Dec 25, 2006

Photos from a Day In Dubai

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the pictures.

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by archalec

Dec 24, 2006

Ski Dubai!

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

Dec 23, 2006

400 posts, 2 years, 20 countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 21, 2006

Thursday night in Abu Dhabi

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

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

Dec 20, 2006

Back in the 'Dhabi

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

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

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

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

Here are some photos taken between Buenos Aires and Abu Dhabi

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by archalec

Dec 19, 2006

Abu Dabhi

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

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

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

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

Dec 16, 2006

Where are all the trees?

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

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

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

Dec 15, 2006

Chau, Argentina

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

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

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

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

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

Chau, Buenos Aires.

Dec 14, 2006

Tango to Tango

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will miss this city.

Dec 13, 2006

Poor Niagra!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted some pics, follow the link.

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by archalec

Dec 9, 2006

Up the River Parana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 7, 2006

missed Items

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

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

and eleven and twelve on my top ten

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

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

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

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

Dec 6, 2006

buenos aires top ten

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

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

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

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

7) Cafes everywhere- Especially on sunny public plazas

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

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

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

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

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

The number one thing I like about Buenos Aires:

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

Dec 5, 2006

the bottom ten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 4, 2006

Sunday

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

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

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

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

International Madness

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

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

Dec 3, 2006

Final Review

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

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

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

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

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

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...