Posts Tagged ‘Argentina’

October Wrap-Up

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Here’s a summary of what’s been going on this month on a few of the expat blogs that I follow:

My favorite post from Voices in Español (not an expat blog exactly, but an excellent blog on the Spanish language and has a great podcast): The most annoying phrase in Spanish. Who knew there was a phrase that foreign speakers tend to say that annoys Spanish speakers? I won’t ruin in and tell you what it is– you have to go look. ;) There is also a great post about the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” in English and how that is translated into different languages. For some languages, the incomprehensible language is Chinese, and for some, it’s Spanish!

Frank Alameda makes and sells his wonderful brand of cookies throughout Buenos Aires. His cookies and his blog are called Sugar & Spice, where he talks about his business and raising his children here in BsAs. This month, Frank talks about his 7-year old comparing the life expectancy of a whale to that of Michael Jackson, updates us about where his cookies can now be bought in the city, and a list of other expat entrepreneurs in Buenos Aires.

Paddy in BA is now no longer in Buenos Aires, he’s in Asia, blogging about his adventures hiking in the Philippines with a few side notes about keeping his body hair in check. He always writes with his wry sense of Irish humor.

Tracy has been blogging about love and relationships over on Last Tango in Buenos Aires. She also has a book coming out, part of which can be read online. Congrats, Tracy!

And last but certainly not least, you MUST see Cate Kelly’s photos of the South American Sumo Wrestling tournament that recently took place. amazing. She’s an awesome photographer, and chooses unique subjects.

Julia Evans wrote this article forAffordableCallingCards.net where she blogs about her life as an expat.  She also writes a personal blog Evans’ Gateabout living as an American expat in Buenos Aires, where she lives with her husband.  Comments on both blogs welcome!

Food, Something We All Love

Friday, October 30th, 2009

I think one of the most difficult things for most expats to get used to is the change in food.  I notice that when I read other blogs the bloggers always talk about the food they miss.  If you lived in a place where there was an abundance of ethnic foods and then move to a place where the daily fare is less exciting, you find yourself dreaming of those foods you don’t have anymore.  Even junk food like marshmallows or peanut butter become forbidden foods to die for.

I notice that Emily a blogger from Chile (Don’t Call Me Gringa) has written several posts about food she misses from California.  I liked her post about cheese.  She really misses the variety of cheese she could get back in the US.   Julia Evans another blogger on this site, also from Argentina ( Evansgate) brought back salad dressing when she went  home.

My friend Gina missed cupcakes so much she started a business making cupcakes. (Palermo Cupcakery) Sometimes I read this blog about this young woman who is a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian really is not a big deal here. It takes getting used to. I think mostly they are in culture shock more than anything else. Buenos Aires is clearly meat country. She misses her peanut butter. ( Veggie Carly)

Personally, I don’t miss that much anymore.  Cinnamon candies, Peets coffee.  I can live without them. What I do miss is good ethnic food.  I was so happy to find the Korean barrio here in Buenos Aires.  It is in a bad neighborhood.  It doesn’t stop me.  I try to round up a group of friends and go there as much as I can.  It is my favorite food.

One of my friends who is Korean Argentine told me that the Korean barrio in Buenos Aires is like Korea in the 1970s.  He thinks that I am crazy to want to go there so much.  The food is excellent.  I think it is the only food in Argentina that is spicy.  My other expat friends love to go there with me.

Last week a group of us went before we went to dance tango.  We made jokes we would have Korean Barbecue breath all night.  Not such a good thing when you are dancing close.  I think we were all so happy to have the food we didn’t care.

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All the tables have their own barbecue where you grill beef, pork, shrimp, and octopus.

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They bring you 1000s of little dishes of wonderful spicy foods. Each one is different and delicious.

Korean Sake is not like Japanese Sake, it is much smoother. Unfortunately I could drink a whole bottle of it.

Korean Sake is not like Japanese Sake, it is much smoother. Unfortunately I could drink a whole bottle of it.

This restaurant serves oysters on the half shell and you can have as many as you want.  In a seafood devoid BA this is like a slice of heaven.

This restaurant serves oysters on the half shell and you can have as many as you want. In a seafood devoid BA this is like a slice of heaven.

You cannot possibly eat all the food they bring you.  The amazing thing is that it is like a buffet, all you can eat.  If you want seconds or thirds on any of the dishes, all you have to do is ask.  It is all included in the price.  My Argentine Korean friend David thinks we are all crazy.  He also thinks it is funny that the owners of the restaurants all know me and come out to greet me.

The Korean Barrio are Korean expats.  They are eating their native foods.  For us, me and my friends, the Korean barrio is a slice of life we had before moving here.  I think it is nice how we are all immigrants and we can share something in common that we love, food.

Deby Novitz moved to Buenos Aires in 2004 from California. She has a small bed and breakfast for tango dancers, she writes, does translations, teaches English, and of course dances tango. You can find more about her life in Buenos Aires on her blog  TangoSpam: La Vida Con Deby.

Polo Anyone?

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

IMG_0155When I  think of Argentina, I immediately think of tango, wine, and good steaks.  I never thought of the sport polo.  Polo like football and tennis is a major sport in Argentina.  There is a whole industry built around polo in Argentina.

Argentina is most know for the breeding of polo ponies.  The horses used for polo are not the same as regular horses.  They are a cross breed thoroughbreds and criollas.  The Argentine polo pony although not considered an actual breed are recognized all over the world for being quick and strong.  I am not a horse person, but I must admit, when I saw them at my first polo match, they are a beautiful animal.  They appeared to fly across the field with almost no effort.  Just like tango dancers.  The horses are stockier and lower to the ground.

My friend Matthew suggested we go to an off season polo match.  I had never been before.  A group of us IMG_0108got together to go.  We walked over to the polo fields.  I don’t live that far from them.  They are across from the Hippodrome or the horse races.  Walking into the Polo fields is a unique experience.  Another world.

The fields are beautiful.  We watched them exercise the horses.  They are magnificent animals.  We walked around the restaurants and the booths of small stores.  Everything was geared towards polo, and people who have money.  There was a marching band that reminded me of the changing of the guard in London.

I didn’t realize that the first polo match was actually played in Persia.  The IMG_0151modern polo was made popular by the British who took it from a game played in Manipur (Now a state in India). Polo is an active sport in 77  countries but played professionally in only few, one of which is Argentina.  It is also one of the only sports where amateurs play along side professionals.

We had real seats.  But they were in the shade.  It was a cool day so we were cold.  Our view of the fields were excellent.  Matthew was the only one who understood the game and he would explain it to us.  He was great about keeping us up to date with what was going on.  There are two teams of 4 players.

It is a slow moving game.  It gave Amy and I plenty of time to check out the men.  We would use the zoom on our cameras.  A small dog came out onto the field.  It wanted to chase the horses.  It was actually more exciting than the match.  At least for us.  That and the cute guys 5 rows down.

The cold finally got to us, so we moved to the other side of the field to the bleachers and where the sun was.  By that time we were sort of bored with the game.  It was good, because it was almost over.   We watched them finished and then stood in line to congratulate the players.  Something you can actually do.

I think I am ambivalent about polo.  It was something I had to do since I live here.  I would go again since it is was fun to be with my friends.  It is not something I could become a fanatic about.  But then again, there were a lot of really cute guys there.

Deby Novitz moved to Buenos Aires in 2004 from California. She has a small bed and breakfast for tango dancers, she writes, does translations, teaches English, and of course dances tango. You can find more about her life in Buenos Aires on her blog  TangoSpam:La Vida Con Deby.

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Interview with Expat Ambi Alexander

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

I actually have never met Ambi.  The funny thing is our paths have crossed many times.  I met her husband Hugh when they first moved here.  He stayed up one night and read my entire blog and then emailed me.  He asked if we could meet for a cup of coffee.  He and his wife Ambi had just moved here from San Francisco.

Since that time we have stayed friendly.  I have been able to give him some helpful information at times.  Then it turned out one of my English students and her boyfriend were good friends with them.  She and Ambi met through their running club.  She told me how Ambi was teaching yoga and how she started a blog.  Being a fellow blogger, I would check in from time to time to read her blog.

I find Hugh and Ambi interesting as their lives are completely different from mine.  I asked Ambi if I could interview her for Affordable Calling Cards.

Deby: How long have you lived here?

Ambi: We moved to Buenos Aires 2.5 years ago.

Deby: How did you guys ever select Buenos Aires to move to?

Ambi: We came here for a 3 week vacation to celebrate Hugh’s 40th birthday (3 1/2 yrs ago).  Every time we traveled somewhere new, we’d play a game of “could we live here?”.  This time, the game got serious as we both said “yes”.  We spent the trip strolling through neighborhoods and getting to know the city – getting a haircut, going to the movies, eating out of course and talking to the locals as much as possible.

Deby: What was the influencing decision to make your move to Buenos Aires?

Ambi: Timing.  It was the right time for me to leave my corporate career behind and it was a great time to move to Buenos Aires.  The year we moved here, there was a positive energy to the city that was palpable.  Lots of new business and growth everywhere.  The expat community was growing and it was one of the world’s top destinations for travel (still is thanks to the exchange rate).

Deby:     What did you do before you moved here?

Ambi:    I was a Marketing Director for Charles Schwab (brokerage firm in San Francisco).  I managed a team of people whose job it was to convince our current clients to invest more money with the firm.  Also to educate them on how to get more our of their investments.

Deby:    What are you doing now?

Ambi:    I’m a new mom to an 11 month old baby girl named Valentina; I teach Ashtanga and Prenatal yoga; I’m studying Iyengar yoga and I write – mostly creative nonfiction.

Deby: What was the hardest thing for you to adapt to in your move to Buenos Aires?

Ambi: The language – the first 6 months were brutal and frustrating not being able to make friends with the locals but then it flowed…

Deby: What was the easiest?

Ambi: The food.  I like how Argentines use simple fresh ingredients and shop every day for their meals..

Deby: Do you have any regrets?

Ambi: Sometimes I wish we’d traveled more in Argentina when we first arrived as its more complicated with the baby but then we wouldn’t have learned the language as quickly.

Deby: What is your favorite thing about living in Buenos Aires?

Ambi: The emphasis people put on spending time with family and friends – really enjoying each others company without hurry or multi-tasking with their iphones.

You can read more about Ambi and her life in Buenos Aires in her blog Argentine Dreams

Deby Novitz moved to Buenos Aires in 2004 from California. She has a small bed and breakfast for tango dancers, she writes, does translations, teaches English, and of course dances tango. You can find more about her life in Buenos Aires on her blog  TangoSpam:La Vida Con Deby.

Medio Vaga in Buenos Aires

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

I feel like I waste  a lot of time since I started living here.  I spend too much time on Facebook, emails, and hanging out with friends, when I should be working or looking for work.  Before I moved to Buenos Aires I was a classic type A personality.  I worked all the time.  I made every minute count.  I was always looking to be more efficient. Now I don’t care.

My Argentine friends think that I am “muy trabajadora.”  A hard worker.  I rent the rooms in my apartment, I teach English, I translate, and I write.  I took two contract jobs in IT, which was the career I had before I moved here.   It made me realize why I moved here.  They were too stressful and I had less free time.  I was always working.

When I started my search for an apartment to buy I devised a spreadsheet and a system to look at as many apartments as possible.  Real estate agents here are worthless.  They don’t really do much to help you.   I was on a mission.  I had a spreadsheet of all the places I visited.  I could sort it in a any number of ways.

Every weekend I would get the paper and reference all the apartments that had open houses on a copy of a street map.    I would arrange things so I could see 10 – 15 apartments in a day.  I had a separate sheet for comments.  Everything would be transferred to the spreadsheet.  My Argentine friends were in awe.  “You act like this is work!” they would say to me.

When I started to look for things to buy I did the same thing.  I made lists.  I used to be a great one for lists. I would go from store to store comparing prices.  Then I discovered that prices are basically the same everywhere in Buenos Aires. In the US fair competition is the ability to sell things at competitive prices.  Here that does not exist.  Stores sell things at more or less the same price regardless if it is Wal-Mart or a mom and pop.

Since I moved here in 2004 I have stopped making lists and I no longer wear a watch.   When I lived in the US I had a clock in every room.  Even the bathroom.  Now, somehow, I get where I need to go without the time obsession.  I remember what I need to do or buy without lists or spreadsheets.  I still have an agenda but only to keep the appointments I make, not to plan my life months in advance, like before.

I gave up much materially to move to Buenos Aires.  My friends still talk about the “things” that I had. I know that while I gave up many things, I gained a lot more by moving here.  I never saw myself as a laid back person, but compared to how I was, I certainly am now.  I have lost the need to plan every minute of my life.  I take things as they come.  If they don’t get done today, no big deal.  I can always do it tomorrow.  Or next week.

Deby Novitz moved to Buenos Aires in 2004 from California. She has a small bed and breakfast for tango dancers, she writes, does translations, teaches English, and of course dances tango. You can find more about her life in Buenos Aires on her blog  TangoSpam: La Vida Con Deby.

Mate With My Amiga

Monday, September 28th, 2009

On Saturday I talk to my friend Sandra. We were catching up with each other’s lives. Sandra is my best friend. For me she is like a sister. I first met her in 2002 when I was “in transit.” I was not actually living in Buenos Aires then. I was coming as often as I could to dance tango. Sandra could not understand my sporadic attendance in the milongas. She was surprised to find out that I was a foreigner. We began our actual friendship a few years after I moved here.  I had danced an exhibition in a milonga and she came to congratulate me.  It was my come back after a bad car accident. That began our friendship.

“Che,”  She said to me, “Why don’t you come over for mates tomorrow?  Bring Maximiliana.  She can play with Valentino.”  Maxiliana is my dog and Valentino is hers.  I kept Valentino for Sandra while her father was dying.  The two puppies about drove me crazy.  They became best friends.  You can only imagine having 2 eight month old puppies in an apartment.  Maxi has never been in a taxi, so that should be an interesting experience in itself.

On Sunday morning, Spring has disappeared.  We are back in Winter.  Worse than that, it is raining.  I call Sandra, she is still sleeping.  No surprise there.  I always laugh when she says to come over before noon on a weekend.  I know there is no way she will be up.  At 1:00 she texts me to come over.  It is still raining.  There is no way I am going to bring my hyperactive puppy to her house.  Her dog is enough.  I decide to go on the subte.

I get there and Valentino is going crazy.  He smells Maxi.  “Cachito, no traigo la novia” I tell him.  I didn’t bring his girlfriend.  I go into the apartment.  I am so happy to see Sandra.  It feels like forever.  I give her a big hug.   Her apartment is a disaster.  The gas got turned off and there is water leaking in the walls.  She hopes they will come on Monday to resolve everything.  “You could stay with me.”  I tell her.  She laughs, “No, that is OK, I can handle a couple of days.”

She goes to make the mate.  Mate is an herb that is put in a special gourd and shared by drinking through a metal straw called a bombilla.  While you can drink it alone, it is best shared with a friend.  Some people like it “amargo” without sugar, and some people like it “dulce” with sugar.  I will drink it either way.  There are many different brands of mate.  They all have different flavors and a different consistency.  Some have more sticks, some are finer.  It is a personal taste, which mate someone likes.  I prefer Cachemate or Romance.

We share the mates and eat crackers with dulce de leche.  Dulce de leche is a kind of caramel but much better.  “How is Roberto?”  she asks me.  He is my dance partner.  “OK.”  I tell her.  “We have been dancing in private dinners in the south.”   Sandra has a clothing business on the side.  I look at the many beautiful dresses she has.  She has been studying with a master seamstress.  “Your work is beautiful.”  I tell her.  “I have a surprise for you.”  She says to me.  She goes into her bedroom and comes out with a beautiful black dress.  I am speechless.  “Try it on.”

The dress is gorgeous.  A beautiful gown fitted to my body.  She needs to take it in a little bit, and raise the hem.  “Sandra, que divina.”  I say to her.  I can wear it when I dance with Roberto.  I have a pair of shoes with a rhinestone buckle that will be perfect for it.  “I have an idea for another dress for you too.”  She says to me.  I give my amiga a big hug.

I change my clothes.  We continue to talk about our friends.  Work. Tango.  I drink so much mate I think I am going to float away. It is time for me to float home.  I give Sandra a big hug and kiss her good bye.  Having mate with my friend on Sunday is a great way to spend the afternoon.

Deby Novitz moved to Buenos Aires in 2004.  She has a small Bed and Breakfast for Tango dancers.  She writes, teaches English and dances tango. You can find out more about her life in Buenos Aires on her blog TangoSpam:La Vida Con Deby

Fiesta de las Empanadas

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

This weekend is the beginning of spring.  Argentines never need an excuse to celebrate.  Spring is as good as an excuse as any.  This year we have had an unbearable winter.  It was terribly cold (for us) and the Swine Flu epidemic made it a winter you wanted to stay in more than normal.

My friend Aidana and her husband Steve have invited me to their empanada party on Saturday night.  Empanadas are an Argentine turnover.  They can be fried or baked.  I love them fried, but considering the health aspects, I mostly eat them baked.  The pastry is called a tapa and depending on how it is folded, will give you a clue as to what the filling inside is.  Traditional empanadas are filled with chicken, ham and cheese, beef, and spicy beef.  Spicy for the empanadaArgentines, but not for anyone else.  Argentines do not like spicy food.  Usually you can also find corn, swiss chard, Roqueforte, Roqueforte and ham, and cheese and onion.  Many places are now experimenting with eggplant, mozzarella, tomato sauce, tuna, and even dessert empanadas with apples and strawberries.

Empanadas are an Argentine fast food.  Mostly they are made in pizzarias or at home.  There are specialty stores that sell only empanadas.  I don’t understand why any Argentine would want to eat McDonalds when they could have an empanada.

I am running late and have decided to buy the empanadas from next door at the pasta shop.  The husband and wife who run the store make home made pasta and empanadas.  They usually only have two kinds; meat and/or ham and cheese.  These are the fillings in their pastas. The empanadas are a little more money but they are larger and excellent.

After waiting for the bus longer than I wanted to, I opt for the subte.  Me, the empanadas, and a bottle of wine.  The subte is actually better because it will leave me a block from their house.  I just didn’t feel like changing lines.  The key is to get there.

Aidana is an artist who makes jewelry and handbags from trash.  Her stuff is great.  Very creative.  She makes things from old tires, milk cartons, you name it. Trash-Fashions is the name of her site. You should check it out. It is really cool.  Steve is a writer.

When I get to their place there are lots of people and empanadas already there.  Steve takes me up to the terrace.   They have a parrilla going to heat the empanadas.  I don’t know anyone here, or so I thought.  I introduce myself to a group of women seated in front of me.  They ask me where I am from.  The eternal question.  They are not sure whether to try and speak in English with me or not.  I start in Spanish.  They are delighted.

Within seconds someone puts a glass of wine in my hand.  I had confided in Steve that I bought the wine I did because it was A) cheap, and B) had a really great label.  He told me that they buy it all the time and that it is excellent. I taste it.  I am not sure I would call it excellent, but it is a good value at 6.50 pesos.

I go over to the empanadas.  What a selection!  It is dark so trying to figure out what something is, will be impossible.  I take one and bite into it.  Eggplant and mozzarella.  Que rico!  As I turn, a German couple introduce themselves to me.  We chat for a bit when I hear my name.  I turn to see a woman I had met at another party.  I thought that she had gone back to the U.S.  She tells me she did, but collected her dog and came back.

Aidana has salsa music blaring.  A man is teasing the young woman sitting next to me.  She just started dancing salsa and he is quizzing her.  She is frustrated because she does not know the answers.  I do.   He asks her where to dance salsa on Corrientes.  I whisper “Azucar and maybe better is La Salsera on Yatay.”  She tells him.  He is dumbfounded.  Each time he asks a question, I give her the answer until he gets bored and walks away.  She introduces herself to me.  She is a teaching assistant at the University.  She gets my number and email “Now we have to go dance salsa.” she tells me.

I decide to try another empanada.  Yum.  This one is chicken and cheese.  It is delicious.  Most likely because it had been fried.  They really are good that way, but so bad for you.  I try another wine.  I don’t drink much so I have to be careful.  I don’t want to be drunk on the bus going home.

I run into Beatrice.  This was a complete surprise.  Her husband is a pyromanic with the fire.  He tells me how he likes to kill mosquitos.  I tell Beatrice I hope she has lots of insurance. We catch up on our lives.  As I turn around I see an old friend I have not seen for awhile, my friend Victoria.  She looks wonderful. It is amazing what a small city Buenos Aires can be.

After consuming too many empanadas, wine, and even a chocolate chip cookie, I decide it is time to leave.  I say good bye to my old friends and the new friends I have made.  Now it is officially spring.

Deby Novitz moved to Buenos Aires in 2004 from California. She has a small bed & breakfast for tango dancers,writes, does translations, teaches English, and of course dances  tango. You can out find more about Deby and her life in Buenos Aires on her blog  TangoSpam:La Vida Con Deby

Life In Buenos Aires:Sundays Are For Fun

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Written by

Deby Novitz

I love my Sundays in Argentina.  They are much different than the Sundays I had when I lived in the USA.  When I lived in California, I wanted to be shut away from the world.  Sunday was the day when I could be alone.  No noise.  No traffic.  No clients. I would be secluded in my big house with all my things.  I could do house projects.  I would rarely leave unless it was to go to Home Depot or maybe the Ace Hardware.  If I was in a relationship,  then we would be secluded together.  What a weird attitude!  I cannot believe that I used to live such a bizarre existence.

Here I am exactly the opposite.  My Sundays are all about being with my friends and at times with their families.  Sometimes my Sundays are planned, but often times not.  Argentines can be very spontaneous.  It is what I love about living here.  I am never alone.  There is always someone who wants to do something.

My Sundays always start with Maximiliana, my demonic puppy.  She is about a year old.  She was given to me by my dog walker Juan Carlos.  He found her abandoned under a bridge.  My dog that I had come to Buenos Aires with had died.  She was 13.  I was sure I did not want another dog.  But here we are.  The demonic puppy from hell and me.  Actually she is much better now.  She has moved up from abandoned street dog to “Palermo’s most spoiled puppy.”  I suppose knowing you don’t have to scratch gum off the sidewalk to eat makes a difference.

We spend a couple hours at the dog park on Malabia and Costa Rica.  It is great for both of us.  Maxi has her friends.  She is partial to the beagle in the pink collar and the 8 month old doggo.  Of course any dog she can have chase her around the plaza is game for friendship.  I have the other doggy “mothers” to talk to.   Once Maxi is sufficiently worn out we go home.

Her afternoon (unless I have to give her bath which is another adventure altogether)consists of a snack and a nap.  Just like a 3 year old.  My afternoon is just going to start.  I have a friend coming over to bring the little demon treats from Costco and then we are going to lunch.

My friend comes just after I get home and wakes Maxi up.  She is grumpy until she realizes he has “cookies”.  Totally cool and new cookies.  He becomes her new best friend.  We give her a large biscuit and she goes back into her crate.  We take off.

I am showing my friend Palermo on our way to the restaurant. I am not cutting through either of the plazas as I know they will be a zoo.  My friend is here for tango and he is talking about it non-stop.  I am used to it.  I dance and teach tango, and I perform.  My tango life is different than the tourists who come here.  They are looking for something different.  So I just listen.  He is mesmerized by the whole scene.

We reach the Lebanese restaurant that I love. I discovered it when I first moved here.  I was so sick of Argentine food – pasta, pizza, empanadas.  Ethnic food is not exactly abundant or very good here. A friend and I found this restaurant and ate here 3 times in a week and then twice a week for 2 months.  I know the whole family.

After we find a table, I get up to go greet the mom.  I kiss her and ask her how she is doing.  Her grandson is crying.  I ask him what is wrong.  Grandma says he is an “attorante.”  (someone lazy who doesn’t want to work)  I kiss the daughter, the son-in-law, and the brother.  This is Buenos Aires, we kiss a lot here.

We eat a lovely lunch.  I ask for a hot sauce they do not have on the menu and do not tell many people about.  They also put more spices in my food.  They make it “estilo liban” for me.  I could eat their hummus all day long with tabbouli.

After lunch we walk back towards my apartment.  I tell my friend I want to check out a feria they are having near the dog park.  When they were testing the sound system it drove Maxi nearly psycho. It is a “Feria de los Judios” (A Jewish street fair) for the new year.  Too many people.  We push through and we check things out.

We decide to have a coffee near my house.  My friend is still yakking about tango.  I remember when I was that way.  Funny, how things change.  I love my tango, maybe even more so now.  But in a much different way.  It is getting cold.  We finish our cortados and go back to my apartment.  It is time for La Demonia to go out.

My friend says he will walk her with me and then take off.  He wants to go dance tonight.  Maxi is thrilled to be with the bearer of the cookies.  After a short walk we say goodbye.  It is still early, only 7:00 pm.  As we head into the building my cell rings.  It is my friend Miguel, I answer and he says “Que tal nena, que haces?”

I moved to Buenos Aires in 2004 from California. I have a small bed & breakfast for tango dancers, I write, do translations, teach English, and of course dance tango. You can find more about my life in Buenos Aires on my blog TangoSpam:LaVida Con Deby

Bringing Home the Bacon: My Take-Back List to Argentina

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

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The countdown has started for my trip back to Buenos Aires, and I’m starting to make my list of those things I want to take back with me that are unavailable or hard to get in Argentina. Because luggage rules with all airlines allow max. of 50 lbs. for each bag, and most charge for each bag, I need to be selective in what I decide to take back.  My list-in-progress:

  • Electronics: Taxes on imported electronics are super-prohibitive, and new brands are slow to hit the market. It’s better to buy what I think I will need here in the U.S. and take back with me. It’s perfectly legal to bring in personal electronic equipment, as long as it is clear that it is my personal stuff and I have no intention to sell it. Residents of Argentina need to pay tax on what they have bought abroad. I’m not an official resident yet, so I can take advantage. ;)
  • Feminine/Personal items: The only brand of tampon in Argentina is O.B., so  I generally stock up on my preferred brand. They carry different deodorants as well, so I usually add a couple extra of my preferred brands of those, too.
  • U.S. Stamps! When I do business which requires a self-addressed stamped envelope, well, I  need a U.S. stamp. Especially since my return address is a U.S. post-office box.
  • Bras and underwear: There are two issues I have with Argentine undergarments. First, I have a hard time finding bras that fit. Second, the quality is very poor; bras fall apart and get holes in them within a couple of months. A friend suggested this is because in Argentina, plastic surgery is so common, that fuller-breasted women don’t need very much support because their breasts stay up on their own. (Funny, but true!)
  • Running shoes: Strappy leather sandals and boots are everywhere, but athletic shoe brands are pretty pathetic, since they have to be imported. Better to find a good pair of New Balance before I leave.
  • Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing packets: A taste of home. Argentines don’t really do salad dressings, except for oil-vinegar and salsa golf (which is a version of thousand-island). The only ranch dressing I have found is Newman’s Own in the imported isle for about $8 US a bottle. The ranch dressing packets are light and convenient, and will satisfy my occasional cravings.

That’s about it- of course, I will buy a few clothes, but I don’t want to bulk up the luggage too much. We already have a lot of cycling equipment we bought that we are taking back. Oh, and about the title: they don’t have bacon in Argentina. Pancetta, yes, but it is different than the bacon cuts here in the U.S. If I could bring bacon I would, but somehow I think it would be a little too complicated. ;)

If any of you South American expats can think of something I’ve overlooked, I’d be happy to hear about it.

Julia Evans wrote this article forAffordableCallingCards.net where she blogs about her life as an expat.  She also writes a personal blog Evans’ Gateabout living as an American expat in Buenos Aires, where she lives with her husband.  Comments on both blogs welcome!

Día Del Inmigrante

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

On Sunday, November 6, Argentina celebrated Día del Inmigrante,  a celebration for all the immigrants living in Argentina.  This was my day, as I am an immigrant.  It is still weird for me  to think of myself  as an immigrant, but I am.  I immigrated to Argentina in 2004 from the United States.  I am now a legal resident.

Argentines like to talk about how they are a country of immigrants.  They are proud of their Italian, Spanish, and other European roots.  When you meet Argentines, they always want to know where you are from.  What they mean is your heritage, not necessarily what country you are from.  Argentines living here for generations will still introduce themselves as “Italians, Russians, or Polish.”  They have a reputation throughout South America for their insistence to continually think of themselves as Europeans rather than as Latin Americans.

One of the things that I love about living in Buenos Aires is the access to cultural events provided by the government.  On any day of the week, you can usually find something to do that is free or at a low cost.  The government believes that culture should be available to all people.  Throughout the year there are concerts, plays, and many events you can attend.  I am still amazed at how many wonderful events I have been able to go to that have been free.  Ballets. operas, orchestras, and theater.  All first class.

diaDía Del Inmigrante was not an exception.  For weeks there were billboards advertising the celebration to take place in Parque de Tres Febrero in front of the planetarium.  There were to be dance troupes representing the various countries performing.   This was the first year the government was sponsoring this event.  I was excited.  Not just because I am an immigrant, but because I love dance.  I am a tango dancer, but I love dance in all forms.

The event started at 2:00 pm.  I got there around 3:00 pm with my friend Fernando.  It was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining.  It was not too cold. The area was packed, but not too much.  I was able to stand fairly close to the front.  There were families with picnic baskets, groups of friends, and couples, all watching.  People here tend to make events like this an outing, sharing food and mate.  Vendors were selling choripan (a sausage on a bun), candy, and soft drinks. The atmosphere was very family and very festive.

As I nosed my way to the front, I lost my friend Fernando.  I found myself next to a family of Russians.  We smiled at each other. I caught the end of the Greek dance troupe.  I never think of Greeks living here in Argentina. There is no “Greek Town” and there are no Greek restaurants, yet they had two different styles of Greek dance troupes represented.   As I got closer to the stage I was able to see a board that listed all the countries that would be performing; Italy, Brasil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Israel, Spain, Japan, Ukraine, Scotland, Lebanon, and Africa among others.  I also noted that countries with many immigrants here such as Peru, China, Colombia, and of course the USA were not represented.

I was mesmerized by the beautiful costumes and the wonderful dancing.  I tend to lose myself in dancing, whether it is my own or someone else’s.  I wondered if these were troupes that always practiced together, or if they came together just for this event.   Each country brought a new perspective with their native dance.  None of these dances were new to me, but it was exciting to see them performed here in Buenos Aires.   As the young dancers finished they would sit with their families.  You could see the pride and excitement on their faces.    Many people  who come here for extended stays or even those who more or less live here, constantly complain about the lack of diversity in Argentina.  You would never know that from this exhibition.

Scotland

Scotland

Greece

Greece

Paraguay

Paraguay

Japan

Japan

Bolivia

Bolivia

Armenia

Armenia

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