this anniversary brought up a lot of questions that I don't yet have answers to, I do know one thing for sure -- I LOVE my life here. Even after my honeymoon period with Argentina has worn off, I still think to myself "I'm so lucky to live here" at least a few times a week. I can't imagine living my "real life" anywhere else... for now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This is why I'm fat...

So this post is less related to me being a foreigner and more related to me being me. Those of you who know me really really well know that I am a complete food-porn addict. By food-porn I mean I LOVE sites dedicated to everything completely decadent about food. One of my favorite sites (which sadly has recently been shut down by its administrator) was www.ThisIsWhyYoureFat.com. This site was amazing. It had lots of pictures of crazy fattening food, most of which was either wrapped in bacon or dipped in chocolate. Sometimes both. When I would show this site to my girlfriends they'd reply with gasps of "Oh my god! thats disgusting!" I'd reply with a fake "yea, sooooo gross", the entire time thinking "holy crap I MUST eat that!".
Anyways, several months ago my boyfriend, Hugo, cooked "Bandeja Paisa", a traditional Colombian dish, for a group of us. It was AWESOME (you can see a photo of it above). Not only were the flavor profiles in this dish amazing, it also had one special thing that really put it over the top: a fried chorizo sausage. Yes, you read that correctly. This dish requires that you take a sausage (already a disgustingly fatty food) and FRY it. As you can imagine, once I got a taste of this puppy I was hooked --- I've been craving this dish ever since.
Last Sunday my willpower was particularly low, and I decided that I MUST have more bandeja paisa. So we went to the store to buy ingredients, and then I started cooking away. Again, those of you who know me really really well also know that I am prone to injury in ANY situation. So of course, in the process of frying my chorizo sausages, I ended up with some nasty oil burns. Now every time I look down at my hand and see my oil-splatter-shaped burn, I think the Universe is mocking me, saying "Rach - you took a sausage and fried it - you deserve this burn as a permanent reminder that this is why you're fat".

World Cup Fever

So I actually started writing this post yesterday while watching the World Cup, but I ended up getting so wrapped up in the game that I never got to finish! Here it is:

So I recently read an article written by an American who had come to Buenos Aires to see what the first few days of the World Cup would be like here. The author's basic conclusion was that Argentinians like soccer. Reading the article, I just kept thinking "Wowwww, you really did some back-breaking investigative journalism on this one, didn't ya??" It'd be like if a foreign journalist traveled to the US to see the Superbowl and came to the shocking conclusion that Americans like football and complex carbohydrates. I kinda wanted to write the author an email that just said "Seriously?! Seriously??!!". Anyways, walking the streets here now anyone can see that the World Cup is a biiiiiig deal here. On every single street there are vendors selling Argentina jerseys, blue and white crazy hats, blue and white vuvuzelas (those annoying noise makers that you hear if you watch the games), blue and white sweaters for your dog, blue and white everything. Every bar, restaurant, and store is showing their Argentine pride by hanging flags, putting jerseys on manikins, etc. The really nice part is that this morning work is canceled... for the entire country! The game is on from 830-1030, and then the work day starts at 1030. A few of the companies where I teach have actually set up large screens in their break rooms and are ordering a full breakfast for all their employees to try to get them to come watch the game there, so then they can start work at 1030 when the game ends. Otherwise, their employees will have to deal with what promises to be an insane traffic situation as the entire country heads to work at 1030. I have to leave for work at 1045 and am already dreading the group hump session that my subway ride downtown will undoubtedly be.

For me, the World Cup has been a really funny experience. Last year, I would have maybe lasted through two minutes of a soccer game before I could no longer even feign interest. Even just two weeks ago I was complaining about how all people want to talk about lately is soccer. But now, the excitement about it all has really gotten to me. Last Saturday, when Argentina scored its first goal in its first game, my boyfriend jumped up screaming "GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!!" He opened up the doors to our balcony and we could hear literally the entire city screaming "GOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLL!!!!!!" I think that was the moment when I caught the bug. This morning (as there is no work) I did not have to be up early. However, here I am, at 9 am, sitting on my couch, COMPLETELY wrapped up in this game. When Argentina scored its first goal (well actually all of them) I too was jumping up and down screaming "GOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!!"

The next day: so this is bad. I have become a completely different person. Yesterday, we talked about the World Cup in every one of my classes. Last night, I changed the channel off of the movie we were watching so I could check Argentine sports center and see what happened with the other groups (in phase one of the tournaments the teams are divided into groups, with the top two teams from each group advancing). My boyfriend tried to play it cool and pretend to be less shocked than he was. Today, instead of reading my usual trashy gossip blogs online, I found myself reading articles about the World Cup. Whats happening to me?????

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Say what now?

So one thing that I've noticed as of late is that many curse words (well actually curse phrases) here have to do with whores and/or their mothers. First, there's the classic "hijo de puta", literally "son of a whore", but more meaning "son of a bitch". There's lots of good ones though. For example, when she stubs her toe, Pame (my Argentine roommate) shouts "La puta madre!!!!!" which literally translates to "the whore's mother!". Can you imagine shouting that in English? How funny would that be? I think when I move back to the States, I'm gonna keep using that one, but in English. Another good one is "la concha de tu madre" which translates to "your mother's pussy". The other day, watching the World Cup, Messi (the best player on the Argentina team) missed a shot on goal, and the camera zoomed in on him clearly screaming "la concha de tu madre!!!!". Can you you imagine if Kobe missed a shot, looked into the camera, and shouted "your mother's pussy!!!". I think I would die laughing.

Things Argentinians Like

Soooo I don't know if I'll ever get around to loading up all my old e-mails but here's my ongoing list of things Argentinians like.
1. Complaining about how much they think Argentina sucks. (I, for the record, love living here). When I first moved here, rather than telling me what a beautiful country this is, etc. all the Argentinians that I met constantly warned me that I would probably get robbed and eventually kidnapped for ransom. Ironically, Argentina is actually a fairly safe country, and the odds of that happening are pretty slim.
2. Being really afraid of sickness. When I first moved here the swine flu panic was in full swing and people were really flipping out about it. People were wearing medical masks just to go out on the street and many large public events were canceled. what was funny actually is when you would see someone with their swine flu protective mask hanging around their neck because they were smoking a cigarette.
3. Putting whole olives on their pizza, but for decorative purposes only. Here, all pizzas come with a few olives on them, but I have yet to see anyone (American or Argentinean) actually eat the olives. Everyone just picks them off. I can't figure out why they still insist on putting olives on the pizza. I feel bad for the olives; they probably traveled all the way here from Greece, just to get baked, picked off, and thrown out.
4. Putting sweaters on their dogs. For some reason, during the winter, at least half the dogs here have sweaters on. Even the homeless people put sweaters on their dogs. And its not that cold here!
5. Letting their dog shit all over the sidewalk and then not cleaning it up. Yea, no pooper scooper law here. There is always soooooo much dog shit on the sidewalks.
6. Throwing things off their balconies without regard to who is below. This one I know is eventually gonna bite me in the ass. On the sidewalks you always see like a huge water stain or something that makes it obvious that someone in that building was mopping their floor, then just walked onto the balcony and threw the dirty water on the sidewalk. Im pretty sure I'll finally get hit when im like dressed up and on my way to an interview or something.
7. Getting things delivered. Argentinians LOVE getting things delivered! You can get anything delivered here too. You can go to the supermarket, pick out your groceries, then have them delivered. We have seen pizza, empanadas, sushi, pastries, meat from the butchers, and ice cream get delivered. Probably the most exciting one ever tho --- beer. YOU CAN GET BEER DELIVERED TO YOUR APARTMENT!!! Its every lazy alcoholic's dream!
8. Hair removal. Maybe its that most Argentinean have Spanish or Italian ancestry (both very hairy) or maybe its their proximity to Brazil, I don't know. But I do know that Argentinean love hair removal.
9. Buying underwear, socks, and pantyhose from the Paraguayan ladies who sell them on the street. Im actually inferring that they love this one. I see a lot of Paraguayan ladies selling underwear, socks, and pantyhose on the street corners, so I'm assuming there must be some sort of market for them. Or it could be like the olive thing; they're just there for decoration.
10. these really weird baggy and then tight pants. ok, so this one im going to try really hard to describe because this is like nothing we have in the states. so these pants are usually made of cotton or linen. they are super baggy and poofy at the top (they kind of look like the pants that Alladin wears), then at about the knees they change and become skin tight. WTF. i really don't get it. I think maybe the only advantage of those pants is you could like poop out a watermelon into your pants and no one would know. or your ass could just be really really fat and no one would know.
11. these sneakers that have a slit in between the big toe and the rest of your toes. i think they kind of make people look like ninja turtles.
12. leg warmers. i just want to stop people on the street and be like "hey, 1984 called, and it wants its horrible fashion trends back". also, they don't just wear them over leggings, they also wear them over jeans.
13. bromances. argentina is definitely the land of the heterosexual man kiss. here, you greet someone by kissing them on the cheek. everyone does this, including men. its really funny to see an american or english guy say hello to people here, they are obviously sooooooooo uncomfortable kissing other guys on the cheek.
14. fernet. this is a type of alcohol, that here is always drunk with coke. actually a few people have told me that fernet and coke is the national drink. sooooo the thing about this one is that everyone acknowledges that fernet is in fact disgusting. you can not drink it plain- its way too gross. it creeps me out a bit because it kind of curdles the coke when you make the drink -- the coke develops a thick head. i know that drinking too much coke can burn a hole in your stomach, so im pretty creeped out by anything that can curdle coke. after trying it though, i became a fernet convert and now almost always drink it when I go out.
15. frutigrans. these are these hard cookies that come in a roll and in different varieties. im pretty addicted to the oatmeal raisin ones. its disgusting how quickly i finish off a roll.
16. absurd English names for stores. theres a pizzeria called "Crack". i liked that one. also i saw an ad for a car parts company called INA FAG. But...I've found the definite winner in the competition for "most absurd store name" and it is... ::drumroll please:: .... TRAMPS. No joke---- there's a women's clothing store here named "Tramps"!!!!!!!! I DIED laughing the other day when I saw a woman walking around downtown with a shopping bag that said "Tramps" on it. I had this image in my mind that she just went to the store to pick up some tramps (lower-back tattoo included???).
17. having irish surnames. so i know that some of the famous liberators of latin america were from irish decent, but i still can't get over this one. right now there are advertisements everywhere for this book by pancho o'donnell. what a name~ pancho o'donnell! thats sooooo quality.
18. tanning in a bikini even if they are grossly overweight/pregnant. I really think my favorite sight was the pregnant ladies tanning their pregnant bellies. I was just like ohhhh god.
19. Drinking mate even if its 90 degrees out. Mate is a type of hot tea that is incredibly popular here. Its drunk out of special mate gourds with a special straw and its very common to see people walking around the park, etc holding a mate gourd, drinkin some tea.
20. wearing jeans and leather boots even when its 90 degrees out. This one really kills me. I'll be there suffering in the sweltering heat while wearing a sun dress, and walk by women wearing jeans tucked into leather boots. I want to stop them on the street and say "are you crazy!?!!?!?!?"
21. Really long lines. I think this is actually a latin american thing in general but it gets pretty ridiculous at times. For example, today I went to the bank to cash my paycheck. There were two lines; one for priority customers, and one for the rest of us poor schlums. The kicker: there was only someone actually working at the priority window! The rest of us just had to stand in line waiting to see if someone in the priority line would let us go before them. I waited for over an hour just to cash a check! I would go to another bank, but the problem is that they are all like this. They never have nearly enough people working. Its even worse if you have to do something involving the government. those lines are INSANE. On my way to work i pass by the ministry of something or other (I dont even remember which one it is now) and the line is always around the block... at 7:30 in the morning! the office doesnt open till 10! People spend all day waiting on line just to get their forms filled out! there are mobile coffee and pastry carts that hang out over there and go up and down the line selling breakfast and lunch to the people who are waiting.
22. having really crazy jobs. let me explain this one. as a former student of labor i've found this one to be pretty interesting. here the labor supply far exceeds the labor demand so the price of labor is quite cheap. therefore, there are all sorts of jobs here that don't really exist in the united states. for example: the human billboard. at main intersections when the light turns red guys will walk out into the crosswalk and just hold up billboards in front of the cars waiting at the red light. thats their job! also, we put the garbage out on the street daily here and you dont have to separate your garbage from your recycling because there are people whose job it is to go through all the garbage and pull out the recycling. you see them on the street mostly in the evening pulling these huge wagons filled with recycling. also people will sell you anything anywhere. there are always people on the train selling not only things like soda and candy but also random shit like booklets to hold your cds or harmonicas. even though you can buy candy at any kiosko (there is usually at least one per block) you dont even need to go to the trouble -- because people come right onto the bus and try to sell you candy! the bus drivers just let them hop on and off the different busses all day long selling candy.
23. Protesting. When the weather is warm there are all out protests with marches and drums every day. Sometimes there is more than one in a day. They protest EVERYTHING. As you know I'm all for creating equality in whatever way possible but even I have to admit that it gets a bit ridiculous. It just becomes such a hassle every day. The metro is shut down a lot and you don't know until you get there that you have to find another way to work.
24. complaining about inflation. this is actually legit though. at first i thought they were crazy when people told me that inflation here is 20-30% per year, but now i see that its definitely true! over the summer prices REALLY went up -- its crazy! thankfully im making more money!
25. ordering coffee or lunch from a restaurant and having it delivered to their office on real dishware. people will call a local restaurant and order something to be brought to their office but not like normal delivery, like on real dishes! you see waiters walking through a restaurant with a plate of food on their tray (like normal), then they just walk right out of the restaurant, down the street, and into a nearby office to bring it to the person there! how funny is that! why go sit at a table AT the restaurant if the restaurant will come to you?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

i think the doorman in my building fears/hates me

As a foreigner living in a neighborhood with almost no other expats (there are certain neighborhoods here that are heavily populated by foreigners), people in my neighborhood often have no idea what to do with me. One of those people is the doorman in my building. Granted, we did not get off to a great start as I first met him when I somehow managed to drop my keys down the elevator shaft in the middle of the night, thus rendering me unable to enter my apartment. He went down to the basement and retrieved them, and then we got to talking. After hearing me speak for a minute he asked where exactly I was from (my accent is a bizarre mix of Peruvian, Spanish, Colombian, and Argentine Spanish). I told him that I was from the US, he responded with an "ahhhhh" and a head nod, and we both went our separate ways.

Over the next few weeks we exchanged pleasantries as I walked in or out of the building. But sometimes (when he was feeling extra friendly?) he would shout random words in English at me as I left the building. A few weeks ago I was heading out to work, and I said something like "have a nice day" to him. He replied by shouting "WAAAAAATERRRRR" at me as i headed out the door. This is not the first time this has happened to me. Sometimes if people know that I speak English, they shout random English words at me. I think they do it just to let me know what they know, kind of to show off their knowledge.

Anyways, today I was sitting on the subway, heading back from work, when the doorman got on the train. He walked by me, we said hi, he moved to a different part of the car. We both knew that we were heading back to the same building (a 3 block walk from the subway station). Would we walk together? When the train stopped at our station the doorman bolted out. Walking up the stairs to exit the station he looked back once to check that I was still behind him, then continued to rush on, even running through a bit of light traffic to get ahead of me. When I got back to the building he was here. He greeted me with a "HEEEEY! I saw you in the subway today". I wanted to reply "Yea, I saw you too, I also saw the back of your head as you ran away from me!", but I didn't. I just smiled and moved along. This man hates me or is deeply afraid of conversation with me. I think tomorrow when I get home from work I might just stand by the door with him and be like "Sooooo whats up with you lately?". See what happens...

to blog or not to blog

Several years ago, when I first moved to Spain for my semester abroad, I considered writing a blog. Being the indecisive girl that I am, I asked my friend Sydney, "What do you think? Should I write a blog?". She, being quite decisive, told me "No, no one will ever read your blog". Ouch Syd, ouch. So instead I wrote a long series of e-mails detailing my experiences there (and now here). I may try to upload my Argentina mails, but well, I just don't know. Anyways, now that I'm a big girl, living in Argentina, I've decided to give this whole blogging thing a go. I do imagine though that Syd is right. My bets are that my mom and Howie will probably read my blog (my mom trying to be interested in whats going on in my life, Howie because he seems to read just about everything on the internet). I guess we'll see what happens...