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.