Sunday, October 28, 2007
At the time, I was thinking the man in the photo above was the first dead person I have seen in public. We just don't run across a lot of accidents on a daily basis in Texas. In a big city like this, I have a feeling it is a different story.
It all started around 11:00pm on Friday night. I was busy polishing my pictures from my hike earlier in the the day with Tom. I heard an ambulance pull up and stop right in front of our apartment. The loud siren came to a screeching halt right below us.
In this city you get used to hearing a lot of sirens. Like every few seconds. I was in my zone so it didn't click at first. Then ten minutes later, I heard another ambulance come to a screeching halt right below us. At that point, I figure I better go check it out. What if our building was on fire?
Well I went out on the balcony to see what the commotion was about. When I looked over the edge, I freaked out. Right there in front of me, right below my apartment... there it was! A DEAD BODY.
I saw the dead body flayed across the curb with blood on the sidewalk. And hovering right over him was what looked like a TV news camera crew.
I ran back inside straight to my wife with my hand over my mouth with a look of horror on my face. She said, "Oh my god what is it? Your face is white as a sheet."
I couldn't move. I kept saying, "Oh my god! Oh my god!" I finally blurted out that there was a dead body right below our apartment. "He must of been hit crossing the street!", I shouted.
We both went back out on the balcony to see what was going on. Only instead of seeing the scene you see above, with the dead body flayed on the sidewalk, the dead man was up walking around shaking hands with the "news crew" and other people standing around.
After closer examination, it was pretty clear it was not a news crew, but a film crew. They were filming a movie.
I felt like a cruel joke had been played on me. Only worse, because they spent the next four hours taking over 50 takes of the loud ambulance coming to a screeching halt right below me.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
We started near River Plate's Stadium (Ground zero for some fútbol fans here). We then went along the river and crossed along the Jorge Newberry Airport and into the Belgrano Parks. We saw quite a bit of Wildlife.
Some younger than others...
Then we finished up in the Palermo Parks near Plaza Italia.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Fellow Quaffer, Alan Patrick (he's actually the chairman) conducts a great walking tour of Buenos Aires. The tour hits all of the famous, must-see historical landmarks in the city center. He calls it The Buenos Aires 101 Tour. If you take just one walking tour in Buenos Aires, this is the tour.
I highly recommend Allen. He's very knowledgeable and a hell of a nice guy even though he is from Slough. If you pay him a few pesos extra he just might give you a tour of places to kill a few pints of the city's best beer. Given that BsAS is not known for beer, it would be well worth the extra plata.
Over the next couple of posts, I thought I would share with you some of the highlights of Alan's tour. This stop: Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral.
Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral is the most important church in all of Argentina. It houses the tomb of General José de San Martín (seen above). The outside of the church is nothing to write home about, but the inside is filled with beautiful santos and relics.
The Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral is at one end of Plaza de Mayo. If you ever make it Buenos Aires, put this church on your must-see list. You will be glad you did. Better yet, take Alan's tour.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
A number of the plazas and parks have these tall trees with branches that twist and curve. These trees remind me of the Live Oaks from central Texas. Not sure what they are called, but they give the parks and plazas a wonderful romantic feel.
I also like the Ombú tree. There are quite a number of these large Banyan-like trees around the city. I believe they are native to the Pampas of South America. Buenos Aires Daily has a nice post about the one in Plaza Congreso
Although, I think the one in front of Le Biela cafe in the Recoleta rivals the one in Congreso as the biggest tree in the city.
Unlike the first trees above, it's the roots of this tree that twist and curve in a sinister like fashion straight out of horror story. Notice the hand-like root in the lower left. It's just waiting to pluck an innocent child into its bough.
That should put you in the Halloween spirit.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Had My First Mate
It is a true right of passage for an expat here to be offered mate. Mate is a big deal. You see porteños erverywhere in the parks and plazas with their mate gourd and thermoses of hot water.
The hot beverage is passed around similar to how the bong used to get passed around at the frat house. I think it started as a gaucho cowboy thing but is enjoyed by city folk of all walks of life. In fact, our local Jumbo store has a whole isle dedicated the "Yerba Mate" (mate weed).
The taste? A lot like drinking a cigarette mixed with green tea. It's very bitter, but after a few sips it starts to mellow out.
Kissed My First Man
Greetings and goodbyes are not done lightly in Argentina. A simple wave and "Bye, it was nice to meet you" won't do. You have to get in and close the deal with a simple kiss on the cheek.
In a place like Buenos Aires with all these beautiful women, this custom can be a very good thing indeed. Unfortunately, it is not restricted to us guys greeting women. Regular guys also kiss each other when greeting or saying farewell. Up till now, I have been restricting this custom to the opposite sex (despite what Diva says).
Well, the other day on one of my Flickr outings, we were all saying goodbye and there was no avoiding it. One of other guys shook my hand and then pulled me in before I knew what was happening.
After one guy did it, I would of offended the others if I refused their pecks too. So there I was kissing a group full of guys goodbye. Oh well, at least I held out for a month on this one.
Stepped in My First Pile of Dog Shit
Buenos Aires is a Dog city. Everyone has dogs. Big dogs. Big dogs have big droppings. And no one seems to mind their dog's by-products littering the city sidewalks. You have to be very careful navigating this city by foot, keeping one eye on the sidewalk at all times. The other day I stepped off the curb and felt a slight squishing give way under my foot.
I guess this means the honeymoon is over.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
We love Belgrano. These apartments overlook the park and the train station. We were in the red one today. The view was incredible. You can see the river and across to Uruguay.
Most streets are lined with trees and are very peaceful.
A paseo in an old building in Chinatown.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Everyone keeps screaming for more pics. I admit I've been lax a bout taking the camera out and about. Today I arrived at my Spanish lesson and discovered my camera still in my bag. I've always wanted to capture the Iglesia Guadalupe. It is right across the street from my Spanish lesson.
I really like the view from the rear of the two spires. Unfortunately because it was cloudy, this shot came out kind of dull without the beautiful blue sky that normally is the backdrop. Converting to B/W helped a little.
And one more bonus pic:
It certainly seems like home because I watch TV from Texas, chat with all my friends from Texas, read the local news form Texas and listen to music from Texas. Life without Lyle Lovett and Stevie Ray Vaughn? No way.
It is only when I step outside that it is obvious that I'm in a big, thriving, foreign capitol halfway around the world. Oh, and the fact that I can't find Tex-Mex food.... hell any spicy food here, but that is another post.
The reason? Modern technology and the internet has made it almost impossible for an expat to miss home. The following is a list of my favorite gadgets no expat should be without.
With Skype, I pay $60/year for a Skype-in phone number. It is a local 817 number for my friends back home to call and it costs them nothing. The call is routed over the internet to my apartment here in Buenos Aires. Now anytime any of my relatives needs to borrow money, they just pick up the phone and call me... just like before and it doesn't cost them anything.
I also have Skype-out which allows me to call out to any number in the US ( or the whole world) for just 2.1 cents a minute. Both Skype-in and Skype-Out are invaluable if you have a teenage girl. Teenage girls normally don't like being uprooted from all their friends and moved halfway around the world.
Some people don't like Skype because they are uncomfortable talking into their computer. Depending on your computer setup, you may have trouble with the mic or sound quality. Skype phones eliminate all that and give you something you are use to talking into.
We have the Netgear Duel Mode phone system with three extensions. The phones work and sound great. It is not the most stylish system though. There is also a great dual mode system from Philips. I'd look into that one over the Netgear.
With the Netgear, there is a small base unit that plugs into our internet router and also has a jack for our land line phone connection. The three extension phones all connect wirelessly to the base unit so we can put them anywhere we want in the apartment.
We receive and make Skype calls as well as regular local calls over the phones and the quality is no different than a regular phone. Pretty cool stuff according to my daughter who is constantly on the thing talking to her pals back home in Texas. Just like at home.
Last weekend, I kept walking around the house mumbling, "College Football. Must have College Football." - I admit, the closer it came to Texas-OU weekend the more I started questioning this whole Argentina move. There was nowhere in this town to get my college football fix. I guy with a name like "Longhorn Dave" can't go without watching the Texas-OU game. It just isn't allowed.
We'll as it turned out, I have some really great friends back home that surprised me by buying me a Slingbox to hook up to their cable TV so I could watch all the games I wanted from back home. They bought it Friday before the big game and we had it up and running Sat morning with plenty of time to catch all the great pre-game shows.
Slingbox is now my favorite expat gadget. I get to watch all of my cable channels from back home anytime I want on my computer and it is pretty good reception too. We watch the 10:00 news, our favorite shows and of course all the football and baseball we want.
No matter where I go, I always have my favorite Texas music by my side. Lyle Lovett, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Tish Hinojosa, Spoon and all the other great Texas artists go with me no matter where I go.
There is nothing like music to transport you back to a place. You often will hear some great Texas music blaring from our apartment. Not that my new favorites like Tanghetto and Gotan Project don't get equal billing.
Now if they would just invent a gadget that could send the Green Chili Enchiladas from Uncle Julio's over the internet I'd be really at home here.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Man, Starbucks comes to town and now everyone can talk of nothing but coffee. It seems that every expat blog in town has been heralding Starbucks' arrival and/or predicting their demise here in Buenos Aires.
The event has inspired introspection on what the coffee culture means here. There was even a lengthy discussion on the sorry state of coffee found in the supermarkets to make at home on the BA Newcomers Yahoo group. Ironic given how passionate porteños are about their café.
Frank summed up the coffee situation here the best in his post. And of course, Yankimike was quick to weigh in with his thoughts in another good post.
For me, I am proud to say I just don't care that Starbucks is coming to town. You see, I'm a recovering Starbucks addict. Yes, I was a Triple, Vente, Non-Fat, No-Foam, One-Splenda Latte addict. I could not function unless I had at least one every day. I admit it. It was wrong and I have moved on.
In prepping for my move to Argentina, I tried ordering a machiato or a douple shot of espresso knowing that was the main way coffee was offered here. Boy is the espresso nasty at Starbucks. I couldn't drink the stuff. I thought I was in for trouble down here if that is what I had to drink everyday to get my fix.
Once I arrived, I was surprised to learn how great coffee (espresso) should taste. The corner cafe has broken me of my Starbucks addiction and shone me the true light.
For a recent post, Yankimike asked me to provide a picture of what I used to make my cofee at home, I sent him the pic of the empty espresso cup above.
I had to explain to him that I didn't have anything to make coffee at home. Why would you make the crap they offer at the supermarket when I can go to the corner and have bliss in a cup? Besides, as any Argentine will tell you (and expats like Maya), "café" is not about the coffee as much as it is the experience of hanging out in the café.
Thank you Argentina for showing me what true coffee is. Anyone else out there need a 12-step program for ex-Starbucks addicts?
Friday, October 5, 2007
My wife and I have decided we want to move to Belgrano. With the speculation and resulting run up in apartment prices, we think we are going to forgo buying for now. Especially considering our place in Texas has not sold yet.
Instead, we are are going to rent our house in Texas and turn around and put the money down on rent in this beautiful tree lined barrio on Buenos Aires northern end.
Here are a few pics from there that I took this week.
Belgrano's main advantage is it is much closer to our kids' school yet still in the city. From Belgrano it is easy to catch the subway, train, or taxi to any attraction in the city. For our kids, it should cut back on her morning commute to school. We can even take a cheap cab to get her to school. The hired remis (car service) was $30 pesos (US$10) each way.
Belgrano is totally different than the rest of the city. Many areas feature houses with Anglo-Saxon designs mixed with modern high rise apartment buildings. The apartment buildings are spread apart and are not side-by-side, offering a lot of light from all four sides.
The streets are picturesque tree-lined avenues that are very tranquil. Quite the opposite of where we live know.
Belgrano even contains the city's Chinatown. The chinese food here is good and has the spice we crave. And Las Cañitas is in walking distance. It is an area of town with over 100 restaurants. What more could we ask for!
Hope to share more pics soon. In the mean time, check out some more Belgrano pics from Buenos Aires Dialy: here, here and here.