Browsing Date

April 2009

Destinations, South America

Why do I always seem to find the creepy guys?

April 30, 2009 • By

I may have mentioned my building super.  It turns out he isn’t the super he is the engineer.  He has been a great sport helping me learn Spanish and forcing me to speak to him.  Of course, I didn’t think anything of it until he added me on Facebook.  The first day as “friends,” I received 12 messages.

The next morning the messages continued to appear on my blackberry.  I took some of the messages to class so my teacher Alberto could translate.  Upon reading the first few lines, he burst into tears laughing.  When Anna and I didn’t understand his excitement, he asked me if I understood what the words meant in English.  When I shook my head no, he started laughing more and walked around the room reciting the words in Spanish.  I knew I was in trouble when in English he started saying things like perfume and flowers.

My teacher then wrote the word poesia on the board.  Ahhh!  Entiendo.  He wrote me a poem. What to do?  My class decided I should leave it be and stop responding.  Now I answer once a day about the weather or the magazine I read or some other protest going on in Buenos Aires.  It does not always pay to be nice.

The weather heated up this week in Argentina.  It reached 90 on two of the days.  I don’t know what these people would do in a real winter.  They bust out their scarves and winter coats when the thermostat drops below 20C (70 degrees).  Here I am sweating while walking to class and these people are decked out for a snow storm.  It must really be hot here in December. Otherwise,  there is no explanation for the excessive layering of clothes.  I know they sweat because I’ve seen them do so at the gym.  I guess it’s one of those things I just have to accept as “foreign” to me.

Today, I finished up my level one course and move to level 2.  It’s really been a great week with lots of tango (I only fell once this week) and some school activities.  Last night, I tried the tango intermediate lessons and of course I got stuck with the guy from Africa who speaks a combination of Swahili and Spanish and who definitely cannot count.  I mean seriously I was counting out uno, dos, tres, and I was pushing him and pulling him to go the direction I wanted him to go.  After some chick in her 5 inch tango shoes nailed my toe, I told my partner politely I needed to leave.  I figured being dropped at 2 pm by a professional partner and then a foot massacre at 10 pm there was no need for further torturing.  I needed to get a good night’s sleep for my test anyway.

I’ve had some great wine and food this week.  William and I checked out Chinatown which turned out to be great fun and even tastier food.  Chinatown seems to be the place where many of the locals purchase international food. The lines were so long in the markets I wondered if a storm was brewing on the horizon.  This had to be one of the biggest suppliers of restaurants in Argentina.  They had noodles galore, fresh fish and I even found my Skippy peanut butter.  I really wanted the Skippy but after waiting in line for 15 minutes, my patience thinning, my stomach growling, I gave up on having my American treat.

I also checked out a new neighborhood called “Las Carnitas.”  It caters to a European crowd and more well-off locals.  Monday was a gorgeous night so I ventured out for a walk.  The streets are lined with gorgeous trees some of the leaves turning colors while others fighting the cooling air.  It reminded me of Lincoln Park(Chicago) or Brooklyn Heights(NYC).  There were many couples and groups of men and women dining on the sidewalks.  That is one thing Buenos Aires has mastered.  The use of outdoor space.  It’s truly remarkable the number of restaurants and cafes serving underneath the stars.

As I was getting hungry, I decided to taste test a local favorite, Campo Bravo.  I seated myself next to two businessmen so I could eavesdrop on their conversation and possibly learn a word or two.  It turns out they were from Brazil and didn’t understand a word.  Good thing I brought my journal I had a lot I needed to add about William anyway(HA!).  I ordered a bottle of wine because I didn’t like the glasses they were offering and at $10USD a bottle I figured I could afford to splurge.  Don’t worry I used portion control and besides I needed to save room for my amazing dulce de leche crepe with cream flavored ice cream.  Simply divine.

While I’ve contained my steak feeding frenzy, I’m finding it very hard to avoid the pizza restaurants.  They are seriously on every single corner and most of the cafes in between those corners.  I’ve now made it my mission to find the best pizza in Buenos Aires.  The first month I started strong but lately my last few picks have been disappointing to say the least and I’ve had to make up for it by sampling the apple or banana panqueques (desserts).

I’m off to Montevideo, Uruguay tomorrow for the holiday weekend.  Argentina celebrates LABOR DAY on May, 1.  I’m not sure employees do a whole lot of laboring to deserve another day off from work but I am not currently in the position to judge.  Montevideo is a popular South American spot and an easy jump for Argentinians.  I’m traveling with Landra(a fellow American and friend from school) and William on the 3-hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires.

It should be interesting.   More information on Uruguay later this weekend.

Destinations, South America

It takes TWO to Tango

April 27, 2009 • By

I’m learning very quickly that dancing is a way of life in Latin America but maybe just not my way of life.  My Spanish school attended a SALSA lesson which turned into a night of drinking when no on could figure out Adelante – Atras – Izquierda – Derecha. The basic steps seemed simple enough forward, backward to the left to the right.  It’s very possible I just don’t have rhythm or skill to master these steps but I’m continuing to get out there and try try try.  Our salsa experience ended at a disco bar that resembled a warehouse complete with three floors of dancing.  It reminded me of how people described NYC in the 80s.  Upon entrance, we walked through metal detectors and then checked our bags.  The people jammed the dance floor and I thought for a work night it was surprisingly packed at 11:30 pm.

Apparently, the place just started heating up.  Locals go to a leisurely dinner right from work and then head to the clubs.  Men were dressed in business attire sans jacket but did sport the loosened tie look.  The women wore fancy tops, dresses and 5 inch heels.  Everyone seemed to be dancing on the bottom floor, while the upper floors catered to people with table/bottle service.  There were tons of small groups socializing and drinking Champagne.  I don’t think Argentinians even need booze to dance the salsa and tango.  These locals CAN work it.  It’s not about pump and grind American style dancing either it’s all about hips, moves and smooth lines.  The party seemed to last all night but when William (my classmate) got wasted and I attempted babysitting it was time to leave at 2 am.   Ahh the life of a Portero(local Argentinean).

I finally started my “for beginners” tango lessons and I’m having a total blast.  It’s definitely much harder than it looks and being comfortable with my partner is an advantage.  I’ve had two group lessons and one private.  Frankly, it has taken me that long to master six steps.  Every now and then I have to bust out laughing especially when my teacher waves her finger at me saying, “WOMEN DO NOT LEAD–NO MUJERES.”  I tried explaining to her that I am aggressive and like to lead in Spanish and yep she thinks I am nuts.  When I am with beginner dancers like myself, I definitely start pushing them around.  I can’t help it.  A few times I have danced with William and I push him but it’s OK because that usually means he will step on me and the instructor will come yelling.  After four hours, we finally got a “mejor” from the drill sargent.

The tango is a very sensual dance.  I am twisting and turning in between my partner Pablo’s legs and half the time, he spends untwisting me.  I learned a hook the other night and it was great fun.  My biggest hurdle is trying to convince myself to just slide.  It wouldn’t hurt if I had a bit more flexibility which leads me to my biggest problem.  In Spanish, flexion means to BEND not to stretch. Note to self: When the instructor says hook that means bend, when he says flexion that means bend, when he says estira that means flex.  Ugh!  There are too many things to remember.  Since I envision myself sticking with the tango and getting much better, I am going to invest in a darling pair of tango shoes.  I will be dancing the tango in some old-fashioned roaring 20s type of place with my swanky shoes and fancy dress before I leave Argentina.  If that takes two years, then I guess I’ll have to stay.  It’s OK Joyce. Don’t panic.  It’s only a 14-hour flight from Chicago.  Dancing the tango is also great exercise. My glute muscles killed on Saturday.  I’m sure it has something to do with stretching my legs in positions they don’t usually go.

Despite being a bit sore from tango, I paid for the gym and intend to use it.  The classes don’t even start at my gym until 11 am, which I am realizing might be a good thing as I went to a movie Friday night and didn’t get home until 2:30 am.  Can you imagine going to a 1:15 am showing of your favorite movie?  It’s NOT normal (for me).  Anyway, I decided to take the noon kickboxing class.  I haven’t done a ton of cardio in the last few months so I was a bit nervous how my body would respond. Let’s just say in the first 30 seconds of the class with the song, Total Eclipse of the Heart, blaring more rapidly than I ever thought it could be played I was beginning to understand several things:  I probably should not have blown off the doctors appointment; if I took this class 3 days a week I too would be anorexic; I was the largest woman in the room; I really needed a towel because I was soaking wet; this might be my final day on earth.  Willing my body to move forward, I somehow finished the class.  It was worth it.  The cool-down routine was none other than the SALSA.  Here I could test out my steps.  I quickly moved to the back of the room so it would be easier to follow and then it became clear to me.  The entire room had unbelievable hip action.  I’m thinking maybe people in the US could benefit from learning the salsa and tango at birth rather than learning how to reach for the remote control.  OUCH!