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My husband and I , with our dog, Tate, moved to Buenos Aires, 8 years ago. Life has never been the same since ~ Back in the USA ... life is still not the same !
It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.
But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.
There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.
Alan Cohen
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
Groucho Marx
The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday in the Park in Buenos Aires

Today was one of those wonderful days, coming after many very hot days, a dry clear breezy day that was only about 79ºF or 26ºC.
We started out with the Pup, wandering in the direction of the parks but with no real destination in mind. Sundays are always slow and lazy for me and I like just letting things happen, rather than planning where and when and who etc. So this was a perfect day to amble along with my husband and the dog. We stayed in the shade and watched the dog sniff every blade of grass in every park , not to mention a few other dogs and a flower or two.




Crossing the street to the next park and the next lawn of good smelling ( to a pup anyway) grass and trees loaded with pink flowers and Jacarandas blooming again. When the wind blows the right way, it is lightly perfumed with the scent of flowers and cut grass. I had to control myself, to keep from just lying down on my back in the grass, eyes closed and just smelling and feeling the air and sun on me. It was one of those days.






Passing by the Embassy for Chile, seeing the half dozen cats or so , just on the other side of the gates, close enough to temp a Pup but safe. He would never dream of hurting them, he only knows that the first creature who slept with him and kept him company when we got him as a tiny baby was a cat that was gentle and sweet and only wanted to wash Pups face and snuggle up with him on a cold night. The two of them slept in the same bed, they were best of friends. And now Pup sees every cat as a potential new best friend.


Sadly, we have not met one yet that feels the same. So I pull him out of claws reach and we amble along our way.


There is a nice cafe on the corner of one of the big Avenues. There are tables and umbrellas and Pups are welcome. So we stopped for brunch. I had Revuelta Gramajo (scrambled eggs with french fries mixed in them) and a Bloody Mary and my husband had a Salad with Tuna and Capers and a glass of Argentine Malbec. Everyone ( except Pup) loved the food and the drinks. Bloody Marys are not common here and I was happy that it was pretty good ( a bit too salty but that did not stop me from drinking it all) .. the other place for the Best Bloody Mary in town (so far) is the Alvear Palace Hotel. The drink is excellent, we always sit in the corner on a cushy  sofa and people- watch in the Lobby Bar while people from all over the world wander by. There is nothing like it for people watching and sometimes having a good laugh ( which can happen easily with someone who enjoys the Alvear's Bloody Mary)
Cafe Rond Point 
http://www.rondpoint-cafe.com/


After lunch, we wandered more. Into the neighborhood where there are only private homes.
In my dreams, I win the lottery or  rob a bank or country and buy a house in this neighborhood. They are side by side, two and three story Spanish style, English, French, and a few Tudor style homes. Here and there you will see where something old was torn down and a new modern home is standing there, in all its shiny , new glory. Personally, I like the slightly scruffy, brick Georgian townhouse style or the gated stucco Spanish style. All have bougainvillea and hibiscus growing tall and in full bloom. I saw a few Hummingbirds today, all taking advantage of the sun and glorious flowers.






Pup got hungry, the husband got tired and so we wandered back towards home.
I will continue to look at the Real Estate websites and try to figure out how we can get to live back in that neighborhood, I know I will make a lousy bank robber so I guess we will have to do it the honest way.




   I sure could do a lot of decorating with a house like this .. the gardens alone and Pup did seem to admire the yards ! 
So far it has been a lovely Sunday in Buenos Aires~



Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Soft Night, A Full Moon and Beautiful Music

Tonight was one of those perfect nights that comes along once in a while. We decided that we needed ice cream, Pup needed a walk, so off we went in the direction of Volta. Volta is an ice cream shop. They are located all over town but our favorites are on Quintana and Ayacucho where we used to rent an apartment when we first arrived here and were always lost but found our way to that ice cream shop with no problem. It is like morphic resonance, if there is an ice cream shop around, my husband will find it.
It seemed like everyone in town was out taking a walk. Young couples, old couples, families, babies and grandparents, and of course, as always , the dogs.

We wandered back towards home, passing Cafe Biela, where the outdoor cafe was bustling and inside there were a few men visiting each other .. towards Pilar, where the bell tower shines white in the dark sky, after a cleaning and renovation, the blue tile work can be seen up there, it is so very beautiful, the oldest church in Buenos Aires.
http://www.buenostours.com/images/recoleta-sky.JPG

The artisans were closing up their booths from the days Feria, they will be back tomorrow morning, mate cups in hand, ready to charm and sell.

We heard the music first, strolling along , we noticed there were quite a few people ahead, standing , sitting on the ground, all around and the music.. so beautiful. And there they were, three young men, with their violins and bass, cases open for donations, amps behind them so you could hear the music perfectly and clearly .. and there was a bench, waiting for us to have a seat ! And so we did.

My husband, Pup and I must have sat there for an hour, listening to this lovely music, under the most fabulous Full Moon.. we saw someone we knew, she asked if we liked them and I said very much!

So she spoke to someone and gave me their info .. they will be in Palermo at a club next week and we will go see them.
I will buy their CD ..

Look at the website, you can listen to the music. http://awww.aqualactica.com/
Tell me if you like it as much as I do. Or maybe you need one of those fabulous full moons shining down on you while you listen... I don't know, you tell me.

La Paloma

There was a bird in the plant in the window box. She was just sitting there, looking very Zen Dove-like.
The bird left.
The bird came back, this time with tiny twigs.
I knew what this meant. A nest was being constructed in my plant . A baby dove was on the way.. or perhaps more!

One day a month or so ago, I discovered a sloppy nest in the plant and then there was an egg and then the egg disappeared and that was the end of that. We cleaned out the nest and watered the plant.

Now each day , the dove works on her nest with such quiet expertise, one would think this is all they do, but is it ?
Is this her first?
Nature just thumps me on the head sometimes and reminds me of how wonderful it all is !

She is a small perfect dove. Not as my son says , a pigeon, this is Paloma.
She and her mate ( who mostly just watches over the proceedings) are busy each day working on the nest.
Now she is just sitting there. I had to look them up .. the male will sit days and the mama nights and they don't move, unless it is to turn the Evil Eye on you for peeking out the shade to look at them.

I also read that if you scare them away, they might not return, leaving eggs and or even babies abandoned.
I don't think I could cope with that sort of burden on my conscience so the shade went down and we only peeked by looking through the tiniest of spaces between the shades.
It worked, I could see her or him, sitting calmly .. rain or shine. Of course, the poor things were there when we had an amazing summer storm, wind, rain, hail .. the window box is sheltered but the rain still came in and they were soaked. Rain beads up on the feathers, but that those two little eggs were warm and dry. I also read that doves heat up really hot and I was glad to know that those eggs were always warm and dry, I had already named the babies.
Paloma and Evita were the names. The eggs had this translucent pink glow to them, they were undoubtably Girls.
One day the mama flew away for the entire night and I was unable to sleep. Every few hours I would look out there, those 2 little eggs, cold and alone. I worried.. I took full responsibility for her flying away, I moved the shade. I was my fault, the fate of 2 little doves is on my head.
In the morning, my husband woke me up with the good news that mama or dad, was back on nest duty. Now I just had to worry that both eggs hatched.

On Valentines day, we had a baby !! well, A baby dove hatched. She was immediately named Valentina. She really didn't look ready to be out of an egg. But as the days went by, you could hear Mama Dove cooing ( they are "Mourning doves" , that sound is what they do when happy, content, ready to make babies or cooing to their babies) .. About a week later, Baby Valentina was being fed and sticking her head out to look around, wobbly but there she was ... with the tiniest bit of feathers ...Evita never hatched.
This past week, Valentina was left alone during the day and she started exploring the window box, checking out the other flowers, probably very impressed with my Green Thumb and hopefully not looking down at the distance that she could fall.
I did that for her and worried.

Yesterday, I looked out there and baby was nowhere in sight! I looked everywhere. Well, almost, but then I saw Mama Dove on a ledge on the building looking over here at the window. hmmm..
So I grabbed my husband, saying we must go to the garden and look for the baby ! and dashed down to the garden courtyard in the back of our building.
Pedro the Porter came with us, no doubt thinking these Americanos are totally bonkers.

And looking up, there she was , our brave little Valentina, sitting on a little piece of metal that held a pipe to the side of the building, next to the window box. She flew ! An hour or so later, she and Mama were gone.


I just read that doves return to their nests 4-5 times. I threw the nasty empty nest away but they are welcome to come back and do it again if they wish. Although I wish I could put out a flower pot just for nests.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Cook, The Blog and The Dog

Blogs and cooking and decorating. . I seem to have become obsessed with cooking blogs and when I am not copying down recipes , I am looking at decorating blogs and trying to figure out how to get my husband to go for the idea of painting all of our furniture white.
Or finding a house out in the countryside that is maybe one room with a loft bedroom and 10,000 acres or hectares of campo and I can have all white furniture there.
It is not about being in the country, it is about getting to paint all the furniture white.
Although, getting away now and then would be lovely.

We don't ever get away.
We have no car... that story is a tear-jerker.
The lovely car that took us from NY to Florida to Oregon , had to stay behind. We could not bring it to Buenos Aires with us and it broke my heart.

And now, I want to go somewhere and we would have to rent a car.
Then we would have to figure out how to read the road signs, not get killed on the notoriously slightly dangerous highways where no one pays the slightest bit of attention to speed limits, where buses and cars pass trucks all going at high speed and the accident/death rates here are scary high.

But this is the only way we can get away, you see, we have Pup.
I have no Pup sitter. Therefore, where we go, he goes.
This is not a bad thing ordinarily, but I am getting wanderlust big time and Pup can't fly or drive or take the ferry.
He enjoys a good car ride too ..






I know eventually someone will be suitable to stay here with the dog and we can go away for holidays or at least for a weekend. Or we will figure out the road signs and I will take a pill and sleep through the drive.
It takes hours to get anywhere here! This country is huge !!
Maybe Pup had better come with us, I would not be able to hurry home if he needed me. . I would be in the Andes or something, getting altitude sickness or down South looking at penguins or in Bariloche ..



So I have turned my attention to the apartment and decorating.
It helps that I am now in the middle of yet another plumbing adventure that They promise will be finished tomorrow.
Then walls will have to dry then be painted.
Maybe I will choose new colors, maybe I will just re-do the entire apartment? All white?
Or maybe I will just cook something tasty ..

The Saga of the Plumbers

I keep hoping this Saga will end soon. It seems to have been going on since the day I moved in.
Well, in a way, it has. We had all the plumbing redone when we had the apartment renovated. The electricity too.
So far , the lights continue to work, with the new fuse box, I am able to blow my hair dry and have light in the bathroom at the same time.. modern miracles do happen.
But that seems to be the last miracle we have been granted... because every week I find a new wet spot, a bit of mold, discover a new scent that should belong in a damp basement but no ! it is in my newly rebuilt and doomed, Linen closet.

It all started about a month after we moved in. This apartment is old. The building is 100 years old. There are many aspects of the apartment that we love and have kept, the really high ceilings and the ancient wood floors and all of those miles of molding.
But the kitchen and the bath had to be changed, I needed my modern conveniences , like being able to plug two things in at once, having a sink that could hold my monster sized American pots and pans and I needed to take those institutional looking tiles off the walls and have a nice color and some new floors.
Now is that asking too much? The bathroom got new fixtures, new lights, the things one needs in a bathroom but brand new and beautiful and dry.

Before



After








So imagine my surprise , coming into the newly finished kitchen one day and finding a waterfall where there were no waterfalls installed. Panicked calls to plumbers... investigations ... verdict : the lady upstairs, she is leaking.
It was fixed, then we waited weeks for the plaster to dry then the painter came and it looks like new again.
Imagine the thrills I got when I started noticing that my linen closet had the slight odor of an old basement .. damp. It is even easier to imagine the reaction I had when discovering mold growing on the wall in the linen closet.

Have we angered the Gods of Plumbing?

We have a safe in a wall. I removed the things from the safe and discovered that my passports and things smell slightly of damp .. they no longer have that Official scent to them, now they just smell Old and Damp.
How can I hand one to an official at the airport ? I can see it now, he will wrinkle his nose, hold it at arms length with a scowl, look at the photo, look at me and send me to the Matron with the rubber gloves.

I need a tiny clothesline, with tiny clothes pins, to hang our passports out to dry. I am afraid to put them in the dryer, imagine they might shrink.
The Official at the airport will smirk, ask me if I just returned from Lilliput, then send me to the Matron with the rubber gloves.

My husband remains calm about it , Pup is just happy to see someone new at the door. This dog has more plumber friends than most dogs have bones.
I have gone from irritated, to raging, to long -suffering. Next I will just slap something smelly on the wall and call an estate agent, I have had it.

But then I think, what if this is the way ALL the buildings are built ?

I should just get into the swing of things, I will change the decorating them, Moldy Venetian Villa is now the idea.
If the paint starts to peel, let it. I will add some frescoes to the ceilings, a few more candelabra and no one will see anything unusual. Yes, I can see it now.

Oh, there is the doorbell.
It is the plumber, we have a new leak in the wall.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spanish Lessons

After a year of the "total immersion" method of learning to speak Spanish or Castellano, we decided to get a teacher . Personally, I dreaded it a tiny bit, I was intimidated by the idea of being the clueless student with a teacher half my age, feeling completely stupid , just a total dope.

At the end of our first class, we asked if we can take two classes a week - this is Fun !
Not only was it Fun, but it all makes so much sense !
I have a good vocabulary, I know a lot of Big Words, I use them when I can, I like them ! But they are all in English.

Now I am reduced to three word sentences, a lot of mime and hand signals.
It is amazingly frustrating when you have SO much to say , most of it terribly witty but you don't know the words.

I love having my new notebook, my new pencils and new pens. I do my homework and study with my husband. He is a much better student than I. He studies every morning, I study the night before the class. He will be her star student, wait and see.

I was so pleased when I knew the answers on today's papers and thought how pathetically excited I was when she said "Muy bien".. if only I had been this good a student when I was a kid.

I might even speak Spanish already, but no, not with that teacher who took such delight in squeezing my mouth up and telling to to say "Ohhh" without sounding Southern. Not sound Southern? I lived in North Carolina !
I would sound British if I had a choice but so far, I could only manage Southern and be embarrassed in front of the class.
This teacher made up for all of that.... Muy Bien !

We enjoy taking our Spanish lessons, I can say Hello and Goodbye and Count to at least 100 and say my ABC's - soon I will get a Gold Star.
We love our professora, she is lovely , funny and helpful and she also teaches the British Ambassador. I would like to take our classes at his house but they have not invited us yet, so we stay in our own little casa and for an hour, my brain is turned into mush and I start babbling in French ... don't ask.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wandering

Wandering the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires is one of my favorite ways to spend a day, drifting from our busy avenue through parks full of flowering trees, huge statues, museum worthy sculptures and everywhere, birds , with a lot to say. On to the next park, vast lawns of grass, steps leading to fountains, down quiet streets with their own hidden gardens and parks.
From the noisy avenue to cobblestone streets, stone walls with bougainvillea hanging down to the sidewalks, colorful old homes with wrought iron balconies. On some of the balconies will be bird cages with colorful birds who sing with almost unnatural beauty and loudness.
I am often tempted to knock on a door and inquire as to what sort of bird is it and where can I get one , por favor?

We stop at a cafe almost every day that is close to our home, we enjoy the cafe doble y scones and almost as much as the food, we enjoy the charming people who wait on us. Both young and attractive, they have big welcoming smiles, the both love to help us with our Spanish, and even with my limited vocabulary, they still laugh at my jokes. I know, I know, they are also amazingly polite to crazy women who try to be goofy in Spanglish. Which is just another example of their very good manners.

After the cafe, we continue on down to the street that goes past the mansions and embassies. There are trees that look bigger than some apartment buildings, the root are immense, the flowers resemble pink and yellow lilies and hummingbirds fly around them in the evenings, sipping and darting.

The barrio of San Telmo is a favorite of mine, cobblestone streets and rows of homes with no windows in the front, only a large wooden door , the gardens are hidden within. Rows of brightly colored stucco homes with an occasional glimpse into a courtyard or just the sight of flowers spilling over a wall.


My mind wanders off into all the possibilities of what is behind those walls, how beautiful it is, cages of birds, flowers in pots everywhere, a lazy dog or cat lying in the sun.
I have to figure out a way to get inside one day and see if they live up to my imagination.
I think they will probably exceed it.

Over to Puerto Madero, where old warehouses are modern apartments and some are gutted and hold trendy nightclubs or restaurants where people dine with the lit up city outside the window and listen to wonderful music.
Where a fabulous hotel, within another ruin, hosts movie stars and offers a Tango show.
On the edge of it all, is the Ecological Reserve, where you can walk alongside the river, which is immense and brown and you feel like you are far from any city, traffic, insane taxi drivers and let the sun warm you and feel the tightness in your shoulders loosen and fall away.
In the distance, you can see the city, tall skyscrapers, glass towers, it looks like the Emerald City.

Music anyone?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HeUslLsdO0

Just so you don't think that good old fashioned Tango music is all we listen to ~

Tango





Whenever anyone would ask where we were moving to, we would tell them Buenos Aires, Argentina .. and the next question would be, Do you Tango?
No, we don't. My husband would love to. He has been known to sweep me into a Tango-ish dance around the room, when no one is looking. I know he would enjoy dancing a real Tango with someone who knew how to do it the right way.
I always end up giggling and stumbling over his feet or my feet or Pup's feet, since he thinks this looks fun and he will join the party.
We have friends who fly to Buenos Aires from New York every few months and the main focus of their trips, is Tango.
They are so very good. It is always a pleasure to watch them.

So how lucky were we that they invited us to go with them one night to a Milonga? A milonga is where people go to dance Tango. Most of these people live in Buenos Aires and have known each other for years and go to the same milongas every night for years. It was a thrill for us to gt to go with them. Better than any movie.

People of all ages, shapes and sizes, wearing all sorts of outfits and dancing this wonderful dance.
I especially enjoyed the older couples, who might be in their 80's, but on the dance floor, they are once again, young and supple and graceful - always graceful.
I love the way the woman slowly, so slowly, places her arm around her partners shoulder , then closes her eyes, he stands there a minute, then they move, perfectly, light on their feet, swaying, turning, intricate steps, turning, bodies inches apart, heads held just so, touching hands, feet moving , all to this wonderful music.

They stay and dance until 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, some leave when the sun is up. They go to breakfast with friends.
I fear that I would embarrass myself and my husband by falling asleep before anyone else, right there in the milonga.
But , maybe not if I dance, that might be what is keeping them young... and awake.
But for now, I listen to the music and have wonderful graceful Tangos with my husband, in my daydreams... he will be so happy to know how well we Tango together.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Don't Look Back !



Who knew that Pup would be the one and only Standard Poodle ( Grande Caniche) in Buenos Aires?
Who knew that people would stop us every block to ask , what breed of dog he was.. when he runs around the parks, tourists take photos of him .. hmmm, back where they live, they will be telling their friends of this strange Argentine dog that they saw, they have photos, everyone has photos!
Luckily, he is quite used to having his picture taken and will even sit and smile for you. Personally, I have the feeling he is really a little person in a dog suit.

When we moved here, we knew we had to find a groomer. Poodles don't have fur, they have hair and it grows. So a good hair cutter is as important for him as it is for me. We went through a few bad haircuts, yes, even pups can have bad hair days, but then a lady stopped me on the street and told me to see Hugo. He is an expert at grooming the caniche.
We were there the next day. So now Pup looks presentable , which might be the reason some dogs are strangely attracted to him, he just looks so good.

We walked to the Park today, he loves sniffing every inch of his park, I wander along with him or just relax on a bench and let him have a good time.
Today I was standing there, enjoying the fresh ( if a bit wet) air , the flowers blooming in the trees, when I glanced down at my leg. It was covered in mosquitoes!
I started swatting at them, dancing around, making strange squeaky noises... the nice man who earns change helping people park their cars, walked over to me, realized what was wrong and said "mosquitoes" ... Yes, mosquitoes, eating me alive.
He looked like he might have wanted to help swat them off my legs so I thanked him and walked towards the dog, who had met another little dog, doing my strange little dance, swatting my legs.
I think I broke a blood vessel in my finger, swatting too hard.
My finger is now twice the size of the others and an alarming purple color.

Of course, Pup was terribly excited by all the hopping and squeaking so he tried to do one of his Death Dashes into traffic.. I knew he would try it, he had that Look on his face.
So I grabbed him and we ran home... I am sure we were followed by a large cloud of mosquitoes, but I didn't dare look back... I told Pup, Don't look back, whatever you do, Don't look back !!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

No matter where in the world we have lived or visited, one of our favorite pastimes is going to the Cinema. We have gone to see movies in London and Paris, in every state we have lived in and of course, here in our new home in Buenos Aires.

My husband always loved the fact that in NYC, there were so many fantastic movie theatres just a few blocks from our apartment. We could see Foreign film festivals, old movies, new movies, we saw City Lights at the Carnegie Hall Cinema, with lunch after, at the Russian Tea Room. When we had two small children and no babysitter, we discovered Drive-In theatres in New Jersey.
My children seem to have survived serious mental harm by sleeping through Jaws and a few horror movies. What did we know, we were kids ourselves? I grew up in North Carolina, drive-in movies were a part of life. Although I was warned by my dad when I started dating ... Stay away from the Drive-In . It was a while before I was allowed to go to one on a date, my dad was no dummy.

Imagine my delight when living in Los Angeles, I had friends, bosses and an occasional date with someone who made a movie or knew someone who made a movie, so I got to go to Screenings !
Woodstock was my first screening. Little did I know that just months after seeing that movie, that I would be living in New York City !

So here we are in Argentina. I had high hopes that there would be at least one cinema where we could see English language films.
That we bought a home just a matter of blocks from a huge cinema complex was icing on the cake!
Winter days we would run out for the afternoon movie, sitting in the big cushy seats, eating M&M peanuts and spending two hours lost in another time, another place. Walking home giving each other our critiques of the film, the actors, the directing..

They tore down our movie complex.
They say the new one will be better than ever. I have my worries about that, it needed no improvement.
So we have to go a little farther but we still manage a movie a week, most weeks and we still walk home playing our version of "Siskel and Eibert ".

When heading to the cinema at Patio Bullrich, remember, you can shop and have lunch too .. perfect for rainy/winter days.
http://www.atlascines.com.ar/

The cinema at Alto Palermo is huge, well taken care of and we saw Avatar 3D here. I still wish I had gotten a photo of the people in the audience.. all those little faces, turned up at the screen, all wearing their black framed '50s looking glasses..

http://www.cinemark.com.ar/complejodetalle.php?idcomplejo=4

Saturday, February 20, 2010

So, what's it like, living in Buenos Aires ?

Friends often ask, what our lives are like, living in Buenos Aries ?
Depending on how the day went, the answer varies.
We are feeling more integrated each day, learning the language helps immensely .. just think of all the good jokes I am missing.
Not to mention the vague worry at times that someone might be warning me of an impending disaster and I will smile and thank them and then go on my merry way.
Not speaking the language has not really stopped us though - we walk everywhere and chat with people we see .. < I will talk to a tree and get it to answer > so we enjoy our wandering and discovering.
Tiny accomplishments for most people, are major breakthroughs for us, considering the way things are done here .. perhaps old fashioned, perhaps just not the way they do them elsewhere.. plus language difficulties... some days are quite fulfilling and some are just plain exhausting.

But then I see someone familiar on the street and they give me a big wave and "Hola!" and I realize it is someone from the pharmacy or dry cleaners or a neighbor and I feel like I am at home ... or at least not invisible. Today we gave an American lady from New York directions, that was nice, we spoke the language.

Just about every day we go to the market. Either the supermercado or the small produce markets on our street. The young man in one of the markets, like to practice his English on us.
We are each good ambassadors for our countries and his partner just stands there patiently waiting for me to remember the word for zucchini. I think of one because it starts with a Z but no, that means carrots , of course, as I walk in the door of our apartment, I remember the right word. But in the meantime, he has not given me a look of disgust, impatience or suffering and waits until I figure things out myself.

He will never know how much that means to us, how much it must mean to anyone trying to speak a language that is not their own. We have had a teacher for the past months and now, I think that these patient smiling people don't realize what is in store for them, when I can finally talk their ears off in their own language.

Going to the market is much what I pictured if we had gone to live in France or Italy, going from small market to market, pointing out what we want and some person finding the perfect one and putting it in the bag, weighing it and waiting for our next choice.
We definitely eat much fresher food because of this .. When we first arrived and I walked through the supermarket, it was both daunting and exciting. Look at this ! they carry Peanut Butter but then not being able to read labels, I worried that we would end up eating the most basic foods for fear of ending up eating lard, pigs feet or chicken brains...who knew what that long list of ingredients said? So if I didn't recognize it, I didn't buy it.
Now I read much more Spanish and so far, no chicken brains have passed our lips. Just one of the many things I am thankful for, that we never expected to even have to consider.

I told my friend that I speak Menu. It is true. When you arrive in a new country, that is the first thing you must learn- how to order something to eat.
I don't have to use the English menu anymore and I must admit this thrills me to bits... and it only took about a year.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Music

No matter where you go in Buenos Aires, there will most likely be music playing.
Stores often have music with English lyrics, some familiar, some not but almost always, enjoyable.
I have been in stores where the music was so good, I stayed longer ... just to listen.
Every once in a while, a store will have some fantastic Spanish music playing and I want to ask someone , Who is singing? What is the name of the CD? But I am reluctant to ask in my version of Spanish, the opportunity passes.

Walking down the street, passing a store, Tango music drifts out. My husband and grabs me and pretends he will sweep me into a Tango, I push him away, laughing, blushing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zD9W9SZj9w

Stuck in traffic in a taxi, no air-conditioning on a hot afternoon, all windows open, radio on .. I recognize the music, Linda Ronstadt ! Canciones de me Padre ? Good Mexican music in a taxi in Buenos Aires.
I try not to sing along too loudly, just in case my voice is not music to the taxi drivers ears.

Restaurants can be counted on for some good music. A Pizza restaurant hat plays Rock music so loud, it feels more like we wandered into a disco that serves pizza. But I catch myself, eating pizza, bouncing to the beat, feet tapping, any minute now I will be dancing next to the table.
And the restaurant in San Telmo, where I love the opera arias that we were listening to, when suddenly, I realized, that man is actually singing. An opera singer, strolling through the restaurant, singing, wonderful.

Walking in the park with Pup, there are days that I feel like I am in a movie .. "Home" never looks like this, trees never looked like that , statues and flowers and fountains, I must be in a movie, all I need is the soundtrack.

It is there, in the back of my mind.
Some days it is closer to Tango , other days it reminds me of a Wong Kar-Wai film .. waltzing slowly through the park, past the giant plane trees, leaves drifting down, no one there but my husband and I and the music.

Standing on the street on a windy day, my hair blows into my face, the cars, buses and trucks fly past, there is a song that goes with this ... Waiting at the light, watching as it changes to green, everyone is coming towards me , almost in step, is there a rhythm to it ?
I think I can hear the music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0tMmsUEGOY

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Musings

Several things happened today that made me think of this or that.. I find myself sitting on a bench in the park, watching Pup and musing. Today it was about Starbucks and Popcorn. Yes, that's right.

Another new Starbucks coffee shop has opened in Buenos Aires.
You would think we were all going straight to hell, according to those ( mostly from outside of Argentina) who feel that nothing should taint the Argentine cafe culture, while the Argentines are standing in lines and happily drinking their mocha lattes and munching their low fat muffins.
I longed for a cup of Starbucks when we first arrived here. The coffee here was so strong! No amount of milk and sugar made any difference and the milk was usually steamed which only made things worse for me. Just to show how a person can get used to anything, I now enjoy a cafe doble with my leche frio aparte and drink some black brew every morning with only two sugars in it.
I think I am turning Argentine!

For as long as I can remember, my husband and I have had popcorn with Peanut M&M's when we go to the movies. I find it vaguely uncomfortable , to sit in a theatre and not have my hand stuck in a bag of popcorn, sharing our coke, going home salt-laden and slightly nauseous, some traditions just have to be continued.

So here we are, in Buenos Aires. We manage to buy tickets to the cinema, no small feat. First you have to know the Spanish title to the movie, which is often nothing like the English title. Then you have to ask for tickets and hope they figure out what you are saying, while that long line behind you is all ears and you find yourself speaking softer and softer .. a quick look over at the line of people and you see they are leaning, closer and closer.

After you manage to ask for the correct movie, then you have to choose the seats. This could be a nightmare for me, as I really have to be close to the aisle, so I won't have a panic attack and back far enough that I won't go blind. Going to the movies used to be so carefree, without difficulties.

The next obstacle... the Concession Stand.
Now, you can do it one of two ways. You can point at everything and grunt or you can learn the names of the important items. That would be Popcorn con Sal , no dulce , sweet popcorn? No gracias. I have my M&M's con mani (peanuts). Una Coka , easy breezy.
We walk into the empty theatre with our little tickets that have our seat numbers on them and find our seats, settle down and enjoy our pre-movie snack. Here comes another couple, that makes four people in the huge theatre, they have their tickets, they are checking the seat numbers, they find them, they sit down.
This goes on until the movie starts, everyone has found their very own seat, according to their tickets and the movie is about to begin.

Oh, a straggler, he can't see , the theatre is dark, it is also almost empty. But he will struggle along, peering at the floor where the numbers are, trying to find his assigned seat. Every time we see this, we chuckle. We would just walk in and sit down. But no, these people are polite and they follow the rules. They sit in their seat and not in any other.
After three years of going to the cinema here, we have discovered, we do the same thing now. We might be turning Argentine.

I think I am learning more Spanish from the subtitles and commercials.
Pretty soon I will be having conversations with people at parties, teling them how my dishes shine since I began to use Cif and that Brasso also works wonders on glass. I will be the talk of the town.

Speaking of Spanish... which I dream I speak but when I wake up, I find I am just having more trouble speaking English. We have a teacher, she comes to the apartment, soon we will know how to have real conversations with everyone. I have great hopes for this, I want to sound like a Local. I speak menu fairly well, but I want to actually make a joke and have them laugh- without miming.
I have become an accomplished Mime since moving here.
How else do I get my point across ? Ask for the right dog food, explain things to the plumber ?
If times get hard, I might find it comes in handy ... a sheet and some white make-up and Pup... I can be Mime with Dog.

Why Buenos Aires?

You might be asking yourself, Why did they move to Buenos Aires?
What made them pack up their belongings and the dog and go somewhere that they had only been to for two weeks?
And you might also wonder, how did they do it all, not even speaking Spanish?

We lived in the Northeast US , we sold our home and decided one night over dinner, that it might be fun to just move to an entirely different place. The kids are grown and gone from home, Pup was all up for a car ride, the only thing we had to decide was Where?

After a visit to our daughter in Northern Florida, we decided to buy a house there and enjoy year round good weather.
So on a January day , when it was 7º F outside, the three of us got into the car and said goodbye to snow and drove to Florida.
Our love affair with Florida turned out to be just a fling, there was no way we were going to love a place that made us run to the bathroom to cower with the dog in the bathtub while the tornado warnings were blaring on the radio. There was no way I could love a place that had 5 hurricanes in one summer . And who could enjoy that big backyard when there were clouds of mosquitoes waiting to attack ?

That was when we decided to go visit Portland, Oregon.
They don't have hurricanes. We went in August. One of the two best months in the year.
We fell in love with Portland, the people, the place , the cool nights and wait a minute ~ No mosquitoes !!
We flew back home, put the house on the market, sold it, packed up Pup and the Stuff and drove across the country to our new home in Oregon.

We arrived in September, the other best month of the year. It was like a honeymoon. Sunshine, dry and comfortable, friendly people, dog parks, coffee .. lots of coffee.
By February , my husband was looking a little glum, the dog was looking a little damp and I was wondering ... Where in Europe is there a city that has not too much rain, not too much snow, not too much heat and no mosquitoes.

Every time we read the papers or a magazine, which was every day.. rainy days- books , you know.. what else is there to do? Buenos Aires was mentioned. My husband started to get interested, maybe we should take a trip, see what it is like...

So we flew to Buenos Aires at the end of October. On November 6th , we celebrated our anniversary ( we have been married 100 years now) and fell in love with Buenos Aires .
We met a lovely man who was a realtor , he took us around one day to see a selection of what you can get for X amount of dollars.

Then we went home and said to each other.. we will think about it. No rushing into this.
We can't keep doing this and it will be so much more complicated. And we will have to sell the car.
That almost made me say Forget it ! I loved that car. Pup loved that car. H drove it across the country , Florida to Oregon in five days and that little car said , What ? That's it ? Let's go for a real drive !
Now I had to think about saying goodbye to my little car?

Five months later, after going through the trauma of saying goodbye to the car, mucho dollars for paperwork that had to be translated, stamped, notarized and stamped again, then a day flying to Los Angeles to the Argentine Embassy to get our Visas ... we left the United States, with Pup, at the end of April, headed to our new home in Buenos Aires.

And that was only the beginning ~

In the Park with Pup




There are trees in the park near our home. Oddly shaped, very tall and very different leaves or needles on them. They are beautiful yet odd South American things, imported from Mars.I need to get a book on the trees and flowers of Argentina . I am always marveling at the color, size or beauty of a flower or tree and I have no way of finding out more about them. No point , at all, in asking someone in the park at the time. Even I know my limits with subjects that I can discuss in Spanish with strangers.I have done this enough times to expect the surprise on their faces, followed by the look of sympathy as they ease themselves away and leave me there, wondering what was it I said incorrectly or worse, what did I say instead of what I meant to say?
These trees are mixed among the magnolias and jacarandas and all sorts of vaguely familiar trees. They are home to parrots and birds, some familiar, some totally different. I like the flocks of bright green parrots that fly around, little squadrons of green making all sorts of noise, squawking and yelling at each other and anyone else near by.I love seeing where someone has thrown down bird seed or bread and there will be a little crowd of pigeons, doves, sparrows and parrots.All happy together, peaceful little kingdom, if you don't count the squawking.
Today in the park with Pup, under one of the huge Ombu trees, a sight that cheered both Pup and I . Two horses and their riders. Mounted policeman.The mounted police here are very handsome, it might be a requirement.. they look like the belong in a movie rather than cooling off in the shade in the park on my street. But I am perfectly content with having them there, as is Pup.Pup is as much in love with horses as I am. They usually like him , or they are just as curious about this whimpering with happiness bundle of curls, who just wants to bump noses with them. They quietly munch on the grass, nap in the shade and there is Pup, all wiggles and wanting to dash straight at them for hellos.I am afraid he will get kicked in the head, so I tell him no.So he just stands there at a distance and wags his tail frantically and smiles. Today he invited a horse to chase him.You know how dogs do that to each other? tail in the air, head down, mad dash away, then back.The horses ignored him. The policemen thought he was funny.I imagine I will have to make this up to him in some way. Maybe we will go out to our friends campo for the weekend, they have 10 horses.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Summer in Buenos Aires

This is our 3rd Summer in Buenos Aires. Each one has been totally different. I am not loving this one as much as those in the past, but I have hope next year will be quite different.. perhaps cooler and drier. That would be nice.

Our first Summer here, there was a drought. A drought can be terrible, lakes dry up, crops die, but there are no mosquitoes. We had fires out in the countryside which meant there was a "smoke condition" in the city. We were trying to get our Visa work done, sitting in the US Embassy with the rooms full of smoke, eyes watering, riding in the taxi through a town that seemed fogged in, but it was smoke. I have never seen anything like it.
Hopefully, we won't again.
Last summer was just great, never too hot and not too wet then it was over.
This summer has lasted about 4 years now and I think it will never be over. It started out very hot and has not really cooled off much. And we had a lot of rain, so the mosquitoes are very happy.

Pup and I prefer to sit here in this room, looking out the french doors at the people and imagining how nice it will be when it is autumn and the air is cool and crisp and you can smell the wood burning ovens .. ahhh ... fall.
I am ready for it.

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Expat blogger

living in Argentina