Saturday, November 7, 2009

From Mad Hatters to Tea Parties

As promised, this is the second of three posts in reverse order about the last few weeks. The week before the Halloween party, my Mad Hatter Kelly and I had a tea party. Fitting, no?

Kelly teaches a bible study to kids grade 6-12 at the English-language church she attends out in the province of San Isidro, and had invited eight people other than her and I to have a slumber party in her studio loft, in secret hopes that I'd tell her she was being silly and she should just have it in the lovely new apartment that'll be the focus of my next post. She guessed right, and at about 4pm on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we got on the train from Chinatown to San Isidro to pick up our girls.

There were a total of nine of us, four adults and five kids. The youngest girl was a fourth grader in Miss Joy's class (one of the chaperones and our Alice), and the oldest was a High School Senior. We hauled the kids onto the train, from the train station to the metro station, and from the metro station from my house. A bit stressful, but that's when the fun started.

We broke into groups to make a veggie tray, sandwiches for our tea, scones and lemon curd, and fruit salad for breakfast the next morning.

Over tea, we all shared our favorite part about being a girl, and giggled riotously while trying to guess what historical woman had been slapped on our foreheads. After dinner, we played a game of cranium on our food teams (Go Team Scone!), painted our fingers and toes, and cuddled into a mass to watch a chick flick before turning out lights. Our guests engineered my living room so that the seven guests could sleep downstairs and leave my double bed and loft for Miss Kelly and I. Blissfully, after a tiny bit of whispering, everyone passed out cold.

The morning was a bit of a blur of girls getting ready and packed up to go back to SI for church. I had some fruit salad, braided some hair, and then set in to write a policy memo assignment due the next day. Kell dropped back by to pick up bedding and furniture she'd brought over for the event, and the two of us did a quick once-over to put my house more or less back in order. I got the house clean just in time to start preparing for Halloween!

I was struck again by how much I love being with children, and how little I get to be myself here. Kelly laughed at my antics all NIGHT, and was SHOCKED to discover what a kook I am. That's pretty sad- we'd been friends for two months and this was the first time she got to see me cut loose??? More than other people seeing the real me, I gotta say I miss the real me!

I'm starting to tear myself loose in yoga, and I have kooky guests in two weeks followed by return to Kookland in five. Thank goodness. I don't know how much more serious I can stand.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Due to things beyond my control, the following three posts will be in reverse chronological order. I know, I'm confusing. I still haven't gotten photos from the sleepover, and the house hasn't quite recovered from Halloween weekend in order to be picture worthy. So! First thing's first: the Halloween party!

I got so sick of hearing that "Argentines don't DO Halloween." Well let me tell you something mister, I would do Halloween if I had to do it on the MOON. What started out as a quiet pumpkin carving party turned out to be a 30-person affair at which not one person carved a pumpkin. Turns out the big pumpkins we carve back home are only available down here in mid-winter (July), and when we decided to make it a costume party and BYOP with the mini-versions from the grocery store, everyone petered out on that one.

Not that we missed the carving. There was good music, a LOT of good food, and exactly the right number of people for the terrace party room and terrace. In fact, rather than say anything else about it, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Here's me getting my Cheshire Cat hair and nails did, by my new exclusive hair lady and my number one Mad Hatter, Kelly.

Our final products. If you can't tell, we're Mad. It's probably from the spray paint hairspray fumes. I didn't have my grin in this one...

This is our (male) friend Manu, dressed as Eve, in the party room. It was the perfect place, and I had some great decorations thanks to Mom and Lara!

Kelly got a little artsy. Bats flying over the firepit full of votives.

Group shot. Unfortunately several people had already left or were holding cameras by this point, but you get the general idea. There are a million pictures, and I can post more upon request, but most of you have facebook, so you can see them there!

Regardless, it was great fun, and were it not memorable beforehand, it would have become extremely memorable to the last 13 of us. It got down to that number and the people other than me split down the middle - six decided to help clean up a bit, six ran for the elevator. The party room is on the tenth floor and you need a key to get out the front door, so Kelly offered to take a group down, and five people smashed into the elevator with her. Turns out that was a pretty bad idea, as the elevator reached the ground floor but the excess weight made the elevator floor sink below level with the floor, so the elevator door wouldn't open.

The encargado (super) couldn't be roused through banging, ringing, or yelling, and my landlord doesn't have a spare set of keys. So there were six people hyperventilating in the elevator and six more sitting on the steps for just under an hour at about 3am while I did stairs. I think we'd have had to call the fire department were it not for the fact that one of the people inside the elevator eventually tripped the safety latch in the doorjamb with a teaspoon, letting everyone out. Of course the elevator still didn't work for the rest of the night, so Kelly, Bret and I got to do the stairs one more time to get everything out of upstairs and back down to my apartment. Then it was just a 40 minute shower to get the purple out of my hair before a nice, early 5:30am bedtime. Needless to say, I did NOTHING on Saturday.

It was a good time. Met a couple cool new people, got to see a few people I hadn't seen in a while. Was left with horrific amounts of unhealthy leftovers and a war zone of a home I just finally started feeling like I could reclaim today. But it's Halloween, by which I mean, any and all efforts were well worth it.

Now I've just got three weeks before Ray and Ronda come to town and Thanksgiving! Something to which I can look forward, and three weeks to actually DO SOME SCHOOL WORK in the interim!

Hope you all had a wonderful, spooky, stomach-achingly sweet Halloween. All my love.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I guess I should start at the beginning... of this weekend, of course.

Stayed in all day Friday, trying to get myself to work on this blasted paper. Having a hard time facing it. Just like I did with Memo #1 for my other class, for which I somehow got an A-. Thank God. Didn't get nearly as much done as I wanted on Friday, and I knew I was going shopping with Kelly Saturday afternoon, but I figured I'd have five solid hours between waking up and meeting her in Palermo Viejo around four... I figured...

There's a new girl in the program, Gaby. She's the baby of the program, having just finished college in May after starting school early as a kid. She's 21. GOODNESS. Her parents left on Friday night and I told her at lunch with Adam on Thursday that if she needed saving on Saturday, she should shout. I can't tell you how thankful I am that she called. I don't know why, but being able to get her out of the house on her Worst Day made me feel just a little bit better about having gone through mine completely alone. We went to my cafe two blocks from my house, and while we were sitting out in the bits of sun under the trees, we saw this absolutely ridiculous kiddy bus... I fail to understand. Maybe it was a sightseeing tour? But then why did it stop on the corner for ten minutes? My corner cafe is not a sight. Pretty sure. Gaby was shocked to see Spiderman in Argentina...but having seen some pictures from costume parties here, I can tell you, Spidey's not an uncommon choice here. (Note to self: Inform everyone no spidermen at your Halloween party.)

It was a nice afternoon. Spending too much money on accessories, eying bonsai trees in the market, having a coffee with Kelly on a terrace from which I took this picture. Gaby had to get home to run some errands, but I made my new chicken salad recipe for Kelly and then the three of us met up at a movie theater close to her house. We saw some ridiculous chick flick, but Kelly buried her head in my shoulder when she was embarrassed and we bought Gaby's ticket as a "Welcome to Argentina." I think it made her feel better, and she informed me we're definitely going latin dancing next weekend. Yay!

Another day of trying to work on my paper...went through readings to pull out quotes today, and wrote my introduction and a very basic outline. 20 pages by Wednesday, and I currently have 1.5. I was about to head to bed when I got an email from Evan, an old friend from Carnegie Mellon who is actually one of only four people who subscribe to this blog. Came out of NOWHERE. Subject line: This one is for you... clearly. No body to the email, just this bit of adorableness. And I confess, a lolcat made me cry.

Some of you have been really great through this. Chris, you and your family are AWESOME friends to my family, and it means so much that you guys haven't forgotten me. Matt Stewart sent me a message on Facebook this weekend because reading about G20 in Pittsburgh made him think of me. Katy, I know you read this, and you've been pretty good at keeping in touch, when I remember to sign on to skype... (Sorry!!)

But MAN. Guys? A lolcat made me cry because it was a little reminder that I wasn't forgotten. I've talked to Sarah what? Three times in as many months? Haven't talked to Jen once? Or Zack, you subscribed, but I haven't heard a peep. This whole doing-it-on-my-own thing would be easier if I felt like I had a support system back home. It would be easier not to be phased by the people in my program not liking me if I knew I had friends back home.

I don't mean to get all chain email on you guys, but you really don't know how what you do affects people. This email took him fifteen seconds, and it MADE my weekend. So do me a favor, as a person who doesn't forget people, and make an effort to reach out to someone you haven't thought of in a while today. Feeling forgotten ain't the hottest, and kittens are really cute.

Guess that's all I have to say.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day Five -- Just Because It Was There

How hard it was to actually GET UP on Monday morning!! The life of a Porteño had become so comfy -- out late, up late....definitely not my normal life!! We descended on the bakery "Via Dolce" (Sweet Street) and each took a basket with tongs and picked out breakfast pastries. They all got wrapped up together, we hopped into a taxi, and rode to the pier. M and I with our tea, Al had his black thick coffee, devoured the pastries. Boarded the catamaran to Uruguay, slept for most of the journey honestly. Must have been that full belly thing.

When we disembarked both Al and I were suitably underwhelmed, but M seemed to know what she was doing, so we walked on. She had delivered the perfect trip so far, were we going to doubt her now? Ah, no. Reaching the tourist office we were attacked by very persistent and wily individual that wanted to direct us, and M very quietly guided us away. Thankfully so. We only had a few hours in paradise, and she knew best.

Ahead of us was the walled city of Colonia and we entered through the rocky gate. I don't see how that could have protected Colonia from much...but inside truly was a treasure. The frantic racetrack of Buenos Aires was behind us, and this little dusty silent town waited to be explored. Time was the enemy here, so we just got to glide along the surface, but for some reason that was ok too. The lighthouse was a little too high for climbing, so we admired from outside. Breakfast was all sugar so in dappled shade we had a picada - a tray of miscellaneous cheese, ham, olives and little hunks of bread -- just the ticket to soak in the square.

In and out of the shops was fun, but the leather shops were overwhelming to the senses! Being surrounded by that much animal that wasn't animal anymore was very strange. The smell was a bit intoxicating.... (what does that say about me???) We saw BA as a tiny speck on the horizon, that was funny to me, since she is SO overpowering in person. In your face, demanding of all your attention. Not in a bad way, mind you, but you've got to be on your game -- totally focused -- just to cross the street. But there she was, tinier than an ant. We ignored her.

We touched on the old town, the new town, didn't have time for the grand lunch by the coast that M had planned. Probably my only regret of the trip. (in a week of perfect, I can deal!!) However, weaving our way back to our boat, M left time for helado -- ice cream. It's shameful to call this ice cream, because it's absolutely the best I've had .... definitely since I was in Italy, and maybe better. Italy was almost 20 years ago, so memory blurs. Chocolate yum. I've read about limoncello, so I wanted to try that. Blecht! M had the idea of adding some agua con gas (bubbly water) and then it was just incredibly hard lemonade. That was ok. But limoncello -- unless this was really bad stuff, and I don't think it was -- what's the deal here?

Not sure we took a photo of the place we had ice cream (I think I was bubbly by then...) but it was SO picturesque, and the ice cream...well...sigh. My girl knows her stuff.

So in two and a half hours we're back at the flat, and I'm flat, as in 24 hours I'm gone...I've been pretty much a napless wonder for 2 days and THAT's not good...and we need a meal. Stinkpot calls the restaurant next door and plays the sick mom card, so basically we have room service in our flat. All the waiters line up to see this incredibly *bold* young woman pick up food and the head waiter pleads with Al to please bring the plates back. I have enough energy to wolf down a HEAVENLY dinner (except for the blood sausage that accidently got ordered -- oops!!) and collapse like a 'bunch of broccoli' onto the sofa for more girl snuggles. She HAS control of this crazy world, if she can make this happen! 'Please do not tell anyone -- I will lose my job if anyone finds out!', he said. Seeing M, they evidently all wanted to help carry the dinners, 'me, no me!' When 'Las Vulturas' had finished once again, Al returned the plates with M's thankyou note and a tip -- perfect ending to a perfect day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Welcome to Spring

Hey everyone, it's me, Melanie. You know, the one who actually owns this blog! ;)

I know Mom has a post or two to add from their recent trip, but today was both the first day of Spring and the first day of classes en castellano. It was a heck of a Monday.

Actually, as my Spring resolution I decided to be better about taking pictures and about posting to this, so my pictures today are from yesterday. I decided I needed to have a LOT of fun yesterday to boost my spirits before classes started this week since I was (justifiably) very nervous at the prospect at taking grad-level courses in a foreign language.

So! I biked to La Recoleta on Sunday to check out their feria (market) which is supposed to be much more craftsy and hippyish than San Telmo. It was an incredible sunny day, a bit warmer than the forecast had predicted else I'd have worn a tank top and tried to get a little white into my blue skin. Along the way, I was regaled with the hilariousness of a whole horde of clowns close to the children's hospital in Palermo. I almost went over to ask if I could join up, until I realized the joy I'd feel being a clown would probably be outweighed by standing at intersections trying to get money. They were all over, and if I'd gotten my camera out sooner, I'd have caught all three of these standing in a row eating sandwiches and scratching their hats. As it is, I barely got my camera turned on when the light turned green, so I took this picture blind. I actually feel kind of bad - the one really looks like she wants me to come over and, well, give her money. Bad me.

My new friend (praise God) Kelly met me close to the cemetery, and we spent over four wonderful relaxing sunny hours. We had awesome salads in the sun at a nearby restaurant, and then proceeded to search the market for all the things we need. We found NONE of them, but came away with things we most certainly didn't need, nevertheless. I got birthday presents for Mom and Lara, and even got something for myself! I know, our birthdays aren't until January and February, but when you see something here, you buy it. I've learned that one the hard way. I just hope I run back into some of the things I've seen and passed up... More than what we got, though, it was just a great day getting out and meeting people, including Flora. She sat facing away from the crowds, facing her daddy in his booth. Her sign says, "Don't bother. I'm resting." Too cute. When we had done enough damage for one day, we got fruit salad covered in fresh pressed orange juice and sat on a hill listening to some live music.

Maybe it was the good mojo from yesterday, but today went much better than I'd expected. I had a Spanish class in the morning, and had a bit of a rough and stressy afternoon, but then biked down to Tribunales to pick up readings and sit in the computer lounge reading and looking up words on google translator. Ran into the new girl, seemed nice! And then class started and something AMAZING happened. I understood a lion's share of what was said! By our 8:30 break, I was pumped up on endorphins and gleefully told the other Americans that I understood 85% of what was being said, and Holly's response was, "Yeah, he talks really clearly." Plblblblblb. I guess it's a good word of caution, I still have two more professors to meet, and I doubt I'll be so lucky as to have three professors that don't swallow their words. They openly discussed the fact that Holly invited all of them but not me to dinner in front of me, and they all went out to get a drink together after class without inviting me, but I'm glad they didn't. Got lost on my way home and biked through a good portion of Recoleta and (I think) a bit of Belgrano before finding my way. It was great. Hooray endorphins!

Regardless, I know some of you were interested in seeing how day one of classes went, and hey: clowns and cats. What more can I say.

Love you all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day Four -- Market Day

Thankfully M is staying at the flat with us, making life more simple for all. And the late night snuggles for me are priceless. We are birds of a feather. Getting up on Sunday morning had me moving as fast as I could. Today was San Telmo! I'd read about this market, and M had told me all about it too. My pulse was rapid, and I was ready! We started the morning with scones that Lara sent us -- quite a decadent way to start the day, then into the taxi. That, by the way, is truly taking one's life into ones hands.

I digress to discuss life in a taxi. How these people do not die on a daily basis (redundant??) is a grand mystery to me. The road could be 2 lanes, or 9 lanes across and there will be more taxis than the street can hold (they are tiny) and they drive like lunatics on crack. Or speed. Some sort of illegal substance. Maybe Mate. I never did get the chance to try this, tho I did ask for it once and oooh the look I got. Is it not served on Sunday? Add in the machismo that surrounds them like an aura and insanity is not a strong enough word. I didn't see accidents tho. They zip and they zag and will actually bump the driver infront of them if displeased, and honk ALL the time!! We decided it is the 'taxi toot'. I couldn't figure out why they honk -- there were a couple of rational toots I saw, but honestly. I think it's just for fun. In Israel the honking seemed just an extension of the conversation, but not here that I could see. I think it may be one of the 'just cuz' items in the world. To keep tourists like me from settling back in and enjoying the ride? That may be it!!

We arrived safe and sound however, and ready to shop. San Telmo is not just a shopping paradise -- we saw clowns on stilts, and so many other amazing street performers. The tango dancers older than time were there! M said they were famous, because they'd gone to the market every Sunday to dance for years. Apparently their picture is even on a postcard! Younger versions were there, but I still thought the old couple were darling, and the fact that the lady could still dance in heels on the cobblestones at an unknown age was quite impressive. I think that just about anything you could dream of would be on these streets.

We wandered out of the throng of tourists in search of 'meat on a stick' for lunch. Anthony Bourdain, the travel wise-apple from TV always says find where the locals buy their produce, then find where THEY buy their lunch. It may not have been as authentic as it could have been, but the cheap plastic chairs, beer by the liter, grilled chorizo with chimichurri sauce on top of sliced baguette at the rickety aluminum table right outside the produce market -- well it was heavenly.

We dove back into the fray and bolstered ourselves with that darkest and most delightful of coffees when necessary. One of the places had a true Argentine peacock. I don't know what else to call him. Of course Al was escorting two North American beauties -- but this guy was a hoot. Easily 65 -- shaved head, but with hmmmm....a shark's tooth around his neck? Maybe a wild boar's tooth? That and the gold chains, and shirt unbuttoned half way down, as the seriously machismo'd do... When we arrived he was facing away from us, and by the time we left he was practically -- well. It was silly. And it's a sad day for the peacocks of the world to lump them in with him. This was where I asked for the Mate and got the frosty look. It was on the menu, but being a silly tourist I don't know the protocol. It's not illegal...but I think in the states it would be. Ask me no more!!

But, we hung in there until the end, staying until the Brazilian drummers rolled up the streets at 6. What a site! Everyone within hearing distance dancing, and the drummers, young and old so proud. The sites, sounds, smells -- SO very much fun!! Thank you Melanie!! Another fun day!!

Day Three -- A Tree Hugger?

The walk to the botanical gardens in itself was a treat, and yes, it is early spring. There is the certain 'nip' still in the shade, but once you get into the sunshine it warms the soul. The gardens are across from the zoo, families with little ones are everywhere, the excitement is palpable. I'm on a tree hunt. Driving in I could tell there were alien trees to my little tree library, so I was on a mission to find them, and yes, they were everywhere! And if you ask Al and Melanie, I touched every one of them. Not sure that is fair, but probably is. African, Chinese, Japanese, as well as the South-American ones, and the deciduous ones were fascinating. Spoinky, leathery, and down-right prickly leaves. We found some amazing tree trunks as well, and had to get photos with them. Not much was North-American, but when it was, I just laughed. Yes, they have spirea. Family joke inserted here. (Al hates spirea...)

The native, feral cats of the gardens and amused us as well. It's a real problem in BA that people abandon their cats at the gardens, there are so many everywhere, and signs requesting 'please do not abandon los gatos!' And as promised, the palo borracho with Al showing off. Initially I got confused with who was who... The trees just beginning to flower -- I ask M to please come back in a couple of weeks to take photos -- it's going to be spectacular. And then we happen onto a bird of paradise blooming. How can this be? (my mind cannot understand) A couple mystery vines also coming to life. I wish I had my plant book. (it is 600 pages so I cannot carry it -- not a practical idea). So remarkable. Again I ask for M to come back to take photos. She nods and sighs. She's been my daughter forever and knows how to placate me, although she's got enough of my blood in her that I KNOW she's jazzed as well!

Lunch at Plaza Serrano, people watching, and our first foray of shopping. It had to be shoe shopping, in the tiniest of shops, with at least 100 women in the shop. Good grief. Shoe shopping in English can be confusing, but in Argentine Spanish, watching your purse carefully (that now weighs 150 kilos) and 'please may I try this in fuchsia in the next size up'... Are we kidding? Al was wise and just continued his people watching outside the store. It was fun tho!! I now understand why M hesitates to go shopping. It's not as easy as it could be!

Back to the flat for mi siesta necesario and a creative dinner in. We hit the bakery, cheese shop, and opened a bottle of Malbec. Insert a sigh of contentment that cannot be replicated. Ever. M (being M) had prepared the flat with some delicious salami, chunked turkey, sliced jamon... The Fontina here is a hard cheese -- but delicious in it's own right. Thick rinds, but definitely worth the effort. In the dessert category Al won this time. No idea what he got, but with the grated dark chocolate on top of the whipped cream, well. There you have it. And I managed to be up after midnight! The life of a porteño!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day Two -- Our Luck Continues!

What a gorgeous day we had yesterday! After a slow morning, Melanie decided to take us on a bit of a walking tour of some of the sites of the city: Av. 9 de Julio, the Teatro Colon, the national Cathedral and the Casa Rosada. We walked up to Plaza Italia to take the subte (the Buenos Aires metro system) downtown, and realized that Melanie wasn't exaggerating about everyone looking miserable all the time. After about one stop, Al asked Melanie, "How do you say 'smile?'"

We emerged from the subte facing the Obelisk (not much different than any other obelisk) and after a quick stop into a Christmas ornament store, did a bit of walking around on Av. 9 de Julio. My goodness, what a busy street! It's one of the widest and busiest streets in the world, and I will always remember watching the sea of people crossing at every light. It reminded me of Picadilly Circus -- but bigger and much more confused.

Our wandering led us to Tribunales, the square in front of the court building and the subte station Melanie uses to get to classes. She mentioned that the square looks a lot prettier in daylight - all her classes are at night! I made her promise to return during daylight in late Spring, as I saw what looked like the hugest and most incredible rhododendron tree ever! I made her SWEAR to take a picture when it blooms!

We got lunch in a street cafe near the square and then hopped back onto the subte to Catedral to see the national cathedral and the casa rosada. The cathedral looked so unlike a cathedral from the outside that we asked someone where it was while standing on its steps (!), but inside it was quite lovely. No concert in our honor this time, but as we were walking towards the doors, Melanie pulled me back so I narrowly escaped walking right into a cadre of fully uniformed guards (equipped with sabres...) that had come to open the gates of the tomb of General San Martin, the man who liberated Argentina so easily he decided to cross the Andes and liberate a few other countries while he was at it. It was awesome to watch, and we just laughed at our luck! Two days, two churches, two remarkable things to see!

We met the old guard's modern counterpart when we went to take pictures in front of the Casa Rosada ("Like the White House, but pink," said Melanie) and saw a unit of riot police marching around in full gear. We think there was an animal rights protest planned for the afternoon, but we scooted home for a nap before any of that started. Maybe next time.

Melanie and Al went grocery shopping while I was asleep, and after I got up, Melanie and I poked into two stores within a block of our flat--one vintage and one modern. We didn't find much, but I did get a cute sun hat for our trips to the garden and to Uruguay! Home to get dolled up, and then we went to a highly-recommended restaurant, La Cabrera.

How YUMMY! For a total of $75 including a generous tip, the three of us ordered twice as much meat as we could eat, plus a bottle of wine inspired by Andy jumping over the moon (Andeluna, it was called), plus two incredibly decadent desserts. Melanie and I made quick work of them, and when the waiter came back, Al informed the waiter that we were "Las Vulturas." Like the complimentary glasses of champagne we got with our dessert, we left the restaurant feeling quite bubbly, and giggled the whole way home.

Today, Melanie is taking us to the botanical gardens. I am so excited to see all the strange and wonderful plants. In our taxi ride back from our sightseeing yesterday, I saw a huge wisteria in full bloom, so I'm very curious to see what's growing and blooming in the beginning of Spring! I'm amazed at some of the things I've seen overwintering outside here! I'm sure I'll drive Al and Melanie crazy taking pictures of flowers, but it surely won't be the first time I've done that!

I'm so glad that we came. We're having a lovely time, and it's so wonderful to see our girl in her new city. She's become quite the city girl. She's more comfortable in this atmosphere than I'd ever be, it's a tough place and you have to be pretty tough to live in it! Never fear, though, I'm still getting snuggles I need.

more later...gardens await!

Friday, September 11, 2009

and then they sang...

so we slept like the dead and woke refreshed! The city was just coming to life as M said it would. We took a taxi to her lovely little apartment. It's darling! Just perfect for her. Tiny kitchen as she said, but suitable, and if she uses every surface as a countertop. Reminds me of my first little tiny apt all those years ago!

We walked out to her square, and looked at the amazing Cathedral Guadalupe, and of course wanted to peek inside...and I don't know who was singing, but it was holy and amazing. We have that kind of luck. In Chartre, Santorini, our first Mass in England at Westminster Cathedral where they were doing a Mozart Mass in A minor -- I don't think it's luck, I think it's by the grace of God, truly.

Dinner was a hoot, bowls of different kinds of stews. She got a butternut squash something over chicken, Dad got a peach, prune, different meat something, but I lucked out with lentils and jamon and mixed salted meats. I won the jackpot. It was delightful!

And the things that grow here. My goodness. The drive in from the airport yesterday I had my head hanging out the window. The driver, Aldo spoke no English but his Spanish was 'neutral' he said, and he was easy to understand for Dad and I. M had to translate some, but not much. The palo borrecho or 'beer-belly' trees I will have to take a photo of. They are great! It's like March here -- deciduous trees are just leafing out now. But hibiscus are outside and BLOOMING. Fig trees are outside and sporting new growth. There are palms of course. But still. We are nearly in the tropics here. But, we see familiar allysum blooming. Right by the outdoor amaryllis. Mind blowing. Very difficult to comprehend.

We're off to new explorations today. How absolutely wonderful. More later.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day One -- Trip of a Lifetime

Dear Friends,

We made it! After a long, long journey, we're in an amazingly beautiful flat on the 7th floor of an 8 floor building in the gorgeous neighborhood of Palermo Viejo. Melanie's neighborhood is close, although we've not made it that far. Tonite we'll wander over to see.

Getting to the airport in Dayton was more difficult that I'd hoped. As always I thought I was organized. Ha! Then we hit I-75 Highway 4 traffic. For once I was happy that Dad had forced me out early! And, that early check-in over the internet is really cool too!!

Flying through Houston was my first time in that airport but I do remember the gulf level of humidity. That's a special treat! Geez oh pete! There were lots of little ones on that flight who were extremely well behaved, so when there were several on the overnight flight I was optimistic. Hahahaha!!!

Let's just say it could have been better! Screaming 18th month olds at 3am, well, they aren't my favorite. Let's just say their mothers weren't my favorites. Had they ever heard the word 'no'? Or said it?

Landing in BA, both of us wondered what the heck Melanie had done to herself three months ago! How had she done this? That's my girl! Customs was a breeze and collecting bags was better than expected, and as soon as we passed through the airport doors we were totally barraged with 'offers' of taxi rides, rental cars, etc. I was not expecting such an enthusiastic welcome! I hadn't seen that kind of offering, or barking from folks since we lived abroad -- and I cannot remember where.

Seeing Melanie was a joy -- she looks wonderful! And watching her communication skills is a treat! The Argentinian-Spanish, from what I can tell from less than a day, is SO DIFFERENT from what I have ever experienced. She's right!!

Pronunciations like the 'll' I'm used to being a 'y' are a 'sh'!! I still want to make them 'll' being a stupid American -- so the poor Argentinians get a total of three words now instead of one! Complete lack of communication skill from me!

And, folks speak into their collars. And mush words together. We noticed that on the plane. Following English, the Spanish translation was given, obviously, but neither of us could understand. Maybe we'll get better, but in a week, I doubt it! Also -- speed is the key. The faster the better!!

Nevermind. She looks beautiful, and she's communicating much better than I expected. But I knew that going in! It's great to watch.

Tomorrow I'll write on what I've seen so far -- and it is amazing. So much to take in! But today is for snuggles.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


My writer's strike is over, less because of a magical dissolution of the feelings that led me to stop than a realization that moments are starting to pass me by. I'm writing because of the sound of church bells.

Before I went to Europe in the summer of 2005, I asked a photographer exhibiting incredible pictures of the forgotten architecture of the Alpine countries at the Tri-Rivers Arts festival for the most important piece of advice he could give me. His reply?

"Always look up."

If the theme for Europe is "always look up," the motto of Buenos Aires seems to be "never look up." On top of the pick pockets, huge crowds and homicidal maniac drivers, I'm convinced that BsAs has th largest dog poop to sidewalk ratio of any city outside of Asia (I've never been to Asia, so I can't say.) If you find yourself enjoying the scenery and don't get hit by a car or rammed into by a business woman, you'll step in crap. It's a law.

So it happened that I'd walked to the corner café a block from my new apartment. It was called Guadalupe, which I misread to say Guatemala, and assumed it was so named because it sits at the corner of Medrano, Paraguay and Guatemala. I was sitting in the seventy-two degree afternoon air with a stack of reading and a cup of tea when I heard the bells begin to ring.

I'd heard the bells before, they reached my old apartment on breezy days, but this sounded closer. Setting down a truly un-engrossing article, I remembered that the Cathedral was a couple of blocks from my new place, so I might be able to see it from where I sat. I looked over my shoulder across the street and realized that I was sitting a highlighter's throw from Guadalupe herself, explaining why the Holy Mother's picture was on the napkins. How do you walk adjacent to and then sit for an entire afternoon across from a cathedral and not realize it?

Sitting there, watching the pigeons and wondering what the stained glass looked like from the inside, I realized that I'd let all the dogshit in this city keep me from seeing the sacred among the profane.

I'm not writing for you. Not one of you is so busy that you can't spend ten minutes once a month to let me know how you are and that you think of me at all. I'm writing this to remember. And if you happen to read it once a month when you're bored and have run out of other ways to waste time online, well? I can't stop you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Argentina is American Too

I know I said I might post today, but instead, I've decided to go completely insane. Less than one hour ago, I decided I'm going to have people over three hours from now to have an American Night in celebration of the 4th being yesterday. I know I can make mom's hamburger recipe, but I have NO idea how I'm going to make American sides abroad, and it's raining, and I don't know if ANYONE will come, so I have NO idea how much meat to buy.

God I'm nuts.

But there'll be a wii with rockband, and American music, and hamburgers and oven fries, and hopefully chips and guacamole, and I'm going to try to make rice krispy treats and ghetto Argentine smores.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Love Letter to America

Well, it’s just another Saturday afternoon here in chilly Buenos Aires. I allowed myself to be talked into staying out until a truly ludicrous hour, for which I’d feel very disappointed in myself if not for the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life happening to me at a time of day responsible people usually wake. Seriously, carne asado on fresh baked bread from a street vendor by the river. I could sculpt my feelings for that sandwich. Of course, that means that I’m finally getting around to spending a day in bed today to fully recover from this dark cloud of a head cold that’s been hanging over me all week. Hardly my usual Fourth of July.

So I’m taking a half hour out of my busy day doing Spanish homework and watching movies with subtitles with a hot tea IV to write a love letter to the homeland. There are things that you don’t realize you love about America until *you’re not in it.* Important caveat: one should not infer from this list that I don’t love Argentina. I can write that post tomorrow, if you’d like.

A non-traditional partial list by
Melanie “resfria” Janiszewski

I love that in America, going out dancing means a 3am bedtime, not 8am. I love that in America, if you say, “I’m really tired, I think I’ll go home,” people say “Okay, I’ll call you next week! Thanks for coming out!” instead of “NOOOOO! If you go home I’ll be the only woman with five men!/Just come for five minutes!/If you leave, I won’t have an excuse to make them go home!/It’s the best sandwich in Buenos Aires!” Note to self: get better at saying NO.

I love Mucinex D. As I was sitting on the wall overlooking Ria Plata blanketed in fog, I turned to Lucho, the Argentino sitting next to me whose name is actually Luciano, and said, “I am going to die tomorrow.” “Please do not jump! I care about you!” “No, Lucho, I have a cold, and it is 6:30am, and I am sitting on the edge of a river eating asado. Tomorrow, I am going to die.” When I got home, I felt truly grotesque, but in a last ditch effort to preserve my life, I took a mucinex before crashing. Amazingly, I feel better today than I have any right to feel. God, American pharmaceutical companies are awful creatures, but they do make some good products.

I love my parents’ house. It’s in the forefront of my mind today, because as I write this, Mom and Dad are probably bustling around frantically before you all arrive, with your fruit salads and awesome baked beans and homemade coleslaw. Dad has a bigger bag of illicit explosives than ever, as always, and in about an hour he’ll sneak either Sammy or Adam to take a look, or maybe both. It’ll be hot enough to cook a cold out of me but not miserable, and there will be water balloons and sparklers and mom’s hamburgers and all of you. Man, guys, I wish I was there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m right where I want to be. But if I could somehow manage to be in Ohio for about six hours, yeah, that’d be pretty great.

Because I love all of you. I’m not miserably homesick, at least not yet. I really love my new home town, more so now that I’ve started language classes, and I can’t think of a place I’d rather be, the next six hours aside. I’m getting oriented to life, if not the city geographically, and I can only imagine things’ll get better. At least I hope they do. I gotta say, the 6am weekend thing is really getting old, and I always find that I somehow become five years less mature when I’m in a foreign country for some reason. But I do love you, and wish I could be with you today. After all, in a weird kind of way, I am happy in my new life because of all of you, and because of my life in America.

So thank you, America, for Argentina. I love you, motherland. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chacarita y influenza

Well, I have been struck down from on high with a nasty cold (NOT THE SWINE FLU), so I'm going to update on all the things that have been happening lately, starting with the post on my trip to the Chacarita cemetery I promised you last week. And here we go. :)

There are two well-known cemeteries in Buenos Aires, the more famous by a long shot being Recoleta's. Recoleta is a neighborhood in which you live so that everyone knows that you have money, and a place where you are buried if you want everyone to know that you had money. Everyone's tomb competes with its neighbors in lavishness and grandeur, and it's one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. Chacarita is on the other side of the city, and makes up for being slightly less over the top by being much, much larger. And as you can see, these families hardly skimped on the cost, either.
It was a beautiful, mid to upper sixties day, and it was really nice to wander around in the relative quiet and revel at the sheer wastefulness of building granite houses for each of your loved ones. Ahem. We eventually made our way around to the grave of Carlos Gardel, the main attraction of Chakarita. Carlos Gardel is the patron saint of tango music, as you can see from the photos of his final resting place. My guide and buddy Jaesoung says that he always has a cigarette in his hand and a flower in his lapel, and that there are ALWAYS this many flowers on his grave.

As we were taking pictures at his grave, a group of Colombians came up to us and asked if we'd been in the cemetery the day before. We replied that we hadn't, slightly confused, only to find out that we were in the cemetery one day too late for one hell of a spectacle. June 24th is the anniversary of Gardel's death, and people flood to the cemetery to dance tango to live music, drink wine and smoke cigarettes. I was CRUSHED to have missed such an incredibly Argentine experience by just one day!

But even with my disappointment, it was a lovely place, and a perfect day. I told Jaesoung it could have been even a little warmer, but he replied that you really don't want to go to the cemeteries when it's warm out. Ahem.

It somehow seems very Argentine that two of the biggest tourist attractions in the city are cemeteries, and that everyone spends so lavishly on the dead. There were half a dozen flower stands outside of the cemetery, and as you can see, there's a full time cleaning crew just for the removal of flowers. I'm all about my loved ones doing whatever makes them feel best when I die, but for the record? I think it's all terribly wasteful. Bring me no flowers. Plant some instead.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Meet Cute.

I was going to write you today about my lovely afternoon walking through a lovely cemetery with a lovely new friend, but that post has been superseded by this one. I'll post that one tomorrow, I promise. I have been sitting at my computer since 4pm with this one, and am sore and my stomach hurts from the stress of it. So here it is. Good, bad, and indifferent.

The guy from last weekend? The one who taught me to be careful with Argentinos? Well, he taught me that lesson again, along with a second lesson: Argentinos better not mess with me.

When I went out to dinner last weekend, Jaesoung and I were discussing how we remembered new words we learned, and so I dug into my purse to show him the digital voice recorder Mom and Dad bought me before I left. I thought it would help to be able to record my lectures or any other bit of Spanish I might want to take down without getting out a pad of paper and stopping life. Thing is, I couldn't find it. I figured it had fallen out of my purse, but when I got home, I couldn't find it in my room.

For almost a week, I have thought that I got robbed within 72 hours of hitting the ground in Buenos Aires, and I felt...awful about it. This kind of life change is bound to make you feel a little incompetent - I don't know my way around, I can barely communicate... But to know I had SUCH poor city sense on top of it? Man, I was not feeling too good about myself.

And then, on my bus ride home from the cemetery this afternoon, I was flipping through some of the lovely pictures that I'll post online tomorrow, and I found this one. The tricky boy from last Friday waited for me to go to the bathroom, took my voice recorder out of my purse, and left a picture of himself stealing it on my camera.

A meet cute is a writer's way of introducing two characters such that the reader or viewer knows that a romantic relationship is in the works. And how does the reader ascertain that a meet cute has occurred? A: it's something that never happens in real life. On paper, in a script, this would be incredibly romantic. It'd be frustrating, but also romantic and adorable and cheeky and smart. In the script, I'd have found the picture quickly, rather than feeling like a piece of crap for a week. Thing is, what looks brave on the surface is actually quite cowardly, because it was the only way he could make SURE that I'd HAVE to see him again. Come on, dude. Grow a pair, and ask a woman out to her face. Don't resort to petty theft.

Anyway, as I said, I came home with the intent of just sending the romantic sit com of a story to a couple girlfriends, but I ended up sitting by the computer for the rest of the day waiting for him to get back to me, since I don't have his number. I'm now achey from being tense all day, breaking out from stress, and unable to IMAGINE how I'll get to sleep tonight.

I sincerely hope that this is not an indicator of what to expect from my future experiences with Argentinos. And I sincerely hope that he calls or writes me very quickly, so I don't have to keep feeling like I'm hanging here, at his disposal.

I'm so sorry this post sounds grumpy. The good news is that I wasn't robbed, and that I'll have my voice recorder back by the time my language classes start next week if it takes threatening to call the damned cops. And also, no matter how bad my day goes, I am still in Argentina. It's quite a salve, I'll tell you. :)

I love you all.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My first weekend

My mother told me this morning that everyone had been asking when I was going to write again. Since I've managed to write one horrible post in the past week, I'm surprised anyone reads it at all.

I'm starting to get my feet under me. Last Friday Marílu dragged me out, and I'm so glad she did. First, we went to a language exchange group called Talk&Go, which is supposed to pair native Spanish speakers and native English speakers. I was surprised to see that the group was pretty evenly matched, though "native English" sort of went out the window. To four Argentines and a Peruvian, there were two Americans, a Korean learning Spanish, a German professor and his Thai aboriginal opera singer girlfriend. Everyone (except the other American) was really nice, and I got contact information from several of them. I went to dinner with Jaesoung, the Korean, on Saturday night and we struggled through talking to the waiter fairly successfully! Sunday, I went to el Mercado de San Telmo with the German/Thai couple. The Argentine girls promised to take me out after next Friday's meeting, too. If all goes well, with two hours of very broken Spanish I may well have made half a dozen new friends!

After that, Marilu took me to the 21st birthday party of the daughter of her friend. Yes, there are several things about that sentence that are terrifying. There were dozens of Argentine twenty-somethings in large groups, talking and laughing in unintelligible was too much for me to handle. I hung out in the kitchen with the moms, had some good Argentine food and wine. I unknowingly tried goose pate for the first time (I liked it!) and decided that cheap Malbec tastes better to me than expensive Malbec. The lady of the house took Marilu and I along while she was dragged around the fancy neighborhood of Belgrano, giving us the opportunity to pick mansions to buy at a future date yet to be named. When we got back, however, things got...well, a little more colorful.

There were a couple of guys sort of...hanging around the kitchen a little, before we left for our walk. When we got back, we set out the desserts and there was a flock of people to the dining room. Intimidated by the crowd, I escaped into the small back garden, and didn't get three steps outside before realizing oh no. Now I'm out here alone, and the tall dude who's been looking at me saw me go. Crap.

Sure enough, there he was. I spent the rest of the evening getting a LOT of attention from three buddies, one of which kept throwing up his arms and shouting "OHIOOOO!!!!!" Oy vey. Their names, and I'm not kidding, were Ramiro, Leonardo, and Santiago. (Cue Lara's laughing reply, 'where was the fourth ninja turtle?') Oh life in Argentina, you can be so surreal. The moral of Friday's story was cuidate: Argentine boys aren't like lazy Americans, they're much more cunning. Lesson learned!

Anyway, I lost all of Saturday until dinner with a horrible hangover, and went to San Telmo on Sunday. I didn't get to actually shop much, so I'm going back this Sunday, and I'll tell you all about it then. It was pretty great, and pashminas cost $15 pesos (just under $4) each. Not to shabby, huh? :)

One final thought: I found all the cats. People told me about all the stray cats in Buenos Aires but I hadn't seen one before Saturday night. Jaesoung and I walked around the parks by Plaza Italia, and we must have seen forty cats. Some of the trees in the park were uplit for effect, and there was a cat under each light and sitting ON each of the lights. Some of them were friendly, and you could tell that they got fed, but all the signs with pictures of scared kittens that said "Do not abandon your pets" made me sad!

Okay. Enough for now. Love you all. Miss you, but I can't really say I wish you were here...only because I think this is something I have to do on my own. Or with men with ninja turtle names...whatever.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hola de Argentina...hola a Argentina...

¡Hola a todos!

I'm sorry I didn't write sooner. There is SO much to do, and so much to see, and even though I already have nine thousand things to tell you, I haven't been outside of Palermo (mi barrio) yet. I haven't even seen most of Palermo. There is so much to do.

My flight was more or less uneventful, if my time in airports was slightly less so. I had to dissect my luggage at Dayton after we found out that weight overages were going to cost more than 250% of what we thought they'd be, I had a delay in Dulles, and I was treated as a biohazard in Buenos Aires. There've been over 800 reported cases and at least five deaths from H1N1 in Argentina, so travellers coming from America are now required to wear masks and turn in forms with three forms of contact information prior to disembarking the plane, and then walk through a heat sensor to screen for fever. I didn't know at the time, but apparently if I had been running a fever, they'd have sprayed me down before I could enter the country. Seems like a scene from a movie, yeah? I hope things don't get any nuttier, as it might affect some of your decisions about coming and visiting me. ;)

The taxi ride home from the airport was great, what a glimpse into the culture and everything. I saw a dude standing next to his horse in the bit of grass next to the highway, and countless little boys playing soccer. I saw that there are fruterías EVERYWHERE, and that if I ever drove in this city, I would surely die.

Day one was spent listening to my new landlady and roommate Maria talk at 900 words per minute and not understanding a dang thing. After showing me around the apartment and telling me at least 100 important things I'd forget if I ever understood them to begin with, she took me out a bit. I was glad to go out walking, even with the severe sleep deprivation going on. We got some essentials, and she showed me a good grocery store nearby (very important). When we came home, I started unpacking, and found that I didn't really want to stop - that by the time I went to sleep I was more or less settled in my room and had taken a shower. Upon telling Maria that I would just eat the cheese and fruit I bought at the market, she made us both some truly gross bowtie pasta with butter, cream, and "low fat cheese." Actually translates to "cheese for health," but I prefer to think of it as "cheese for gross."

Day two, I caught up on sleep, miraculously. Maria also went out with me again to a perfumería for toiletries and another big grocery store, which delivers for free if you spend more than 100 pesos (about 25 bucks). Turns out I was so dead on my feet on Wednesday that she was afraid if she hadn't been there, I'd have walked out in front of a bus, so she came along on day two to make sure I wasn't actually that clueless. Good news: I have city sense after all, just not when exhausted. Maria went out to dinner with friends, so I got to have the evening to myself in the apartment. I'll tell you, I can't wait to know people and have a cell phone so I can go out at night safely. I went to a butcher three doors down from my building to get a steak for $2, and I didn't want to come back home. I tried watching Argentine news, but couldn't bear watching coverage of the same story that'd been on the TV for at least 24 hours, so I ended up watching American movies with Spanish subtitles. I'm taking this city by storm, I'll tell ya. I watched a half hour of news from Barcelona and understood it all. God I miss Spanish that's not Argentine Spanish. I'm sure I'll get it down eventually, but I hate it in the meantime.

Of course, the good news is, I'M IN ARGENTINA. As much as a royal ass I'm making of myself, and as truly inadequate as I feel, I really love being in a city again. I'm going to enjoy walking endlessly through the barrios, and I love that there's still activity at 10pm. It's sprawling, and I have no idea how I'm ever going to get a handle on it, but tomorrow I'll work on Palermo on my own. Baby steps, Mom keeps saying.

We'll see.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

With Love

Time flies. In less than three weeks, I'll be in Argentina. For those of you out of the loop, I've been accepted to a MA program offered by Georgetown University at la Universidad Nacional de San Martín in Buenos Aires. Short of a possible Christmas vacation, I'll be in South America for the next two and a half years. Holy crap.

When I studied in Barcelona, I sent bloated emails chronicling my experience to my loved ones, dubbed "Missives from Spain." Out of a desire to save their inboxes from the groaning weight, "Con Cariño" is born. This experience will likely be the biggest adventure of my life, and I want to invite you all to participate.

"Con cariño" is an apt description of what I will post here - love letters to and from Argentina. The title is also an intention I've set for my time in Argentina, and for my life.

Whatever life brings, and whatever I am called to do, let it begin and end... with love.