Sep 30, 2006


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


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.

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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:

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click to follow the link

Sep 20, 2006


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.

Sep 16, 2006

Jazz Flute

Friday I worked from home on studio stuff- this project is coming along very painfully slow. I decided to take a break with Aldo and go have dinner at the place near my apartment called La Pena de Colorado. I'd been there once before- very narrow, rustic, with northern Argentine food and a stage in the back. Anyway, I was called Chris up through skype and he was the last guy in studio, so I invited him to come eat with us, and we agree to meet down there around 11 or so. The place is so narrow its actually very easy to miss. Very subtle signage. Inside, we find we have to pay 12 pesos for the "show". We're not too upset about this as its $4 for an hour of live music with dinner. The place is already filling up so we grab a table for four and get a bottle of wine and a bottle of water. Chris finds his way to the place and tells us that Adam's coming too, as he's been looking for live music since coming down here. I order Locro, which is this very hearty beef stew with greens, big beans, corn, and chunks of beef and sausage. Aldo gets this sandwich not knowing exactly what it is, and gets a massive chunck of grilled meat over a foot long on a halved bagette. For $2, the meat is not the highest quality and is really fatty, but its a ton of food. Aldo doesn't even finish it.

The trio at the front is a band called Acido Criollo. They perform a fusion of argentine folk, jazz, and rock. The lead guy alternates between a jazz flute and an acoustic guitar, with a percussionist and an electric guitar player as the other two members. The music was really good. They are not yet signed to a contract nor have a CD, which is really surprising considering how developed the music was. If you want to hear one of thier songs, they have it on the restaurant website. Adam joined us halfway through. Adam and Chris were two of the three guys who came down here two months before us to intern down here, and they lived right across the street from where I live now. There's a restaurant Romario's which is a pizza and beer place where they went all the time, and became close friends with one of the waitresses, Mariu (I'm not sure how it's spelled, just that its prononced "mary-ooo"). Mariu is really cute, whenever Aldo and I come in, its besitos all around. Anyway, more of our friends showed up at the restaurant we were at, and since there wasn;t any room left, the crossed the street to Romario's. One of them must have told Mariu that Adam and Chris were over here, because we look over at the window, and we see Mariu run up in her Romario's clothes, look at us in disbelief, flip off the entire table, and run back to the restaurant.

She's really not that pissed off, just a little annoyed that they went to the other restaurant and not hers, so they talk to her for awhile and everythings smoothed out. I call it an early evening and head back around 1 AM. The smoky restauraunts and the wine really aren't doing good things for my sore throat.

Sep 15, 2006

hace un click

Click, as in a mouse click, has been directly taken from english in Argentina, so I see "hace un click" all the time in ads (make one click). Also, all the words they import from english are automatically masculine, just as a side note.

I'm taking a breif break from studio work and I just wanted to show you some of my favorite websites, for those of you have some time or are mildly curious.

BBC News
-These guys are great for having news from all around the world, up to the minute, and they've got everything very well organized on thier website. It's published by a company managed by the British Government, so it does have a bit of a lean to it, but at least its an alternative outside viewpoint to things happening in the U.S, and occationally I'll see eyebrow raising items that never made it to the US news until several days later.

And just for fun, the North Korean official news -for the just-a-little-off translation to English, for the rabid rhetoric, and for the laughable lunacy of the content. Today's issue has a condemnation of US imperialism claiming that we're attempting to take over China and Russia, several breifs extolling the virtues of the Great Leader, and party notes about the Ambassador of Such and Such having lunch at the Palace of the Magnificient Victory of the Working People.

I typically don't follow blogs outside of Mom's great blog, but the guy who writes this blog is a maritime navigator who works on scientific research vessels and he travels all over the world, writing about what he's seeing and what he's doing. He's a bit political, but he's always someplace different and he usually posts pictures. is fun to visit not only because they have insanely good deals on electronics, but also because they work really hard to come up with a story about the item they're selling (they only sell one thing a day, changing at midnight) and those are always fun to read.

It may not be the Encylopedia Britannica but Wikipedia is a great cultural resource and general encyclopedia. It doesn't have an exhuastive knowlege of the barrios of Buenos Aires, but it has a few things to say about them. Really, its a much more impressive and exhaustive compendium of common knowlege, popular culture, new words and phenomena. It's written by the users, so its fun to see the posted debates they have about entries. I'll go on looking for one thing, and then let the site lead me to other words and topics since its all linked and cross referenced.

Worth1000 is a pixelpushers paradise. Professional photophop manipulators compete against each other daily to come up with the cleverest, more realistic, most funny photomanips. I especially love the contests related to Movies, like Mate a Movie where you combine two movies, like "There's Swampthing About Mary" but then I love visual gags.

If you're into the interplay of technology, and society, and culture, then Wired News is great with its collumns, news articles, scoops, and features.

For great streaming music on the internet, Pandora lets you pick an artist or a song and them streams similiar music and artists that it pulls from a massive collection of old and contemporary music.

Lastly, for the pure whoa factor, check out J-track 3D. It loads an applet window which shows you, in real time, a 3d map of the earth and all of the satellites orbititing it.

OK ten sites should take you awhile to explore and enjoy, so its back to work for me.

Sep 14, 2006


Ok, I finally joined the rest of the world and got Skype tonight. The clarity of voice was amazing. THe only problem was that my computer mic is broken, so the first time I tried having a skype conversation it was very one-sided. However, a friend of mine recommended plugging my headphones into the mic port, and that actually worked! However, the quality wasn't as clear for the other person, and I felt wierd talking into an earbud.

Skype is a way of talking over the internet, using the internet as a phone line. Talk about a reversal of roles... Anyway, its very easy and free to download and its free to "call" anyone who is also online using Skype. There is also the ability to make calls to real phones and cell phones for low rates from your computer. I'm very excited about this because I'm down here in Argentina and now I have the ability to call people. (which is kind of strange since people who know me know I'm not much of a phone conversationalist). But if you want to call me, download skype, and do a member search. Do a search for alec perkins, the only one in Buenos Aires.

But first, I need to get a headset.

Sunday Market in San Telmo

The main tourist hotspot on sunday afternoons


The subject of busses (collectivos) in Buenos Aires is a world all of its own. To begin with, the city has over 300 bus lines. Each bus line is individually owned, managed, and run by a private company, and some of the busses have multiple and different routes under the same line number. The good news is that they run every few minutes and most of them run all night. One interesting and fun result of the individual line owners is that the bus companies decorate thier busses however they want, since theres no government standard to maintain. All the busses are handpainted in different stripes and with multicolored hand lettering. Most of them also have hand painted detail work on the front and back, and every one I've seen has had some kind of shade with frills over the front window. The bus I took the other night had replaced a few of the flouruesents at the front with black lights. Unfortately, the busses are almost always packed when I'm using them, so standing room only, unless its the middle of the day or late at night.

Speaking of street transportation, another common sight is the empanada men on thier scooters. These are guys who work for empanada and pizza companies (empanadas are a type of meat pies) and they load the delivery into a square box on the backs of thier motorscooters. It was kind of funny, there was a group of girls on my bus one night, and I can hear them giggling and gabbing back there and I turn to look outside to see an empanada man idling at the same speed of the bus making eyes with the girls. Finally, he salutes them, pulls down his helmet, and speeds of into the night. This is the city I live in.

In the used bookstore I found the other day, I found a guidebook to the US in spanish. Curious, I looked up what they had to say about Arizona. "Phoenix es un cuidad grande, chaotico, y aburrido..." (Phoenix is a big city, chaotic, and boring...) After dismissing Phoenix, they immediately launched into a discussion of what to see and do in Tucson, and included a short guide to Phoenix at the end of the chapter on Arizona.

We went to get Chinese food last night because I've been very deprived of spices here. Argentines have good food, but it's bland as all get out. We walked to the nearby chinatown and grabbed a table. The restaurant smelled like a chinese restaurant I remembered from China, so I took that as a good sign. The menus of course, were all in Spanish. So I got the Sopa de wan tan and the Cuerdo Frito de salsa de Agridulche con ananas (won ton soup and sweet and sour pork). Not bad. The soup was really good for my throat which has been really sore.

Two days ago, my throat just got very sore over the space of an afternoon. My lymph nodes are a little swollen, and I'm coughing and sneezing a bit, with the usual aches. Too many late nights in studio I think. So, lots of tea, lots of vitamin C (I drank a liter of orange juice yesterday), and plenty of rest.

I miss you all.

Sep 11, 2006

16 new pictures

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new pics start on the sixth page I think of my album... pictures of the site, sunday fairs, etc.

Sep 9, 2006

Chicos en la Calle

Today was another busy day. My instep and knee were bothering me all day from the run this morning, and it didn't help that we walked for hours this afternoon. After we left the apartment, we stopped on Florida Avenue, which is a huge pedestrian street which runs for at least a mile, totally lined with shops, cafes, etc. Vendors in the middle, beggers, black market money changers, everyone. This was actually where I bought a new little backpack the other day. I just wanted something small- big enough for a notebook, but small enough almost to forget I was wearing it. It's heavy canvas, so I'm planning on stitching a River Plate or Argentina soccer team patch on it. Anyway, we were hankering for a bit of Americana so we stopped in at a burger doodle for a big mac. It was interesting in that the prices were still on par with America- about three dollars for a combo meal. Here, that same amount can buy you a dozen empanadas, or at least a medium pizza. My fajitas at the Mexican restaurant were less than five dollars, just as a comparison.

Afterwards, we caught the subte to Constitution Station, the train station in San Telmo surrounded by the poorer Barrios. Not a great place to walk around alone if you're blatently American and toting a big camera. Actually, Aldo and I fit in very well here. My hair is longer now, I've got some local leather bracelets, and my shoes are finally getting that dirty street look that everyone's clothes seem to have here. My accent is still bad, so I don't answer when shifty people ask me for the time to gauge my nationality.

(Didn't mom have a dream about having to drag me off the streets down here?)

We walked around San Telmo the rest of the afternoon. It was a gorgeous day, warm, sunny with a slight breeze. Took a few pictures, made some notes, and took in the area surrounding the site. We made our way to La Boca, one of the poorer and more colorful barrios in the city. We avoided the empty street with all the street kids hanging around it, but we stopped to talk to one who was picking through garbage on his own.

We were stumped at first what we could ask him? Anything we said could be taken offensively, since the object of our interest - what does he do all day and where does he sleep at night, are directly related to his condition of living on the street. I mean, who the hell were we, rich American students, to be studying him? All these people want is recognition of thier humanity. Weve been told that they're there on thier own accord, because its worse where they're coming from.

Anyway, we started talking to him a little bit, in a horribly awkward conversation, made more awkward by the fact that he was picking through garbage while we talked to him. Apparently, we had grabbed a newbie- he'd only been on the street for three days. He looked about 16-18 years old. He told us that his mother had died of starvation, his father had been killed, and he was on the street because he tried to interfere with his stepfather beating his younger brother with a metal pipe and got three broken ribs as a result.

We gave him some money and thanked him for his time. What can you say to that?
It's one thing to hear it from a movie, or a book, or even from the director of the teen program that violence drives many kids to the streets. Its another thing to meet one of them and hear him talk about it.

Our new project is to map the site using various layers of the city and diagramming it. A lot of groups are studying and mapping the graffiti, ours and other group are working on sound, but you can reall slice it any way you want. It just seems odd, like there's some crucial disconnect, when you go from talking to one of the kids in the street to doing an analysis of sound pollution.
Anyway, we'll do more analysis tomorrow as a group and hopefully figure some more things out.
We walked back to Plaza Durrego for a beer and some sandwiches in the plaza in the late afternoon. A nice break for my aching feet. Got some gelato afterwards and walked back towards Puerto Madero, another much newer, trendy barrio right next door to the worst parts of San Telmo and La Boca. We actually stood under the freeway which seems to divide them and looked left to see the slum housing and weeds and right to see the shiny new modern apartmetns and manacured trees. Theres a fair down in Puerto Madero every saturday evening, lots of vendors selling antiques, junk, and a lot of native handcrafts. Theres a lot of Mate gourds, leather and hippie jewellery, and indiginious wool woven goods like hats, alpaca sweaters, etc. Aldo got a bag in the traditional Mexican style that he'd been looking for all day, kind of like a big square woven purse which is slung across the body and worn very low.

After hanging around there for awhile, we were both so exhausted we took a cab back to the metro station and came back to the apartment where we both passed out for about half an hour. Its got to be all the walking we're doing. That and the huge run this morning. Nothing happening tonight, saturday night. We're all wiped, plus a lot of people went out late for Brian's birthday last evening. I wonder where that kid we met is now?

Sep 8, 2006


Big luxurious breakfast this morning of mushroom and cheese baked crepes. While we ate at this cafe, they played nothing but pop hits from the 50's to the 70's. Its so surreal hearing all this old music everywhere here. The other day I was shopping at Disco (a chain supermarket here) and they were playing The Bangles. This whole culture has a facination with 80's Americana.

After breakfast I walked along Santa Fe Avenue, the big shopping street here that extends all across the city. I found this cool huge used bookstore with a section of just english books, and all the books were from the 19 teens onward. Tons of old books. The used bookstore had a cafe in the back too. It staggers me how many bookstores there are here. There are a few huge ones, but for the most part there are at least two or three bookstores on each block. My destination on Santa Fe avenue was the huge bookstore of El Ateno, a Barnes & Noble sized place which was built inside an old baroque style theater. The book stacks were in the main floor, and also up in the balconies, and they turned the stage into a sitting area for the cafe. Really cool.

Took the Subte to the middle of the downtown, a few stops away. Totally jam packed at three PM. It was so packed, I had to lean in and push to avoid being pinched by the doors when they closed. I walked along Florida street, a pedestrian avenue downtown totally lined with boutiques and shops, and I bought a new small canvas backpack for about 8 bucks. It looks very European. I'm going to get an Argentina patch for it, or a River Plate soccer club patch. We'll see what I come across.

Walking across the city, I suddenly found myself in a demonstration of workers picketing and protesting for something. Looked like a lot of indiginous people or immigrants. I got out of there quickly, especially since I passed a busload of idle, but extremely dangerous looking special riot police. Definately not the time to stop and take pictures. Just keep walking.

Spent the rest of the afternoon walking around San Telmo, just taking things in, reading graffiti and making notes on my map. Bought a leather braclet from a street vendor, and had tea and a medialuna at a cafe up in one of the old mansions converted to antique markets.

Last night, I went to Brian's birthday party at a Mexican food restaurant. It was ok, nothing great foodwise, just had fajitas and a corona. Reminded me of home. I passed on the typical round of bar hopping after dinner and instead hit a pool hall near our apartment with Jamie and we played a few rounds.

This morning, got up and ran in the parks and in the city. There's a person who rents rollerblades down there, so I'll definately have to go back. I'm so out of shape, the run was really not very good. Knees hurt, legs hurt, so I didn't push too hard. Today, I'll head back to the site to do more photos and surveying.

Tango noche

Last night, my roomates finally got me out to tango. Thursday nights, there's a place in our neighborhood that has a tango club in the back of the restaurant, and lessons and dancing are ten pesos (about $3). So, we all got dressed up, Aldo and I in our nice clothes, the first time I've seen Jamie in heels, and we took a quick cab over where we met two more friends of ours from studio, Jaom, a Brazillian who's visiting for a week, and Leia, a sixth year.

The lessons are public, so you just dance and they try to help you out after they show you a new move. It was fun, I've never been dancing with Jamie before, so she was shocked how tall I was becuase I usually have bad posture. She was also very impressed with my ability to lead on the dance floor. A year of dancing Salsa with Jen really helped me out in that regard. This was my second lesson since I've been here, so I actually surprised myself with what I remembered. Still, I didt get what they were trying to show as well, but I'm usually pretty bad with learning new moves. Anyway after about an hour of practice, they opened up the floor and people began coming in from outside and soon the place was comfortably filled.

Tango is facinating to me a cultural phenomenon. It has its roots in African beats, tempered with Spanish and Italian musical influences, and began to be danced in the early 20th century I think. It was danced in the basements of underclass brothels with prostitutes, as men were waiting for thier turns upstairs. It remained an underclass dance on the fringe of the city until it was introduced to Europe where it caught on as a trendy dance. At that point, the rest of society in Buenos Aires accepted and welcomed it back as thier own. During the military regimes, Tango was banned as too sultry, and things were so bad that no one wanted to dance, and so no one from that generation dance at all now.

On the dance floor, I saw an elderly woman in her 70's at least kicking up her heels, and I've seen many others her age at other Tango clubs. But there's no one really from mid 30s to late 40s. The thing that blows my mind is how the younger generation, basically everyone else, dances it. In the US, you can find ballroom dancers of a certain age, 20 somethings dancing Salsa, and teens dancing hip hop, but here you dance the dance of your grandparents, typically to the same songs they danced it to. Our professor here told us that there are about 12 tango songs and theyre sung by different artists, although he was referring to all the old recordings they platy at the more traditional tango halls. I actualy prefer the newer Tango music myself.

The dance is much more slow than salsa, and is more like a waltz. The dancers never spin away from each other, or do thier own things, but there's always this contact between them, at least always facing each other. The basic is on an 8 count, which is actually ealier since the dance is more about sweeping the feet across the floor instead of working the cuban hips like in Salsa or merengue. The main difference is in the music. Salsa has a very rigid four count in the music, but Tango is so layered, you can pick out what beats to follow and which to rest on, and which to move fast and which to move slow.

As the evening went on, more people showed up, around our age, and in all manners of dress, from tee shirts to dresses, and the only constant was the woman's heels. It was a fun night, I'll have keep up the lessons. The only funny thing is that Ive never seen anyone do the stereotypical march across the dance floor with the leading arm out, like you see in all the movies.

Sep 6, 2006

mas photos!

Ok, I started using Webshots instead of the Facebook server. Webshots is a dedicated image server and it lets me upload a lot faster and a lot higher quality pictures. IF you want to see a larger image, just click on the right side of the screen "full size image". My album can be seen by following this link. These are basically more of the same, more photos from living here, more ski trip, and some new ones from our site and of our last architecture project.

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by archalec

Sep 5, 2006


I just re-read what I did for my birthday a year ago. Click September 2005 under the archives on the right. I can't believe how much has happened since then. Where will I be a year from now?

Mi Feliz Cumpleanos

What a birthday.

Thursday night, we all went to the most innovative bar I've ever seen. The main tables had a tap in the middle of the table so the people could pull thier own drinks. A digital meter built into the table measured how many litros we'd pulled. The other brilliant feature was the inclusion of a name, telephone, and email space on the table napkins to swap with barmates. Shot some pool with my friends and actually held my own pretty well.

Saturday, I finally found peanut butter here. There´s a cool little chinatown about 8 blocks from school and I picked up a jar at a Chinese-International grocery. I returned to studio and raised the jar to the ooohs and ahhs of my peers. ¨Where did you get that?¨they all wanted to know. Small victories. Anyway, the chinese food I got to go there revealed to me how non spicy argentine food is. That night, Aldo and I hit the town looking for some live music. The oldest, most prestigious cafe in town, the grand Tortoni, had jazz downstairs at 11, but we arrived right at 11 so it was already too packed. Instead, we sat in the main room and I got chocolate and churros. This chocolate is incredibly rich drinking chocolate- served with hot milk to get the richness one wants- but I just drank it straight. One dunks the churros in the chocolate, and its delicious. One of the specialities of the place. Cafe Tortoni was where Borges frequented.

We left the Cafe downtown and took a cab over to a place recommended by my guidebook a few blocks from my apartment, actually, right on my street of Vidt. The place is called La Pena de Colorado, which I think translates to the Pity of Red, or something close to that. Its a very bohemian place with basic rustic tables, brick walls, a small stage, and a big Parilla (grill) the food is traditional northern argentine, so very rustic and meaty with stews and tamales. Apparently we just missed the guitar show, so we just grabbed a beer and split a choripan. A choripan is a grilled sausage sandwich, although whats in the sausage is one of the bigger mysteries here. Called it an early night around 2 AM or so.

Sunday, september 3rd, I went to the San Telmo market and picked up my new sketchbook. There´s a guy with a table down there who sells handmade books, and I ordered one from him as there are no good quality sketchbooks down here. About ten dollars US, for a good size handstitched sketchbook, with a cover I´d picked out a week before and very nice paper. I was able to pick up a bus 130 which runs from San Telmo all the way up to school in Belgrano. It was a gorgeous sunny morning, and I sorely lamented the fact that we were all cooped up in studio while the portenos were making out, strolling, and playing soccer in the huge park.

During the weekends, when the university annex closes, you have to get in through the old municipal water labs, a decrepid huge building with broken windows and surrounded by barbed wire. The gaurds have to come out, and roll back part of the original iron gates so you can squeeze inside. I jokingly call it breaking in to studio. Anyway Sunday we continued work on our project presentation which was due monday. I got there around 11 AM and I worked until midnight. The other two guys worked until three or four before they went home. At midnight on the 4th, I was riding a nearly empty bus through Belgrano towards home.

The next morning I overslept and got to studio around 830 AM. I jumped right in to make up for the time the other two guys had spent. Caroline, one of the sixth years, brought in a big plate of fresh pastries for my birthday and I shared it with the studio. Medialunas, churros, good stuff.

We finished our presentation ten minutes after our project was due, but everyone else was scrambling too, so it wasnt too big of an issue. Presentation went well- we were concise and showed an impressive quantity of work. Our final piece ended up being about 4 feet wide by 6 feet long. I hope I never have to see those clips again. My fingers are only now starting to heal. After the presentations, which 'overwhelmed' Claudio, we watched a presentation by Sergio, on diagrams and a project he did for our part of Buenos Aires. Afterwards, we took a break, and then came back to watch another movie about street kids. The title was Bus174, about the tragic hostage incident that occured in Rio de Janero in 2000. It was even more depressing than the first movie we saw because it was all true and all real footage. What a movie to watch on one´s birthday!

Anyway, I had told my friends that I wanted a good steak dinner for my birthday, so we tried to think of a place that was A) Local to our neighborhood in Palermo Viejo, B) Looked like it had good steaks and C) had enough room to seat the 25 of us. Janet suggested a place near their apartment that she´d walked by frequently called Lomo. Lomo means beef, so we figured that was the best bet.

We all met down there after leaving studio, and got most of us at one long table in the back. Very nice place, although it was still so small, we took most of the tables. Very modern with bamboo, concrete, and corrugated steel. Almost everybody from studio came, although it was probably as much a celebration of the end of the project as it was for my birthday. I was still touched though.

Honestly, it was the best meal I´ve had here in Buenos Aires, and the best steak I´ve ever had. Ever. I got a Sirloin that was about 5 inches wide and 2 inches THICK. Perfectly done, served over a bed of potatos au gratin and sauteed mushrooms. Incredible. Great Argentine wine all around. The steak I had was kind of expensive, 38 pesos, for buenos aires, but at about $12, the best steak I´ve ever had is a steal at twice the price. I wished so badly that Dad, Mom, and Tay could have been there to share it with me. Anyway, after dinner we hit the bars for a long, fun evening, although I didnt get home until 7 AM. Fun on one´s birthday, but definately not something to do often.

Today I slept in and I am glad our system class doesn't start until 4 PM. It was a gorgeous afternoon although it did get cold this evening. Tomorrow we´re going to do an intensive site visit in the downtown San Telmo.

What a birthday! Can´t believe I´m 22, although I´m still one of the younger students on this trip.

Sep 1, 2006

The World Through Molly's Eyes

This is just a window to show you what pictures Molly, another friend of mine from fourth year, has been taking while here. There's a lot, and only a few of them have me in them, but its another broader picture of my life here in Buenos Aires. I'm actually thinking of switching to using this format for my pics.

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by BsAs2006

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to, a more writing-centric website.