Friday, November 07, 2008

Culture and Vacation


I’ve been rather cultural over the past two weeks. Sol and Flor both get a lot of invitations and free tickets and have been kind enough to invite la yanqui to experience them. I hope to do a sporting event tour - also hopefully with free tickets - but so far I've been sticking to the arts.

It started with an invitation to see the opening night of an opera/modern dance called Carmina Burana at the teatro Opera here. It was only an hour long, and it started and ended really well (the final scene featured a giant piece of gold fabric that stretched across the entire stage that then enveloped a character as he descended into "hell" aka a trap door; very cool effect), but the middle was sort of repetitive. It didn’t help that I had no idea what it was about, but later research told me it was based on 12th century Austrian verses about the vices of life. To illustrate a key cultural aspect of Argentina, you should know that at this opening there was free wine, but no programs for the show. It was hosted by Teatro Colon, one of the most famous theaters in the world that has unfortunately been closed for ‘renovations’ for several years and shows no sign of opening in the near future. It also featured a famous national dancer, Iñaki Urlezaga. We were pretty high up in the balcony so I didn't get a good look at his face, but his moves were pretty sweet.

Two Saturdays ago I went to the San Telmo district to catch a show at the Museo de Títere, or puppet museum. The museum itself is two rooms filled with cool puppets from around the world, and is run by two old ladies who have clearly been friends forever, both of whom seem to be relatively famous as puppeteering goes. Here is one of them:
They have daily shows for kids, but Saturdays at 9:00 are ‘adult puppet shows.’ I was so curious about what that might be that I decided to go even in the absence of anyone else willing to accompany me. For 15 pesos I was treated to an hour-and-a-half show in a long, narrow room filled with plastic deck chairs facing a tiny stage, upon which two talented tango dancers/singers/actors played out a semi-biographical story about tango in the 1920s, occasionally using those creepy, androgynous wooden dolls to represent different sides of their characters. Seeing wooden dolls dancing the tango was interesting, and it was a very sweet experience overall, but definitely not what I would call a puppet show.

Last night I went to two events in one night, first taking the subway to the end of the line in Barracas to the opening of a modern art exhibit at the Centro Cultural Moca. Sol, Flor and I enjoyed a free glass of champagne while giggling and gawking at the art installations. I'm not much for modern art and apparently, neither are they. The weirdest piece was called "In contempation of Agnus" and was a nearly full-scale human replica in the cobra yoga position, covered in a sort of cottony substance with only her bare feet and face showing; she was set in a creepy forest scene surrounded by dead and dying - real - roses. The creepy part was that there was some sort of lung apparatus that made it appear is if she were breathing.

We spent a total of 15 minutes there before booking it across town - a mere 10 blocks from my house, no less - to our next event, a concert at the Teatro Metropolitan II on Avenida Corrientes in the theater district. I should note that I also drank free booze here, a popular national drink called Fernet that they mix with Coca Cola. It's not that great but not terrible either. Do we have Fernet in the U.S.?

Anyway, the concert: there was a three piece male band consisting of drums, cello, and (mostly flamenco) guitar, and they were all fantastic. The focus was a female singer called La Shica (who we later found out was married to the drummer). They are all from Spain and it was her first time in "America." It was fun to hear the Spanish lisp again! The concert itself was... odd. The concert postcard advertised it as a mix of flamenco, hip hop, baile, copla, and funky. I never really caught any hip hop but it was certainly funky. The most outrageous song was about a woman who has anonymous sex in dressing rooms, which she sang wearing red flashing heart-shaped sunglasses while gyrating around the stage. Her voice was beautiful, but it was distracting watching her dance. We left before the encore.

I also want to take in a showing of Eva, El Gran Musical Argentino, based on the life of the very popular Argentinean figure Eva or Evita Peron. (If you don't know who she is, especially after she was popularized by Madonna, well... shame on you.) The role of Eva is played by a very famous actress named Nacha Guevara. Eva died when she was 33 years old; Nacha is 68. Talk about long in the tooth, but apparently she looks damn good for her age. (Note that she also played Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate" on stage...) I know this is photoshopped, but still:
She is revising this role, first played in 1986. It runs until just before I leave, which is good since I won't have a chance to see it for a few weeks, because...


...I'm going on vacation! I know, I know, my life is so difficult that I clearly need a break from it. It starts tomorrow morning when I head to Colonia, Uruguay with Sol and Flor for an overnight. It's supposed to be a sweet town with a nice beach, and even though I am obligated to leave the country to renew my tourist visa I'm still looking forward to seeing a new place. Then on Sunday night I head to Iguazú falls in the north of Argentina. I have about 4 days there which includes a full moon boat tour. Should be amazing!

I get home Saturday morning and plan on attending Noche de los Museos that night (November 15). One night a year, a bunch of museums stay open until 2 am and have various exhibits and films. Then everyone parties in the streets. (This is almost as cool as the city-wide pillow fight).

That Monday, November 17, I get on a plane to Puerto Madryn in the middle/south-ish of the country. I will head to Península Valdés from there to see the Atlantic wildlife, including a huge colony of Magellanic penguins and hopefully right whales, with their babies no less! It's supposed to be a beautiful area. Here are the very penguins I will see:

I will not make it to El Calafate to see the glacier, nor Ushuaia to see the Beagle Channel and everything else the "southernmost city of the world" has to offer. (In quotes since technically Puerto Williams in Chile is further south, though often overlooked since it is so tiny. This is where my extreme friend Clare studied birds for many months.) Ultimately I had to make a decision and it was easiest to get to Puerto Madryn and gives me the best chance to see what I want to see on a limited schedule. Plus, Clare has offered to take me hiking on a glacier in Washington - I told you she was extreme. (Did you know that WA state has more glaciers than any state other than Alaska? And that Mount Rainier has more glacial ice than all the Cascades combined? Yeah, me neither. Don't worry, that won't last long.)

I get back on Friday, November 21, just in time for Sol's monthly Wine Tour, a shi-shi event in hip Palermo where you walk around to different boutique stores and they serve you delicious wine. Saturday is the biennial pillow fight (warning - Spanish link). Then on Sunday Katharine comes from Philadelphia to spend Thanksgiving week with me - she isn't going to know what hit her, I have so many plans for us. After that I'm already into December! I know my remaining time is going to fly, but I plan to enjoy every day of it.

Special shout out to my dad for turning a year older yesterday. I love you, Dad!

p.s. I am once again reiterating my request for comments. I know you're reading, people. Throw your two cents in!


Sunshine said...

I've been kinda lazy to comment but here I'm.
Halloween was great! It was the first time ever I celebrate it and I hope it's not the last one! Thanks Eli for spreading the spirit!
Election day: it is cool & refreshing, let me tell you, that you feel comfortable enough with us in order to let us live with you that special moment! I know it was huge for you, I know you wish your "yankie· friends were with you but still, it was wonderful to have you here... By the way, thanks to you we learnt a lot about the election is held!
Vacation: ieieieie, we're going away for the weekend! And yes, you're going to great places so I hope you fill your eyes with marvellous landscapes. We'll miss you party girl!
Lots of kisses!

Momma Archer said...

Here are my two cents: I am totally envious of your travels to some of the most amazing places on earth. I think you've made the best use of your time and finances in seeing all those sights. What an awesome 9 months in South America! But, selfishly, I can't wait until December 20th:)

Sara said...

Comments! I love them as well! I would collect them in a little jar if possible, but it isn't.

I have been rather not cultural. It's sad, really. I feel like I'm getting stupider by the day. I am looking forward to going back to the US for my tv and books and movies.

I love the picture of the penguins! I saw one the other day, btw!

Anne said...

All I can say is thank God for blogging, so I can live vicariously through my two sisters! I'm not a very good poster, but I'm a religious reader -- I'm always checking your blog and forwarding to friends, and I feel very well-versed in your life and culture. The time has flown by, and I can't believe you'll be home soon! Can't wait to see all the pictures, especially of your upcoming trip. A moonlit ride and penguins, all in one trip?! LUCKY (as Napolean Dynamite would say)!

Anonymous said...

You are such a faithful and fabulous blogger! I'm super excited to hear all about Iguazu and the whales, and I'm so glad that you seem to be loving Argentina.