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July 2001

Feria de Mataderos

Wednesday July 4thOlga sent us on our own to see an apartment in the financial district.  She didn’t think we’d like the neighborhood, but wanted us to see it because of it’s architecture.  Our current apartment is very comfortable, however, I would like just a little bit more room for when we have company over.  In our current apartment the dining room and living room are combined into one room which is fine for just the two of us, but when we have company over for dinner I need to rearrange the living room sofas and move the TV into the bedroom so that we have enough room to entertain.  Also, our dining room table doesn’t expand so it really limits us to sit down dinners for 6.  I’d really like just a little bit more space to accommodate bigger get togethers and parties.  This apartment was in an older building and it was magnificent.  As you entered there was an ancient, but well maintained, open birdcage “Otis” elevator.  It was SOOOO cool with lots of highly polished brass fittings and beautiful oak wood inside, just incredible.  As the elevator ascended, a beautiful marble staircase circled it on it’s way up.  Each apartment covered an entire floor, so as we entered the apartment you could see rooms going off in all directions, with light coming in from every angle.  The apartment had wonderful architecture, high ceilings, wooden floors, great crown molding, but only a miniscule “balcony” which was really just big windows that opened out, and it was on a busy road which made it pretty noisy when you opened up the windows.  Being in the financial district, the neighborhood would be empty at night as most of the shops and restaurants close up there at night because there’s not a lot of residences there.  If I could pick up the apartment and put it in our current neighborhood, I’d consider buying it, but being where it was it just wasn’t what we’re looking for.

We’re both extremely picky about the place we live and deciding to buy a place in an uncertain economy doesn’t give us the “warm and fuzzys”, I’m sure when we find the perfect apartment it will be apparent from the second we step through the door.

Thursday July 5th – I had emailed Ignacio, who is our landlady’s son, about our intentions of buying an apartment.  When we first moved in we had given them a 2 months security deposit and in addition, since we didn’t have a company sponsoring us as a “guarantor”, they wanted a substantial additional amount to act as our “guarantor”.  Since we’re considering buying an apartment, we wanted to hold back some of our monthly rent payments to “buy down” the “guarantor” funds.  Ignacio came over to talk about how we could amicably break our lease and what some of our options would be.  He also said that possibly we could buy our current apartment from them if we wanted.  This was kind of a surprise to us as Ignacio’s mother had previously said she’d never sell the apartment because she liked it so much.  Ignacio called a local realtor down the block to have them come over and give us an estimate on the value of the apartment.  Before he could barely hang up the phone the realtor showed up.  Ignacio told a little fib that we were leaving Buenos Aires and going back to the U.S.A. and he wanted to sell the apartment.  She walked around and checked out all the rooms and gave him a quote on what she thought it was worth, all in Spanish of course, with the rapid way they talked we couldn’t understand hardly anything they were discussing.  When the realtor left, we waited until we heard the elevator “CURCHUNK” downstairs in the lobby before he told us what she said, just to make sure she didn’t overhear us talking about buying the apartment.  She suggested a starting price and if it didn’t sell in a little while, he could lower it.  The price seemed fairly reasonable, but of course since it appears almost the entire city is on sale, we want to see what else is available before making any decisions.

Friday July 6thOur friend Dee called regarding our dinner party for the next night just as we were finishing dinner.  Ron and I had a bottle of wine with dinner so we were feeling the pleasant effects of the wine and were in a good mood.  The phone rang and we’ve learned to answer the phone in English, “Hello, this is Pete”, this way if it’s a wrong number (usually the only calls we get) they hang up immediately.  So, not knowing who was calling us, Ron was feeling in a frisky mood and answered the phone in Japanese, “Mushi Mushi Anone”.  There was a long silence and Ron was about to hangup when Dee meekly said, “Hello, is this Ron and Pete’s place?”  Ron started cracking up laughing and explained to Dee why he was answering that way.  Dee, like us, is also taking Spanish classes, and she said that she thought that Ron was speaking Spanish and was trying to figure what kind of crazy conjugation “Mushi Mushi Anone” was.  Ron was cackling like a school boy who just pulled a good prank on someone.

Saturday July 7thWe invited some friends over a dinner party so Ron and I were merrily cleaning the house.  Ron’s too damn cheap to hire a maid even though you can get one for $5 an hour here.  Of course, in order to do housework, I was decked out with my portable CD player, listening to Patsy Cline as I dusted and vacuumed.

I suddenly realized that today was the 1 year anniversary of quitting my job at Xerox.  This hit me like a ton of bricks, time goes by much too quickly!  Can't believe I've been unemployed an entire year.  My parents taught us to be very independent and never gave us an allowance so our entire family learned a good work ethic.  I lied about my age when I was 8 in order to get a paper route to earn money (you were supposed to be 10) and I’ve been working ever since.  Sometimes I wonder if my work skills are going to become obsolete because I’m not in the work force, but of course Ron is the one who always says, WHO CARES???  Easy for him to say, he's retired, with the age difference between us, it's just a little weird because I feel like we're at different stages of our lives.  Sometimes I wonder, "What the hell am I doing?"  Other times, I'm like, "This is the best experience of my life!"  Don't get me wrong, I love it here and we're having the time of our lives.  I guess it's just human nature to contemplate your navel and wonder what is life all about anyways!  Our trips to Europe are what started our desire to change our lives, to see more of what the world and life is all about.  America is a beautiful country, but it isn't the entire world and it's not how 99.2% of the people of this world live.  Besides, it's so cheap here, I don't think we could afford to live ANYWHERE in California anymore.  A freshly baked loaf of French bread here is 25 cents, TWENTY FIVE CENTS!!!!!!!!!!  We bought 8 media lunas (croissants) for $1.50 for breakfast.  I don't know how they do it and still make a profit.  Our health care cost less then 1/2 what it would be in the USA, and we bought the most expensive health care at the most prestigious hospital.  Full coverage for me is $114 a month and for Ron its $230 a month.  The coverage is like an HMO, it covers everything but eye glasses.  In the USA they wanted $388 a month for me to continue my HMO that I had with Xerox through COBRA.  I choked when I saw that price.  Did I mention half a kilo of fresh pasta from our favorite pasta store across the street is $2.40.  I put pesto on it or buy their tomato sauce in a little container and with some 25 cent French bread I make garlic bread and with some cheap Argentinean wine we are in HEAVEN!  Life is good!

What is wrong with this picture?  Why is the richest, most prosperous country on Earth so expensive people have to move somewhere else in order to afford to live? 

Oh well, back to listening to Patsy complain about the guy who dumped her, perfect music for house cleaning!

Our guests showed up around 8pm for appetizers and wine, Gary and Colleen are friends we met through the BANewcomers email list for expatriates, we also invited Ignacio and another expatriate friend Dee.  Dee had only been to our apartment once before so when she arrived she couldn’t remember which apartment to ring, she kept trying buttons she thought were correct till she finally came across ours.  Our apartment is #5 but we’re on the 2nd floor.  I opened the door of the apartment for her and could hear the elevator go up and then stop on the floor below.  I tried to call down to her through the little window in the elevator door, but then I heard our neighbor Yaan answer his door below and direct her up one more floor!  Dee finally made it and our little dinner party was complete.  Needless to say we had a great time.  I made one of my old standards for dinner, Thai Chicken, which is always a crowd pleaser and Ron made a fruit torte for dessert.

Monday July 9thToday, Nueve de julio, is Argentina’s independence day.  Karin, who runs the expatriate email community list that I’m on is married to an Argentine and he put together a great document on Nueve de julio to help explain to us it’s importance.  Unfortunately because of the current economic situation the government has canceled all parades or events to commemorate the event, that’s really a shame.

We went to the supermarket to get some chicken for dinner.  As usual, one whole wall of the meat department was filled with high quality, inexpensive beef.  There were 2 lonely chickens at the end of the counter, priced more expensively then filet mignon.  I really only wanted a couple of chicken thighs to cook for dinner so we decided to go to one of the butcher shops that is right around the corner to the supermarket.  We entered the small shop, said, “Buenos tardes” and then tried to explain what we wanted.  This included our usual charades and mimicry as we point to our thighs and I say, “Queiro solemente este parte”.  The butcher pulled a chicken out of the refrigerated counter, raised a cleaver that looks like it weighed about 4 pounds and we both jumped and took a step back at the loud WHACK!  WHACK!  WHACK!  as he quickly chopped the poor thing up with surgical precision.  I was both impressed at his swiftness and precision and worried that I may say something to offend this guy.  I would not want to piss someone off who knows how to wield a cleaver like that!  If he shoved the whole dissected chicken into a bag and gave it to me I’d have thanked him, paid him, and quickly left.  Of course, he understood me perfectly and only wrapped up 4 plump chicken thighs for us.

Thursday Jul 12thAfter almost 10 months of living here we are considering buying an apartment here, you can get a very nice 2 or 3 bedroom apartment in the nicest, safest, most elegant part of the city for less then $150K.  Try and find a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment in the best parts of San Francisco or New York for less then $150K.  Even  though they're in a recession and apartments are a good deal right now, we're still unsure if it's wise to buy.  There are daily newspaper articles about Argentina's debt and what might happen if they default.  There is talk of devaluing the peso to be based on a mixture of the US dollar and the Euro, and then there's the whole legal issue of owning property.  We've heard the courts are very much on the side of the tenant, so if we decided to rent it out in a few years and we get some renters in there who don't pay the rent, we heard it can take years to get them out.  Also, our money is invested in the stock market right now and like the rest of the markets, our stocks are pretty stagnant and priced depressed right now.  To buy an apartment we will need to sell some stock so we’re not that eager to jump right now while it’s low. 

But this does seem to be a good time to buy, there are “Vende” signs everywhere which include some prestigious streets that never have “Vende” signs on them.  We’ve really fallen in love with our current neighborhood and would like to stay within a few block radius of where we are now.  Every day we walk by an apartment on Rodriguez Peña that is for sale, ½ a block from our current apartment that has a huge balcony and is facing north for great sunny exposure.  I called the agent and setup a time to go see it.  We met the agent at the front agent and went up to see the apartment.  It turned out to be HUGE, way more space then we want.  But besides being too large, the building is pretty modern and it just wasn’t very interesting architecturally.  There was a great sun deck area with a parrilla barbeque and a swimming pool on the roof.  Although the deck and pool looks great, the reality of a swimming pool is that they are costly to maintain and just makes your monthly expenses higher.  I’m glad we saw it though but the apartment just wasn’t for us.

Friday July 13thIn Spanish class we were learning the use of the words “tuyo” and “suyo” which basically mean “yours” in the familiar and formal tenses.  The previous day at the gym I noticed a sign that I had seen every day, however, I didn’t notice the phrase under the name of the gym.  It read, “Siempre hay uno cerca tuyo”, which literally translates to “Always there is one near yours”.  I asked my profesora about this and she said that the sign was grammatically incorrect, she said you see occurrences all the time of bad Spanish.  She was very proud of me that I noticed the incorrect sign and I earned a gold star that day!

I happened to mention o her that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day in the U.S.A.  She said that Tuesday the 13th is their unlucky day and the horror movies called “Friday the 13th” were renamed “Tuesday the 13th” in Argentina.  I asked her why Tuesday the 13th is their unlucky day and she asked me why Friday the 13th is an unlucky day in the U.S.A.  Neither of us could answer that one.

Monday July 16thWe really haven't started with our business yet or tutoring.  Every time we try and get our legal residency status we get all depressed because of all the legal paperwork hassles.  Argentines love bureaucracy, they even have a word for going through a long, bureaucratic paperwork process, trámite.  We were talking with the director at our Berlitz school, Horacio, about our problems obtaining residency and trying to get our DNI number (which is like a social security number in the U.S.A., you need it for EVERYTHING here).  He offered to go with us to the immigration office and try and help us obtain residency, possibly by first obtaining a student residency visa based on us attending Berlitz.  We drove to the building and weren’t sure where to go, Horacio asked several people for directions until we finally found the building.  He said he had to go through the same process 25 years before when his family immigrated and he couldn’t remember exactly where it was, not a big surprise!  He said it had taken them months to get their residency status and I hoped the process has improved slightly over the last 25 years.  We had to take a number at the gate outside the building, then when we went to enter the building the security guard wouldn’t let Horacio enter with us.  I was disappointed because I knew it wouldn’t be easy to explain our situation to someone who probably only spoke Spanish, and then to understand what they would tell us in return.  Luckily, Horacio explained our lack of language skills to the guard and he let all 3 of us in.  Whew!  We didn’t wait long till our number was called and Horacio explained our situation to the clerk at the desk, many questions and answers flew in the next few minutes as he tried to understand that steps required to proceed.  The conversation came to and end and Horacio said that we need to go to another immigration office to get the proper paperwork to proceed.  He said the next building is where they waited in a line for 4 days before they could even TALK to someone.  Great!  We took a taxi to the other building and luckily it wasn’t that crowded.  As we were waiting in line, you just can’t help but be overwhelmed by all the processes and paperwork that is required.  I would guess that it is just as bad to try and get residency in the U.S.A. for non-residents, but that didn’t make me feel any better.  I also wondered how many people have walked through the doors of this VERY old building, waited in a line such as this one, hoping that they can get through the process and make a better life for their family.  I felt like a very small cog in a VERY big wheel.

It wasn’t long before we were standing in front of another government official.  Like the previous government building, the workers seemed very young, hopefully they wouldn’t be strict on us.  Unfortunately, the woman spoke in the terse, cold, unemotional, detached way that seems to be a prerequisite to work with any government agency.  I guess it’s part of the job, they probably hear every story imaginable from people trying to use, abuse, circumvent or take advantage of the system.  She repeated to Horacio what we’ve previously learned, we have 3 options to obtain residency, the easiest is if an “employer” fills out a form that states they are employing us because they cannot find the same work skills from a resident, the second easiest way is to obtain a student visa through a university, unfortunately Betlitz doesn’t qualify because it’s not an accredited university.

We offered to buy Horacio some lunch and we sat down and had an interesting conversation with him, afterwards we hopped in a taxi to get back home.  The day was not wasted as we’ve validated that the steps we’ve taken in the past are still the necessary steps we need to obtain residency.  We’re not any closer now to obtaining residency, however, we’re aware of the steps that will need to be eventually taken.  Hope springs eternal!

Thursday July 19th – There was a scheduled general strike for today to protest the government cutting social security to the retired workers and the salaries of government workers by 13%.  Because of the economic problems of the government, the I.M.F. is requiring the government to enact cost cutting measures before they will release any more loan monies.  It seems the government thought it more wise to lower social security benefits and cut the salaries of their lowest paid workers instead of touching the salaries of those in the highest paid government positions.  Resentment grows.  Our friend Colleen lives right next to the economy minister for Argentina, Domingo Cavallo.  She sent out an email that there was quite a big demonstration going on in front of his apartment and although it seemed peaceful, we should avoid visiting her neighborhood that day!

Went to see some apartments for sale with Olga, as we stepped outside our apartment it’s obvious there was a strike going on, the usual very noisy and bustling street outside our door was almost empty.  The first apartment had possibilities but was just too small.  Our current apartment is very comfortable, although I would like just a little bit more room for when we have company over.  In our current apartment the dining room and living room are combined into one area, which is fine for just the two of us, but when we have company over for dinner I need to rearrange the living room sofas and move the TV into the bedroom so that we have room around the dining room table.  Also, our dining room doesn’t expand so it really limits us to sit down dinners for 6.  I’d really like just a little more space to accommodate bigger dinner parties.  The first apartment we saw had a nice big patio but as I mentioned all the rooms were just a little too small.  The next apartment was quite large and the owners had stylized the walls and ceilings with cornices and crown molding that was VERY modern.  Although it looked cool, it would really limit the kind of decorative themes you could use in the apartment.  Besides the “look” of the apartment, there was water damage on many of the outside walls.  I pointed this out to Olga and she agreed that it’s a sign that the building wasn’t properly designed on the outside as it appears many of the outside walls were leaking.  The apartment was also on a busy street but they had put triple pane windows on the front windows to make it quiet, but you couldn’t open the windows in the summer time without hearing the street traffic.  The third apartment was on the next street over from our apartment.  We told Olga we really love our current area and want to stay close by, so we were pleased to look at this place.  As we were looking about, Ron says, “Look, isn’t that our apartment over there??”  Sure enough our apartment was facing the same central courtyard as the apartment we were looking at.  It was interesting to see our apartment from this angle.  I tried to see if I could see the cats sleeping on the bed in the bedroom, but it was just too far away.  However, I’m sure they were there, snoring away as they usually do. 

We’re both extremely picky about the place we live and deciding to buy a place in an uncertain economy doesn’t give us the “warm and fuzzys”, I’m sure when we find the perfect apartment it will be apparent from the second we step in the door.

Friday July 20thToday was “Día del Amigo” or “Day of the friend” where you go out and celebrate with good friends.  Kind of a cool idea, like a Valentine's day for friends.  Don't tell Hallmark about it or I'm sure you'll get a new holiday in the USA where you'll be forced to buy cards for all your friends.  As we left our Spanish class, our teacher said, “¡Felíz día del Amigo!”

Even though the winters are mild here our Spanish teachers constantly scold us for not wearing proper winter clothing to class.  It’s only a 6 block walk from our apartment and it feels nice, brisk and refreshing, but we get inside the school and they’re all bundled up in layers of sweaters and turtleneck shirts.  My God it’s only 50 degrees outside and they act like its February in Minnesota!  We’re still wearing our colorful short sleeved shirts to class.  Their taste in clothing here is lots of muted and dark earth tones, they don’t seem to do bright colors or prints.  Another cultural dilemma!  I love wild and colorful shirts and will always be spotted as an outsider, of course all I have to do is say one word in Spanish and all doubts about my origin will quickly be established anyways, so why give up my wild shirts?

Colleen and Gary invited us over to their house for dinner.  They have a wonderful apartment and they had invited some other friends.  Some of the people were just visiting for 2 weeks and it was fun to talk to them about their first impressions and experiences.  After dinner we played pool on their pool table in their living room.  Gary said he’s had this pool table since he was 16.  We walked back to our apartment at 1:30 am, it was a beautiful night and it was great to see the monuments and buildings all lit up along the huge Ave. Libertador.  As we neared the restaurant area along the Recoleta Cemetary we saw that the streets were packed with people, I couldn't believe it.  I’m not sure if it was because of the “Día del Amigo” or just that it was a Friday night.  Crazy Argentines!

Saturday July 21stWe went to an Argentines house for a birthday party.  We met Marcos and Agueda at the BANewComers informal happy hour at the Rutini wine bar a few weeks before.  We were thrilled that they asked us to their home and we took the train from the wonderfully gothic Retiro station to the Accusso stop 15 minutes away in the suburbs.  The neighborhood around the train station was very pleasant and relaxed, I can see why people live outside the city!  Marcos and Agueda greeted us and we gave her a small gift we had bought from a shop that sells crafts made by the indigenous Argentines.  They introduced us around and luckily a large percentage of the people spoke English.  I like to practice my Spanish in social situations, but it really limits my ability to communicate effectively.  Agueda’s parents were there and it’s so interesting to get a local perspective on what’s going on in Argentina, however, my opinion is that there appears to be NO consensus about what is happening or how it will turn out.  Everyone’s opinion is so varied.  Agueda’s father was saying that if you ask an Argentine their nationality, they’ll say, “Argentina” but then quickly say, “But my father is from Balón in Italy and my mother is from Seville in Spain”, in his own words he said that they don’t have a national identity.  Please note: the following is the opinion of the author and should be taken with a heaping tablespoon of salt!  The Argentines feel like they are Europeans just living here and that the government is responsible for the current economic situation, they don’t feel they are “part” of the solution or that there is anything they can do about.  He called themselves “defeatists” and I have to agree with his assessment.  I’ve often thought this myself but didn’t want to say it to an Argentine directly.  Speaking to young people who are either in the work force or trying to enter it, their opinion is that the outlook for the future is grim.  Of course, I’m a total outsider but their work ethic seems to come from the protectionists and the unions of the Peron era from 50 years ago.  You still often hear about the “rights of the workers” and then you hear them complain that companies expect them to work hard and not take additional personal or extra vacation days off.  The expectation is for a high paying job that you don’t have to work hard at and that you get a lot of personal time off.  Being a liberal democrat, but also an American with a strong work ethic, it’s kind of hard to keep my mouth shut sometimes.  I love asking Argentines how they think the country can get out of its current economic situation.  Until industries start growing and hiring people, how can the economy improve?  Cutting the meager payments to retired social security benefits and borrowing more money from the I.M.F. is not going to turn the economy around.  The people must realize that THEY are the solution, however, it’s not going to come easy, it will take a lot of hard work and sacrifice, something that up to now has not been part of their cultural heritage.

Agueda brought out a birthday cake and everyone sang in Spanish, “Happy Birthday to you!”, but then they sung it again in English. 

On the way home on the train, people go up and down the cars selling things such as bus guides, lighters, screw driver sets, etc.  Usually there is someone wearing camouflage fatigues and a beret, I’m not sure if they’re asking for donations to their cause or volunteers to join their cause.  Some poor children will come along and place a religious card on your knee, then come back again and you can give them a coin for the card or they take it back.  I don’t mind them trying to sell me things, it’s better then them begging for money. 

We walked home from the ancient and wonderful Retiro train station.  I love this train station, it’s still in terrible disrepair but you can see that they’re refurbishing it.  I’m so glad the funds haven’t been cut on the restoration.  It is going to be fantastic when the finish it.

The air is crisp and we have our gloves and scarves on, because it’s Saturday the streets aren’t packed with cars, but still packed with people enjoying walking and getting some fresh air.

Sunday July 22ndRon and I get up, make some coffee and go to our computers to check our email.  I get up to get a second cup and notice for the first day the morning sun is again high enough to peak above the buildings across the courtyard.  Light is streaming into the living room, I LOVE IT!  Of course, the 2 cats have found the warm sun beam are happily snoring away.  I have the wonderful sun streaming in the windows again and the cats have their instant snooze sunbeam to paralyze them the instant they hit it and flop over.

Tuesday July 24th Today was Ron's birthday so we went out to “Massey's”, a fancy restaurant our Spanish teacher had told us about for dinner.  It's a 10 minute walk from our house under the huge Neuve de julio boulevard (9th of July, their Independence day), the main drag where you may have seen pictures of their obelisk, kind of a Bs.As. landmark. 

 

            The majestic Nueve de julio, 144 meters across.                      The obelisk is in the center of Nueve de julio.

There's a real cool collection of restaurants right under the underpass (who'd a thunk it?)   Dinner was very fun and we enjoyed it immensely.  Walking home afterwards was great, nice and chilly, with guantes (gloves) and our bufandas wrapped around our necks (scarves, I love saying that word, "Hand me my bufanda will you??"), seeing the beautiful buildings all lit up, it was magical!

Sunday July 29th - Saturday was a little nippy but Sunday was an absolutely gorgeous día.  Through Dee, we met a new friend, Tom, and the 4 of us went to "Feria de Mataderos".  Directly translated it’s the “Fair of Slaughter houses!”  Every time we do something, I use it as the topic of a practice “composición” for my Spanish class and our Spanish teacher had never heard about this fair.  It's in the old part of the city that has/had slaughterhouses in it and it's apparently held every Sunday (except in the hot summer months) with lots of crafts booths, food booths, etc.., I picked up a VERY nice original framed painting for $30 and our new friend got a really cool hand made ceramic bowl for $5.  I thought our purchases were a bargain, but maybe if my Spanish was better I could have gotten my pintura (painting) cheaper!  ;o)
 

"Manntra", my newest purchase!

 

There were also gauchos in authentic costume who took turns charging down a cobblestone street on beautiful horses and trying to spear a small silver ring hanging from a pole with a pointed awl.
 

A guacho trying to spear a ring, it's not as easy as it looks.
Photo from: Insight Guides, Buenos Aires

 It was very enjoyable to see the beautiful strong horses noisily clacking down the cobblestones as the gauchos would try and spear the ring.  The first 10 or so did it with ease, but then the younger gauchos got their turn and you could tell by the number of misses that it's not as easy as the more experienced riders made it look.  Who wouldn’t like this??  A sunny, warm winter day, a beautiful blue sky, the clatter of horse hoofs on the cobblestones with the strong horses muscles flexing as they run, the smile on children’s faces, the occasional pungent smell of horse manure, what’s to dislike??  We then had a nice choripan (Chorizo sausage sandwich, “chorizo con pan” shortened to Choripan, crazy Argentines cut everything off, they say "Ta luego" instead of "Hasta Luego!" and "buen día" instead of "buenos días")  The choripan had sautéed peppers and onions.  ¡Qué bueno!  Of course Ron located some Argentine dessert afterwards to munch on.

Monday July 30thBelieve it or not but Ron has bought 3 vegetable peelers since we moved here and they have all since disappeared.  The only thing we can surmise is that Ron is throwing the peeler out along with the peels.  Ron is always tinkering, building and fixing things so his latest contraption was to attach a 2 foot thin chain onto the newest vegetable peeler to enter our happy household.  This chain he attaches to the faucet when he’s peeling something so he won’t accidentally throw the peeler out.  You really have to wonder sometimes…..

We’ve been occasionally buying rotisserie chickens for dinner from a local store.  They’re good but they don’t cook them with any spices or herbs so I wanted to roast my own chicken with rosemary and lemon peels.  I looked through our cupboards but I couldn’t find a roasting rack.  Ron looked at the local kitchen supply stores and no one had them.  Together we went to a specialty cooking store to see if they have one and they just gave us a puzzled look and a shrug.  This reminded me of our problems when we first tried to make pastry crusts and couldn’t find a solid vegetable shortening to use to make the pastry.  So I asked the woman (in my best manageable Spanish), “How do you roast a chicken?”, she explained that they don’t use racks, they just place the bird in a roasting pan.  Another cultural cooking difference revealed!

Not to be thwarted, Ron concocts another contraption.  He got out his power drill and grabbed the bag of wooden disposable chopsticks we bought.  I roll my eyes but didn’t say a word, I found it best just to let Ron go about his crazy schemes and not say anything.  I went to read email on the computer and I heard drilling, scraping, pounding and the occasional curse word.  Ron then came in to show me his latest creation, an oven roasting rack made with wooden chopsticks.  I’m duly impressed, unlike most of what Ron comes up with, this thing looks like it might actually work.  That night we had delicious roasted chicken for dinner and the rack worked surprisingly well.