Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jesus Camp and our anniversary

This weekend, with our roommates Jack and Audrey, we visited one of the strangest places I’ve ever been to in my entire life. Jack read about this Jesus-themed “amusement park” in the north of the city. Our interest in seeing this place was not really due to a desire to experience the power of Jesus Land; it was motivated by curiosity. Now, I put “amusement park” in quotations because this term usually means there are at least a couple rides. At Jesus Camp (this is what I started calling it), there are no rides. There is no ferris wheel, no roller coaster, not even bumper cars. It is a giant, walled compound with plastic replicas of buildings, animals, and plants that would have been typical in the Middle East during Biblical times.  Around every corner there were these really cheap, creepy, plastic life sized people…including Jesus, the Romans, and other popular people from these Biblical stories.
the top of the plastic mountain, with more plastic people
It gets weirder. Most of these plastic people were staged to recreate a scene from the Bible, including all the violent, graphic events leading up to the death of Jesus. The apex of this Jesus compound was a giant plastic mountain, where at the top, you can see Jesus nailed to the cross. You can walk up and around this mountain to look at the plastic people staging the various scenes leading up to Jesus’ death. Every hour, they recreate the resurrection. No, they don’t do this with actors. They do it with these crappy, plastic animatronic figures. At the end of the resurrection…to the sound of the Hallelujah chorus, a 35ft plastic, animatronic Jesus ascends from the top of the mountain and waves to all his fellow Christians. This place so was weird and hokey, it was beyond any description that could do it justice. 
posing with the 35ft. resurrected Jesus

As we expected, there were a lot of people there who truly wanted to visit Jesus Land as a way to honor their faith. I think many people brought their kids there as an educational trip. We were all very respectful and we tried very, very hard not to laugh at the creepy animatronic figures. So, though we did visit this place out of curiosity, please know we made sure to be respectful to the people who were there to seriously honor their religion.

Also, for the record, I had no interest in going to this place. Jesse was really interested to see what it was like and he told me it would be good for us to spend time with our roommates. I reluctantly agreed. However, I can think of about 27 better ways we could have spent $80 pesos than going to weird Jesus Land. Just saying.

On to another subject. We had an anniversary!
happy couple exactly 1 year later
In our absence, our parents met in Seattle to have lunch and celebrate in our honor. Here in Buenos Aires, we kept it pretty low key. I put on a dress and Jesse took me to a restaurant called “Casa de las Catalunyas.” It’s a coastal Spanish restaurant that serves incredible Spanish seafood dishes. People in Buenos Aires don’t really like fish, or at least don’t eat it very often. It’s difficult to find, and the fish at the grocery store is questionable at best. So, fresh seafood flown in daily from Patagonia served in traditional Spanish Catalan style sounded glorious to us! And it was. I ordered octopus sautéed in a spicy tomato sauce on top of potatoes. Jesse had grilled calamari. For dessert, Jesse devoured flan while I needed help eating what was basically a really fancy, decadent ice cream sandwich.
grilled calamari
octopus w/ potatoes
Afterwards, we walked down the street and met our roommates and some friends at a bar called “La Puerta Roja” (the red door). We spent the next few hours there just having fun and drinking beer. It was a wonderful night.

At La Puerta Roja. From left to right:
Ian (EBC friend), Jesse,
Jack (roomie, Audrey's boyfriend),
Me, Amalie (other roomie),
Audrey (roomie, Jack's girlfriend) laying on us

Next weekend, we are taking an official vacation to celebrate our first anniversary. We’ll be spending a few days in Tandil, a city about 4 hours south of Buenos Aires. We’ve booked a cabin built into the mountainside and we plan to drink artisenal beer and sample the homemade salamis Tandil is known for. There will be more to come!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Colonia del Sacramento

This Saturday we finally escaped the smog rich, hustle ‘n bustle, colectivo (bus) rumbling, never stop action of Buenos Aires and jumped ship, literally, to Colonia, Uruguay.  OK, so the main motivation for this excursion was to renew our passports, but it was a good excuse to vacate the city for the first time since we arrived.
It's hard to take a bad picture there
The entrance to Barrio Historico

Colonia is an aptly named colonial city and a Unesco World Heritage site where you stroll along cobblestone streets on your way to being whisked away to... Delaware.  “Oh look, I’m in Delaware,” (any Wayne’s World fans out there?).  But really, there are a number of old 40’s style cars (not colonial) strewn about the town, old ramparts and cannons (colonial) fortifying the flanks, mangy dogs (unknown colonial status) following you everywhere you turn, to go along with colorful buildings, a plethora of quaint eateries and one relaxed atmosphere.  This atmosphere and ambience of Colonia is what struck us most actually.  And dare I say, moved us.  We have been used to the constant hum of a big city in which there is always noise.  It was almost disconcerting to be in a place that was so quiet.  With the ringing in our ears vanquished, we quickly relaxed into a very tranquilo state, slowing our walking pace, breathing deep, fresh river air and enjoying a leisurely waltz we have not enjoyed for quite some time.  And this made taking in the formerly mentioned colonial features all the more pleasurable.

hand stand pushups
ordering cafe and scones
one of the most famous alleys in Colonia
We started the day with some café con leches and scones (served with fresh strawberry jam, dulce de leche and freshly whipped cream) and plotted out our day.  We did a lot of strolling in between visits to the local Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento, local cultural center and an the old Convento de San Francisco and lighthouse, which provided beautiful and expansive views of the small city.  We spent some time sitting on the old wharf enjoying the views of Rio de la Plata and soaking in the warm winter sun.  We made sure to get in a few handstand push-ups, too, along the cobbled streets (always a time and place for Crossfit!).
At the top of the lighthouse - gorgeous view!

chivito - we won't be ordering it again
After walking about for several hours, we decided it was time for some grub.  We found a wonderful little place with a view of the river, had some beer, pizza topped with river clams and our first chivito.  This is apparently a classic Uruguian snack that layers a ton of cholesterol friendly choices.  Ours included a beef patty, ham, bacon, tomato, an omelet, hearts of palm and topped with a thick covering of cheese.  If you’re looking for a way to accelerate your chances for a heart attack, I encourage you to explore a diet of chivito.

And that was that.  We had a fantastic time and are very much looking forward to our next endeavor!  We’ll keep you posted…

This is how we capped off the day. Bewskies, beautiful view,
and a warm breeze from the river.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The hippie room

One of the language institutes I work for specializes in corporate language training. So, teachers primarily teach business English to business people who work for big corporate companies. It can be a little dry for the teacher and the student, but it's necessary. I was assigned a class and the room I teach this particular class in completely baffles me. The entire floor of the langauge institute is very professional. Neutral colors, comfortable climate, professional staff, multiple classrooms, boring background music. The receptionist will even bring you coffee, water, or tea. So imagine my surprise when I was shown into my classroom for this particular class. It's about the size of a walk in closet, or a bathroom. Desks, chairs, and a whiteboard? Silly assumption. Our chairs and desks are footstools, craft-fair pillows, and bean bags. There is a guitar in the corner, and african art sculptures and art books on the shelves. What. The. Hell. Is. This. So, my student, who is a manager at a big corporation, and is expecting me to teach him language relevant to his job, walks in and goes "Oh great. The hippie room." How am I supposed to teach grammatical concepts with a straight face and expect my student to take me seriously when we are both sitting on beanbags and using multi-colored footstools as desks?! More importantly, what in the F is this room doing at this language institute that specifically caters to not only adults, but serious business people? It's like they had this weird extra space where there wasn't room for desks and chairs, so the coordinators all got stoned and thought it would be a good idea to throw some bean bags and pillows in there. I mean, we've all had ideas like this when under the influence of drugs or alcohol...but they left it that way. They saw a teacher and a man in a suit sitting on beanbags talking about prepositional phrases while every other room in the institute looks like a traditional classroom and they said, "Yeah, this looks right."

(using the appropriate description invented by Reid Ekberg)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Keeping our blog updated would be a lot easier if people would stop stealing shit from us

Some of you have noticed that we haven't updated the blog in a couple weeks. This is mostly due to the fact that we haven't had any pictures to post. Our lack of pictures is due to the fact I had my purse stolen from my chair in a restaurant while I was sitting in it. The one time I let my guard down, it cost us my cell phone (damnit) and our brand new camera (insert approx. 10 cuss words). Fortunately, I had some weird moment of subconscious foresight, and removed our passports and bank cards from my purse before we left. We've chosen to focus on the silver lining, which is we still have our passports, bank information, and at least we weren't mugged at knife point. Additionally, Jesse and I somehow still like each other after all of this crap. We're counting this as a win when it comes to external stressors on marriage. It seems as if Buenos Aires has waged a battle of wills with us. Fortunately, Jesse and I are both extremely competitive and a little stubborn, so to the Buenos Aires bad luck fairies, you can suck it.
Luckily, our roomates are awesome and super nice, and have offered up one of their cameras for us to borrow when we please. We also figured out how to upload pictures from our remaining phone, so we should be able to get pictures up here no problem.
We live with another couple, which has turned out to be a nice arrangement. Jack is from England and he's also an English teacher here. Audrey is from France and works at a pub down the road. They are both very easygoing and friendly. We've felt welcome and comfortable since day one.
That being said, here are some pictures of our new place in San Telmo. For those of you looking it up on a map, we are in between Bolivar and Belgrano Ave. Some maps place us in Montserrat, but we live one block away from the famous San Telmo market, so we're keeping that our neighborhood name. We'll post some pictures of the neighborhood later in the week.

Living room - without a couch, but there are some comfy chairs, so it works out just fine. When the weather finally decides to behave, we'll be able to open up those double doors to let in fresh air.

Kitchen - which is a nice size for four people.

Bedroom - plenty of storage space for all our crap. I even cleaned up a little for the picture.