Thursday, March 31, 2011

I have been dedicating a lot of time to my internship these past couple weeks. I work from my computer so I get to work when I want which is very nice. This internship is becoming more of a hobby which is good and bad. I get so caught up in searching the web trying to find the coolest and more interesting things going on this city, before you know it I have 20 windows open. I click on one thing and it leads to another. For people like myself who are indecisive and have a widespread curiosity, living in a city with so many happenings it is easy to get lost in it all. I am getting better at channeling my attention on things that interest me the most and dismissing all the rest- but it does take practice. As much my research and findings are benefiting this magazine and it's followers, it would be a lie to say that I am doing it just for them. I like being able to show off my knowledge to my friends. I just need to make sure I don't spend more time on the internet than actually enjoying the things I talk about.

In regards to my internship and just living here in general, I have noticed a few things about this country in the past month or so. Companies and businesses here do not value site management as much as we do in the states. I have come across too many sites to even count that are 'temporarily under construction' or have incorrect contact information listed. There are many restaurants, stores and cafes that don't have a website at all. Furthermore, if they have the right number listed there is a fifty-fifty chance they will answer the phone. You would think this would only be true for small businesses but it is true for the large ones too.

What I have concluded from my experience is that BA is just a little behind on using the internet as adamantly as businesses in the states. I am sure companies exist that haven't jumped on the internet or bust bandwagon and are still prospering due to reputation and locality but it still surprises me that in a city with so many people living it and visiting that you wouldn't want to take advantage of all the great benefits of creating a reliable website.

One more thing to think about that downplays everything I just said is that for a foreigner with english as first language, many things are lost in translation. When I first came here I searched for things in google in English. Now that I am a little bit wiser and my Spanish is much better, I search in Spanish which has proven to provide more accurate information and just more information in general. However, even in my Spanish dealings I still encounter many of these problems.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mar del Plata

Churros...The perfect thing to eat right before you get in a bathing suit.. 

The older folks in Mar del Plata love to bake in the sun! 

Sun set in Mar del Plata. 

Matt and I just got back from Mar del Plata, a beach city four hours south of Buenos Aires. During the summer, the wealthy folks head down to Punta del Este in Uruguay and the middle class make their way to this big tacky beach city. It was the perfect weekend to go because sun and highs of 80 degrees were on the the forecast and since it is off-season, we just missed the tourist crowds.  Apparently, Mar del Plata attracts so many people in summer you can't even find a spot to lay your towel on the beach.

We stayed at a hotel that was walking distance to the main beach and plazas. The outside appearance and lobby lived up to it's four star rating but of course the only thing that even closely resembled the website photos of the room was the bedding. We arrived at sunset so just in time to take a stroll on the beach and the surrounding areas. Feeling the sand squeezed between my toes was a good reminder of home and it was so nice to smell the fresh ocean air. We freshened up and headed over to the popular bar and club street to check out the nightlife. I was a little underdressed, being deceived by the humidity during the day, so I didn't really care what bar we walked into. As I warmed up and my belly warmed up, we watched groups of guys scoping out groups of girls. This isn't the first time but I felt like we were surrounded by high school spring breakers. Everyone was so young.  I am getting old, tear tear! Since the drinking age is 18 (and that rule is often overlooked) there are many times at certain bars where I feel like I am at the after-party of a sweet 16 birthday party.

The rest of the weekend we did a lot of laying on the beach, studying Spanish index cards, reading magazines and soaking in the hot sun. I was happy to get away from the city but I have to say that the trip made miss Newport and California more than ever. Maybe I am just spoiled, in fact I know I am, but I couldn't help but wish I was laying on the soft yellow sand in Newport Beach, where the beaches are long and wide and clean. One thing we were very pleased about was finally having access to some fresh seafood. I had to look up the word 'seafood' in my dictionary on the bus over, proof enough that there is little to zero seafood restaurants in BA. We found it very odd when our reception told us if we wanted really fresh seafood we have to take a fifteen minute taxi ride outside the main beach. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that restaurants in the tourists' radar zones over-charge you for mediocre food. Luckily some friends recommended a couple places outside the city that satisfied our fish cravings.

Sunday night after we stuffed our bellies with calamarri, garlic shrimp and abedejo (white fish) we headed over to the casino where we tried our luck in one of the few games where the language barrier would not be a disadvantage, black jack! I was up the whole time until the last five minutes where I lost all my money. Matt and I agreed we would stop playing when one of us lost all our money. Luckily Matt's winnings made up for my loses and we left $10 pesos richer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fotos... Disfruta!

A school playground. 
Sidewalks of Buenos Aires. 
Clothes hanging to dry in the plaza. 
Fans climb the center barrier to get a better view of the game. 

Theatre turned bookstore. 
Protesters still have a voice in Plaza de Mayo. 
Creepy building that looks like its melting. 
Merry-go-round in the park. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Que! ?

Learning to speak Argentine Spanish has been full of challenges.  There are quite a number of differences between South American Spanish or Castellano and the Spanish I learned in school, which was more Mexican based Spanish. Argentine Spanish has been heavily influenced by Italy. Studying in Barcelona for five months and learning Catalan did not help either. I can say for myself that the biggest challenge about learning Argentine Spanish is that I can't understand their accent! Of course, this frustration was much greater in the beginning weeks and now that I have a better understand of the different sounds and consonants, I am not giving so many blank stares.

Vocabulary and slang, which is a whole language of it's own in my opinion, are also different for each region. Grammar, thank goodness, is more consistent among all the different Spanish dialects. I took a Spanish linguistics class in college that gave me a better understanding of how words are formed and the distinct features of each dilaect. However, I do wish I had payed more attention to the section when we covered Latin America!

One thing I am ashamed to say, but I think is quite normal, is that I have taken almost seven years of Spanish classes and I am more self-motivated and more excited than I ever was to study! And another thing... shame on the spanish teachers who never made their students talk in Spanish in class.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I started my internship with a travel magazine today. This company (which I don't want to mention online but just ask me later!) has publication in most major cities and are a well-known enterprise in Europe and South America. Matt bought me the pocket size guide book for Christmas and it hasn't been more than 10 feet away from me since. The company also releases a bi-annual magazine, which I read the first week it was released and now sits on our living room table. My role for the next couple months is to manage and maintain their social media efforts. The company started a branch in Buenos Aires eight years ago but as far as social media goes, they are just starting to make a presence. Myself and another girl who is about the same age as me, will be managing their Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as their monthly newsletters. My job is to dig out the most interesting and least obvious dirt and share it with anyone I can get to read it. I am very pleased to have found this job because I have an interested in exploring the shadows of this wonderful city and keeping in the loop so I don't miss out on anything!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

River Plate

We got there 20 minutes early. People just starting to enter the stadium. 
We finally went to a River Plate game on Sunday night. Our friends Michelle and Jeff were visiting and they were equally if not more excited to go. We found our apartment is walking distance from the stadium so we are officially River Plate fans. First step was getting tickets. We were told that the best and safest way to buy tickets was to go through a hostel or hotel that provides transportation, a tour and a beer for triple the price. Good advice I am sure, but we decided to go the riskier route. We went to the stadium an hour before the game to see if we could scalp some tickets or perhaps buy them from a box office. There was no box office in sight, but sure enough we were approached by a few sketchy characters, looked for the most confident scalper and bought four tickets for $400 pesos.

After going through three security lines, it was the moment of truth. Honest scalper? Or deceptive swindler? Unfortunately it was the ladder. Only one of four tickets worked. However, the man let us in anyways, probably because he knew we were dumb americans who didn't know any better. If that was the reason he let it slide, then fine by me!

Next task- finding good seats, by that I mean the safest place we can stand with out getting our teeth knocked out. Finding a good spot was easy, the stadium was a barely quarter full. For a moment I thought to myself this must be a practice game or something. The crowds were calm and the players seemed small on such a big field. The whistle blew to start the game and by the end of the second half Matt looked at us like he had a epiphany and informed us that was the River Plate Junior team! The real game was just about to start.

Floods of fans in red and white poured into the stadium holding banners, flags and umbrellas. A band of drummers took their seats in the middle of the section. We braced ourselves for what was to come. The whistle blew, the stadium got louder and the floor started to vibrate. The songs began, barely a moment of silence in between. People sang with such pride and honor, placing their hands on their chest and waving their right arm in the air. I could feel the spit hit my neck from the man singing behind me. A women with dreadlocks stood in front of us, her River Plate shield tattoo visible on her back. Young boys started to climb the wired fences that separated our section from the one next to us and perched themselves so they could get a better view of the field. A two year old boy sat on the shoulders of his father waving his hands in the air. It truly was an unbelievable sight, one that can't be compared to any sporting event in the states. People live, eat, breathe soccer and if you come to Buenos Aires without going to game, you will never truly understand the culture here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Matt got back yesterday from his five day hunting trip. He stayed at a hunting lodge four hours outside of BA. He was invited by his friend from Memphis to join him the other fifteen others on the expedition. Seeing that Matt dreams about shooting fish almost every night and his most searched topic in youtube is 'spearfishing', this was a good alternative. I was a little surprised when he told me they were hunting doves but apparently doves are pests to farmers. Over five days, the group shot over 53,000 doves!  Matt had never used a shotgun before but he did pretty well in the group, placing second for accuracy.

Once the birds are shot, the bird boys and their canine partners collect them and after each hunter's killings are put on paper, the birds are used as bait to catch paranas or you can eat it barbecued. Matt says they are quite tender and tasty.

This weekend we have guests in town so I am sure it will be a fun-filled weekend. Tomorrow we might go to a estancia in the countryside to enjoy a 'dia de campo'. A day in the country includes horse back riding, hiking, asados around a campfire, bike riding and gaucho shows. Next Tuesday is the carnival holiday, a annual festival celebrated in many European and South American countries. It was originally started by Catholics in Italy and was held the day before lent. People dress up in costumes and parade down the streets. This is the first year in a long time that carnival was allowed to be celebrated in Buenos Aires, so I have heard that it is best to go to Uruguay or Rio if you want to see the real fiesta.