Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Picking a language school

Now that I've got some things down and April is over, May is my month to study intensely -- CFA and espanol.

I need to find a language school, so that I can hopefully start classes next Monday. Believe it or not, I'm going to aim for early classes. At first, I thought that would mean 11am. But now I'm considering 8am classes, so that I have to be disciplined about waking up, doing spanish, and then bouncing back to my apartamento for a nap before some afternoon CFA studying.

I thought finding a language school would be easy, as there are many options. And it's a service, which means in this place it will be cheap in terms of USD. But there's lots of things to consider -- cost, group classes vs. private, do they take AmEx?, time offered, location -- close to me is preferred, possibility of meeting people, but at least close to a Subte (subway) stop would be nice, commitment factor (eg, do i have to buy 4 weeks to get a decent rate, or can I buy a week at a time), etc. That doesn't even include quality of the teaching; though this seems like a near impossibility to accurately quantify. At best you'd be moving a few percentage points either way.

Right now I've found a new Spanish school relatively close to me that is quite cheap -- presumably because it's new, as my area is gentrifying rapidamente. I've also contacted a girl my age who works for herself. She seems good; I'm meeting with her for half an hour tomorrow to find out. I'm deciding on picking between the two, or possibly doing the school for a few weeks and then the girl. I figure the class will introduce me to a few people, and then the girl can teach me stuff beyond that. In fact, I'm considering hiring her just to go stand in line with me and translate so I can open a bank account.* Plus, potentially I could meet her friends, which could be fun.

* Technically you can open a bank account here, but the bank employees may not know it, and trip reports indicate that they don't really care much in discovering the answer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two thoughts

1. I should probably stop trying to keep the Argentinean vineyards in business by myself. But wow, the wine is good. Very good.

No, I'm not hungover. Just probably could cut down on my Malbec intake so that I continue to fully appreciate the splendor that is Argentinean Malbecs. Did I mention that a decent bottle could be $3?

2. It's great having a maid. I should've probably invested in a maid before this. But my apartment smells fresh and is swept and mopped every week. That's great. And, because it's Argentina, my maid is kinda cute.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It has come to my attention that comments were closed before. If you feel inclined to write a comment, enjoy.

As if there could be one more reason...

So Spanish apparently doesn't have a word for dating. As in, there's novia (girlfriend), which is serious commitment. Not engaged, but a definite possibility of. There's also a literal translation of "going out with" which seems to me to be "we've gone on dates." Anything in between is not generally a part of la cultura de Latino Americano. So they don't even put a word on it.

This seems to be a good reason to be very careful. Si?

Nothing stays the same

I just read all the posts that I've written so far. A few thoughts: very tangential (such am I), topic-based, and no pictures.

You'd get no idea of specifics of my day-to-day life, the people I've met, what I've done or anything else. Perhaps this will change. Pictures in particular are necessary. But though I provide few specific details, you might get the idea that I like this place so much that I may buy an apartment.

Today's measure of how much I've improved en Espanol

One of my biggest guilty pleasures (as anyone who has ever lived with me knows) is Enrique Iglesias' Escape.* In Spanish or English. I play this song ad nauseum. I wouldn't say that it is unhealthy, but...probablemente. Apologies particularly to Nick, who has probably listened to this song 500 times, against his wishes. I played it at Rice, I played it at 2344, and I played it at Valhalla. And yes, it always got people dancing -- girls especially -- at Valhalla. !Meringue!

But even though I love the song in English, I've never been able to make out the words. It's just too bloody fast, and my Spanish is not so good. But tonight, I am listening to it and making out most of the words.

* And no, it's not just because of Anna Kournikova. Although the teller at the bank does look like her...but in a sexy Argentinean kind of way.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

In a previous post, I offered that these were my reasons, in rough order, for moving to Buenos Aires:
cost of living, safety, food, soccer crazy, lifestyle, services, pretty women. We'll see if this holds up when I get there.

After 10 days here, let's evaluate, shall we? What's been great so far? Let me address, in order:

Cost of living: I'm Dutch. We like inexpensive places to live. This place is inexpensive right now.

Safety: Look, I may be robbed at gunpoint, but I've never felt safer. Seriously. Moreso than in NYC, Philly, etc.

Food: Wow. Amazing. I also live in the mecca of not just Portena-style (Buenos Aires style) restaurants. So far though, why would you not get a Malbec and an amazing steak? Wow. The appetizers are enough diversity for me.

Girls: Not every girl in Buenos Aires is beautiful. But most of them are at least close. I will have more to say about this topic. It is hard for me to imagine a place that has more beautiful women.

Soccer? Yes, they live for it. So do I. That's awesome.

Lifestyle? Look I'm not raising a family yet. It's awesome.

Services? Hmm. I haven't yet had a massage (so much for my planned Massage Mondays*), but rumors are that they suck here. I can see that.

Evaluating all this now? I don't know. The girls** and the food seems pretty important. I keep thinking about buying an apartment here.

* The plan was that every Monday I'd get an hour-long massage.
** I've found that the line "your english is better than my spanish" delivered in spanish is an effective flirt.

Three non-discrete thoughts

1. It's difficult to buy meat and cheese (for sandwiches) that you'll like when you have no earthly idea what exactly it is. And there are 20 cheeses and meats each that look the exact same. Good times!

2. According to un amigo, the best place to run in my barrio is a track that becomes a tranny hangout at night. Oh yeah. So, at dusk, it's quite a scene as the...uh, transition happens. [Also: running shoes are expensive here. More than in los Estados Unidos.l

3. Getting your hair cut when you don't speak Spanish is difficult. Also, getting rejected by a peluqueria (hair cuttery) because I'm male is harsh.

Buenos Aires is awesome.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I love Argentina

It's 3:30 here, and my neighbors -- who are probably 45 years old -- are having a party. They're all outside on the balcony drinking vino tinto and playing music.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I was never that good at doing easy.

What should I wrote about tonight? One of the things I've adopted as a guiding light is a former soccer coach's advice: do easy.* Indeed.

Tonight, I'll write about the Portenos (residents of Buenos Aires, there should be a thing on the n, but I don't have an international keyboard). They are so friendly, so warm, so tactile. It takes a little bit of getting used to. Why is this chick who has a boyfriend kissing me on the cheek? I am confused...and wow, she is cute (uh, duh, she's Argentine. Redundant!) .

Compared to Americans, they are so friendly. They will put up with my awful language barriers. [I don't want to overemphasize their altruism; I think most realize that the chance to practice English with an American has value....yet, I do not want to overly discount their selfless patience with me.] In fact, it convicts me that I have not been patient with foreigners trying to learn English in America. I am very appreciative of how welcoming folks have been. It is very nice of them.

Is it supposed to be this easy to move to a new city and establish a social circle? I have done less well at this in places where I had so many more advantages. Of course, I have had some fortunate occurrences here, thanks to the efforts of friends to introduce me to their friends, as well as other fortunate things. I think some of it is my attitude, but I think quite a bit of it is just that the Argentines are a special people with an awesome and welcoming culture. It doesn't hurt that they know that tourism brings in jobs. And I have a sense that they are generally for anything that improves their economy.

I am also...well, I have un poquito de dinero. Some of mis amigos de Portenos study and work basically all day everyday all seven days of the week. I kibbitz, am relatively aimless, and make money only when I want to**, while folks work all day long so that they can play a little bit of soccer and have some sociability. Do I feel a little guilty? Yes, and I'm not even a rich kid. As I tried to explain to a friend, it's not that I really have money right now on my own personal scale of wealth, it's that I have the assurance of being able to be quite rich if I choose to be. If I feel guilty for anything, it is for my opportunity and my equivocation. Yet I've chosen not to take easy paths to material success, and I'm glad I haven't...yet, I could wake up penniless at 40 years old, go to a top 10 law school and be set. But this isn't about me. It's about a visceral understanding that smart, attractive people who seem prosperous do not have the advantages I have in this country. They can't go out to 5 star restaurants every night, order the best things on the menu and laugh it off.

I'm not special. I don't deserve better than them. I am tempted towards a long digression on happiness, but I'll close with this because I'm ready to go to bed: play the hand you are dealt. Use your God-given talents such that they have the highest expected value (though don't be afraid of variance, and I can't criticize variance-maximizing strategies).

* This is good advice. In soccer and life, you should usually make the easy pass rather than play the incredible ball or . Do easy, senor. If you know soccer, there are life lessons in this advice.

** I do attempt to use my time productively, but often more in a long-term manner than a short-term. See the rest of the post about opportunity.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Buenos Aires, you like me. You really, really do.

People kept asking me before I moved to Argentina, "Are you nervous?" I was never sure what to say. Sometimes I allowed that I was nervous. Sometimes I tried to be nervous.

But that's just not the way I live my life. I make decisions, and then I do.* Nervous? I often have this intellectual sense that I should be nervous, but viscerally? Not really, no. Sorry, doesn't make for interesting conversations, but what can I do?

I've been here 3 days. And as I just emailed a friend, "argentina is awesome. seriously awesome. oh my wow gosh awesome."

Was this the best decision I could've made? Who knows (eg, why try to calculate long-term utility given risk-utility curves when I'm splendid in the short-term?) ? I am trying to move away from utility-maximizing towards utilitity-satisficing**, and I'm pretty bloody happy with my decision to move. So far, life is awesome. I'll try to delineate why in later posts.

Right now, Argentina is the place for me to be.

* I may try to explain this philosophy of life in a later post. Let's call it a commitment threshold: I either commit inexorably or I am tossed about by every wave in the proverbial sea.

** Research shows that people who try to absolutely maximize their happiness are not usually happy, whereas folks who aim for satisfaction (not maximizing) are usually quite happy.

(also, you do catch the cultural reference in the title, si?)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why do you want to live in Buenos Aires, part 2

In part 1, I dealt with why I decided to leave Houston, which was sad. It's a great city, because it has great people, attracts great people and institutions that enable the abilities of great people. I miss my friends. [Do they miss you? -- editor. Probably not as much.]

Why did I choose Buenos Aires?

The answer depends on how complicated an answer you are looking for. In a way, it's this simple: Buenos Aires has been listed as the 3rd cheapest city in the world, and the first 2 weren't that desirable to me.

Ok, it's really more complicated than that. Some people on a message board which I frequent had moved down here. They all loved it. Friends and acquantainces that had moved down all loved it too. And, looking for adventure and possible b-school boost, I made the decision to go. Although I probably wasn't too clear about it to my friends and family, when I decided not to get a place with Andrew in mid-January, I had decided to move to Argentina. It will take 3 months to get there from that time.

So what had I heard was great about Buenos Aires that made me decide to move: safest Latin American city (this is in dispute, but it is generalmente very safe in mi barrio), very cheap, best steaks in the world, best Malbecs in the world and vino tinto muy fabuloso (red wine very fabulous), soccer crazy, beautiful architecture, beautiful nation overall, beautiful women, great restaurants, great nightlife, a lifestyle I like, and very inexpensive services.

That's so many good things in one package. How could I not move? If only they had some center-right politics (eg, common sense and love of freedom. same thing), it'd be perfecto.

What was really important to me in that list (in relative order): cost of living, safety, food, soccer crazy, lifestyle, services, pretty women. We'll see if this holds up when I get there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ridding self of things

I don't hate things. Anything that helps me relate to people is good. Anything that legitimately helps me have a better life is good. Almost anything beyond that is bad.

Yes, I'm mildly ascetic.

But I'm glad to be moving. I don't have much stuff -- I make it a point not to have much stuff beyond clothes and books (what else matters?) -- but it's still nice to go through what I do have and realize how little of it matters.

So I have a plan in place for getting rid of almost all my stuff except for the essentials. That's exciting.