Monday, July 11, 2011

It's been a long, hard road, but I've finally overcome my writer's cramp. A trip to Iguazu Falls didn't hurt, but I'm saving that for the next post. First, I want to reminisce about the past few weeks:
  • Argentines really know how to celebrate Midsummer. I didn't lose a tooth this time while singing Helan går, but it was close.
  • Montevideo, Uruguay must be beautiful in the summer, but the wind can certainly whip your cheeks into a frenzy in the wintertime. But a copious amount of meat keeps your body warm while your heart whimpers. I sometimes feel like I can hear my arteries clogging.
  • My co-workers are lovely, and teach me many things, including that flacos are boys, minas are girls, and strawberries shall under no circumstances be referred to as anything but frutillas. That is to say, fru-ti-shas.
  • Dancing on the streets is by no means confined to the tango shows on Florida Street for the tourists. No, with the street panels how they are and oily substances dripping from most balconies, dancing is a sidewalk necessity, a swivel of the hips and a jump with the feet of boots tumbling their way to work. It's a good thing Argentine men whistle so much.
  • Speaking of streets, I have thrown all feminine languor to the wind and now sprint across 12-lane road 9 de Julio to work. It helps unclog the arteries (see meat above).
  • The Swedish Association is turning me into a lush.
And now, some photographic proof. First, Midsummer:

On the bus to Montevideo, I learned the meaning of the "safety" part of "safety glass" when a punk kid threw a stone at the window next to my head:

I wasn't kidding about the wind in Montevideo:

Nor the meat.

These cows never stood a chance.

But not everything is charred flesh and intestines. My lovely co-workers (Sol, my partner in crime, is second from the right):

Stay tuned for Iguazu!

Monday, June 20, 2011

With flowers in their hair

Es obvio que no sos argentina porque vos no tenés el pelo largo.

My face, I've been told, could easily pass for Argentine. Most people here are a mix of Italian and Spanish with some Northern European here and there; my cheekbones and dark hair are anything but exotic in this crowd. There's one thing about my hair that gives me away, though: Argentine women wear theirs long. Really long. With nary a layer to interrupt the flow, it cascades down their backs until its final resting point at the small of the back or even lower. Sol doesn't know when this "hippie-chic" style became popular, but judging from the length of the manes wandering the streets, it must have been for some time.

Long, straight, brown hair—I could have passed as Argentine up until a month ago. Just before leaving for Argentina, I let a nice lady in Clairemont cut off about a foot of hair and donate it to make wigs. My hair hasn't been this short since I did the same thing the last time I ran off to South America just after graduating college. If I keep this up, I'll end up looking like Eric, who recently embraced sweet, shiny baldness after the power went off in a Tanzanian barber shop.

My short hair and Scotti:

Soon thereafter, my short hair freezing:

Last but definitely not least!

Happy 21st birthday Danny Andy! Now the whole family can share a (couple of) bottle(s) of wine at the restaurant!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

OOOOOH, huevos!

Sidling up to the cash register at a market nearby, I asked the cashier if they had any eggs. Tienes huevos?

Guy: No entiendo.
Me: Tienes huevos? Huevos?

For God's sake, I grew up in San Diego, I know how to pronounce huevos. Must be the last vestiges of my cold-induced man voice screwing things up. Gotta be it.

Guy: Qué?
Me: Sabes, the things that chickens shit* out...
Guy: Qué???

Desperate now. Making hand movements.

Guy: Oh, HUEVOS! Sí, abajo . . . De dónde sos?


*The all-purpose cagarse, yesterday's word-of-the-day. I am getting quite creative with my descriptions lately. When I don't know a word for something and the charades aren't working, I've been heard to describe a vegetable peeler as "that thing that takes the clothes off a carrot" or a crochet hook as "a sewing needle for grandmas."

But Argentine slang—i.e. Argentine swear words—are another language altogether. And everyone swears, all the time, from the petite little old lady ordering croissants to the partners at the law firm. Foul language is not taboo here.

So I bought the only dictionary fit for this country, a little 70-page gem:
Che Boludo.

Now I'll actually understand when my boss tells me not to hinchar las bolas (swell his balls, i.e. be a pain in the ass).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thunder and lightning and broken hearts

The rain is streaming down and the Canucks just lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Having become a Canucks fan since meeting Tyrone and Lydia, I am dejected (and soaked). But I am really more disappointed because this means that not only are they leaving Buenos Aires, they are doing so crestfallen. Yet, as they said, this is even more reason to try to meet up with them in British Columbia in August, if only to regain a happy image of them. Farewell, my dear Canadians—here's looking to next season.

Chamuyeros and Installment #1 of Odd Storefronts on My Way Home

I've waited my "seven days or a week" and my cold is mercifully slipping away so I can finally walk down the street without my mouth hanging wide open gulping at the air like a fish. This is very good news, because my renewed condition will hopefully leave me with more coordination to negotiate the city's varied state of sidewalk panels. I rolled my ankle on a loose cobblestone today for the umpteenth time on the way to work. I felt a little sorry for myself until I saw a blind man tapping his way forward across the street—if my ankles are spaghetti, his must be silly putty.

I still haven't achieved my grand goal of crossing Avenida 9 de Julio and its two tributaries in one single go (i.e. sprint). The Argentines like to say that it's the widest street in the world, but there are whispers of a wider one in Brazil. But as Sol says, Argentines are all just a bunch of chamuyeros (know-it-all bullshitters) anyway.

But without further ado, I give you...


Sandwiched between the Hertz Rent-a-Car and a hotel:

And in case cars aren't your thing, there's a horse and carriage for rent:

Continuing right along, we come to a baby store that celebrates the well-known fact that infants are indeed aliens:

. . . But I lie. That last one wasn't really on way home, but on the way to El Ateneo, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. If I could grab a blanket and sleep in one of the theater boxes for the rest of my life I would, but the security guard kindly asked me to leave the last time I tried.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Backtrack to the 1970s for a little lemon risotto

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon in the city, the sun retreating into a three-quarters moon. It was a gorgeous weekend here: temperatures in the high 60s, sundresses on the streets. The sun is supposed to stick around for most of this week, too. I can't say I mind the Argentine winter just yet.

I had a lovely time this afternoon drinking coffee with a University of Illinois law student at a cafe nearby who's also working at a firm this summer. I got his contact information through my subletter, another law student who coincidentally spent last summer at a firm in Argentina. We've never met, but she's been giving me helpful tips about the city via email, and I almost feel like I know her. Anyway, it turns out that Oscar also got the "just be relaxed" talk at the start of his internship, but he's actually been given a lot of work, and is even working on the weekends. Maybe I should be more appreciative of my very much relaxed time at my firm.

It does free up some time to keep translating for IFN, which is in fact what I am avoiding doing right now. Instead, I'd like to welcome you to my apartment. It's a lovely place with two balconies—one for lounging, one for hanging wash—and a well-stocked kitchen straight from the 1970s.

It's dotted with ballet posters from across the world. It took a few days to figure out that the owner of the apartment, Mauricio Wainrot, is listed as the choreographer on all of them. (I haven't met him, only his secretary.)

The new apartment was christened with a little dinner party last week. It was exactly the impetus I needed to finally step away from toast-for-dinner and make a decent meal. I had three guests: Toti, the Argentine lawyer from my firm, and Tyrone and Lydia, the cutest Canadian couple you'll ever meet who got engaged on top of Machu Picchu. I met them in Mendoza, and it's been so lovely to see them again in Buenos Aires. They've made a regular Canucks fan out of me. Anyway, I made lemon risotto with rosemary chicken and chorizo, which actually didn't turn out half bad. And the self-timed pic was only slightly off-center—a successful night by all accounts!

One last thing: The apartment is right near a school, though I haven't been able to find it. But I can definitely hear it—recess sounds just about the same anywhere in the world. The other day I even heard a perfect rendition of "Baby," handiwork of Justin Bieber, another illustrious Canadian born in a town called Stratford (of all places). Not quite as good as Taio Cruz, but close.