Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Its taken me a while to get back to my blog but I've been distracted by life and just plan lazy. I won't bore you with all the details so here go some of the highlights.

At the end of August, I aged like a fine Malbec. I celebrated this birthday very differently than last year. Last year I went out to dinner with my aunt, uncle, and cousin whom I was living with at the time. It was a tasty Thai meal but very low key and simple. This year, I decided to step it up a bit. In our building there is a room
called a SUM (multi-purpose room) that you can sign up for to have parties and get-togethers. I invited everyone I worked with and everyone from my frisbee team, plus former neighbors and random Americans I know here.

The weather was a balmy 85 degrees which was strange for the end of
winter. I was loving it of course and so did one friend who ended up jumping into the mini-pool in the garden after much Sangria drinking.

To feed and quest the thirst of my guests, I made pizzas (including one with apples and blue cheese-muy rico!!) and bought a case of wine. Everyone pitched in with booze and snackies to make the party a tasty success.

Here's Mike, my aunt Marta, the birthday babe, and uncle Jose. They were the first to arrive and almost the last to leave. Marta had to drag Jose away from the party. I think they party harder than anyone I know!!

Chilling in the lil garden you can see me and some of my co-workers, including the director of my school on the far left, and some husbands.
I had a wonderful night surrounded my all the amazing people I've met here in BsAs. Definitely a memorable bday.

My folks flew all the way from the states to come and experience a lil bit of South American love, and of course to check up on me and Marc. Oh yeah, my oldest sibling, Marc, moved to Uruguay about a month ago and now lives a short 3 hour boat ride away in Montevideo. He and his wife Michelle, will be living there for 3 years. Too bad they didn't come sooner.

Anyway, my parents came during my schools' spring break so I had a week to spend with them enjoying parts of Buenos Aires, Mendoza (Argentine wine country), and Montevideo. In BA, we basically hung out with the family, went to lots of amazing restaurants, and saw a few neighborhoods off the tourist trail.

In Mendoza, we went on a bike ride with a company called Bikes and Wines, toured two wineries, visited a olive oil factory, and took a road trip to the Andes. All were incredible experiences with many great quotes from my parents. My mom, after drinking lots of Malbec and going on various wine tours, still continued to ask, "What's a Malbec? Is it a brand? Is it a mixture." I, of course, responded exasperated each time telling her it was a kind of grape-like a chardonnay, merlot, or any other wine she has drunk in her life time. I think it finally sank in by the last day we were there.

On the road trip through the Andes, at one point my mom refused to be with us in the car as we passed a rock collecting truck. So she got out and walked. It was pretty jaw dropping to see the driver of the truck being approached by this strange, foreign woman walking at him up the treacherous mountain road. Nonetheless, he quickly backed up and let us pass. Mom got back in the car and stayed in it the rest of the way.
Here is a photo of our tiny car and the dirt road we drove on for a few hundred kilometers. We headed all the way to the Chilean border passing the highest peak in the western hemisphere. The mountain is called Aconcagua. It was pretty impressive but very windy so we only stayed for a few minutes. I can't imagine what its like in the winter. Definitely frosty nose inducing.

When we got to our first vie
w of the Andes, I got a little excited.

We flew back to Buenos Aires the next day and I let my parents breath for one day and then we headed off to Montevideo to visit Marc and Michelle in capital of Uruguay, Montevideo. Marc is working at the US embassy there and Michelle hopes to also get a position there.
We traveled around Montevideo for the weekend, checking out the old part of town, eating at cool restaurants and then heading to Punta del Este, a beach resort town not too far from Montevideo. It was very beautful and sunny. Luckily not too many tourists to fill up the streets and restaurants like it gets in the summer time. It is a small town (but looks like Miami) where all the wealthiest Argentines plus foreigners go to be seen and spend the summers becuase of the clean and numerous beaches. It just so happens that a lot of my students also go there with their families any vacation we have. Dad wanted me to try and hook up a place to stay with them. No thanks, papa.

We found a giant hand sculpture on the beach there and of course had to shake it.

After playing on the beach, we headed to this museum/hotel called CasaPueblo built by a famous Uruguyuan artist. It would be very cool to stay there one day. On this trip, we just watched the sunset over the ocean from the cafe.

After the cafe, we headed back to Montevideo and I had to leave the next day because of work. I said good-bye but knew I would be seeing my folks soon and Marc and Michelle over Thanksgiving.

We had to go back to Buenos Aires so my folks could fly out and head to the Galapagos, the next stop on their whirlwind tour. To thank our very generous family, including my awesome cousin Tamara who happened to be visiting from Berlin, we went out to a delicious French meal at the famous MALBA art museum. It was a prix fixe menu so we had to choose but everything was tasty so you couldn't go wrong. It was a chilly night so we hugged good-bye after a fun visit and vowed to all be together soon....maybe in Chicago.

Just this past weekend we were celebrating Columbus' "discovery" of the New World with a day off of work. It also happened to be the second year of a ultimate tournament in Cordoba, the 2nd biggest city in Argentina. We had gone last year and had fun so Mike and I decided to go back.
We arrived and met up with friends then formed teams with whoever was signed up. My team was mostly from Corbdoba so our name was Fernanditos (a drink made of Fernet-the most popular drink there that tastes like cough syrup- plus Coke). Here's me with a picture of my team after a few Fernanditos.

The tournament was made of people from all over the country, plus one person from Japan, Germany, Egypt and Venezuela. However, the majority of the players were from the US. There are lots of students studying abroad down here that play ultimate. Therefore, they try and play as much as they can wherever they can so we had students from BA, Cordoba, and Santiago, Chile all playing together.

Here's me wearing my dad's South Shore High Class of '56 t-shirt and throwing a break mark throw to help our team win one of our 2 victories.

We stayed in a hostel where 30 of us slept plus a bunch of Brazilian hammock salesmen. It was a crazy mixture of Spanish, English, and Portuguese being spoken and sometimes sung (like 7 am every morning when the Brazilians woke up). It was a fun filled weekend that I definitely will need a few days to recover from.
Here's the whole crew plus our random dog mascot (although he chose soccer over frisbee).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Iguazu Disney Falls

Prelude: Because of the swine flu, Mike and I were able to take a vacation and we decided to head north to the Iguazu Falls-to dengue fever territory. I had heard that it’s a must see and since they are the second biggest falls in the world and since we live only about 20 hours away, we said why not.

Traveling to Waterfall Disneyland

We got our tickets for Thursday night so we could sleep most of the night before waking up in Puerto Iguazu. We got fed chicken and veggies, meat and cheese, and tea and whiskey. I can’t stress enough how great the long distance buses are here.

When we arrived in Puerto Iguazu we asked a man in the bus terminal where the campground
was close to town. He asked if we wanted Camping Americana and we said yes not having a clue what Americana meant. We went to the local bus stop and waited to catch a bus up the road. The driver told us where to get off and we came upon a very developed well lit campground that had a pool, restaurant, snack bar, fancy bathrooms, and cabanas. There was nothing rustic about it, including the high price. We kindly asked where the REAL campground was. They pointed us up the road and we came upon a more natural looking campground that was more of what we envisioned. Unfortunately, there is no camping in the Iguazu national park so the best we could do was stay close to town. We were the only campers so we had our pick of camping spots. We walked around the campground and found an avocado tree. I was elated and so I scurried around like a hungry little squirrel collecting them for future meals.

Puerto Iguazu is a town on the Brazilian and Paraguayan border. Part of the area is jungle and thats why town had a very tropical feel-the smells, the palm trees, the humid warmth. All the roads were made of a red clay that got on everything and must’ve been good to build with but not to get on your hands and clothes. All the trees were fruiting and had humoungus leaves. In our small campsite there were fig, orange, papaya, and avocado trees. It felt like Costa Rica. Plus it was so warm unlike frigid Buenos Aires.

After we arrived, we hung around the campsite setting up camp and catching up on sleep from the relaxing but not totally comfortable bus ride. After a while, we walked into town and walked along the very touristy streets. We looked in some shops and found that they sell pets in jars in Iguazu!

Also, we heard lots of Portuguese because the majority of travelers there were from Brazil. It was fun to listen and try to imitate them although we weren’t very good. Mike likened Portuguese to speaking like you're a deaf-mute; this horrible yet hilarious comparison entertaine
d us the rest of the weekend! Then we discovered this hot spot where there were stands selling olives, cheeses, meats, and all kinds of yummys. We sampled a bunch of delicious olives in various oils and stuffed with all kinds of good things. Then we saw people sitting and eating small platters of meat, cheese, olives, and wine or beer.

We saw one particular hot spot and tried to sit where everyone else was but ended up at a table next to the happening spot. It had much less charm and no other clients. Plus the waitress didn’t speak Spanish very well and got our order wrong. We stuck with her out of pity but watched all the other tables across from us enjoying their meals and chatting away in Portuguese. It was like we were exiled from the cool kids table from Brazil to the nerds in Paraguay. So sad! After our dinner/snack we walked back and Mike got some cheap ice cream at a cute shop. We headed to bed early so we could get up and head to the falls because the busloads of jubilados and Americans.

Saturday-Hitting up the Falls:
We got up early and Mike started a fire in our parrilla (grill made out of a half barrel) to make hot tea and granola. After about an hour we had eaten and gotten ready. We headed to the bus stop and a very full bus
rolled up. “Oh no” we thought, “Damn, other people are heading to the Falls at the same time we are. Its going to be crowded!” And yes it was. We heard lots of loud Americans all around us. We tried and keep our mouths shut not to add to the raucousness.

We arrived at Iguazu National Park and unloaded with the rest of the tourists. After we paid our lofty entrance fee, we had to pass through a few archways, 5 gift shops, a food court and a train entrance. This wasn’t a National park-It
was DISNEYLAND with waterfalls. We couldn’t believe how the nature part was second to making money part.

We decided to take a short hike to the first set of waterfalls instead of taking the tram. Upon arrival at the upper falls, we were taken aback by the beauty but also horrified to see how the drought that’s been hurting Argentina from north to south really was affecting the falls. I had seen photos of how water normally streamed down all sides of the cliffs. But what we saw was a few falls here and there. There also were numerous boats down below going into the falls, helicopters flying over them, and a giant hotel on both the Argentine and Brazil sides of the falls. It was not at all what I had envisioned as a peaceful and natural refuge of water and jungle.

The trails led you to see the falls from above and below. The most incredible fall was called La Garganta del Diablo (the Devils Throat) which was breathtaking. It was like a full blast of water being gargled down the devils throat and then spit out on the land below. Truly indescribable! We were splashed with drops of water and surrounded by rainbows. An amazing experience.

The wildlife we saw were butterflies of various brilliant colors, birds with crazily designed beaks, monkeys in the tree tops, and coatis, which are basically the equivalent to urban raccoons. They are very comfortable around people and were not afraid to climb up on people to get food. Although somewhat cute, I was weary after seeing all the warning signs about not feeding or petting the WILD coatis. Unfortunately other tourists were not heading the warnings and were very adamant about giving them food. Gross!!!

After many hours of walking, tramming, and photo taking, we were exhausted and headed back to town. We picked up some meat and other sustenance to make a grilled meal. When we arrived home, we had a visitor-a kittie that we named Jaguarate. He sat with us while we made dinner and sat under the parilla while Mike grilled the meat and heated up water for Ramen noodles (always a great camping meal). Dinner was scrumptious and Jague joined us through the meal, receiving all kinds of fat cutoff pieces. He even stayed by our tent at night.

Sunday-Firemen and Farewells:
Sunday we woke up late and relaxed at camp until we were ready to go to town and get small gifts for friends. It’s a tradition to bring back alfajores (delicious cookies) for people from various regions of Argentina. We got some alfajores and mate to try from the Missiones region where the falls are located. On
our walk back to camp, we stopped by the fire station which had antique fire trucks.

Mike wanted to take some photos of their awesome old Mercedes Benz trucks so I went and talked to the two fireman on call. They turned out to be the nicest guys. They showed us the trucks from front to back, played us the siren, showed us the station, and even fed us and shared mate tea with us. It was great hospitality. They were curious to know about us and us about them. I even bought a fireman shirt from them (I think it was one of the guys because it seemed well worn but smelled clean so I went with it). We said our goodbyes to the friendly firemen and headed back to camp.

It was our last day we cleaned up camp and watched the nearby GIANT ants collecting leaves and taking them to their ant hill. It was like a National Geographic show but LIVE! After a while, we had to catch the city bus back to the main bus station to head back to the city. As we boarded, surrounded by annoying American college students, I waved good-bye to our little tropical vacation and the closest I’ve ever been to Brazil. Chau!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mike's Bday and Extras

Mike’s Cumpleaños
During the moving process, we managed to squeeze in celebrating Mike’s 31st. On his actual b-day, we went out to a delicious Korean meal (food we hadn’t eaten yet here). It was incredible to taste such great spice and yummy dishes that Korean’s prepare so well. Both of our palettes were pleased.

The next night, a friend of ours-Andrew-whose birthday is two days after Mike’s, planned a get together at a bar in Las Cañitas (the chi-chi neighborhood that we thought about moving into). It was great to have friends from Frisbee, our former neighbors, and other BA friends come and celebrate. The bar was named Van Kooning (after the painter) and it had a wild décor of brick, deer horns, and multi-leveled rooms. Plus, they had over 50 beers from around the world and cocktails, both things which are rare to find in a bar here. We got there early to reserve huge room near an outdoor terrace. Mike, Andrew, his girlfriend (Belu), and I all munched on a giant picada platter consisting of cheese, meat, olives, eggplant, hummus, grapes, and bread. It was tasty and overwhelming. Then Belu busted out 3 cakes she had made-1 for Andrew, 1 for Mike, and 1 for everyone else. It was very sweet and they were amazingly delicious.

The night went on until about 5:30 am and ended with 2 bottles of champagne on the house. There were about 8 stragglers who all left together and wandered to the bus stop. We got home and crashed in our new place on the floor because the bed hasn’t arrived yet. It was a nice way to end a stressful week of moving and hard work. Luckily I have a nice long weekend to recover (its Argentina’s “almost” independence day-the real one is in July).

Extras-I‘m finally legal! After 5 months of getting papers sent from the states, resent, verified, translated into Spanish, stamped, and spending a long day at immigrations, I finally got my work visa. Along with that comes health care and my own bank account where my paychecks are directly deposited. It feels good to be legit.

Swine flu comes to Buenos Aires- I just found out that there were a few cases of swine flu at my school (which includes a Kindergarten, Primary and High school) and so we’re closed for 15 days as stated by the health inspector of Argentina. Unexpected vacation or notice that I may be contagious….mmm. Thanks to this scare, I get some time off and Mike and I will be visiting Iguazu Falls (a famous waterfall near the Brazil and Paraguay border) this weekend. Woohoo! I never thought I'd be so thankful to pigs. Hope you're healthy..oink.

And of course FRISBEE!!!
Our team is currently in first place (out of 4 teams-now we're cooking with gas) and we're full of gusto. Here's a recent photo. Oh and our name is Big Red for two reasons. One is that Red means web or network in Spanish and we have players from all over the world (Argentina, Colombia, Japan, Canada and the US). And the other reason is that one of the co-captains loves the chewing gun with the same name-jajajaja.

Nuevo Departamento

The Big Move

Our lease at our apartment was ending at the end of May and we debated whether or not to stay and keep paying a pretty hefty rent. Mike’s still looking for a job and I get paid in pesos so it was draining both of us. Ultimately, we wanted to save money and I wanted to be closer to my work. I was commuting over an hour everyday and it was destroying my soul and making me a very angry commuter. So we started looking at furnished places around town in neighborhoods closer to my school. We found one in a great (but very chi-chi) neighborhood. It ended up being way more expensive than we had thought because we had to pay first months rent ($750), a deposit ($750), and a real estate agent fee (another whopping $750).

I went to work the next day after discovering how we’d go broke if we moved into another touristy furnished apartment. My co-workers were listening to my tragic situation and then one (Mora) told me she had an unfurnished place for rent in a perfectly placed location. Mike and I went to look at it one Friday while the current renter was just moving out, and we loved it. It’s smaller than are previous place but it has two levels and is cute as all get up. Plus my commute will only be 1 short train ride and 7 blocks to walk VS. 1 long train ride and two packed subway rides or a bus that takes over 1 hour and basically tours the entire city.

Plus, all the furnishings are going to be lent to us by people from my work. Mora’s lending us a couch and bed while others have given us a comforter, pillows and silverware. I really think we’re the luckiest foreigners in this big ole city. Well almost everything is being lent to us. We did have to buy a fridge (the first time in both Mike and my life!). He found one on Mercardo Libre which is a Latin version of EBay and accidentally clicked buy. It all worked out fine since we got a used functioning fridge that was delivered from down the street. Sweetness! Oh and the best part about the new hood is the fact that there is a Middle-eastern restaurant not too far away. I couldn’t be happier to eat food other than breads, pastas, and meat. Mmm…falafel!!

The weather has been nuts¡ The weekend we moved happened to be the hottest weekend in 50 years! Its supposed to be winter and the last few days have been in the 80’s while last week it was in the 50’s. Whoever doesn’t believe in global warming needs to check out BA.

ChinaChinaTOWN-Buenos Aires

Mike found this interesting link to an article about the cool Barrio Chino (China Town) here in BA. Check it out!!

April 25th-Wedding Time

Prelude: Times have not always been easy living in BA away from family and friends, my native tongue, and the diversity of food that we are spoiled with in the states (if I eat another empanada, I will soon become one). However, we have been lucky enough to build a community that keeps us going and invites us to various events such as weddings!

Maxi and Moni’s Wedding
Argentine Wedding Do’s and Don’ts OR Faux Paux Central

Our good friend from Frisbee named Maxi recently got married. He at first invited us to the reception around midnight after the ceremony and dinner. However, a few friends canceled last minute so we got to attend the entire event. It was really amazing to see and Maxi and his bride Moni, who happen to be the most perfect couple, it makes you want to puke. He’s a banker, she’s a preschool teacher. They run marathons, have a beautiful house, love to travel and are going to Asia and South Africa on their honeymoon. Yowzas¡

Take this quiz and experience some of the things we learned the hard way.

True or False Quiz

1) Bring a wedding gift to the wedding.
False. Unfortunately we didn’t know this and lugged around a big tea set with us from the wedding to the reception and than back home again. We first noticed when we arrived at the wedding that none of the other guests had gift bags. We asked our wedding translator (Ale-a good friend of Maxi and another Frisbee player) what the deal was. He explained that everyone sends a gift to the couple’s home or they buy something off a registry and the bride and groom pick it up after the wedding. DOH!

2) Dance close to the kitchen during the couple’s first waltz.
False. The actual first dance at the wedding was to Cher’s Do You Believe (which I could not believe any heterosexual couple would pick for their first dance). However, we were out on the outdoor patio when the song was playing so we didn’t know to come inside to watch the couple’s first dance. But we made it time to catch the first waltz, which is kind of like a snowball dance where a variety of people rotate dancing with the bride and groom.
Mike and I decided to have our own waltz next to the caterer kitchen. At one point, we started tipping over and so Mike put his hand out to support us against the wall. Unfortunately the wall was really a door to the kitchen and we fell into the kitchen while all the wait staff stared at these invasive guests. We were mortified so we decided to take our moves outside away from any walls.

3) Stay until at least 5 in the morning when the wedding reception officially ends.
True! Mike and I were worn out at about 3:30 although the party was still going strong . There was a 2 year old girl on the dance floor making everyone smile and dance like her; Maxi’s brother was still pouring shots of excellent Russian vodka (from where he lives now); and grandpa was flirting with the young single women. We knew if we didn’t leave soon, we may collapse on the dance floor. The next day we found out we had just missed the cutting and eating of the wedding cake which happened around 4am! We couldn’t believe how late these people celebrate.

All in all it was a fabulous experience and I have been pushing any Argentine couples I know to tie the knot before December so I can enjoy more good times.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April-Rosario Adventure

Rosario-“Chicago Argentino”- (called that because of trade in the 19th and 20th century with the Chicago mercantile exchange and their love of meat production).

It’s a four hour bus ride and the 3rd biggest city in Argentina so we figured it’s a perfect long weekend trip and its the
Birthplace of Che-cool. We decided to go camping to save money and supposedly there are some nice islands on the river right across from the city center. And lo and behold with not many plans, the ENTIRE weekend happened by chance. Below are the details and PHOTOS.

1. In the bus terminal while waiting for the bus, we run into 2 friends who tell us 2 other friends (Nick and Jessica) are in Rosario for 2 days and that we should call them up when we arrive. We thanked them and headed out to R-town.

2. On the bus, some cool looking women get on wearing leather vests and pants, skid row t-shirts, and sporting a variety of tattoos. They are also carrying guitars and sit right across from us. Turns out they’re going to play some hard core ROCK that night in Rosario at a famous club there called Willie Dixons. Sweet…we have a plan for that night.

3. When we arrive in Rosario’s bus terminal, I bust out my LonelyPlanet map, which is completely wrong, and try to get my bearings by asking a man for walking directions. He informs me that the map is wrong and the center of town is much further than we had thought. He then offers to drive Mike and I to the center of town, where he is going, and where we are to meet Nick and Jessica. While talking to him, Mike mentions my name and the man asks him to repeat himself. It turns out the man’s last name is CAILA pronounced exactly the same as KYLA. We can’t believe the chances!! Senor Caila drops us off and we thanked him profusely.

4. We meet up with Nick and Jessica at the Flag Monument in the center of town where the creation of the flag happened. The monument is bumping with people and some musicians praising Jesus for coming back to life, or at least that’s what I understand in my limited Spanish. We go and grab some food at a restaurant and than learn that the entire town is booked solid for the weekend and we have nowhere to stay. The last boat to the camping island stopped running at 5:30 two hours before we arrived to the city. While calling numerous hostels and talking to each other at the outdoor restaurant, a man from the table next to us asks where we’re from and how we liked Rosario. We say we like it but we’re homeless. So he and his friends all call up people they know to see if there is any space at a hotel or hostel. Nothing. Zero spaces in all of Rosario. As our friendly neighbor’s are leaving their table, one guys mother offers us a room in her apartment. We jump on the deal and stay with Monica (the coolest Rosarian auntie ever) in her 2 bedroom apartment. There is a bunk bed, air mattress and Mike chooses the floor with his sleeping bag.

5. After settling into our new digs, Monica recommended a good restaurant nearby that had yummy pizza-nessas (in lieu of dough at the bottom, there was pounded fried chicken covered with tomato sauce, cheese, and a variety of toppings). Delicious and heart stopping. We then go dance it all off at Willie Dixons while cheering on the chick band from we met earlier on the bus, called No Barbies, well into the morning.

6. The next day, Monica took us to her favorite café and we eat medialunas (croissants), drink coffee and sip fresh-squeezed orange juice. We part ways with Monica and headed with Nick and Jessica to the bus station. We have no return ticket so we figure we better get it before they were all sold out.

7. We left the bus station, return ticket for the next day in hand, and head to the boat pier where we could catch a boat to the nearest island with camping. We had heard from Nick and Jessica that other friends we had from Buenos Aires, Andres and Sebastian, were in Rosario also. And OF COURSE they happened to be on our boat to the island. We ended up camping and hangin out on the beach with them. It was really relaxing and the camping was free. At night under a full moon, Mike took some cool photos after we found a creepy rusty axe and played with our head lamps. Check out the link.

8. We said good-bye to Rosario on Sunday without any more unusual happenings (except that we rode in my first cab with a female driver). As we waved goodbye to the Argentine Chicago, I knew we’d be back one day to this city of chances.

What the future holds- After all the adventures over the past few weeks, we came back to reality and realized some things. That our 8 month lease is running out in May and I would like to move closer to my work and closer to other fun things in the city.
Another exciting thing is that Mike and I just celebrated 2 years of being together by me watching him complete a 10 K run and 10K kayaking race with a friend and then eating Chinese buffet.

And I helped start a women’s only Frisbee pick-up and training on the weekends. We’re trying to encourage more women to play and get excited about the sport, not just fashion, eating disorders, and make-up which is more of the norm.

Things we would like to do soon: Travel to Iquazu Falls and Mendoza. If you're ready for adventure, come on down!