Saturday, January 31, 2009

let's roller

two nights ago my neighbor, who has a balcony the same level as me, talked my ear off. it started when the cat i'm watching tried to go to his balcony to see his cat. after we broke up the two kitty love birds, he talked talked talked talked. i think he was using me for my english quite frankly. (he's an argentine but he's teaches english).

he kept saying things that i would 'never' say. should i have corrected him? for example. he likes to sail, so i told him i once went sailing in washington d.c. and he responded with "wasn't it delicious?" (no, i didn't eat the boat). then i told him i was going rollerblading with some friends today (saturday) and he was talking about his wife and how she has 'rollers' (for her hair?)....but i said "oh, she rollerblades" and he said "yeah, she rollers about once a month".

this morning i headed out around11:30am with my friend and her 3 argentine friends. we had a good time and a good work out, especially in the sun. we did a couple laps around the rose garden in our 'rollers' and then traded them in for a bike. (10 pesos per hour ($2.60) my body didn't hurt from the 'rollers' but they hurt my feet. another argentine showed up (friend of the friends) and i decided not to start out in english, just to go for it in spanish, so i just spoke with her in spanish. again, i'm sure i didn't say everything correct but i was able to have a real conversation with her. turns out she's a salsa dancer so we're planning on going out tuesday. "delicious!"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

poverty under my nose

many people have written about the poverty in buenos aires. i haven't read in detail about the situation, but i'd like to believe that i've read more than the regular tourist or expat living here.

i mentioned 'villa 31' in my blog post about coming home from the beach. my good friend jenna sent me an article that answered my questions (who built the housing, do people own their houses? it's so unsafe looking, is it regulated?) read more>>

(photo below: the photo i took when leaving the bus station. if you were to stand in front of these houses and turn around you'd see the buenos aires skyline with all the corporate logos on the skyscrapers; microsoft, nextel, sun, ibm... they're all within walking distance)

before moving to b.a. i also read about the 'cartoneros' or a ruff translation is 'the cardboard collectors'. 'cartoneros' are scavengers / trash pickers. a government supplied train brings families and some children into the city in the evenings. even though i read about these people and i was aware of them, i was still scared to see them and so many of them (scared of them and for them)(i'm no longer scared, but i'm still cautious).

about twice a week they board a train for the city. once the arrive they open the trash bags and go through them before the garbage trucks come around. they look for cardboard to sell, and glass and plastic bottles. They also look for things they can take back to their communities.

since living in my current apartment (about 6 weeks) i've seen the same cartoneros each week on the street i live on, 1/2 way down on my block and also at the corner. they use a huge cloth bag (looks like a huge potato sack that 5 people could stand in) it sits on a cart (like a garden cart) that they have to pull. i see the same young girl every week on the corner 3 buildings down from me and the same young boy of 15 that sets up his cloth bag next to my apartment building.

(photo below: taken from this is a very common sight)

tonight when i left work in the center of the city / business district, the cartoneros were there on each corner pulling open all the garbage bags.

i'm sad to write about this and i'm sad that it took me this long to write about this especially after i write how wonderful buenos aires is. it's wonderful for me that is.

yes we have poverty in the states, but i've never seen anything like this. i've never seen such unsafe housing such as 'villa 31' (behind the train station) and i couldn't imagine our government supporting trash pickers rather than trying to help them out of poverty.

short article about the cartoneros

short video (with english subtitles) about the cartoneros

some cartonero facts

i'm not a waitress i teach english

as normal, i didn't get my teaching schedule for today until late last night. my boss called me, spoke quickly then had to hang up and then called back to tell me who i was meeting with today. i didn't write it down because i wasn't at home, also the first 2 students were at the same company, so i thought, like normal, they'd come and find me in the conference room.

i met with the cute guy from last week. he's cute in a nerdy shy, polite way. i talked with him a little longer than an hour because he told me the next student i was to meet with had to cancel.

when i finished meeting with him i had a text from my boss that i couldn't read so i called her. i told her the second student (a lady) canceled. she told me that i was suppose to meet with another guy, not a lady.

so, she was frustrated with me because i didn't remember what she told me over the phone in a hurry rather than putting it in an email or text to me. i told her for the next time i need it in writing. she said "it's the culture here, you just need to remember". this doesn't sit well with me.

i've never been a waitress because my short memory is virtually nonexistent, i work best when writing things down, even when i'm studying i need to physically write it down. humph, anyway...

i ran back upstairs (i was still in the building) to meet with the second student. to my surprise the he was cuter than the first. very cute, with clear blue eyes and dark blond curly hair. but, i think he's too cute... as in he knows he's cute.

oh i'm terrible grading my students on their looks rather than their skill. good think i don't give out grades right?

i had some free time between classes, so i sat at a cafe and studied. i had two empanadas and a water (13 pesos / $3.75)

i met with another student at a different company. he was late in coming down to the lobby to get me so we didn't start class until 1:45. he was nice; older and married.
(photo below: old building that i walked past 4 times today. poor drought ridden grass)
After class, I walked back to the subte. I should just take the bus, it's probably easier / less walking, but it's nice weather so i like to walk. i prefer subte anyway; it's not a guessing game as to when i should get off. i arrived back to my apartment around 3:30. i made a salad and watched it rain for a couple of min. it smelled sooooo good after it rained. i believe b.a. is going through a drought. the grass in all the parks is brown.

back on the subte for my 7:00pm class in the same area that i just came from.

back at my apartment. i was going to get a drink with my argentine friend, but she had to cancel.

(photo below: waiting for my subte; 4 times today. prices rose two weeks ago from 0.90 pesos to 1.10 pesos)

*I haven't written lately about how much things cost....

money spent today
1.10 pesos for the subway
13 pesos for lunch (2 empanadas and a water)
1.10 pesos for the subway home
2 pesos for a head of lettuce, strawberries and a tomato
1.10 pesos for the subway back for another class
1.10 pesos for the subway home
3.20 pesos for a beer at the grocery store
9.50 for fresh pasta at the grocery store that will last me 3 days
26 pesos ($7.50)

* my veggies actually cost 2.90 pesos, but i didn't want to part with my coins so i acted like an argentine and said i didn't have any. the veggie stand guy didn't have anything either and i didn't have 4 pesos (which i would have gladly given him without wanting change.) so he gave me my veggies to me for 2. this it typical. i'm surprised he didn't make me buy more veggies until i reached 5 pesos.

money earned today
4 students x 26 pesos = 104 pesos ($30)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

small talk

this week i meet with a student for one hour each day. he's taking grammar lessons from my boss, then has 1 hour conversational english with me.

when i first met him on monday i didn't have anything planned; just the normal 'get to know you' conversation. i also wanted to see why he wants to learn english and what he would like to improve.

he wants to learn english because he want to visit the states and drive across the country. also when his children are grown he'd like to live in the states for one year.

during our first conversation he asked me ' how old are you?' and 'are you catholic?'.

so, for tuesday i planned a lesson around 'small talk' in the states (what you can and can not say upon first meeting someone).

i've found that i don't have to plan too much, a little goes a far way because half way through our lesson we got on the topic of his aspirations of where he wants to take his company.

(photos below: taken on my walk to and from meeting my student in the downtown area known as Micro Centro)
(photo below: the red/pink building is the presidents house)

pee paper

i just found out 2 weeks ago that after using the toilet i'm not suppose to put the toilet paper in the toilet. instead i'm suppose to put it in the garbage can next to the toilet. "sorry b.a. for putting additional stress on your plumbing these last 2 months".

i'm told the plumbing is old and already taxed. there are signs in the stalls stating that you should not put paper in the toilet, but my spanish isn't to that level yet.

when i first learned that you can't put the pee paper in the toilet i was grossed out but the more i thought about it the more i think it's more gross how american ladies pee on the seat (you know who you are). i haven't seen too much of that going on here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

beach weekend: villa gesell

friday morning i left my apartment at 6:20am. i walked over to my friends apartment to catch a colectivo to the main bus station in B.A.. once we arrived we had to walk past the train station to get to the bus terminal. it felt like a long walk with our bags, it's also not a nice area so i felt like i was on guard; my eyes were darting around.

the bus terminal in B.A. was huge, very long. we walked all the way to the end and then up to the second floor to find our bus company (Plaza). when we bought our tickets online, we didn't have the option to print them out, but we did have a confirmation and our IDs. for some reason the ticket lady would not print out our tickets but rather wrote our seat numbers on a piece of 'Plaza' stationary. The bus driver did not appreciate this, he gave us a hard time getting on the bus.
(photo below: Retiro bus station at 7:30am)
(photo below: our bus, headed for Villa Gesell)
once we got on the bus, we climbed the stairs to the second story. our assigned seats were in the second row. it was a luxury bus with a foot rest and the seat reclined almost all the way. there was a plasma tv where they showed one movie on the 5 hour trip. they also handed out a packet with a sandwich and two cookies (my taste-buds weren't impressed). there was also a small water cooler and coffee dispenser with tiny cups (help yourself) but i think they mistakenly put motor oil in where the coffee should have gone?

it was my first time leaving the city since arriving exactly two months ago. when the bus started to move, we passed a villa (or shanty town) right behind the bus station. the villa (vee-sha) was a depressing site to see. i stared thinking of so many questions; is it public housing, did they build the houses themselves, who built the houses, is the area patrolled, are there any services provided to the people who live here?
(photo below: a 'shanty town' called 'Villa 31' located behind the bus station)
once we left the city i was excited to see the landscape. what would it look like? well.... once you're out of the city, you're out of the city. there is no, or hardly any suburban sprawl. the landscape is very flat, without many or hardly any trees, but it didn't appear to be farm land either. there were many cattle, sheep and horse farms along the way.
(photo below: the province of Buenos Aires landscape)
(photo below: another double-decker luxury bus that looks like the one I was on)
5 hours later and we were in Villa Gesell. we collected our bags and headed out the bus terminal. we saw on our hotel's website that the hotel wasn't a far walk. but after a couple blocks we realized that we were far far away from the hotel, 30 blocks away, so we headed back to the terminal to catch one of the few taxis the town has.

taxi from the bus terminal to our hotel was 15 pesos. since we didn't get a confirmation number or email from the hotel, we walked in waiting for back news. but to our joy we had a reservation and the room was ready for us. our hotel was on the beach, the hotel / rooms were out of style but they were well kept, clean, smelled good and the staff was so kind. during the stay we spoke with the people at the front desk and they were so good to us; they went out of their way to help with anything we needed. 2 nights at a beach front hotel cost 600 pesos ($174 or $87 each for both nights).
(photo below: our hotel, the Merimar)
(photo below: our room. simple but clean.)
(photo below: a small boardwalk along the beach, but there was no railings to keep you from falling off of it)
(photo below: small tents that you can rent for the day to stay out of the sun.)

We didn't do anything but relax, eat and drink wine. one night we went into town; it was just a short 2 block walk.
(photo below: house number in villa gesell)
(photo below: street signs in villa gesell)
(photo below: gnome!)
(photo below: some lunch at 'floop'. (thought it was a funny name))
(photo below: our hotel building number. Paseo 107 is the name of the street)
(photo below: on the front porch of our hotel)
(photo below: argentin gossip magazine. i don't know who this lady is, but i always see her in magazines. if i had to guess, i would guess that she broke the guiness book world record for plastic surgery. i bet that is why she's so popular. something like a posterchild for plastic surgery in argentina.)
(photo below: the ocean. before coming the the beach argentines said the ocean water is cold. i didn't believe them since they think hot sauce is hot and i don't think their hot sauce is hot at all...well, they were right on this one. it was cold. dirty looking too. now i feel bad for making fun of jersey all these years. sorry jersey)
my friend and i always seem to attract weirdos, so a trip together, without a weirdo, would just not be the same. on sunday morning we laid out our blanket on the beach. not too many people were out. two 20 something guys spotted us and made their way over. they were still drinking from the night before. i'm able to understand most spanish, but 'javier' was slurring too much to be understood. my friend just spoke with him and i stayed quiet, not wanting to encourage his strange behavior such as putting his cigarette out on his tongue. luckily he got bored of us and continued to walk on. his non-drunk friend apologized for his friends behavior.

i think just about every day at the beach we ate helado (ice cream). does this surprise anyone??

sunday at 4:30pm we called a cab to take us back to the bus station and at 5:30 we departed after some more conflict with the bus company, Plaza. this time the man working behind the counter wanted 4 pesos to print out the tickets.

on the bus ride home we sat on top again, but in the first row. cool, but very scary. i think there was an accident on the major highway going back to B.A. so our driver took back roads....back roads that just had two lanes and several pot holes. If there was a slow moving car in front of us, the double-decker bus i was on just sped up and passed in the left lane. at one point a car coming towards us had to pull off the road because the bus was bigger, hence having the right of way? watching this was not comforting....but the view of the landscape was nice to see.
(photo below: headed home.)
we arrived back in B.A around 11:30pm. once we were back in the city i started to get nervous. i don't like the evenings here, i don't like when i have big bags to carry (because i can't easily run), i don't like knowing that i'm not in a good neighborhood, i don't like knowing that i 'look' like i have money and i don't like that there aren't many people around.

we collected our bags from the bus and headed through the bus station then back outside to get a taxi. it wasn't so bad, but it still made me nervous to be there. i also get nervous being alone in a taxi (once we dropped of my friend). there are some bad stories i've heard of solo girls taking taxis. a taxi back to our apartments was 19 pesos and everything was fine.

our beach weekend was very good; we had a great time and it was relaxing and fun!

(photo below: the cat i'm watching was happy to have me home.)

my swimsuit

i'm happy with my decision to buy the argentine swimsuit. however, i wish that i would not chosen the 'conservative' argentine suit. (i can't believe i'm writing this)

our first day on the beach my american eyes were amazed at how many girls butts were not contained within a suit, most were not even slightly covered. i originally thought argentine suits for women were somewhere between a thong and the american suit. they're actually more like a thong than somewhere in between.

for the first day i kept thinking how strange but by the end of the second day i really warmed up to the style and found it cute and 'normal'.

so, i should have just gone for it and bought the 'almost' thong rather than the grandma argentine suit.

** sorry guys, i couldn't bring myself to take photos of womens bottoms. i wouldn't want it done to me.

argentine insomniacs

on friday night, at the beach, we tried to go to a restaurant at 9pm, but it wasn't open yet (YET!). So we went back to our hotel and shared a bottle of wine. when we returned at 11:30pm it was packed....mainly with families that had small children.

saturday night we walked into town in the evening, it was just 2 short blocks from the beach and our hotel. the town of 'villa gesell' closed down the main street. it was packed with people, so packed it was difficult to walk through. we found a place to have some dinner; 'pizza libre', where you pay a fixed price of $18 peso and you can have any pizza that the waitress brings by your table. after dinner, we left the restaurant and were trying to make our way through the crowd when i looked down at my watch. it was 1am in the morning - one a.m.! the streets were still packed (really packed, i'm not exaggerating either) , and with families too! babies of 7 months were awake, children of 2 were eating cotton candy and children of 5 were dancing to the street performers at 1am. all the stores were open for business too. 1am! 1am! how crazy (in a cool way and fascinating way).

my friend an i laughed because this would have been the same scene in a beach town in the u.s. at 7pm!

so, the next morning when we at breakfast at 10am. our table had a view of the beach but no one was on the beach yet.

Busy beach time was 6-8pm, dinner time 10pm -12am and going into town 12am - to.... i didn't stay long enough to find out.

(photo below: the main street of villa gesell at 1am on a saturday night)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

headed to the beach

Tomorrow morning a friend an I are headed to the beach for the weekend!

Tomorrow is also my 2 month anniversary.

A+ kind of day

My first student of the day was very handsome. Can I say that? eh, sure I can. So, it was a good start to the day. Anyway... since it was my first time meeting him we just talked about anything that came up; work, vacations, skiing in both the U.S. and Argentina and the beach in Argentina.

My second student, who I met with last week, was the one that told me that American's 'eat their words'. So for him I planned a listening activity. In the P.A. book that Moira gave me, there was a small excerpt about the size of Philadelphia. I read the first paragraph at regular pace and then we broke it down, going over the paragraph line by line, then I read it again at regular pace. In the two paragraphs that we went over, there were many large numbers mentioned (456, 783, 298). Large numbers are usually more difficult to understand (for me in Spanish and for my student). The activity went very well.

My third student canceled on me; he had too much work.

My fourth student was in another office building that was also in another neighborhood, but it was walkable. So, since I had an hour and a half between classes I walked over early, sat, and took in some sunshine.
(photo below: The Puerto Madero neighborhood. It's a more modern part of the city that is located over a canal. There are apartments and parks here, but many offices too)
My fourth student was also new for me, so we just got to know one another and talk about the same things as my first student of the day; work, vacations, food. It went well also.

After I was finished tutoring I went to go get tutored myself. I took the subte to meet my tutor at "Abasto Shopping" (a mall). I'm not a mall person, but this mall was awesome. We sat upstairs in the food court and that was beautiful... yes, a foot court at the mall was beautiful. It was really nice, with nice table and an old beautiful ceiling.

(photo below: Get out! They have a "McDonalds Kosher"? No fair. They should have a "McDonalds Vegetarian' too!)
It was a good lesson. We went over some more pronouns (direct object and indirect object). Instead of writing them down (which I'm good at since I'm a visual learner) my tutor said an English sentence and I translated out loud. For example: "Did you tell them what I told you?" Literally translated I have to say something like "To them you tell what you I told?" It was good repeat practice for me; I feel like I'm getting better.

I would give today an A+

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

not so p.c. around these parts

I can't stop laughing at how bad this sign is! My jaw dropped when I read it! oh nelly!
It's pretty much says an "Obama special" is an American style coffee with a little dark bread sandwich.

I was laughing so hard because you could never-ever do this in the U.S.. It would be just terrible, but here, in Argentina it's simply ok. No one blinks an eye... except for this P.C. trained American girl.

working with a blindfold on

When I arrived home this afternoon, around 4pm, the woman who I have been working for sent me an email asking me to teach FOUR students tomorrow morning! Sure sure, I want to work, but, jeeze lady.... thanks for the notice. Again she didn't give me any information on what I should teach, or what level the students are at or what the students need to work on improving (writing skills, listening skills, speaking skills...)

Sure.....I told her I would teach, I want to. It's just that I feel bad for the students that I don't have anything planned. So, I ran out and bought a sad sad excuse for an English newspaper, rubbish is what it was, rubbish that cost me 2.50 pesos. The paper was so thin I had to ask if there was more. Once I got the paper home and read it, I only found it was filled with words that I would never use in conversation...or just simply never use. For example: divisive, enjoined and mustachioed! MUSTACHIOED?? Who says that!! Well, must say, now "Mustachioed" is my new favorite word, but seriously! Who says that? ok, here I'll use it in a sentence "I'm glad Nick isn't mustachioed any more, he looks more handsome now".

Ok, so the paper was written by a bunch of Brits and their fancy-pants English. It's just that the first 3 students tomorrow, I know, need to learn U.S. English because they have conference calls with their U.S. office. (I'm familiar with their company)

I wanted to read something written by a North American because I am told that we "eat our words". Here's an example of what they mean. Say the word "address". Now say the word "web address". Did you do it? Did you first say "ah-dress" and then said "webah-dress"? Did you eat some syllables in there?

Ok, so back to me freaking out..... After I was perturbed by the Brit-paper I remembered that I brought ONE magazine from the states. (bad planning on my part). BUT it's a Women's Health Magazine (thank you Katie).....BUT I have four MEN students!!! I can't read a women's issues magazine with Argentine men??

So I run to my room hoping the magazine has just some appropriate articles to read when I caught a glimpse of a book I brought with me. My friend Moira must have anticipated that she would save my butt by buying me a book all about Pennsylvania. I opened it to find normal, everyday words. Perfect!

photos: around san telmo

This morning, at 8:30am, I met a friend for conversation exchange. Then I hopped on the subte around 10:30 to meet another friend for brunch at my newly found favorite gay cafe in San Telmo. Again, the food was wonderful and so was my company. Afterward we just walked around the neighborhood and took some photos.
(photo below: in a shop window)
(photo below: Mitch's Argentinian cousin!)
(photo below: Titas and Mantecol anyone?)