Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Everyone is here!

Kathy and Brock arrived in BA yesterday and now we are ALL here together!

Last night we went to a dinner-tango show that was incredibly entertaining. Today we are going to eat lunch at La Cocina - which has the best empanadas in the city. Then we are going to head to the Recoleta Cemetary to explore for awhile.

Patty and Terry are leaving today, which is sad, but they are exhausted from walking around and I think they're ready for their own bed.

Afternoon mate with facturas and chipitas

In Puerto Madero before the tango show. We clean up nice!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Our Minds = Blown

Nothing I say and no pictures or videos we put up will ever do Iguazu Falls any of the justice it deserves. Firstly, the national park itself is incredibly well-maintained and easy to move throughout. The lookout points are INSANE! The walkways go right over the top of the falls so you can watch millions upon millions of gallons of water fall over the edge and crash onto the river below. The videos cannot capture the mind-boggling size of the falls. Our pictures might provide a better scale than the videos, but not by much. It takes you almost 45 minutes to walk from one side of the falls to the other side. 
This was truly an amazing trip and something we will remember for a lifetime. There are two videos below to give you a taste, but we took many more pictures and videos that we will upload to facebook at a later date.
The first video is at the top of the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). It's a giant horseshoe shaped waterfall that is the border between Argentina and Brazil. The sheer force and quantity of water rolling over the edge prevents you from even seeing the bottom of the waterfall because it is obscured by mist. We could see the mist rising from Garganta del Diablo from the plane.  It is definitely the most impressive waterfall. 

The second video is from a view point at the other edge which allows you to see the entirety of Iguazu Falls. As you can see, the falls are so big, you can barely see the other side. From here, you can only see the mist coming from the Garganta del Diablo. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Finally some familiar faces!

Patty and Terry arrived to Buenos Aires this afternoon, and WOW! We haven't seen friends or family from back home since April (about 8 months), and it is AWESOME!

We had a fantastic steak dinner at one of our favorite restaurants this evening. Tomorrow we head to Iguazu Falls to marvel at one of the 7 (new) Natural Wonders of the World. We will attempt to post some pictures this week, but we're not making any promises because we might be too busy having fun.

Our 2.5 month vacation has officially begun, and we plan on soaking up every single minute of it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The True Story of Life in BA

Dear loyal readers:

We first want to say this adventure has been exactly that.  An adventure.  And as with any good adventure there are times of monumental highs, disparaging  lows, head scratching moments, times of complete awe, and lots of chances to reflect on everything from here to there.  This adventure's premise was not only to escape the U.S. for a time, but to expand our horizons, our cultural field of vision, and do something unique and special together while we have the freedom to do so.  In our estimation, now that we are coming to a close, this adventure has fulfilled, if not exceeded expectations.  BUT, we would like to take a moment to clear the air a bit.

We are under the impression that some of you back home are thinking that we have been lapping it up in a life of luxury, getting asked at times, "So how's paradise?"  I think we can both agree that living and working in this concrete jungle is far from what we consider to be paradise.  In face, life here has been one of the hardest things we've ever done.  Not only were we away from family and friends, but daily survival turned out to be, at times, our greatest challenge.  The nature of this post is to give a more realistic perspective about the challenges we've faced while living here, so you can better understand the real adventure we've had.

First things first. We haven’t been on vacation for the last 7 months. We’ve been working full time. Yes, we’re doing it in another country while simultaneously struggling to learn the language – but it’s still work. We have to wake up early, deal with bosses and office staff and people we may not like, commute, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and pay rent. It’s far from what we would consider a vacation.

Many people have commented on how thin we have become, and we joke that “it’s because we’re not eating, haha!” But the reality is, we walk 3-4 miles at least everyday for work…and we only eat one true meal a day. Not because we have a distorted body image or a crazy idea about how to lose weight, but because we have literally had no money to be able to afford to buy things for lunch. Our breakfast consists of two hard-boiled eggs and maybe a couple slices of ham. Lunch, made at home or bought on-the-go, is completely out of the budget.  Once in awhile we will have a salad or there will be leftover dinner, or I’ll buy a chipa on the street for $2.50 - and it’s amazing how full we get now! We decided that we would sacrifice lunch in order to have a big, healthy dinner. We invest more money in lots of meat and vegetables in the evening (and the occasional big bottle of wine or an alfajore). It’s somewhat of a harsh reality we faced as soon as we started working, and it’s just something we’ve adjusted to in order make ends meet.

We’re illegal immigrants. We could get deported and crossing the border always makes you a little nervous because you have to say you are just a tourist – even though your passport says you’ve only crossed the border between Argentina and Uruguay every 3 months. Yes, we have legitimate jobs with accredited language institutes. However, they pay us in cash and use some tax loopholes in order to make it “legitimate” for the institute. Because we are only on a tourist visa, many things here are inaccessible for us or more expensive. We can’t get a local price for our apartment – we’re charged a tourist/foreigner/English speaker price, which (in our opinion) is outrageously overpriced. We also can’t open a bank account, because we are “tourists” and “not working.”

We’ve learned a little bit about how the economy and the government works here as well. Argentina had the equivalent of the Great Depression in 2001 – everything crashed and there was no money. The country has recovered beautifully, but inflation is starting to get out of control. On top of that, the government constantly lies about how much inflation there really is, even though people notice when milk costs $5 on day and the next day it costs $6. This would be ok BUT – teacher wages have not increased with inflation in the last couple years, so we’re actually hit a lot harder by inflation than other people whose wages or salaries rise with it. Since we’re not documented workers, there is nothing forcing the hand of the institutes to keep wages on par with inflation and average living costs.

When you’re a true tourist to Argentina, everything is dirt cheap. Currently, the exchange rate is about $1US/$4AR (Argentine peso). Well, we don’t function in US dollars anymore, and haven’t since we got jobs. We live on the peso, which makes us look at the city and the costs of everything in a different way. Just like any big, popular city – shit here is expensive. We’re participating members in the Argentine economy.

This also is one of the things, however that has served as one of the most poignant learning opportunities we've been afforded.  We are officially a part of the economy here and because of this fact, we are truly able to get a feel for the beat and culture of the city of Buenos Aires.  We are dependent on their economy and have learned to bob and weave throughout it, learning as we go.  A friend of ours said he doesn't think you can truly know a place until you have to rely on the economy.  As written earlier, a tourist will thrive here, but being placed on the economy, you get a much more intimate look into the culture and for that, we feel we really know this city, the ebbs and flows, making the experience of travelling here so much richer.

All that money stuff aside, we’re still alive and healthy and we still love each other. And I’m sure many of you now are going, “Hey, wait! But you’ve done some cool shit and traveled to a few places! That can’t be cheap!” And you’re right. The key to our ability to be able to grab some dinner every once in awhile, or afford our anniversary trip to Tandil, or the beach in Uruguay, or go to Gaucho Day – is budgeting and saving – and being frugal while on those getaways. We saved an assload (I think that’s an official measurement term) of money before we came down here and have somehow (mostly thanks to Jesse) managed to create a savings/trip/rainy day stash during our time here. Obviously we have made some pretty strategic decisions in how we have chosen to spend our money, i.e., taking lunch out of our diet or not buying clothes even though everything is too big on us now (not all bad), or living with 3 other people to save $$ on rent. This has allowed us to put some money away and also spend some money on a couple occasions without breaking the bank to do so.  

So, has it been a struggle?  Yes.  Have we had to be creative with budget and our what we do for leisure?  Yes.  But...have we had fun and made memories that will last a lifetime?  You bet your ass. We’ve ended up with amazing roommates are going to be life-long friends of ours. We’ve had some incredible experiences. The difficulty of this adventure has made coming to the end even sweeter. We took a HUGE risk coming here. We left everything and everyone we know and love, moved to another country (another hemisphere!) without pre-arranged jobs, without contacts, and without knowing the language. And we made it. The end is here and it’s been hard to wrap our head around it – but we’re REALLY proud of each other. For us, this validates our belief that if you want to do something – you can – and there are really no good excuses not to pursue adventures in life.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Food of the Week: Choripan and Bondiola

Our food of the week (or more realistically – food whenever the hell we decide to post it) is choripan and bondiola sandwiches!

These sammies are quite possibly some of the most delicious street food you can buy here. There isn’t very much street food available here anyways, so it’s an easy win. They can cure the worst hangover, are delicious in any weather, are good any time of day, and I *think* they may have magical healing powers. You can generally find these wonderful sandwich grills anywhere where there are large groups of people taking a stroll. Our favorite spot to go is Costanera Sur, basically a boardwalk in Puerto Madero that stretches along the outside of the Ecological Reserve. Parrilla stand after parrilla stand line the boardwalk, and your nose is filled with the enchanting smell of grilling meat. 
This one is our favorite, El Torito, on Costanera Sur.
What is a choripan or a bondiola? Well, they are two similar, yet different grilled sandwiches. Both use semi-stale, crusty French bread and are filled with smoky, fatty, delectable, grilled meat. Generally, the good stands have a variety of toppings you can put on your sandwich including, but not limited to chimichurri, marinated onions, marinated tomatoes, hot sauce, lettuce, etc.

Choripan is a fusion of two words: chorizo and pan (bread). Yes, choripan is a grilled sausage sandwich. I know, your mouth is watering. They split the chorizo in half lengthwise, and slap it on the grill. It gets hot and crispy on the outside. Then, they put it between two slices of French bread, and you get to top it with whatever goodies you want.
You know you want it.
Bondiola refers to the cut of pork used in this sandwich. They take a big pork shoulder (bondiola) and cook it slowly on the grill. When you order, they slice some meat off of the big chunk and crisp it up on the grill some more. From then on, it’s the same method as the choripan.
I'm in love.
Jesse has been on a choripan kick recently while I have been partial to the bondiola. And…if your mouth is not watering at this point, there is something wrong with you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dia de la Tradicion: Celebration of Latin Cowboys

Last Sunday we cowboyed up and took a 2 hour bus ride to San Antonio de Areco for Dia de la Tradicion (Day of Tradition), which celebrates gauchos and their way of life. What is a gaucho? A gaucho is a latin cowboy. They work at ranches, as cattle farmers, or they belong to gaucho clubs where they practice preserving gaucho culture.
Upon arrival, we had coffee and medialunas at a café while we waited for the parade to start. We found a great spot along the parade street and watched the military band play. Then people dressed in traditional criollo (folk) clothes performed some traditional folk dances. Next were the gauchos. The parade of the gauchos was SO long! They came from all over the western side of Argentina, from different provinces and holding the banner of their ranch or organization. They were in their best colorful clothes, wearing their fine leather hats and berets, boots and slippers, and carrying their best knives in silver sheaths. Their horses were groomed and adorned with metal and silver saddle decorations and blankets. We especially loved the gauchitos – the little gaucho boys riding miniature ponies. You will notice in the videos below that many gauchos wear berets instead of cowboy hats and slippers instead of riding boots. Other than that, their reputation and way of life is very similar to what we think of American cowboys. We did notice that there seemed to be a certain level of respect for the gauchos and their traditions (at least in San Antonio, on that particular day).

After the parade, we made our way to Parque Criollo, where the juegos de criollo (gaucho games) and asados (bbq) were to be held. Walking along the path, there was a constant stream of gauchos atop their horses riding past us, or walking in the same direction sipping on mate. We felt as if we had been dropped in on an old western movie.
Entering the park, which is a huge grassy field, we decided it was time for some steak. Gauchos are famous for their BBQing talent. Everywhere we looked, there was a fire pit with giant cuts of beef roasting slowly on stakes over a fire or atop of a make-shift grill. We all ordered a steak sandwich, which was a huge slice of flank steak in between two tiny slices of French bread. For me, I eventually gave up on the bread and just focused on my meat. Why ruin a perfectly good slice of meat with bread?

We wandered among some of the market stalls that lined the outside of the criollo game ring. All things gaucho were for sale. Horse accessories, like saddles, blankets, decorations, boleros (the rope with two balls used to rope cattle), and horseshoes. Gaucho fashions, shirts, riding boots, slippers, hats, pants, belts, knives, everything. Jesse bought a real, handcrafted, leather cowboy hat for $200 pesos ($50 American), and I got a new pair of gaucho slippers.
We found a place on the grass in the shade of a tree along the fence line of the game ring and sat and waited for the games to start. In typical Argentine fashion, they started an hour late, and so we had to leave to catch our bus back to B.A. before we were able to see very much. We were able to see the opening ceremonies and what I can only describe as a gaucho stampede show. How they ran all those horses around in an enclosed space without a horrible accident was beyond us. We will also see traditional games when we stay at an estancia in December with Kathy and Brock.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You Know You're A Porteño If...

You Know You’re A Porteno If…

…getting a seat on the “Subte” (subway) is a life or death situation.

Let’s face it.  When you are taking public transportation, more often than not you are on your way to work early in the morning or coming home after a long day.  At these times, we usually aren’t at our most alert (or in the best mood), and we're looking to try and rest our weary bones for a few precious moments before the next activity.  Thus, being lucky enough to find a seat in the public modes of transport is often a lucky, if not fortuitous turn of events.  Here in Buenos Aires though, the desire, nay, the need to obtain this coveted prize is a true spectacle of sport.

Ever heard of women and children first?  Certainly, this a noble and chivalrous act a man does to saves lives when faced with certain peril, but more and more, simple acts are lost as well: open doors for people; take the next available taxi; allow them to order their coffee first when you walk up to the barista at the same time.  But here, when the situation is that of getting on the Subte (subway), nobility seems to have been left on the street level.

You can see it happening as the train slowly creeps to a stop at the station (especially at 9 de Julio).  The jostling for a position as close as possible to a train car, aligning oneself directly in front of an opening door, is underway.  When the train stops, it’s every man and woman for themselves.  This is where the men especially, show their true colors.  Without technically “pushing” anyone, they carefully slither through the crowd in a frantic effort to spot an open seat.  With eyes darting to and fro, the ability to not only locate, but deftly, yet quickly maneuver oneself into a vacant chair takes careful precision.  Routinely, there is an older woman who is too slow to navigate herself into a seat while her able bodied, 30-something male counterpart eases into the plastic bench, turns up his headphones, closes his eyes, and acts as if he’s oblivious to the robbery he committed.

Maybe we’re naïve about the situation, Latin culture and chivalry.  Maybe this is true for every big city.  Maybe everyone on the Subte understands that when you get on the Subte, it’s a dog eat dog world and they’re fine with this.  Every once in a while you do witness a man get up for a woman or child, but it doesn’t happen with the regularity we expect. Note: In general, when it isn't more of a hassle to do so, most able bodied people will give up their seat to an elderly man or woman.

So when you get to the Subte and want to sit down, think of these words by William Wallace, “Are you ready for a war!?”

Other Subte personalities:
The Runner: these are people who run through the Subte halls.  Usually as a train pulls up, you see them run along the train to try and get to the stairs or connection before the approaching train unloads a fresh batch of people. Sometimes people run to the platform even when the train isn't there yet. Good thing you ran so you can stand and wait like everyone else you rushed past on your way there!

The Advancer: similar to “The Runner”, the Advancer will begin to advance train cars as the Subte nears the station (usually one of the last two stops) in order to have quicker and easier access to a connecting train tunnel or stairs to ground level.  They want to get a jump on everyone else, so in order to gain the upper hand upon an exit, the Advancer advances, even if that means passive-aggressively and uncomfortably squeezing in front of you just so they can stand in front of the door. This is even more asinine when the train is at the last stop because it's the last stop - we're all getting off the train.

The Entertainer: trolling amp and guitar; juggling; drumming and singing off key (this guy is horrendous) are some of the forms of entertainment that might make your Subte ride more enjoyable.  Of course, they are asking for money after a stellar performance, but at least they’re trying to earn it.

The Product Pushers: there you are, minding your own business when PLOP on your lap are some Hello Kitty stickers.  "Wow, just what I always never wanted" you think to yourself.  The Product Pusher comes around and will put items (tissues, pens, bus guides, socks, lighters) on your lap whether you want it or not, keep walking and do it to everyone else.  I’d say they get a 5% rate of success, but hey, there‘s probably one of you thinking some Hello Kitty stickers would actually be pretty nice right about now…

Romeo and Juliet: this is a couple who is an example of the Argentina Make-Out, Subte style.  They unabashedly suck face on the Subte, not giving a care in the world who sees, or how crowded it is, or how disgusting it is.

The Over-Anxious Borderer: after jostling for prime position in front of the opening Subte doors, the Anxious Borderer will actually impede your ability to exit the Subte in order for them to board the Subte.  Usually this happens at the height of rush hour, making this personality very frustrating.  Normally I just go Bo Jackson vs. Brian Bosworth on these guys and don’t stop until I’m in Tacoma.  Or San Telmo… Whatever comes first.

The Starer: When this man sees a woman he likes, there is nothing that will prevent him from staring at her creepily. Even when she feels his eyes burning a hole in the side of her head or she happens to make eye contact when peeking out the window to check which station they are stopped at - he'll just keep looking, without blinking. 

The Self-Important Eye Roller: This person acts like riding the subte is really inconvenient and awkward for them and only them. They check their watch, sigh heavily, furrow their eyebrows and roll their eyes when it's busy and  everyone has to squeeze together. Look - none of us want to be here, no one enjoys riding the subte, and everyone is uncomfortable when it's crowded. We all have to get somewhere quickly, and most people expect it's going to be busy and personal space in going to be invaded. Either don't ride the subte or stop acting like you're the only one who dislikes it. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Election Day!

In Argentina, a couple weeks ago, they held their Presidential elections. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was running for her second term and her opposition one who had any chance of winning. Basically, she was running for a second term unopposed, but that's not say everyone likes her. In fact, she has a lot of critics. But, if you thought politics in the US was corrupt, you have no concept of the corruption here. At least that's what we've been told. Anyways, Cristina was originally sort of grandfathered into the Presidency for her first term because her husband, Nestor Kirchner was President for the two terms prior. Many people in Argentina loved Nestor (they've erected a statue of him at Plaza de Mayo), so it was an easy transition to Cristina, especially since Nestor died last year. Needless to say, Cristina was the obvious winner for 2011.

Even though Cristina was expected to win the election, there was still a big to-do that evening. We turned on election coverage on TV, and then remembered that we live 5 blocks from Casa Rosada. For those of you who don't know, Casa Rosada (the pink house) which is surrounded by Plaza de Mayo, is the equivalent of the White House. So we put on our shoes and marched down to Plaza de Mayo to join the crowd. There was music, choripan grilling, and vendors slinging beer. We estimated there was around 2,000-3,000 people packed into Plaza de Mayo singing, waving flags, and waiting to hear the official announcement and Cristina's Inaugural speech. Cristina's speech moved some people to tears (even though it went on, and on, and on...), and was concluded by cheering and fireworks.

We weren't really invested in the outcome of this election, but it was a really cool experience to have, to be able to see the President of another country be elected.

Here are some videos!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Punta del Diablo

DISCLAIMER: This is a long post covering a long weekend, so you've been warned. Also, we've been without internet for a couple days; hence the serial blog posts. 

view of the town from atop one of the dunes
As some of you may have noticed, we’ve been pretty piss poor about updating our blog that last couple weeks. I think this is mostly due to the fact that the weather has been GREAT and so we’ve been spending less and less time at home in the apartment. 

Last weekend was Labor Day weekend down here, so we decided to take advantage of the 3 day weekend. On Thursday, Oct. 6th, we boarded a bus bound for Montevideo, Uruguay at 11pm with snacks and rum & cokes in hand. The rum & cokes were mostly used as sleep aids. We had to make a quick stop at the border around 3am, which seemed to take FOREVER.
mate' on the bus
At about 9am, we arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, and hopped onto another bus bound for Punta Del Diablo, Uruguay – the beach!
 The bus dropped us off in the middle of town around 3pm, and a staff-member from El Diablo Tranquilo Hostel picked us up because a HUGE storm had moved in. We settled in nicely and met some of the other travelers staying at the hostel while everyone marveled at the epic storm outside. (The next day, one of the staff told us that according to the hurricane warning system they have, the storm was only one level below a hurricane level storm warning.) Around 9pm, a big group of us put on our rain gear and went out into the storm to walk the 1.5 blocks to the hostel bar and restaurant for dinner. It felt like we walked for hours. The wind was howling and almost knocked a couple people off balance, the rain was coming at us sideways in huge drops, and lightning lit up the sky and thunder crashed up above us. I remember at one point saying, “I don’t know if I can make it!” Once we arrived at the restaurant, everyone peeled off their rain gear, which had done nothing to protect us, so everyone was soaked from head to toe. Beers and wine were ordered, people gathered around the fireplace to warm up and dry off, and conversations began. And then the power went out. The staff brought out candles and stoked the fire while the wind howled and the thunderstorm continued. Everyone ate and drank by candlelight and firelight. Dinner was paella with beef and chicken which was very good – we were a little disappointed that there wasn’t any seafood…eventhough we were staying in a fishing village.  Slowly, people made their way back to the hostel once they had eaten their fill, dried off, and had plenty to drink. It was definitely one of those nights that Jesse and I will remember for a very long time.
We woke up late and pulled on our hiking boots to go to the nature reserve a couple kilometers up the road, Santa Teresa. The bus dropped us off at the north end of the park, where there is an old colonial fort that looks over the pampas, La Fortaleza. For $40 UR (a little pricey if you ask me, but still only $1 US), we entered and explored the fort – which has been really nicely preserved. We moved on quickly, because if you’ve seen one, old, colonial, fortress, you’ve most likely seen them all. Once we entered the forest, we were surrounded by the sounds of cicadas rattling and parrots squawking. We were the only people hiking through the park, which was awesome. Above us, condors (or some other very large bird of prey) circled. The gray parrots-type birds made enormous nests that we assume big families occupied. Eventually, we arrived at the beach…and we were the only people there again. We crossed the dunes and sat down at the edge of the point for lunch: milanesa sandwiches, oranges, and mini alfajores. The sun had poked out and we explored the tidepools, the rocks, and watched the waves crash into them. As a thick fog rolled in from the horizon, we wandered back to the forest trail. The ghostly fog crept in between the trees, making them look like silhouettes as we walked along the road. We turned back towards the ocean, walking up through a grassy meadow with cows grazing, and then down a winding road through a eucalyptus forest. We arrived back at another beach, still enveloped in fog, and hiked along the beach back south to Punta del Diablo. It was a relaxing evening spent by the fire playing cards and sipping Uruguayan beer.

a stretch of pampa

La Fortaleza

into the woods!

It's good to know adolescent humor exists everywhere. Someone scratched out part of the "R" on "Ruta 9," making it "Puta 9." For those of you not familiar with Spanish cuss words,
"puta" translates to "bitch." We, having very sophisticated humor, thought it was hilarious and had to capture it in a picture. 

finally arriving at the beach

back into the forest with the fog
It was a lazy day. Our original plan was to explore the beach to the south of the point, but the clouds were threatening rain, and we were distracted by exploring the waves crashing at the point and the smell of deep fried empanadas. The ocean at the point was much more tumultuous than the one we explored the day before, and we could have spent all day watching the swells rise and fall, and trying to capture pictures of the waves exploding on the rocks. Eventually, hunger began to call our name and we went over to a little market-type setup on a dock by the beach. There, we found empanadas, filled with seafood and deep fried. Jackpot! Jesse and I ordered emapandas with mussels (mellijones), with shrimp (camarones), and fish (pescado). Absolutely delicious. We went back to the hostel for a siesta, made dinner, and had another tranquil evening.
you can't see it very well in the picture, but it was a double rainbow

Jesse a.k.a. Poseidon

sea foam
Our last day, the weather was incredible. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. In the morning, we went down to the beach front, were the fisherman  park their boats and set up their shops to sell the day’s catch. One shop was open and the fisherman were organizing and packing fish. We bought just over ½  kilo (a little more than a pound) of fresh whitefish,   (we forget what it’s called) for $75 UR – which is $20AR – which is $3.70 American. Amazing! Back at the hostel, we grabbed our towels, some beers, our books, threw on our bathing suits, and walked up the beach to the other side of the north point, not to be confused with where we were on Sunday. That afternoon we just soaked up the sun. We did venture into the ocean, about waist deep (Jesse submerged himself), mostly just to say we did it, because it was very cold. Unfortunately, we forgot sunscreen, and both had pretty awesome sunburns to show for our beach day. That evening, we cooked up our fish with garlic, lemon, and salt, and feasted on our fresh fish – which we haven’t eaten since we were living in the U.S. (save for maybe one other time that we can’t recall).
view of the point 
proof that we went into the Atlantic - which was very cold, by the way
this is basically what our day consisted of
It was an amazing, relaxing trip, and we’re so glad we were actually able to make it over to the beach because we weren’t sure if it was in our budget or if we would have the time. Argentina’s beaches pale in comparison to the beaches in Uruguay. We expected that this trip would rejuvenate us, which it did, but it also further increased our impatience and excitement to get the big trip underway. By our calculations, we’ve only got about 8 more weeks of work – and then it’s party time!

La Boca: bright colors and tango

We finally wandered on down to one of the most famous areas of Buenos Aires: El Caminito in La Boca.  La Boca is one of the oldest areas of the city.  It is also one of the poorest, but what they lack in financial disposition, they make up in character.  Well, at least the little section of El Caminito.  If you happen to find yourself in La Boca at night or across the river, you better be packin’ a shank or some brass knuckles because you’re gonna be in for a scrum with some local toughs looking to take advantage of naivety and relieve you of your tourist belongings.

El Caminito
But I digress, the area of El Caminito is small, but full of life, and the few hours we spent there were not enough (we’ll go back, perhaps with people who are coming to visit us…!!).  It’s built for tourists, no doubt, but camera-clicking fun is partly why we’re here, so we were happy to plunge ourselves into the deep end of BA tourism.  Every little nook or cranny you peer at has something to draw your attention.  

A colorfully painted wall (sounds lame, but it’s fun – the reason this area is painted so colorfully is because the people had a ton of left over paint a long time ago and rather than dumping it in the river, they painted their houses bright, random colors); statue-esque model people of local-types and famous citizens, standing on balconies and in windows waving at you (yes, Eva Perron and Maradona and Carlos Gardel are there); a mural depicting history or sports legends, mostly of their famed Boca Juniors Futbol Club; or just a small little alley with crafts and souvenirs all jam pack this couple block radius with curiosity and enjoyment.
ice cream stop

Yes, that's really us
dancing tango
Music, tango dancers, and street performers feed your appetite for Buenos Aires culture.  You can take a picture with a faux Mardona, pose with a tango dancer, or have an overpriced lunch and beer whilst being serenaded by folk music and dancers.  The performances keep your interest piqued and there is never a dull moment.
We meandered up and through alleyways, stopped off for some ice cream, and soaked up some Saturday afternoon sun.  It was a quiet, simple, and enjoyable afternoon as we got yet another glimpse into the world of Buenos Aires.

Maradonna, Evita, and Carlos Gardel