Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A little of this and a little of that

This blog is kind of a cluster of random stuff we’ve been meaning to write about, hence the seemingly unrelated topics.
JOBS! What a strange thing, to have a job that you trained for. Jesse and I both have teaching jobs with a few different English Academies. We’re working with adults only, and most of our classes are less than 6 students. Our students are generally professionals: managers, executives, etc. Many of our lessons will be centered around business related English and some will be general English lessons. We’ve been joking around that we feel like big shots, because our Academies have some really big clients. Jesse is teaching mostly at the FOX News affiliate in Buenos Aires during the week. One of my students is the Argentine executive of Shell. I know, right?! Real, grown up jobs with other grown ups!

We’re not making much money (approx. 35 pesos per hour = $9 American), and we will probably only work around 25 hours per week (poor us, wah wah). So we’re not rolling in cash, but we’re not poor. We’ll make plenty of money to live, eat and drink well, and have a plethora of adventures.  

Mine on the left: Choclate hazelnut and pistachio.
Jesse's on the right: Panna cotta and chocolate w/ orange
Yesterday was my birthday, so now I am officially 25 years young. I think I can say I’m in my mid-20’s now. Jesse and I celebrated quietly. However, we went out to dinner at this little Italian restaurant and it was de-freakin-licious. We started with a meat platter, then had beef involtini and osso bucco. The part of the meal that stood out the most was the gelato for dessert. Jesse accurately described that it was like eating a cloud.

Last night, I had a momentary lapse in judgment and suggested we just stay in.  Luckily Jesse told me to cowgirl the F-up and get dressed to go get some beers. We went to this place called Bullers, a brewery by the Recoleta Cemetery just a few blocks away. It’s not the best place because the beer is overpriced due to it being in a touristy location, but good beer is really hard to come by in Argentina, and I hadn’t had an IPA in a long time. I know, some of you were hoping we’d burn this place down. But that will come in time, my friends.

Beers at Bullers Brewery

Our food of the week is Alfajores! Alfajores are probably the most popular sweet treat here. They’re little cakes, separated by dulce de leche, and then dipped in chocolate. Dulce de leche is basically caramel, only it stays soft and gooey. Porteños are obsessed with dulce de leche. It is in and on everything.
Generally, alfajores look like little candy sandwiches and are sometimes double decker style. The “cake” inside can sometimes be a little chalky for my taste, but Jesse loves it all. However, Jesse has never met a cookie/cake/candy/mostly sugary treat that he has not liked. I’m surprised I haven’t ever caught him just spooning refined sugar into his mouth before.
So, we’ve been doing lots of “research” on different alfajores. I, of course, like the ones with a really thick chocolate coating. Jesse loves the brand “Cachafaz” (the white one and one in the back mostly eaten)...and pretty much all alfajores in general.
In case you were wondering, he is indeed licking the crumbs off the plate.
One day we’ll send some home. J

Monday, May 23, 2011


Editor’s note: This is overdue and long.  I am sorry.  I love sports and this was an amazing experience.

Off the bus and into the wild...
Last Sunday Lindsay and I witnessed one of the most spectacular sporting events in the world.  The Superclasico, the bi-annual, ultimate rival game between River Plate and Boca Juniors, is unparalleled to anything I have ever seen.  I have seen a football team waltz into the Superbowl, some of the greatest pitchers of our generation to palm a ball pitch gems, one of the greatest home run hitters ever stroke homers like slicing butter, and magicians on the hardwood.  All these are well and good, but the Superclasico is on a plane all its own.
Walking up Brandsen.

We got off the bus at a non-descript place, but quickly found ourselves among a hoard of Boca fans being corralled up Brandsen (the street) like a cattle.  The atmosphere, four hours before game time, was already electric.  The chanting started, sidewalk asado filled the streets with a heavenly aroma serving as a pre-curser to a delicious game, and banderas (flags) of the Boca Juniors rose high in the air as people swore allegiance to their precious club.

La Policia separating Boca fans from River fans
As we neared the first of three security checkpoints, we looked to the south towards the next street.  Police in riot gear were standing guard on our end of the street with another line of them on the other side of the block.  We quickly learned the other side is where the River fans stream into the stadium and avoid pre-game unpleasentries, Boca fans and River fans are separated.

INTERLUDE:  A quick history of the rivalry.  Both teams used to play in the barrio of La Boca.  In the 1930s, River purchased land and subsequently built a stadium in the north part of town, Nunez, a richer area.  River, who had more money, now created a rivalry that not only included soccer as its main theme, but a classic clash of class, the poor (Boca) vs. the rich (River).

As we approached La Bombonera (named for its likeness to a box of bon-bons), you could spot River fans in the upper reaches of the stadium.  Insults poured from Boca fans from below and echoed right back by River fans, who accompanied their insults with dirty water balloons and spit.  Police patted us down as we went through the turnstile, thus officially becoming part of the thousands of Boca supporters.

One of huge banderas
Inside, the scene bordered on ballistic.  Chants and songs that both razzed Las Gallinas (the chickens- Boca’s nickname for River) and reminded fans of the proud glory Boca had, filled the stadium like a cold glass of the bartender’s finest brew.  And the bellows of the crowd grew deeper and louder and stronger with each soul that poured in and surrounded the pitch, as their frenzy, dare I say in lieu of the beer reference, was quickly coming to a head as game time drew closer.  Then the band across from us struck up to lead the songs with a fuller resonance, amping up the excitement another notch.  Then the players came out.  Chants of crowd favorites like, Requelme, who dons the hallowed number 10 kit, and Palermo, the savvy veteran forward, ranking fifth all-time in scored goals in the rivalry and playing in his final Superclasico, rang out as each syllable of their names were called out in unison by 45,000 fans.  The chants grew, the concrete stands began to sway, the ref put the ball down, blew his whistle and…

The fans
Game time.

The game was awesome!  Honestly, pretty sloppy play, but this didn’t damper the passion and excitement from the crowd.  Boca fans relentlessly shouted vulgar names (which I shall not repeat) at the players who could not hear them, groaned for every non-call that was not made, and waited with bated breath every time a goal seemed even close to imminent.  And then paydirt.  The ball was crossed on a corner kick and as the keeper fell back, it went off the heel of his left hand, and bounced across his body into the goal.  1-0 Boca.  Five minutes later, who else, but the man of the hour, the hero in the hearts of all Boca fans, and a man even River fans respect, Palermo, found the back of the net with a gorgeous header.  2-0 Boca.  Palermo’s name sang out as Boca took a commanding 2-0 first half lead.  And the place. Went.  NUTS.  To say they cheered loudly is a vast understatement.  It was pandemonium.  It was impossible not to get swept up in the moment.  It was hard to keep your balance, but the surge of energy kept everyone in their place, cushioned by the power of moment.  Awesome.

A view of the pitch
Throughout the game, the chants never died, HUGE flags that spanned the entire height of the stadium were unveiled, and La 12 (the 12th Man) were raucous.  You couldn’t look up though as we sat right below the visiting River fans and right at the edge of their ledge, so spit, Coke and anything else liquid (use your imagination here) that could be “released” fell from above.  It wasn’t constant, but we all had a loogi or two land on us (Lindsay had one on her face, poor girl).  Now, Lindsay and I went into this game a neutral party, deciding to cheer for the team that endeared themselves to us the most.  Needless to say, if the atmosphere didn’t absorb us into Boca allegiance (which it did), then the spitting made the choice of whom to root for even easier.  Boca all the way, baby!

The game ended with the 2-0 holding on to be the final score.  We then stood for 45 minutes as the River fans left first.  They didn’t leave quietly though.  They threw bags filled with soda, big plastic wrapped up streamers, and eventually hunks of concrete at the Boca fans taunting them from below.  No love lost.  And no one appeared hurt.

Our night concluded with pizza and beer at a local Boca tavern with our tour group.  We drank, chanted, laughed, sang, and ate.  They unfurled a large banner that engulfed the bar.  It was a joyous time.

Boca won.

A true spectacle of sport that will be hard to match in my lifetime.

Viva Boca!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Road House Stew

I know some of you have been waiting on a post about the Boca vs. River game. I assure you, there will be one by the end of this weekend. We've been sleep deprived this week, what with our last big project for school being due.

Anyways, back to this strange sounding stew. I feel like the best dishes always have weird names. With 25 people living at the Road House, the kitchen gets cramped, especially around dinner time. Our kitchen tool supply is pretty scarce as well. We've taken to making one pan, one pot-type meals because they are easy and only require one stove burner. I have made this stew twice now and we're in love. I wouldn't exactly call it "Argentine cuisine," but it includes typical Argentine ingredients and foods I can find at the little produce stands. Some of you may not be that into cooking and the like, but I know some of you will appreciate this. Who knows, maybe someone will make it and have a taste of something from here. And I forgot to take a picture of it. It just looks like stew, though. It wouldn't win any photography awards or anything.

1 package chorizo, casing removed and meat ground up with a wooden spoon
1 large batata or sweet potato*, cut into bite size pieces
2 medium sized leeks, finely sliced and the very tops discarded (I like the green and the white parts)
1 medium eggplant, chopped into bite sized pieces (do not peel it!)
2 cups white mushrooms, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
Chicken stock - I'm not really sure how much, but enough to just cover all the ingredients in a pot
2 tsp dried pimiento (paprika will probably work, too)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp of something spicy - chili flakes, sriracha, hot sauce, cayenne, etc.
1/2 tsp salt and pepper

1. Pre-chop all your ingredients.
2. Toss the eggplant in a bowl in about 3 tsp. of salt. Let it sit for 2 minutes. The salt draws alot of the bitter juice out of the eggplant, so it doesn't flavor the stew. After 2 minutes, rinse it in cold water. Set aside.
3. Heat a soup pot over medium hight heat. Add the chorizo. Cook it until it starts to leave brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Do not drain the fat! Unless you have more than a couple tablespoons in the pan.
4. Add the batata/sweet potato and leeks. Stir and saute for about 2-3 minutes.
5. Add the eggplant and musrooms. Stir for 1 minute.
6. Add the chicken stock, garlic, and all of the seasonings.
7. Stir together and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
8. Turn the heat down to medium, and let it simmer lightly for another 10 minutes.
9. EAT!

*Batata is a sweet potato they have down here. It's purple and has whitish flesh. I have no idea if we have it in the States or not. They look like this:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

If you tell me this will make a great story in a couple years/we will laugh about this in a couple years again...I'm going to lose it.

What? Your doctor doesn't recommend alcohol
consumption as an effective way to deal with a
stressful day?
Today was one of the worst days EVER. This morning, we took what we thought was going to be a quick trip to this place to buy tickets for the Boca Juniors vs. River Plate game tomorrow. We brought a debit card, thinking they would surely take them what with people paying large amounts of money to go to the game tomorrow (tickets are going for 800 pesos). It’s not a good idea to walk around with a ton of cash in your pocket. And of course, they didn’t take cards. Jesse and I proceeded to walk 3 blocks up the road to a bank so we could withdraw money from our bank account. The card didn’t work. Ok, I was really thirsty, so we bought a water and asked someone where another bank was. We found a second bank. Our card didn’t work again. After two more tries at different banks, and at least an hour of walking around, we decided to go back to the ticket store and see what our options were. Something was obviously wrong with our card and there was no way we were getting cash. We headed back to this store and we finally made them understand that we have the damn money, we just couldn’t get it out of the bank. So they decided they would make an exception for us and run our card. Yay! Well, our card was declined twice more. At this point, a trip that should have taken us an hour was going on taking us 3 hours and we hadn’t eaten anything yet. We figured that our card was frozen because we had tried unsuccessfully to withdraw a large amount of money at several different banks.

So we decided to go home, eat lunch, grab a different credit card, and head back to the ticket store later. Once we got home with some empanadas, it was apparent we were not going to be able to go look at a potential apartment rental or go to Crossfit later in the afternoon like we had planned. Great. Then, we checked our bank account online and were surprised to see we had almost $700 less in our account than we should have. We noticed 2 separate purchases at 2 different stores for the exact amount, made on a day we had not used our debit card. The realization of what happened hit us at the same time: our account numbers had been stolen and we had been robbed. How? We’re still not sure. The next 3-4 hours consisted of us trying to get in touch with Bank of America, finally paying for an exorbitantly expensive phone call with a bank representative who was not in the least bit helpful, trying to get in touch with our parents, and trying to figure out how in the hell we were going to be able to get money in a foreign country with a frozen bank account. Jesse’s parents weren’t home. My parents were driving through the desert in Arizona. Wait, why in the hell are they driving through the desert? Good question.

Luckily, we worked everything out the best we could for the moment. After that, we still had to go purchase the Boca vs. River SuperClasico game tickets. Jesse made the long trip all the way back to the store. Of course, his credit card was declined after trying to make a big purchase in a foreign country. This resulted in him and another Road House resident finding an internet café, and calling the credit card company to authorize international purchases. He and Tom took a really roundabout way home, and so I, of course, was starting to get worried by the time he got home. I am happy to report, even after this emotional roller coaster of a day, that everyone is OK, we will be getting a new bank card soon, and we managed to buy tickets to the SuperClasico.
Jesse with his hard earned tickets!

In a nutshell, it’s been a long fucking day.

Why did we go to so much trouble to get tickets to this soccer game? There is a ton of soccer in Argentina. We can see a Boca or River game anytime. Yes, but a Boca Juniors vs. River Plate game is one of the most ferocious rivalries in the world. We’ve heard it’s one of the most exciting/crazy sports matches (sports match…not just soccer) to watch in person in the world (did I say that already?). Don't believe me? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercl%C3%A1sico

More to come after tomorrow!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

At "Da Club," red wine patio parties, and empanadas...oh my!

Since we have been in Buenos Aires, our life has mostly consisted of listening to our English teacher lecture in a small classroom or lesson planning in said classroom or in our little dorm room. Yesterday, we were literally in school (listening to lecture, teaching, or observing) from 10am until 8pm. Until we finish the course (2 weeks!), it seems as though we will have very little time to explore the city, take Spanish classes, or fall in love with tango. However, we have managed to get out of the house and/or socialize a few times.
Last week we went to one of the most popular clubs in Buenos Aires, called Crobar. In the States, I would have been very leery of a club named after a large metal tool, sometimes used as a weapon. I guess the word is different here. Around 15 of us left our house at about 1:30am. Yes, in the morning. Here, bars don’t open until about 11pm or midnight and clubs don’t usually open until around 2am. It’s normal to see people stumbling home around 5am or 6am. I’m not sure we’ll ever get used to this. Anyways, we hailed cabs, and thankfully our house “chaperone” David (Dah-veed, not David) got in with us so we had a local to make sure we ended up at the right place. Yes, David got paid to go dancing. Tough gig, right? This club was gigantic. As soon as we entered, Jesse and I were assaulted by the delicate aroma of cigarette smoke. Oh yeah, you can smoke indoors here and everyone smokes. We made our way to the bar and tried to order a beer, but it works a little differently here. We had to go to the cash register at the end of the bar, pre-pay, and then give the bartender our tickets. It actually is a lot more organized than I’m used to. Normally, we can buy a 40oz. beer here for $1.50 American. At this bar, for the same crappy quality beer, it cost us $6 American. What?! That’s what I said. We swallowed the cost, though, because we came there to get down. I don’t think there is one person who prefers to be stone cold sober when they are cuttin’ a rug with a bunch of strangers. We had a great time, and Jesse, as usual, stole the show for a couple minutes when he busted out some of his best moves in the middle of the dance circle. If you have never seen him do this before, then my description could never do it justice, you’ll just have to see it one day. At about 4am I decided I was done, so we (all by ourselves!) caught a cab home. Also keep in mind that, by their standards, we left early. We had to take a shower because we smelled like ashtrays. All in all, it was a great night. However, if I never went to another club in Buenos Aires again, I think I’d be OK with it. In my opinion, the Crobar was pretty similar to any other club I’ve been to in the States. Overpriced drinks, loud techo-style dance music, and the guys who stand along the side of the room all night, not really dancing but hoping...

On Thursday night, the program (Road2Argentina) put on a pizza patio party at the Road House, which was really fun. Unfortunately, we had a crap-load of lesson planning to do, so we weren’t able to hang out too long. We did manage to eat some fabulous pizza, alleged to be the best in Buenos Aires, and drank a few glasses of wine. Also a success of the evening, Chase (a former Road House resident) and I introduced all the Australians (there’s like 15 of them, fresh out of high school) to the art of the beer bong. They’re hooked. I’m no hero, just a girl trying to make the world a better place. Jesse and I also speculated that the beer bong even made its way out to the patio party and was introduced to some Argentines. We mostly think this because we started hearing “Go! Go! Go! Go!” directly followed by boisterous cheering.
View from the Road House patio. Not bad at all!
At the patio party. Yes people, those are plastic cups filled with red wine. When the quality of the wine goes up, the classiness of the wine glass is allowed to go down, right? Everybody was doing it.

 We’ve also decided to include a “Food of the Week” on our blog. Just to rub it in everyone’s faces how great the food is down here. This weeks food in empanadas.

Empanadas are essentially big dumplings. Generally they are filled with meat, wrapped up in dough, and baked. Sometimes they mix in potatoes or hard boiled eggs.  Our favorite empanada flavor is carne picante (spicy steak). They don’t really like spice here, though, so don’t let the name fool you. It’s more like steak and really wimpy salsa. Two of our other staple flavors are chicken (pollo) and spicy onion and pumpkin (pikachu). The dough is usually folded or crimped along the edges of the dumpling in different ways so you can identify which flavor it which. We’ve already found our favorite empanada place “La Cocina.” Our belief that this was indeed a great find was confirmed today when we sat next to a little old lady who struck up a conversation with us. She said La Cocina is also her favorite place to get empanadas. Someone who is well into their 70’s and has obviously been living in Buenos Aires for a long time has to know the best places to go. Old lady wisdom never fails.

empanadas from Buenos Aires Pizza

empanadas from La Cocina

So in conclusion:

  1. Dance clubs are pretty much the same regardless of the country you’re in.
  2. Beer bonging is an internationally beloved activity.
  3. Empanadas are possibly one of the most delicious foods ever invented.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bring on the steak!

We are a week into this adventure and things are lookin good.  First things first, we'll talk about our school for those who are interested in that.  It's busy.  Nuff said.  OK, a bit more.  It does consume most of our weekday evenings sadly, but we still find time to eat empanadas!  We both have taught two classes already even though we started our own classes Monday!  Just throwing us to the porteno (Spanish for a Buenos Aires local) wolves.  Everything has gone well though, except my lesson the other day to an advanced class (Lindsay is doing great on all accounts and classes!).  I was going to talk about the 4th of July, had some history planned, and was going to cover some vocab surrounding the subject.  But lo and behold, these guys knew everything before I started.  They could name everyone on Mt. Rushmore, including Teddy Roosevelt being a Rough Rider!  They knew about the Revolutionary War and even about our parades.  Why they know more about American history than most Americans, I don't know, but they did.  Needless to say, I am used to teaching 3rd graders who have the knowledge of a walnut and I can usually out maneuver their attempts at intelligence with grace and ease.  These guys were in their 50's though and presented a new challenge.  It was a bit intimidating.  But they had fun and we sang the Star Spangled Banner to end class and they loved that and wanted to keep their copy of the words.  America wins again!

In other notes, Lindsay and I finally had our first bites of parrilla and asado.  We decided to go to dinner last night, ending up in the ritzy Palermo Hollywood and stumbled upon a wonderful place, Payapa.  Upon scouring the menu, we found a gem on the first page that appeared to be an assortment of food that was geared towards 2 or 3 people.  Our interested was peaked.  As we debated whether or not to order this meal, only guessing what the food might be since it was written in Spanish, but figured it would great, a young English speaking waiter came buy to explain the intricacies of the meal we were considering.  He explained it was a traditional array of grilled meats, including chorizo, chicken, steak, pork, and blood sausage.  And thus, the debate concluded.  SOLD!  The appetizer was a big chuck of grilled provolone, then a salad, followed by our freshly grilled grab bag of meat.  It was cooked without seasoning and the only sauce we used, chimichuri, was for the chorizo.  We only squeezed lemons on the rest of the meat.  Needless to say, unless you don't like meat, which means you're mental, is this meal was freaking fantastic!  The meat tasted so pure, as I can only assume they slaughtered their finest pig, their fattened cow and the most elegant chicken when they saw us walk in.  It was juicy and easily held it's own with flavor without needing a bath in A-1 or Worcester.  We washed all this down with two large bottles of Stella Artois, which was the perfect accompaniment for this divine meal.  And all this for a whopping $50!  And that's expensive from we can tell. Pretty sweet deal.

Now we get ready for another week of school, hope to find an apartment and continue to fatten our faces with empanadas and gelato (ice cream here is delicious).  Cheers to all living north of us!