Saturday, April 30, 2011

pouring

To be clear, I love this place. However, I have to say, it never ceases to throw some monkey wrenches into every single daily event. Anything from a simple bus trip to a friend's house, a stroll home, a ride on the subte.

Example 1 - After a night of dancing for my friend's birthday, I decided it was late (or, early) and I should probably head home. At 4:30 am I stood waiting for a bus in the rain with no umbrella, (well, not exactly, I found an alcove for protection). After 30 minutes, I decided to say fuck this bus and take another one that passed more regularly but dropped me off further from my apartment. I can walk.

The other bus pulls up shortly after (or maybe right as I made this decision) and I get on board. I sit down and enjoy the dry ride for a bit as I am tired and wet. As I get closer to where I need to get off I realize that with the fog on the windows and the rain coming down I really can't see the street names very well. I think I read the street name that I need and I decide to get off. Surprisingly when I take a look at my map, I'm not as far off as I thought I could have been, the walk shouldn't be too tough. I take a quick look at where I need to go and take off running in the rain.

For some reason, in this city, there are very often several blocks with no street signs to be seen. This frustrates me. As I was running and trying to figure out which street I was on, I actually said out loud to nobody "Of course there's no signs, you fuckers!! Why would labeling your streets make any sense??" After a few blocks I feel a little uncertain and decide to check my map again just to be sure I'm making progress. Turns out I'd been going south when I should have been going west. FUCK. I straighten out and get myself running again, this time in what should be the right direction. The only problem is now I have even further to go and it's still pouring.

As I leaped through puddles I look down to see my purse soaked through and I just hope the papers I have inside are not completely wet, though I know they have to be. I am tired, wet, annoyed and it is now about 5:30 am. I sort of want to cry, but all I can do was laugh. It made me think of a favorite quote of mine "Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet." I think last night I was actually doing a little bit of both.

I finally got home and laid out everything I had on to dry. Sometimes shit sucks, even when you're where you want to be in life. I'll be okay as long as I keep walking. I'm gonna get wet, but at least I don't have to wallow in it, I can still be on my way somewhere in the meantime.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

what you need to know

My best buddies are coming to BA very soon and I wanted to prepare them for the trip by jotting down every little detail I could think of that might help them. This may not be everything, but some things ought to be a surprise. :)

MISCELLANEOUS
- Whenever you meet someone new, you "kiss them" or put your right cheek on their right cheek and make a kiss noise with your mouth. Even men do this with other men, but not always at the first meeting. I can't wait to see how uncomfortable this will make Dusty.
- People don't typically shake hands here, or hug.
- People like to know your opinion about Obama. I can't tell if they're skeptical about him or not, but they like to know what Americans think.
- They are hungry for change (centavos) here, so when you pay without change, sometimes they'll ask you for it. i.e. Veinticinco centavos tenes? - Do you have 25 cents? If you don't have it, don't worry about it. Say - Perdon, no.
- They use military time a lot and it totally throws me off.
- Everything is dirty here, don't be surprised to come home with dirt under your fingernails every day.
- You will walk a TON. Bring good strong shoes.
- Here they pronounce "LL" and "y" like "ssshhh" - Me shamo Meagan. They may not understand or pronounce your name correctly. Therefore you will receive a new name. This is okay, I've been Janet since I got here.
- There are stray dogs everywhere! Also the dogs that belong to people are trained as shit. They walk around the city without a leash. Could you imagine trying to corral Belle with no leash in the middle of the city? Or Maggie or Abby?

FOOD
- Whenever you go to a "kiosko" or little convenient store and buy a soda or water they always give you a straw. Just take it andpretend like it's normal. Eventually you get used to drinking this way. It's a good thing they do this because I look weird drinking straight from a bottle anyway.
- Water is not free in restaurants but sometimes when you go somewhere for coffee/breakfast, they give you a little cup of seltzer water, or as I call it, a tiny cup of yuck. - The tap water is okay to drink, I haven't had any issues and my stomach is the worst ever with everything.
- Food is bland here. They don't usually bring out ketchup or pepper or anything, you have to ask for it..
- Medialunas are freaking delicious, they are also called facturas. They are deliciously made from lard and/or butter depending on which one you choose. I suggest them all because any one you pick is incredible.
- Alfajores are delicious chocolate cake things.
- Dulce de leche is a very popular caramel-like topping used on everything.
- McDonald's tastes different here, it's probably real food.
- If you order carne de res/meat here, I suggest you get it cooked well done - bien cocido.
- Napkins in restaurants are like slips of scrap paper, you'll need at least 5 to clean your hand, that's if you're not trying to be wasteful.
-- They eat dinner around 10pm. Around 5:30/6 they eat "merienda" or like a 2nd little breakfast - coffee, toast, etc. The cheapest beer is usually Quilmes. It's like the official beer of Argentina, their answer to Miller Lite. Dusty will hate it.
- Waiters do not come frequently, you normally have to call them over at the end of the meal for "la cuenta" (the bill)
- Only tip 10% because that's the rule and they're normally not nice enough for more anyway.


PEOPLE-
- People stare A LOT because this place is not very diverse. They notice when people are different, it's like a 6th sense. Don't let it bother you, they are curious and don't realize it's rude to stare in our culture. Just be glad you're not black.
- Old people like to walk in chains that span the width of the sidewalk. They walk slower than turtles on Xanax and it makes me want to break through them like the ribbon at the end of a marathon.
- Walking on the sidewalk can be frustrating because people stop at random to stare in stores. They don't seem to notice that there are tons of other people trying to walk behind them.
- People constantly try to hand you flyers here. I haven't come up with a successful way to refuse them yet, like scream-shouting NOOOOOOOOOO in their face or diving in the other direction, or smacking the stack of cards out of their hand.
- Men standing outside of their buildings/shops/etc. they just stand and shoot the shit. It's a hobby here or pastime - like fishing, reading, standing outside of residence.
- Men sometimes have weird mullety hair cuts that are short in the front with nasty dreds in the back. I've been doing my part to push this trend out of existence by looking at them funny. You may want to try that too.
- Adorable men will stare at you occasionally, this is nice. However you're more likely to get looks from weird old men.
- Women are snotty, NOT ALL of course, but many. The old women are among the most passive-aggressively evil.
- The U.S. has Mexicans they blame for lots of things and Argentina has Bolivians.
- Because many Argentines live with their parents until they get married (in their mid/late 20s), they have "telohs" here which are hourly hotels where young people go pretty much exclusively for sex. You can tell which ones are telohs because they're all locked up and you can't see out of the windows. Like a sex prison.
- There are TONS of Chinese-owned grocery stores here, the woman from my old grocery store might not know you, but I guarantee she doesn't like you.

WORDS to know -
Che! - hey/man
Boludo! - idiot - You will hear this A LOT. It's used between friends and also when they really are annoyed and want to insult someone.
la carta = menu
la cuenta = bill
cafe = coffeeagua con gas = fart water (sike-a-booboo, it's seltzer water)
agua sin gas = regular water
tostada con jamon y queso = toasted ham & cheese sandwich (this may sound delicious, but after you realize this is all they everfucking eat, it's not so fun anymore)
para llevar = to bring home (doggie bag) i.e. - Puedo tener algo para llevar? - Can I have a to-go box?
perdon/permiso = excuse me
que tal = how's it going?

TRANSPORTATION
Subway/Subte
- During rush hour you will be packed into the car like a sardine, protect your bag, this is a place where people are commonly robbed. But if you are mindful, you should be ok, I haven't had any issues.
- When you buy a ticket, if you only want 1 trip say "un viaje" it is $1.10 pesos, 1 trip gets you anywhere on the map you don't pay by destination, only by trip.
- Kids will come up to you and place things in your lap like hair clips, etc. and walk away. If you don't want what they give you, wait and they will be back to pick them up. If you want them, pay the kid a few pesos.
- People come onto the subte/subway all the time and make big loud announcements about something they are selling, like DVDs or flashlights or underwear. Don't be alarmed.

Taxis
- Don't tip taxis.
- Taxi drivers sometimes drive without their headlights at night. I'm hoping it's because they have crazy feline night visibility, otherwise I have no way to explain it.
- Traffic lights go from red to red/yellow to green. Drivers usually don't wait for it to turn green to go.

People to know:
Leonel Messi - very famous soccer player
Christina Fernandez de Kirchner - current president
Carlos Gardel - famous tango personality from the past
Evita Peron - former wife of president Juan Peron - Madonna played her in a movie that sucked many years ago
Maradonna - world famous soccer player who won the World Cup for Argentina in the 80s
Nestor Kirchner - former president & husband of Christina. He died last year and is now idolized by some, you see his name in graffiti a lot.

SAFETY
BE CAREFUL when you cross the street, even when you have the walk signal. Argentines are never in a hurry to do anything except when they're driving. Sometimes you have to be aggressive to walk, but just be cautious.
- Also be careful when walking on the sidewalk, chunks are missing everywhere and if it rained the day before and you step on part of the sidewalk that is not fully attached, water will splash all over your leg.
- There are always tons of protests and demonstrations that happen in "microcentro" /downtown. Try not to get in the middle of them, sometimes they can get violent, but not usually.
- They habitually wash their sidewalks every morning. Why? No fucking idea, but it makes the sidewalk slippery. Maybe they like watching people fall onto a clean sidewalk.
- Also watch out for dog shit, it's always lurking somewhere, ready for you to step in it.
- Pigeons are very brave here and will fly and walk waddle to you.
- Clothing is crazy cheap or super expensive, either price it's bad quality, save the clothes buying for the U.S.
- There are lots of counterfeit 100 peso bills. Sometimes you can even get them from the ATM. Make sure taxis don't try to trick you by taking the 100 peso and then switch it and tell you yours is fake. This happens sometimes.
- Trash is everywhere in rich/poor neighborhoods alike.
- Graffiti is everywhere, even in the nice parts of town. Hell, even on the monuments in their downtown area.
- People normally go out from 12-5am, most places are very safe to walk at night and during the day. Stay away from Constitucion and San Cristobal, there's not reason to go to those neighborhoods anyway.

Anything can happen in this city, I can't wait for you guys to see what it's like.
Chau luego! :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

la boca & more boogers

The other day I went to La Boca for the first time with my friend Jenny. This is the part of the city that tourists love to go to where they have brightly colored houses and tango dancers everywhere. Jenny works for Boca Juniors, a local, but very popular football, [ahem, soccer], team in the city. So she took me to La Bombonera [their stadium]. And there I danced the smooth moves of Mr. Milli and Mr. Vanilli.



babababa



babababa baby!



don't forget mah numbah!



Afterwards we went to a cafe and sat outside to drink a bottle of Quilmes.





And then visited the lovely painted buildings along with other random finds.













The day was completely perfect. In fact, on the ride home it got even better. I was sitting on a very crowded bus when a cute little boy who looked to be about 4 years old was pushed a bit by the crowd into my personal bubble and into the seat with me. We sat for a minute or two in the seat together before his sister, who might've been about 6 years old, noticed he was there. She tried to pull him out saying he shouldn't be there. I looked at her and told her it was okay if he stayed with me. She frowned and seemed defeated and looked away. The little boy looked up at me and smiled really big and I smiled back and winked. Aaaaahhh, so lovely. But it gets better. We sat roaring down the road in a packed bus, jolting forward as it accelerated. Suddenly I watched as the little boy picked his nose and then wiped it on the seat in front of us...

Do you believe in magic? I didn't until that moment, but I do now.

Friday, April 8, 2011

cute creatures

This city is full of delightfully charming animals. I thought I'd share some adorable friends I've met so far -

This cat (who is getting ready to yawn) is a fun friend I met in a coffee shop in the neighborhood of Recoleta. Here, shop owners don't seem to mind having their cats lounge around like furry little bums.



This tolerance is also evidenced with this sleeping cat, who is, in fact, sleeping on a mattress in a mattress shop. If it weren't so socially strange, I would've curled up right beside him or her in the window for a nap.



I've also met a handful of pigeons who have no qualms with flying up into your face as you're walking down the street. Being an awkward white person, it's hard for me to take this in stride, somehow the Argentines manage to look cool even when a pigeon flies into their path. This little bastard stared me down while I was sitting in Plaza de Mayo in the center of the city.

From Untitled Album


Apparently animals coexist very well here, or at least they've been forced to coexist well. Though it's hard to tell in this picture, this is a rat and a kitten sleeping together, and, from what I can tell, embracing. True love knows no species.



BA loves dogs, big time. They are everywhere, whether they belong to someone, or they're just savvy street dogs who charm their way into earning a few meals a day. This dog I found in San Telmo, peaking his head out of the apartment he/she lived in.

Monday, April 4, 2011

...boogers

[no image needed/wanted]

I've been stricken with a few awful, albeit quick, images in the past few days.

Picture this. Adorable kids walking down the street in the little lab coats that are the school uniforms of Argentina. One little boy is walking toward me, big brown eyes and a cute little boy haircut, he looks me straight in the eyes as he digs into his nose, finds a booger, and then, yes... you know what he did. The little fucker ATE IT! All while looking me in the eye.

WHAT IS IT in our DNA that makes us WANT TO DO THIS? COME ON KID!!!!
Human nature is GROSS, son.

That's not the only nose picker I've seen recently. Today, as the subway train pulled out of the station I caught perfect sight of a kiosk worker picking his nose with his PINKY. It felt like a scene from a movie where the girl sees her love for the last time as the train leaves the station. Except my love was picking his FUCKING NOSE. With his pinky.

Be still my heart.