Aug 31, 2006

Buenos Aires and Ski Trip Photos

follow this link to check them all out.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2071113&l=3399f&id=10012618

cuidad de los perros, jardin de los gatos

Buenos Aires is definately a dog city. Every morning you can see the pasaperros out walking as many as 20 dogs with all thier leashes tethered togather. The parks are always filled with pooches just having a great time. The only downside is you have to watch your step everywhere. Our studio building is next door to a huge park where there are always people and dogs. The downstairs lounge area looks out onto the park, so when I get my hot water for tea, I can see them all right outside. The only garden where the dogs dont go is the Jardin Botanico. This has the highest density of cats I've ever seen. The park is fairly large, and totally filled with cats of all sizes and colors. All the really fluffy cats make me miss Suki. We were talking with a local in the park the other day and she said that many of the cats here actually have owners, but live in the park and the owners bring food and water for them. Interesting concept. Whats really interesting is how well all the animals here get along. The natural pecking order is allowed to establish itself here, without owners who get offended if one dog growls at another, and so all the animals know thier place and get along. I've yet to see any confrontation between animals in this city. From our 8th story vantage, I see cats running around on the rooftops.

Spring is finally whispering in the wind down here. We've been having gloriously sunny days in the mornings at least, and I've been going out in just a long sleeved shirt. I cant wait until the trees begin to bloom and grow again, although as warm as it is getting now with no sign of green buds on the trees, I'm a little concerned about how hot the summers will be. Killed a mosquito in my apartment today too.

Alcohol is an interesting subject here. Most portenos don't really drink. Even the younger generation tends to perfer cokes in the evening. If they do drink, they drink wine, or mixed drinks in the clubs. Club drinks are very expenisve, but beer is very cheap here. I've seen very little dark beer here, most of it is very light. Quilmes is the national brew of Argentina, but it competes with Brahma, the Brazillian beer, and personally, I couln't tell you the difference between them. The interesing thing is that a litro of Quilmes in the store costs about 2.20 pesos, or less than a dollar, and if you return the bottle, you get a peso back. Which means that you effectively get a liter of beer for approximately 60 cents. Not to worry, we're not buying litros for each of us down here, but sharing them.

Aug 30, 2006

Back to Studio

Our studio is in a renovated water treatment laboritory building right by the River Plate Stadium. In Buenos Aires, soccer is king. People of all ages play it, everywhere. Walking around the streets we watched some kids playing in the middle of the street, pausing only to let cars through. Whenever the ball went awry, some pedestrian would invariably move out to intercept it, do some little thing with the ball, and kick it back. I even saw a guy on a bike with a massive basket swerve so he could get a touch on the ball. In Buenos Aires, there are two teams which are major rivals: Boca Juniors, and River Plate. The river plate stadium is literally across the street from our school complex. Last wednesday there was a late afternoon game. Around lunchtime, we went hunting for food, and found ourselves surrounded by all types of police. Not that we were the cause of alarm, but that they were there to maintain order during and after the game. There were a fleet of motorcycles, 20 mounted police, general beat police standing everywhere, and a few dozen special ops police with riot gear. When Argentines have a game, they really have a game. Later that night as we were leaving, we could hear the roar and chanting of the fans inside the stadium.

Speaking of food, our lunch and dinner options near here (studio of course) are pretty limited. Theres an overpriced mini cafeteria downstairs which sells coffee and some other basics. There's also a cafe/restaurant on the near corner which is slow but sells more complete coffee, tortes, breads, and some light meals. Then there is a superpancho kiosk by the car wash about a block away. A superpancho is an Argentine hot dog. Approximately the same width of a standard hot dog, and about a foot long, served on a bun with ketchup, mostaza (mustard), and mayonaise. I usually go for two as they're not that filling.

I've started experimenting with busses here. Normally, I take the Subte, which means walking 45 minutes and riding 15. With the bus, I walk a total of ten minutes and I can ride the rest of the way, dropping me off very close to the school. At least, that was the bus I took THIS morning. Yesterday I grabbed the wrong bus and ended up walking about 8 blocks to get to school. The busses here are actually a little more expenseive than the subte (say 28 cents vs 20 cents) and they are always packed. They're always very decorated on the outside however, and I get the impression that each bus line is run by a different company. A last note about busses in Beunos Aires, they are the leading cause of death of Portenos, according to one source.

Studio has started, as I am sure many of you, my dear readers, have already figured out by my lack of posts. The semester's focus is on the Chicos en la calle. (Children in the street). A typical problem of major cities, there are an estimated 400 pibes (another local name for the teens) who are in that condition. They are typically teenagers who left thier homes due to mostly poverty or violence, and due to that condition, prefer to remain in the street than return to thier homes in the outskirts of the cities. They live by begging, vending, and petty theivery. There are problems with these kids get addicted to inhaling glues etc, then move on to harder substances. There's a few horribly depressing movies I could recommend but I won't.

The general problem is that we're going to be designing a public work. The specific problem or program isn't stated because we have to figure it out for ourselves. The site is fixd: across from the remains of the Club Atletico under a freeway overpass in San Telmo.

Club Atletico is another intriguing and similarly depressing piece of the puzzle. I wont go into its details except to say that it was a secret detention and torture center used by the military goverment during the 1970s, where it "processed" 1500 individuals. The uncoverd it while constructing the freeway. Due to the fact that these events took place in such a short time ago, the feelings are still very raw and the place is very real and haunting for the locals of that generation who are now in thier 40s.

We met down there last friday for a walking tour of the area of San Telmo, the barrio where our site is. We went to the center for assisting the chicos, took pics, talked with the manager and staff, and we all bought a book of photos that the chicos took. It was 25 pesos, but we all wanted to contribute. Plus, its raw material we could use to understand the users of our public works and what they think of where they live.

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INTERMISSION - TAKE A BREAK - GET SOME CAFE CON LECHE Y MEDIALUNAS
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We hit the partial excavation of the Club Atletico afterwards. This is really not a great part of town. From the club atletico, we visited a laboratory and repository of the materials recovered from the torture center. Afterwards, we walked a short distance to Plaza Dorrego, where there's an amazing, huge junk, antiques, and crafts market every sunday. Sundays, there are tango dancers, tango orqestras with thier multiple accordians and violins, and hordes of tourists. Interestingly, theres also an 18th century housing complex uncovered and restored. A really cool museum and gallery called el Zanjin. The original builders during the 17oos wanted to expand thier brick house so they built an arch over the creek in thier backyard and built on that. Over time, thier neighbors followed suit so that the creek became completely covered. The creek no longer exists, but they found the tunnels created by the arches, and we walked along that for a bit which was really cool.

As you can see, this is a really complex project, such that its impossible to jump right into. Our first project for studio is to explore systems of a material. The way studio is set up is that we work in groups of three: one undergrad student, one grad student, and one local student who can vary from undergrad to graduate level equivilancy. My group didnt get a local, unfortanatlely, so Im working with another guy from my year, Adam, whose brother cooked us that great meal.

Speaking of people and connections, I learned that one of the grad students from ASU who came over here went to high school in Beijing. In talking to him, we figured out we were both at ISB at about the same time, although I was in a few grades lower than he was. We knew a lot of the same people and knew about the same teachers. Togather, we lamented the fact that all of our friends went on to much better schools than ASU. Apparently, ISB has become regarded as one of the best international schools in the world, to say nothing of Asia. Wierd, huh?

Going back to our current studio project- we are supposed to work with a material, explore its potential, work with it, and create evolving systems of organization which eventually overtake the material itself. Yeah, and this the conceptual more abstract project. While other groups decided to use materials such as rubber bands, note cards, playing cards, or rolls of corrugated cardboard, we started playing with a bunch of materials ourselves instead of picking one. We tried name cards, wire, etc. but finally settled on a metal binder clip.

These clips are difficult to describe- they're not the black and silver ones you can squeese open to stick pages in. Its two flat peices of metal, used to bind double hole punched sheets togather. One flat piece has two long tangs and the other flat peice has sliding clips. The idea is that you fold the tangs up so the peice has a U shape, stick that through your papers, and then bend the tangs down and slide them into the other peice so they lock togather. Anyway, it seemed like a fun material at the time and we could get boxes of 50 real cheap.

The major downside is that they're made of thin stamped metal, so now all of our fingers and epscially our thumbs, are all sliced to ribbons from working with the stuff. We've worked with the material now for about a week, and come up with some really intriguing designs, objects, feilds, and spacial systems. We just had our review today and they liked what they saw. Our studio is led by Claudio Vekstein himself with another local architect, Sergio.

Whew. I think that brings us up to speed on all the major issues. Argentina is still great, I love Buenos Aires, my spanish is flying along, and I have major readng for tomorrow to finish.

My two lecture classes here are amazing. Theory and enviornmental systems. Three hours each one day a week, with the studio twice a week for five hours. Fridays are feild trip days as needed. Stuff I can really dig my teeth into. Already feeling the strain from studio, but its a familar pressure. Last monday when we got our presentation requiremets, that overwhelmed feeling settled back down on me like a familiar yoke. Its not really that overwhelming due to its famliarity. No, I have no idea how I'll get everything done, but I know I can get through it.

Hopefully, dear reader, you will not have attempted to read this all at once. I just had a lot of catching up to do.

Aug 24, 2006

The long road home

One thing that I forgot to mention was the stars. Out in the Andes, so far from the rest of the world and so high up in air, the sky is more clear than anywhere else I've ever been in my life. It floored me. I was shocked into silence gazing up at the stars above the snowy mountains. If you'd asked me how many stars I could see, I would tell you "all of them". The sky was filled with stars, and in the middle was the spiral arm of the milky way, with all of its nebulous clouds of stars visible arcing across the sky.

Anyway.

Woke up monday morning at 650 AM as the plan was to meet at the other house at 7 to depart. We get the four of ourselves up, packed, and dressed. We never even met the other people who were snoozing when we went to bed and were snoozing when we left. In this entire trip, every day we got up while it was still dark out. We walked over to the other house around 715 where, surprise, no one was even awake yet. We yelled them out of bed, and I settled down to watch the a volleyball tournament on tv.

Left Malague around 730, stopping off at a convience store for breakfast. Banana, yogurt with cereal, orange juice. Everyone got cheap sunglasses for the snow glare. Five hours later we got up to Las Lenas for a short day of skiing. I was still sore and my skiing was shakey so I only got about five runs in. Still, these are huge runs, so they took me the entire time we were skiing. One of the runs was the best run I've ever done in my life. The lift line was about 20 minutes of waiting due to its popularity, and at least 10 minutes of ascent at a45 degrees up to the peak of this massive ridge. The view from the top was incredible. THe run was classified red but it skied like a blue in the states. It wound its way down and around the main peak, passing craggy huge peaks on either side. It was as though we were skiing in a ski resort of giants. Its hard to describe the absolute scale of the place. It was a really warm day, even warmer than sunday. I skied in a tee shirt and a nylon shell jacket. Great weather.

Anyway, at the end of the day, around 3 pm, we took a group photo at the base and drove back out to Los Molles where we dropped off the ski rental equipment. The tiny bus felt much more open. Remeber, that we're lugging ten people, six snowboards, and four sets of skis and poles INSIDE the van. After we dropped it all off, we had a long 5 hour drive back to Mendoza. We didn't run into any incident until we got to Mendoza when the guy who was driving took a wrong turn down a one way street. Innocent mistake, especially in a strange city when we were looking for a gas station to fill up the van before we returned it. We turned off of it quickly, but we'd attracted the attention of the police who pulled us over. We explained the situtation in our broken spanish, and the police gave us a break (they really want to be nice to the rich foreign tourists) and escorted us to the gas station where they sat and watched us. I was concerned that they would keep following us after we{d filled up, but they stayed and we dropped off the van with no problems.

It was 10 PM and we were all famished, so we found a cafe outside on a pedestrian mall. Mendoza is actually a nice little city, much more laid back than BsAs with quiet squares and a very closed downtown. Shared beers, wine, and had a great ravioli for dinner. By the time we'd paid, it was 10 PM at night. Our bus would depart at 7 AM in the morning. We split into two groups. One went to a hotel and the other group decided to pass. I figured, by the time we would have gotten to the hotel, checked in, and showered, it would be 2 AM at LEAST. It just was not worth the money to get a few hours in. The shower would have been nice though.

So the five of us hit a beatles themed pub and killed a litro of a Andes beer ( all the local beers in argentina are very light ) and killed an hour. We walked around in the steets for an hour or so before winding up at the bus terminal. We each grabbed a bench and laid down with our heads on our bags. There were other people there too, mostly travelers like us and a few security guards. I caught sleep in snatches of about 45 minutes, waking up every hour or so. Slept like that until about 5 AM when the security guard made us all sit up.

There's never a night so cold than when you sleep on a bench. I felt like crap, and I looked about as good as I felt. My hair was so greasy it was a fire hazard, I hadn{t showered since skiing and the long drive, and my face was still badly sunburned from the first day of skiing (forgot suntan lotion that day, and I'm STILL paying for it). We walked around the streets some more looking for an open cafe. Nothing. Went back to the station and found a place that finally opened. Had a cafe con leche and medialunas. Man, that coffee would have been fantastic at triple the price. Met the more delicate members of our group at the cafe and then we all hopped on the long bus back to Buenos Aires.

The bus departed at 7 AM, and arrived in BsAs at 11 PM. With the hour time differnace, thats still 16 hour of riding a bus. This coach wasnt nearly as nice as the one we took in. It was $5 cheaper, but the seats didnt really recline that much, the in'drive movies were pirated copies, and we made about ten stops throughout the day. It was interesting to see the small towns in rural Argentina, but when the bus spent two hours rolling over a dirt road in the middle of pastures, I'd had enough. We were all stir crazy at hour 13.

The movies were entertaining though, in spanish with english subtitles or viceversa. The Pacifier, Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one) and Click. Click was really stupid, but it was interesting because the premise is Adam sandler is an architect with so little time for anything other than his work that he gets a magic remote to fastforward and control time. Predictably maudlin results, with a typical, and it was just a dream ending. It was funny as we're all architecture students watching it, and we were making sarcastic "now what did we all learn from this movie?" comments.

Finally, finally, finally pulled into the BsAs Omnibus station and shared a cab home with the chicas. Aldo and Jamie were still out at dinner, so I was so glad to get a shower for the first time in literally 2 days. I realized that I think of Buenos Aires as home now, riding back on the bus.

What a trip! What an experiance! I wouldnt do it again, but Im so glad I did it. What were we thinking!? Crossing a foriegn country over 800 miles for two days of skiing. Renting a bus and road tripping across the wildreness in South America. Showing up in a ski resort late at night with ten people and expecting to find a room. Man, it was great. I remember thinking about how things work out, and I remebered the conditional for that theory that I'd forgoten in the comfort of my daily life; things work out because there is no plan B. ITs either glorious success or cataclysmic failure. There were several points on this trip were we teetered pretty precariously.
Nonetheless, this will be a trip I'll never forget.

It's not every day that you take a weekend ski trip to the Andes.

Aug 23, 2006

My Weekend Ski Trip to the Andes

A few of my classmates had been talking about a ski trip that weekend to Las Lenas, a ski resort in the Andes mountains of Argentina, right on the Chilean border. It was the weekend before the start of classes and studio, and a national holiday on monday, so I had to go. How often does one get the chance to Ski in the Andes?

Our saga began friday night, when we left from Buenos Aires on a bus bound for Mendoza at 9 PM. There were ten of us, 7 undergraduates, 2 grad students, and TCody´s older sister. The bus terminal in BA is huge, multileveled, and totally packed. This is an international airport for busses, with 80 bus gates all in a single row, departures and arrivals all the time. It was absolutely packed when we left. Since airfares are too expensive for the average Argentine, and trains a leftover from the British, busses compete to outdo each other with lavish amenities, from fully reclining seats to free breakfasts, anything. We took a semicama (half reclining) bus, across the width of the country (about 750 miles ) for about $30, and it included breakfast.

The bus ride out was great. We brought a few bottles of vino tinto for the ride, and as we had all the seats in the back, had a little party while Batman Begins played in spanish on the video screens. With a little help from the wine, we all conked out around midnight and I slept soundly until about 6 AM. We stopped in a tiny town for a free breakfast of stale croissants, and the worst cappuchino Ive had so far in this country. (cafe con leche is really expresso with a ton of hot steamed milk) We arrived in Mendoza a little before noon saturday.

One slight problem. We were still 5 hours from Los Lenas. With tons of begging, searching, and pleading, we found busses to Malague, a town an hour away from Las Lenas, but they didnt leave until 6 PM, which would get us into Las Lenas in the middle of the night, and all the places we were calling in Las Lenas or Malague had absolutely nothing in terms of a place to stay. We´d ask for two rooms, and they´d tell us they were totally booked for the next two days. So, we decided to go anyway, trusting to our luck. However, there was still the problem of getting there at a reasonable time.

We decided to rent a minibus from a local car rental place. Came out to less than $40 a person for the two days we used it. The ten of us loaded up and we drove the 5 hours out to Los Lenas that afternoon. The middle of Argentina is like Texas or Oklahoma. Totally flat, unbroken except for the occational windmill, rustic farmhouse, and endless fields and open skies. When we got closer to the Andes, which run across the entire horizon, the terrain got more deserty, like Arizona or Nevada. It was very strage, especailly with the huge snow capped chain in the distance.

We passed frequent police control points, at least six or seven total, and most of the time, they just waved us through or asked us where we were going. Not sure what they were looking for. We stopped at a high mountain pass, as a place where there was a shrine and around were stacked tons of partially filled water bottles people had left. I learned later that the water was left there for parched travelers, as the shrine revered a particular local saint who died from dehydration or something like that.

The sun setting behind the Andes was phenomenal. Since we were in the wine country, the farmers were burning the fields so the smoke-haze settled around the base of hte mountain chain, shouding it almost, and the rays streaming out from behind the peaks was amazing. We were all taking pictures.

We got to Las Lenas around 10 PM. Really really small ski resort. Good snow conditions. We´d set out in twos or threes, usually with one of the chicas, and try our luck at the various places. The only place we found wanted 500 pesos a night for a room, or about 180 dollars. We were laughed out of several places, and we were asking for only two rooms. Exhausting Las Lenas, we went back to the small settlement of Los Molles, about 20 minutes from the ski resort. Los Molles used to be Los Lenas until a massive avalanche wiped the place out. The remains were rebuilt, and so now its a few small hotels and some bungalows, stretched out across the rocky valley floor. We tried the places there with no luck, and I had resigned myself to sleeping in the van with the other 9 people.

The last hotel recommended we try a hostel down a certain dirt road. We took it and we weren´t sure which was the main office of a series of stone cottages. Chris, the most charismatic of the group, went to knock on the door, and ended up accidently knocking it actually open. In his broken spanish, he asked ¨what is this place?¨they told him ¨we live here.¨ Apparently, they were renters for a few days, and told him the hostel was up the road a bit more.

The Argentines are so warm, they were totally cool about the whole thing. We let Chris and the girls into the tiny hostel first. At least we could eat dinner there, we found. They talked to the owner, who said that the girls could sleep there. That was good enough for us, so we all trooped inside. Big fireplace, rows of picnic tables inside, MTV on the tube, Argentinos playing guitar in the sitting area. Very lively scene in a small space. Someone negotiated further while we sat, and the owner finally took pity and let the rest of us sleep on the floor in front of the fireplace on the carpet. They brought out dinner for us as part of the deal. Milonesas ( a flattened chicken fried steak) and jugs of wine and a huge bowl of salad. We all ate well. We also negotiated the next night in a house in Malague. Around midnight, they brought out some mats and blankets, and I passed out in my spot right in front of the fire.

I slept so well that it felt like one minute later someone was waking me up so they could put the living room back togather. We had toast with cream cheese and jam for breakfast, and strong coffee. We took off for the one of two ski rental places, actually inside two of the hotels. We cleaned out the entire towns collection of rental snowboards, although there were plenty of skis. Ski equipment was only 40 pesos total, or around $12. As we had no ski pants or gloves, we rented those from the ski place at the hotel next door. When I say next door, this is really just an encampent along one main road, and a few places along the dirt road. They had the most vibrant colored ski pants I´ve ever seen. I got bib overalls, bright red, and shiny. The boarders had it worse, having to get bright magenta or vibrant purple pants. It was absolutely hilarious.

Drove back to the ski resort, getting our lift tickets around noon. The tickets were actually cards with our names on them, which was kind of cool. At first impression, the resort of Los Lenas is quite dismal. It doesnt look that big, there´s no trees at all, and the snow was a little icy. However, a huge ridge, bisects the park, which is actually one of the biggest snow parks in the world. The lack of trees and the huge craggy mountains just make it seem smaller because there isnt any source of comparison. The runs are literally 3 miles long on average, so long lift rides.

Who skis there? Everyone, lots of British, Europeans, Argentines, and Brazilians. We saw skiiers blaze through a gate course and later learned the Swiss Olympic Ski Team is here practicing. A few Americans. The place is definately adult oriented, with bars all over the base, and a few on the mountian, all of them pumping techno indoors and out.
(Thats another thing, the Argentines are obsessed with 80´s music. I´ve heard more Depeche Mode and Madonna here than the entire rest of my life. )

Anyway, we skiied until the slopes closed in small groups. Four of us skiied, the rest snowboarded. I skiied ok, the problem was that I´ve not skiied in awhile, the runs are really long, so I was using a lot of energy and leg strength, so it wore me out very quickly. Plus my skiis felt a little loose, so I was having some control issues.

Around six, we left the park, and drove down to Malague. We met the landlords wife at a gas station just inside town and she took us to the two houses where the beds were. We dropped our stuff, and went to dinner. Had my first real argentina steak. Lomo completo, a sirloin topped by two fried eggs and served with fries. Good stuff. Argentines do beef right. After that we went back, I showered, and passed out into a warm bed around midnight.

To be continued...

Aug 21, 2006

quikie

Hey everyone, I´m currently in Mendoza, Arg. Doing fine and with the rest of the group .Will return to BsAs tomorrow around 10 pm after a day bus ride.

Aug 18, 2006

I'm alive

Hey, just a quikie to let everyone know I'm alive. Last night there was another dinner party. Adam's brother came over who's studying to be a chef and whipped up a phenomenal dinner for the whole lot of us. Shrimp with linguine in a cream and almond sauce. Good stuff.

Road trip this weekend. details to follow.

OK time to go!

Aug 16, 2006

Phases

As a group, we´re all experiancing the begining of the end of the initial euphoria. This place is still amazing, but its still takes an hour to get to school, and yeah, it´s really cold for us Arizonans. However, this place must be phenomenal in the spring. A lot of us are getting sore throats, sneezing, and coughing a lot from a combination of the cold, the wine and beer, and the pervasive smoke indoors. For me, I´m still very frustrated with my spanish class. Its very difficult to stay optimistic and focus on how far I have come, when I feel so totally lost at every class. I know already how to conjugate Quiero in the present imperfect ¨yo quiero, tu quieres, etc.¨but I´m just not ready for the se habia caminado which is ¨when I was walking¨and all the crazy tenses. There´s 14 total tense forms for spanish verbs, and the teachers seem hell bent on teaching all of them. Some days are better, but today was just really frustratingly difficult. I cant understand what shes saying, so I dont know what shes trying to teach us.

Sunday, I took a break from everyone. It was another gorgeous day, so I set out early in the morning and walked to the park areas. Theres a zoo, a huge botanical garden overrun by cats, a japanese garden, and a rose garden, all within a huge sprawing area of trees, paths, and benches. Did I mention how amorous these Portenos are? Almost everywhere I go, I see couples arm in arm and making out on park benches. It´s worse than Venice over here. Anyway, everyone was out again that morning, rollerblading, selling stuff on the street, bicycling, walking, and of course, playing soccer.

Jamie arrived monday afternoon. I took the time to do my laundy that day too. Cost about the same as in the states laundromats, around $2 per load to wash and dry. Aldo´s washing his clothes at the washer in the apartment (which takes an 90 minutes) and then he has to hang dry them in the tiny washer-maids closet- attached to the kitchen which takes a day as well.
Jamie flew in from Barcelona where she was interning at EMBT, the firm of Enric Miralles. She came by Barcelona-Atlanta-Santiago-Buenos Aires so she was extremely releaved when Aldo answered the door buzzer downstairs.

That night, we celebrated her arrival by inviting all the undergrads to a dinner party at our apartment. As a graduate of the Larry Perkins School of Culinary Arts I whipped up a batch of spagetti. What a sauce! I started with sauteing some garlic, added two packages of ground beef, and cooked it all togather. WHen it was done, I dumped it all in a massive cookpan, and added an entire green pepper, a whole package of mushrooms, an ample amount of old malbec wine, and a ton of ¨pizza spices¨, and let the whole thing simmer. Served piping hot on the spagetti (a bit overcooked, but oh well) and topped with grated cheese. What a great dinner party, we had bread, tons of wine and beer, a cheese and salami plate, and aldo make a huge mixed salad. The only thing was that we can only seat 6 people at the table and had 12 people there, so a few people sat on the floor and ate on the coffee table. Still, it was great, and I really enjoyed having everyone over there.

Yesterday, Aldo, Jamie, and I walked through the park again, depsite the cool and cloudy afternoon. We walked far enough to the coast that I decided to check out the fishermans club, which seemed kind of interesting as it jutted out into the bay. The place was creepy. It reminded me of something out of an edgar allen poe story, an old building with a tower, at the end of a high wooden pier. The site is bad too. It was at the edge of the local airport, so there was a busy freeway, the airport, and the empty sidewalk, and the sea. Nobody out there. It was low tide so it was all trash filled mud flat around the place, and it was freezing with a wind. That it was dusk didnt add to the charm. You leave the walls of the city behind you, and walk across space over the mudflat to this creepy empty old building. The place was definately eerie. I´m glad I went, but it was just a bad place when we were there. All we did was look at the mud, look at the building, walk back across the pier and hail a cab.

Buenos Aires is a bit like the city in Dark City, its so inwardly focused, theres no real edge to it at all. Theres the airport and stone embankment above the bay on one side, the shipping port, and the botanical garden on the sea side. On the other sides, the city melts into impovershed slums the farther away one gets from the polished and urban city center. A canadian student I met in a bar told me that Buenos Aires was a fiction. It´s a lot more true than she realized. This really isn´t Europe, despite what the portenos will have you believe.

I hope that I don´t sound negative in this lengthy missive- I really do love living down here, and its so complex, I dont even know where to begin unravling this city. There are entire malls and I´ve even seen bars and clubs devoted to design. It´s good that I´m here.

I really do miss people though. I´m goign to try and see what an international calling card costs, although I´ll have to see if I can get to Abu Dhabi. Other than that, I´ll drink a cafe con leche (mini cappuchino) to you and order another round of medialunas.

Aug 12, 2006

what a city

Whew. First week of classes finally over. Spanish is challenging as usual, although I{m catching on a little more each time. We{re into some pretty heavy conjugation while the other class is singing songs. Our studio is actually in a renovated car factory. They built a second floor inside the hangar like space so its actually pretty cosy and cool up there. Lots of desks for the grads students and the undergrad. It{s been a phenomenally busy week.

My typical day begins at 830 when I get up, shower, and walk to the subte which is about 10 minutes away walking. Take the subte to the end of the line and then walk another 25 minutes to the studio where we take our spanish class. Typically, i{ll stop at a cafe for a cafe con leche y tres medialunas (coffee with coissants) somewhere in there. 4 hours of spanish. Whew. Walk-subte-walk and I{m back at the flat for a snack-lunch of salami and cheese. The rest of the afternoon is devoted to exploring the city.

Friday was a busy day. Instead of taking the Subte home, Aldo met us at the school and we went to the movies nearby the school. At the theater we grabbed a bite to eat in its shopping center. Choripan, which is basically a grilled sausage sandwich. This really isn{t a vegetarian{s town. The theaters are huge. Cine Capri size. We saw Volver with Penelope Cruz totally in Spanish. I understood snatches of what was said, but was totally oblivious to the grand scheme as there werent even subtitles. Aldo explained it afterwards that it had a very complicated plot, with most of the plot advances revealed in conversation between two people. Nice cinematography at least.

After the movie, we went back to a lecture at the main campus- a roundtable between seven eminent south american architects from different countries. It was all in spanish, allthough I was able to undsterand a few sentances. The room was totally packed with students and faculty, hanging on every word. After the 2 hours of talking, the undergrads went back and we all met again at a pizza and beer joint near our apartment, called Rosarios. The guys who worked here over the summer lived next door to us while they were working, so they knew everything about our neighborhood, including being good freinds with one of the waitressses at Rosarios. So the entire group of 16 students sat down inside, shared a ton of great pizza and decent beer. the national alchol of choice down here is Quilmes beer, athough argentines really aren{t big drinkers. So that was fun.

Afterwards, we all went to this bar called Crobar, which is really a very nice club. We got there around 1AM , which is very early for BA. The club really didnt get jumping until about 230 in the morning. Nice place, steep cover, about $10, but its one of the nicer clubs in town. The cover is also good for one drink, which is cool. The place got packed, and played house trance all night long. Very swanky, but very loud. I was partially deaf when I left at 5:30 AM. I caught a cab home alone, since I got separated and the other people either left earlier or went on to another bar. Cabs here typically run a few dollars to most places, and theres tons. Aldo didnt get back until 7. I crashed until about noon myself.

I've never seen such a beautiful day here. It was gorgeous, sunny, and warm. I even went out in a tee shirt ( and a light jacket).

Today after making calls and showering, our day started at 2 in the afternoon. I had been wanting to go to the natural preserve which is a huge park between teh city and the river, and I got a few more people interested. So Aldo, Dusty, and Jacob came along too. We made a small group and went down to Puerto Madero, by the old loading warehouses that have been transformed into luxiry condos and expensive restraunts and shops. Stopped for a cafe con leche there with medialunas and admired the canal and the weather. Then we walked along the huge sidewalk street at the edge of teh city, which was filled with people: the ubiquitous lovers making out everywhere, people of all ages playing soccer, people drinking mate and eating from the street carts, families out for a saturday afternoon stroll. It was really a peaceful and lively scene. We walked all along the edge of the park and then we came to an outdoor market near the entrance to the park, so we had to check that out for awhile. Coming out of that, I heard music, so we went over and watched people dancing and playing reigional music. The dancers were people from the crowd doing folk dances, and one woman got up and sang to one of the songs they were playing on guitar. We plopped down on the grass and just took it all in for awhile. Everyone had a mate gourd and a thermos, and we wished we had brought ours. Anyway, by that time it was already 630 so the park was closed, so we decided to head back by anther way. I just love it, exploring, letting one thing lead you to another, taking your time, its great. We wandered trhough some cool parks and admired some more of the architecture in the area, before we headed back. And that was one afternoon.

Aug 9, 2006

che boludo internet

The internet at this computer place is terrible. I was going to upload some pics, but I cant sicne the connection to the outside world is too slow. Anyway...
Today I went to class then came back and wandered around Palermo SoHo with Aldo, the fashion district of town near our apartment and then swung down to the girls apartment nearby since we were in the neighborhood. Saori was there and so we took her to a cafe, where she interrogated poor Aldo about introductory spanish for two hours while we scarfed medialunas y cafe con leche. Wandered around for a while longer and finally hit the local mall for a local band that was recommended to me. Lets see if this one picture will upload...

che boludo internet

The internet at this computer place is terrible. I was going to upload some pics, but I cant sicne the connection to the outside world is too slow. Anyway...
Today I went to class then came back and wandered around Palermo SoHo with Aldo, the fashion district of town near our apartment and then swung down to the girls apartment nearby since we were in the neighborhood. Saori was there and so we took her to a cafe, where she interrogated poor Aldo about introductory spanish for two hours while we scarfed medialunas y cafe con leche. Wandered around for a while longer and finally hit the local mall for a local band that was recommended to me. Lets see if this one picture will upload...

Aug 8, 2006

mas espanol

Sorry to dissapoint, but I forgot to bring my comptuer cable to hook my camera up. I love living in the city- the pace, the shopping, the energy, the cafes, the parks, almost everything. The major impediment to city life - the high cost of living- is so reduced here there seem to be very few drawbacks. However, a few irritations- they don´t believe in responsible dog walking here, so you have to be very careful where you step as there´s droppings all over the place. The school is located far from the city center, so to get to school its about a ten minute walk to the subte, a fifteen minute ride, and another 25 to 30 minutes of walking from the station. So that´s a pain. My spanish class is really hard. We´ve reduced our intermediate level class to 7 students out of the total of 25 students here. I´m still in but barely. I understand about half of what the porfessor is telling us, no english allowed in class, but the other class is like spanish 101. So today we studied characteristics and the use of vos. instead of tu in Argentina, and discussed our lives, preferancs, parents, etc. Their class learned about the national stew and basic introductions. I´m really in between both classes. either a 101 course or a 300 level course. I´m somewhere in the 200, so I´m trying to hang in there.

Last night, Aldo and I met Dusty at a local place called Cumena in Recolleta. It was packed at 8 which is amazing for buenos aires. All locals. Great food, empanadas and the traditional hearty stews from northern argentina. Bottle of Malbec to share. Good stuff. We stopped at an gelateria near the apartment and I got a limon, tasted great.

Today after class we picked up Saori and Molly and went to the cemetary at Recolleta. This is a bit like the ones in paris, with huge masusoleums everywhere in a massive high walled cemetery. We couldnt find Evita´s grave, but had fun anyway. Stopped at a cafe afterwards for tea, coffee, and medialunes- Argentine coissants. After that we found a mall devoted to interior design. It´s been a busy time here, this city literally never sleeps. During the weekends, people stay out until 6-7 am and sleep in past noon. It´s like a never ending party. I love these cities.

Anyway, I´m doing great over here, and thinking about how my friends and family would love different aspects of the city. Bunas nocahs

Aug 7, 2006

First day of school

Last night, Aldo and I ened up going to a small cafe around ten. Aldo got some coffee and I got a dulce de leche crepe thing. It was so sweet I couldn't eat it. This is the sweetest, most intense caramel in the world. Aldo ordered what he throught was a decaf, but came in a very small cup with a shot of water with gas and a small pitcher of plain water. Even though he speaks spanish, it still took him a few tries to find out if there were free refills. Aldo has trouble with this language like all of us, and sometimes more because he doesnt know what local names are, local slang, idioms, or customs, and because he speaks spanish fluently, they expect him to know, and have less patience with him than with the rest of us.

I awoke to gray and rainy day in Buenos Aires at the nasty hour of 730. Dressed, and grabbed a quick cup of coffee with the grad students at the corner where we were supposed to meet. Claudio showed up as normal, and a group of three grad students who had stayed out till 600 never showed at all. We all walked to the Subte and took it up to the area where the college is, Universidad Torcuato di Tella (sp?). But most of our classes will be in their new architecture and business facility a few blocks away. Words cannot describe it well, so I'll save it for images. I regret my camera did not make the trip, as the rain really emphasized the mood of the place.
I'll leave you with that thought for until tomorrow-

Aug 6, 2006

Disco Nights

Whew. Today is my third morning in Buenos Aires.

Yesterday was kind of slow although the evening picked up a bit. During the day I went to see the Casa Rosada and the Plaza del Mayo, the central plaza of Buenos Aires. Also checked out that cool bank by Testa. Nobody in the financial district, so that was pretty cool with these huge old buildings and empty streets. Took the Subte (subway) there, voyages are about a quarter. the subway is very basic- wooden trains, and the only way to swich platforms is to go up and cross the street above. Still, I do enjoy subways for some reason.

When I got back, Aldo had shorted out the apartment with one of his adapter plugs. So we had no power until this morning. So we ran to the Disco, which is the local supermarket chain, to pick up some candles. I bought a great Malbec there the first day, just $3 US. The low end wines are in the range of $1 or less.

That evening at 7:30 we meet at a small plaza absolultely crammed with people, with street vendors in the center hawking leather and jewellry, surrounded by all the people and the whole round plaza surrounded by bars and club-bars. As more people arrived from our huge group, we all walked aroudn the plaza picking up more people as we went along. Finally Claudio turned up in typical Porteno fashion, (Portenos means people who live in the city of buenos aires, a port city) i.e. late. But we needed time to get everyone togather anyway.

As an aside, the city here is like a typical big city, but more relaxed. There are much fewer people pushing past you, everyone takes it a little more slowly than NewYork or Paris. It's just a lot more laid back here while still retaining the energy of the other cities. I've been trying to think of city comparisons. Buenos Aires is like Paris, New York, and Budapest. The fashion, attitute, and tree lined streets and tight, tiny streets of Paris; the grit, intensity, density, and feel of New York; and that sense of a grand city which has come through hell and hard times that I got in Budapest, the huge neoclassical, baroque, and art deco buildings fithy and covered with vines, the weak currency, and intensely innovative and trendy eateries and clubs.

Speaking of eating, when we all found each other last night, we went to this restaurant, a modern italian kind of place called Rave. Gracious living all the way, we were there for about three hours. I split a bottle of a Mendoza Malbec with three dinner parters, and I got the trout stuffed Ravioli, not knowing what I was ordering. It was pretty good. My total, including wine and mineral water and tip was $13.

Afterwards, we all walked quickly over to the Tango class- we were an hour late. The class was in a cavernous dance hall mostly consisting of very elderly couples. They separated us guys and girls and taught us the eight basic steps. I hate learning new dance steps because I have no memory or ability to keep numbers with positions of body parts. I can handle counts of three, but not much more. Lucky, as I learned for myself, this was a dance based on three counts, with rests of variable length thrown in. The 8 steps were really one-two-three rest one-two-three rest. I really need to learn music. Anyway, flash back to middle school square dancing- they had us grab one of the girls and start practicing. There's more guys than girls on this trip, but not by too much, so there was plenty of practice to be had. While we danced, the teachers, all of them characters, helped refine our movements and make gross corrections. It was fun though. It's very hard for me since instead of going on that simple one two three in the same time, you streeeeetch out that one to sliiiiide your foot around and then take to normal to fast steps.

This is, like other Latin american dances, all about the theater of the relationship- the guy is very strong, leading the woman, who, if she's very good, will make it seem like the guy is sweeping her all over the place like she's made of air. The closeness of the dancers, the way they face each other square, place thier steps so that it looks like they're just one step behind stepping on each other's feet, its difficult, but I'd love to get better. As usual- its all about practice, so I'll probably not return a major Tango dancer.

After our lesson we went to the poor man's tango class, a downstairs dance floor in the Armenian cultural center, where the huge floor was packed with younger people learning to dance tango. After thier lessons, they opened up the floor and began to play swing and rock by Elvis. Most of us split at that point, and went back to the plaza. We got a few tables outside togather and ordered drinks. We chatted and drank until the temperature began to drop sharply, and then we were too cold to sit anymore. Dusty, Adam, Chris, Jacob, and a few other guys went to another bar-club, while Aldo and I and most of the girls went back to our respective apartments around 4 AM.

This morning, because we still didnt have power, I got a phone call at 8;30 from our landlady who told us the electrician was coming soon. We waited and shortly after the electrician came in and replaced the socket. A spark arced between the copper wire inside and short circuited the thing. So then we had power and we took everything inside that had been cooling on the patio overnight.

I went out and had coffee and did some surfing and then went to this huge outdoor market in San Telmo, another part of town. This is a bit like Hong Chao, tons of antiques and junk and even designer clothes for sale, totally filled with vendors, tourists, portenos, native south americans, and performers. I stopped to listen to a small band play and liked them enough to buy thier CD ($5). It´s a kind of tango, but with some acordian and violins and base, its very moody and atmospheric and tense. Tons of shops all tucked away into the nooks and crannies of the streets. Lots of walking, my feet are sore.

Anyway, school starts tomorrow. We´re meeting for class at 8;30 AM so no more staying out till 4. Time for some pastries I think, and I think this missive has been long enough.

Aug 5, 2006

some pinturas from our primer dia

The pictures below (in no general order): the view from our 8th floor apartment balcony with the massive car park, the street scene in our quiet neighborhood, Professor Vekstien at the airport picking up all of us kids, and the view of my bedroom for the next month or so, before I lose it to either Jamie or Aldo when we all switch. One person gets the big bed, and the other two share a room and two small beds, one of which is a trundle bed. Last night we met up with most of the undergrads who were here, and cabbed it out to a club by the port. $10 cover was pricey copmpared to everything else here, but it included a drink. Got back at three AM and slept until noon. I´m becoming Porteno already. The apartment windows here are equipped with an ingenious wooden blind system. Its an exterior blind operated from the inside by a band of fabric. If you lower it at first, then there are about quater inch gaps between the 1 inch slats of wood, but when it hits the floor, each slat begins to stack on top, so if you lower it all the way, it completely blacks out the room. This was undoubtably useful as the Portenos tend to stay out till the early morning and sleep very late. We need something like that in Arizona, to help with the heat.

Aug 4, 2006

whats new, argentina?

I am safe and settled in my new apartment in Buenos Aires. The city is cool, requiring a jacket, but a welcome relief from Abu Dhabi and Phoenix. BA is a mix between Paris, New York, and Budapest. I love it, deeply entrenched in my honeymoon phase. Already love the Malbecs here. $3 USD for a great wine. Aldo is here, Jamie comes the 14th. We have a cosy 8th floor apartment with a luxury mall and tons of shops 5 blocks away. They're putting a Zara in there soon. Everything is very cheap. I'm currently using a friend's laptop at thier apartment. Lots of undergrads here, although all the grad students have claimed that they're too tired from the flight/ tour etc. I missed. The way I missed it was I was trying to get some money from the ATM and missed Aldo leaving the change place, and then I didn't know where the tour bus was leaving from, so I just walked around and went shopping. Picked up some $15 computer speakers at the mall so I've got some tunes in the apartment now. Who is here? Dusty, Jacob, Chris, Aldo, Emily, Saori, and a few other people whom I need to learn their names, my real weak point.

Our apartment is located at the crossroads of Soler and Vidt if you can find a map of Palermo, Buenos Aires. I'm out of here! Buenos nochas!

Aug 2, 2006

tres amigos

Yesterday was a socializing day. Met Emily for coffee at Scottsdale Fashion square (a mere conveinance store next to Mall of the Emirates), then drove out to see Nickee for lunch, and finally joined Ivonik for drinks at Four Peaks.

Working my last minute list of things to get done, reconfirmed everything with the apartment people down in Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires! I'm going to South America! I can't believe it. I leave tomorrow.

Today I called up Dell Tech Support and they talked me through dissassembling my computer. The guy I talked to said it was either the memory chip or a problem with the motherboard. In order to determine which it is, I need a memory chip I know is good to substitue. I'll borrow a friend's in Argentina, then see where to go from there. Yeesh. Bad luck on little things, phenomenal luck overall. I drove out to DWL architects and left the dates with them in the staff room. Things are about the same over there. That's the thing I'm going to have to get used to- the consistancy from year to year at the same job.

With luck my laptop will re-awaken in Buenos Aires, but either way, you can contact me at alecperk@gmail.com and I think I should be able to have access to internet somehow. Time to finsih packing and making calls.

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...