Tuesday, March 31, 2009

46 hours a month

Tuesday, March 31th, 2009
this morning at 11am i met with a new private student. he was referred to me by one of my cute students. i met with him for an hour. going forward i'll meet with him for one hour a week. my other private student i meet with twice a week for 1 or 2 hours.

this afternoon i did my billing for the month of march. it's really pathetic if you ask me. i thought i'd be working much more at this point. for the month of march i worked a measly 46 hours (for the month!). this is just enough money to pay rent without any pesos left over. (not complaining, i knew it wouldn't be pretty coming here, but i wanted to give a heads up to anyone else who wants to teach english here)

i tried to get in touch with my boss to see if she will give me more students, but she's difficult to reach. i've already told her once before that i'd like more students.

at 6pm i was suppose to teach again but the student canceled last min. (i'll still get paid). i'm happy i didn't leave my apartment yet. so instead of teaching i went for a short run/walk to clear my mind.

tonight i stayed in and worked on my professional website. it's a real pain in the bum. i can't work out in my living room because it's STILL under construction, so I sit in my room on my bed. my old computer is old (the one with the software i need to develop). it's battery is shot so it needs to be plugged in. well, every time i bumped the cord (6 times) the computer shuts off. i must be picking up the culture here because, each time the computer shut off i didn't complain or get mad, i just hit the power button and waited 5 min for it to boot up again.

weirdo watch

on sunday i lay in 'las heras' park with a friend. it was really hot, so we lay in the shade on a blanket. it's a great park, it's big and there are always many people there during the day, but there are also many weirdos there too. (hence me not wanting to walk through there at night) anyway, during the day it's enjoyable to weirdo watch. yesterday i made a comment like "that guy carrying the back pack in his hand has passed us 4 times". once we were on to him he passed us 20 more times, just walking back and forth in the park, but not in circles and not even on the path. how strange! next a guy came up to us to sell us bracelets. my friend did all the talking. after we wouldn't buy he let us know he was from the paper writing an article about how people react when sold something in the park. how strange! (*the second time i almost made it into the paper, not that i want to be)

later in the evening another good friend of mine was in my neighborhood so she stopped by and we went for coffee around the corner. (have i mentioned what good friends i have here. i'm very lucky)

Monday, March 30th, 2009
monday things went back to my b.a. normal, so no more fun mate lattes to start off my day. on my way to work i got three deep stares from men accompanied by a 'buen dia senorita' and two whistles. i guess they're catching up from last week?

yesterday i learned that this thursday is a holiday in argentina.... but it's the day when i teach most of my students! so last night after learning this i sent out emails to try to re-arrange the classes. then today i asked one of my students, "what will you do on thursday for the holiday?". he said "thursday's a holiday but the argentine government moves the day that we have off from work to the monday that follows the holiday so everyone can have a long weekend". i slightly disagreed with him and said that a friend has off from work on thursday. he said yes i know, but the government just changed the date, it was in the newspaper the other day that now people will celebrate on monday. i haven't gotten to the bottom of it, but just in case i moved all my classes. it wouldn't sound crazy to me if the argentine government moved a holiday 4 days before it were to take place.

tonight i did my taxes! thank you turbo tax! my family sent my w2's to nicholas and he brought them down for me. i filed over the internet. whoever is looking down on me thank you for not making me pay this year! i'm getting a little money back. i really want black and pink pumas, but i think that would be a splurge. i have plenty of shoes (but they are really cute)

tonight i spent time with my neighbors from downstairs. we played "apples to apples" drank wine and ate chocolate. it's a word game (an english word game). can you believe the two non-native english speakers won the game (they were tied), they beat out the two native english speakers! i'm going to see how i can incorporate the game into my teaching. we had a lot of fun.

ahhh, one more thing. do you remember the cat that i was babysitting my first 3 months here? remember how she use to sit on the balcony 3 floors up? she fell last saturday. luckily she didn't run away but rather ran into a door way of a building and she is only limping. her owner took her to the vet and she should be fine. i am so thankful she didn't slip under my care. i would have felt so guilty. i'm glad she'll be ok.

Monday, March 30, 2009

fernando and pancho

When Nicholas and I were coming back from Uruguay we were waiting to cross a street for the bus. A little boy stepped out too far and the father yelled at him calling him "Pancho". I told Nicholas "That father just called his son hot dog!", Nicholas said the kid didn't look too happy about it. We both laughed.

Today I just learned that "Pancho" (hot dog) is a nickname for Francisco!!! I guess it has something to do with "Frank"? Too funny! Poor little Pancho!

I also learned today that the common drink here for guys "Fernet and coke" is called a "Fernando".

one side and the other

This past week was fun. I showed Nicholas the B.A. that I know. I introduced him to 'agua con gas' (carbonated water which is very common here), fernet and coke, medialunas, alfajores, a tango show, mate, matelattes at starbucks, jam packed subte, the coin shortage problem and how you have to take great precaution when crossing the street.

In return he showed me a side a B.A. that I have never seen before. He took me to so many nice restaurants that I've only heard about but never went too, an overly expensive breakfast which was amazing, riding around in a dunbuggy in Colonia Uruguay, getting in a taxi and not worrying about my safety as a single woman and walking through Las Heras park at night!!! (something I never never do because people sleep in there)

It was a nice trade, but somehow I feel like I made out better.

this isn't right

I went in to the airport with Nicholas to stay with him until he checked-in. After waiting in a long line he was checked-in only to find out he had to pay an $18 usd tax. He asked why and the response was, it's a tax. The lady who checked us in said that we'd have to get in another line to pay it. So we did.

As we're standing in line I heard the 3 American men behind us complaining "This isn't right. Why do we have to pay this tax. What is it? Why $18? Why couldn't we just pay at check-in, that is where we paid for our over weight luggage".

Their conversation made me smile. It's so American to complain. As Americans we think that everything needs to be efficient, have rationale and work and if it doesn't, than we know that if we complain loud enough something will be fixed. I admire our perfectionist society.

When I looked at Nicholas and smiled so big, (just only after being here for 6 days) he remarked, that isn't very Argentine to complain. So right. So right!

saying chau

Saturday, March 28th, 2009
After breakfast we walked around the Recoleta feria (market).

After the market we went back to my apartment to change clothes and go to 'take some sun' in the park. (good-bye p.a. winter white!). After about an hour of laying out, we went to Romarios pizza. I was told they have the best pizza. We shared a small pizza and had two 'agua con gas'. I just started liking agua con gas, but after this week of drinking it almost every day I really like it!

6:15pm came around and it was time to call a taxi. A student of mine wrote down 3 taxi companies that he uses, so I called the first one he wrote down, Radio Taxi del Plaza. Within 5 min a taxista was ringing my door bell.

Our taxista, Carlos, was so nice. He asked us if we wanted air condition or windows open, if we wanted the radio on. He also made small talk. Once we got close to the airport Carlos offered to wait for me to take me back home. I jumped at the opportunity (I really didn't feel like fighting / negotiating with other taxistas). Going to the airport only costs 80 pesos coming home would have been much much more if it weren't for Carlos (I think there is a sort of a monopoly with the taxistas at the airport). So Carlos gave me his cell phone number so that I could call him when I was ready. He said he'd sit in the parking lot to wait for me.

I stayed with Nicholas until he was checked-in and then we stood in another line to pay an $18 usd tax.

I don't do well with good-byes, so i was a mess. It was so nice having him here and he was so good to me. I really hate good-byes.

With a wet face I walked out of the airport and called Carlos. He swung around to pick me up. We talked for a bit in Spanish on the way home. Once we got to my apartment I asked him the cost. He said 80 pesos, but I gave him a 100. He was so kind, and Nicholas gave me his left over pesos plus pesos for the taxi home. I thought I would pass along Nicholas's generosity to Carlos.

Once I arrived home I changed clothes to go to my closest b.a. friends house. We haven't seen each other in a while; she had visitors this past week too.

It was so nice to catch up with her. She's so easy to talk to.

She treated me to an American boxed cake mix that she'd been saving since September. Since nothing is easy or efficient in b.a. we had to figure out the oven. You turn a knob to which you hold to the right while you stick a match down a small hole. Once it's lit you keep holding the knob. Once you think it's warmed up you let go and see if the flame goes out. The cake mix said to set the oven to 350 degrees. We both laughed that the oven didn't even have numbers on it, or even high, medium and low. So Argentina, but we love it.
45 min later and the cake was done. Since nothing like this really exists here it was the most amazing taste....she also had American icing to go with it!

It was a nice way to end a wonderful week.

5 star breakfast

Saturday, March 28th, 2009
Just after a couple hours of sleep (because we were salsaing last night) we woke up around 9am. Nicholas insisted on taking me to the super expensive swanky five star hotel (The Alvear) for the breakfast buffet. I only put up a small fight. We sat in the garden which had a glass arched roof and a view of the garden outside. All the waitstaff wore white gloves and there were so many of them.

Our table was set perfectly with china and linen napkins. They were pouring fresh orange juice like water. Also there was white sugar and BLACK sugar on the table!
Once our coffee was served we stepped up to the buffet! The fruit was amazing! The mango and pineapple were my favorite. They even had chocolate croissants; something I haven't seen in 4 months. They also had french toast, something I had to point out and say "we really don't have this here!!". There was also salmon with cheeses with tomato and cucumber and chocolate cake with raspberry sauce.

(photo below: plate number one: mango, pineapple, strawberries, watermelon, a piece of french toast and a chocolate croissant)
(photo below: plate number two: another chocolate croissant, salmon, cheese, tomato, cucumber and a little medialuna that I couldn't eat)
(photo below: Nicholas's plate. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit but I don't remember what he ate, I was too focused on my plate)(photo below: Breakfast dessert: chocolate cake with raspberry sauce)
(photo below: another view of our breakfast dessert)
(photo below: hallway in the hotel)
Did I mention that breakfast was amazing?

Like I gracious guest I showed him how much I appreciated his generosity by eating as much as I possibly could! What a treat. What a treat!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

pancho factory

After salsa on Friday night (around 4:30am) I spotted a little fast food place named "Pancho Factory" (Hot dog factory). I said, let's just look to see if they have vegetarian hot dogs (soy dogs). I really didn't think they'd have them, but to my surprise....a very excited surprise, they had vegetarian hot dogs!!! I think I may have squealed.

Once it was our turn to order I excitedly said in Spanish "You have vegetarian hot dogs?!?!". Pancho man said "Yes, but there is no hot dog, we put the hot dog toppings on the bun".

Ugh. So not fair. That is totally false advertising! So instead, I watch Nicholas eat a pancho as I ate a bun with onions, black olives and some Mediterranean sauce. Just not the same....just not the same.

(last time I had a real hot dog I got a really sick)

uruguay for the day

Friday, March 27th, 2009
We started the day with two mate lattes and a chocolate chip muffin at the nearby starbucks.

After a mate latte we walked to the collectivo stop to head for the boat to Uruguay, but the colectivo we needed was late so I started to look in the "guia 't'" for other possible buses to take. Finally we got on a bus, but I kept looking at my watch. We were cutting it close. Finally our stop came up but we were still far away, even though we could see the building. We weren't going to make it....luckily a taxi heard Nicholas whistle and stopped or did the homeless guy hear Nick whistle and stop his taxi? Either way we jumped in a taxi for just 2 blocks.

After checking in, going through security, then both Uruguayan and Argentine customs we got on the boat at exactly 11:30am. The crew wasted no time; we left on schedule. We agreed that if we didn't jump in that taxi we wouldn't have made the boat. I need to learn how to whistle like that.

Around 12:30 we arrived in Colonia. We first walked around and then had a nice lunch on a plaza. It was quite and peaceful until a huge group of Americans showed up. Even though I speak English every day here it's weird for me to hear strangers speaking English (if that makes any sense). Lunch was yum-my!(photo below: our amazing Chinese chicken and rice dish with a shared salad and two agua con gas)
After lunch we both excitedly headed for a dunbuggy rental place. I think I can safely say that we both felt like kids on Christmas day! Oh what fun, a dunbuggy!!! It cost $15 usd for the first hour and $10 usd for the second.

Nicholas didn't have his license on him but luckily I did, so I had to drive the buggy out of the renters eye-sight. Without any hesitation I handed over the control of the dunbuggy. (I'm not sure if I wrote this in the blog, but last week I had the strangest desire to 'go for a ride' in the car. I just wanted to be driven around to enjoy the motion and see some new sights at a quick pace. So this day I got my fix, just to be the passenger and I think Nicholas really liked driving it around. He said they're not street legal in the U.S.) When we drove it away from the rental place I didn't put on my seat belt because I knew we would switch. Once we made the switch we started to drive and I went for the seat belt. It was one of those kinds that you put your arms through and it fastens at your chest. Sure enough....it was broken. Typical. Very typical. So, since it had long straps I tied them into a knot. Enough about safety issues....the dunbuggy was so so much fun! For me that was the most fun I had this week. We drove through the small town of Colonia, made a left and headed out of town towards the beach. Even though the beach was a river rather than an ocean there was white sand. It really felt like a tropical island. There were some other people picnicking but only a few. We had our own beach which we lay on, taking in some sun.
(photo below: dunbuggy pulled up to the beach. it didnt do well in the sand)
After some sun, we headed back into town, got some ice cream and walked around a park. We noticed a park pigeon on top another. Mating season I thought, but Nick said they were trying to kill each other. No, not pigeons, they mate for life, they don't kill each other. But when we exited the park he pointed out the pigeon that was still laying on the path. No, she must be sleeping!...in the middle of the park path. (me trying to be naive)

After witnessing the pigeon murder we returned our dunbuggy and headed for the boat. This time we wanted to be early. At 5:30pm we boarded the boat back to Buenos Aires. In February when I was on the boat to Uruguay, the boat company constantly played their theme song. It's so annoying, but I kept singing it, even on this journey without hearing it I found myself humming the tune.... but somehow I was disappointed that they didn't play their song. So I had to youtube it so that Nicholas could be plagued with the same tune playing in his head.

Bu Bu Bu-quebus!

Upon looking for the video with theme song I came across their video from the 90's! You just got to watch! It really shows you the cultural differences...(an advertisement commercial with big 90's thong swimsuits.)

When we returned to B.A. I think we chose the longest colectivo home. It felt like it took forever. Once we got back to the apartment we crashed for a couple hours because we wanted to have another Buenos Aires night. Around 2:30am we headed out to a salsa club to dance dance dance. We returned around 5am.

mate lattes!

Thursday, March 26th, 2009
This morning we left the apartment early. We headed into Centro to a Starbucks near where I teach. For four months I haven't been to Starbucks. I like Starbucks, but I came here for an Argentine experience, not to live my U.S. life in Argentina. However....they do have "Mate Lattes" at the Argentine Starbucks. That's something we can't get at home! I was prepared not to like it. Since it was Nicholas's first experience with mate of any kind I suggested we share one. He said, no, let's just commit. I was glad we did. I loved the mate latte!! It had the mate flavor but was mixed with milk and sugar. Yum! We both enjoyed our individual mate lattes with an expresso brownie that was good!! (nice and moist)

(photo below: a tall and grande mate latte with some agua con gas and an espresso brownie)After our mate lattes I headed into the office to teach and Nicholas headed down Florida Street to do some shopping. When I got up to the office my first student was on a business trip so she wasn't there. I had an hour to spare, so I walked along Florida. I hoped to find Nicholas, but I knew the odds were against me since it's so crowded and he could be in a store. Just 2 min later I saw him looking into a storefront window! My luck!! So we had another hour together of shopping before I had to leave for my next student.I just taught two students. At one point there was a huge bang or an explosion. My face froze with a look of concern. My student laughed and said that I should be used to that sort of thing in the Centro. There are always protesters and banging. I was surprised that he didn't even flinch or look at the window, just laughed at me....eventually I laughed at me too.

At 1:15 I met Nicholas at the Obelisco. We arrived at the same time: 5 min late. We both had trouble pushing through on the sidewalks. After meeting we pushed our way back down the sidewalks. I asked him how his shopping went. He said many sex shops tried to pull him in. It surprised me because I haven't seen many, but I'm also not that observant. I guess they don't try to get women to enter their shops? How different we're treated when we aren't together. This whole week I haven't caught any men staring me down or making their cat calls (literally like call me like a cat. sh sh sh sh)

(photo below: obelisco)At 2pm we met with a student of mine and afterward we shared a small ice cream at Freddo. I didn't want my own, I'm not a fan of Freddo. Then we continued to walk along the harbor in Puerto Madero.

(photo below: Nicholas became a coin collector. Throughout the day he went above and beyond and asked for coins! I'm set for a while now)(photo below: two coffees in Puerto Madero. We also had a wonderful lunch.)
After walking around Puerto Madero we walked through Plaza de Mayo that is in front of the casa rosada (where the president works). We just missed the "Mothers of the Missing" demonstration. Around 5:30 we hopped on a crowded subte to head home.

It was another day of a lot of walking, I think it was another 6 miles by the days end, so we took a nap so that we could have an Argentine night.

We left for dinner around 9:30pm. We walked to Las Cabras in Palermo Viejo. This was my favorite dinner. They had REAL caesar salad! I also tried a piece of Nicholas's lamb meat (I don't eat meat because I don't like the texture) and I thought it was good...to me, better than the best steak "del mundo". We also ordered a mate and a Fernet and coke. Unfortunately mate is only served until 7pm and they didn't have Fernet, but since we were 'touristas' they made an exception and brought us mate. By the time we finished the mate I think it was more sugar than mate. Dinner was amazing. Really amazing.

After dinner and two full stomachs we walked to Canning (a tango hall) to see a modern tango band called "Tanghetto".

I made reservations for us two days prior, but I didn't think the lady understood me. To our luck she did and we had a small table next to the floor. I enjoyed watching the tango dancers, I think I enjoyed looking at their shoes the most. One lady had patent leather shoes with sparkles, rhinestones and little feathers! How cute! By far my favorite. I still don't have a strong desire to tango. It still hasn't hit me like salsa did when I first saw it. We also shared a Fernet and coke and a bottle of agua con gas. I'm not a big fan of the Fernet; it seems like it's a guys drink. After about an hour Tanghetto started to play. I really really enjoyed their music. I'd love to go see them again.

On our walk home we passed a store front window with a mannequin wearing rubber panties. I thought this was very humorous. Who needs to see that? The window was also full of incontinence products.(photo below: rubber panties on a mannequin)
We arrived home around 4am.

For me, I really love walking in the evening. At home Moira and I would always go for night walks in the summer time. I like how it's cooler and quieter at night, but it's something I don't do here. I guess I would be fine, but I'm sort of a safety freak so I always get a little anxious before going out at night alone and I always take taxi or colectivo. So, it was so nice having Nicholas with me walking in the city at night.

What a good day.

del mundo

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
On Monday, when we ran into my friend who works at the Embassy, she kindly invited us over for a drink with her husband. They told us about Embassy life (sweet Embassy life) and invited us for a tour of the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires today.

First thing this morning, we headed to the post office for a very Argentine experience. Walked in, took a number, it was only 5 away from the one being called, nevertheless we sat there for 1/2 hour. Once we were called we went to pay with a 100 peso note ($28). They didn't have change and neither did we so, like an Argentine would, we walked out without complaining and tried again later in the day.

We didn't have much time left before our appointment. We wanted coffee but it's not Argentine to get coffee to-go and besides it would have been difficult to find. The culture is that you sit down and have coffee.

11am came. We walked over to the front of the embassy where there were 2 huge long lines to get in. It made me feel lucky to be from the U.S.. All these people were trying to go to the U.S. (work, study, or just simply to visit they need permission and to pay around $130 dollars...just to visit.)

We were lucky, we just walked past them to the employee entrance and were escorted in by my friend....no line, no questions.

Once we were in, it really felt like the U.S.. English was spoken everywhere, it looked like a U.S. office, the elevator had a 'lobby' button instead of 'planta baja' It was fun.

Nicholas met with a couple of marines. They told him what steps they took to apply for an embassy position. Then we went to the bank in the embassy to exchange money. Right at the last min Nicholas asked if I wanted coins!! si si si!!! (there is a coin shortage. I told him he had to save coins for me and not spend them and to just pretend he didn't have them if someone asked). The bank gave him coins and he handed them right over to me!!! It was just 5 pesos of coins ($1.40) but it felt like $25!

Next we walked to the commissary (mini AMERICAN grocery store in the embassy). My eyes watered and my knees went weak. To look at familiar food that I haven't seen in 4 months....whoa. Lime tortilla chips, blue corn tortilla chips, jelly beans, pop-tarts.....and on and on....

It was really an exciting morning.

When we left I asked my friend for a restaurant suggestion. She suggested Rio Alba in the Palermo Nuevo neighborhood (it's is next to the embassy).

(photo below: typical b.a. dog walker)
Noon time and our first meal of the day. Nicholas treated me to a wonderful lunch. He ordered the best steak on the menu which was huge! The waiter said it was the best steak "del mundo" (in the world). He was so cute and really took care of us. I had a huge piece of trout and we shared a bottle of wine.....we didn't eat for the rest of the day...

(photo below: 'the best steak in the world' according to our waiter)
(photo below: after the 'best steak in the world' we went tothe coffee shop next door for cafe con leche and an espresso. it was served with two little pieces of chocolate)
After our huge fancy delicious lunch we came back to my apartment and got a sheet to lay on in the park. We walked down Ave. Libertado to the Recoleta neighborhood. But first I turned Nicholas onto my Argentine addiction. His first ice cream was at Munchies. Chocolate and Dulce de Leche! After, we laid out in the sun for an hour. Nicholas's winter white is starting to darken.

Before heading back we stopped at the Buquebus office to buy boat tickets to Uruguay on Friday! I can't wait for the dun-buggie that we'll rent.

After so much walking we took the subte home. It was around 6pm: rush hour. Nicholas got to experience another 'real' part of Buenos Aires....squeezing yourself onto the subte and not complaining. Not that he would have complained but it seems like no Argentines complain about the crazy tight quarters of the subte...they just deal.

Later in the evening we went to an 'Alfajore and Malbec party'. Another first for him.

(photo below: Alfajores of different varieties)

Friday, March 27, 2009

salsa and the cemetery

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
I planned for us to go to the Alvear Hotel for breakfast this morning. I read in a travel book that the breakfast buffet is amazing. We got on the colectivo and found the hotel which was really really swanky. We both said 'whoa' when we walked in, but before stepping into the dinning room I looked at the breakfast buffet price...130 pesos!!! $37 for breakfast!! in B.A.!!! That's nuts!

I suggested instead that we go for a real B.A. breakfast: coffee with milk and 3 medialunas. It was a sidewalk cafe in Recoleta on a side street under tall old trees.

After a slow paced breakfast (traditional in B.A) we walked over to the cemetery. We walked around for an hour or two exploring.
Afterward we headed downtown to have lunch. I wanted to go to "Bar Bar O" but it was closed. The name of the bar is a play on words. "Barbaro" means "Amazing". It's also an old cafe.

Instead we ate on walking street (I forget the name (not Florida)) Nick had a steak with an over easy egg on it (I guess that's how it's served up here?) and I had pasta that wasn't too heavy.
(photo below: Florida street (pronounced: Flor-ee-da)
(photo below: walking back to the subte I wanted to take the "A line" or the "blue line" so that Nick could see the old original subte cars with wooden seats and glass lights. Unfortunately we got a more modern train car??)

Later in the evening we went to La Viruta for a salsa lesson and some dancing. We walked there and back.

Total for the day was about 5-6 miles of walking. (we tracked it on a runners mile tracker website)

This is not only his vacation but it feels like mine too. I'm getting to eat at such nice restaurants where I wouldn't normally go by myself and he's treating me too! Christmas in March!