Monday, August 31, 2009

La Tormenta de Santa Rosa

The weather in Argentina is a bit crazy. Right now, for example, it's winter, headed toward spring, and yet all weekend it was simply gorgeous, perfect summery weather. Blue skies, sun, and hot hot hot-- in fact, I spent all afternoon yesterday in the park in a sun dress trying to take my extreme whiteness to a healthy shade of pink. (I failed-- still white.)

The summer-in-winter weather has been a popular topic of discussion in my classes, and so this week several of my students have told me the story of La Tormenta de Santa Rosa -aka- the Santa Rosa Storm. This is a storm that every year inevitably hits the week of August 30th, either a few days before or after.

Apparently, every year around this time, it oddly gets very hot and nice, like a flash forward to summer. Then suddenly, within a couple days of August 30th, Santa Rosa blows through the city, usually with heavy rains and strong winds, and takes the warm weather away when it goes.

Anyway, it was impossible for me to believe yesterday, looking up at the perfect blue, cloudless sky that there could be a storm today, but the weathermen insisted. And lo and behold, today, right on schedule, I woke up to a grey sky, torrential rain and heavy winds. SANTA ROSA!

In all honestly, it wasn't bad. Granted, it's still mid-day and maybe it will get bad again, but it seems to be clearing up a bit, albeit a very ugly, grey day. But once again the legend was right... Santa Rosa really does strike, without fail, right at this time. This naysayer has been humbled.

Here's one article about today's mini-Santa Rosa Storm. And here's some more information on Santa Rosa, which talks a bit about its history.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dad arrived!

After much anticipation, my dad arrived in Buenos Aires this morning! He'll be here for 2 weeks of wine, steak and tango. Life is hard. :-)

Monday, August 10, 2009


I love music, you love music. If you don't love music, what do you live for?

I think a lot about the soundtrack to my life. I feel like everything I'm doing, there is a song playing in the background, literally or figuratively, that sort of narrates it all... it's like a free concert in there at all times, and I have the VIP pass... which explains why I have been known, from time to time, to bust out in a sudden dance party in the middle of the street. I don't need outside music to dance-- it's inside my head. I wonder a lot, what would the sound track be if they were to make a movie about my life?.. and then I make long, long, endless lists inside my head...

(It's a very schizophrenic soundtrack, and I'm not so sure anyone would actually buy it, but it starts off sort of slow and jammy with a Dispatch/Ani DiFranco collaboration, and Tracy Chapman is there [like a dream] and I think India.Arie is in there somewhere too... then it goes all nuts and Jurassic 5, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Outkast all step in to take care of things... which logically progresses to Weezer, fading into Ween, then Iron and Wine... in the distance, the Buena Vista Social Club is playing... in the foreground, it's a messy dance off between Michael Jackson and Madonna... the Beatles start to fade in and next thing you know, Amy Winehouse is there. naturally, MGMT comes next, followed by a confusing mish mash of The Clash, Johnny Cash, the Killers, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Portishead... Britney Spears?? where did she come from?! and then it's just Lauryn Hill, a capella, joined eventually by a solo Joe Strummer [without his Mescaleros], and then a single guitar... drums... BASS... salsa beats, tango... acoustic... electric... rock n roll, swing... reggae reggae reggae [this is, of course, my life, afterall]... the Chili Peppers are never far away, Sublime wants in on the fun, and all the while, Yo La Tengo has been playing 'Autumn Sweater' over and over... then 2Pac! then Cake!... then a moment of silence... and then it goes on and on and on...)

Is the soundtrack to my life bilingual? trilingual? more?

Well, now that my life is in Spanish, I'm becoming more and more into música en español. I've always been into a few bands here and there, but lately I find myself listening to more in Spanish than in English. It's good practice, but also, I've just been discovering a lot of bands I like. Thought I'd share them with you... no pressure, but if you want to practice your Spanish, maybe you could brush up with some of these band recommendations.

Disclaimer: This is a non-comprehensive list and a very spur-of-the-moment blog post. Feel free to add/ suggest stuff, congratulate me for my great choices, or berate me for my terrible taste.

Some favorites/ classics from various countries:
Manu Chao-- If for some reason you've been under a rock for the last 10 years and haven't heard his stuff, GO GET IT NOW. He's originally from France, but sings in Spanish, English, and French.
Orishas-- Cuban hip hop, not to be missed.
Maná-- One of the greatest bands OF ALL TIME. From Mexico. I particularly recommend their unplugged album.
Buena Vista Social Club-- A bunch of old Cuban men making music??? Yes, please! Pretty much amazing.
Jarabe de Palo-- I am in LOVE. Sometimes I spend hours listening to the same 5 Jarabe de Palo songs on repeat. From Spain.

Some Argentine rock you should know about that I've been rocking out to lately:
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
Bersuit Vergarabat
Soda Stereo
No Te Va a Gustar
Los Piojos
Charly García

(...ugh I am looking for more good local bands, so Argentine readers, please burn me some CDs so I can recommend, yes?? Gracias.)

Anyway, enjoy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Time flies..

Wow! Today I celebrate 6 months of living in Buenos Aires... qué loco! It has been an intense ride, has had its ups and downs, trials and tribulations... but I have also made some amazing life-long friends, grown up and learned a lot, started a successful new career as a teacher, and had a lot of time to reflect on my life and what I really want. Living here has been an important part of my personal evolution, and for better or for worse, I wouldn't change it for the world.

...Here's to 6 more!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rat Race

Dear Subte Riders,

Trains generally have a maximum capacity. What that means, for those of you who have no clue, is that there is a point that a train car reaches at which it is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for any more of you to cram inside without suffocating each other to death, which I sometimes wish you would do. Please just let me out first.

Getting onto the Buenos Aires subte with you people during rush hour is all the proof I need that bad karma exists... and apparently I've had it piling up for years now. What have I done to deserve this? I'm SORRY for that time that I did that thing that made me deserve this! May I please stop being punished now?

You all wait impatiently for the train to pull up, your toes curling dangerously over the edge of the platform, your necks strained sideways into the tunnel, trying to catch a glimpse of the oncoming train. Is it there yet? IS IT THERE YET?!?! You're all looking at each other, deciding who is the weakest link, who is most easily trampled, who is best avoided. You're clutching your MP3 players, your MP4 players, your cell phones (which, of course, are blasting cumbia music), your multiple children, and you're deciding who's heads you'll need to step over to GET ON THAT TRAIN.

The train pulls up. It's full of people who aren't getting off. The platform is full of people who want to get on. The doors clamor open...

Suddenly I feel like Violet Beauregarde, swollen up like a giant blueberry, being squeezed and pressed in Willie Wonka's factory juicing room.

There's nothing for me to hold onto, but the crowds have me propped up. I'm holding my breath and counting to a million, while some sort of midget slips past my legs. The child next to me seems to have the Swine Flu, and his father's eyes are blaming me. I'm gripping my wallet.

We go half a stop, and somewhere in the middle of the tunnel, a few of you decide you need to get off. You cannot wait until we reach the stop, you need to get off NOW! Yes, you've alerted everyone in earshot that you will, in fact, be disembarking shortly, and we are now all expected to somehow maneuver around you in a space too tight to breathe in, because you would like to be closer to the door when it opens, thankyouverymuch. WHAT IS WITH YOU PEOPLE? Why can you not at least wait until the train is slowing down, maybe even until a couple people get out, so that the rest of us don't spend our entire commute stressing about how far ahead YOU are in the exit queue?!

Congratulations. You made it off the train exactly .000567 seconds earlier than you would have otherwise. I hope it was worth it, because as a result, I'm sporting a blue and purple bruise the size of your face on my upper thigh.

Damnit, subte riders, you are worse than Bostonian T riders! And THAT is something I never thought I would hear myself say.


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Illegal Immigrant Goes to Uruguay

I just got back last night from an awesome 3 day trip to Montevideo, Uruguay! As most of you know, I need to leave Argentina every 3 months to have my tourist visa renewed for another 90 days, so that I can continue to stay here. This isn't "legal," per se, but it's the closet thing I have. As in, I'm allowed to be here, but I'm not supposed to be... ahem... working...

Anyway, 3 months ago I told you of my journey to the lovely, quaint, and kind of boring Colonia, Uruguay, the closest option for those of us needing to get our passports stamped. This time, I decided to be just slightly more adventurous and check out Uruguay's capital city of Montevideo. I'm happy to report that it was a great decision, and well worth the additional money I spent.

Not only was this my first time in Montevideo, but it was also my first time making use of my Couchsurfing membership. As I made the plans, some people advised me not to to trust the site, while most people encouraged me to be my usual adventurous self and give it a shot. The premise of the website is that it connects travelers with other like-minded individuals who are willing to offer their couch for the night, or if they can't offer that, will often offer to show you around their city while you're there. People can leave each other references, both positive and negative, to tell others of their experiences, and can "vouch" for other members to help prove their trustworthiness. Although there is room for error, overall it is a site that seems to attract really buena onda people from all over the world. I'm excited to be a part of their community, honestly.

Anyway, I joined last year at some point, but have never actually used it, neither to host someone nor to be hosted. Several weeks ago I began contacting people living in Montevideo who were offering their couches, and of the 4 people I wrote to, all 4 wrote me back saying they'd be happy to host! After asking a few more questions and chatting over email, I finally decided to stay with a guy named Pablo, who seemed like he'd be a fun person to get to know, and seemed willing to show me around. Turns out I couldn't have made a better choice!

I purchased the cheapest possible travel option, a $280 AR peso round trip ticket through Buquebus by boat and bus, each way involving 3 hours by boat between Buenos Aires and Colonia, and another 2.5ish hours by bus between Colonia and Montevideo. It's actually quite a pleasant trip, with both the boat and bus offering nice comfortable seats to fall asleep in. The boat ride even had live entertainment both ways! I mean, I slept through it, but still, it was an option.

Anyway, I'd canceled my Friday classes for the trip, and left Friday morning, arriving around 3:00pm Friday afternoon. As Pablo wasn't getting off work until later, I killed a few hours alone in the city. I hopped a bus and took it through the center and down into the Ciudad Vieja (Old City), where I jumped off and wandered the streets for a while. I stopped to enjoy Plaza Independencia...

and Plaza de la Constitución...

...before planting myself in a café to enjoy a steaming hot café con leche and to read my book. A perfect afternoon.

Later that evening, I met up with Pablo and his brother, Gonzalo, and hung out with them in their cute apartment for several hours, just getting to know them. Gonzalo is a 22 year old economics student, Pablo is a 29 year old software engineer, and quite a well-traveled one at that. It's no wonder we got along so well. We discussed the finer points of Uruguayan society, in particular how much better Uruguayans are than Argentines (ha!), and debated who had invented what. Who invented dulce de leche, the Uruguayans or the Argentines, for example? Well, let's just say there are two sides to every story. ;-)

The 3 of us headed back down to the Ciudad Vieja for some beer and pizza mixed with some great live Brasilian music and salsa dancing. We had a blast, and I enjoyed hanging out in the Montevideo social scene, one that for me was super fun and much more laid back than what I'm used to back in Buenos Aires.. it was a welcome change, to say the least. My first impressions were that the Uruguayans are more polite, more respectful, and the population is more diverse. I felt like I fit in better there.

It was freezing cold all weekend, and I don't have a proper winter coat with me down here, but that didn't stop Pablo and I from spending all day on Saturday riding his and his brother's old beat up bikes through the city and all along the Rambla (the coast). We must have gone about 20 kms total that day. We enjoyed some time at Parqué Rodó...

...and we checked out a nice big chunk of the Montevideo coastline, facing the beautiful (well, on the Uruguay side, anyway) Rio de la Plata River...

...hung out and smiled, even though we were freeeeezing...

...saw their lighthouse, which I expected to be huge and was this tiny little thing...

...and of course the Yacht Club. Not to be missed.

While in BsAs the river is a yucky brown poo color, in Uruguay it is actually blue! Go figure.

The only bad thing all weekend happened Saturday night when Pablo got mugged. Ughhhh oh man it was awful. It's funny, because I've been in Buenos Aires for 6 months, and so far (knock on wood, ugh) I haven't had any problems. And Uruguay is a "much safer" country. However, on my second day there, I experienced my first mugging. Funny how life works.

We were walking home from the bar around 2:30am (not too late, by S. American standards), and a group of 3 guys walking toward us walked straight up to him and said they had a weapon (probably not true, but still), that there were 6 of them (I only saw 3, but still), and to give them all his money. So he did, and after a few minutes they ran off. The weird thing is that they didn't even look at me, an obviously foreign girl carrying a purse. It was like I wasn't even there. I didn't even realize what was happening at first because it all happened so fast, but suddenly I put it all together in my head and felt a surge of panic. I couldn't figure out why they weren't talking to me, but I was trying to figure out what I'd do if they did. Luckily I never found out. But poor Pablo had all his money taken. I was pretty shaken up by the whole thing so we headed home... he seemed so calm about it too, which was possibly the freakiest part of all. It's sad that we live in a world where this stuff is s normal that people don't even freak out when it happens to them.

Anyway, I only had a couple hours on Sunday before my bus left, so we spent the early part of the day wandering through parque Rodó again, which turns into a huuuuuge feria on Sundays, selling everything you could possibly think of, and much more. I went off in search of the exact mate I'd seen Gonzalo sipping on all weekend, a lovely, perfectly round one made of calabaza and covered in leather, with a metal rim. I found the same guy he'd gotten his from, and splurged on one for myself... I love it!

Have I mentioned the best, and possibly most distinctive thing about Uruguayans?? Their mate habits! Argentines love their mate, but I think Uruguayans might even more! Nearly everyone you see on the street is walking around sipping their mate in their hand, and has their thermos of hot water cradled under their arm. I adore that. Now there is a habit I'd like to bring back to the States with me!

Overall I had such a nice time, and by the end of the trip I was soooo not ready to leave. And now that I'm back, I wish I were still there. It was too short. Next time, I'll go for a whole week. It was fun, relaxing, enlightening, just what I needed.

Montevideo, I don't care what the Argentines say, I'm a fan.