Thursday, April 30, 2009

Already a crazy day!

Wow it is 1:30 in the afternoon, and it's already been nuts!!! Because...

1) I MET VIVIAN!!! Yes, THE VIVIAN!!! Vivian the enigma. Vivian who does not exist. I met her. And I'm shocked and delighted to report that she was quite friendly in person and I actually really liked her. She apologized for the craziness of the past (perhaps she's just bad on the phone??) and arranged to get me my money in a more timely fashion in the future. So, yay. :-)

2) There is a crazy strike going on all over Buenos Aires today, and my entire neighborhood is a nuthouse! There are cars and buses backed up for blocks and blocks and blocks honking and whatnot, as thousands of protesters take to the streets marching, banging drums, waving flags, and blowing horns. It's crazy! I taught this morning, and my students mentioned there was a strike going on today and that I should watch out, but I had no idea it would be this crazy. I'm literally sitting in my house right now listening to what sounds like a war going on-- gunshots and screaming and whatnot.

Actually, it's pretty cool. Argentines are well known protesters. They love a good strike. And it's inconvenient, but man, they are really inconveniencing the city a ton right now, which means someone is most likely listening. I respect that. I don't think Americans protest enough.

Just a thought.

Off to more class... assuming, of course, my bus is able to bust through this traffic.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm awesome

I just want the world to know that I am now up to running for 1 solid hour. That's 60 minutes of pain and gain!!! I run along the river (yes, the ugly brown river is turning out to serve some sort of purpose).

I'm so proud I could eat a slice of cheesecake!

PS. Can anyone tell me what to do about shin splints? Is there some way to stretch your shins?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I am pleased to announce that I am currently working 23 hours a week, and I am horrified/ excited to announce that beginning in about 2 weeks I will be up to 41!!! Which is both good and bad! Good because I will be making enough to save money for traveling around S. America around the end of the year (plan is to travel December-February), but bad because when you add in lesson planning and travel time, I'll be working more like 70 hours a week, and thus will have no life.

Small price to pay for saving for the trip of my life, I suppose. ;-)

So specifically I am working 11 hours a week for Vivian and 12 for the Institite. I like the vast majority of my students, and though the materials are sometimes extremely disorganized, both the Institute and Vivian have been better about giving me something to work with. This is a great improvement over when I started a month ago and was literally inventing lesson plans, exercises and worksheets off the top of my head... and robbed off the internet.

The other hours will come from the Hostel where I will be starting to work soon! I am VERY excited about this! Diego, my roommate and landlord, is also the owner of a brand new hostel right around the corner from my house. The hostel is actually opening next week, so I will start working reception there just as soon as the reservations start rolling in. I'll be doing around 18 hours a week there, not getting paid a ton, but having fun, I'm sure. Working in a hostel is so appealing to me because you spend your day meeting new, interesting people from all over the world! I was recruited by Diego for my outgoing personality and the fact that I am bilingual, so I think it's going to be a really good fit for me. Can't wait!

Lastly-- MY MOM AND BILL ARE COMING DOWN ON MAY 20TH!!! I'm so excited for my very first visitors!!! Hopefully I won't have to work through their entire trip. ;-) No but seriously, I am counting down the days, and couldn't be more excited to see them. Yay!

So who's coming next???

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reggae, mon

I love my roommates. I really lucked out. Julie, Andrea and I have this hilarious habit of sitting around the kitchen together drinking wine and watching MUCH Music, which is basically the MTV equivalent in Buenos Aires (only MUCH shows actual music videos). It's pretty addicting/ entertaining.

On Friday, during a Fidel Nadal video, an alert scrolled across the screen that he'd be in town this weekend. So I googled it and found out that he was playing on Sunday (last night!) and even better, at a club in my neighborhood! I didn't even know I had a music venue in my neighborhood, but apparently this place, La Trastienda, gets pretty big name bands. For example, George Clinton will be there next month, as will the Argentine classic band Divididos. Looks like I'll be spending some serious time there..

Anyway, me and my lady roommates went to the show together, plus my friend Megan too, and had a blast! Fidel is amazing in concert. It was a fun vibe, very mellow and full of hippies, and I had a blast just dancing and enjoying the tunes. Oh, and of course I did some pretty amazing dreadlock and mullet watching. Oh, man. The winner was definitely this guy:

Yeah, you're so jealous of his press-on dreaded rat tail. (Press-on because I am convinced that it is somehow fake and he attached it to his head, because I mean, come on, it's different color than his hair!!!)

Anyway, here's a 'lil video I took. You can briefly see all of us-- first Megan, then Julie (drinking), then Andrea and then me with a big goofy smile on my face.

And here's one that's a bit better and has a nice big chunk of the song "International Love." I briefly show my mug in this one, too. Please excuse the world's worst videography.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Getting used to it

I'm going to refer to Vivian from now on by name, since she is rapidly becoming an important figure in many of my stories.

Vivian is my CRAZYPANTS boss, the one who sends me from here to there and all around, yells at me, acts all nuts-o, and who I have never actually met in person. (She's sort of like "Dr. Claw" from Inspector Gadget, because I picture her in a big chair, stroking her evil cat, and drumming her iron-gloved fingers on the desk, faceless.) That's Vivian.

Dr. Claw and MAD Cat (aka Vivian's iron fist of English-teaching death)

So the strangest thing has happened. I don't give a %$#& what she thinks anymore! It's very liberating.

Basically, over the past couple weeks Vivian drove me so completely nuts, was so totally gonzo, was so blatantly disrespectful to me, that I completely lost it. I broke down, cried about it, and got very worked up about it. Then about a week passed, and despite my threats to quit, as it turns out I'm broke, need the money, and am still working for her minimally. (The good news is that I did eventually get my money from her-- wasn't easy, mind you--and she and I are back to acting cordial on the phone.) I figure, whatever, the pay's not bad, and frankly, I now realize that she is the rule, not the exception. All English pimps (Vivian) treat their whores (Me) this way here. I'm moving on.

Truth is, Argentina is just like this! It's disorganized, chaotic, and mind-numbingly slow at all things. Employers are self-serving, and treat you as their pawn. Your needs are not important, only theirs. And as much as I hate this, I am also becoming hardened. Yes, I'm getting used to it, and the only way to survive is to stop caring so much.

Case in point: Vivian was supposed to call me yesterday at Noon to arrange a meeting (finally!) so she could give me some books I need for a class. However, the last time she told me she'd call me at noon, she didn't call until almost 5:00pm, only to cancel on me, yell at me, and then stiff me out of money. So my expectations were pretty low yesterday. So low, in fact, that I myself forgot about the whole thing! Me! And it worked out great, because when she finally called me around 1:00 (to cancel, of course), I didn't care! I hadn't been waiting by the phone, nor had I rearranged my day around her.

I had become, ahem, more Argentine.

This all probably sounds really nuts, but it's actually really good. It's a coping mechanism, and it's working. I think my blood pressure has gone back down to normal in the past couple days, and damnit, I'm going to last here a full year if it kills me! (which it might)

This means I need to stop having such "American" expectations of professionalism. I need to suck it up, lower the bar, and integrate. Working on it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A love/ hate relationship

Last week was undoubtedly one of the worst weeks I've ever had. It was up there anyway. Just about everything that could go wrong went wrong. My boss yelled at me, then made me trek across town for my paycheck, only to stiff me out of some money. My cell phone died, and when I went to buy more minutes, I was sold a fake card and got ripped off yet again. Then turned out the parts they sold me for the phone were broken too, and to fix the phone I needed to go to the store, but since it was Semana Santa the store was closed. General stress and all the "little things" started to pile up, and financial worries and work worries started to settle in. By Wednesday night, I had ended up in some sort of mental break down. No fun. My poor (wonderful) roommates bore the brunt of it. Much wine was consumed by all.

Then yesterday, I had one of those days that made me remember why I'm here. Just one of those great, lovely days. Sure, a lot of my problems still exist (work! broken phone! no money! ugh!) and I need to deal with that, but not yesterday. Easter Sunday was a great day, despite its total lack of anything remotely related to Easter.

My roommate Andrea has a friend in town, Yasmine, and the three of us started off our day by sitting at the café across the street drinking coffee on the street. Coffee and company were good, and things were looking up. Sundays in San Telmo are the best (as long as you can handle it), as it is the day of the feria when all the antiques dealers, artisans/ artists, and street musicians come out to play. We spent the afternoon walking up Defensa (the main drag, just a couple blocks from my house) and checking out all the interesting art and music, just having good clean fun.

Some of the highlights of the antiques market:

One of my favorite bands that plays on Sundays, a tango group featuring lots of hot accordion players: ;-)

In girly news, I also finally broke down and bought myself the bag I've been obsessing over for a week, as a little shopping therapy for myself. Oooh it's so cute! And as if that wasn't great enough, then my friend Charlotte met up with us, and we all went to enjoy a big fat choripan (chorizo sandwich with chimichurri and provenzal). YUM! [nom nom nom]

We spent a long time watching an amazing street artist paint live portraits of famous musicians (here with Amy Winehouse) to music, all with his hands and some splattering techniques. He's so entertaining to watch! I always see this guy around, and love his work.

As the day grew later, we ended up with some litros of cerveza on the sidewalk, planted in front of an amazing cumbia band playing their hearts out. We watched the dancers, wiggled a bit ourselves, enjoyed the cervezas and each other's company, and just appreciated the music, and being in a place where moments like that exist. Really, as I sat there am looked out into the crowd of happy people dancing, talking, and enjoying the music, I looked at the gorgeous cobble stoned street and the lovely colonial buildings around me surrounded by balconies covered in flowers, and I thought to myself, "this is why I came here." The stress of the week melted away right then, even if just for a moment.

On the way home, we walked by a man selling gorgeous Bugambilia flowers (called Santa Rita in Spanish) out of the back of his bicycle, and I had to have one. I ran after him, and Andrea and I both bought a couple for our balconies.

They make all the difference! Our balconies are now vibrant with lovely white, purple, and pink flowers. Plus, they look great alongside my other happy little plants, Flor and Máximo Junior.

Then to top off the whole evening, my other roommate Julie, who is French, and a friend of her's also from France, made us delicious crepes! We had some with ham and cheese, others with tuna, and then tons with nutella, dulce de leche, jams, and even one I insisted on making with peanut butter and chocolate. Oh man, what a dinner!

And now, I'm ready to begin a new week. I start a new job tomorrow, one I trained for last week, but officially begin tomorrow. I have a lot of work ahead of me and a lot of business to take care of. But... one step at a time.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ladies weekend in Mendoza

Since so much time has passed, I won't bother trying to remember every detail, but I want to at least show you some of the highlights of my trip to Mendoza (aka Argentina's prime wine country and one of the most beautiful cities in the country) with 4 amazing lady friends, March 20-24th.

Sorry for the lack of anecdotes, but please enjoy the pics:

Girls on bikes... ready for our winery tours!

Gorgeous scenery...

Exclusive bike parking!

Mmmmm Trapiche...

All the ladies at our first sampling...

French oak barrels...

Where's drunk Erica?

Acres and acres and acres and acres and acres of gorgeous vineyards...

Mamma mia I found my very own pizzeria!

An amazing steak dinner at La Barra to finish off an amazing wine tasting extravaganza!