Sunday, May 31, 2009

shld i stay or shld i go

when i left the u.s. 6 months ago i told myself that i'd be home for a visit during the summer (july/aug). today's the last day of may, bringing june tomorrow... july/aug isn't too far away.

for the past couple days i've been going back and forth in my head. should i stay or should i go for a visit. of course i want to go home to see my family and friends and most importantly spend time with them but i also want... to eat tasty soak in some smell trees and grass and have a drive a a lightning storm on the back porch...go to target just to look around.

part of me thinks i should use the money spent to travel in south america, another part of me thinks it will be too hard to say good-bye again; i've been having pangs of homesickness lately, maybe i should just stay and tuff it out.

flights are fairly cheap right now. i should make a decision soon, i don't know why it's so difficult?

hours worked teaching english

before moving to b.a., i couldn't figure out, from other peoples blogs or articles, how many students it was possible to teach in a week, since there is a lot of traveling involved.

the number of students i have is constantly changing. i get new students as other student's get too busy to take classes. i get new private students, but then my schedule isn't compatible with theirs, so i've stopped trying to count.

but, i was curious to see what the latest number is after 6 months of living here. so.... this coming week i have 29 students, 3 of these students i'll teach for 2 hours instead of 1. this is a full schedule (factoring in travel), but i'll still find time to take 3 hours of spanish classes a week and i don't teach on the weekends.

last month, april i taught 64 hours through the institute i work for and 12 hours of private students. so 76 hours for the month of april is ruffly 19 hours a week.

for may, i taught 70 hours through the institute and 12 hours of private students. so 82 hours for the month of may is ruffly 20.5 hours a week. *for the month of may i canceled several classes so that i could spend time with my family while they were here.


I did a little better with food on Friday. I'm still not eating normal or have a normal appetite but I'm trying. Friday night I met a friend out for some Mexican food (something with flavor). I wasn't hungry, even when I was sitting in the restaurant, but once real tasting guacamole touched my tongue I was happy. I ordered an enchilada and my friend ordered tacos for the meal. When they were delivered to our table, they looked the exact same, but with different sauces. Both were 4 deep fried rolls with sauce on the top. I ate two and was full, and satisfied that I ate.

Saturday was a gloomy day; not the B.A. I remembered and once loved so much. I really took for granted my first 5 months of amazingly beautiful weather. Everyday it was beautiful, now it's chilly, often cloudy and sometimes rains for the whole day instead of in spurts like it did the last 5 months.

Saturday afternoon I ate a salad without dressing (because the 'caesar dressing looked nothing like caesar dressy, instead it looked like mayonnaise), well, come to think of it, i just ate lettuce and a couple croutons. The cold chicken on top had no flavor and grossed me out. so did the order of mashed potatoes i ordered, although my friends swore the mashed potatoes tasted fine. However, I had no trouble eating two scoops of ice cream for dessert.

In the evening my stomach started to hurt more. My Argentine friend offered to go to the pharmacy (farmacia) with me. It was in the evening, the farmacia was open, but the metal security screen was down, blocking anyone from walking into the store. The farmacia was only a farmacia; they didn't sell gum, or soda, just medicine and herbs from big jars. My friend asked the pharmacist for something for my stomach and he handed us one blister pack of pills (8 pills) with no box, no instructions, no ingredients, no warnings. I just found that a little odd, but I accept it, it's Argentina right?

I don't know what the pills were, but I do feel better today. I still don't have an appetite, but at least I don't feel pain.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

crying over salt

ophf, today felt like a loOoOong day.

i left my apartment at 9:30am and squeezed myself onto the subte. depending on what kind of mood i'm in, the ride isn't so bad, but today, being stepped on and elbowed wasn't pleasant.

i taught from 10-2, and then walked to my 3pm student. it took me about 15 min to walk to him, so i didn't want to pay for food and just sit for 45 min, so i just sat and read near his office. mr.gordito walked passed me while i was reading, he yelled 'gordita' at me with a big smile. i have a feeling i'll be hearing this nickname more.

after my 3pm student (at 4pm) i had 2.5 hours to spare until my next student. i walked and walked looking for a suitable cafe. i wasn't hungry, even though i only had yogurt and granola at 9am, but i knew i needed to eat. i passed cafe after boring food cafe (pasta, pizza, empanadas and breaded chicken and more fried food bla). finally i came across a 'natural' food place and i felt hopeful. i scoped out the menu and it looked good. many interesting salads, rice, some curry dishes. i thought "um. ok!" (it was on the corner of Esmeralda and Juan Peron)

i went inside and took a seat. 2 min later a woman appeared at my table. in spanish i asked her to bring me a menu (like the one i saw posted outside). she told me it was self-service. ok.

i gathered my purse and made my way up to the glass counter where there were several dishes on display. there was only one "salad" but it didn't have lettuce, instead it had cous-cous (and in my opinion that is NOT a salad), so i asked if there were more salads and she said no. there were many fancy disguised empanadas (they weren't the traditionally wrapped empanadas but rather the deep-fried pastry was folded in another fashion). there were also several tortas (like a quiche), but i went with the curry rice.

to my surprise and disgusted the woman took the rice dish that was on display and put it in the microwave to warm up! i thought those were just displays so you know what they look like? how long was is sitting there....and the microwave??

i paid 17 pesos and they so kindly brought my microwaved meal over to me. at this point i still wasn't hungry, even with food now in front of me, but i dug in.....the first bite tasted like i put a spoonful of salt in my mouth. i almost cried out of frustration. i'm not hungry, i have no appetite and when i do try to eat, the food is disgusting.

after some pouting, i returned the food telling them it had too much salt. i chose the 'salad' that was incredibly boring with no taste but it was slightly editable.

i never had an eating problem in the states. i was always hungry and always looked forward to eating. today i had my second strong pang of homesickness. i just wanted to get on a plane and eat the second i landed. i wanted to fulfill my new nickname 'gordita' (little fat girl)

feeling low, and tired and frustrated, and maybe a little sick (chills and my stomach still hurts occasionally), and not happy about the chilly weather, i marched to starbucks. i'm a little disappointed in myself for 'breaking'. i've been so good at not relying on american restaurants here. i'll go, but there is always a reason...well, i guess i had one today.

at starbucks i paid 17 pesos (the same amount for my lunch) for a latte and a chocolate chip muffin. i then fell into one of the big chairs and put up my feet. it was my temporary slice of home. (afterward my stomach hurt more from the whole milk they put in the latte...i can't win)

at 6:30 i taught another student. he's an older married man with a child who i think wants more than english lessons; i get that vibe from him. he invited me to dinner (which really sounded appealing at that point) and he offered to take me home with his car. i would have declined even if i didn't have a student at 7:30. i'm not in the home wrecking business.

by 8:45pm i was on the subway home and around 9:10pm i got off at my stop. almost 12 hours in the centro. i'm still hungry and my stomach still has mystery pains that come and go...probably its telling me to eat, which i plan on doing a.s.a.p tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


a day in tigre

'tigre' is a 40 min train ride away from capital (the center / city part of b.a). tigre is a grouping of islands. the only way to get to the islands is by boat. people who live here have their own boats, there are boats that act as buses, and there are tourist boats that take you to a special island for lunch. we chose the public boat.

once you step out of the tigre train station, you see the river right away. when you walk closer to the boats you see many little booths selling package deals to hotels, spas and lunch places. it took me and my sister a couple min to figure out (by speaking to the people in the booth) where we should buy the tickets for the public boat (like the bus). we went inside a smaller looking train station and bought a round trip ticket for 17 pesos each ($4.50).

(photo below: the public boat that we took. people who live on the islands use these boats. on top of the boat they put all their packages. we even saw a dog on top of one of the boats)
we boarded the boat. the woman who sold us the tickets told us which boat to take and told us to stay on the boat for about 1/2 an hour. she said we could get off, have lunch and get back on. so that's what we did.

(photo below: another public boat which looks like the one we're on)

(photo below: small houses line the coat of the river. many have their own dock.)
(photo below: getting off the boat to explore an island and have some lunch.)(photo below: narrow passage way on the island we were on)
(photo below: doggie waiting for his owner to return)
(photo below: the guy on the back of the boat is in charge of helping the passengers on and off. when the boat pulls up to a dock he throws a tire over so that the boat doesn't hit the dock. he also uses a rope to pull the boat closer to the dock. passengers exit the boat from the back)
(photo below: the river was used for all sorts of transportation)
(photo below: the inside of the boat)

a new purse

before coming to b.a. i bought a perfect purse at H&M. it's perfect because it's simple, the strap goes across my chest, i can fit my books in it and if i need to take my laptop somewhere i can fit that in the purse too. i paid just $25 for it, but i don't think it was meant to carry books everyday for 6 months. one month ago the lining in the inside started to come undone. i paid 10 pesos ($2.70) to a seamstress to fix it and just last week the strap broke.

i thought i'd buy a new purse so i started to look, but nothing meets the requirements. i think i mentioned my problem to my portero and he suggested i take it to a 'zapataria' (a shoemaker). so today i did just that.

tomorow i get to pick up my purse, with a newly attached strap, and it will only cost 20 pesos ($5.40). it will feel like i'm getting a new purse tomorrow.


when i first arrived in buenos aires i had a bad cold and from being in the airplane, my ears were pretty messed up. my school told me i could go to the hospital to see a doctor and that it would just cost 30 pesos (around $10 at that time) and the doctors speak english too. i decided to get better on my own and luckily i did.

my skin hasn't been the greatest since moving here. maybe it's the pollution, maybe the water or the food or lack there of. so i was delighted to find out that there is a dermatologist's office in my building.

last thursday i had two students cancel on me, so i came home and knocked on her door. i told her i wanted to make an appointment and she told me she was free now and could see me. we had the whole conversation in spanish. she spoke slowly and i was able to understand 50%. i had her repeat things i thought were important.

so, after meeting with a dermatologist for about 1/2 hour (a specialized doctor, a real doctor) i paid 70 pesos ($19). she wrote me a prescription, which i got filled today. i paid 43 pesos for it ($12).


today i started my day at 6:45am, well, that's what time i got out of bed after having an internal argument with myself. i didn't want to get out of bed. it's getting cold. i also have a funny stomach ache that comes and goes. nothing serious, but i thought it would be a good reason to cancel. the non lazy part of me won, so i got out of bed.

7:45am i left my apartment. i started taking the bus to work on wednesdays, it gets me a little closer to my destination, it's a little faster and i like to read on the bus (it's too difficult to read on the subte in the morning. it should be called the "smoosh-te")

8:30am i had my first class. my student always offers me coffee and i always accept. he also always calls me 'teacher' instead of by name. it think it sounds charming, but funny.

my next student is in a higher position, so when he asks me if i want coffee he dials up the office waiter (i'm serious). last time i told him i wanted wine and he asked if i really wanted some (i did not accept this offer; i was just joking with him). but, today, instead of asking for wine i asked for some medialunas with my coffee. he said in a joking manner, with a smile on his face "gordita" (fatty). i laughed, because i know that it's perfectly acceptable to call someone a fatty (gordita or gordito) when you are speaking spanish. often you hear these words exchanged by couples in a loving way. when he hung up the phone i told him "you know that you could never say that in english?" he seemed surprised.

after i met with my last student of the day, the student offered me a boat ride over the harbor. (i work on the harbor side, so that means there are only a couple bridges i can walk over to get there. the bridges are about 6 blocks apart, which means i do a lot of walking 'around' the harbor) there is a boat that goes over the harbor (which i got to ride in today) but you need a corporate pass to ride the boat. it was a nice treat.

once i made my way to the subte stairs to go down, i noticed a large demonstration near the subte entrance. it looked peaceful, but i'm sure the riot police that were standing around were ready to lurch. once i went down into the subte i noticed no one was going through the turnstiles, there was tape around them preventing people from passing through. i could have gone back up to the street level, but i didn't want to look for a bus, since many of the streets above were closed off for the protesters. i also didn't want to be around the protesters (sometimes fights can break out), so i just pulled out a magazine and started reading. i'm not sure how much time passed, but the underground was filling up with people and i could hear drums, fire-crackers and chanting from the street. an old man pushed his way up to the front where i was standing and a woman behind me scolded him for cutting, then he started banging on the metal turnstile. people followed his lead and started clapping hands and yelling. i thought, "oh great, i stayed down here to avoid a possible unruly protest and now one is going to happen down here, and there is NO WHERE for me to go". luckily the people chanted for only a minute or so and a couple minutes after that a voice came over the loudspeaker allowing people to pass through the turnstile and get on the train.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


and then there were three...

since our two family friends left there were just the three of us. for these days i didn't have any plans, just a list of possibilities. so, we headed back to San Telmo to do some last min shopping. on the subte to San Telmo i read my travel book looking for a restaurant to have lunch in. it didn't take me long to set my eyes on a Peruvian restaurant in Congresso (Status).

after the San Telmo market we took the subte A line, which is the oldest subway in South America.
(photo below: 1913 subway car)
(photo below: 1913 subway car)
(photo below: mothers association of plaza de mayo is a group of mothers who protest quietly every thursday at 3:30pm in front of the president's office. in 1976 there was a 'dirty war' where 30,000 people went missing and many were never found)

The Peruvian food was Amazing!!! I had ceviche, which I hear is a Puruvian specialty. Let me tell you it isn't pretty when it's delivered to the table, but I savored every piece. (it's cold fish that isn't cooked, but rather soaked in the lemon juice which acids cook it, and it's served cold) If you like fish I can't recommend it enough)

During lunch my sister teased me that our waiter was my future husband. They could tell he took a liking to me. Well...he was latin, but not my type...but he was a gentleman. He asked me when I was coming back. My sister prompted me to tell him "when you cook for me".

(photo below: argentine comic "Mafalda". Tile work in the subte)
In the evening we hit up the bakery another time and finished our left-overs.

Monday, May 25, 2009


on saturday, i took my family to the recoleta feria (market). it was a chilly day, but the canvas the artist put over their goods made a warm tunnel that shielded us from the wind. my family enjoyed looking at the unique hand made items and i got so lucky to get a pair of cute leather shoes bought for me!
after the feria we started to walk back to my apartment. on the walk home we were looking for a cafe to sneek into, instead we came across this bakery; it caught the attention of the mothers.

sure enough, after the bakery, we found a quiant cafe to have lunch in. then, in the early evening we said good-bye to my family's friends. i got my mom and sister for 3 more myself.

in the evening we went to a grocery store. we spotted this guy below...he made us laugh.


giving directions

while my family was here we took many cabs, something i don't do often.

taxista #1
he let 5 of us pile into his cab (safety issues don't exist). he said it would be 5 pesos more. fair enough i thought. he drove from plaza de mayo to palermo. he veered off of Libertador. this made me nervous. where was he going? why did he turn off the street we should be on? my family knew no different but i was skeptical and a little nervous. (in general taxistas are not to be trusted). i asked the taxista why didn't he stay on Libertador. he gave an excuse like, it's one-way (which it isn't) or construction.

taxista #2
a lady let us pile 5 in her taxi after we got the argentine wag of the finger by 3 previous taxistas. i told her where we were going (say in the north east direction). she started to drive west...and west...and west until i started to yell in spanish "turn right, turn right". she obviously took the LOoOoNG way

taxista #3
this time i had learned my lesson. i sat in the front seat of the cab and gave SPECIFIC directions how to drive. "make a right on this street, then a left on this street then a right...." We got to our destination the most direct way.

taxista #4
again i told the driver how to drive. he said he couldn't make a left on the street i suggested, so i told him ok, but only one block, no more. i then asked him where he was from, made a comment about the town and then let him know that i live here and it's my neighborhood. again, we had no problems.

so, lesson learned. always know where you're going and give the taxistas specific directions.

a student of mine told me a story, it happened 8 years ago to him, where he was in the back of a taxi and two guys got into the back seat with him (one on each side). then the taxista (who was probably in on it) drove to an ATM. one thief stayed in the car and the other hit up the ATM. my student said he was unhurt. the thieves even gave him 20 pesos to get another taxi home. he told me to always lock the doors in the cab. also, everyone tells me never never never give a taxi a large bill. it's known that they do the switch-er-roo with the bills. for example, you give him a hundred pesos, he looks at it (switches it) and tells you it's a false bill, then you give him more money and now you have a 100 falso.

For all these reasons I'm happy that I found one good taxista who I'll always call. I didn't use him for the above situations because it was last min that we wanted to take a cab.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

i heart b.a. sounds

luckily i only had my '6 month pains' for only a couple of days. i'm recovering.

it's been unseasonably hot these past two days (tank-top and flip flop weather), of course the weather helps lift my mood. the other night while falling asleep i could hear crickets out my window! i love the sound of crickets before falling asleep. i can't believe how lucky i am to have a city life and crickets at night. then in the morning green bellied parakeets wake me up with their chirping; another sound i like to hear, especially when waking up.

oddly, i guess, i like the sound of loose sidewalk tiles when you step on them. (the sidewalks are generally all large tiles, not concrete like in the states. sometimes some are missing and sometimes some are loose. i like stepping on the loose ones, even though i know water may be under there waiting to splash me)

my weekend portero loves to whistle. i'm on one of the top floors in my building and i can still hear him from up here. his whistling make me smile.

lastly, when i arrived home this afternoon after cat sitting for friends, i went out on my balcony to read some more of my new book. shortly after i sat down and opened the book, i heard the 'clip clop' of horse hooves! i looked over my balcony, through the almost naked trees and saw a horse drawn carriage.

6 month pain

shortly after my family left, for the very first time, i really missed the u.s.. i missed how everything works, i miss the food, i miss good customer service, i miss the ease of life...not everything, but i miss more than i thought i would. i'm seeing b.a. with different eyes lately. i don't dislike it, but i see that you have to let everything roll off your back and there is no complaining allowed...even if i could form sentences to complain, even if those sentences were perfect spanish, they wouldn't get me far anyway.

Friday, May 22, 2009


on friday we took it easy. we didn't leave the apartment until 12. we walked down santa fe avenue and then we headed toward the palermo soho / viejo area. around 3 we had lunch at bar 6. the food was good. they had a nice variety on their menu.
(photo below: "what's that in the tree?" "not sure" "let's try to pick one" looked like an avocado but it was really hard.)
we went back to the apartment to rest around 6. i went back to my apartment after napping to get ready to go out. friends invited me, my sister and her friend over for some drinks. around 11 i got into a taxi in my neighborhood and instructed the taxi to pick up my sister and her friend and then we headed to my friends apartment.

around 1:30-2am we headed out to a nearby disco/club/boliche. the line was so long, maybe a half a block long? but, we had confidence that 7 foreign girls with light hair and charming accents could get in without standing in line....we were right...about 10 min late we were in.

we didn't even make it to the bar before two guys were pulling at my sister and friend. they grabbed their arm, put their hands around their waists, talked to them a mere centimeter from there face; now normal for me but shocking for them. why are the men so extremely aggressive here? by the end of the night a guy grabbed my chin and said he wanted to kiss me (i didn't even have a conversation with him before this occurred). i pushed him away so he licked my friends shoulder.

argentine mothers have not raised their boys to be gentlemen in these parts. i have an appreciation for latin men and these men are not latin...definitely another breed, a mutated breed at best.


thursday i worked all day. i scheduled 10 students and two of them canceled so i had a nice break in between.

my family went to colonia uruguay for the day. i arranged for my taxista to pick them up at their apartment and then to pick them up again when they returned.

when i was finished working i called my family to see what was up. they suggested tgif fridays for dinner. missing american food, i jumped! "i'll meet you there!!!"

i really miss food. i miss food that i enjoy eating. i miss food that has taste.


on wednesday i was suppose to teach at 8:30am, meaning that i would have had to leave the house at was raining, i was tired, i never cancel my i canceled my first class.

sleeping in made me happy. it also stopped raining by the time i left the house to teach. i gave my family specific instructions on how to take the subte and where to meet me.

my first student of the day was at 9:30am for two hours, and then i had an 11:30am class and my last two students of the day canceled on me. (yeah for me)(luckily i will still get paid)

(photo below: after a large, messy protest city workers clean up all the small pieces of paper)
knowing that starbucks is an easy landmark, i asked my family to meet me there...while waiting for them i took the opportunity to buy a mate latte. they arrived on schedule, so together, in the rain, we walked to a restaurant called Filo in the Centro / Retiro area. for all the reviews i read on it, i just thought it was ok.

afterward we took the new 'hop on hop off' tour bus in buenos aires. we paid 25 pesos each for the tour. it would have been much better if we could have sat on top, but it was rainy and cold. the inside didn't have many seats. the inside seat i sat on was terrible. i couldn't look to my right because the staircase to go upstairs was there and to my left there was a logo on the window preventing me from a clear view. the tour would have been much better if we were able to be on top. also, the headsets with information were interesting, but since we were stopped in traffic so much the tape was moving too fast so the conductor turned off the sound, therefore we had to listen to a buzzing sound until the next landmark.
it was a long bus ride. we got off at the plaza italia stop and walked back to my apartment so that i could change out of my wet work clothes. the rest of the night we just relaxed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


el dia de los muertos
(the day of the dead)

on tuesday we started the day by having coffee and medialunas at my favorite cafe. luckily my waiter was working, so he got to meet my family.

after breakfast, since we were running a little late, for the free tuesday english tour of the recoleta cemetery at 11am, we hopped in a cab.

we arrived a little after 11am. the tour was already in progress but it wasn't difficult to find the group. to regular english tour guide was sick, so her shy, low talking co-worker filled in. it was difficult to hear over a crowd of about 20 people standing around her. so, we went our own way and explored...

my guests asked me where Evita's tomb was, but i didn't know. i never went looking for it. so we followed an older couple, knowing that that was where they were headed. after walking down a main isle, while looking back and forth down the other isles, we spotted where Evita was; it wasn't difficult to find her resting place. (see below photo)
while we were standing near Evita, my family asked me why she was so famous. i don't know the full story but only that she is both loved and hated. i started to tell them the story when an argentine woman walked past and said in a loud voice "don't forget to tell them that she was a theif!". since i have no real opinion on the matter i asked her to tell us about the Evita years. A brief summary, coming from her point of view, is that Evita stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

(photo below: some of the doors to the mausoleums are open. we couldn't resist the opportunity to take a peek. this mausoleum was being used as a janitors closet)

In the evening we went to one of my favorite restaurants, Las Cabras. I was very proud of us; we arrived at 9pm for dinner. By the time we left the place was packed and had a waiting line. After dinner we walked around the corner to a trendy bar called Acabar. The bar is more like a restaurant that has a coordinated mishmosh of furniture and a wall of board games. We sat on two sofas with a coffee table between us. We played Jenga first while we waited for some fun drinks and yum yum desserts.
I had a white russian drink with this chocolate pudding topped with meringues!
We were too worried the Jenga would fall on our desserts and drinks, so we began playing "3D Word", a game like Scrabble, but you can build on the words. Fun-ny! We did a lot of laughing. We headed home until around 12:30am!