Dec 25, 2006

Photos from a Day In Dubai

Christmas eve day, we drove to Dubai early in the morning, passing wild camels on the side of the road. We toured a Mosque with a huge group of people, which turned out to be more a light intro to Islam. Our guide was carefully chosen for his rapport with non-muslims and disarmingly open attitude. He encouraged us to photograph anything we wanted in the Mosque, even himself praying. Of course, he glossed over some very important details in the culture and religion of Islam, but it was still very interesting.

Afterwards, we hit the Mall of the Emirates, the largest mall in the Middle East. We wandered around there for awhile, looking for trinkets and gismos we didn't really need, and after two hour of shopping, the only thing I wanted was a sweater from Zara. Then, to satisfy Tay's and my curiosity, we hit Ski Dubai for two hours of skiing.

This is not the only indoor ski resort in the world, just the one with the longest slope I believe. One can see the structure housing the slope rising out of mall from a long ways away, metal skin glinting in the sun. Price really isn't too bad. Two hours of skiing including skis/board, hemet, poles, ski pants and ski jacket is about $40. Everything is very streamlined and process-centric so we're able to get fitted for all our gear in less than 15 minutes. Almost as if we had joined a ski army. They gave us a card with a RFID tag which we used for everything from locking and unlocking lockers to boarding the ski lift.

Inside the "resort" it was very very cold. One is literally skiing in a refrigerator. Real snow on the ground, not very dry or powdery, but pretty standard sprayed snow. The place was pretty crowded but most people were taking the easier run. The ski slope was divided by the lift (yes, an actual ski lift, the shortest and slowest in the world, probably) with what I'd call a blue run on the left side and a green on the right. The total run length is maybe 200 yards long.

Surprisingly, there were some very good skiers and snowboarders who zoomed down the slope, dodging all the people who'd never skiied before, who must have finished the course in 30 seconds, where it took me maybe a minute to get down. Most of the skiiers there were terrible. Never been on skis or a snowboard before.

What was very bizzare was the total artificiality of it all. Taylor commented that it was a perfect symbol for Dubai. Everything is here, snow, a slope, even a very small lodge cafe in the middle of the run, but its not a mountain, and the wooden cafe was made of textured concrete.

Here are the pictures.

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Dec 24, 2006

Ski Dubai!

Went to Dubai today, to the Mall of the Emirates. Skiied for a few hours with Tay on the indoor slope. Merry Christmas.

Dec 23, 2006

400 posts, 2 years, 20 countries

This is my 400th posting to this blog, a small milestone. What do I want for christmas? 400 more posts, another two years, and 20 more countries.

In all seriousness, I am so fortunate, that I lack for nothing, especially in this consolidating time of my life. In fact, when I return to Tempe, I intend to halve my possessions once more like I halved them before I left.

It's an interestng predicament that very few face. What do you get for the person who has everything? Being in Argentina has made me realize that I can happy live on very few possessions. I had a very wise great grandfather who had a saying to the effect that a lot of life is realizing the difference between what you want and what you need.

The things I know I want and probably need are new experiances, new places, family, friends, music, and the means to express my abilities

There are, of course, key tools to achieve these aims. Camera, ipod, laptop, tickets, etc. All for the most part, I have in good working order. My camera is 4 megapixels and 3.5 years old, definately beat up, but still taking good pictures. My laptop is on its last legs, and nothing is making me drool more than a dual core processor. My ipod still works great and is keeping me tuned up and tuned in, and I'm going to Cairo in a few days.

No real point to this post, I'm just using to muse as to why I'm having such a hard time figuring out what I want for christsmas. So far, I have a charger for my ipod, a CD, and a book. I think I'll ask for scuba certfication to be my big christmas gift (apart from a trip to Egypt of course).

How does one define spoiledness? I grew up drinking good wines, and as a result, I can't enjoy the Franzia that is sometimes served at college dinner parties. I don't complain about it, I just politely accept it if it would be impolite to turn it down. Am I still spoiled? For me, spoiled has a a connotation of corruption. The tooth that has had too many sweets becomes rotten. I think spoiled would be to turn the wine down regardless, or to ask for something else, or complain about it. I've become used to, and addicted to, international travel. It is now an embedded expectation that I will travel. Am I used to living in a dream world, ultmately impossible to maintain? Absolutely. Am I spoiled? That remains to be seen when the dream comes to an end.

This post is turning way too self indulgent, so I will end it here.

Dec 21, 2006

Thursday night in Abu Dhabi

This evening, I took a walk outside, just to get a sense of the town. Last time I came here, I really felt disconnected from the city. Tonight, I wanted to hear what it had to say. It's really nice outside late at night- I went walking around 9 PM. I stumbled across a huge pedestrian greenbelt/walking path which ran parallel to the Corniche on the side of the ocean. The parks along this greenbelt were filled with locals enjoying themselves in the coolness of the evening. Families playing, kids running around, men talking and smoking hookahs, I even passed a skate park. In an underpass I passed through, there was a mural of an Arab boy playing with a hoop. Now, the kids here have MP3 players and rollerblades. There was a depiction of a woman with a leather face mask and the full length black robes. I passed a teenage girl with some friends of hers, wearing a black bra on the outside of her clothes. Oh the times, they are a' changing.

Theres a certain building in Abu Dhabi that I really liked when I first saw it. The building is formed by a single glazed wall which is folded twice in a compace Z shape. I walked to the entrance. It was a really cool building. Looked like Mies van Der Rohe's original ideas about glass towers. Its too bad that it was built incorrectly, and is currently sinking. There's office furnature in place in all the rooms, plastic still on, but no one is allowed inside due to the building's instability. Perhaps they'll figure out a fix later on.

Dec 20, 2006

Back in the 'Dhabi

Today I slept in pretty late and around noon we all took a cab out to the Emirates Palace and Hotel. There are countless pages describing this palace, including a blog post from my mom, so I will just add my own comments. It's definately overwhelming with its huge vaulted ceilings and gold leaf everywhere. The quality and quantity of the materials alone is staggering. There are 2 staff people to every visitor to the hotel. In the men's bathroom, an attendant turned the water on and off for me, and also placed a handtowell on my wet hands for me. We were also chased out of two spaces by staff wondering who the heck we were and where we thought we were going. We were however, escorted to the auditorium at our request, which was cool.

This evening, we went grocery shopping, and also the Marina Mall where I bought an additional bathing suit and two pairs of sandals. While we were there, mom and I pondered the lack of Starbucks in Buenos Aires and it brought up the case of McDonalds in Russia, which has had great success. Originally, she said, the quality of beef and vegitables in Russia was so low when McDonald's came in, that they had to open thier own farms in order to provide the same quality of food as outside Russia. This meat they also sold in stores under the McDonald's farms label. Additionally, all the profits had to stay within the country, although I believe that they can now take the profits out.

Abu Dhabi is cool and surprisingly pleasant outside right now, a sharp contrast to when I came here before Argentina where my glasses would instantly fog upon setting foot outdoors.

Still no sign of our luggage. It wasn't on last nights flight or tonight's flight. Hopefully they will have located it by tomorrow as I have no extra clothes.

Here are some photos taken between Buenos Aires and Abu Dhabi

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Dec 19, 2006

Abu Dabhi

Took off from Phoenix, Arizona at 6:30 AM monday morning, flew on to Dallas to meet my grandma Perkins, togather we traveled to New York's JFK airport where we waited for six hours for our 8:30 PM flight to Abu Dabhi, which arrived at 8:30 PM local time on Tuesday. It's been a lot of travel, especially considering I was only in Phoneix less than 48 hours before I took off again for an ocean crossing. My American Airlines flights were ok, not a lot of fun. Grandma was delayed coming from Oklahoma city becase they kicked one guy off the flight for calling one attendant an Asshole after they argued about they passenger using his cellphone during taxing. In New York, we asked about upgrading our ticket to Abu Dabhi. This turned out to cost over $2000, which is about double the price of the original ticket. We stuck with coach, which was perfectly fine with the excellent service, meals, foot wide seat back personal screens, etc. Best airline I've been on yet.

My only complaint s that somehow a piece of my luggage and a piece of grandma's luggage failed to make it to Abu Dabhi, which is quite something considering the fact that its a direct flight. So I'm a little short on clothes at present.

It is great to see my mom and my little brother again. Taylor just finished his last final today. Dad, unfortunately, is in Europe right now, but he should be back in a few days.

Driving by the mosques lit up at night and the desert scrub and palms, it's hard to believe that less than a week ago, I was in Buenos Aires living the cafe con leche life with medialunas.

Dec 16, 2006

Where are all the trees?

This is what I asked myself as we circled over the suburban desert village of Phoenix. Stephanie was telling me on the plane that it takes months and months of legal battles and courts to cut down a tree in Buenos Aires. Having lived there, I can understand why.

I'm safe and sound at a friend's house in Phoenix, no real problems getting here though I have some amusing stories later when they cease to be irritating at this point.

I'm back in Phoenix for less than 48 hours before I'm on another plane for a completely different part of the word. Three hemispheres in three days.

Dec 15, 2006

Chau, Argentina

Last breakfast in Argentina at Pinot on Plaza Guemes by the church. Medialunas y cafe con leche. I'll miss those sunny breakfasts.

Well, time to go. Got a few hours before my flight, and I hear that getting to the states is a bit trickier these days so I'll be leaving four hours before my flight to get through the necessary dance of international customs check-in and immigration. Couldn't be as bad as Beijing airport was at least. Wish me suerte!

I'm moving on, stopping in Phoenix for a few days before hopping a jet again to middle east with my grandma to visit my parents for Christmas and on to Egypt for New Years. I'll keep posting as I go until I get back to the daily life of a college architecture student in Arizona.

Gracias, Argentina, for the opportunity to explore the city and begin to understand it. It's been an incredible semester+ and I will return.

You see, my biggest regrets are not having gone to see a show, nada, at the Teatro Colon, and not going to a futbol match. So I have to come back.

Chau, Buenos Aires.

Dec 14, 2006

Tango to Tango

It's been a busy couple of days. The day I got back from Iguazu falls, we went downtown to a place Saori liked to shop and I got a last look at San Telmo. Afterwards, we finally hit Cafe Tortoni for chocolate and churros.

That night, we met up with Jamie and Leah and went to a live tango festival down in Recoletta. It was free and outdoors, and it showcased the Orquestra Tipicas that play in the streets and markets and are mostly made up of 20-30 year old Portenos. The festival was known as the Tango Jovens. I love this kind of music- they play well, using the typical instruments of Tango, but they change the composition, deconstructing the tango, playing with a speed and intensity which is really fresh and revitalizing. Sadly, its very difficult to get records of these Orquestras unless purchasing directly from the band. My favorite group was called Astillero, which was very experimental Tango. Anyway, we watched that for awhile and then Kevin Johansen came on and played for a bit.

This is a bit amusing, as it wasn't until last week that some of my classmates who have an apartment in Palermo Soho realized that Kevin Johansen was their next door neighbor.
I actually preferred the Tango myself. I love the fact that each generation keeps refining and changing the Tango to keep it alive and fresh. It would be analogous to if American youth today kept introducing new interpretations and variations on the waltz.

Today was a very busy day. I got up at 8 and made it down to the American Embassy at 9. I waited around, filled in a form, and finally got pages added to my passport in what took an hour process, so I'm very much releived about that. Most of the people waiting there had had thier passports lost or stolen, or were doing much more complicated things, so I was glad to be able to leave so easily.

I spent the morning packing up my clothes into one suitcase mostly, although there is more packing ahead. at 2:30, I met Saori at the Subte station and we went to the Teatro Colon downtown for a tour, which has been on my list for a long time. Less than two dollars with a student ID, we took the english tour.

It is a crime that I never saw a show or Opera or concert in this theater. It is simply amazing old european theater with great acoustics, seven levels of balconies, huge spaces, and decorated to to the last bit of gold leaf in french baroque and italian renaissance style. All in imported Italian marbles. Gorgeous hall.

The real surprise was the fact that that in the 1980s they dug three levels of basements under the theater for a massive sprawling dance school and the workshops. These levels actually extend out under the surrounding streets. One of the biggest concert practice halls is actually under 9th of Julio avenue.

After the tour, there was a woman who worked in the cafe there who burst into opera singing, so technically we heard opera at the Teatro Colon.

Next stop was Xul Solar musem, another place I've been dying to visit. Very surreal, symbolic paintings by the Xul, and the museum itself was an insane dream by Escher made in concrete.

After the museum, we stopped for tea and cakes, and then to the mall to look for more tango music. Then we came back to Palermo viejo and went to a 10 PM tango show. This tango show was small- only one "piano" keyboard and one bandieon. They alternated just songs, songs with a singer, and songs with two professional tango dancers. It was a little hokey, a little touristy, but it was what I wanted, especially never having been to a professional Tango show before. We were seated so close to the stage, I was worried that the woman dancer was going to kick one of the wine glasses.

So only ten dollars for that, which was really worth it, even for its cheesiness.

Outside ran into the other 4th year guys who are still in town and we hit a Mexican restaurant for margaritas and to catch up on what we've been up to, so that was a lot of fun too.

But back to tango- I danced tango the second night I was here at a lesson, I've seen street performers doing tango, people dancing tango randomly in the street to live music, older matrons tangoing in the tango clubs, listened to the tango of Carlos Gardel, Astor Piazzola, and Orquestra Tipica Imperial, the oldest classics to the latest experimental tango, and finally the tango for the tourists.

My experiance with this city has been a dance of tango. Subtle, dramatic, powerful, revealing, sensual, lively, and melancholy. Steps danced down cobblestones streets and in the parks, on piers, on busses, on subtes, on unstable pavers and dirty sidewalks.

I will miss this city.

Dec 13, 2006

Poor Niagra!

So spoke Ellenor Roosevelt upon seeing Iguazu falls, the biggest waterfalls in the world.
Took a 12 hour bus from Retiro omnibus station at 8 PM, getting into Puerto Iguazu around noon the next day. The bus ride was nice. Big, wide seats which reclined all the way back with leg rests, hot meals, coffee, wine, etc. Strange selection of movies. They showed "Dreamer," the family movie about horses, and they also showed Wes Anderson's "The Squid and the Whale" and the Uma Thurman movie "Prime".

Puerto Iguazu was small, rustic, and sleepy. A bit of Brazilian tropicality with Argentine personality. We found a little hotel right away near the bus terminal. After we all checked in, we caught the bus to the park. There's a 30 peso entry fee, but its only half of that the second day you go. The park obviously spent a lot of money on the concrete and the structures, but the layout and signage were terrible. We had to ask two places to figure out how to get to the waterfalls. We decided to go ahead and take the little rail tram to the Garganta del Diablo trailhead, a little 20 minute ride through the jungle. At least there weren't any massive plastic statues along the way like in the ride up to the Cristo in Rio.

Off the tram, the lookout points are acessable by a network of raised metal boardwalks, which run above the river and hop between small islands in the wide Igazau river. Approaching the Garganta del Diablo, we saw what looked like steam rising. It was actually mist thrown up from the falls. The falls were massive and hypnotic. The massive amounts of water pouring in a horseshoe arangement into a gully so deep it was obscured by the mist.

One dissapointment was the massive Sheraton hotel complex which marred the jungle surroundings with its huge white concrete construction. Shame on them for spoiling what would have been a completely natural view.

Afterwards, we hopped aboard a little inflatable raft for a jungle birding tour (20 pesos). Good deal, very tranquil ride along the side tributaries through dense jungle, only six people on our raft with the guide paddling. We spotted a wild Toucan high in the trees, which was pretty cool.

After we disembarked, we walked around the upper trails, and came across a bunch of Coatis, fearless little racoon type animals with long snouts, about the size of a dog.
That evening, we wandered around the town looking for a bite to eat and finally settled on grilled catfish from the river.

The next day, we bought tickets for the Gran Aventura at the bus station with our tickets to the park. The bus to the park costs around 5 pesos, and you board with all the people in the town in a school bus which makes short stops along the way.

At the park, we hopped aboard a big truck like a military troop transport for a drive down a dirt track through the jungle to look at plants. Birds and Animals were out of the question, as the guide yammered at us all in Spanish for the ENTIRE ride as we blared through the jungle. At the end of the dirt track was a tiny boarding dock, where we got seafarer's waterproof rucksacks for our backpacks and personal possessions we didn;t want to get totally drenched. We loaded up into the big speedboat and flew up the river, fighting our way up rapids and dodging rocks. This was pretty cool, I have to admit. We stopped for the obligatory park -sposored photo op at the base of some of the falls before we zoomed out and over to a smaller waterfall.
The waterfalls here are best seen from the base, where they loom over your head and you're blasted with mist and wind from the water impact. We drove through that and then headed over to the main falls where there was so much water in the air you couldn't see anything but white and hear only the roar of the falls. Needless to say, we got completely drenched. The entire thing was filmed for our benefit, of course, by a staff member with a protected camera, and we were offered a copy of the film (for a price of course) as we disembarked.

We took a short ferry across from where we landed to the island between the two main fall areas, halfway between Brazil and Argentina. Not too many tourists get over here, as it entails hiiking down to the river from the top, and crossing in a tiny boat. Great views of the falls on the island, much more secluded with more nature. At a certain end platform where there is a view of a natural arch, we met two young Aussies who told us about some secluded waterfalls that few people ever see. They went under the barrier warning people not to pass and beware of snakes, and so we followed them towards the arch. We crossed a small valley filled with boulders, only saw one snake, and clambered up through the arch itself, where oddly, there was a beached boat which must have lodged there after a flood. Past the arch was a series of small waterfalls compeltlely hidden from view from the Argentine side. The falls created small pools of water which we swam and, and climbed up on the rocks to sit directly under the falls. To heighten the mood, the cliff above was swarming with vultures of some kind, and they spiraled overhead.

So we cooled off there for awhile before trekking back. The wide steps I was taking meant I absolutely split my hiking pants up the seams, creating a masssive split that I had to cover the rest of the day with my shirt hanging off the back of my shorts. We ended that day with a bit of souvenier shopping and hiking along the trail back to the start, keeping our eyes peeled for natural wildlife.

Once back in town, we hit a restaurant and got a $5 tourist menu which included a Parillada for two and dessert.

Yesterday we just explored the town more, walking around to the tip of the plateau the town sits on. This plateau is at the junction of the Iguazu river and the Parana river, and these rivers mark the boundary between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. There was a blue and white pylon there, and also a series of souvenier stalls which surprisingly spoke Japanese to the busload of Japanese tourists who arrived after we did. We grabbed a beer and watched the view for awhile before heading back to the town. Our search for Cahaxia (Cana in espanol) lead us a ramshackle local market where they sold meat, varieties of olives, wines, etc. That was pretty cool too.

I picked up a bottle of the Brazilian rum myself, although I still need to check import regulations for the US. Afterwards, we hit a cafe and waited for our bus back to Buenos Aires.

The bus ride back was ok. We were boarded by officials several times first checking identities and nationalities and then later with a dog for drugs. The movies were "Everything is Illuminated" which I thought was a good movie, "Prime" again, and finally "Four Brothers"
Strange mix. Got into BA this morning around 9 and a shower never felt so good.

Posted some pics, follow the link.

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Dec 9, 2006

Up the River Parana

Tonight I'm hopping aboard a delux bus to the northeastern tip of Argentina, way way up past Uruguay, to where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet at the Iguazu falls. It has been such a struggle to decide where to go. The main places up for debate of where to travel:

Barlioche- gorgeous city on the shores of a Andean lake which is bounded on the other side by Chile, and the starting point for excursions to the lake district of Argentina.

Peninsula Valdez- home to all types of wildlife, native penguins, and the best place to pet a whale in the world.

Petit Moreno (sp?) Glaciar- year round, supposed to be amazing and a auditory as well as visual experience.

Urushuia- one of the most southern cities in the world at the tip of Terra del Fuego

Uruguay- the cute tiny coastal towns, Montevideo, etc.

Ultimately, I thought Iguazu would be a climax to the trip, a final big event to see like visiting the Grand Canyon before leaving the southwestern United States. So now my backpack is loaded and I bought the tickets this morning (all in castellano) and I'm ready to rock and roll.

Dec 7, 2006

missed Items

Items I missed on my lists: Eleven on my bottom ten is

11) My Local Disco- this is the only grocery store I've ever seen that doesn't have eggs. They change the store aisles every week, and they have the slowest cashiers I've ever seen.

and eleven and twelve on my top ten

11) Textured architecture- there are so many layers to this city you can watch them fall away. The buildings are amazing and gorgeous in a great mix of all styles and periods. One could make a career studying the simple details of the buildings in this city.

12) Chocolate y Churros at Cafe Tortoni- incredibly rich drinking chocolate soaks right into the sweet crispy churros in this hundred+ year old historic cafe.

Right now I'm working on my systems paper which is due tomorrow, sipping up mate.
Mate is a strange brew, too difficult to describe in a single blog. Look it up on wikipedia. Back to work. It's a gorgeous day here. 77 and sunny. I don't want to be working on my paper.

I can't believe I'm leaving next friday. It's too sad to think about.

Dec 6, 2006

buenos aires top ten

Considering the bottom ten, I'd still rather be in Buenos Aires over almost any other American City. Here we go, top ten Buenos Aires:

10) Pimped-out busses- how many hundred bus companies are there in Buenos Aires? each one has thier own hand painted bus design, and the interiors are all finished with embossed mirrors, fringe, black lights, fuzz, etc.

9) Argentine warmpth and consideration- they may be snobbish, but they are never above a smile, helping out a stranger, or giving up a seat in a bus.

8) Affordabilty of everything- I know its not a great thing for the Argentines after the economic crisis, but its made so much possible for me, as an American student.

7) Cafes everywhere- Especially on sunny public plazas

6) Literary culture- the home of Borges has amazing bookstores from the tiny musty used bookstores with hidden treasure to the massive and elegent El Ateno.

5) Lomo- best steaks I've ever had, for unbelievably low prices.

4) Mendoza Malbec Wines- I'm glad Argentina keeps the good wines at home.

3) Choripan- greasy, mystery meat grilled goodness. Who knows what it is, but it's good with some Chimichurri in the park.

2) Heilado y Dulce de leche- need I say more?

The number one thing I like about Buenos Aires:

1) Cafe con leche y medialunas- The world's best repast, good for any time of the day. These pastries, far superior to mere croisssants, smile back at you.

Dec 5, 2006

the bottom ten

I know I'm getting closer to leaving Buenos Aires when I start to really notice the negative things about living here. So here's the bottom ten list of things I dislike about Buenos Aires. Soon to follow, the top ten things I love about Buenos Aires.

10) Most Portenos speak a little English, but refuse on principle.

9) The total lack of zest and spice in Argentine cooking.

8) The fact that the Porteno personal space zone actually exists within the boundary of the body, particularly noticable in the Sardine Subtes, clown busses, and sea of people street crowds.

7) The particular bird on Soler which has a loud, annoying cry which it repeats for hours and hours and hours every morning. We at the apartment fantasize about killing it often.

6) Traffic- Busses here will kill you, and cause a high number of fatalities every year.

5) Porteno snobbery- no matter what they do, there's always the pretentiousness, vanity, and snobbery.

4) All the dog crap on the sidewalk- Portenos, you're not above cleaning after your pets.

3) Random drips of fluid from clear skies- I'm always getting dripped on from something.

2) Worst Service outside of Russia- Porteno wait staff don't hate you in particular, which is an advantage over the Russians, but only work and wait on you on their terms. They'll bring you your food when they're good and ready.

1)Secret Paver Geysers -The thing I hate the most are the loose sidewalk pavers which accumulate filthy water, runnoff, dog feces etc beneath it, and then shoots it up your leg or all over your sandaled feet when you step on the wrong tile.

Dec 4, 2006

Sunday

Sunday morning, Saori and I sat down at a restaurant and realized that we were sitting right by two other friends of ours roomates Noah and Stephanie, so we joined them for a lunch of empanadas and pizza. Stephanie joined us and we continued on to Plaza Francia for the Sunday market there to finish shopping for friends and family. While I was there, I finally succumbed and bought a leather satchel of the type I'd been eyeing the entire time I've been in Buenos Aires. We shopped for a few hours and then took a break to watch the Capoeira people. Capoeria is a combination of dancing and fighting to a rythmic beat in the background. There's a lot of flips, spinning kicks, and acrobatics, with very little actual contact between the combatants. It was developed by African slaves in Brazil to hide fighting as a dance as fighting between slaves was prohibited. The result is very entertaining, and its usually pretty clear to me who the "winner" is.

After that, we dropped Stephanie at her apartment and we left Saori's for the international fair. It was getting late, around 8:30, and the street was really packed with poeple coming and going. I saw a stage up ahead and a crowd of people, so I thought I'd be able to thread my way to the back where there must be a way for people to cross. We got in really deep before I realized that the street was impassable. The stage was set facing the corner of the major intersection with a massive monument in the center. I was a little higher up, so I could see that all four streets leading the intersection were totally jammed with a sea of people, even to the point where the people were in the trees and on the monument itself. In fact, I've never seen so many people in one place since national day in Shanghai almost six years ago. Needless to say, our plan to grab a bite at the international fair had to be scrapped. Rather than fight the crowd back, we decided to just watch/listen to the show.

The event was some kind of Mozart festival, with a live orchestra, soloists, and choirs performing basically Mozarts greatest hits. When the songs ended, the entire area would erupt into thunderous applause, with the literally tens of thousands of people applauding. The fact that they would frequently applaud during the final pause before the crescendos made me think that these people were not well acquainted with his music, but that they still enjoyed it, or massive spectacles, immensely. Portenos seem to have a penchant for mobbing, whether protesting or enjoying shows, they do it jammed shoulder to shoulder. Anyway, they finished the event with a fireworks spectacle WHILE playing the powerful peices of Mozart's Requiem, and they didn't ration out these things either, shooting them off one right after another so it would be (intense classical music) (boom) (boom) (music) (boom) really distracting. The other disquieting thing was that the fireworks were exploding really low, like dropping still flaming bits onto the canopy covering the stage. I imagine that a few fires were started in the park.

After the show ended, the people flowed out and we joined the stream as the mass of people flowed back in to the city and thinned out. Saori and I walked to the movies where we watched "The Illusionist" (in English) which was really an excellent movie in my opinion, if not a little too resolved at the end.

International Madness

Saturday afternoon, Aldo, Saori, and I went to see one of Saori's friend's murals in a huge contemporary art exhibition. I was hooked on the idea when I learned that the exhibition was going to be held in the Palacio Correo, the same building slated for Nicolas' renovation/intervention. The building is in really sad shape, although it has some really cool spaces. The exhibition, Studio Abierto, occupied three floors and was the usual mix of hyper-contemporary mixed media art. With all the videos, room installations, and experiantial spaces, my favorite piece was a simple line of framed photographs, where each photo showed a person from the previous photo whispering something to a new person in a different setting, in sort of a graphic version of the game "telephone." Then we had cafe in the cafe by the main atrium space. I'll come back in a few years and see how the building's changed.

Afterwards, Saori split for a haircut appointment, and Aldo and I walked on to the international fair down by the planetarium in the massive parks of Palermo. Aldo had discovered it on his morning run down there while they were setting up. The fair was really cool, a series of booths selling food, drinks, and handcrafts from each of the countries, actually sold by nationals. This was really interesting because it really highlighted which countries had the biggest representation in Argentina. There were quite a few Brazil booths, so we stopped for a Caphirina, a lot from Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Also a fair number of middle eastern countries, a few African countries, and even Colombia and Cuba. The only country which seemed to be missing was the United States. We continued walking and stopped for a beer at a German booth, and by the time we'd reached the end of the booths, we were ready to sit down for awhile. After relaxing a bit, we reversed our path, picking up bits of food from each country that looked good, sampling and snacking all the way back to where we started. A good dinner.

Friday

Friday after the review we took the day off to lounge around and enjoy ourselves. Aldo, Saori, and I rented bicycles down by the botanical preserve in Puerto Madero and we spent an hour just biking around the place. The botanical preserve, as I mentioned before, was an artificial island built partially from the rubble of the city that was torn down to create the massive freeway. The original purpose of the island was to be the site of a military city, a new seat of power for the ruling military government. The funds for such a massive undertaking were never secured, and by the time the military rulers were replaced, the island had become overgrown and inhabited by a wide variety of local flora and fauna. One of my professors believes that in the unusually permissive and liberal atmosphere after the military government, the government allowed the site to become a national botanical preserve to show its progressive democracy to the enviornmental groups. I get the impression from all my professors that its current use is a massive waste of land, which I disagree with. What is known is that occationally fires are set on the island, perhaps by developers with hopes that by incinerating the park, it would be turned over to them.

I did see a lot of plants and animals biking around, including a strange sort of rodent with no tail, which looked like an enlarged hamster, and a massive lumbering lizard which resembled a gila monster. The beaches around the island are post-apocalypic, totally made of concrete peices and building rubble, eroded by the waves and sand. Massive chunks of conrete with warped iron rebar poking out, strange brick wall boulders worn round, beach glass, tile fragments, all eroded. It struck me that this is what it would look like if New York was destroyed twenty years ago.

Biking around more, we took a overgrown narrow path towards the edge of the park, and stumbled across the secret mating grounds, a secluded area totally covered with used condoms and wrappers. Back to the main trail.

After we'd returned the rental bikes ($3 for 2 hours) we went to the omnibus terminal to buy shoes for Aldo. The terminal is a fun place to be anyhow with all the people traveling around. He picked up his shoes there and we poked around for a bit before deciding to head home. Instead of taking the subte, we caught one of the trains just for a change, and rode the train all the way to its first stop a few blocks from our apartments. Emily, Molly, Saori, and I then ordered sushi for dinner.

Dec 3, 2006

Final Review

Our final review was structured over two days, with five groups presenting each day. This was probably the most interesting, best review I've ever participated in. The panel of jurors over the two days were made up of influential Argentine architects including Oscar Fuentes and Nicolas Bares, a visiting professor of History from Harvard, the lead archeologist from the Club Atletico site, our architecture theory critic, and of course CV and SF.

What was really facinating was the fact that almost all of the reviews became part of a deeper arguement and debate about contemporary diagram theory, upon which this project was built. The main questions centered on the translation of the diagram to the artefact, the purity of the process as far as how much the designer removed him or herself from the design, and even so far as call into question the architecture of the diagram. Most of this debate was implicit and directed towards the students and the project, but occatioanlly, it would flare out in the open and the reviewers would begin discussing and arguing amongst themselves.

As any architecture student knows, when reviewers fight, students win. Not only does one faction of reviewers come to the support the project and even bolster it with arguements the student's never considered, the real advantage is listening to a heartfelt intellectual debate. We weren't reviewing on the Bridge with a few junior CAD monkeys from some small valley firms. These are the big players discussing things that should have taken place in a national architecture roundtable. I really wish I'd taken a tape recorder.

The three most memorable quotes: One reviewer repeatedly calling a project "criminal" and comparing it to a concentration camp for kids. CV commented that he doesn't use diagrams, and SF comment that what we had never reached the level of true diagrams.

Anyway, we presented our project first and the reviewers were a little quiet at first getting warmed up. They liked where we were coming from, they liked our ideas, they liked our initial steps, and then they thought we'd derailed about halfway. The translation of our ideas to the final project was not as sucessful. In general, I agreed with them.

Nov 30, 2006

Hot Buenos Aires

On a lighter note, we were all vastly amused by the fact that the Bush girls have been in Buenos Aires for the past three weeks, and are in all probability, still here. They were spotted in San Telmo, off of Plaza Dorrego, an area we're all very familiar with since it's less than two blocks from our architecture project site. The other sighting of the Jenna and Barbara was at a Boca game, so they must really be getting into the local culture.

Speaking of local culture, one thing I still cannot understand is Porteno obsession with the 80's. From the ubiquitous mullet, to the clothes, to the 80's music everywhere, these people are crazy about that decade for reasons unknown. Maybe its just vouge, but Aldo was telling me that other south American countries are also into the 80s music from the US.

The Traveling Studio

I apologize to those of who sent me emails and comments in the last few days, as I've been working constantly on our group's final semester project.

To catch up, for thanksgiving we all went to Janette's apartment, the biggest and nicest one. We all brought something to share, so there was a wide assortment of food. My cornbread was interesting story- as I didn't have any measuring cups or spoons, I had to eyeball everything, and as a consequence, I think I used half the amount of baking powder I needed (hey I was impressed I was able to find baking powder on my own!). It smelled great coming out of the oven, it was nicely browned, but my happiness turned to dismay when I realized that it was only about half an inch thick. I'd created cornboard, the densest, but still edible, cornbread I'd ever seen. It was still good though. Ben made an incredible double decker pizza, someone brought some turkey, and Chris made mashed potatos, mashed by hand since no one has any appliances. There was wine and beer, and we ended up the night playing charades. A good thanksgiving, but we were all missing our relatives and family.

After that night, I got about six hours of sleep for one day, and then it dropped down to an average of three hours a day for the next five days. I stopped all work on everything else and we all settled down for the final crunch period. My group would meet alternatively at studio, Joe's house, and my apartment for extended working periods. We slept in shifts of a few hours each, taking time to only go home and shower and eat before coming back for more work. Since our project was purely digital, our final charette was totally portable. Whenever we needed to move, we'd pack our laptops up, and walk to the next place to work where'd we'd take over the kitchen table, monopolize an outlet, and start crunching again, occationally swapping data on USB sticks. Dan was working the 3D model in AutoCad and VIZ, Adam cut sections in AutoCad, and I worked on details in sketchup and photoshop, while also working on the powerpoint presentation. We worked this way from friday night to wednesday morning. Typically I would grab an hour or two sleep during the afternoon, and work until around 3-4 AM, when I would be too tired to think anymore. The last two nights, I knew it was time to take a nap by my chills and shaking.

Anyway, we got to studio Wednesday morning and Adam went to go print all of our presentation materials. An hour and half before presentations were supposed to begin, Claudio sent an email out with the order of presentations, which were split into two days. Our group was going today. First. At least we'd get it over with early.

Nov 22, 2006

Tales from Argentina

Got three hours of sleep last night, working late on trying to figure out a secondary steel structure for our concrete superstructure.

Monday, Dan was telling us something that happened on the way to school. He was standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus when he saw an overweight woman get out of the rear side door of one of the public buses here. Her pants got caught on something as she was getting out, and the bus moved on, flipping her on her back, and dragging the poor woman over 50 feet before Dan and another pedestrian managed to stop the bus. She was pretty badly beat up with a bloody nose and probably a broken bone.

Yesterday, we finally got to see Nicolas, our systems teacher, present his competition winning project. His firm won the international competition to design a bicentennial park/plaza area with a complete renovation and intervention in an existing building to create the Buenos Aires Cultural Center. The scale and nature and prestige of this project is comparable to that of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.The extent of the project includes the Plaza de Mayo, and a huge strip of land running directly behind the Casa Rosada. The actual cultural center is a renovation and redesign of the interior of the old Palace of Mail building, a huge Beaux Arts structure with lifted collumns and a massive mansard dome.

Nicholas's plan has three main conceptual pieces which fit inside a massive interior courtyard. The courtyard itself is a cube approximately 160 feet on each side. There is a metal cage structure which will be built first, to reinforce the aging structure of the existing building and to provide structural support for the other pieces of his intervention. On the main floor, the cage will support a giant free-form philharmonic orchestra hall. This hall will be enclosed in a giant blue sculptural shell which was designed by acoustic engineers, and sit in the center of the main central courtyard. It looks very much like an abstracted sperm whale. Above the philharmonic whale, a cubical 3 story museum structure like an inverted wedding cake will be hung from the roof of the cage, and will house exhibition spaces. The roof will be almost constantly occupyable, with a restaurant, bar, and the tiles of the massive dome replaced with glass, creating a lantern and observation space akin to the Reichstag dome redesign in Berlin.

The lead architect on this project is our teacher who has been teaching us a bit about sustainable architecture. Nicolas in person almost seems to nice to be able to pull off a project of this scale. However, to his credit, he DOES run his own office, and he has been successful with the Argentine bureaucrats so far. In truth, he put the entire project together with a 35-person team including outside consultants, in just three months. He is thrilled to death to have this once in a lifetime opportunity, but he's also extremely nervous at the same time. The scale of the project is too big for one firm to handle, so he's going to have to hold further contests, delegate, and organize other architecture firms and teams to handle the individual pieces. One team will get the philharmonic hall, one for the museum, one for restoring the old building, at least one, if not more for the bicentennial plazas. Nicholas will act as master coordinator and overall architect for the project, assuredly a daunting prospect.

Some minor details I found highly interesting: The project is mostly being funded by the Spanish government, which has some kind of agreement of goodwill with Argentina. This is doubly interesting as the project is a celebration of the anniversary of the INDEPENDENCE from Spain. Only some of the assistance is financial- a lot of assistance will come in the form of donated technologies and building material. Apparently Spain produces something like 30 percent of all construction material in Europe, and this construction industry funds entirely the architectural periodical Croquis.

Last night, Aldo, Saori, and I went to get coffee. Out on the street, we watched as a guy's car refused to start as he was struggling to push it while his female compainion was trying to start the engine. A passerby unhesitatingly hopped off the sidewalk and helped the guy push the car until it started, and then continued on his way without a second glance. Portenos (forgive me, my keyboard doesn't have a tilde key) are fascinating people. They'll really help strangers without a second thought, they will never admit that they're wrong to others, and they check themselves out in mirrors mounted in public transportation. I'll miss them.

But finish studio first.

Nov 20, 2006

Polo Pictures!

We went to the Polo match sunday at the Buenos Aires polo grounds. Here's a link to a small album of pictures.

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Nov 18, 2006

Dia de los Arquitectos

Got three hours of sleep Thursday night. We presented our work in a mock review to a panel of architects. We've been in good company of architects down here.

Eugenio Xaus: laid out the master plan of Puerto Madero. He traveled with us to Sao Paolo and Rio. Known as "El Loco" to his staff, for his eccentricity and enthusiasm. With his grizzled beard, grin, and perpetually partially unbuttoned shirt, he reminds me of a cheerful pirate.

Sergio Foster: engaged with the municipality to develop a means of connecting the river with the city with a series of park. Heavily into diagrammatic design and diagram theory of architecture, similiar to but much more rigorous than, for instance, Eisenmann's diagrammatic designing.

Claudio Vekstien: Has had a huge amount of work in the past four years, including a monument to the argentine arquitecto Amancio Williams, an emergency room and hospital redesign, and an amazing rehabilitation clinic for which he just won an award. Extremely principled in architecture, and unfaltering in his fight to get work built in the city, to push through the politics and bureaucracy and economic crises and government changes.

Angelo Bucci: Perioically visits us down here in Buenos Aires, as he is the head of school of architecture at FAU in Sao Paolo. Definately Brazillian modern architect, you can see some of his built work >>here<<. After he reviewed our work, he showed us some of his. He's got some phenomenal projects that made me want to go visit all of them.

The two architects that I still want to meet down here, but have as yet been unable, are Paolo Mendes da Rocha, a Brazillian , and Clorindo Testa an Argentine whose works we have visited as a class, and actually whose work I now write in, a renovation of the waterwork labs.

To come to think of it, life sometimes grabs me and shakes me with its surreality. Today after I got up (at noon, I needed the sleep), I walked to a bakery and picked up some medialunas stuffed with dulce de leche. The woman working there complemented my good Spanish. Stopped on the way back home at a kiosk and bought a box of orange juice. I took a bus which was absolutely packed with people and stood all the way to Libertator, where I passed a massive street market along the main street of Chinatown. The main entrances to school were locked so I had to go around to the back to get in.

The school we're exchanged with is the private Universidad Torcuato di Tella, (UTDT). Compared with UBA which is free, UTDT is extemely expensive and exclusive. The main campus is actually much smaller than my high school, occupying only one building. The feel is like a small town high school. The campus we're at was recently acquired from the city. It actually used to be the municipal water laboratory and the complex was partially renovated by Clorindo Testa. The main massive building is still untouched, but there are plans to renovate it and shift the entire UTDT to this location. Our architecture program is actually a tester, as next semester, UTDT will begin offering architecture as an undergraduate program for the first time, in the studio spaces we're currently using.

The other main program at this annex is the business masters, regarded as one of the best in South America. The cafe downstairs always lays out coffee, tea, and medialunas for their classroom breaks, and the students (all older people) all have their suits, cars, and briefcases. Our mix is strange. We try to scavenge the occasional coffee and cookie from the tables, looking scruffy after a night without sleep, shuffling through their chatting groups to the hot water machine or vending machines for more alfajors.

Nov 16, 2006

Daily Dose of Photos

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Here's link to seven shots I took today, including two of how our architecture studio project is shaping up. Follow the thumbnail above to jump to my album. Gorgeous clouds this evening.

Today I finally bought a pair of shorts and a pair of linen pants for the heat and humidity creeping upon Buenos Aires. I'm still looking for the striped blue linen pants popular here.

Tonight will be a late night with a powerpoint presentation due tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM.

Nov 13, 2006

mas photos

I was walking back from UBA today when a peice of American architecture finally clicked for me. Adam and I were talking, and he told me that he'd read somewhere that ASU's Gammage Auditorium was originally intended to be built in Baghdad, Iraq. Suddenly, it all fit. Frank Lloyd Wright wasn't completely ignoring the context of Tempe and ASU, its just completely misplaced. Having visited Abu Dhabi, I could easily see that building in the city, or one of the desert islands or ajoining the Sheik's palaces. The absolute determinism of the circular geometry, the repeteated collumns, and even the stylized curtains in the arches, it remains now even more of a tragedy of a building as I think a Wright building really needs the wright place. It would have been interesting to see if Wright's building would have galvanized and modernized Islamic desert architecture in the same way Le Corbusier did with Latin American architecture.

I have one month left before I head back to the United States. I can't believe the time has gone like this. One thing I won't miss, however, is the sidewalks. The sidewalks are all maintained and constructed by the plot owner, so no two adjacent sidewalks are alike without a great deal of coordination or luck. Typically, concrete tiles of various sizes are laid on top of rough concrete or dirt base, and occationally, they'll cement it down. Every morning, I see all the shop and house domestics lazily hosing off the sidewalk in front of thier properties, probably to remove whatever the dogs have left from the day before. Most of this water runs into the street but some of it floods the spaces under loose pavers. When you step on these pavers, they shoot a mini geyser of nasty water all over your feet and your pants. Which is why I rarely see Portenos in sandals.

Anyway, we were over at UBA FADU(architecture school) printing plans and sections for our project. It's about a quarter of the price I'd pay to plot at ASU. While we were waiting to print, I wandered downstairs. On the mezzanine level, they stuck in a small cafeterria. Below that on the bottom floor was a series of massive spaces crammed with classrooms, vehicles, chairs, models, more kiosks selling candy cigarettes, cokes, etc. The building with the students never ceases to amaze me. Something about the combination of thousands of design students, politically charged, rushing around to get stuff printed, exchanging besitos rapidos, every surface covered with political posters and banners, the grit, the enthusiasm, and the air of innovation and design, all crammed within a tower with its own economy of cafes, cafeterias, kiosks, and booksellers, is like a William Gibson novel all in itself.

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Above, a picture of the main central atrium at UBA FADU.
Also, added some new pictures from daily life here in Buenos Aires, just skip ahead to the back of the album after you click on the picture above.

Nov 12, 2006

sickness

Bleh, Friday afternoon started feeling ill, and I was sick all friday night, only getting to bed around 7 AM. At first I thought it was some kind of food poisoning, but as I heard about another classmate down with the same thing, I can only conclude it was some kind of stomach flu. All day yesterday I spent at home, resting, and Saori made me some vegetable congee. Feel a lot better today, no more nausea although I still have a headache from the fever and muscle aches.

I usually get a family phone call every Sunday morning my time, but today is kind of a unique situation for my family. I think we're all on a different continent. I'm in South America, Taylor is in the Middle East, Dad is either in the Middle East or Europe (I think he's actually in Belgium right now) and Mom is in Asia.

I can't believe how quickly my time here is coming to an end. I have a little over a month left, and I still have so much I want to do. I guess I'll just have to prioritize and work my list. Top of the list, of course, is a Boca Juniors football match. But for now, back to work. We have our final project due at the end of the month and our 15 page theory paper due shortly after that.

Nov 8, 2006

Puntos

It's appallingly gorgeous here in Buenos Aires right now. I've never seen a city so overrun by massive trees. Especially here in Palermo where the trees are frequently as tall at the seventh story apartment buildings. Spent the entire day in studio working with my group. We're still waiting for that miraculous eureaka! moment. It's not going to happen at the rate we're progressing, and that's not how Claudio is teaching the studio anyhow. So we're just throwing all of our conceptual ideas and diagrams togather and trying to make it all work.

A brief update on our teachers: Our systems teacher Nicolas Bares just won a huge competition for the redesign of the Palacio Correo, one of the biggest architectural competitions in the city. So Grande Kudos to him. Claudio is lecturing tonight on his urban spaces at the tiny museum of architecture here in Buenos Aires, although if you want my opinion, the best place to understand architecture is the faculty of arqitectura at UBA. Our other studio professor, Sergio, went to see Daft Punk and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the same BUE concert we went to, and additionally saw Patti Smith and the Beastie Boys the night before.

Que mas? Just the calm rush as the semester winds down. Our final review in architecture at the end of this month, so thats a lot of work to do, and our final 15 page paper for theory is due shortly after that. The strange thing is there's almost no tension in the air, no great sense of urgency or panic here or in studio. There's a great quote: "If you remain calm and collected while everyone around you is panicking, then you probably don't understand the full extent of the situation."

Nov 6, 2006

How I lost a Sandal

Saturday I went into studio and was working there all afternoon when Saori emailed me to ask if I still wanted to go to the BUE concert. I really was looking forward to the concert, so I arranged to get a ticket from one of my friends who was working in studio and had decided not to go, and left around seven to get another ticket at the gate. This was my first real band concert, ever. We missed the Beastie Boys friday night, but tonights headliners on the main stage were TV on the Radio, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Daft Punk. In general, punk and electronica describe the bands. Fittingly, everyone came in their finest punk or techno black. I was wearing my comfortable studio wear, which was flip flops, cordorouy pants, and a light blue polo shirt. The people were everywhere, it was absolutely packed with teens and 20 somethings. Imagine a typical rock concert density, and then consider that these were Argentines, who have a much reduced concept of personal space. TV on the Radio was good, we stood in about the middle for those guys, very fun to watch. Took a break and grabbed a 5 peso coke waiting for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and watched those from more distance to avoid the crowds. After the Yeah Yeah Yeah crowd dispersed, we pushed up to the very front, about five feet from the main barricade, center stage. We waited, standing, for an hour up there with about a hundred other people. I had misgivings about being so close to the front up at an techno concert, especially since I hate being trapped in a crowd ( I rushed through the Sistine chapel it was so bad), but I really wanted to experience a really intense mosh pit at least once. The bad decision was to wear flip flops. Ten minutes before curtain, the people around us were already smashing us and yelling at the band. When curtain opened, there was an incredible rush to the front so that we were literally swept off our feet. You can't push back or hold ground in these cases, you can only try to remain upright. When the music started, Robot Rock, everyone started singing and jumping. Let me tell you, when you are so crammed in with people, and they are jumping, you have no choice but are actually lifted off your feet like a library book wedged between two others. It was fun for about two minutes, in which time my feet were stepped on abut eight times, but then the girl in front of me started jumping on my toes, and the crowd was really surging and crushing me, and one of my sandals came off. I fought my way out, literally pushing people aside until I reached the beach of the sea of people and stood gasping for air.

The rest of the set was really cool, Daft Punk puts on a mean electronic light show. I was amazed by what they could do, and the music was awesome. They were remixing all of their best stuff. I wore an empty beer cup on the other foot. After the show was over, I picked my way through the crowd and recovered my sandal at the barrier. I was absolutely drained of all energy and ready to get out of there.

Nov 3, 2006

Halloween in the BA

Fun Halloween party last night. Hosted by Janette, Helen, and Caroline at their amazing two level apartment. Everybody in the program came, and everyone really worked on their costumes which was great. A quick rundown:

Janette: Tried to be a sailor, but ended up looking more like Gwen Stefanie
Caroline: Bee
Helen: Matador
Alexis: ? cartoon character
Joanne: Chinese lady
Dan: Chinese guy
T-Cody: Adam (of the garden)
Emily (T Cody's friend): Eve
Puff, Ben, Brian, Adam: The Power Rangers
Dusty: Tom Sellek circa Magnum PI
Chris: Lucha Libre Wrestler
Jamie: Greek Goddess Athena
Noah: Argentina football legend Diego Maradona
Aldo: Screaming Ghost
Jacob: Chuck Norris
Leah: bare bottomed Le Corbusier (because he painted in the nude)
Other Brian: The Riddler (with notecards of riddles to ask partygoers)
Saori, Emily, Molly: their Apartment (all about flowers and flowery decoration)

As for myself, I went as a punk rocker. No one in particular, although I was compared to Elvis Costello, the guitarist from the Killers, or the lead singer from Wheezer. At any rate, Saori did an amazing job with my hair.

Check out the pictures



Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec



Oct 31, 2006

Thriller

Halloween

Well, it Halloween night down here below the equator, and there's really nothing going on. A few grocery stores have made some little displays selling some Halloween candy and a few decorations, and Halloween costume rental places have sprouted up around town, but right now, on the eve itself, there's nothing happening. We architecture students are going to have a Halloween party Thursday night at Janette's apartment, and Saturday or Friday I believe there is also a costume party at one of the clubs.

Studio review monday was not good. There were those who were just not getting this whole project who got mediocre reviews (us and the majority), those who had exactly the professors wanted (2 groups) and those who had almost nothing concrete to show (2-3 groups). Not that people havn't been working, its just that this is a really hard, complex problem with a very narrow process that one has to follow extremely rigorously in order for it to make sense at least to the professors. Absolute systemization. At any rate, at least we had a really eye catching poster Adam printed with the help of the Julies at UBA. His connections with locals really paid off.

I uploaded about 3o more photos I had of stuff we've been looking at around Buenos Aires. The only building designed by Le Corbusier in south America, and the only other building of Corbu's in the Americas at all, the bank of London by Clorindo Testa, and several projects designed and built by Claudio our professor. I really liked his rehabilitation center with the long winding ramp in the courtyard. He really had to fight for some of his projects with the city. The construction company would actually build more than the plans had to show, so at night, Claudio's team would sneak into the work site with sledgehammers and sabotage his own building in order to get the construction company to built it right.

I started working on a short horror story about what happens when students spend a week without sleep confined in a room and dealing with highly abstract and arbitrary concepts, and stopped when I realized that I was writing almost verbatim from experience. In place, I offer a bit of doggerel I put together attempting to capture the mood of the story:

When a week of sleep you lack
the walls shift behind your back,
trapped inside an endless room
strangers watch you from the gloom.
Lines and points are all we see
lost in morphological theory,
and the dark of CAD envelops me.
Time gets fuzzy, cold, and drips
Something shapeless licks it's lips.

and of course it's not Halloween without Thriller.

Oct 30, 2006

Studio Blues

I've come to studio every day for the last seven days, 9 AM to 9 PM at least, most days until 11 or so. I've also come to the realization that the reason I'm hating studio right now is because this is a non-design studio. Never explicitly stated, but obvious in retrospect, we are working not to design anything, but to tease a response out of the site in a systematic way. The most successful students in this studio are the ones who can work without thinking because it is thought, thinking "does this make sense?", or "what would work best in this space?", which defeats the work. I still have not been to Boca or to a football game down here. I haven't even been to the nature preserve.

Oct 27, 2006

Memories from Brazil II

Brazil is a difficult place to write about. It's such an experience, its difficult to pinpoint the feel. One way of writing about it would be to explain it as Las Vegas, but brutally honest and real and authentic. The Pirate show with real pirates, the actual Eiffel tower, shows where you become part of the show and the performers don't do the act because they're on contract but because they love to do it. Theres just an intense vitality and vivacity of Brazil, even more so in Rio.

My favorite memories from Rio were:

Standing on top of Corcovado Mountain beside the largest statue of Christ in the world, with the clouds below you rolling around the hills of the city, and the sun beginning to set in the west. The city is just spread out around, nestled into the hollows and along the bays of an unbelievable fantasy landscape. It is comparable to the first time one sees the grand canyon in its entirety from the edge of the cliff.

Dancing samba at the Caprioca de Gema samba club in Lapa, a historic district of Rio, beautifully lit colonial buildings and pedestrians everywhere, drinking caphirinas and dancing with my friends and professors to the amazing live samba band at the front of the club. Drenched in sweat from the dancing and the heat and the crowds.

Standing on the prow of the boat as it took us back to the isolated colonial town of Paraty a few hours from Rio. The rain was pouring down, I was totally drenched, and the mist was rolling around the hills and islands surrounding the bay. We were coming back from lunch on a tiny island which only has two houses and an outdoor restaurant and bar.

Bodysurfing with Rio locals all around on Copacabana beach, while the military police helicopter made occasional patrols overhead.

Eating lunch in the Rocinha Favela (organized slum) with dealers cleaning their automatic weapons across the street. Someone announced our arrival to the favela when we came in with fireworks to alert the place to our presence. The police have no jurisdiction here, but its tightly controlled by other forces who maintain order. We were actually safer there than between slums or in the city.

In Rio, riding the old wooden open air street tram at night. This thing is ancient, wooden and rickety. People who dont want to spend the quarter to ride hang on the side and cling closely as the tram makes very tight clearances. Occasionally they have to hop in to avoid being scraped off the side as we rocket along at 40 miles an hour. The bumps, turns, stops, and accelerations of that tram I haven't experienced since the Indiana Jones ride.

In Sao Paolo, walking through the amazing museum/ruin of the Pinacoteca. Stupidly, I forgot my camera on the bus, but my friends got lots of pictures.

Wandering around Sao Paolo's school of architecture, a phenomenal building where the students have completely taken over the spaces. There are no handrails or guardrails in the building which is organized around a big atrium space. The studios are all open and massive. There were kids talking and working while in one corner, a review and critique was going on.

Eating dinner in Rio at a corner joint near the hotel. We first sat outside, but the owner moved us to around the bar as Aldo, Saori, and I were getting a lot of stares from the locals. Amazing rice and black beans with roast beef and beer.

Brazil is an amazing place to visit, but its too intense. It was nice to come home to Buenos Aires, and to get up the next day for a relaxing morning drinking cafe con leche y medialunas.

Oct 21, 2006

Footnotes of History

Today is Emily's birthday and in her honor, I will relate an anectode from her which, real or not, is worthy of storing at least someplace on the internet.

Emily's grandfather in Ohio once had in his employ a Norwegian cook, whose name was Rinda Gannuts. She made her way to the US after leaving the service as the cook of Pancho Villa of Mexican fame. Apparently, she was a very strange woman who made clothes effigies.

It's strange enough to be true, and maybe someday someone will be looking for a detailed history of Pancho Villa's domestic staff and come across this page. I think the name Rinda Gannuts worth of internet recognition anyway.

Last night I went to see a movie with some friends. Saori pointed out a director Ken Loach which she recommended to us, and so we picked that movie without having any idea of what it was about based on the fact that it was in English. To be more accurate, it was in heavily accented Irish english, which meant we got as much from the spanish subtitles as from the vocal track. The movie was good, a documentary-drama about the Irish civil war and the factioning of the IRA.

Studio is not going so well. I've talked it over with my roomates and we're agreed that the most concerning thing is that we're not that concerned about the fact that we're not getting it. I feel unproductive and unconcerned about it, which is very distressing. The thing to do is just keep working hard at it, although the fact that the assignments, aim, and methods are vauge and difficult. As a group, we are wavering between "we're in serious trouble" to "we're not going to worry about it"

On the brighter side, we're through with site analysis and we can get back to building design, ground which is more familiar to us than site analysis and diagrams. Hopefully, a solid foot on schematic design will be able to support us and get us back on top of everything.

Predictably, and lamentably, Buenos Aires is entering full spring. Welcome to sunny warm days.

Oct 17, 2006

More pictures

Ok, added all my pictures from Sao Paolo and Rio, and finished captioning all the important ones from Sao Paolo, so you can actually tell what I was thinking when I took the picture. Just follow the same link in the post below. I'm glad I'm back home in Buenos Aires. Yesterday I just sat outside on a sunny corner cafe with Aldo and Saori, drinking an excellent cafe con leche, and eating medialunas, and life just does not get any better.

Oct 16, 2006

Memories from Brazil

Brazil is completely different from the rest of Latin America. In terms of size, language, and culture, it is quite literally its own continent. There is a vibrant intensity of life, like that of New York or Hong Kong, but even more so beyond just the rush and the energy. People dance everywhere in Brazil. There is music everywhere. The 7 days we spent in Sao Paolo and Rio were unbelievable.

We traveled everywhere in a huge tour bus, since there were about 30 of us on the trip. There were us the students, plus Claudio and Sergio. Another local architect Johenu, joined us at the last minute, and the three of those guys cracked each other up the entire trip, and I think they actually had more fun than we did.

We arrived in Sao Paolo in the morning, dropped our stuff of at the hotel, and took a bus tour of the city. Sao Paolo is ringed and infiltrated with Favelas, slum neighborhoods built on unusable land and completely out of control of the municipalities. Some steal power and utilities from the cities, but they are poorly built by the inhabitants, filthy, and dangerous. We passed them all the time from the elevated freeways.

Sao Paolo has been described with some accuracy as a New York in the jungle. It's the third biggest city in the world (behind Tokyo and Mexico City) and the industrial and financial capital of Brazil. Skyscrapers everywhere. Extremely tropical with unbelievable trees and mist everywhere. It's a fight between the gray of the fog, clouds, concrete, buildings, and the green of the trees, plants, and mosses.

Our first stop was lunch at a cafeteria that sold food by the kilo. You get food from the buffet, bring it to the weigher, and they put your total on a barcode card. If you want more food, you refill your plate, and they weigh it and scan your card again. Lots of meat, and rice and black beans in Brazil. The black beans are incredible. I really missed spices in Buenos Aires. At the end of the meal, I brougt my card to the cashier and paid the total. That's actually the way most of the bars and clubs worked over there too. They gave you a card with all the drinks and marked the ones you'd had as you bought them, and you paid your tab before you left.

We stopped at the hanging subway entrace by Rocha, the refinished Pinacoteca art museum by Rocha which was my favorite building in Sao Paolo, and finished the day at a cultural center complex designed by Oscar Neimeyer and Burl Marx, the two main architectural figures in Brazil. Neimeyer does extremely scupltural buildings in whitewashed concrete and has hundreds of buildings. 93 years old, he's still having his sketches translated into actual buildings. Burl Marx was a landscape architect who created highly abstracted landscapes using Amazonian plants.

At the cultural center, the Biennal was going on for Sao Paolo, which is a huge art+culture+design exhibition with enterants from all over the world. The exhibition was in a huge hall with three floor and it was a trippy experiance. My favorite work was this scluptural/performance piece. It was a small rectangular plot of astrotruf maybe 15'x 10', surrounded by two 10' high fence tipped with razor wire, and the space between the two fences littered with machetes, scythes, and rubber gloves. The installation included black uniformed guards patrolling the perimeter. In the center of the grass was an obscenity- a naked, armless human figure with the head of a vulture.

Postcards from Brazil

My pics from Brazil. 96 uploaded so far, and that's just for Sao Paolo. Working on Rio.

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Oct 15, 2006

Rio, me

I am home

Brazil was phenomenal. We just got back in at 4 AM to Buenos Aires. I can't believe the things we did, and the things we saw over there. Brazil is so different from the rest of the world, the rest of latin America, its its own world. Anyway, we survived a week, Sao Paolo and Rio de Janero. The view from the giant statue of Christ on Corovado mountain is the most amazing view I've ever seen, moving me almost to tears. Anyway, after I get some sleep I'll compile the memories and moments.

Oct 9, 2006

Sao Paolo

Just when I begin to get a handle on castellano, they throw portugese at us. We are on our last day in Sao Paolo, leaving tomorrow morning for Rio de Janero!!!! Sao Paolo is amazing, night and day from Buenos Aires. This place is more like New York in a rainforest. Massive green trees everywhere, tons of concrete, tons of skyscrapers. Today we saw the architecture builing at the university of Sao Paolo. Amazing building, the pictures dont do it justice. Weve been running all over the place non stop. Ive been getting less than six hours of sleep at night, although the hotel is really nice. Were in the garden district on the 15th floor with another amazing view. Everyone is jealous. Early morning flight out of BsAs went pretty well, spent all day saturday touring the city by bus, and checking out architecture of museums I studied last semester. Traffic is a pain, and the fact that theres nearly 30 of us in a group complicates everything. The professors are having more fun than the students: last night we went to a brazillian music show and they got into a hilarious arguement about whether the show was so bad that it was a deliberate statement or if they were just a really crappy show. All three of them were literally hooting and crying with laughter. I think they~re having a better time than we are. Brazil! What a place. Buenos Aires is a tango- reserved, intsense, passionate, with very controlled moves. Brazil is a samba, full of movement, energy, life, big, wide expressions and gestures. About out of time, so thats all for now. Hundreds of pictures.

Oct 5, 2006

Review Day

I posted some good pics from the review day, mostly of people passed out at their desks. I included 1 picture of me which is terrible, but gives a good idea of what I look like after over a day in a half in studio. I survived the critique, but we were torn apart. Literally, they told us that our program didn't use the modfied site lines, our modifeid site lines weren't related to what was actually happening on the site lines, and that our site lines didn't really go into what was actually happening in reality. We were also accused of social engineering, and one of the modular units I had so much designing was apparently attempted by the military regimes here as a real housing solution with disasterous and hated results. Anyway, the pictures are fun, so enjoy, especially if you happen to know these people. I am ready Rio.

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Oct 4, 2006

Mid Review

I've now been in studio for 31 hours straight. Got maybe an hour of sleep on the floor. We crunched all the way through the night and tapered off a few hours ago as we finished everything up. I'm in the loopy phase of exhaustion, although I passed out straight into REM sleep in a lull while I was waiting to process some images. Chris just keeled over in the corner, now he's lying on the floor, probably already asleep. I woke up feeling a lot better after my powernap- I need to figure out how to do that more. Almost time to go into the review. There are outside critics, non architecture people, so this should be interesting. We're group 8 so we have a while to wait. It will be a long day, I'm sure already. The weather is warming up even more from the coolness of the last few days, and its humid. I see more and more mosquitos every day. I can;t even think about Brazil. Or the theory reading I'm supposed to have done for tomorrow. At least this hard part is over. I had such a blast in the last hour, just playing with stackable forms for the housing part of the project. Wish me luck! And good luck to my friends back in ASU who are also going into reviews today!

Oct 3, 2006

studio

Sunday night worked at home, got about 5 hours of sleep sunday night. Got up and went to school with Jamie around 7 AM monday. We got caught in a torrential downpour and so we ducked into a cafe to wait it out, but it lasted for an hour. We attempted to make a break for the school but it was coming down too hard and so we hailed cab for the three minute ride to campus. We were all totally soaked, but our machines were still dry. Dusty was the only one in when we got to studio, and he had his shirt off, drying, so we followed his lead. When more people arrived, they just started cracking up at the sight of the three of working at our desks. It was a long day. I didn't leave studio until 2 A.M. Cab home, shower, shave, bed. Up again this morning after five hours of sleep again. Went and paid off the rest of the Brazil trip at the travel agency downtown before hightailing it back to studio. Been here all today, and will probably remain here all night. I'm actually pretty good sleep wise. I'm tired, but I've had more than three hours of sleep at night. Got plenty of water and coke, and I've got empanadas downstairs in the fridge. Wish me luck.

Oct 1, 2006

Uploaded some more pics from UBA, Universidad de Buenos Aires and some from our class at UTDT.


Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Sep 30, 2006

Parrillada

Last night was Aldo's brother's last night in town, so a bunch of us all met for dinner at a parilla (grill) near the apartment. Nice place, two floors, giant grill at the front. This isn't Lomo, with frou-frou ribeye medalions on a bed on eggplant. This is grilled beef like you mean it. They ordered the Parillada, which is the whole grill. They bring out a huge iron platter with the usual cuts of beef, plus liver, kidneys, various intestinal lengths, glands, brains, and other unidnentifyable bits. I got a shish kabab and ate whatever no one else would off the platter. You can't scare me, I've been to China. Aldo wanted to take his brother to Opera Bay to show him the club scene down here, but when we got back from the restaurant, Aldo passed out, snoring, in his clothes. His brother ended up calling on a chica he'd met down here. Too much beef and wine.

Made french toast this morning. The syrup was the really hard thing to find. $10 for a bottle of imported canadian grade A amber, but the taste is incomparable to the imitation stuff. Some mornings I really do miss IHOPs and Perkins'.

We're all tired. No one did anything or went to any bars this weekend. The question is: how let down is Claudio going to be come Wednesday? At least I have my visa for Brazil taken care of, although I still need to check and see if I need to get a yellow fever vaccine to get back into Argentina from Rio and Sao Paolo. We leave next weekend for an entire week.

Went to a birthday dinner tonight for T, one of the 4th years on this trip. His girlfriend came down for a week to visit him, and the two of them could easily be models. T looks like he walked straight out of a Abercrombie and Fitch advertisement (he actually used to work there), and his girlfriend is gorgeous with a kind of Kiera Knightly look to her. They were both mugged at an ATM this afternoon. The mugger showed them a gun in his waistband, and they sensibly handed over thier money. There's really no avoiding these kind of situations if living in the big city. They were in a bank foyer on a main street at 6 PM in daylight. There have been numerous pickpocketings, and cameras stolen, but this is the first mugging I've heard of happen in the group. I've taken to leaving my ID and credit card at home when I go out. There's really no reason to have it as everything takes place in cash.


The trees are finally leafing again, with vibrant fresh green leaves over the streets. Got my first mosquito bite down here, despite the fact that it was cool enough tonight to warrent a bufanda.

Sep 29, 2006

frustration

I hate this studio. I have contributed practically nothing but a few ideas to my group. I feel stupid and useless, especially since a lot of what we're doing is "post-rationalizing" since our assignments and processes are so vauge and amorphous. The instructors are brilliant, but frustratingly vauge and insistant on a process I don't understand. I've done nothing this project but make a dozen trips to a bad part of town and look at diagrams and maps. I feel like I'm trapped by AutoCAD and trying to figure out how to represent "accumlation" and "extraction" in 2D lines. We have a mid-review wednesday, and we still have to "texture" our site with some kind of feature which will lead us to "intention" our site and develop buildable area. We still have no coherant program put togather for what this will be. It blows my mind, I can't believe we're not even going to nail down WHAT WE ARE DESIGNING until four days before our mid review.

Sep 28, 2006

Lunacy and Lemonade

Sorry for my protracted absence- it's been a crazy week. We're in the middle of crunch time of our studio. Let's see, Sunday I worked literally all day on studio work, and most of the night, getting to bed around 3 AM. One of my group members, Adam, had just come back from another Argentine ski resort even farther south than Las Lenas, called Barlioche. He took a direct bus there, but it was still a 20 hour ride. The bus, he told us, were "executive cama" which meant the chairs reclined all the way back to lie flat, and wine and whisky were served free thoughout the trip, as well as three hot meals. Anyway, he had literally come off the mountain and hopped on the bus without stretching, so he was in bad, sore, shape when he got here. This prompted him to take up a detox diet which had also done last year.

This was just what we were talking about while we worked, and the diet sounded interetsing to me. I've had more wine and grilled meat here then in the rest of my life, and I've also been a lot more sick over here, so I decided to give it a shot. I was also curious as I've never been on a fast before. The diet is called the lemonade diet, and its really a cleansing diet rather than a weight loss diet. The idea is that you only drink this special lemonade for a week straight. I joined Adam on this diet sunday night, having last gorged myself on empanadas around noon. Monday morning, I got up (after five hours of sleep) and mixed my first batch of lemonade. The lemonade is supposed to made with fresh squeezed lemon juice, water, some maple syrup, and a sprinkling of cayanne pepper. I didn't have the last two ingreedients, so I left out the pepper and added this kind of thick bland sugar syrup with no flavoring made from corn syrup. It was not terrible, but it wasn't great. I made four bottles and hauled it all to school. Didn't eat anything all day.

It was kind of interesting, everyone kept commentng that we were crazy, that I would wither away to nothing, that I must have been starving, etc etc. but the fact is that the lemonade suppresses the appetite and the sugars in the syrup kept my energy up. I felt totally fine the entire time I was on the diet, and definately more clear headed. That night after studio, I went with some friends to a bar/restraurant after class. Its funny, when you can't eat, everything looks and smells so wonderful. Even after one day, I could have written poetry about a sandwhich. I need to do this more often. Anyway, I stayed on the diet until Tuesday night, lasting two days without any kind of solid food whatsoever. I wasn't hungry, but the insanity of our architecture studio, the long hours we work, and the frustration with the studio made me want to have access to comfortable food and lots of caffinated beverages. It was a good experiance, and I'll definately do the full thing before I leave.

Studio is frustrating and difficult. We're working according to a very different methodology based on processing and abstracting site information rather than designing from a program. More later. Need to get on the reading for theory class today.

Sep 23, 2006

Day in Uruguay

Added a new country to my list today. Got up at seven AM with Aldo and his brother who came down to see him for a week. Took a taxi to the Buquebus port, the ferry which runs between Buenos Aires and Colonia. It's about a two and a half hour trip across the Rio de la Plata. We caught the 9 AM ferry and went to Colonia which is a small town in Uruguay known mostly for its quiet laid back atmosphere and quaint tree lined cobblestone streets. Well, they would have been tree lined if they hadn't just topped all of the trees. Apparently they do that every five years. My original plan was to spend the rest of the day in Colonia and take a 4 AM ferry back to Buenos Aires, but I was informed that there was no such ferry Sundays, so I had to grab the 6:45 ferry today instead. There was really no way I could abandon my architecture group for the entire weekend. So we mostly walked around the old town, stopped and had a huge steak for lunch, hit the local souvenier outdoor market, and enjoyed a cafe before heading back to the port area. Check out the link below to a new album I posted of pics from that trip.

Overall, I wasn't impressed with Colonia. Yes, it does have some quaint charm and its definately slower paced than Buenos Aires, but today it just felt deserted. With the heavy dark clouds overhead it almost felt like some kind of surreal horror/drama. I was not exactly enchanted. Apart from the small old town, there's really not much to see in that area. Granted, we didn't make it up to the rest of the town stretched along the coast, and we didn't rent motos to ride around either. Anyway, at six, I went back to the boat and the Estrada bros caught a bus to Montevideo.

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

Sep 21, 2006

more pictures

pictures from today which was the official first day of spring. All the schools are out today so all the teens in the city flock to the parks to drink, socialize, play soccer, make out, play guitar, and hang out. They were literally everywhere today. I posted some new pictures of them on my webshots page:

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by archalec

click to follow the link

Sep 20, 2006

Brazil

This is an unusual exchange program. The way these things usually work out is that the classes are easy, mostly related to introducing the country, like "the Renaissance in Florence" or "French 101" etc. A few of my friends who have been on other exchange programs have told me about this on this trip. Also unusual is the fact that this trip is even CLASSIFIED as an exchange program. I guess in theory, some students will study at ASU for next semester, but its still very odd since we're creating our own program down here with our own teachers from the local university who speak English- not that I'm complaining. The thing is that this is a really really hard semester of work. We're literally taking the graduate architectural theory class and working with them in studio on the same projects. On top of that is a building systems class which is the "easy" class.

I've never felt as frustrated and lost as I have in this studio. Working with the grad students and in a group is really good because there's some support there, but I really do feel like I'm not pulling my weight in terms of actual work or intellectual work. The problem is the nature of the studio: I am completley not used to such vauge and open problems. And its not just me, either, everyone is a little lost and struggling to define the problem of the area for themselves. It's difficult to explain. The professors are great, extremely intelligent, but they're really asking a lot out of us, asking for us to abandon the usual process of looking at program and deriving form from that-but to instead to apply a system to a condition and use that resultant to begin to follow a thread to develop an understanding of the site and context. The structure then becomes reverse engineering that thread to arrive at a desired site and contextual condition. The problem becomes figuring out what the problem is. It's extremely theoretical and advanced, and it's driving me nuts because for every review and critique we're at only halfway (if that) to what the professors are wanting out of us. For example, today we presented some material, laid down some ideas for them, showed them some thoughts about elevations and the representation of negative space in the city. They said that they liked the direction we were going, but that we hadn't even come close to doing the assignment, which was apparently to do a simple plan, section, and elevation of the site.

Even the concept of the site is difficult- we have a primary site which is under the freeway extending out to a major street, and a secondary site which must bear some kind of contextual, theoretical, compositional, or typological link back to the first site and the two sites must compliment each other, as the second site should be an extention of the first. Dan, our sixth year, has a better grasp on how to approach these type of situational problems as he explained that graduate school is all about not giving you problems as much as presenting you with situations.

Anyway, tuesday we all went down to get our Brazilian visas. I got my passport photo taken at a place along the way and then we met everyone at the consulate. The consulate was very easy to navegate, and the people there seemed to genuinely want to help you get your visa. (what a concept!) I was especially impressed, coming from the beaucratic levels of hell of the Russian consulates. The only irritant was that they dont actually have forms for you to fill out there, you have to enter the info in the computer terminal. They processed all our visa appliations as a batch to speed up the process, so we should be getting them back friday, which would be great. Well, the other irritant was the $100 processing fee we had to pay for the visas, which was instituted because the US charges the same fee for Brazilians who want to enter the country.

Last weekend was really bad. The gorgeous weather was totally wasted as we spent all our time at the site and working (mostly confused and frustrated) in studio. Our group ended up working until 3 am Sunday night, getting us back at our apartments around 4 am to get up again at 8 am.

Anyway, Aldo's younger brother comes down friday (or thursday?) and we'll probably head over to Uruguay if we do really get our passports back friday. There's apparently a gorgeous little town called Colonia a few hours by boat from Buenos Aires. I decided to pass on the first trip over there which was in the first week of our arrival, mostly due to the fact that some of the guys decided to do it at 3 AM, while drunk in a club. They bought thier tickets at 6 am, went home to throw some stuff togather and left at 9 AM. I've become more flexible in my old age, but I draw the line at spontaneous international travel plans made while intoxicated.

Loaded a few more pictures on my webshots page, just click around to the last few pages to check them out. Skype is amazing. I've called my grandparents, mom's cell, and texted Tay's cell phone in Abu Dhabi.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...