Saturday, April 30, 2011

Apartment view at night.

View during the day.
Living room/dining room.
Beautiful kitchen w/ a electric stove and microwave!
Most of the apartments we looked at had tiny rinky-dink kitchens.

We moved into our new apartment this week. It is on the 31st floor with a unbelievable view of the city. If we were on the other side we would have a view of the river. When we first walked in and got a tour from the real estate agent I was astounded at how new everything looked. We are certainly very lucky.

I took a photography class this week with a local Argentine photographer. She studied and worked in New York for twelve years before returning to her home city. She turned her house into a studio and gives classes to people like me who haven't studied photography in school but want to learn from someone who has knowledge and experience. My first class went better than I expected. The class started a month ago but since I have self taught a lot of the basics I felt comfortable joining. There are two other Argentine girls in my class a little older than me in the class. One of the girls is a makeup artist so we had a little fun with make overs and dressing up. Mariana, my teacher told me they don't normally do this, I just came on a special day. We took turns taking photos of each other with a black sheet behind us and project lights, focusing on light, shadows and angels. The next class we are going to bring in our 15 best pictures and review them together. 

My hair was four inches tall ! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Polo season doesn't start until August but BA hosts a couple friendly exhibition matches in the off season. We saw Argentina play England right in our backyard. I have never seen a polo match before, only briefly in movies, so I first had to get acquainted with the rules. The concept is similar to soccer, get the ball and score, except of course the players are mounted on horses. The field is gigantic with two poles making a goal on each end on the object being to hit the ball between the goal posts, no matter how high in the air. There are four players to each team, each with a different position and responsibility. The game consists of six minute periods and during the breaks players and horses can swap. The final score was 13-8 Argentina.

Polo isn't nearly as exciting as sitting in the stand with crazy yelling fans at a soccer game but I have to say that hitting a tiny ball with a long skinny stick while sitting on top a horse and leading the horse in the right direction and with the right pace does not look easy. I was thoroughly impressed with how the players guided the horses with such power and composure, making it seem like the horse and their master were the same player.

Some people call polo the rich man's sport and after my observation I can understand why. The equipment, the field maintenance, the horse training and upkeep, and the time consumption must rack up a nice bill. This is not a sport that you can just call up your friends and say lets go play! Also the fans were much more orderly and their screams were pleasant. No horns or fireworks or pushing. The game has been around for a very long time, as far back as the B.C. era, so I can imagine kings and people of royalty sitting on their noble thrones watching!

Monday, April 25, 2011

El Primo, one of Matt's favorite parilla's on Baez street.

Autumn leaves fall on our old street of  Chenaut.
We are moving to another apartment on Tuesday. Our lease is ending and Matt and I wanted to check out another neighborhood. Currently we live in the lovely Las Canitas or what Matt calls the Corona del Mar of Buenos Aires (Corona del Mar is a trendy, upscale neighborhood in Newport Beach). Besides some of the snobby Portenos that reside here, I am going to miss it. During the day it is peaceful and serene and when night the restaurants open up and the streets become alive. Our apartment lies one block from the the busiest street of Baez that has a array of restaurants and cool bars. At night, and especially on weekends, the beautiful Portenos dress in their best to dine and be seen.

We are moving to Palermo Botanico, a neighborhood with parks and gardens that makes it green and pleasant. In a city with lots of noise, smog and clutter it is a good feeling knowing you have a quiet space to have some peace and privacy. I haven't made up my mind if I like living in a city or not. I miss fresh air and backyards and views of nature instead of buildings. The air  here is poisoned with automobile smoke, trash and cigarettes. Of course, the upside of living in a city is that there is a endless amount of things to do. No matter who you are or what you like there is something calling your name as you walk down the street. BA has lots of huge artists and bands coming through on tour and new restaurants and bars are sprouting all over the city. Even with all these positives, there is still times when I miss being surrounded by nature and the beach.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Volunteering in the villas

One of the younger kids learning her ABCs. 

Group of girls gather around one of the tutors. 
I joined a local volunteer program called LIFE a couple weeks ago. It is a non-profit family run program that works with children and youth living in the extremely poor areas of Argentina. We work with five different community centers, four inside the city and one on the outskirts. The centers are in the backyard of someones house or basically just rooms with large open spaces in the middle of the villas. We provide a after-school program for kids ranging anywhere from two years old to 16 years old. I found this program while doing some research and it was one of the few programs that don't charge a hefty fee to join (pay to volunteer? I know crazy). Most of the volunteer programs offer housing and other overhead costs that are mandatory if you want to volunteer, which for someone like me is unnecessary.

For my family and friends at home who have ever been to Buenos Aires, the poverty rates in Buenos Aires are staggering. Perhaps not as bad as other countries like Peru and Bolivia that are less developed, but certainly bad enough to make your head turn and a good reminder that Argentina is a third world country. The community centers we visit are in areas called 'villas', basically slums. One of the villas is adjoining neighbors to the city's wealthiest neighborhoods. The houses are made from whatever materials can be found and are stacked on top of one another. Electicity is taken illegally from the city;s main power lines. A large number of the residents are immigrants from other countries like Bolivia who left their home in hopes of finding more opportunity and better lives on the streets of BA, giving you a little insight on what their lives must have been like in their home countries.

Assuming there is enough volunteers, the program goes to three different villas everyday of the week. On Wednesdays we throw a party for the kid's who have birthdays in that month. We are there for two to three hours. We help them with their homework or bring our worksheets. We save some time at the end to play. Most of the kids are eager to learn and will fight for your help and attention. We keep a log of what level each child is in and a folder with worksheets that they have completed or partially completed. Some days the ratio of volunteers to kids is five to one so it can be difficult to keep track of who is supposed to be doing what. When there are fewer kids we are really able to focus our attention on one or two children and built a stronger connection with them.

During orientation the leader asked what we thought the attendance rate for school was in these areas. In my head I guessed 40%. Some people said 10% or 20%. Her answer was 95%. We were all a little surprised but she explained to use that the schools provide lunch. Skipping school means skipping a meal. Our hopes are that we can teach the children how importance school is for their lives. Our goal is to give them a hopeful future and more opportunity to create a better life.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Beatles Argentine style

Last night we went to see a Beatles cover band at The Cavern Club downtown. Matt has family friends from California who are living here as well and they invited us to come along. The club is dedicated to the Beatles and was named after the Liverpool nightclub where the band first got started. It is also located right next to the Beatles Museum which opened up this year. The museum was started by a guy who had a obsession with The Beatles and he collected so much memorabilia that he even won Guinness World Record for the largest collection category.

Anyways, it seems that Argentines have a soft spot for the foursome. We saw a band called Nube 9, made up of a drummer, two male guitarists one of which was the lead volcalist, one female guitarist and volcalist, and two pianists. I started laughing when they first came out on stage just thinking how I was about to see Argentines impersonating these American legends in a cheesy memorabilia bar filled with people that might not even understand the words. When the lead male singer belted out the first lines to 'Revolution' I perked up on my chair so I could get a better view. The lead male singer had a voice that made you think he was lip synching. His accent not only sounded English but oddly similar to the Beatles in their early days. The female singer and guitarist was as charming as she was talented. Overall it was very impressive and being a huge Beatles fan myself, I joined in the crowd when they chanted "uno más!" at the end of the night. 

We spoke to the lead male singer after the show and I was shocked to find that his English was not very good. He told us he had a hard time with pronunciations but he has been listening to the Beatles since he was 11 and has perfected their singing technique. We noticed that he positioned his tongue differently and his jaw and mouth looked funny when he sang certain words. Apparently, him and the female vocalist have competed in different Beatle competitions around the world. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vamos jugar!

I have my first soccer game today! Wheeties and gatorade for breakfast (okay... more like mate and a croissant). I found the team while doing some research online and finally one of the girls responded to my email a couple weeks ago. The team is only Portenas so I'll have to figure out the soccer lingo in Spanish but I am sure I will pick it up pretty fast. I am excited to play with only Portenas because I want to make friends with some local girls. I have met enough expats like me!

Matt found two team to play on so he is playing about three times a week  Soccer is such a big part of the culture here so it would have been a shame if we didn't get involved. If you meet a boy from BA it is pretty much guaranteed that he is going to play soccer. They play on turf fields here, which are not like the long grassy fields at home. They sometimes play as late as 12 at night just depends on if you can reserve a field or not.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Matt and I went to Colonia, Uruguay on Tuesday to renew our passports. Tourists need a passport and to pay a fee to enter Argentina but no tourist visa is required for stays up to three months. If you don't get your passport renewed you have to pay $150 when you go back to the states. Many Argentines and travelers visit Uruguay purely for relaxation and the long white sand beaches, so this was a good excuse to go. Colonia is the oldest town in Uruguay and sits on the coast of Rio de la Plata, facing BA. We took the three hour boat on the way over and the faster one hour boat on the way back. A perfect day trip. Since we only had seven hours in the city we rented bikes see we could explore the coast. The historic old town had cobblestone streets and narrow passageways that were a little hard to meneuver but nothing a expert beach cruiser couldn't manage :) We ate lunch, rode down the coast, collected sand at the beaches and twenty minutes outside of the city we found the old bull fighting stadium that barely can stand on its own. According to the bike rental lady, bull fighting was banded in Uruguay in the 1890s and according to wikipedia she was correct, stating the exact date to be 1899. We returned to the historic center with two hours to spare and saw the most beautiful on the horizon as we popped a bottle of the Uruguain beer Pilsen.

Friday, April 1, 2011

No mas carne

This would be daring to say out loud, but this is a blog so I can say it. I have come to the point where I do not want to look at meat anymore. This city has a infatuation with it and although I indulged in this obsession to the point where I was questioning if I had eaten a whole cow yet, I am starting to point my nose in other directions. This change in attitude is due to two things. For one, my taste buds no longer get dazzled by some of the highest quality meat I might ever eat, which is never a good sign, and secondly I have gained what some of us here like to call the BA 15, similar to the freshman 15 but instead the culprit is not cheap fraternity beer but meat, ice cream and wine. I have begun the quest for healthy options that will still leave me feeling satisfied. As far as finding healthy ice cream, there is no hope but I am adding to my small list of healthy cafes, restaurants and markets little by little.