Posts Tagged ‘Making Friends’

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

The Search for Foreign Friends

Friday, August 14th, 2009

“Oh, I’m not worried about you,” my friend, Angela, told me as she helped carry the last few boxes to my car. “You can make friends anywhere.”

“I guess,” I shrugged, not as confident in my friend-making abilities as she was.

“The Italians will love you,” she promised.

And that promise carried me to Calabria.

I arrived with the expectations that I would, indeed, meet people and expand my network of Calabria-based contacts beyond my soon-to-be-husband and his circle of friends. However, the battle was uphill.

The funny thing about Calabria is that most people leave her rugged beauty and savage shorelines … not the other way around. For that reason, Calabrians don’t really know how-or want to-accept new people. Don’t get me wrong, my big move was welcomed by husband’s extended family and I’ve never felt uncomfortable in their homes. But I’m talking about going past the pleasantries, past the generous lunches and homemade jugs of wine … to true friendship.

The truth of the matter is that, in general, southern Italian women don’t have friends, at least not in the same sense as American women do. Back home, my friends and I have lunch together, go shopping, meet for happy hour. Calabrian women go shopping with their mothers or sisters, and only recently have I seen a group of women dining together without their husbands.

Are times changing?

Well, they are for me.

As my optimistic friend predicted, I did make friends in Italy. While the expat community isn’t exactly booming in Calabria, those of us here have connected and bonded over our communal experiences.

I’ve found cherished friends through the blogosphere who I rely on for daily doses of inspiration.

And I have my husband’s circle-those friends I mentally resisted in the beginning, while I was in search of my own identity, my own group, my own friends. I realized when they’d call me before a trip, check in on me when I was away, quote my latest blog entry or place an international phone call-when they knew no one on the other end would speak their language-that I had arrived.

That I had, indeed, made friends in Italy.

Was it easy for you to meet people and make friends in your new country? How do you think your relationships in your new country are different from those in your home country?

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer in southern Italy. In addition to AffordableCallingCards.net, she writes about living and traveling in Calabria on her site, My Bella Vita. Comments and messages are welcome on both sites.

Photo: Le Champion du Monde via Flickr.

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