Other Pages of Interest

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Japanese Gardens - Jardin Japonés

A while back in my Castellano Lessons post I mentioned taking lessons from my tutor, Irene. I've been taking lessons now for 9 hours a week since December and although I can speak much better now than I could back then, it gets a bit monotonous just sitting in my house studying Spanish all that time. Just like when you were really good in school, a few weeks ago we were able to change the pace a little and took a field trip to the Japanese Gardens instead of our normal lesson. Irene has another student that I've met a few times, Marcia, so we all decided to go together on a beautiful Friday morning.

(Pictured: Marcia, me, Irene: the fabulous teacher. This photo makes me look super-model-tall and I promise, this is not the case.) The Japanese Gardens are located in Palermo, an easy 20 blocks from where we live (Ave Casares 2966). The entrance fee is $5 pesos, and worth the approximate dollar I paid. The gardens are a nice, quiet getaway in between two of the biggest streets in the city, Ave del Libertador and Ave Pres Figueroa Alcorta. There is a nice walking path with a couple bridges and fountains that make for a great place to study or read or just get away from the city noise for a bit. There is a sushi restaurant that serves expensive tea in the morning, and according to people that have eaten there, it has good sushi. I can't confirm this since their breakfast service extends past noon which is when we went in, they were still closed for lunch. One of the main reasons that I may return to the Japonese Gardens, other than to get some tranquility, is because they have a pretty decent greenhouse that sells plants and potted trees. The great thing about Buenos Aires weather is that it almost never freezes here, even in the middle of "winter", so almost everything grows with little to no effort. This is promising for a person like me, who at one time my mom fondly referred to my house as "where plants go to die". Literally, I give lots of TLC to my plants and they all kick the bucket sooner or later. So, I may use the Gardens greenhouse as another attempt to green my thumb.

The field trip was a nice reprieve from our normal lessons, although now that I am older and wiser I will use field trips more wisely. Just like in school, not nearly as much actual learning gets done when you're out of the classroom, so for the sake of my Spanish and my sanity, I should substitute one for the other only when necessary.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Training Day

In 2008, a few of our friends decided to run in a 10-mile race in Philadelphia. Although I am no stranger to our gym, I didn't pay much attention to entering because I had never run for more than 2 miles without a break. Then January 2009 came along and more of our friends decided to run, and they were very persuasive in their campaign to gain more runners. Before I knew it, Jon and I had signed up for the Broad Street 10-mile run in Philadelphia on May 1 along with 11 of our friends. We trained for over 3 months, completing our long run every Saturday in a multitude of different cities and states. My proudest moment (before the race) was running over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco while visiting Jon's brothers. We ran over 8 miles that day, and finished the most terrifying run I can imagine especially due to my ridiculous fear of heights. It was a good day. The day of the race it poured in Philly, which was kind of perfect for the actual running part, not so great for the after party when we were trying to tailgate. The race itself was amazing, everyone finished ahead of their anticipated finish time and despite the terrible weather we all had a great time. Although it was one of the most gratifying things I had ever done, I was not looking forward to joining another race anytime soon.
Cut to 2010, when I was sure that I would not be able to participate due to my current extreme distance from Philadelphia. I decided to fly back to the US at the beginning of May, which originally meant I would miss the race on May 2. Then we saw that flights home were US$1,000 cheaper if I left the Thursday before - so I changed my flight and had no other excuses. I signed up for the 10-mile race.

I haven't really kept up with running, especially the longer distances. I feel like it's especially hard here for two reasons 1) The treadmills are in kilometers, which are significantly shorter than miles and so it feels like I'm going really fast and really far (even though I'm not) 2) Training for the race in the US was in the spring, when it was cool and great to run. Here it's the middle of summer and incredibly hot outside - and our gym doesn't have air conditioning. I'm hoping to be able to train in time, last year I had already been training for a month at this time in the year. My longest distance so far is 3.5 miles and I thought I was going to pass out. I'm going to keep posting on my progress, here is the 10-mile training plan that I am very loosely following. I'm hoping to get to 5 miles by mid-next week. Wish me luck! Happy running!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sushi Club

Ave 9 de Julio 1465, Recoleta. Prior to moving here, sushi for us meant getting takeout from Whole Foods. Then our friends Juan and Sole introduced us to Sushi Club, and our whole world of sushi changed. There are a whole bunch of Sushi Club locations and we've been to a few of them. Each location is decorated with interesting cool details, comfortable couch-like chairs and really chic light fixtures. In addition to great sushi, they also offer an extensive drink list (items with and without alcohol) and a drink of the day. Our favorite item here is called "Boom" (I think, it's an appetizer) although strangely enough, it's not available on Mondays. The Puerto Madero location has a really cool outdoor seating area - we'll head back that way as soon as the mosquitoes clear out.

As with most places in Buenos Aires, Sushi Club delivers. We have gotten really spoiled and ordered delivery the last few times we have enjoyed their sushi. The best part for us is that they have an easy online ordering system that allows us to order our meal without the painful Spanish phone conversation that normally ensues. We order online, they call 5 minutes later and confirm our order and deliver it an hour or so later. In a strange twist from typical US ordering, delivery is free, they give a 15% discount for just about everything (because it's Wednesday, because you have a certain internet provider, because you belong to our gym) and they throw in a free dessert just for using their online ordering system.

Sushi here is slightly different than what we are used to in the US, although we like it just the same. They love to put Philadelphia cream cheese in the sushi rolls. Generally, the rolls are pretty simple, with some sort of cream cheese, avocado, fish and rice combination. They add or subtract one of the ingredients and call it by a different name. My favorite has fried shrimp, avocado and rice. The delivery orders are served in this cute little boat thing with your choice of sauces, wasabi and ginger. Last night they also threw in some poppy seed rolls just for the fun of it. The only downside is that Sushi Club is a little on the pricey side, so it can't be an every week meal.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Keeping in Touch

This post is dedicated to the various ways that we keep in touch with friends and family as we live 5,270 miles away (according to United's direct flight to Dulles). I consider it extremely good luck that we moved during an age where there are so many ways to keep connected. It wasn't so long ago, when Jon and I first dated in high school that my family was transferred away to Illinois and we had to write letters to keep in touch. I can't even imagine that now. Although we love and appreciate the mail that our friends have sent us (so please, keep it up!), it does take awhile to get here. Since we are past the age of snail-mail, and since my husband is a complete technology guru, we have plenty of items that were not available until recently. So, on to the items that have made our lives easier:
  • Voltage Converters - Buenos Aires is not called the "Paris of South America" for nothing, it looks, feels and powers it's electronics just like it's European sister. Not only are the plugs themselves different, but the power is a standard 220v (strong enough to power a clothes dryer at home) compared to 110v in the USA. In come our voltage transformers, we have 4 of them. The two mega-transformers are used for our desktop computer, laptops and to charge misc. items in the office, and the TV, DVD, Wii, PSP3, etc in the living room. We have one stationed in the kitchen so that I can use all of our great wedding gifts, the KitchenAid, blender, food processor, etc and one portable transformer that I use for plugging in the iron, crock-pot and other random low power items. I know it sound like something small, but it has made the transition easier and our apartment feels much more like home since we can use all of our own stuff.
  • Vonage - I used to see commercials for Vonage services and regard them with as much attention as those old "Dial 10-10-321 for free long distance!" ads. I take it all back and if they asked me, I would voluntarily give my customer testimonial on any Vonage ad out there. Life as we know it would not be the same without Vonage. This amazing little device allows us to call the US and 40 other countries for a flat rate of $22.99 per month. It also allows people from the US to call us as if we were still in Virginia. You just buy the Vonage box, hook it up to your internet connection and then call to your heart's desire. You can even choose your area code.
  • Slingbox - As I mentioned in my South American TV Recap, we are lucky enough to have plenty of English-speaking TV shows to choose from. Unfortunately, we get very little live TV and virtually no college sports. This is simply unacceptable to the biggest sports fan I know, Jon. He has rigged up a Slingbox in his parents basement that we can control from our computer here. The idea is that you buy the Slingbox and then set it up at a TV that has the stations you desire. Through some internet magic, you can then control that TV using an internet log in, and watch through your computer screen. This is especially helpful for watching Virginia Tech games, even if they are just competing for the NIT title :).
  • Skype - I remember a time when I dreamed of a futuristic phone that had a video screen so that you could see you friends while you talked. This clearly was a shared dream that has been answered by the inventors of Skype. I was really late to join the Skype bandwagon, more because I didn't understand it than anything else. For those that are still non-believers, it is incredibly easy and best of all, it's FREE. If you want to see the people that you're talking to, you either need a freestanding web-camera or one built into your computer. It's especially great for seeing those things that can't actually talk for themselves, like new babies, new pets, household furniture and households themselves.
So that's what we do to stay current. If you know of other ways to keep connected, we're open to any and all ideas, each new development I hear of amazes me more than the last.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

San Telmo

San Telmo is the oldest barrio in Bs. As., alive with culture and music and, of course, tango. During the week, it is home to antique shops, art galleries and plenty of cafes; but the weekend holds the real time to visit San Telmo. Each weekend, mostly on Sundays, the cobblestone streets transform into an enormous outdoor market filled with antiques, crafts and artisan items. San Telmo is just a short cab ride from where we live, so it is an easy destination for an afternoon trip. While my mom was in town, I reserved our Sunday to visit the San Telmo market.

The main street in San Telmo is Defensa Street, famous for the street fight between the porteños (Buenos Aires natives) and the British where the porteños put together an impromptu militia and sent the British back to their awaiting ships. This is seen as the first main step in gaining their independence from Spain a few years later. San Telmo is also recognized as one of the potential birthplaces of the Argentine Tango. There are a few other barrios that make this claim, so it depends on who you talk to as to where the actual birthplace was. The weekend market spans countless blocks down Defensa Street, but it seems to begin at Plaza Dorrego. In the Plaza itself, you'll find a higher concentration of antique booths, and the further you walk down Defensa, the more jewelry, mate paraphernalia and clothing booths appear.

We were only a few steps out of the taxi when we ran into this cool tango band complete with three accordians. Throughout our visit to the market, there were countless bands, Spanish guitar players and tango stages set up for open air shows. There are plenty of unique items including horse accessories; stirrups, bits and decorations made out of horseshoes, old time seltzer bottles and lots of copper spoons, jugs and buckets. Additionally, there are plenty of really great finds just waiting to be purchased from the artisan stalls in the market - like this cool "Welcome" sign that I bought.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recoleta Cemetery

Few places have surprised and impressed me more than the Recoleta Cemetery. I have always liked cemeteries (during daylight hours) and have a strange fascination with the stories surrounding old cemeteries, especially old cemeteries in really rich areas - they always seem to have the best stories. Even as a kid, it was not unusual for my family to go for a weekend walk through a nearby cemetery, I just figured that's what all families did. It's no surprise that I was really excited to visit the Recoleta Cemetery, it is a main tourist attraction for everyone, not just strange cemetery-lovers like me. I had no idea what I was getting into, this place is like nothing I've ever seen before.

We first visited Recoleta Cemetery during the BA Walking Tour we took right after moving in. Since then, I have taken the same tour a second time while my mom was visiting and found it even more interesting the second time around. This cemetery at one time held the most expensive real estate, per square meter, in the world. It is now beat by plenty of other places in the world but a few years ago a plot sold for somewhere around US$290,000. These are not normal cemetery plots, it is better described as a small city. The sidewalks are arranged like city streets and the tombs are like miniature buildings. Each building has it's own unique story, and many times the tomb itself says a lot about the life or death of the family within. Like the story about the tomb on the left. According to the tour, while they were both living, the wife was a big spender and the husband was a bit of a scrooge. At some point, the husband very publicly refused to pay for any of his wife's purchases, therefore bringing her spending habits to a halt. From that day forward, the wife never spoke to the husband again. Even after he died, 12 years later, she erected these statues on their family tomb showing her looking away from the husband - shunning him for eternity.

Then there are the really beautiful sculptures, like the one here on the right. This tomb shows an angel guiding the woman to heaven while the surrounding angels mourn Earth's loss. It's hard to see with the shadow, but there is an owl next to the rising woman. This signifies the intelligence of the family represented. This family, at one time, owned and ran the largest national newspaper in Argentina. There is so much thought and effort put into these sculptures, you really need a guide to explain all of the stories and meanings.

Last but not least, is the most famous tomb of all, Eva Peron's final resting place. It is relatively nondescript, although it comes with a very long and interesting story. The only way that you would know it was the tomb of someone famous is due to the constant presence of flowers and prayer cards.

We are lucky enough to have these monuments withing walking distance of our house, but the cemetery is a must-see if you are anywhere in Buenos Aires. There are few places like it in the world, and even if you are squeamish around classic cemeteries, I think this one is worth a try.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

La Oriental, Estancia

During my mom's visit, we decided to spend a few days outside of the city. There are plenty of places to travel to in Argentina but it is a HUGE country and most places are mainly accessible by plane or an extremely long road trip. For example, to get to Mendoza (wine country) from our house would take about 12 hours in a car. No thank you. We wanted to spend a few days outside the city but not bother with flights, and the popular option recommended to me was to visit an Estancia.

An Estancia is best described as a ranch, although I have never heard of ranches in the US that are travel destinations like this. Argentina has long had a strong cattle ranching culture and there are still plenty of working ranches out there, but there are also a number of ranches that have been sold by their original owners. The economy for ranchers has been in flux over the last 70 years or so, and when many of these ranches were sold, they were bought and converted into bed and breakfast-type hotels. These are now popular places for people to visit for a relaxing weekend away from the big city. Being that my mom and her friend Pat are horse lovers, this was an ideal destination during their visit.

We drove 4 hours out to La Oriental, a converted Estancia near the small town of Junin. This amazing place consists of one main house, built in the late 1800s, that has all original furniture, dishes and fixtures, which is where the premium rooms are located. There are also countless other buildings on the property that started out as racehorse stables, now converted into houses that are either rented out or used for miscellaneous reasons related to the Estancia. Once we arrived, Estela, the owner, had a delicious lunch prepared for us. We had steak, tuna and salad accompanied with our choice of water, wine, beer or soda served on a large outdoor porch. After lunch, Miguel took us for a horse drawn carriage ride to show us the grounds. The carriage ride was really nice, I haven't been on a carriage ride in ages, but there were more mosquitoes than I could count. My mom and I had were spraying constantly, but we all walked away littered with bites.
La Oriental has plenty of ways to keep busy during your stay. You can swim in or lay out by the pool, go horseback riding, biking, hiking, or just sit outside and read. It was an incredibly relaxing few days filled with great food, beautiful scenery and lots of free time. I highly recommend La Oriental for a nice weekend away from city life. Here are some other photos that we took, for your viewing enjoyment:

Mom and Miguel taking a break from the group ride

Miguel preparing some delicious meat for lunch

One of the many ranch horses

Miguel is the happiest guy in town.

Me and Mom on our last day at La Oriental

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Morelia (Baez 260, Las Canitas) is located in Las Canitas, an area of streets near Palermo Soho that is home to a major concentration of great restaurants. It is also the home of the best pizza that we have had in Buenos Aires. I'm pretty sure that Jon has been to Morelia more than any other restaurant in Bs. As. - he loves their Cuatro Queso pizza, which is saying a lot since he is a meat-pizza kind of guy. This last visit we also learned that they serve a mean fresh pasta dish as well.

It seems that every restaurant in Bs. As. serves a large basket of bread immediately when you sit down to eat. Being American, we generally have no restraint in chowing down on this bread the second we sit, and often get ourselves in trouble when it comes time to eat our meals. Morelia is no exception, although their bread deserves a spot in this post. It is served warm out of the oven and instead of a hard roll, they serve soft, puffy breadsticks. In addition to the bread, we started off with two "little tarts" that were basically a 4" diameter tortilla offered with different toppings choices, we ordered the onion and mushroom and the blue cheese and celery. Each tart was good to split among 2 people for a light appetizer. They were good, but the onion tart came with a huge pile of onions that, for the most part, didn't get eaten.

They serve thin crust pizzas with a zillion different topping options. You can order toppings separately or choose one of their specialty pizzas that have specified toppings. The only toppings that we have gotten that I didn't like was golf sauce and hearts of palm. Golf sauce is some sort of katsup/mayonnaise mixture and I don't particularly like katsup or mayonnaise so the combination is nauseating to me. I like hearts of palm, but they are often dressed in golf sauce as a pizza topping, so in this case, they're on my bad list. Anyways, like I said before, the 4-cheese or "Cuatro Queso" pizza, though simple, is really a must. I'm not even sure what the cheeses are, but I think one of them is an alfredo-style sauce used in place of the traditional tomato sauce. There are three pizza sizes to choose from, individual, small and large. Jon and I decided or split a large pizza with half 4-cheese and half spicy pepper, pepperoni and olive. The large is a good size pizza and we had slices to take home. As a side note, the pizzas are square (they don't cut corners, just like Ledo's back in Virginia. A "slice" of home, if you will.) and my Mom has always sworn that square pizza slices taste better. In this example, I have to agree.

My Mom and Pat both ordered pumpkin-filled fresh ravioli, each with a different flare. Pat went with a tomato cream sauce that was delicious, light and very simple. My Mom went with a slightly more complex dish, a wine and cream sauce with mushrooms and onions. Although their meals only came with 6-7 raviolis, both had a few to take home with us for the next day. The raviolis were enormous. In all honesty, I could have visited Morelia 50 times and not thought to order the pumpkin ravioli. I'm so glad that they ordered the meals that they did, I tried one bite of each and they were both delicious. This is going to create a new predicament the next time we eat here.

Morelia offers English menus upon request and they have a great wine list to go along with their great food. The restaurant has a large indoor dining area and a porch where you can eat outside, but still be slightly removed from the street. The service is good, albeit slow when you need to request the bill.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gran Bar Danzon

Located at 1161 Libertad, Recoleta, Gran Bar Danzon is brought to you by the owners of Sucre, a very highly rated restaurant that we have not tried yet. If you didn't know the address, you could easily walk right by, it only has a single door on the street that leads directly to a candle-lit staircase. The atmosphere is very trendy and posh, with low lighting and couches at the entrance. Once past the couches, you can't help but notice their enormous bar that is complete with every liquor you can imagine. The menu is small, but each item is delicately made and delicious. The wine list is impressive, the menu itself needs an index it's so long. They serve unique pastas and meat dishes and a decent selection of sushi. This last visit we took my mom and her friend to Gran Bar during one of their nights in Bs As. I highly recommend the salmon tempura roll, we generally order it as an appetizer, it's served with a chipotle mayonnaise that is spicy and delicious. For this meal I ordered the pork spring that comes with a spicy mango and banana dipping sauce. The spring roll was extremely salty (this coming from a true salt-a-holic) and the pork was stringy. I will go back to the tempura roll for my next visit.

For our entrees, we each ordered something unique. Jon had a beautiful eye of beef with a cheese and corn pudding cake on the side. My Mom had a fresh linguini pasta dish filled with shrimp, tomatoes, fresh basil and sun dried tomatoes. My Mom's friend Pat ordered the most interesting dish of the group of us, the white salmon atop a crab omelette. Each one of us had a great meal, the spring rolls were the only disappointment. All in all, Gran Bar Danzon is a great place to go for a pleasant night out or a special occasion, reservations are recommended but we have walked in on a slow night and been given a table.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Colonia, Uruguay

The first full day of my Mom and her friend Pat's visit we spent in Uruguay. If you are like me, you may have forgotten that Uruguay was a country - but there it is, wedged in between Argentina and Brazil. It is a quick trip from Bs.As., there is a boat service called Busquebus that can take you to and from Colonia or Montevideo, Uruguay for a very reasonable price. Montevideo is a bit known for being the access town for some really nice beaches, but it's a bit further away and you need to take an hour and a half bus ride to the beach after you land so we decided to go to Colonia. There are two "speeds" t0 choose from when buying tickets, the rapido boat which takes one hour and the other boat which takes 3 hours. They run specials during the week, so our tickets were roughly US$82 round trip for the fast boat. The ride is comfortable, clean and has a little cafe with food and drinks on board.

The town of Colonia is quite small, very easily navigated by foot, but we preferred to look around using this sweet ride. We had a blast. We drove 5km up the road on the coast to an area just outside of town where they have some nice beach area. This part of Uruguay is on the Rio La Plata, which is nice but the water comes from the rain forest runoff in Brazil so it is a bit brown. The beach area is nice, there are a few cafes and shops that you can stop at, Pat got a really great horse themed thermos at one of the places we stopped.

We went down to the beach to feel the water, the sand was clean and the beach was pretty much empty so we had the place to ourselves.

We drove up to an old bull fighting ring that is now closed, but the building is really cool. We also saw these little kids on horseback that were having a great time riding with their Dad. When they saw our cameras they came right over to have their pictures taken.

We had a great time in Uruguay, it was a wonderful day, relaxing and calm. I was also excited to add another passport stamp to my growing collection. This is a great day trip, and we will definitely go again with other visitors.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Muchos Perros

You only need to be in Buenos Aires for about 30 seconds to realize that the whole city loves dogs. This is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite thing about the city. I love seeing all of the dogs, in the streets, on the sidewalks, in the park, everywhere you go there are a zillion pups. The down side to this, of course, is the incredible amount of dog excrement left behind on the streets, on the sidewalks, in the park, basically everywhere. It is no small miracle if you spend a week here and don't have to clean off your shoes. At first I was convinced that lazy, inconsiderate dog owners were the source of this issue in the city. I have come to realize that although this is probably part of the issue, the bigger problem stems from one of the city's identifying characteristics, the dog-walkers.

These people walk dogs for a living, and a not-too-shabby living either. They get paid by the dog, by the hour and they definitely maximize their potential. I like dogs and all, but I cannot imagine keeping control of up to 20 dogs even with the intricate leash and pulley system that these people have perfected. The interesting thing to me is that the dogs all seem to get along. I mean, they're walking in really close quarters with all types of breeds, sizes, ages (I'm assuming) and I have yet to see a fight. Some of the walkers seem to have all large or all small pups, but for the most part they have a pretty mixed bag. Not to mention that virtually NONE of the dogs are neutered. I'm assuming very few are spayed as well (not quite as noticeable) so I'm not sure how that all plays out. Back to the problem at hand, when walking this many dogs, there is definitely going to be a dropping or two that goes unnoticed. I'm not even sure how this guy would stop to pick it up - and there are hundreds of walkers just like him. They probably don't even bring bags on their walks.

Regardless, I still love the dogs and the walkers. I have used my super spy skills to capture a few pictures. This has been a 3 month task for me because 1) I feel pretty awkward taking pictures of people on the street and 2) BsAs isn't an extremely dangerous city, but I don't like to take my camera out alone and the dog walkers are all done for the day by the time Jon gets home to go photo hunting with me. Here are a few that I've gotten over the months:

The female dog-walker, a poor example since she looks a little out of control.
The basset hound man.
Your neighborhood friendly dog walker. He even waved for the camera.
Note: My Mom visits today! Hooray! Get ready for lots of touristy trips and tours in the upcoming days!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Castellano Lessons

One of our combined goals while moving down here was to learn Spanish. I have to say that I was secretly excited because learning Spanish was one of those items on my "if I ever have time" to-do list. Well, I have quit my job and moved to a place where I know very few people and a country where everyone speaks Spanish, so now seems like a good time to cross this item off of the list. A note on Spanish, according to wikipedia, the language is called Spanish or Castilian in English, español or castellano in Spanish. According to everyone here, Castellano is the spoken language and in BsAs it's pronounced "cast-a-jaan-o".

One of the enormous benefits to being an expat is that we have the benefit of a company that helps get us settled in this new country. (Side note: I have a new found appreciation for anyone who voluntarily moves abroad and gets everything done on their own. This is a challenge like I can not imagine, my hat is off to you.) Exxon works with a company called S.E.I.P.E. that has a fleet of tutors that the coordinator/owner chooses from to pair with each student. I'm not sure the exact selection process criteria but I would imagine that it includes desired hours per week, location of lessons, and personality style. Jon and I work with different tutors. Jon's tutor works with him two times a week for 1.5 hours per session. He divides it by having one morning session at work and one evening session at our house. I wouldn't say that Jon looks forward to his lessons each week, but he's definitely improving so they are well worth the time.

I work with Irene Samowerskyj (no, that extra "j" is not a typo) three times a week for three hours each. We meet at my apartment, which I was nervous about at first (do I serve food, what if the phone rings, do I want to be with a stranger in my dining room 9 hours a week?!) but she is comfortable, casual and extremely nice. She is a great teacher, and insanely good at languages. She is from Ukraine and speaks Ukrainian, but she also speaks perfect English and she has lived in Argentina for almost her entire life so her daily language is Castellano. Aside from being a great teacher, Irene works as a "host" for tourists that need help translating during their site-seeing. She goes with people shopping or on tours to help them get the most out of their time in the city and ease the language barrier during their stay. She has helped me with muchas mas cosas (many more things - see, I'm getting better!) than a tutor would normally do. Some examples - Dr appointments, retrieving voice mail messages from my Spanish-speaking cellphone, explaining the grocery store checkout line, arranging for newspaper delivery like our new weekly paper, Clarin.

I think it's safe to say that we are both pleased with our lessons, teachers and progress so far. I still get insanely frustrated when I am not able to communicate something, which is a lot of the time, but I'm learning to deal. And we've gotten really good at sign language. If nothing else, it has created something in my and Jon's relationship that we haven't ever experienced before. It's a constant struggle, but you feel each others pain. I mean, what's more bonding than looking stupid in front of each other, then being able to laugh about it later?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


We finally tried Broccolino, a restaurant that was recommended to me before we even left the US. This restaurant is interestingly split into two sections, I'm not sure what the difference is, but we went to the location closer to Cordoba. It looked as though the servers were walking between the two locations, they are literally 2 doors away from each other. The red table-clothed tables make the restaurant look great, but they are so close together we actually had to move the table to get our legs underneath. Broccolino has a huge Italian menu to choose from, the recommendation given to me was for the calamari, so I knew we were ordering that for sure. They have 2 calamari options on the menu, regular calamari fritti and calamari Broccolino. We went for the Broccolino and were not disappointed. The dish was battered and fried calamari that was then sauteed in a white wine and shallot sauce. It was delicious.

For entrees, a full two pages of the menu offers your choice of dry or fresh pasta with a number of different sauces and ingredient options. Our table ordered all pasta; I had a tomato sauce dish with olives, artichokes and capers, someone else ordered lasagna and then two people ordered the a spicy pasta dish. We laugh because it's very rare to find a spicy dish here, and not only was it on the menu but they brought a sauce to make the dish "mas picante" if we wanted.

The meal was great, we all really enjoyed the restaurant and will definitely be back. Great recommendation.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dog Sitting

That's right. Dog sitting. A real dog. For a week. I can almost hear the combined gasps, then laughter, from everyone that knows Jon. For those that don't, my husband is not what you would call a "dog person". Nor is he someone that you would call a "pet person". He is into low maintenance items in our house, it is even a struggle sometimes to get him to agree to plants. So when our friends were headed to a tropical vacation in Brazil and called us a couple nights before they were going to fly out to see if we could watch the pup, I was as shocked as you are that Jon agreed. Even though I insist that at some point in our lives we will have a dog, I concede that it is really hard to have a dog in an apartment. I have actually underestimated how difficult this is. We live on the 4th floor of our building and across a 6 lane road from a park, so it is quite a production to take a dog out for a walk.

In comes Katie, a 3-year old tiny little poodle-type dog, to live with us for a week. She is a pleasant little pup that is content to hang out with you all day. She does a good job of telling you when she needs to go out and is easy to walk once she's outside. Her likes: food, the couch, walks, barking, Sham-Wow (for some reason she loves to lay on a folded Sham-Wow). Dislikes: being alone, the elevator in our building, loud noises.

Although the week has been fun, I don't think it has converted Jon into a dog person. It has also taught me that getting a dog will have to wait until after we own a home with a yard, this apartment-pet thing is for the birds.