Check out the Pics

Impressions of Returning: airport culture shock, overwhelming sense of how much and loud and boorishly people speak, journal subjected to purgatory, pounds of digital photos, baseball on tv, trump university, flabby’s trivia night, showers and new clothes, family and fenway, morning maté, night racing at churchill, missed weddings, indigo girls and pride, craigslist scouring, father’s day, newspapers in english, parents coming and parents going, passion fruit bubble tea, taco truck, and molly marshall kicking off the SBC.

It usually takes about a week for the culture shock to wear off.  I’ve spent that time lamenting my lost journal (which I’d planned on using to finish posting about the trip) and uploading photos to my website.  Check out the Photo Galleries if you’re interested.  (There’s also a link on the sidebar.)

Once I finish mourning, I plan on re-writing over again about the last few action-packed days of Buenos Aires.  A taste: Boca Juniors-Racing futbol hooligans, ticket heists, and rumbling, crumbling stadiums; great steak and great wine; Tango lessons and a show at a milonga;  guacho dancing at Mataderos market; more steak and wine; a visit to former homes of Che Guevara and Julio Luis Borges; and an encounter with Eva Peron.



There is so much more to write, but I am leaving as soon as I finish this sentence to board a series of planes that will eventually bring me back home to the United States. 

I´ll have final thoughts, more photos, etc. within a few days. 

Looking forward to spending time with all of you very soon!

More Selections from Top Ten Buenos Aires (edition 2002)

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1. Cemetario Recoleta

The Lonely Planet brags that ¨perhaps no other place says as much about Argentinian society¨ as the Cemetario Recoleta, where Argentina´s rich and well-connected dead repose.  Argentinians have a certain obsession with death, and it is on full display in this most unique and spectacular place.

The cemetery is a veritable city, narrow streets with intersections and cul-de-sacs, streetlights and major thoroughfares.  Names of the dead fill in for numbers in addresses.  Peering down one path (avenue?) from the main courtyard (town plaza?), one expects to see signs hung for the general store, pub, and barbership.  Each mausoleum contains an entryway with a door, some with a series of steps reminiscent of a brownstone from an eastcoast city.  It is a city not of brown, however, but of white and gray marble.  Ornate columns and domes and statuettes adorn most, while a cross and a bas relief plaque garnish the simplest.  Where Buenos Aires boasts pavement and cobblestone, Recoleta shows brown tile, enjoyed by a fleet of cats lying in the sun.

Evita has one of the least impressive tombs, though certainly the most popular.  I can´t help but wonder whether anyone outside of Argentina and the most avid Latin American history buffs would care if not for the musical and Madonna.

Uruguay for a Day

uruguayAs one of the few ¨cinturon¨ countries (the belt around South America´s waist) that doesn´t require a Visa of Americans, I took advantage of its proximity and visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Colonia de Sacramento.   The slow boat  across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires took 3 hours.  I was in Colonia by lunch time.

My first impression of Colonia was of the spectacular leaves.  The seasons are on the brink and Colnia is enjoying the brisk days of late fall.  Its a brown sprinkled with orange and yellow and red in subtle doses.  The trees are aspen-esque with their pale trunks and lighter leaves.  The leaves are dark in the absence of the sun, but resplendent with it´s presence.  When it shines, the canopy resembles stained glass.

The streets are Battle (Princeton) and Acorn (Beacon Hill)–cobblestone lined by ancient trees.

Colorful sidewalk cafes punctuated the walking tour of the old city, glowing in the shadow of the old ones, their leaves kaleidoscopes for the sun´s rays.

Transitioning back into relax mode on the Elaida Isabel, it was striking how quickly the day passed.  Returning to to Argentina 12 hours later, this is surely the shortest amount of time I´ve ever spent in one country.

Selections from Top Ten Buenos Aires (2002 edition)

6. A Walk Downtown

The second stop on my tour was the Plaza Mayor, fronted by the Casa Rosada (Pink House), where the president lives and where Evita (and Madonna) made her famous speeches from the balcony to throbbing crowds.  The Plaza was curiously divided by a giant barricade, I suppose to quell protestors, of which I saw several groups during my short time there.

One group with banners requested better care for veterans of the war with Britain in the Falkland Islands (¨two bald men fighting over a comb,¨ Borges wrote).  It reminded me of the fatigue and tatoo-clad Vietnam Veterans selling bumper stickers in front of the Mall pond in Washington, D.C.

Another interesting sight were the various and sundry plaques remembering those who disappeared (¨los desaparacidos¨) during the reign of the military junta which ended with the aforementioned war in 1982.  Seems like most city plazas have some sort of monument, albeit small, to the memory of disappeared lawyers, or teachers, or other specific poplulation group.  Apparently, on Thursdays, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo still march for a full account of atrocities committed during the ¨Dirty War.¨

Also notable are the number of homeless, seemingly unmolested, in the parks and plazas of Bs. As.  In most manifestations I´m familiar with, the transient must stay versatile and compact, always leary, always vulnerable.  They must e able to move quickly if perstered by authorities, or if in danger.  What I saw were homeless comfortable in their skin, in their digs.  Large, queen-sized mattresses with blanketsñ laundry strung up on tree branches, unbothered by the light of day, sleeping through the noon day sun, pots, pans, cooking utensils in cabinets of trees and shrubbery.

Disclaimer: Though I have slept on the street and seek some solidarity in vulnerability, I am ignorant of most aspects of street life.  I have a plank in my eye, if you will.  In addition to a huge cultural gap, I have a lifestyle gap, of sorts, so I can´t pretend to have any real understanding.  The best I can do is observe similarities and differences.  I notice a difference in the hassle given to the homeless here.  In my experience, homeless in the U.S. have no place to be.  Here, at a cursory glance, it seems they do.

I continued through the Plaza to the Catedral Metropolitana, which houses the tomb of José de San Martín.  After liberating, Argentina, Chile, Peru and part of Ecuador, he met with the liberator of the northern part of South America, Simon Bolívar in Guayaquil.  Nobody knows what transpired, but San Martín immediately left the continent for good; it wasn´t until his death that he returned to Argentina.  Today he is Argentina´s most revered hero.  To have been a fly on the wall in that meeting…

I took a cafe con leche and a churro at the Cafe Tortoni, favorite coffee joint of Julio Luis Borges and Carlos Gardel, est. 1893.  Currently, it´s home to mostly overpriced victuals and tourists.  Reminiscent of the Pushkin Cafe in Moscow, it is ornate, uppity, and still worth the visit.

Next door is the Academía Nacional de Tango, where my new German friend, Katharina, and I would meet for classes several times over the next week so that I could stomp on her feet in my hiking boots.

Ricardo and the Hermanos Zamarra

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The Misiones province of Argentina is the primary yerba mate growing region in the country.

Fanning the flames of my growing mate addiction, Luci and I went in search of a mate factory to explore. 

In the small village of Esperanza, an hour outside Puerto Iguazu, relaxing on his day off (Sunday) outside the Gamarra Hermanos secadora (drier), we found Ricardo.  After some gentle urging, he agreed to show us around the plant.

Ricardo gave us an authentic glimpse at the production of mate, and didn´t expect a thing for it.  He was genuinely surprised when we gave him a cash tip.  Which, for me, begs the question:

What´s the difference between Wine and Mate?  In Mendoza, the tourist industry thrives and the upper crust lives a life of leisure.  In Esperanza, blue collar workers labor in anonymity, few caring about the existence of their factories and their sweat to produce the cultic national beverage.  Why?

New Departure Date

Its been awhile since I´ve posted, so long, actually, that I should have been home by now.  This one doesn´t require a photo upload, so I can post it quickly: I have changed my departure date to June 15th, giving me a full week in Buenos Aires.  With her mouth-watering cuisine and tantalizing energy, the city begged me; I couldn´t let her down…

Most of that time has now passed (I´ll be boarding a plane Monday evening), and I plan on making some time soon for a post about my last week in this hippest of South American cities. 

Talk to you then…