Saturday, August 23, 2008

Buenos Aires, baby!

As I mentioned before, my last few days in Chile were lovely, including a trip to the coast to say goodbye to my favorite artisans, including Gonzalo, a talented painter (Jacob actually bought one of his paintings while visiting):

I also spent the night with my former student Ivan and his fantastic mom, and we went out with Carolina and Eli (Mom stayed home):

And now, after much anticipation, I am finally in Buenos Aires. I arrived last Monday evening and headed for the hostel I had booked just for the night, since the temporary apartment I had rented wasn't available since it was a holiday (they would ultimately lose that reservation, book me another one for 8:30 the next night, and then close down shop with all my luggage locked inside). I unwittingly booked the hostel next to the one where Jacob and I stayed the first time; not as in next door to the building, but literally in the same building, on the same floor, one door over. The dude working (who incidentally owns the hostel) gave me my first taste of the distinctions between Chileans and Argentinians, as he was instantly warm and welcoming, and invited me out for that Thursday night, which was fun - we're going out again this weekend.

I should mention that in Argentina, just because you own a hostel - or any other business - doesn't mean you have any kind of money. Argentina has been suffering economic woes since the collapse in 2001, and it's altogether too common for people to work 12 hours a day and still be completely broke. They are still generous, however, and when I had to stay a second night in the hostel since I couldn't get into the apartment yet again, he gave me all new shower stuff, made my bed while I was washing off my frustrations, and didn't charge me for the night. (Ok, so you're asking, what's the catch with this guy? Well, I'll tell you: he sports the eternally fashionable Latino mullet and seemingly owns only one pair of pants.)

I did eventually make it into my third choice apartment, a sweet one bedroom in a fun neighborhood called Palermo. It's not in the center but it is close to the subway, and it's surrounded by restaurants and shops, parks and museums. Here's a shot of just a fraction of the sprawling green area near the apartment:

I love how old school things are here, especially my keys; I feel like I live in a 17th century English mansion. What I don't love is the thoroughly Latino tradition of doors that lock from the INSIDE. Not only is it terribly inconvenient, but a total fire hazard as well. So far no one has been able to give me a suitable answer about why this is. Some of the unsuitable responses have included "So you say goodbye at the door and not in your apartment" and "Because the buildings are old." Right...

I'm now looking at more permanent options (I'll only be in this apartment until September 2), including one just a few blocks from here and a few others in the center. I am also, for the first time in years, considering living with a roommate, both for the economy of it and the social horizons it could potentially open. All of the furnished options here seem to come included with cable TV, an addictive curse. E! entertainment channel will be the death of me yet. Unfortunately I have had a cold since arriving, so watching TV has been easy to justify.

On Saturday I went out with my friend Paula who I met in Valparaíso but who lives and works here in BA (she is Argentinian). She showed me how to party all night, something this city is famous for - often a night won't start until 3 a.m. and won't end until noon the next day. Not exactly my type of night (I prefer to start at 10 and finish no later than 2) but, when in Rome! I got home at 8 a.m., a respectable first-timer's arrival, but it only exacerbated the cold into what I am secretly terrified is mono... fun times. Luckily there is no treatment for mono so I don't have to feel guilty about not investigating the Argentine health care system.

When I can pull myself out of bed I have been doing a lot of walking. This city is nice and flat and walkable, despite it being absolutely HUGE - about 14 million people call BA home. There are endless nooks to discover and I keep reminding myself not to be overwhelmed by finding all of them since I have four months to do so. I am considering getting a bike. I've also been sampling the distinct cuisines here, especially empanadas, and although I was convinced no empanada could satisfy me like in Chile, I have not been disappointed by what I've found. The sheer variety gives Argentina an edge, and they are small enough that it's perfectly acceptable to order and eat several at once. So far the best one has been eggplant, but spicy chicken was also fantastic, and one with ground beef and raisins would have been up there if it had been fully heated (a sadly common issue in South America).

August is apparently Tango month here, and there is the World Cup of Tango this week, which sold out ages ago so if I want to see it I'll have to watch on TV like the rest of the plebes. (Not that I could have afforded a ticket; after a month's vacation I am flat broke.) Argentina's fashion week was also going on a few blocks from here, which I didn't check out after one person told me it "hardly had any clothes." Not sure what kind of a fashion week that is, but as professionals I'm sure they knew what they were doing (?).

They say the "season" starts in September, referring to when the nice weather starts to kick in. Average monthly temperatures in September are 66 degrees, but apparently there are some outlier days that everyone looks forward to. I certainly am one of those people and can't wait to bust out my summer dresses (and shoes!). Speaking of, a few people have asked to see pictures of my newly svelte self, so here I am in a ridiculous and awesome dress I bought from a former student's sister's shop (she makes all the clothes):

It's still too cold to wear, and it may never be appropriate to sport in Seattle, but here in a quasi-fashion capital of the world it will definitely be donned once the sun comes out (provided I keep the kilos off... so far mono is helping).

I want to go back to Chile for just a moment if I may. We all know the rage that has been The Office, spreading from the UK to the US with equal popularity in both countries. Well, the show is now bilingual, as Chile has adopted it in all its same-plotline glory. They are calling it, I kid you not, La Ofis. I have been watching it on its blog and I think it's the perfect way to stay in touch with Chile, the country I lived in and disliked for nearly five months but feel a strange attachment to nevertheless. The rift between Chile and Argentina (well, Chile and all other South American countries, really) is quite obvious, and people are constantly telling me I 'talk like a Chilean' (and not in a good way). Here, instead of calling us gringos, they call us Yankees, only their unique accent makes it sound like 'junkies' which always makes me laugh. Yep, all us junkies are just crazy about Argentina! I have my first Expat Community event tomorrow to watch the Democratic National Convention speeches, and presumably drink. Hopefully it is a cool group of people, but I'm going to try to befriend as many Argentinians as I can. I need to kick this nasty Chilean accent, after all.

On a final note, this was linked from one of my new favorite Web sites,, and it just cracks me up:

I hope it made you laugh too! If this or anything else in the blog amused you, leave a girl a comment. Sarah P and I were discussing how comments really motivate us to keep the blog going, hint hint.

p.s. I know I've routinely failed to post new pictures to Flickr, and I will only continue to disappoint in that department today. Soon, I swear.


Anonymous said...

gracias linda por venir a visitarnos!!! como siempre lo pasamos suuuuper bien.
besos y abrazos
pd: me encantó la foto que te sacaste con el vestido..te queda bello!!!

Hannah said...

Hey, this is probably the craziest blog comment you'll ever receive so I apologize in advance! I went to a Gonzaga debate camp like 10 years ago and met some great people that I've never forgotten about. I was thinking, man, I should try to find my old blue-haired friend, Casey Sagisi, so I put his name into google and it brought up your blog. I noticed that you also have a Nick friend, and there was also a Nick at the camp who was a runner, that's all I remember. They had another friend, and for all I know, it could be you! She had crazy awesome hair and I think it was purple or something and we cut it in the dorm rooms one night. Well, this is totally going out on a limb but since it seems like you are all from the Seattle area, I thought I may have actually found a connection to my old buddy Casey! My name is Stephanie Cramer and I'm pretty sure he'd remember me. I was just trying to track him down after all these years so if you think it might be the same guy and feel like giving him my email that would be great. My email is Sorry for disturbing your blog center with my story, hope you understand!

ElizaBeth said...

Hannah, I love comments so never apologize for leaving one! Casey reads the blog and I'm sure the comments so surely he'll see this, but I will send your email along just the same. I only met Casey last summer, but before that I was friends with Nick Crimp, who is also friends with Casey - is that who you are maybe thinking of? At any rate, glad my blog could bring you together!

ElizaBeth said...

Sorry, I meant Stephanie, not Hannah.

Sarah P said...

ohhhh foxy lady! nice dress. Love ya! nice to chat with you the other day. We will talk soon :)

Karen said...

Beth, love the dress! Please wear it in Seattle - the city could use some fashionista sense. We've gotta ban those crocks (or however they're spelled!)!
xo "auntie" K