Friday, November 28, 2008

I may have been in Argentina too long

I'm starting to like mate.

Update: For those who don't know what mate is, check Wikipedia.

James Bond as dictator

Am I the only one who thinks the new James Bond looks exactly like Vladimir Putin?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Soy un Boquense

One thing on my list of things to do before I die has been crossed off: have season tickets to some kind of sport. I always figured it'd be the Flyers or the Texans. Au contraire, I run good at life. I am now the proud possessor of season tickets to Boca for $60 annually.

It's pretty hard to tell you how sick this is. Argentines can't become members of the club (and thus get season tickets). Foreigners, however? We pay $60 and we're in. It's not the easiest process to figure out, but once you do it's pretty simple to accomplish. In fact, I'm taking a friend to the stadium tomorrow to become a socio.

The atmosphere is intense. The only thing I can compare it to was the franchise opening Texans game in September 02.

This is one side of the La Bombonera (literally "the chocolate box" because it is shaped rather interesting inside. Not sure any of my pictures capture how, so I'll try to do better in the future). Painted in all bright yellow and bright blue.

Outside, basically from the same vantage point as the previous picture but different direction. We ate at the restaurant on the right. Had a pretty quality lomito (steak sandwich) for $5. Ship that.

I was pretty fascinated by the those little tunnels. Basically, it's a tube of plastic with a massive fan on one side. Then the visiting team went into one of them, and the refs went into another during halftime. I actually think this picture may have been pregame.

This is above the doce. The doce is the area where Portenos tell me foreigners might be less than safe. Of course, I plan to go to the doce imminently, though it's not exactly obvious to me how I get there. It's not a language problem, I can understand most things written in the streets (except the graffiti). Rather, it's just that everyone knows exactly where to go, and I don't. And man, it's like mayhem before a game trying to get in. There's cops everywhere, people mobbing people close to gametime, and it can be rather intimidating.


If this was a better picture, you'd have a better idea of the fact that this is pregame and the crowd is going fricking nuts.

This is the opposing team Velez coming out of the plastic wind-powered tube.

Cheerleaders. Note the girl in front of the chearleaders. She has this pretty crazy outfit. I don't really understand their function

For this game, I was with a Dutch guy who has been to games all over Europe. From the moment we walked in he said, "wow, this is the greatest atmosphere to see a game I've ever been in."

It only got better. La Pasion! La Emocion! There's a saying that the stadium doesn't tremble, it beats. When the crowd gets excited, the stadium moves. Yeah, it moves. It's like being on a trampoline are jumping and yelling and the ground isn't exactly where your brain is expecting it to be. Frankly, this one experience would have been worth the $60 right there. Vale la pena! I can't really describe it, but it's awesome. You have 60k people jumping up and down in unison, singing songs (I'm a big fan of "Yo soy de Boca"). Phenomenal. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Worst meal in Argentina, oustide of Santa Rosa

Was wandering around Recoleta today, and saw a restaurant I'd seen a few times before, so I decided to stop in. Worst. Meal. Here.

It's kinda a cool looking place from the outside. It's all white inside, which is cool because of the way the sun hits the place during the mid-day. (Inside, some of the white looks kinda old). I'm pretty sure the name of the place was Pacheco. I got the tarta of the day, which turned out to be the grossest Spinach tarta I can imagine (I do love fresh spinach, but not-fresh spinach is nasty). Bad. Next was the risotto of chicken. It would've been ok, if they hadn't forgotten the flavor. Oh, and iwould've been ok if they'd taken some fat off the chicken, as well as the gristle and maybe removing everything else bad.

Dessert was a fruit salad, which was passable and somewhat sizeable, although I'm pretty sure I tasted the Del Monte syrup. On the other hand, by that point I had finished the thinking I was doing while eating, so I really just wanted to exit.

And now it's 1:30am and I am going to go catch a taxi to a party. Life in Argentina, ship it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Interpreting song choices

When I lived in DC, I missed Texas insufferably. Although I was only there 6 months, I listened almost exclusively to London Homesick Blues (as a kid, I remember making fun of my Dad for listening to Jerry Jeff Walker. Call it a mistake of youth, padre is smarter than 10 year old Evan realized) and Southbound 35 by Pat Green. I'm sure there was other stuff in my rotation, but that's all I remember.

Number of times I've listened to those songs here? Probably once for each, but it could be less. I haven't even listened to "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" much.

Do I miss Texas? Yes. Do I definitely feel like I should be in Buenos Aires right now? Yes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Trip Report: Oktoberfest, Villa General Belgrano, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita

[I originally wrote this post a month ago, but didn't get around to finishing it until now.]

I'm going to keep this trip report from being too tilty. In my last post I wrote about having moments when I roll my eyes and exasperatedly think "Argentina!" I think about half of those moments so far have been on this trip. In the penultimate post to this point, I wrote about having a sense of foreboding about this trip.

So Thuy and I show up at the bus station and get to the platform. There's a bus leaving from our company to Cordoba. We're pretty sure it's not our bus, but we ask the driver of the bus anyway. He says no. We talk to some Americans Thuy knows who are on the same bus. They'd also tried to get on that bus and were told no. So we wait, and never see our bus. After an hour, we ask inside what the deal is. Guy checks the computer and tells us our bus left. Unbelievable.

Although when I'd bought tickets we'd gotten like the last ones, we somehow managed to find 4 tickets to Cordoba leaving 4 hours later. So, time to wait more. Eventually our bus comes, we go to Cordoba. Standard.

At the Cordoba bus station, we go to complain. Everybody blames it on another company. We go to the government regulator. They aren't too encouraging. I decide to dispute the charges with American Express. I am annoyed, tired, but ready to go. We buy tickets to Santa Rosa.

As we get to the platform, there is a bus from our company about to depart to Santa Rosa. We try to get on it, and our told that it's not our bus. I think I've seen this movie before.

We wait. 10 minutes later another guy who is waiting asks us where we're going and when. I tell him. "That bus left," he says. I am thinking very unpleasant thoughts. 10 minutes later (20 minutes late) our bus shows up, and we get on.

We passed a lake called Los Molinos (the windmills?). I snapped a few pictures. Some of them didn't turn out that well, but since I was reaching over Thuy, through a window, and moving at 40 miles an hour with a 4 year old camera, it's probably not surprising that they don't look like pictures in a magazine.

I'm not going to lie, for a minute there I really thought about buying one of those houseboats and living on that lake for the rest of my life. These pictures don't capture a semblance of the beauty. It was pretty and relaxed.

Thuy and I get to the cabin, then wander around Santa Rosa for awhile til it got dark. I am fascinated by the catholic chapel and vow to go to Mass there on Sunday for the cultural experience. Obviously that was not a vow that I kept, plus I am sad that I didn't get a picture. We ate dinner at a restaurant that was so completely thoroughly underwhelming. We also had a waitress who was pretty bad. She was just new though, and cute, so we ended up talking to her for awhile.

Let me pause in my storytime to say that all food in Santa Rosa is bad. People told us that Santa Rosa is one of the biggest beach places for Cordoba (a city of 1.5 million). If so, you'd think that they'd have good food, but I did not have a single good meal there. Mediocre would be a compliment. And the one meal I had in Belgrano was pretty underwhelming too...Sauerkrat with sausage should not have a hot dog as the sausage. I mean, I haven't been to Deutschland, but call it a premonition.

Cabritos are quite popular in Santa Rosa though. Literally translated, that means little goat. They brought us a sample. It was less than the greatest thing I've had in my life. I ordered a steak instead, which may have been the worst piece of meat I've had in Argentina. And it was expensive.

This is the inside of Oktoberfest. We never did catch up to a friend I was supposed to meet at Oktoberfest, but he told me that there is some cool stuff that happens inside. We didn't really see it, and didn't really see the need to pay $30 pesos to go inside for the privilege of paying more for beer. So we spent most of our time on the immediate outside of the tent. There were definitely people (especially groups of younger kids) who just hung out on the street outside the tent.

It was fun. Until it rained, and I'm going to choose not to remember the hours I spent cold, wet and waiting to get home. Because afterwards we went to Sheik. Now, as far as I can tell, Sheik owns the entire village of Santa Rosa de Calamuchita. It was just crazy. Like 5 clubs and a few more restaurants all scattered about throughout town. Anyway, the main club was crazy. Just totally packed. For once in my life, I turned off my mind and enjoyed the mindlessness of dancing. Perhaps it was because I was rereading Fooled By Randomness, but I felt like getting moved around on the dance floor was like a physical meditation on randomness.

Thuy took this picture. I'm not sure if you can see why we found this hilarious. This picture encaptures basically the entire bowling alley. 4 lanes, staircase on the left of the picture, bar upstairs on the split level. The balls were slightly bigger than bocce balls, and the pins were likewise about a third of bowling pins. Look closely and you'll see legs of the people who were standing there replacing the pins for each frame. That's right: no automation.

Our cabin.

Thuy and Ian on the suspension bridge. This thing moved like crazy. It's probably plenty safe, but it doesn't feel safe at all as it moves around like crazy. Oh, remember how I said this was a beach resort? Much of the beach looked similar to what you see in this picture. I bet even Houstonians would learn to love Galveston if they lived in Cordoba.

Our last morning we took a little hike called Las Cruces. It's just a little hike up a hill that has a bunch of crosses at various lookout points. This was the first, looking back towards Santa Rosa.

This was the top cross.

After the hike, Thuy and Ian went back, while I found some other trail. Of course I got lost first and managed to miss it. I believe the name was something like Waterfall Trails. This was the waterfall. Really puts Iguazu to shame, doesn't it?

Although I was initially disappointed, it was a nice relaxing little walk through the forest. It was quite hot and humid, which of course I appreciated.

This was an ant trail that cut completely through the ground. I found this fascinating, because it was so conspicuous. The ants were all carrying huge pieces of something multiples time their size. Anyway, had to take a picture. It's not terribly frequent that I get as fascinated as I did by stuff like this.

Las Cruces hike, about 1/3 of the way down. Can you see the big cross at the top?

These were more pictures from the Las Cruces hike.

The inside of our place. Yes, we are all very neat people.

I've decided not to write much about the rest. Suffice it to say that our return tickets went to waste. Then I lost one of my running shoes, my pocket dictionary, I couldn't sleep on the return trip and my Ipod ran out of battery. So while there were some very fun moments, there were also some very frustrating moments.

This was the road outside of our cabin. Wait, you say, that looks just like a sapling in the middle of the road. I just can't slip anything by you, can I? I have no explanation for planting a tree in the middle of the road. Which is why there is a picture of it.

One thing I should note: the Cordobeses speak much more slowly than the people of Buenos Aires. Much more slowly. I could actually understand them most of the time. I also felt like I got to use my spanish quite a bit on the trip, as I spoke the best Spanish of the group. Somehow that was encouraging.

However, what was up with the fact that no one from Cordoba has heard of Texas? I was starting to think they were messing with me, except that it seemed like no one had a clue what Texas was . . . but they all knew New York and California. That is not a sign of a happy place.

How much of an idiot am I?

On Saturday I went to play soccer. It was a 5v5 indoors game in the middle of the city. It was a pretty good game. Maybe half extranjeros and half Argentinos. I was probably about the median skill level in the group, as I'd been sick and the resulting lack of fitness. My touch is definitely a bit off.

Anyway, at the end of the game, I score a goal. I'm pumped, so I go punch one of the padded iron beams. Except that in the very middle of it, there's no padding. My first hurts so much I can't even run because it moves my fist too much. Yeah, I know what you're thinking: I am a winner at life.

Later the same day I also managed to burn my arm on a lightbulb. Awesome.

How ridiculous am I?

I don't like cash. It's hard to track, you have to store it somewhere. It could get stolen, you get coins when you spend it, and you don't get points when you spend it. But there is one advantage: finding cash you'd forgotten about.

$700 I'd put in the pocket of some shorts. Ship it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Postgrad begins a little early?

A good friend of mine is trying to talk me into doing a one year MA degree here. It seems like a fun way to pass a year. It's not too expensive either.

The school year starts in March though. The idea that I could be taking postgrad courses in Spanish in a 4 months is enough to give me nightmares. I'm trying to decide between finance, economics, psychology and international relations.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pictures around BsAs

This is a picture of the Chinatown of Buenos Aires. It is a grand total of 1 street that is 2 blocks long. So look closely.

Carrot marmelade! Yum! I don't know if this is an Asian thing or what, but the thought of carrot jelly does not make me hungry. Moments after taking this picture in the Asian grocery store, I was yelled at and told not to take pictures. What the heck? 3 minutes later my friend Reggie was yelled at for having his bookbag in the store. They are all about the customer service in Buenos Aires, especially in Chinatown.

In case you forgot that you are in Chinatown, they're gonna make sure you get it. If only the sign was more redundant.

If you want peanut butter here, you go to Chinatown. Look how cute the Skippy is. Don't those peanuts look happy that you are going to eat them?

I should mention that we'd just eaten at a Chinese restaurant. Before the meal I predicted that it would be just like cheap Chinese food in the US, only not quite as good. I have mad prognostication skillz!!!!11

This is one of the parks next to the train station, which is next to Chinatown. This was a pretty weak picture, I admit.

Random shot looking northward along Juramento.

This is Cabildo and Juramento, looking back towards downtown. Of course, I am not that far from the outskirts of the city limits at this point.

If you get an email from me and there are weird pronunciation, this is why. I spilled wine on my keyboard and had to buy a new one here -- although I was strangely charmed by my keys sticking for about 2 months. If you look closely, not everything is the same. For example, look at where the ; should ain't there. Also, all the symbols above the numbers are different, which can throw you off.
I should mention that buying the keyboard doesn't change what you type. If I configured my keyboard to the spanish version, then the picture above would be correct.

Monday, November 3, 2008

After 6 years, my mind is at ease

As a birthday gift, my Dad, Sam and I went to the US-Uruguay World Cup warmup in 2002. Now, if you don't follow the US National team, you probably don't know that the US almost never plays a home game (and home is a big advantage in soccer). Especially against Mexico, where the US plays away in Mexico, and then "less away" -- but definitely not home -- when they play in the US.

Uruguay is a country of only 3.5 million people. Smaller than metro Houston, in other words. Yet, in DC, the Uruguay fans were loud, singing the same song over and over and over again. It was definitely effective.

I've been asking every Uruguayan I've met since then (3? don't know), and never gotten an answer. Maybe they just couldn't understand my attempts at singing it. But a good friend of mine from church (who lived in Houston for 6 years) is a Uruguayan and has solved my mystery. Mystery solved: "Yo soy un celeste, yo soy un celeste, un celeste, yo so." I'm a blue, I'm a blue, a blue, I am.
The funny thing is that Uruguay is probably more like Buenos Aires than Buenos Aires is to the rest of Argentina. They both speak with the Rioplatense accent, Montevideo and Buenos Aires are just across the river from each other. I say this with the confidence of having not yet visited, though I surely will in the next few months.