jueves, 27 de mayo de 2010

Bicentenario de Argentina

For the past week Capital Federal has been filled with Argentine flags and colors (sky blue and white) to celebrate the country's 200th birthday. I have never seen so many flags in my life! I had no idea that I would be here for such a big event, but here I am. We had a long weekend so I took advantage of it and went out with my friends every night of the weekend, which in turn left me with another head cold (which has turned into a cough now, but I'm taking care of myself this weekend...).

The two above pictures were taken by Carmen (the lovely Resident Director of API in Buenos Aires), and I took them from her facebook... but they are excellent photos of the flags hanging from every balcony in Plaza de Mayo.

For the second time in the weekend, I made my way to Ave. 9 de Julio for the festivities. This night, Monday May 24, however, the celebrations were for the Bicentenario AND the re-opening of the Teatro Colón! This theatre is world famous for it's operas and orchestra performances. It's been closed for renovation for god-knows-how-long, but it is finally open and good to go =)

As you can see, there are ridiculous amounts of people that attended the event (I'm standing on a patch of mud that everyone except me and Kelly refused to stand on)

They showed videos projected onto the wall of the Teatro Colón, like performances from the past and good memories. But, and maybe it's just because I was stuck behind a tree that blocked my view the whole time, I was rather disappointed with the event. I heard there was going to be a live performance, and I don't believe there was any such performance. The projections lasted for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, and then the people dispersed. Nevertheless, it was worth going, to witness such a big event. And to take this awesome picture of me in front of the fresh face of Teatro Colón with thousands of Argentines behind me!

I didn't even attempt to go back to the Obelisk on May 25, the actual day of the Anniversary, it would have been way too crazy. Instead, I stayed at home and made some delicious rice, pasta, and pancakes for dessert and watched some movies. Obviously I must have been the only person in Capital Federal that stayed home.

I have never heard such silence in this city.

martes, 25 de mayo de 2010

Birthdays, Birthdays, Birthdays!

Susana (my "cousin", from Colombia), me, and Kelly at Gecko

This entire weekend has been one birthday celebration after another. Last Friday, a couple days ago, Kelly and I baked a tarta de acelga, and head out for the night of birthday celebrations for Schiller and Martin. First we went to Palermo Hollywood to meet up with Schiller and some of the Colombians for his birthday bash at Gecko Hostel. Like I mentioned in my reemergence entry, Schiller was the first guy at the hostel to say hello to me, and that always meant a lot to me. We danced a little salsa and shared some beer, but since Kelly and I had already said we'd be at another birthday, we headed out early. Any other night I would have stayed with him and all of them for some more Colombian fun, but we went over to Polite to celebrate Martin's birthday.

Fede (a new one), Martin (straightened his hair!), Kelly, Santiago, and me in front

I met Martin through Fede M., pictured below. I met Fede last June when I first got here, he was the first Argentine boy I met, and I'm actually quite surprised that we still talk. We went on a couple "dates", and left the friendship at messaging online. Through him I met Santiago, Martin, and others that are not mentioned in this entry. For months and months I wanted to add Martin and Santiago to facebook or something, because they are some really cool guys, and finally I had the guts to just do it... I added Santiago, 7 months later (and through Santiago I met his sister Agustina who is a complete angel and let me live with her for a couple days when I got kicked out of my house).

After not seeing him for months, i finally saw Fede again!

We tried to take a decent picture with smiles buuuuut I guess we're just not photogenic when in the same frame. Taking some goofy pictures seemed to work, however, and this is what I have to share. He is so tall, oh man. I don't know if I shrank or if he grew, but I don't remember him being so tall! Also this picture does no justice, this picture makes him look old, and he's not at all, he's younger than me actually... he's 21, and I'm 22. We drank and danced until really late, and Kelly and I decided to leave. Fede seemed like he was leaving too, but ended up staying. I said goodbye to Martin and Fede and went home with Kelly.

The New Kids, on the opposite side of the table (the ones facing the camera)

I stayed at Kelly's and when I woke up I had to go to the API office to meet the new students! Besides Carmen's first group of summer students last year, I have met every single group of API Buenos Aires students since the program opened. I feel so old.. it's only been one year, but with people coming and going constantly I can't help it.

Later, I spent all Saturday night with Agustina, Santiago's sister. She's my buddy man... I love her. We went to Gibraltar bar in San Telmo and I was reunited with Patricio, Lucas, and some others that I had met a couple months ago. I was afraid it might be weird and maybe we wouldn't have anything to talk about but it was great. I always have a great time talking with Patricio. After a few hours at Gibraltar we went to Red Door until it closed, I think that was at 6:00am, and then we went to Julio Bar. I didn't like Julio Bar that much, but being super tired didn't help much. I laid my head down on the table until they decided to go. Agustina invited me to sleep at her place and have some leftover food when we woke up. I took up that offer and we took a cab to her place and crashed until 5:30 in the afternoon the next day, Sunday.

This whole weekend has been exactly what I needed. It is one gigantic party. This isn't because I'm irresponsible or anything, but May 25, today, is Argentina's 200th birthday!

Google Argentina has this cute celebratory image for the Bicentenario

How lucky have I been this year? Celebrating the Bicentenario de Argentina... and I got to see all these amazing bands in concert, one of which is Metallica, who canceled shows in Buenos Aires for 10 years and this year FINALLY came back. after 10 years! and I was here for it. I was here when  Juan Martín del Potro won the US Tennis Championship, and ranked 4th best tennis player in the entire world. Also, I wouldn't call it luck, exactly, but I experienced the freak floods of summer 2010 that never usually happen. I went with my host mom last spring to vote for the next Argentine President...

So much happens in a year.

I will go into further detail about the Bientenario in my next post.
Chau chau!


PS - you can click on the images and look at the full size version, I recently discovered this!


sábado, 22 de mayo de 2010

Bariloche! part 3

Last day of our Bariloche vacation. We had free time until 1pm, so we went through the civic center plaza and over to Mamuschka again.

On the way I finally got a picture with the Bambi alfajor shop =)

After chocolate shopping and rushing to get our belongings into the van for the last tours and drop off at the airport. We drove over towards Hotel Llao Llao and learned why it's called Llao Llao: it's named after a type of sweet forest mushroom, the llao llao, that the native mapuche people used to collect and eat. Before we got to the hotel though, we spontaneously decided to take the chair lift up this mountain for a view that was declared one of the top 5 or 10 most beautiful views in the world in the 1989 National Geographic magazine.

It is pretty beautiful. So much nature all at once, it's lakes and trees weaving in and out of each other. It was really amazing, and on such a perfect sunny day too!

After the chair lift experience, we hopped on over to a view of Hotel Llao Llao and the white mountain on the right. I do believe that is part of the Andes, and it is so tall and so far away, that's why it has snow on it. I imagine this is how Switzerland is... a German friend of mine that my dad and I ran into in San Junín de los Andes back in December even said that the 7 Lakes region reminded him a lot of Switzerland. I'd like to go to Switzerland someday, but first I gotta finish up with Argentina ;)

This is the last of the pictures for Bariloche. We went to the airport after seeing Hotel Llao Llao, and slept all the way there. I have to say that this was my favorite trip by far. I loved the Arrayán tree forest, the Chair Lift view (that I probably never would have chosen to do on my own), and the heavy dose of nature and break from the city. This city is starting to drive me a little bit crazy... I am getting quite homesick, and struggling in keeping myself in the present, living in the moment rather than thinking about the future and returning home to Alaska.

In other news, this Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 is the 200th Anniversary of Argentina's Countryhood!! How lucky am I to be here for this kind of celebration?? Tuesday is also the re-opening of the Teatro Colón! It's been closed for a year or more for remodeling and it is finally opening back up. On Monday there will be a free open-air festival outside of it, and they're going to project pictures and stuff on the entire wall of the Teatro Colón. Or so I hear. We'll see, and I'll let you all know how it was... ;)

So... last night I went to a friend's birthday bash at a bar. I'll tell that story next.

jueves, 20 de mayo de 2010

Bariloche! part 2

Moving on to day 2 of API's trip to Bariloche. We had steak and fries for dinner the night before, and had a good rest. We piled into the tour van (private tour, by the way), and we started driving out of Bariloche to get to San Martín de los Andes. On the way we stopped at Villa la Angostura, and various pitstops that are good viewpoints for the 7 Lakes of the region (that's why this region is famous, it's the drive through los 7 Lagos).

These are some fall trees in Villa la Angostura. All the leaves were changing, it was beautiful. I also bought a new mate. As a reminder, a mate is a round cup you drink yerba mate from. A cat in my old house broke my mini mug from Uruguay, so I was looking for the perfect replacement. It is ceramic glazed green, and has a small piece of driftwood from one of the lakes incorporated on the side. I love it!

The drive was peaceful, until we got a flat tire. While Hernán (our tour guide) was changing the tire we all had mini photo shoots in the road. My favorite shot was the mist shot..

The frost was evaporating with the morning sun, hence the mist. Of course I'm in a dorky poncho and rasta tam... also I don't know how to pose like a badass in the mist. My bad, but I still love the foto =)

We got to San Martín de los Andes, and headed out to eat some lunch. We ate at this really good place, recommended by a local, and then to Plaza Centenario for some down time. It had this fountain in the center, and I took some goofy pictures with the rose garden...

aaaahahhahha I can't take myself seriously.

The drive back was just as beautiful as the drive there, the moon was hovering over the mountains and after trying to get a good shot of it through the bare spots of trees on the side of the road, I got the perfect one...

We got back to Bariloche and went shopping. FOR CHOCOLATE! 

 Mamuschka Chocolate is one of the best chocolate producers in Argentina. Like I mentioned earlier, Bariloche was founded by Swiss immigrants, so that's where all the chocolate, fondue, waffles, and swiss architecture come from.  I got some chocolate for myself and for the colombians, and by the time we walked back to the hotel it was already time for dinner. We opted for Fondue. I had never had fondue before and was really excited to finally try it.

So we accidentily ordered non-cheese fondue. Well, it was basically a hot soup with the fire underneath and you cook the raw chicken and steak in it, then eat it with the sauces that are on the left in the picture. It was delicious, don't get me wrong, but we were expecting some cheese. We ordered the cheese fondue and had both of them between the 5 of us. It was surprisingly filling. 

Later that night we went to this pub to have some drinks and watch this band that was going to play live at midnight. They're called Rola Gitana and they were amazing! I bought their CD (splitting the price with Tarah, I loaded the songs to my computer and gave the CD to her). Their music is described as Rumba Flamenco. It was a great time. Afterwards we went to another pub which was okay for a while, but I wanted to head to bed so I left and everyone else continued the night out. I watched El Mariachi in the hotel room, in Spanish, and went to sleep. I find it kind of ironic that a movie called El Mariachi had to be dubbed in Spanish, kind of funny.

End of day two. I have to go write some papers and have dinner with Kelly. We're going to a parrilla for some asado (basically going to a steakhouse for some meat meat meat!). Man I'm gonna miss this delicious Argentine meat...

miércoles, 19 de mayo de 2010

Bariloche! part 1

So I'm in a blog-writing kick. Only because I don't want to write 2 one page summaries of the in-depth grammar chapters for Friday... but I will get them done. I took a midterm this morning and I feel like I rocked it. I also found out I got an 8 (out of 10) on my History midterm, go me! That's an A in North American terms.

So here it goes.. BARILOCHE, Argentina! part 1 of 3.  I went there in December with my dad and had a great time, not to mention that we spent over 200 pesos on chocolate (that's about 45 USD), we got a lot of it too.

The night before I left I had packed for Bariloche and went to Kelly's place for a good time with good people. After everyone else left Kelly, Lentejas and I were left. We danced salsa and shared music all night. Then in the morning they made me pancakes and sent me on my way to Bariloche =)

The first thing we did was drop our stuff off at the Hotel and headed to the dock for a tour of Victoria Island!!!! I really wanted to go when my dad and I were here but we didn't have time, we also didn't know how to get to Victoria Island...

fantastic collage made at BigHugeLabs.com

Where we saw the Bambi Trees! These trees are called the Arrayanes, and they only grow South America, and the only place in the world where there is a group of them that can be called a forest is here on Victoria Island. They are this rich orange cinnamon color, really pretty. Of course the pictures do not bring out the full effect of their color. I touched one and it was unusually cold... The lack of rough bark leaving a smooth surface must make it susceptible to being really freakishly cold for a tree. I call them the Bambi trees because it's said that Walt Disney and his crew visited the island and got so inspired by the trees that they used them for the scenery in the movie Bambi. I watched it to see for myself... and I believe it.

After this side of la Isla Victoria we went to another part where they had artificial tree forests, with sequoias and other very tall trees.

 They were all so tall and straight, fighting for sunlight. The few that were leaning sideways and about to fall had numbers on them (there's one on the left). Death sentence numbers. The birds don't like these trees because they're foreign, and they know it. Therefore it is totally silent, not a sound can be heard there. It's rather creepy, but cool. 

On a lighter note, the entrance to the forest has a beautiful cut log tiling going on. I couldn't help but take a picture of it... We then went back to the hotel and decided on what to do for dinner. We went to a parrilla (grill house) down the road and stuffed ourselves with tender Argentine steak and french fries. It was delicious after such a long touristic day.

Fin Part 1.

martes, 18 de mayo de 2010

Mendoza! part 2

The last bits about my trip to Mendoza.
After the last night with Juan, Lucas, and Negro up at the hostel in Potrerillos, we woke up early and headed back to Mendoza to make a wine tasting tour that we had booked for 2:00pm. We barely made the bus, but we made it and took a long windy way back to the city. We had to find a new hostel to stay at since our reservations fell through at Huellas Andinas, but we found one just in time to lock up our stuff and rush over to the bus to get going on the wine tours.

 It was a beautiful drive there, with the Andes Mountains next to us covered in snow. When we got to the first one we were given a spiel on the process of making wine.

They squeeze the juice out of grapes that were picked at the perfect time of day to maintain sugar and acid levels. With this machine they separate the solid grape parts (sometimes including the stem) from the juice and use the solids for the wine making process. They either let the naturally present yeasts to ferment it into wine or mix in some cultured yeasts. 

It ferments in a metal vat at a cool temperature in a humid environment for 3-4 weeks, and then it is transferred to oak barrels for aging (9 months - 3 years depending on the desired quality).

The flavors from the oak wood become part of the wine the longer it sits to age. Less aging time yields a more fruity flavor, more time a more smooth, oak flavor. 

Then it is transferred into bottles and aged more, and sold. This is the general gist. We went to two different red wine wineries (which was good because what I didn't understand in the first tour got answered in the second tour).

Then we went to an Olive Oil plant. No one expected that, but it was fun. Not only did we get 2 wine tastings in the day, we got some olive oil samples. TO TOP IT OFF, we finished the tour with a bonus trip to an artesenal liquor shop. We got to sample any of the liquors or alcohols they produced, one of which included..  ABSINTHE!

I chose to sample absinthe 

because it is illegal in the USA and when else am I going to be able to? The guy lit some absinthe-soaked sugar on fire (the blue glow on the spoon), then mixed it into the mini-shot.

 Supposedly you see green fairies if you drink this stuff. 
I did not (only because I didn't have enough, I think ;) )

Let me tell you.. this stuff is strange. It burns, but it's not a painful burn. It's like drinking heat, and it traces your insides as it goes down. I couldn't do the shot all at once, I actually sipped on it til it was all gone.. I imagine that this is a much more torturous way to finish a shot of absinthe, but I also didn't want to brave it and end up puking all over the floor.

That night we had plans to see this musician live at a bar called Leyenda. He was amazing!! He sings in English and Spanish and has been traveling around doing what he loves since he was 15. What a life. You can't really do that anymore unless you really have talent, and this guy has it in the bag. After his show Katelyn, Wade, and I ended up hanging out with him and his manager. We all went to a bar on the sketchier side of town and drank until dawn, it was a great time. Eventually we said our thank yous and goodbyes, and hailed a taxi to make it back to our hostel, where we slept til late.

Our last day of the trip... we woke up late and wandered around wondering what we should fit in before our bus departure at 7:30.

We went to the main plaza and looked at all the artisan stuff being sold, and KateLyn decided to get another dreadlock. Meanwhile, I went to another hippie guy and bought a customized ring for my oldest dreadlock. It's a macrame-style strip about an inch long made of green, white, and black floss. it's great, I love it.

After this we headed to the fountain at the center of the plaza and parted ways. I laid down and accidentily fell asleep. They came and woke me up and we went to the hostel to gather our things, and went to the bus station. And so ends my trip to Mendoza!

Stay tuned, next up is my trip to Bariloche with API!

domingo, 16 de mayo de 2010

Mendoza! part 1

At last, an entry on my trip to Mendoza, Argentina. It's been a couple months since I went, but I figure this way I can share the best of the best: what I remember. I will make two entries, this one covers the first 3 days. (Sorry if the formatting is wonky, it is aligned on my computer but may be shifted on other screens...)

Mendoza is one of the top 5 wine producers in the world, and many brands from the cute little town next to the Andes have won Worldwide Gold Medals. I left Buenos Aires on Sunday evening, February 28, and met up with KateLyn and Wade at the bus terminal when I arrived the next day, Monday March 1.

<-- Aqueducts in the roads help with the irrigation for the vineyards just outside of the city, as well as the humidity needed to ensure high quality fermentation

We walked to the hostel, Hostel Huellas Andinas (Andian Footprints), and left our stuff locked up in the cupboard, and then went for a stroll. Mendoza is actually really small... You can walk around it in a few hours. We just got to know the city a little bit and sat and talked with the hostel staff for the rest of the night. All in Spanish of course.

 We prepared a giant delicious salad with avocado, green lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and had some cheese, salami, and crackers on the side.

After dinner we had some fun with the workers at the hostel. Negro (yes, that's his name) gave KateLyn her first dreadlock! we stayed up late talking and having fun with good people.

On Tuesday we went to this reptile/marine 
museum and saw lots of cool animals and 
shell exhibits

psst- he's telling me that he secretly hates living in a tank that is barely 10x his body length. 
poor guy.


If these aren't proof that dinosaurs existed, I don't know what is.

After the aquatic museum we decided that we needed to take up that opportunity to go to the sister hostel in the mountains: in Potrerillos, Argentina.

After wandering on the long road in the middle of nowhere trying to find the hostel itself, we eventually found it and were greeted by Lucas (the guy with the striped jacket protecting his beer). 

We just hung out there planning the next day: trecking, repelling, and kayaking! and dinner... We made Ravioli with tomato sauce, and there was soooo much of it. It was delicious, and we were starting to feel at home.


The next day we got up around 9am or 10am and packed 7 of us in a tiny 4-passenger car and drove up to the trekking spot. It was a relaxing hike through the hills, with views of the Andes around us, and rock surfaces.

KateLyn and I forgot to put on sunscreen. We got very sunburned throughout the day.. haha

We took silly pictures in Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley). There are several "Valle de la Luna"s in South America, and they get their name for the minerals on the ground that reflect the moonlight and makes the ground look like the moon's surface.

We hiked to this rock face and we Repelled down a cute little rock crevice.

We continued on our way back to the drop-off point and headed to the hostel for some lunch. Then went and did kayaking (I don't have any pictures, it was just safer to leave my camera on shore you know ;)  ).

Kayaking was really fun. Much more enjoyable than the canoing in Ushuaia ( never got to write about that trip, but in a nutshell, we went on a 4 hour hike through mud expecting a 1.5 hour hike on trails, had a lunch, then canoed against the wind for about 2 miles. Needless to say, we were miserable on the canoe trip. The apathetic "guide" that said "I dunno, where you want" whenever we asked where to canoe towards just made things worse [the end-point, in fact, was about 2 miles against the wind and around an island]). 
This kayaking trip, however, was well guided, on a sunny day, not to mention that kayaking is just more fun to row with than canoeing in general. I can't wait to get into kayaking in Alaska when I get back =)

When we got back to the hostel after kayaking we hung around and planned our dinner: another fantastic salad. Meanhile, a guy named Juan was making homemade pasta from scratch. He was rather drunk the night before and promised to make it the next night, and no one believed he would fulfill that because.. well.. he was drunk. HOWEVER he surprised us all and everyone took pictures of his gigantic mound of artison pasta.

This day was probably my favorite day of the trip. We got to see lots of nature, got some sun[burn], and met a lot of awesome travelers. This hostel in the mountains is a pretty happenin place, with the right mix of people. There was a girl, Claire, from Colorado, USA traveling around South America with no real plans... and a Danish kid named Koon, among others. Also, Negro from the Mendoza hostel traveled up and brought a sound and light system. It was kind of strange, but it was also so cool!              

And this concludes installment 1 of my trip to Mendoza in March.