Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Semana Santa

This week starts Semana Santa, or Holy Week, and most people have tomorrow and Friday off. Unfortunately I'll be working on Thursday, though we'll still get Friday off. A lot of people use this 3 or 4 day weekend as an excuse to get out of Buenos Aires and go somewhere like the coast for the last time before it gets really cold. We've had some wonderful weather lately and it's been a very pleasant early autumn.

I think back to previous years when I've had 3 or 4 day weekends and how I used the extra day advantageously and traveled somewhere. However, I can no longer just take off at will. I just don't have the funds to be able to do so. As it is this was a really thought month, and next month I have to pay 6 months advance rent, leaving me with another tough month ahead.

Even without being able to go somewhere for the weekend, I'm still going to get out of the apartment and do as much as I can in the city. After all, this is still a destination city, and there's always something going on whether you have money to spend or not. It'll be nice to get a few more runs in before the weather gets too nasty, and sleeping in a bit would be nice for a change. It sounds awfully domesticated, but I'm still all about traveling.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

After a short nap and some lunch I headed back out today. I really wasn't that exhausted from the race and felt like walking around, so with such a beautiful day, I decided to walk to the Botanical Gardens. The last time I went it was rainy and nearly empty, but today it was the complete opposite, with many people walking around and sun breaking through the cracks in the trees.

I took a couple of pictures and sat down for a while before meeting up with Hannah down in Recoleta. I jumped on the 67 and met up with her and a conversation partner of hers by the fair. The area was packed with young people and live music was being performed by two groups side by side. The last time I was here it was a similar scene, but I thought that day must have been special. Evidently, every Sunday there is music in Plaza Francia though. Just to get your mind in the right place, that's across from the Museum of Fine Arts and Buenos Aires Design (mall).

We walked through the stalls for a few minutes and then sat on the grass listening to the music for a while. All around us groups were having picnics with mate and snacks, and the music was actually really good. I have to say, this has been a pretty tight Sunday. Now I just hope something good is on TV tonight.

And also, this is one of the bands that was playing. I'm not quite sure why, but they are wearing white dresses. Going for a ZZ Top sort of theme?

Above: Images from the Botanical Gardens and Plaza Francia

La Carrera de Miguel

This morning I woke up earlier than normal and got ready for the 10k in Palermo, La Carrera de Miguel. I ate some cereal, stretched out, and then headed in with the other runners to the park. The forecast had called for rain but I was happy to find that it was a warm sunny day without a cloud in the sky. I've been really lucky in that every race I've run in has had excellent weather.

The race has been put on in Bariloche and Buenos Aires for the last five years in memory of Miguel Sanchez, an Argentine runner who disappeared and was murdered under the last military dictatorship. So it's not much of a surprise that there's a political undertone to this race. Yet I still wasn't expecting the band of protesters by the starting line. They weren't doing anything bad, but had signs and were singing songs with their drums. I was kind of put off to it, thinking that they were using his death as an excuse to complain about the current government.

In any case, it wasn't really about the race. I picked up my free shirt, dropped off my valuables, and got ready for the race towards the front of the line. Slowly the lane packed in and the clock ticked down to zero. The route took us to parts of the city I hadn't seen yet. We started north going past the horse track and up to the Palermo Golf Club. Here in this area of the city I found more parks and ponds that I had never even seen before. The skyline of Belgrano was visible, and it seemed like a really laid back part of the city.

There was only one water station for this race at the half way mark. This was a free race put on by the city, but it's still a lack of judgment. Even if it's a free race there has to be some water available or people are going to pass out. We double around and began the second part of the race heading back to the starting line. By this point I was getting into a stride and my pace increased. My legs were a little bit tired but my lungs felt fine. Training had paid of after all.

This race lacked cheering crowds but even by the finish line people waited around anxiously. I ran hard the last kilometer or two and finally came in at a smooth 46 minutes and 22 seconds. It's the best time I've had in a race yet and blows away the 1 hour time from the Nike 10k in October. Though to be fair, I hadn't run for two months before that race.

Here another bad call occurred by the event staff. As you passed the finish line you could grab a bottle of water or Gatorade, but once you walked past a certain point you couldn't go back. I only had one bottle of Gatorade while some people had three. I quickly downed the entire thing and wanted another, but was denied anything else. Long tables were filled with hundreds of bottles but the staff refused to give the other runners nor I anything to drink.

Keep in mind we just ran a race. I think it would only be decent to give us a bottle of water so we don't pass out, but apparently they were sticklers for the rules that don't really exist. I stood around for a while hoping they would finally feel bad and just throw a bottle over, but they never did. I grabbed my things and headed home, picking up a victory beer along the way. It's more fun to run with some friends, but I had to make due here. There are more races coming up next month. Maybe I'll look into them.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pictures From Another Traveler

It's funny to see the pictures visitors take of the place you live in. I can't claim local status, but I've been here long enough now that I don't feel the need to look every time I walk by the Obelisk, for example. I've been going through my friend Amy's photos of her trip down in Buenos Aires last week, and they're great. Really, she does some amazing things with a point and shoot, apparently just by taking the flash off.

Anyway, somehow her eye caught some things I never see, and just from the angles of the shots she has you can tell that it was taken from the perspective of someone who isn't from here. There's an excitement and novelty in the photos that maybe wouldn't be captured by someone like me who has been here for a while. Just an odd angle of a building from a passing bus looks like it was artistically prepared, but before we give Amy too much credit, it was probably snapped off quickly at a red light. I should probably take my camera out with me more often, especially as it always seems that you see the craziest thing just when you least expect it. But I hate being a tourist and walking around like one, so there are pros and cons. One day though. One day.

Preparing for the Race

It was good having a day off this week because it gave me the opportunity to get a long run in before the 10k tomorrow. Even with the extra preparation though, some partying had to take place to throw off the rhythm. On Thursday night Esquina Carlos Gardel, one of the better tango shows in the city, put together a party for some of the travel agencies and hotels in Buenos Aires. From my office only a couple of people wanted to go, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity, so after work I headed over to the Costanera Norte with my co-worker Pablo.

The party slowly developed into a large gathering, but it was less of a rubbing elbows function and more of a night club. With an open bar and only occasional empanadas being served, any time a waiter came by people attacked the tray like wild animals. We wound up staying until 1:30 am and I didn't get in until 2. Poor Pablo then had to drive another half hour home after dropping me off. Needless to say, Friday was a tough day at the office.

Nonetheless it was a fun night out, and I'm glad to be able to take advantage of small perks like that. However, it is the end of the month and I had visitors for a week, plus my rent for 6 months is due next month, so money is a little tight right now. I'd been eating less and less as the week went on, eating pasta at least 5 different times and running down to just cheese sandwiches and a couple of cookies for lunch. To supplement the meal you can add in some mate, which fills you up slightly. It's not ideal, but when things are tough you make due.

After eating so much pasta I've started to just throw random things onto it for some variation. I like putting a few dabs of Frank's Red Hot sauce with some red pepper and oregano over the spaghetti noodles. Perhaps this isn't what you'll find at a high end restaurant, but it confuses your taste buds for long enough to convince you that you're eating something other than the same meal for the third night in a row. I remember way back before living in Spain thinking that I wanted to know what it was like to arrive to a country not speaking the language very well, sort of like an immigrant in the United States might experience. I went through the process of learning the language. I guess now I'm on the end of making due and stretching every peso.

But it's not all complaints. I finally went food shopping today and stocked up on all of the things that I've been missing out on. I even had 3 empanadas for lunch and bought orange juice. Tonight I'll make a steak with potatoes and onions. And then tomorrow I'll run in the race and hopefully celebrate with a victory beer. Of course it won't be the same without my friends Ricardo and Amy, and not being at high altitude won't make it as much of an accomplishment, but it's something to be proud of.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Day Off of Work

Today is a national holiday in Argentina in memory of the end of the military dictatorship from the 80s. People don't usually talk about it, or the Dirty War in which many people were "disappeared" and murdered. But today we get the day off of work to think about it, or to celebrate that it's over, or maybe just because there aren't many national holidays here.

It's a beautiful day, and I've taken advantage of it so far. I woke up late (after getting back in around 5:30 am), watched some TV, and then went for a run in the park. I've signed up for the 10k on Sunday in honor of an athlete who was murdered during the dictatorship, so I need to make sure my body is in good shape for the weekend. It's cooled off a lot in the last couple of weeks and running during the day is now very pleasant.

After three laps around the park I sat down in the sun for a while watching the groups of families and friends having picnics. I realized I was getting burned so I sat in the shade against a tree and watched the people running, biking, and rollerblading around the park. Everyone was enjoying the day off in their own way. It's one of those days in the fall when there's a last gasp from summer, but the chilly wind comes in to remind you that it's all over.

I'm heading up to Belgrano now. The day off continues.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Travelgrove: A New Way to Search for Deals

Recently I was asked by Travelgrove, a meta-search engine that helps users find cheap offers on airfare, hotels and car rentals, cruise deals, and vacation packages, to give a review of their Web site. The following is an unbiased, objective review of their services.

The front page of Travelgrove jumps out as slightly overwhelming, with loads of information coming at you all at once. There are deals over on the right and advice columns as you scroll down, with text all over the page. However, a quick adjustment of the eyes and you're quickly at ease with all of the information. Really, it's no more overloaded with information than a Web site like STA Travel or Kayak, though Kayak is definitely simpler.

Focus along the lead banner and you'll find your options for how this site can help you find cheap deals. Namely, Travelgrove focuses on airfare, hotels, car rental, cruises, vacation packages, deals, and also includes sections with a travel community and travel tips. While I feel that the sections with the travel community and tips aren't as comprehensive as a network like Matador, they definitely add a depth to a cheap offers Web site that helps the user look into their purchase. On the other hand, it's not too common that a shopper will go to a Web site designed to give them good deals to do their research. That step will usually be taken care of well before a plane ticket is about to be bought.

In my experience in trying to find cheap airfare, whether in the U.S., Europe, or South America, it has always been important to compare prices, timetables, and availability. Not all sites manage these three things efficiently. I feel as though Travelgrove fits in with these categories. It's not to say that it's a bad Web site, but this issue still needs to be worked out with all sites. On a random search for flights from Buenos Aires to Boston, no results were found, though the search time was fast. I tried again with New York to Boston, knowing there would be many flights for this set. Yet again, no flights were found.

Looking back through the homepage there are numerous flights available, though when trying to find the actual flight you see listed, you are redirected to another Web site which has the original offer. This isn't too uncommon, though it is a nuisance when you are trying to find a cheap flight quickly. The Web site loads well, but adds time in that you have to search through so many options. Time and again as I search for the cheapest flights, the last thing I want to do is click on multiple links and hope I'm reading correctly. What I want is to type in Departure, Arrival, and see what my options are without delay.

One section with Cheap Flights to Los Angeles, for example, will give you many options on cheap flights to Los Angeles from numerous cities in the United States and Canada. It also lists the airlines which you would be flying with, which is useful if you have a grudge against a certain airline for whatever reason. Furthermore, the side banners are complete with pictures of the location and tips or articles related to the topic. How often you'll check those is debatable, but they are there nonetheless.

Lastly, there is a section with travel guides. I have reviewed the guide on San Francisco for an example. This is a short guide that doesn't go too in depth yet gives a nice introduction to the city. Assuming you have no previous knowledge of the place, you now at least have some basic information to get you started on your trip. It's probably a good thing that it's not too long, as most people don't have a large attention span when reading something on the Internet anyway. Additionally, this travel guide will link you to many other things including history, pictures, tips, nightlife and reviews. With a connection to the travel community, you can add your own comments if you are familiar with the place as well.

After spending a lot of time on this Web site, I could conclude that it's definitely a useful tool for trying to find a deal on a trip, no matter which kind that may be. It's not quite a TripAdvisor, but it's on its way to making a name for itself nonetheless. I would feel comfortable giving the go ahead to look for offers on your next trip. Let me know how your experience with it goes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

San Antonio de Areco

The four of us had a laid back Friday night, simply getting a late dinner at a cafe down the street, The idea was to wake up at 9 am and head to the bus terminal to catch an 11 o'clock bus to San Antonio de Areco. We made it to Retiro on time but the next bus wasn't leaving until 11:30, so we finally rolled into town at 1:30 pm. First we walked around towards the center which was only about five blocks away from the bus stop.

Along the way we asked a woman where we could get some food and she recommended a place not too far away. Though the prices weren't too bad, they were still a little high for me. My friends were happy with it though and we had a great meal, along with some cheap house wine. We really had no plan on what to do, but the idea was to get out of the city and see some of the pampas. So after lunch we walked to a park, saw the old bridge, and then found our way to a tienda.

I saw that they were selling alpargatas, which are traditional gaucho shoes that I've been trying to find for a while. They're actually pretty hard to come by, but they are very cheap. I got a pair for $18, which is the best deal I've seen so far, and since we were already there with nothing else to do and two hours to kill, we got some beer. For the next two hours we just sat in front of the tienda and played cards while drinking a few beers.

The sky was dark gray and had the feel of the calm before a storm, but it was pleasant and fun sitting there with my friends. Before long it was time to head back to the bus station to go back to Buenos Aires. For our last dinner we went to La Cabrera in Palermo. It was hard to get a table and by the time we sat down with some food on our plates it was already 12:45 am, but the place was still packed. The restaurant has a warning on the menu saying you should share the meals, and we saw why pretty quickly. Enormous portions came out one by one, and though they were expensive, we agreed it wouldn't be too bad if you split it evenly.

It was a good way to end the vacation, and though I was sad to see them go, they left my apartment early this morning to head back to Ecuador. Today is a rainy and cold day, but it's also the Superclasico, which is the Boca Juniors vs. River Plate. It's a big game and the whole city will be watching.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting in Gear for the Weekend

It was a really tiring and stressful week, even with having friends visiting. Maybe that added a bit to the stress, even though having them around has been awesome. Today I got two more decisions and neither were good. I was rejected by Tufts University and George Washington University. Those were two of the hardest schools I applied to, so I have to say that while it's disappointing, it's still a reach to try for those universities in the first place.

But finally the week is over and I can relax a bit before my friends leave on Sunday morning. They're currently coming back from Colonia, Uruguay, but won't be getting back until around 10:30 or 11 pm. Our plans, as of now, are to go to a town called San Antonio de Areco in the morning for a day trip. "Areco" for short is a typical Pampa town about two hours away from Buenos Aires by bus. Generally people will go to an estancia while they are there and do estancia things. But we don't have the kind of money to do that stuff.

I imagine that we'll get in there in the afternoon, walk around a bit and then get some beers at a cafe or bar. With not much else to do, we'll probably take a nap and then head back to the city. But that's just me guessing, based off of experience with day trips in Latin America. It will be good to get out of the city even if only for a few hours. And then on Sunday morning, far earlier than we should be awake, I'll say goodbye to my friends who will fly back to Quito to finish out their time in Ecuador.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

¡Quilombo, Digo Yo!

Last night was a fun, but late night out at a club with my friends and Vero and her friends. It was Saint Patrick's Day, so my American friends who are on vacation were all about drinking. But I had to keep in mind that I had work the next morning, so by 12:30 am or 1 am, whenever we finally made it out of there, we called it a night.

Surprisingly, the day started off alright, even though I was tired. There was a deep gray and heavy air in the city, like everyone was hungover. Checking my email I saw that I was accepted to American University for grad school. Not a bad way to start the day. My big day was planned around a visit to the old Registro Civil at 1:15 pm. For the ninth time I was going to try to get my DNI. The magistrate who has helped me in the past was supposed to meet me there, and I called her yesterday to make sure she was still on board. After all, I'd had this appointment since February 1st, when my last appointment failed miserably. Also, we were using her information to get the appointment in the first place.

I got there at 1:15 on the dot and called to see where she was. The first time I called we got disconnected (or she hung up) and the second time she said that she had to go to the bank and would be there in 20 minutes. Not too good considering on an hour lunch break it took me 15 minutes to walk there and you had to expect at least 30 minutes while inside, plus 15 back. I tried to get a place in line but since it was her information I couldn't, and they told me I only had until 2 pm to get a spot or I'd lose the turn.

So I stood outside the Registro waiting patiently, sweating in the humidity while recently married couples had rice thrown at them by their friends. Once or twice I was hit with rice as an innocent bystander. By 1:50 pm I had to accept that there was no way this could happen, so I had to return to the office with nothing in hand. I still had a giant alfajor that I bought her as a thank you for helping, which I left in the office kitchen for my coworkers.

It was pretty disheartening to have another failure at the Registro, and I felt like there's little more I can do at this point. I did eventually go back into the Web site and make up a DNI number to get another appointment, though it's not until May 5th. So I'll have to wait again and hope that the 10th time works out well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Visitors in BA

It’s good to have some friends around this week, and even though I work throughout the day, we’ve been trying to make the most of the time together. On Sunday we did some touristy things and ended it with the excellent all-you-can-eat steak dinner. Yesterday we met up back at the apartment after I came home from work and they finished with a bus tour of the city.

We talked about what they had seen (and hadn’t seen) and then they went out to buy some things to make dinner while I prepared some mate. Once they were back and we started cooking I showed them how to drink the traditional tea. It’s kind of funny to me that I should now be the one teaching people how to drink mate, when I still feel like a completely novice sometimes. Of course, I am a novice, but with more experience than them.

The advantage for the friends that visit me is that they get to see a more authentic side of Argentina, even if I myself am a foreigner. Usually tourists will never try mate because it’s just not something you normally order in a café or bar. But it’s something almost all tourists know about and want to try, so to help my friends experience that a little bit, I feel glad to impart some knowledge on them.

Cooking dinner was a team effort, though Matt, Amy, and Carrie did most of the work while I prepared the mate. Finally around 10 pm we were ready to go with way too much pasta and meat, as well as some delicious garlic bread. It was a fun dinner in which we again over-ate, and topped it off with some dulce de leche ice cream and alfajores. I like having guests.

The guys are planning on going to more places throughout the week and visit Uruguay for a day at some point. On Saturday we are planning to spend a day in the country in San Antonio de Areco, a town I have yet to go to. It is known as a quintessential Pampas town, with estancias and museums to visit. Unless plans change (which they always good) it should be a nice day trip from the city.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Siga La Vaca!

Before I even arrived in Argentina my friend had told me about a restaurant called Siga La Vaca, an all-you-can-eat steak house in Puerto Madero. My friend Adam raved about it, and for six months I tried to get over there. Even though two different visitors have come, in addition to my parents, I still hadn’t made it, but finally last night I went with my friends to the famed restaurant.

After a late start on the day and walking around the San Telmo fair we moseyed over to Puerto Madero, where the chilly sunset blew in a stench from the river that was something awful. Even though it was way too early for dinner, I had built up Siga La Vaca so much that they were hungry for it. We walked into the restaurant 10 minutes before 7 pm, but already there were some people left over from lunch rush. The prices had risen—instead of $50 pesos that I thought I would pay, it was $72 (the price also rises on the weekends).

All you can eat comes with the salad bar with enough choices alone to make a whole meal, a liter of wine, beer, or soda (per person), and all the steak you could ever want. Oh yeah, and if you still had room, dessert. After tempting our taste buds with the salad bar options we hit the grill. A long front grill exposed a literal mountain of meat, with just about everything you could imagine. Chicken to intestines were available for the taking, and we helped ourselves well.

I stared with some bife de chorizo while the other guys got a portion of vacío. We all shared what we had, and after giving ourselves enough time to digest went up for more. This time we devised a plan to maximize what we’d try, so we all got something differet. I got chicken, Carrie got chorizo (sausage), Matt got bondiola (pork), and Amy got Patagonian lamb. It was a festival of gluttony.

With a combination of the two bottles of wine and all the meat, we started getting sluggish and hit the wall. But we had to continue, so three more plates were put down on the table filled with more bondiola and bife de chorizo. It was just too good. Finally we decided that we could take no more. We were going to explode or fall asleep at the table. The restaurant was now packed, so we didn’t feel so alone or fat by ourselves.

As Matt and Carrie stepped outside for a smoke, Amy and I ordered from the dessert menu, which surprisingly had a lot of options. For an all-you-can-eat place, it was really good. And since my friends came in from Ecuador where there aren’t too many options, they were in heave. When Matt and Carrie realized that we still had dessert to eat they let out a sigh as if saying “no more!” Even the dessert was excellent, though by that point we were all in pain. We looked at the clock and saw that we’d been eating for two hours.

Rather than deal with walking to the subway or taking a bus we just took the quick way out and got a taxi home, where we crashed on the couch to watch TV and moan from over-eating. It’s good to do that once in a while, but not too often. So finally after 6 months I discovered this restaurant. It was worth the wait.

Siga La Vaca is on Alicia Moreau de Justo 1714, Puerto Madero.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Yin Yang Egg

Who said cooking eggs was easy? I always manage to screw up the presentation of an egg, and this morning was no different. On an attempt at making a fried egg, somehow it naturally took the shape of a yin yang in the pan. Of course no one was around to see it, but I had to share it with someone.

Waiting and Waiting

UPDATED: 5 minutes later. So after checking over The Fletcher School's Web site and confirming with their admissions blog, I've learned that while decisions have been made, you have to wait to receive an email to tell you to check. That was not clear in their Facebook posting, but at least it has cleared things up a bit. But that also means that I have to twiddle my thumbs for a couple of days waiting for the email.

Last night I stayed in with the intention of just watching a movie and relaxing. Just before I was going to put a movie in around 10 pm I look over Facebook and saw that The Fletcher School at Tufts University had posted their decisions for Fall 2010. Instead of a letter or even failing that an email, we were being notified on the Facebook newsfeed. The notice also said that you could expect problems logging in because everyone who applied would probably be trying to find out at the same time.

I spent the next hour (Friday night) trying to log in, continually refreshing the page. It reminded me of a few years ago when I would try to buy concert or sports tickets via Ticketmaster, and having to continually hit refresh. The minute Red Sox tickets became available, you would have to reload the page 100 times in hopes of getting 1 game. Finally it became obvious that I wasn't going to get in, so I put in a movie and waited it out.

But at the end of the movie, around 1 am, I tried again to see if I was accepted or not. I was now able to get to the log in page, but a new problem developed. Now I had no idea what my user name or password were.  They weren't the same ones that I used for the application, nor were they related to my email address. I requested a new password, and though that arrived, the spot for user name was blank. I went to bed hungry to know what happened, but aware that there was nothing I could do.

I got up at the crack up dawn to check again, and still no luck signing in. The Fletcher School is one of the best in the country for International Relations, and it would be an honor to be accepted there. But I have to say, I'm pretty upset with the notification system. First of all, for a $70 application fee, an email at the very least would be appreciated, rather than by chance finding out through Facebook. Furthermore, if they want students to find out through their site, their server should be able to handle the load of the expected amount of students trying to find out if they got in. Of course everyone who applied will want to know as soon as possible, and posting it online and then saying you won't be able to see it is a tease.

I'm not sure what the next move is. Hopefully a letter will be sent to my parent's house in the U.S. But who knows how long that will take. In the meantime, I have tonight to look forward to. My friends will be arriving from Ecuador around 9:30 pm, though a day late, they will also gain a day on the trip. So it all works out in the end. By the time they get to my place it will probably already be 10:30 or later, and I'm sure they'll be exhausted. So maybe we'll just grab a bite to eat and call it a night. We have to make the most of the time together that we have because I'll be working the majority of their stay. But it will still be nice to have visitors for a while.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

City Livin'

I got two steaks in the oven, and like an idiot I already filled up on mortadela that I just bought for $3 pesos. But I was hungry, and the steaks take an hour to cook. All you do is put some salt on them and put the oven on low heat. A half hour in and they're already giving my apartment a buttery smell. I'm making lomo a la pobre tonight, which means I'll have a steak and a fried egg to top it off. It's a traditional Chilean dish which I'm a big fan of.

I'm waiting for these steaks to cook and scratching the bug bites all over my legs and arms. Summer is ending but these bugs are making one final push, sucking as much blood as they can before it gets too cold. The maintenance guy finally came up after about two weeks of having only one light working in my living room. Of course when he came in and gave it a whirl the light immediately went on and I looked like an idiot. But I swear it wasn't working. I can almost guarantee it won't work again in 20 minutes.

Where I live can be pretty noisy, off a main street such as Avenida Santa Fe. Even though I'm at the back of the building I still hear sirens all the time. When I first moved in here I noticed it all the time, and every night for at least the first month I woke up once or twice from the noise. Finally now I'm seeing that I don't even pay attention to the noise. It's just background, just like the soft swoosh of air through trees that never disturbs a country boy. I can even sleep through it mostly.

As a kid, spending a night or two at my grandparents apartment in Brooklyn was always a hassle, partly because of the noise of Brooklyn. It was a known fact that you wouldn't sleep well that night. I might be able to take it on now. Firstly, I want my steaks...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Transportation Issues in the Wake of the Quake

I have three friends coming to visit at the end of the week, or at least that's what the hope is. My good friends Amy and Carrie from my WorldTeach program are scheduled to arrive in Buenos Aires from Quito on Friday morning, along with a new volunteer. Amy and Carrie stayed on for another year in Ecuador, and this will be the first time I'll see them since leaving over 6 months ago.

However, their flight plans, which were scheduled to pass through Santiago, have now been changed because of the earthquake. Oddly enough, flights are up and running again yet only the flight from Quito to Santiago was canceled. The flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires is still on, as well as the flights on the way back. But LAN Airlines is working with them for options.

Instead of all arriving on Friday morning, it looks like they'll be getting in staggered now, as they can't all make the same flights. One options was to spend 26 hours waiting around in airports, and another was to lose 2 days out of a 7 day trip. So either way, it doesn't look good. It seems like Amy will be arriving first, a day earlier than planned. Then Matt would show up on Saturday, and Carrie on Sunday.

You have to make due with what you can, especially under the circumstances when you realize what caused the problems and what really matters...

Ahh, as writing this post I talked to Amy on Skype and we came to the realization that this trip might not work out. That flight she wanted to get on to come in early already filled up, and now her options are limited. She's thinking of postponing until May, which would give her more time in the end, but delay the visit. As for Carrie and Matt, I'm still not sure what they're doing. So I need to wait to find out if they're actually coming this week or not.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

This Is Why I'm Tired

Sunday morning, 7 am, and I was just getting home. It's happened before, though I try not to make a habit of it, especially on a Saturday night out. I want to go in to work refreshed on Monday, but this will throw off the whole week. To start on Saturday, I woke up tired from the night out on Friday, but went food shopping and then met up with Hannah, a friend of Vero's.

Hannah is from the U.S. and has been here 5 months, but is looking for an apartment and having trouble. Since I've had experience in this and can relate, I offered to help her out. But first, we had to get some food. I hadn't eaten any dinner or breakfast because I had no food in the house, so by lunch on Saturday I was starving. I proudly took her to the hole-in-the-wall Ecuadorian restaurant in Once, where I had to double take the door to make sure it was the right place.

As I opened the door to a full house watching soccer, every face in the restaurant gave the same look of "what are you doing here?" We sat down and when the waiter came over, to my delight she said they had ceviche. As I've written before, the ceviche from Ecuador is different from the kind in Peru. While both are great, a special spot in my heart goes to the Ecuadorian kind, and I hadn't had any since leaving in August.

The bowl seemed small but surprisingly filled me up well. It was great to have it, though it wasn't the best ceviche I've ever had. It almost had a miso soup taste to it. The aji (hot sauce) was incredible, and once again they let me take a little baggie home. So after leaving we spent the rest of the day trying to find apartments online and setting up appointments, etc.

My plans had been to go see the Boca Juniors game with my friend Javier, but he disappeared and left me with no one to go with. Hannah invited me to go out with an English friend of hers named Tom, who'd just arrived here. So we went out to Acabar on Honduras 5733, in Palermo. It was a very odd place, with antiques adorning the walls and different decorations and set ups all over. It had the feel of a Chucky Cheese's but for adults, and we actually heard the "Happy Birthday" song 4 or 5 times. Guests could go pick out board games and bring them to their tables, causing the place to be loud and boisterous.

Hannah left early on to wake up and look for apartments, but Tom and I hung around talking to people, eventually leaving and talking to more people in the street. By the time we finished getting some pizza at 6:45 am, the sun was shining brightly and I knew it was going to hurt in a few hours. So now my Sunday is essentially a scrub, though our plan is to meet and go to the park to veg out. But I have to say that so far the weekend has been good and making up for a lousy week.

Jazz in Buenos Aires

On Friday night I headed out with Ludmilla Lima of the CartasArgentinas blog to check out a couple of jazz clubs in Palermo Viejo. Our first stop was at a place called Virasoro Bar, on Guatemala 4328. When we got there the show had already started and the small venue was packed, but we were led to a table where we already had a reservation up in the front.

With the small venue, seemingly hidden bar, and bluesy sort of jazz, I had the feeling that we weren't in Buenos Aires, but rather in the Village in New York City. It could have been some cool underground jazz club near New York University for all I knew. The show cost $25 pesos and there was a minimum consumption of $12 pesos as well, which put it on the expensive side for me, but it was really enjoyable, mostly because it's so different from what normally goes on here.

The normal place to go out that I've been exposed to is a bar or night club life, which can easily get old after a while. This jazz club was a breath of fresh air. After the show we stayed long enough until everyone left and another band was preparing to play, but then we walked around trying to find another place, eventually winding up at Thelonius Jazz Club, on Salguero 1884. To me it seemed like another hidden bar, but it was packed with patrons, and it seemed like at least half were European.

Oddly enough the bass player and drummer from the band we'd just seen were there. The drummer was playing again, but the bass player was sitting alone at the bar, and he gave me a nod as if he recognized me but couldn't tell why. We wound up talking to the waiter, and it turned out it was his birthday. After the bar closed we were invited to stay after with the staff and talked for a while, and eventually they just gave us our drinks on the house.

So by the time we left it was pretty late and I was exhausted after a long week, but I was happy with a different kind of night out in Buenos Aires. It's obvious that in such a big city you'll find almost everything, but for a long time I hadn't seen that part of it at all. And I think I'll definitely hit it up again in the future.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Today's Sunset

We were supposed to get a lot of rain today but it was only humid. A loud thunderstorm woke me up briefly last night around 2 or 3 am, and when my alarm woke me up this morning in the middle of a dream, I was still exhausted. I never really woke up throughout the day, and I'm too tired to write.

But when I came home from work I saw this incredible sunset from my balcony, so I quickly snapped a couple of pictures before it changed and went away. For just a moment it was like this.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Back Into Writing, Again

It's hard to say that I stopped writing because I write every day at work and I blog frequently as well. However, the fact remains that in terms of travel writing and getting published, I have taken it easy since getting to Argentina. I just didn't have the time or motivation to pursue prospects or inquiries. But as of just recently I have been contracted by Argentina's Travel Guide to write some articles as a freelancer.

Argentina's Travel Guide is sort of like a Lonely Planet, but different in the sense that it is only online and updated consistently. That's one of the problem with printed guide books, because by the time they hit the presses and get into your hands, a lot of the information has already changed. But a lot of companies have sprung up in the last few years to deal with this issue, and Argentina's Travel Guide is one of those that promises to keep readers up to date.

Anyway, I'll be writing five articles on various topics related to Argentina for the Web site, so it's nice to be getting back into writing. It's just a little bit harder now that I have to do the writing after a long day at work of writing and editing. These articles will be loosely based on my experience in Argentina, and using knowledge I've gained from my job at a travel agency. I'll be sure to post updates when the articles are published.