A Travellerspoint blog



Since returning home I have reflected on our journey through stories to friends and family, funny (and sometimes serious) inside reminders between Josh and I and the occasional day dream. But more than just stories being told and retold, I have to share the strange feeling of returning from such an adventure, and how far beyond reflection it is for us. We returned back home to not much change, things almost exactly as we left them. Now this may not seem strange since for the normal person not much changes in three months, but in three months we hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, traveled by bus for upwards of 25 hours, saw every environment from rainforest to dry desert dunes, rode horses, took a boat down the Amazon, stayed with an Argentine family, participated in Inca rituals, drank local drinks and ate local food (including Alpaca), slid down huge sand dunes, ate Asado with a local argentine family, saw how the rich lived, saw how the less rich lived, LIVED in Argentina. I could go on and on, but you get it. You get that each week was filled with something new, and it made me realize something; life is not to be lived in vain. We are not here to find a job and work our way up that ladder to eventually fit in with the "norm." We are here to be challenged and to challenge those around us. We are here to make mistakes and let things happen as they are going to happen. I know I try to control a lot in my life because I had the desire to follow the wealth track which means get a degree, get a good job that pays well, start a family...ya ya ya we all know it, but wow it couldn’t be a more poisonous thought. I truly do not know what to do with this information or how I plan to apply it to my current life, but I can tell you that after the last three month something has changed in me. All of a sudden I am not so worried about money or notoriety or success in the typical manner. I am looking for fulfillment for myself and those I love, whatever that may be. I cannot begin to explain the impact that the last three months have had on me, but I guess the above can give you some idea.

I wish to make travel a big part of my life as a continuous reminder of the above. I hope that everyone gets to experience what we experienced.

With lots of love...Amy

Posted by JAM2010 00:39 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Our Final Week in BA

97 days traveling and counting...


As reported before, Santa Fe was amazing. We celebrated Ariels' birthday with him and his 50 friends. No joke the house was full of Argentines. I have to mention a short thing about the difference from growing up in the US as opposed to down here. I mentioned he had around 50 friends at his birthday because no one leaves home or goes to far from home after High School so everyone stays friends. I was talking with an Argentine who didn't understand our need to move from home after High School and rarely return, and after seeing everyone together I do understand why they stay home or close to home. It is a nice difference I think.

Anyway, we spent the next few days running along the river in the mornings and sitting in the sun in the afternoon. We even spend a Sunday with them, which mean ASADO. Yes, a pile of meat shared between the whole family. See Sundays are family days, and what are family days without a giant pile of meat. We definitely need to start that tradition back home. ;)

We left Santa Fe on Wednesday the 13th via bus and arrived back in BA. It felt like we were returning home. Well, it mostly felt that way because we were able to rent the apartment next to the apartment we stayed in for 2 months. Worked out perfectly. Once here the weather was not great; cold, overcast, dreary, but we didn't let that stop us from being total tourists. We have spent the last 6 days seeing everything we could see, from Florida street shopping to a tango show and even a tourist bus hitting all the main spots of BA. Didn't want to leave one stone unturned.

Our final night came so quickly I felt unprepared, but we did it well. We decided that morning to book a dinner tango show and made our way downtown to buy the tickets. After talking about it, and seeing the tourist price ($240 per person...yikes!) we decided to only see the show and go out to our own dinner, which was the BEST decision ever because dinner was epic! We decided on an all you can eat buffet that we had heard about from 3 different people throughout our trip called Siga La Vaca. Wow, this was a true buffet. First of all its Buenos Aires so of course there was meat, but not just a few parts, every part of the cow was on display and waiting for you. They didn't just give you a measly piece either, they gave you restaurant portions. They also had a great salad bar with sandwiches and every veggie you could want, but really it's about the piles of meat. Not only that, but they give you a whole bottle of wine or a small pitcher of beer, whichever you prefer, and all you can drink bottled water and sodas. Oh and did I mention dessert? Ya, the chocolate volcano was to die for. Ok, so as you can imagine I have gained a bit of weight, but it is SO worth it!! I love food and BA is the place to eat..a lot!

After dinner we rolled out the door and made our way to the tango show. What a production! Tango is an amazing dance form and we were loving every minute of the show. The best way to end our time here in BA was definitely with a Tango show and all you can eat meat!

So now we head home...our flight leaves BA at 6:30am, which means we have to leave our apartment at 3:30am...it's possible we wont go to sleep. We arrive in LA at 7pm...long day tomorrow. The final travel day in a line of, what feels like, hundreds. We have been to Peru, seen Machu Picchu, rode horses, hiked in the rainforest, attended parades, shared Asado with two Argentine families, played tourist and local, improved our Spanish, hiked over and under waterfalls, ate like kings, and made long lasting friendships. We will miss Buenos Aires more than I could ever explain. BA will always hold a soft spot in my heart and I hope to return as soon as possible.

Thank you for following us and supporting us on this fantastic adventure. I plan to write more about our re-acclimation to life at home without jobs and trying to continue to find ourselves. We have Hawaii ahead as well, can't wait!! Stay tuned!!! ;)

Posted by JAM2010 17:37 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Uruguay, Iguazu Falls and Familia en Santa Fe

How quickly time flies...

sunny 67 °F

We are spending these last few weeks running around Argentina to get to everything before we have to leave. In a nutshell Amber arrive in BA on September 27th and we left our apartment on September 30th and traveled to Uruguay and after a week there left for Iguazu falls in Argentina, and now we reside in a wonderful home in Santa Fe at a friend of my aunt’s, acting as part of the family. For those that like more details continue reading…

It was hard to leave our apartment knowing that we would be leaving the comfort of our fantastic apartment for a few weeks of sleeping on buses and in hostels, but it has turned out to be worth it. We first made our way to Puerto Madera where we took a one hour boat ride to Colonia, Uruguay then immediately grabbed our bags once there and boarded our bus to Montivideo. The terminal in Montivideo was great, it had McDonalds and many small food vendors with shops and tons of people wondering around to find their bus. We didn’t have a ticket yet, so we wondered around with all our luggage (and we have a lot!) to find the best deal to get to Punta del Este. We found a bus immediately and jumped on. We arrived in Punta del Este past dark, so no one was in the small town terminal. We finally found the taxi guy coming back from dinner and he took us out to our Hotel, Casapueblo. This is where the frustration begun. We hadn’t eaten in a while because we had to take one bus after the other, there was no time to stop and grab a bite, but we figured the hotel would have something or somewhere nearby to go. NO! The Hotel was SO far from anything and their restaurant closed 2 hours before, so we had to catch a ride from the front desk clerk to the nearby town Maldinado to grab a bite. He was very kind to take us, but we found out later that he got a kick back for taking us to his friends restaurant. Oh well. It was a fantastic, and cheap, parilla with wonderful meat and grilled cheese (no not the sandwich, actual cheese grilled on a grill MMmmmmm). After dinner we knew we would have to go into town to get groceries tomorrow because it was too expensive for cabs to town and restaurants were more expensive in that touristy area. Well that is a whole other adventure that I was not a part of, but can tell you a second hand tale. The next morning I was feeling sicker than I had in a few days, so I decided to sleep while Josh and Amber took off to find a grocery store. The front desk person assured them it was no more than a 10 minute walk along the highway to reach the store, but he was sadly mistaken. It was about a mile from our hotel to the highway alone and then when they started to walk they quickly realized it was not as near as told. They walked for over an hour to reach this self-proclaimed Supermercado, but from what I hear it was not so super. The best part is that after the stocked up on bag after bag of groceries they posted up on the center divider to catch the bus back to our hotel area. Yes, that is how the locals do it but try it with over 12 bags of groceries. They made the bus but had to stand with all the groceries. They made that final mile walk to the hotel with bags in hand. All together it took them 3+ hours to make the trip, and needless to say they were not happy. But we did now have groceries and knew we could just enjoy the resort from that time on.
Thank you to my wonderful Aunt and Uncle for allowing us to trade one of their timeshare weeks for a week in Uruguay. Once we had groceries we got to enjoy the amazing property that was Casapueblo. The hotel is a work of art, literally created by an artist, with huge white walls everywhere you look, blue blue pools and built right over a cliff straight down to the water. The views were unbelievable. From our deck we could see the ocean and the whole coastline of Punta Bellena which stretched for miles and miles. The sunsets were another thing entirely, so beautiful and brilliant. It’s hard to explain. We spent our days by their indoor spa overlooking the ocean, playing in the pool and reading in the sun. I was also able to get a bit of a tan, finally. It was very relaxing, but we knew a full week would be a bit much so we began to make plans to leave for Iguazu falls early. But before we left we wanted to make a trip into Punta del Este to see the famous hand in the sand and walk the famous beaches. Well after another adventure to find a bus and get there we did not regret it. The beaches were pristine with shells of every kind covering the beaches. We stopped in a 24hour parilla for a bite of food and a bit of cervesa, and then decided to find our way back. The next few days were spent like the others, in the sun.

We left for Iguazu Wednesday morning. We knew we had a whole day plus some of travel ahead of us so we mentally prepared ourselves. The front desk called a cab which took us to bus stop along the roadside where we caught our 2 hour bus Montivideo. From Montivideo we brought our next bus and the boat from Colonia to BA. We arrived in BA that evening around 5pm to catch our final bus to Iguazu. When we arrived at the Retiro bus station we bought our tickets and boarded our bus an hour after. The 20 hour bus ride was not as bad as you would think. We purchased the seats that recline flat and had a foot rest that raises your feet up as if you are lying flat. They also included dinner with wine and champagne and breakfast when we woke up in the morning. All together it went by quickly and we arrived in Iguazu around 2pm. When we arrived it was warm and a bit muggy, just perfect weather. We grabbed our bags and headed directly across the street to the Marcopolo hostel where we were staying for the night. The hostel was really nice, clean and included breakfast (always a must when looking for a hostel). Anyway, we decided that even though it was later in the day and the park closed at 6pm, we would go to Iguazu to see part of the falls. It was a 20 min bus ride from our hostel to get to the park and only $8 pesos. When we arrived the sun came out and it was beautiful. Since it was later in the day there were only a handful of people there, so at times we felt like we were the only ones there. We knew we only had time to see one part, so we decided to go to Devils Throat, the place where several falls come together to create a huge caldron of water more powerful than you can ever imagine. We took the small train (reminiscent of Disneyland train) to the farthest part of the park where we walked out over falls and through rainforest to get to the main attraction. Pictures do not do this view justice. The power of the falls are magnificent, the loud rumble of the falls itself commands your respect. We were in awe to say the least. The park was closing so we made our way back to our hostel. The next day we packed up our stuff and stored it with the hostel, so we could go back to the park to see the rest of the park. We made it on the second bus of the day, beating most of the crowds to the park. We made our way to the part we missed the day before and it was even more spectacular. There are multiple walkways over the falls and through jungle that takes you to these fantastic vistas where you see falls from far away and close up. We literally saw every part of the falls. We were above, to the side, even below, getting soaked from the mist. Every vista was as if we were in a calendar. Just gorgeous. Towards the end of our time there we purchased an ecological tour boat ride down the river. We saw a few alligators and turtles but mostly it was just a one hour lazy ride down the river. A good way to end the day. Around 2pm we made our way back to our hotel to catch a bus to Santa Fe to stay my aunt’s friend Ileana and her family for a few days. We, unfortunately, made the mistake of waiting to buy our bus ticket and therefore had to take the only bus available which was not as nice or comfortable as the one to Iguazu and we had a 16 hour ride ahead. It turned out to be ok, but we were happy to get off.

We made it to Santa Fe at 8am on Saturday morning. We were groggy, but were able to gather our things and put ourselves together to meet our host Ileana. I had been in contact with Ileana before and throughout our trip, so I sent her a picture so she knew who to look for, but we didn’t know who we were looking for. As we waited we were taking pictures in true tourista form and Ileana came around the corner and we kind of checked each other out and she said “Amy?!” and so it was, we found each other. She gave us all big hugs and the traditional Argentine beso. We knew we would get along great. We made our way out of the city about 20mins to her beautiful home. They live well with a maid and a two story home. She has two sons, Marrow (26) and Ariel (23) who live at home with her and are very nice and fun. The main language of the house is, of course, Spanish, but Ariel and Ileana speak English. Ileana wants us to learn Spanish so she forces us to speak only Spanish, but so far so good. They put up with our “Como se dice…?” and we try the best we can. Actually, we get a lot of compliments on our Spanish and me on my pronunciation (thanks to living in Cali, I think). Ileana and her sons are perfect hosts, she even gave up her master room for us to stay in.

Since coming here we have felt so at home and decided to extend our stay to Wednesday. Last night we partied with Ariel and his friends. They taught us some drinking games they knew and we taught them one of ours. At about 2am we went to a club called Springfield and danced until 4am (which is really early for Argentines, they stay out till 6 maybe 8am). His friends were awesome and even though most only spoke Spanish we all had a great time together. This morning we slept in, which is normal for Sundays here, and woke up to Asado lunch. Their mother and father had prepared four different types of meat on the BBQ including sausage, blood sausage, steak, and a few other parts of the cow. Wow was it good. It was nice too because Sunday is always family day. The whole family gets together for Asado, I was happy to be a part of it. We had a lazy rest of the day and are staying in tonight despite the many attempts to get us to go out by Marrow and his friends. Tomorrow is Ariel’s birthday, so we will be helping set up all day and partying into the night. We’re excited. I feel blessed to share these moments with this family, we love being in Santa Fe.

Only 10 more days till home…I have mixed feelings of excitement to see my family and friends, and sadness to leave such an amazing place. Can you believe it’s come and gone so fast!?

Posted by JAM2010 21:44 Archived in Argentina Tagged punta santa falls del argentina iguazu uruguay fe este Comments (0)


Finally Time to Tango

65 °F

We finally made it out for a tango, or two. My Spanish studio puts on events every now and again to get everyone together, and it just so happened that last week they went to the Milonga. It was close to our house and sounded like fun, so we tagged along. I am so glad we did because now I can say I know how to tango. Well, I know how to do one set of steps, but that works for me. Anyway, when you get there they put on a small tango show with the professionals and then introduce all of the instructors. After introductions they split up into classes from first timers to very advanced. We, of course, decided to join the first timers, or as I like to call it the tourists and uncoordinated. Luckily I had a good partner in Josh and we learned quickly. The lessons were entirely in Spanish, so much of the learning was through hand gestures and watching her feet. Once we got the basics down they had us practice, practice, practice. Around and around in a circle we went, switching partners along the way, so everyone could get a different perspective. I had a wide range of partners. My first was an older Indian gentleman from Washington DC who seemed to come out of nowhere and ask me to dance. He was very strong and serious, which I kind of liked, because he led me well. The next was young guy from Ireland. He was a stringy fellow and a bit afraid of women. Not the best situation. Eventually Josh and I found each other again and decided no more switching. We didn't want to play with the other kids. After the class finished the real Milonga started and all of the advanced level students made their way out to the floor, while the rest of us looked on and wished we could dance like that. Needless to say, the dance floor was much too intimidating so we spent the rest of the time drinking $15 peso bottles of wine with our German friends and Elvira, the Spanish school owner, all night. We much enjoyed.

After leaving that night, we all decided to meet back there again this Thursday for more lessons and another spin around the dance floor. So, we did, but this time we decided to get cocky and join the Intermediate class. I am glad we did, but talk about difficult. We found out much later that you are suppose to spend at least 2-3 classes with the beginners before moving up. Ooops. Oh well it worked out. Josh and I learned a few twists and went back to our bottle of wine. We were joined by two Swedish friends from Spanish class and Elvira. We ended up talking, drinking, and watching the others dance. The night flew by, and all of a sudden it was 1:30am and we were leaving. Well, not before I was asked to dance by a rather rugged looking Argentine. I was very hesitant because of my skill level and well, you never know these Argentines' intentions, but after much coursing from him and the Swedish girls I was up. He took me to the dance floor where he led me like a dream. Thanks to the few glasses of wine I had I was able to let go and let him lead me. We had a great time, but then the Argentine came out and he started saying things like, "if you didn't have a boyfriend you would go on a date with me right?" Ya, I quickly decided to get out of that situation, but I had a great time dancing. Its great being the woman in a partner dance like Tango, because really you just sit back and let yourself be led. It's fantastic.

Josh really enjoyed the Tango as well. He said it was "a masculine dance that doesn't make you feel fruity." There you have it folks. Tango is for everyone!

Posted by JAM2010 08:19 Archived in Argentina Tagged tango milonga Comments (0)

Mas Fotos

Posted more pics to facebook. Check them out:


Posted by JAM2010 11:06 Comments (0)

Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Differences

Josh wanted to call this post: Argentina Smargentina. You be the judge.

0 °F

As we sit here in Abusto Shopping Mall sipping on our $7 bottle of Aberdeen Angus Malbec (i.e. house wine), which is quite good I might add, we laugh about the obvious and not-so obvious differences between our country and this one. I find that I have learned a lot more about our culture and our country by seeing the differences here. Here are some differences we have noticed:

  • Argentines don't believe in eating much more than a crusty piece of bread or calorie packed croissant for breakfast (medialuna). To ask for an egg, waffle, or even bacon is considered nutty. Their breakfast specials often are made up of orange juice, toast and jam, or, if you're lucky, a boiled egg.
  • Coffee: Here - 90% cream & 10% coffee vs Home - 10% cream and 90% coffee. Don't be fooled by the sound of Cafe con Leche, it tastes like steamed milk, however it's all they drink. Plus they are all named differently at each cafe, so if you order a cafe chico or grande it may be espresso or might be an Americano with water added. It's always an adventure.
  • Every restaurant is a different dining experience. Most of the time they don't acknowledge you unless you flag them down, and once you get their attention expect it to take another 20mins to get a menu. Once you know what you want you better be ready to wait 1hr for your food to come and pay once its delivered because you may never see them again. They really don't understand the concept of up sale. Some are better, but mostly they like you to take your time and give you your space (that is how I choose to see it).
  • Happy Hour is an odd concept down here. Some bars see it as a chance to bring in new customers with cheap drink deals (similar to the U.S.), but others miss the concept entirely. We did happen to find a place this past weekend with buy one pint get one free, that was a first. The best story was in Cuzco, Peru, when we saw a big Happy Hour sign and asked what the Happy Hour prices were and he looked at us sideways and said, "same." We tried explaining the concept in our terms, but he just wasn't having it. He probably thought we were trying to swindle a free drink.
  • Take out is HUGE here. Every single restaurant delivers food and even coffees to you at your house or at work. It's so cool. The best part is that it is cheaper to place an order for delivery than to eat in the restaurant, because in restaurants they charge a sitting fee to eat their bread and use a table cloth (another difference). Whenever we eat sushi we order it in because it happens to be $3-$10 cheaper than in the restaurant. Of course we figured this out when we found the take-out menu after eating a pretty expensive sushi dinner in the restaurant. They, also, make the take out orders first in most restaurants, and you can expect to get it within 30mins of ordering it, depending, while diners get to wait an extra 30mins for their food.
  • Wine is SUPER cheap and REALLY tasty. You can get bottles at the grocery store for as little at $4 and they are quite good. We prefer the $7-$10 bottles, but we have heard people say that they have had a $4 bottle that was awesome. Beer is also extreamly cheep. You can get a liter of their local beer Quilmes for $2 and if you return the bottle get $1 back. Cha. Cheap. We found out this weekend that if bars advertise Quilmes, they get it free, so they can charge what they want and usually make it really cheap. Win win.
  • On a similar note, their beer here is one note. I can't tell you how much I miss Blue Moon or Firestone's Double Barrel Ale. Their beer Quilmes tastes a lot like Miller Light and their other beers, if you can find anything else on the menu, rarely has a different taste. They don't believe in IPAs here. Well, actually, we did get to a bar at the start of our trip where they were serving an IPA and I convinced our new Brazilian friend to try it. As we all know it's pretty potent if you're not used to it, so needless to say he thought I was crazy for drinking such a "horrible" drink and let me have it.
  • They LOVE their sweets here. Every block, no exaggeration, has a small stand or kiosk, where they sell every possible candy ever made, including Ferro Rocher (Josh's fave), and it's cheap. If there isn't a stand close enough you can easily find a confiteria (pasty shop) to buy your fresh baked sweets. They are fantastic! They have every kind of baked good, sweet and otherwise, lining the walls and you fill up you bucket with whatever meets your fancy and it's never more than $20. Even for a whole pie! Bad for the waistline, good for the soul!
  • Public transportation is as good, if not better, than San Francisco, but totally chaotic. It seems that if you are not a local, you will never figure out the bus system. The buses are never on time and you may be stuck waiting for a while. Once it does come, you have to flag it like a taxi and jump on as quickly as you can. They usually start driving off and trying to close the door before you have both feet in. Plus, when it's your stop, be ready, because the door does not stay open for very long. Sometimes you have to do a duck and roll out of it to catch your stop. The sub is easy to use and cheap, but be ware of the weekend, some stops close down for the weekends and you have to walk and extra five or eight blocks to catch the next. Again, no time schedule.
  • An interesting non-difference to note is that they show all of the same shows that we have. We wake up to Two and a Half Men and Friends, and then catch prime time TV later in the day like Lie to Me and Law and Order (no country is safe from Law and Order, it's on all the time everywhere. How do they do it?!), and if I really want to I can catch up on entertainment news on E! I even watched the Emmy's from start to finish in English. They are even going to start showing the new fall season when it starts back home. It's dangerous because we are watching more TV than I expected to, but it's a nice taste of home.

That's all I can think of for now, but I may add as we get down to the last few weeks here.

Two more differences I thought should be mentioned after I posted the article:

  • The fresh food here is unbelievable and easily accessible. There are fruit and vegetable stands on every clock, sometimes 2, and most have a fresh meat stand in them. The fruit stands are beautiful displays of what is in season and each stand has their own cheap deals. The place we get our mandarins sells 2pds for $3 and the eggplant is less than $1 a piece. The meat stands are great too with fresh whole chickens, several types of meat, fresh eggs and seasoned chicken for quick dinners. It's easy to eat fresh food every day.
  • The biggest and most important difference that I should have mentioned before is the difference in economy. We recently found out that the local inflation rate is 25%! People do not trust the banks, so the often spend everything they make. When prices change their income changes at a much slower rate, and coupled with the tourism, it's really expensive for locals to live here. We have heard it's difficult to find a job and when you do, it's tough to get paid a good salary. On average they make about $6,000-$8,000 dollars a YEAR! At least that is what a local told us. The banks offer amazing interest rates to entice people to keep their money with them (we've heard as much as 25% interest!), but the people are just too scared that something will happen and the government will take their money, so they don't care about the incentives. It's pretty incredible.

Posted by JAM2010 07:44 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

One month in BA come and gone

Time Flies when you're having fun...

overcast 60 °F

Wow, a month has already passed since I had my birthday, found an apartment and settled in. I do feel much better acquainted with B.A. but we're still in the Honeymoon phase. The first few weeks we took it easy, really recovering from backpacking in Peru. But now the time has come for us to start venturing out, seeing everything and really taking it all in. That's not to say we haven't been doing anything, but now I'm ready to do even more. We have yet to go to a tango class, mostly because we are intimidated from the tango show we watched and what our friends had to say about the seriousness of the dance (which as most of you know, Josh and I had a hard time with serious). Don't worry, we will try it at least once, and may surprise ourselves. The Tango show we went to was put on by Kevin and Shanna's tango school where they took their lessons. The tickets were cheap and it was a one night show, so we were in. We met them downtown on the block I like to call Broadway, because there are 4+ blocks of theaters in a row playing everything from Beauty and the Beast to small Spanish plays whos titles I can't understand. It was a small theater packed with people, many English speaking tourists who have also been taking tango classes with this company. It was nice to hear a bit of English around you every once and a while. They started letting people into the theater, late as usual, and it was a crash of people shoving their way through a tiny entrance and a character of a man with a pencil thin mustache taking tickets. My shoving skills aren't quite up to par with the Argentines' so I had to meet our friends at our seats. The show started promptly 15 mins late, to be expected and we were less than impressed until the third act in when the owner of the company came out to dance. It was pure beauty with the accordion playing so beautifully in the background. Yes, accordion. Not the polka, I want to rip my hair out accordion, it's cousin the tango accordion, with long, sweet sultry notes that make you really find the sexy tango spirit. After that, it was pretty much downhill. They went to intermission about 40 mins, and after intermission came a singer that is hard to describe. He was about 5ft4in, possibly smaller and thought he was the most suave, cool guy, but man he was not. He would give these looks that he thought were sexy, but really came off as a major joke to the rest of us. Argentines were eating it up, especially the men, oddly enough, but the Americans were all making eye contact trying to figure out if it was a joke or not. A few left, we stayed through the whole painful thing and came out of it with some good jokes. Overall, a good experience.

That weekend I dragged Josh to the famous San Telmo (one of the barrios within BA) antiques market. It was probably one of the coolest scenes I have ever been apart of. You get there and there are hords of people, locals and tourists milling around these warehouses and stands full of antique items. They had everything from 1920's record players to fur coats to whole kitchen sets of silverware and dishes. The selection was enormous and SO much fun to look through. I was obsessed with the broaches and rings from the 20's and 30's, they were exquisite. I also had fun looking at all the old glasswear and came across a stand that was selling these beautiful glasses for $5 pesos, $1! Once you leave the wearhouse there are about 20-30 blocks of vendors set up selling their own handmade goods. It's insane.The streets were packed with people looking, bands playing music, and street performers trying to make a buck. What a scene. One of my fave memories so far.

Some other things we have done...visited the Recoleta cemetery where Eva Peron is buried,but more to come after we take the tour Monday or Thursday next week. There is only so much you can figure out without a tour guide. It is really cool site though. It is literally like a city within a city with walkways and huge standing tombs all around. Oh and the cats make it super creepy. We also visited La Boca, the birthplace of tango with colorful buildings all around and street tango shows every corner you turn. However it was an unusually cold day, so we stayed as long as we could, but left pretty quickly. I'll put up pictures of the buildings shortly, they are really different looking.

We have, also, enjoyed a movie or two while we have been here. It's very different that in the U.S. First of all it's way cheaper! The first movie we saw was $7 for 2 ppl. Then they assign you a seat for your show, so you really can't just show up anytime, you have to get there a little earlier and they don't put butter on their popcorn. So not cool. :) The funniest thing is we went to see the Expendables (which, oddly enough, is called the Indestructibles here. Kind of the opposite, right?) and the audience would clap every time someone killed someone in a flashy/gory way. Good movie, by the way. But, ya, the audience is very animated in the movie, clapping often, laughing out loud, making comments. It's fun to be apart of. Oh and you should have heard them when Schwarzenegger came out. They were roaring in laughter and saying things in Spanish about the "Governator." Hahaha Classic!

The weather has not been great the past few days, but were hoping it clears up for the weekend. We want to visit the Japanese Garden's and china town this weekend to pick up supplies to make our own sushi.

I'll try to post some pictures soon. Take care everyone!!

Posted by JAM2010 09:43 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Just returned from the compound

...yes, the compound

sunny 70 °F

Today we were invited to Shanna's family's compound, like beyond Cribs style. The place is made up of one mansion and 4 smaller mansions, complete with theater, discotheque, large family dinning quarters, indoor/outdoor pool with waterfalls and slide, and parrilla grills in every house (like they have in restaurants). It was crazy to say the least! So, we were invited over for Saturday grill which they have every Saturday with the whole family (approx. 40 ppl). We arrived a bit late to see a huge table in this marble hall full of 4 generations of family members eating parrillia. They immediately welcomed us with kisses, made room for us and the dining begun. Tray after tray the maids brought out every inch of grilled cows and pigs. The food was incredible! Every bite was perfectly cooked and soooo tasty. We were in heaven. We struck up a conversation with one of Shanna's aunts who just moved her family to the compound from Miami. They go back and forth between here and Miami monthly, which is a typical story for many in the family. Her and her husband are some of the prettiest people I have ever seen and their kids even cuter. Typical Argentine family, light skin, dark hair and big smiles.

After lunch they brought out 4 different cakes for dessert: coconut, dulce de leche layer cake, strawberries and cream, chocolate, and strawberry torte. They passed them all around and are always so aware of everyones’ comfort. They make sure that everyone has at least one slice of cake in front of them and a flute of champagne to toast with. The cakes were unlike anything I have had before. The coconut was like a macaroon, toasty and buttery, and the dulce de leche torte was layers of sweet gooey goodness, too rich to finish. After the 2 hour dining experience completed, everyone got up and walked around the property and then the men settled in one area and the women in another, while the kids played.

  • side note about the separation of men and women in Argentina. It is a very prevalent and obvious cultural norm that they do not make excuses for. While at this event, I experienced it first hand. They serve the men first (which Josh wasn't use to so he started serving me first and she looked at him like he was crazy) and the men separate themselves after eating to discuss business and politics. We were also talking to the Miami family, who of course are more American in their belief of equal rights, and they told us they had to complain to their kids school because of this same problem. They, evidently, have separate buses from the boys and girls and call the boys first on role call. Very interesting dynamic.

Anyway, we mingled the rest of the time with the family. Josh and Kevin played soccer with the boys and were given a tour by the patriarch of the family, Uncle Norberto. He made his money by being the first person in South America to introduce a cheaper option for video conferencing. It clearly was very lucrative. He is a very kind guy, with minimal English speaking skills, but he still tries. He always has a Swedish or Cuban cigar in his mouth that probably costs more than my whole wardrobe. You just want to know him. He's like the XX guy. The house was spectacular according to Josh, his favorite part being the theater with 12 individual La-Z-Boy type chairs and huge screen with projector.

Around 5:30pm, people started heading back to their residences or going home, and we were invited to the Miami family's home. Their home was equally impressive with huge dark brown leather couches facing a huge projector screen. The home had marble floors, rock walls and dark wood finishes. Just beautiful. They even had a separate sound proof room for the kids to play drums, guitar, and piano. They invited us back for movie night on Monday, so we may go back.

It would have been cool enough to be invited to an Argentine's family lunch, but add a compound to the mix and we felt so blessed to be a part of it.

Posted by JAM2010 08:37 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Feeling Like a Local

Girls Manicure day, birthday party to remember and my first day of school

sunny 66 °F

It seems like time is spinning out of control and we are spinning right along with it. We have been keeping ourselves busy, thanks a lot to Kevin and Shanna.

Let me start with the girls day that Shanna proposed after a failed museum visit with her. First, the museum day was funny because we got a late start (which is to be expected around here) and had about 4 hours to get across town (not an easy feat, well, quick feat) to see this museum of national pride that she had read about in her Argentina tour book, and get back in time for her Tango class. I was totally down for the adventure, no matter how much my gut told me it wouldn't work out as planned. We caught a cab and about $40 pesos later we were across town in a not-so-pleasant-looking area, walking up the steps of an old colonial style building. We walked past the guards and the antique cannons in the front yard, so it seemed pretty legit. However, when we entered the lobby there didn't seem to be much to it. The best part was the fact that absolutely everything was in Spanish, so Shawna had to translate everything to me. After about 10mins we had had our fill of paintings of men. Literally the whole museum was paintings of generals and important men, which wasn't surprising considering the Argentinian machismo that is prevalent in the language and everyday culture. Which brings me to another interesting tidbit from that girls trip. We realized that Argentine men are very respectful to women while they are walking with a man, but, ya, not so much, when they aren't. This was the first time we weren't with our guys and we were serenaded, whistled at, waved at through store windows and practically caused an accident. I swear we weren't anything special that day, just two girls on our own which is the only pre rec for that kind of attention, evidently. We were pretty ready to go back after an hour or so, so we found our way to the subway and fought* our way back to Palermo. Once back to Palermo, we took a breather and grabbed a bit. The museum was a bust, but the day was a cultural lesson of it's own. We much enjoyed!

  • Interesting sidebar about the subway system: try to avoid rush hour! There are so many people trying to pack onto the subway from about 4pm to 8pm that it's just nuts. You litterally feel like cattle hurding through the station to the train and once you are there you feel like a sardine being shoved (seriously, shoved) into a tiny can. Thank goodness I have a bit of hight, because some people on the shorter side get all booties and armpits, no bueno. There is an art to this time of day, however. You need to position yourself in the middle of the car, if possible, so you are able to easily disembark at your stop and are guaranteed to get on without being shoved into the far door or smooshed against the closing door. It's an adventure!*

A few days later we decided to pamper ourselves with a mani pedi. Shawna got a recommendation from her family who lives in the city for a very posh nail place in Belgrano, a very nice barrio next to Palermo. I took a cab and met her there. The place was packed, all three levels! The first two floors were dedicated to hair and the third to nails. The women here are very much into looks. The majority of women on T.V. have had some kind of plastic surgery and judging by the amount of women getting their hair died and extensions added at this salon, they care deeply about their looks. We made our way up three levels past all the women waiting for their newly died hair to dry, and found the tiny room for nails, also packed. Shawna checked us in and we were called shortly after. I was taken into a tiny white stall-like room where i laid on a table and two women promptly started working on my hands and feet. The language barrier was interesting to say the least. They were very sweet and we carried on a very level 1 Spanish conversation. I was proud of my conversation skills, however explaining what i wanted done to my nails was another thing. Needless to say I ended up with white nails, although I love it, it wasn't the plan. Haha. I know you are probably thinking, "why didn't you just say 'no'," but it was one of those things where if I said no it would lead to trying to explain what i did want and that wasn't happening. Overall it turned out great, but there were a few awkward 'no entiende' (I don't understand what you're saying) moments on both ends. It was a great experience and actually gave me a bit of confidence in my Spanish. I mean if your in a tiny room with two native speakers, you kind of have to jump in. The manicure was ok, nothing special, but the pedicure was interesting. She placed soaked cotton squares on the balls of my feet and heals to soften them, then took an electric buffer and buffed the rough spots (which was probably a lot after our travels in Peru). It was definitely different, but my feet were so soft afterwards. It was a nice afternoon that was also educational. :)

The weekend came and went pretty quickly, and then Monday was Kevin's birthday. We called to wish him a happy birthday and he invited us to join them at Shanna's Aunt and Uncle's house that night for a celebratory dinner. Of course we were super excited to spend the evening with our friends and enjoy dinner at a locals home. We made our way over to their apartment building where they own an entire floor just to themselves. It was a pretty cool apartment created by the architect for the building for himself. It has thick blown glass doors and 80s wood paneling. We kissed our way into the door (a custom here is to kiss on the cheek with anyone and everyone when coming and going) and met Shawna's Aunts, uncles, cousin and 92-year old grandma. They all speak English well, except for her Grandma who is perfectly fine with speaking a bit slower in Spanish so we can understand. Gram and I became fast friends discussing what we like most about Buenos Aires, how it's similar to San Francisco and how she reminds me of my Nana. We made our way into the kitchen to help make dinner, sushi! Odd Argentine dinner choice, but we were excited. We jumped in to make some rolls with her uncle, who funny enough, learned to make sushi on You Tube. :) We rolled anything and everything in the kitchen; salmon, cucumbers, cream cheese, avocado, onions, even strawberries (which surprisingly tasted good!). One word about the salmon, it's SO good here. It melts in your mouth and doesn't have the slightest hint of fishiness. After we were finished we cracked open a few bottles of wine and sat down to a big family dinner. The rolls were fantastic and the company even better. We finished the meal with an awesome cake and sang Happy Birthday. It was a very different birthday celebration, very cool to be a apart of.

Last, but not least, i started taking Spanish classes at a studio 3 blocks from our apartment. There are two other students in the class, one of which rarely shows up and the other is a sweet Indian girl who is here to intern with a fashion designer. So, ya, the classes are very small, making it a more personal learning experience. In fact, no one else came Friday so I had a private lesson. The teachers change depending on availability, but the woman I had for the past few days has a more conversational teaching style, so she'll teach something then we'll use it in conversation about Buenos Aires, California, our boyfriends and families. It's a cool way to learn. It also helps that the minute I leave the class I am using what I just learned to buy fruit from the fruit stand, or a sweet treat from the kiosk on the corner. I feel I have already learned a lot and it's just my first week!

Next on the list: Tango lessons, china town for cheap sushi, Japanese Gardens, museums, and maybe find a yoga class or two. I'll keep you updated!

Posted by JAM2010 18:27 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Ten Days in Buenos Aires...

...and a whole lot more to go!

sunny 66 °F

We have finally settled into Buenos Aires, like we had always hoped to, but it wasn't easy at first. We got a bit caught up in a day-to-day travel planning mode in Peru, so when it came down to book an apartment in Buenos Aires, well we were a bit late. To make matters worse, Argentinians work on their own clock, meaning they check their email whenever they feel like it and if they successfully rent something, great, if not, that is fine too. So to make a long story short, we started looking for apartments in Arequipa, 3 days before we arrived in Buenos Aires and on a Friday. Not a good call. We booked a place, or so we thought. We arrived in Buenos Aires on a Saturday and realized no business was done on the weekend, or at least with the company we booked with, so we found a not so inexpensive hostel to stay in for the night. It was a cool place, right downtown (where they call microcenter) in an old sky scraper type building that seemed to be built in the 20s, and the heating was never quite improved. We made ourselves comfortable in our small room and hoped to get in touch with our agent, Maria, the next day to see the apartment. Well, that didn't happen because of all the days of the week, Sunday is the least worked day, in fact no one wakes up until the days half way done (which we have come to love). So we scramble to find a new place, because we find that our room is not available for a second night and the only other option is a 6 bed dorm, split for men and women. Needless to say we moved on and we're glad we did. We found a place on Hostel World for the same, or maybe a bit cheaper and decided to go there. First, we decided to enjoy the area a bit since we were right next to this huge pedestrian walkway with shops, food, cafes, etc. We left our bags at the hostel and went out to find a cafe and maybe a steak or two. (oh i forgot to mention that our first night we were pulled into a restaurant for dinner that promoted their steak like a Broadway show. In bright lights it said Steak, Steak, Steak with men out front in full grill outfits promoting the restaurant. We knew it was touristy, but the price was right and the food looked good. We ended up ordering a, litteral, pile of meat for 2. It had Chorizo, Mochilla (blood sausage), Two cuts of beef and chicken stacked high. We paid about $12 for the meal. Crazy good too.) Anyway, the next day we wandered back to that pedestrian street and came across a $7 peso (about$2) steak place, where we both ordered a beef sandwich from the grill stacked with every kind of meat you can think of. We stood while we ate it and ordered a third Chorizo sandwich, which was equally as good. Mmm all the meat here is just like they say it is, fresh, healthy portions, and GOOD! Our arteries hate this. :) We moved on after that to check into our next hostel 13 blocks away in another barrio called San Telmo. San Telmo was a bit more seedy, there were definitely prositutes on the corner of our building one night, but the hostel was a diamond in the rough. We walked in not knowing what to expect, but it was great. The owner, a young Aussie with a big smile greeted us at the door. She gave us the layout of the town, answered all of our questions and then some and led us to our room. There were young English speakers all over the place and she informed us that movie night had just begun downstairs in the bar. We decided to enjoy movies in our room alone that night and catch a nap before dinner, around 10pm. Ya, everything is a bit later here. We saw a menu on the front desk for a small Parilla (grill) three doors down and she told us it was the best. We made our way down there for dinner and I ordered the "Super Beef" a 400gr steak for $5, including a heap of grilled veggies and DAMN it was fantastic. At that moment we knew, we were in heaven. The fact that you could walk down any street and come across a place like this, and pay that much, for that quality of food, ahhh couldn't get much better. Anyway, enough about the food. We went the whole day without any contact from Maria, so we decided to look on Craigslist and other sites and do our best to make something happen. The next few days were spent waking up, checking emails and contacting people for apartments with little to no luck. Either the places had been taken, or weren't available for a few days/weeks. We did get to see a place or two, but were unimpressed. So, each day we would check out of the hostel, fail on our apartment mission, and check back in. Eventually, we were left to share a 6 person dorm with one other girl, since nothing else was available, but it worked out ok. My birthday came quick and we still hadnt found our place, but, I wasn't going to let that get me down. We ended up booking the Monday night pub crawl, since it was free for me, and it would give us a good idea of the weekday night life. We met the pub crawl crew at an inconspicuous bar in the basement of a restaurant around 10:30pm, and made the best of the all-you-can-drink-and-eat hour. We met a group from Brazil that became fast friends. The guys were crazy and the girls sweet/ with a touch of crazy. One of the guys was waiting for a call from his family since his sister was giving birth any minute. Once he got the call we were all congratulating him and singing in Spanish, it was quite the event for him. The whole night we were cheering on his new little nephew. We went to 4 bars and ended the night at a night club where I am pretty sure I took up smoking without realizing it. I guess they didint get the message that second hand smoke kills :0). Anyway, we made some good friends and of course Josh made fast friends with the guy who started the whole Pub Crawl concept and makes good money doing it. Go figure. He promised us another crawl for free, we'll see about that one. Everyone was wishing me Happy Birthday all night, and even got me on a bar stool to sing for me. Awesome. We had a great time and major hang overs the next day to prove it. We didn't get moving until 2pm the next day and met another disappointing day of apartment hunting, but had lined something up for the next day and were hopeful. That night we had plans to go to dinner with the couple me met in Cuzco, Shanna and Kevin from Seattle, WA. She is Argentinian, so her family gave her a place to take me for my birthday in the Recoleta near the fancy graveyard where Evita is buried. It was a cute street for strolling, tree lined and beautiful. The place she wanted to take me to happened to be under construction, but we found another fancy little place and had way to much to eat and drink and had a fantastic time. We were the last people in there and the wait staff were so pleased that we had spent so much money that they gave us one last round of drinks and a cake for my birthday. It was really sweet.

The day finally came where we knew we would get our apartment. We met with Magalli (great name!) our new agent that afternoon, and she took us to the place. We of course loved it, but one small problema, the guy was still living there and wouldn't be leaving until later that night. At this point we were so desperate to find a place that we begged to be able to stay the night even if it wasnt to be cleaned the next day. They allowed it and thinking back it was a bit weird, but we pulled out our sleeping bags and made the best of it. The place is perfect. Full kitchen, gas powered, heated showers, heater and separate bedroom. We love it. Once it was cleaned the next day, we felt at home. Yay! Now to unwind and finally feel apart of someplace. It's tough unwinding. I often have to tell myself that it's ok to just sit, or sleep in, or do nothing. Weird and foreign concept, right?!

Once that major check mark was in place, we have toured around town, finding that we are in the best area right next to everything. If you walk two blocks up from the building its the main street Santa Fe, with a Zoo and parks galore as you keep walking straight. If you continue east along Santa Fe you run into lots of shopping boutiques, a huge mall, cinema, subway lines, and lots of banks and cafes. If you go south from our building you run into a great part of town with cobblestone streets, really cute boutique shopping, cafes, restaurants, and very European feel to the area. Everyone walks their designer dogs in their designer boots around here and we love to watch it. We came shopping over here the other day and found some great deals. $200 went fast, but far. We stumbbled upon a warehouse sale where numerous designers try to sell off their latest styles and their even more discounted last season stuff. We had a blast buying $10 outfits and $50 boots. We finally wont look the same in every picture we take! :)

I found a park nearby that I run to most mornings. It has a lake and a track surrounding the lake for runners, bikers, and, yes, rollerbladers. I am so going to make Josh rent some with me! It's a great place to run because its fun to watch all of the dog walkers and kids running around. The weather has been great too. Sunny and warm-ish. When we first arrived I thought it was going to snow it was so cold, but thank goodness it feels more like Santa Barbara winter now. Just perfect. There are several museums within walking distance of our house as well. In fact, we are going tomorrow with Kevin and Shanna. Should be fun!

Oh I should also mention our first Saturday night, Buenos Aires locals style. Saturday night we were invited over to Shanna and Kevins house for some drinks and then possibly go out. Her cousin plans to come pick us up and take us out, but first we have a few drinks at their house. We get over there about 10:45pm and her cousin shows up about 12:45. We dont end up leaving the house for the club until 2:30am! That is just how they do it here. He ends up taking us to a huge warehouse where people are lined up down the street, but for $5 each we are in no problem. The music was rave music with the DJs as the center piece of the entire place. Not Josh and my scene, but we are enjoying the experience. We are all kind of looking at each other like, "it's 4am and we are just getting to the club, what?!" It was great, but we didnt last too long and were in bed by 5am. Ya, we werent awake until 12pm the next day.

We have really been enjoying cooking our own breakfasts, lunched and dinners. Buying all our meat, veggies and fruit fresh from the corner store everyday. It's fantastic. We have so many more things on the list to do. We are going to a free Spanish conversation class tomorrow near the house and a tango show next Tuesday with Kevin and Shanna. Then we want to find tango classes and cooking classes for ourselves. There are so many sights to take in and we still need to figure out how to get to Iguazu Falls and other side trips. Although, I don't think we'll leave Buenos Aires any time soon.

If you have questions about anything let me know. I am probably leaving a lot out and would be happy to share more!

Posted by JAM2010 17:03 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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