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November 2001

Mom, PPM and Cindy’s visit

Monday November 5thOlga invited us over to her apartment for lunch with Dee.  She had rearranged her apartment since we last saw it and it looked great.  Olga, as always, was the perfect host and impeccably dressed.  Olga is Bolivian and she had made a traditional Bolivian meat pie for lunch, it was fantastic!

Tuesday November 6th Spent the entire day cleaning the house trying to get ready for the 2 week visit of my mom, and sisters Cindy and Phyllis.

Wednesday November 7th We took a Remis taxi to the airport to pickup mom and my sisters.  They were set to arrive at 8:30am and we didn’t call to verify the flight.  BIG mistake.  Whenever we fly here we always arrive at 8:30am so I didn’t think to check the flight.  Because of new security procedures the flight had been delayed for 2 hours.  I was NOT a happy camper.  We didn’t get much sleep the night before because we stayed up late getting the house cleaned, now we had a 2 hour wait where I could have been sleeping in my bed.  Oh well, my own fault for not verifying the flight.

My family showed up and there were lots of hugs and kissing.  My sister Cindy squawked when she saw my long hair, and we got 2 cabs for the ride to our apartment.  The flight here is long and usually wipes me out because I can sleep ANYWHERE but on an airplane.  Usually after the flight all I want to do when I get home is take a nap.  However, mom, Cindy and Phyl were charged by the excitement of being somewhere new.  After a little rest I took them on a short walk to stretch their legs and give them some general bearings on the neighborhood.  We walked by a nice hotel that is near our apartment and stopped in to talk to their front desk about tours.  I’m sure the hotel gets a commission for booking the trips for us, so they are more then happy to help us out.  I started with my standard, “Buen día, ¿Habla íngles?”  To which all 3 of the attractive 25 year olds behind the counter said, “Yes, of course!”  They gave us a brochure on the local tours to take and talked to us about a tango show that they recommended.  We continued on our walk by walking past the Recoleta cemetery, on the weekends the park is filled with artisan booths but even today a few of them were setup along the cemetery.  Mom and sister Cindy, HUGE SHOPPERS, were already scanning the place for bargains.  On the way home we passed by a few of the dog walkers here.  People in this city love their dogs and they have dog walkers who go to your apartment, pick up your dog, walk and exercise them and then return them to you.  You’ll see a dog walker going down the street with 20-25 dogs all at the same time.  It’s a pretty funny site to see and you have to wonder how they get the dogs to all walk together without fighting.  There are usually 1 or 2 old dogs who aren’t on leashes, you see them with grey whiskers around their chins and snouts, just following all the other dog butts going down the street.  I guess they’re too old to run away and they are used to the routine.  It’s great when you’re with someone who sees this for the first time, after awhile you become used to things and take them for granted.  It was fun to see my mom and sisters stop, point and laugh over the situation.

Because restaurants don’t start serving dinner till 9pm or so, I thought for our first night we would have dinner at home.  We bought some fresh pasta from our favorite pasta store and I made a Puttanesco sauce with calamari for dinner.  This is the dish my friend Steve made for us while he was visiting and I just love it.  With some garlic bread and some red wine it was a mighty fine meal.  I had bought a bottle of expensive wine to celebrate their first day in Argentina with but it turned out to not be very good.  The second bottle we opened was our standard $3.99 bottle of every day table red wine and everyone liked it much better then the expensive stuff.  Go figure!

Thursday November 8th We made coffee for mom and Cindy (Phyl drinks tea) and when we served them the café, Cindy said, “What’s THAT?!?!?!”  We’re used to serving our café like the Argentines, very strong, in little espresso cups.  Cindy said, “I need a BIG cup of coffee, that little cup will never do!”  We had media lunas with our coffee while sitting on the balcony.

We walked over to the hotel we had visited the day before to pick up the bus for the city tour.  This is a good tour to start with when you’re new in town as it takes you around to several of the touristy parts of the city, with a few stops to get out and walk around, and gives you a nice overview of the city and how it’s laid out.


               Mom and Ron in front of the Casa Rosada

                          Caminito Street in La Boca

The last stop is near the Recoleta cemetery park near our house, they kind of encourage you to stay there so the bus doesn’t have to drop everyone off at their different hotels (a long and boring process that I’m sure the tour guides hate more then the passengers).  Since this was near our apartment, we gladly told them that we would not be needing a ride back to the hotel.  We stopped to have lunch in an outside café.  The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a nice lunch while people watching.

That night we went to a favorite neighborhood restaurant for dinner.  My mom wasn’t too thrilled about waiting till 9pm to eat, but I’m sure she’ll catch on after awhile.  We took them to a small local place and the first thing you see when you enter is the big parrilla grill proudly displaying the chef with lots of wonderful things grilling and enveloping you in fantastic aromas.  The waiter couldn’t speak any English but we helped everyone with the menu as best we could.  Cindy and Ron split an order of the cochinillo which is roasted suckling pig.  Cochinillo is wonderful beyond words, although I’m sure it’s not good for you because of the wonderful crunchy skin that is on the pork, but the crunchy skin is SO GOOD you cannot bear to remove it without eating it.  I ordered one morcillo, a wonderful blood sausage as an appetizer, and the mollejas, grilled sweetbreads.  A cholesterol packed, artery clogging meal, but I have to do it once in awhile as I love it so much.  In my opinion life is not worth living unless you can indulge in such delicacies such as this once in awhile.  I believe in moderation, everything in moderation, a little beef, a little pork, a little chicken, lots of fish, lots of veggies, a little ice cream, a little wine, a little cheesecake, etc.  I think you need it all, just in healthy proportions and don’t overdue any particular item.  Besides, blood sausage is LOADED with nutritious iron! 

A nice 10 minute stroll back to the apartment and we played a few hands of cards.

Friday November 9th We again walked over to the hotel and waited in the lobby for the gaucho asado (a parrilla grilled lunch), that included a floor show and equestrian demonstration at an estancia (ranch).  The bus took us north of the city 80 kilometers or so.  The tour guide talked about lots of interesting stuff about gauchos and Argentine customs as we drove along.  With new visitors to the city it’s nice to get outside the city so that they can see what the countryside is like.

When we arrived, we were greeted outside the bus by gauchos in gaucho attire and given a delicious empanada (Cindy claims this was the best empanada of her entire trip here) and a glass of wine that tasted homemade.  They wanted to show us where lunch was going to be held so they took us inside a building, along the way passing by the parrilla grill where you could see all the delights that we were going to consume roasting on the open outside grill.  They told us we had about 1.5 hours before lunch so we could visit the original home of the owners of the estancia.  The home had been converted into a small museum that was filled with antiques and clothes from when the house was built sometime in the late 1800s.  Small but interesting.  As we were walking around one of the other tourists, this old guy, points to a divan and said to Cindy, "Those kind of couches need a naked lady on them!"  Got to admit, the ole guy had a good line and could still flirt with the ladies!

Afterwards, we could ride horses or take a ride in a horse drawn carriage. 

Phyllis decided to ride a horse and the rest of us took a horse drawn carriage. As we were riding off on the carriage I noticed Phyll was having a hard time getting her horse to do anything.  Phyll is a seasoned rider so she knows how to control a horse, however, I think the horses are used to being ridden by people who don't know what they’re doing so the horses know they can just sit there and munch grass.  One of the gauchos picked up a switch to give to Phyll and as soon as the horse saw the switch it started obeying her.  Smart horse!

As our carriage was returning back to the estancia we saw some poor guy trapped on a horse who was refusing to move in a corner of the estancia and munching grass.  Our driver was yelling at him, telling him to kick the horse really hard in the sides.  We saw the guy try and really dig his heals into the horse with no success.  To this day, we still don't know if that guy ever got out of that corner of the estancia.

We had time to sit outside under the shade of some huge thatched grass umbrellas before lunch and talk with some of the other tourists there.  It’s always interesting to hear where people are from and how they ended up on a ranch 80Km north of Buenos Aires.  Then time for lunch, my mouth drooling at the prospect of the grilled asado meats.  We all sat down and were promptly given some wine, water and salads.  Next came morcillas and wonderful grilled sausages, followed by chicken, then some perfectly cooked beef.  A fantastic lunch!  A floor show followed lunch with some tango dancers.  The dancers were much slower then I'm used to seeing, but they were still incredibly good and very sensual.  Something about that dance!  The gauchos came out and did some dances with the boleadora (balls on the end of leather ropes that they would use to throw at the cattle’s legs to entangle their legs so that they could catch them).  They swing them quickly around and rap them on the floor as they dance.  Usually this makes the people in the front seats duck as the balls come perilously close to their heads as the gauchos swing them around!  Next a singer got up and started singing some quick song and people started getting up to dance.  By then sufficient quantities of wine and beer had been consumed so the party really started to rock!  This crazy Italian kept asking Phyllis to dance and she was more then happy to oblige him.

After the show they instructed us to an outside area where they performed an equestrian show followed by the gaucho tournament that we had seen at the "Feria de Mataderos".  This is where the gauchos would charge on horseback using a pointed awl trying to spear a small ring hanging from a string.  Some of the gauchos did it with ease, others would miss to the “aaaahhhhssss” of the bystanders.  When the gaucho would spear a ring they would trot over to the waiting crowds, pick out a pretty girl and give it to her for a kiss.  Of course Phyllis got one!

More Gaucho Fiesta Pictures

On the way home in the bus the crazy Italian who had been dancing with Phyllis sat next to her.  Ron and I were across the isle from them.  His English was pretty limited, so I was doing some translation for them when they couldn’t communicate.  He offered to take Phyllis out for a café after the bus returned home and Phyllis accepted.  I told her, “You’re slipping Phyl, it took you 2 days to get a date, usually you have a date the same day you arrive!”  We got home and Phyl arrived about an hour later, she said they really couldn’t communicate at all (besides what she knew he wanted!) so she grabbed a taxi back to our place.

Saturday November 10th A lazy morning, we had café and media lunas on the balcony, then walked to Patio Bullrich (a very expensive and trendy shopping mall near us) to buy tickets for the BuqueBus ferry for our trip to Uruguay.  At the BuqueBus office I asked my standard, “¿Hablá ingles?” to which I received the very common, “¡No!”  No problem, Ron and I were able to complete the transaction all in Spanish.  All that money in Spanish classes is starting to pay off!  I noticed he was booking us on an 8am ferry and I knew that would mean getting up pretty early so I asked him if there was another ferry, ¡No!, he said, oh well.  I tried!

We then walked over to the artisan booths that are setup every weekend at the Recoleta Cemetery park area.  We walked through the cemetery and looked at the mausoleums.  Cindy thought this was really cool and it IS something quite unique.  I’ve seen similar cemeteries on a trip to Europe, but nothing like it in the USA.

                                                             My favorite statue, seen several different times on this website

       Lichen was growing on this one it was so old.                      Mom and Ron discussing
                                                                                          something of vast importance!

Some of them are VERY narrow! And this one was REALLY old

It had been raining earlier in the day so almost 2/3rds of the booths were empty, but mom, Cyn and Phyl were still hunting down bargains.  Even I found something I couldn’t live without, a hanging ceramic pot that you put candles in, also with hanging ceramic leaves on either side of it.  It looked pretty fragile but the wind was blowing like crazy and it was flying around it’s string, clanking and crashing and putting on quite a good show.  This showed me the ceramic was actually much stronger then it looked.  There were star shaped cutouts in the pot so the light from the candle gets projected as stars, this looked really cool for only $15.  He had a whole table of ceramics and I was very relieved when he finally finished wrapping up my gift as I was expecting a gust to overturn the whole table at any second and I didn’t want to be near it when it did.

When we got home we all pulled our treasures out to show everyone.  “Where did you find that?”, someone would say, “I didn’t see you buy that!” another person would say.  Mom said we would have to return the following weekend to check out all the things she missed.  That night while playing cards I lit my hanging candle and gazed at the stars it projected on the ceiling.  VERY COOL!.

Sunday November 11th We walked over and took the subway to Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo for the antique flea market that is held every Sunday.  As we were getting near the plaza Ron told mom to go stand behind one of the peanut vendor carts that make roasted peanuts we like to buy.  Mom went behind the cart as Ron snapped her picture and then the owner of the cart came over and said, “No, No” and put the stirring stick in her hand and then gave her a bag of peanuts to hand to him like she was running the cart.  It was pretty funny as my mom was trying to understand him.  I gave mom a dollar to go buy a bag of peanuts from him, it’s the least we could do considering all he did for mom. 

How my mother made some extra cash to spend while vacationing in Argentina!

More San Telmo Antique Fair Pictures

After walking around and looking at lots of the booths, we stopped and had a tostado mixto and some beers in our favorite restaurant that is named P.D. after Plaza Dorrego, however, we noticed that these are also my moms initials.  After looking around for a bit, I asked everyone if they would like to take the subway back home or do some more walking.  Phyl was the first to say, “I’m ready to walk!” so walk we did.  There was another small set of artisans setup along another street filled with ancient buildings.  Of course, we had to make a stop to check out the goods.  Phyl found one leather maker that had exquisite leather goods for sale, purses, belts and things for the office.  The purses were $25 - $35 and were incredible, they looked like something you would see in Nieman Marcus for $475, they were THAT cool.  I have no idea how he crafted them, but they were works of art.  Phyl bought a purse but decided against a $75 desk organizer that was too cool for words.  She would regret making this purchase the rest of the week.

Passed by the Casa Rosado on the way home!

We continued on our walk home along the pedestrian street Florida.  Cindy started complaining that we had been walking FOREVER so we stopped to rest and have a drink in an outside café.  Mom wanted an ice coffee, Cyn, Ron and I got a beer and Phyl asked for a rum and Coke Cola Light.  When ordering a drink with alcohol, it is common here for the waiter to bring you a glass and pour the liquor into the glass in front of you.  I don’t know if this is so you can say how much you want, or if to show that the liquor is coming out of a particular brand name bottle.  Phyllis wasn’t looking at the waiter as he poured, she was just chatting with us.  The waiter kept pouring and pouring and pouring and finally Cindy squawked, “Phyllis, tell him to stop!”   By now the glass was ¾ full of rum.  Phyl was a very HAPPY camper!  Along with our chopp beers the waiter brought us the usual assortment of snacks: peanuts, potato chips, olives, funny cracker stick thingies and slices of ham.  We happily rested, drinking and noshing away, enjoying ourselves immensely.  By the time we had enjoyed our second beer, Cindy was almost in the mood to finish the walk home.

Monday November 12th We set the alarm for our trip to Punte del Este in Uruguay.  We got on the ferry without a hitch and sailed off to Uruguay.  The ferries are very fast and efficient, but their little snack bar is a rip off, just like most snack bars that have your undivided attention.  An instant coffee cost $2 but desperate times cause for desperate measures.  When it’s early, you just gotta have your coffee.

When we arrived at MonteVideo our bus was waiting for us to take us on the 2 hour trip to Punta del Este.  When we arrived at the bus station in Punta del Este I told Cindy we were going to walk to Pierre’s apartment that we had rented for our stay.  I told her it wasn’t far, but because of all the walking we had been doing in the city she eyed me suspiciously like she didn’t believe me.  We got to the apartment, settled in a little and then went for a walk to see some of the town.  We stopped for some groceries and then went back to the apartment.  Phyl, Ron and I wanted to do some more walking so we took a nice long stroll around the point of the peninsula.

After awhile we stopped in a restaurant we had eaten at the last time we visited Punte del Este and ordered some margaritas.  It took forever for the margaritas to be made but when they did they were very delicious.  We decided to come back for dinner that night and had a great meal.

Tuesday November 13th I woke up and it had been raining all night.  This is what happened the first time we brought friends here and ended up going home a day early.  Luckily it cleared up by the time we had our coffee and media lunas and the day turned out very nice.  Had another great stroll in the city.

More Stroll Around Town Pictures

Wednesday November 14th We met my friend Ricardo for lunch, he owns an apartment in town and we just happened to be in Punte del Este at the same time.  Had a nice leisurely walk around town.

Phyllis, Ricardo, Cindy, Mom and Ron

More Beautiful Day in Punta del Este Pictures

After my friend Colleen had taught us Mah Jong, Ron had looked for a set to buy in Buenos Aires but it was VERY expensive.  Before arriving for her visit, we asked my mom to buy us a set from China town in San Francisco and bring it to us.  Colleen had warned us that some sets can be big and really heavy so I relayed the same information to my mother.  However, my mother, being a mother, bought her son the biggest damn one she could find and it turned out to be huge.  The blocks are almost like child’s building blocks but nevertheless Ron had brought the set with us and that day we taught everyone Mah Jong.

Thursday November 15th Time to return to Buenos Aires.  As you check in for the bus, they give you a little slip of paper with your seat number on it.  We checked our bags and then got on the bus.  Right behind Phyllis was a screaming kid who could have shattered glass with her screeching.  “It was going to be one of those trips”, I thought.  But somehow the mother got the kid quieted down and she was asleep for the whole 2 hour bus trip. 

We checked in at the BuqueBus terminal and decided to grab a sandwich before departure in the café in the terminal.  I told mom about ordering a café “cortado” which means a coffee “cut” with steamed milk.  It’s kind of a like a café latte but without a sprinkle of chocolate on top.  We also ordered a few tostados mixtos sandwiches.  We ordered at the counter but then the waitress told us to have a seat and she’ll bring over the order when it’s ready.  In a few minutes the nicely dressed waitress brought our order, and also gave mom a little glass of water, a little glass of orange juice and some little cookies with her café, all for $1.50.  You don’t get this EVERY time you order a café, but most restaurants do this, they take service very serious here.  With our beers she also brought us some peanuts.  Mom said, “I can see why you like it here, it’s going to be hard to go back to the USA where they just throw the food at you, plop down the check right away and then walk off.  I think it would be hard to go back to the USA after you get used to this.”  I thought this was a nice compliment.  You never know how people will react to your new home and I wasn’t sure what their real reactions were up to that point. 

After boarding the BuqueBus Ron started a conversation with an Argentine man.  Ron’s like that, he’s the person that’s talking to everyone in front of him and behind him in the grocery store checkout line.  I’ll just stand there quietly, grinding my teeth, where Ron will pass the time by talking to someone.  Ron was telling him how we’re finally getting to the point where we can converse in Spanish and that we’re meeting with friends to practice our conversation.  Ron and Gustavo exchanged email addresses and he said that he is in the city frequently on business and that possibly he could come over and help us out.

Friday November 16th Of course a visit here isn’t complete without going to a tango show.  In the past we have been to a show called “Señor Tango” 4 times and it is a great show, I don’t know if it’s the biggest show here but it is HUGE with probably 50 performers.  They have tango dancing, then singers will come out, then native Argentine Indians with pan flutes, then gauchos with the swinging boleadoras, then more tango dancers.  However, since we’ve seen that show several times we thought we’d try something else.  The concierge at the front desk of the hotel recommended another show that was smaller and only had tango dancers, so we decided to try it.  The show included dinner so the bus first took us to a restaurant. 

                                    The tango club!                                                                     Having dinner.

The waiter was very nice and pleasant and could speak very good English.  I kept speaking to him in Spanish and I think he really liked that.  We had a nice dinner and then only had to walk across the street to the tango club where we had a reserved table for the show and which also included free drinks.

The show was on a smaller scale then “Señor Tangos” and only had tango dancing, but it was great.  The club had a nicer more intimate feeling then the bigger “Señor Tangos”.  Afterwards as we were leaving we tipped our waiter for serving us drinks and our waiter from the restaurant came over and told us that that was his son that had waited on us in the tango club.   

In the tango club!

Saturday November 17th We had heard that Argentina was going to have their census this weekend.  I read that they had enlisted 400,000 teachers to go door to door and manually take the census of everyone in the country over ONE weekend.  This seemed quite amazing to me, but that’s how they do it here.  We didn’t think the census would apply to us since we’re here on tourists Visas so we decided not to answer the door when they came knocking.  They started buzzing our buzzer and after awhile it was getting very annoying so I went down to take the census.  There was a very nice woman sitting at the desk in our lobby with a stack of forms.  Miguel, our portero (doorman), looked at me with a surprised look and said something about our door buzzer must not be working because he had been leaning on it continuously all morning.  I just laughed and said, “No, the buzzer was working fine!”  I started with my obligatory, “Mi español es poco” but the census taker knew a little English and between us we were able to get through the census.  I sat as she asked me all the questions and then she filled in the forms.  They wanted to know how many people lived in the apartment, their names, number of bedrooms, if we had a clothes washing machine, microwave oven, TV, refrigerator, video recorder, computer and an internet connection.  She asked about my profession and education level, but nothing about salary or how much we pay for rent.  This was a concern I had with taking the census, that maybe somehow they’d go after our landlady for not paying taxes or something, but that didn’t seem to be the case here.  They then asked about our relationship and one of the choices was “pareja” which is a couple or pair, so now we are in the official Argentine census of 2001 as a “pareja”.  She also asked how long we’ve been a “pareja” and I said since 1982.  There was then a section for filling out the same career, age and education level questions for every person in the family.  When she got to Ron’s age she made sure she had it right because I was responding all in Spanish, but she didn’t blink an eye at our “pareja” relationship or our age difference.  Very cool!  Not part of the census, but she was interested and asked us the usual, “What are you doing in Argentina?” question.  I told her all about why we’re here and she smiled and said that it was really great that Americans would want to live here.  Every time I hear this from an Argentine I tell them that they have a beautiful country, but with the current economic problems, they always shrug and think we’re crazy for wanting to live here.

After I completed the census mom wanted to go back to the artisan fair near the cemetery.  This was a nice day so all the booths were packed and the park was filled with people.  When we got home we had a nice cool drink on the patio and again opened all our packages to see what everyone bought.

With all the rain we’ve been having, there was a huge number of dragon flies this year.  Last year we had dragon flies in the spring, but this year there were lots more.  They kept flying into the apartment and our cat Lorretta would catch them and merrily crunch away and eat them.  This grossed everyone out immensely!  I was actually quite surprised Lorretta could even catch them let alone eat them.  Both Lorretta and Scarlett have always been raised as indoor cats so they’ve never really learned to hunt.  In the past when they’ve caught a poor spider in the house, they usually just knock it around a little, then get bored and walk off, leaving the poor spider with 2 broken legs to go limp off somewhere.  I kept finding ½ eaten dragon flies all over the house.

As our last tour we took the tour to “El Tigre” north of the city.  This includes a ride on a restored train, a stop in a scenic town and then a boat ride on the deltas of Tigre.

We had a chopp beer and some empanadas in an outdoor café.

                                                                                         Getting on the boat in the deltas of Tigre.

                                 We ordered some wine.                                                   On top of the boat.

                                                                                        Cindy kept getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, so this sign was for her!

Sunday November 18th Phyllis kept saying that she was really sorry she didn’t buy the leather desk organizer that she had seen the week before in Plaza Dorrego at the antique fair.  Ron charted how to get there on a bus and off we went.  Cindy said she preferred the bus to the subway.  Phyl found her leather desk organizer and we then headed off to find some chopp beer and some lunch.  We stopped in a restaurant and the young waiter could speak pretty good English.

We ordered chopp beers and Phyl ordered a Rum and Coke.  He brought the beers but not Phyl’s drink so after a few minutes she flagged him down.  Phyl said, “Did you forget to bring my Cuba Libra?”  And he gave her a really weird, “Huh?” look.  Phyl then said, “Can I have a Cuba Libra please?” and off he went.  After he left Cindy said, “Your first question was way too many words for him to understand, just reordering the drink was a much better idea!”

                    Waiting for the bus, Cindy got a painting!                          Taking the bus is fun, you get to go 50 MPH
                                                                                                                 down narrow, congested streets!

Monday November 19th Up to now the weather had been perfect, just slightly cool making walking a pleasure.  However, today it seemed that the summer weather was soon approaching as it was pretty hot.  We took a bus to visit the “Japanese Garden” park then we walked over to the Planetarium to check it out.  The clerk at the desk said it was closed for school children only that day so we started to leave.  Mom started saying, “This guide book says it should be open today!”.  I know that when an Argentine says something is closed, there’s no use arguing with them.  You just don’t mess with their authority.  Mom said, “Look, right here in this guide book, it says it should be open, I’m going to go tell that man!”  I let her go back inside on her own to argue with him.  She came out a few minutes later and proudly said, “He said it was a “special” day and that’s why it wasn’t in the guide book, but at least I gave him a hard time!”.  Hah!  You may not mess with an Argentine, but you also don’t mess with my mom.  As we were walking away from the Planetarium I saw a poster pasted on a telephone poll that had a picture of the current Argentine president, Fernando de la Ruá, and Osama Bin Laden, with a caption that said something like, “Who has killed more people?”  YIKES!  That was quite a nasty political statement on the current economic situation of Argentina.

It was a hot day and walking was kind of tiring so we decided to stop at a sidewalk café for a chopp beer and a sandwich.  Afterwards we walked over to a big mall to pick up a few things.  Previously, Cindy had seen a bra in a store window that had clear plastic shoulder straps for when you wear a dress with thin shoulder straps, then the bra straps wouldn’t be so noticeable if they showed.  She had never seen a bra like that and wanted to buy some as gifts.  However, the store she had seen them in previously always seemed to be closed when she went to buy them.  In the mall, she found the bras in a woman’s lingerie store but I had to try and translate between Cindy and the store clerk who knew no English.  My Spanish classes did not prepare me to say, “I want this in a 36B cup, but without the frilly lace on top, and no wire supports under the cups!”  That was quite challenging!

Tuesday November 20th My mom and sister’s visit comes to an end, it’s amazing how fast time flies.  We cram the 3 of them and all their luggage (and all the loot they bought) into a Remis taxi cab and wave our goodbyes from the curb.  It was a great visit and I really enjoyed seeing them but it was nice to have our little apartment back to ourselves and our 2 fat pussy cats.

Wednesday November 21st - We were previously at a party at Diego's when an American expatriate said he was leaving Bs.As. and was going to be selling his apartment.  It wasn't in the neighborhood we wanted but I told him I'd be interested in seeing it.  Well, things didn't work out and it turned out he was leaving sooner then expected so we weren't able to see the apartment before he left.  However, he was also friends with Ignacio and he had told Ignacio he was leaving soon and did HE want to buy the apartment, the price was right so Ignacio bought it.  Ignacio invited us over to see it and I'm glad we didn't get the chance to look at it because I would have been very tempted to buy it.  It's in a very old building but built to last.  The apartment was on the top floor so the ceilings were very tall and the previous owner had upgraded and refurbished the bathrooms and kitchen.  It was a very nice apartment and because he was leaving quickly he sold it for $70,000.  I took some pictures with the digital camera for Ignacio so that he could email them to prospective renters.

We went to a favorite neighborhood restaurant and I ordered chicken.  The waiter said something to me in Spanish and I couldn't understand what he was saying.  The waiter then pointed to his breast and then his thigh and I was wondering what the hell he was doing.  I then realized that he was asking me if I wanted white or dark meat.  I laughed when I realized this and pointed to my thigh, I then asked, "¿Comó se dice en español?"  He said that it was "musculo" for the muscle or dark part of the thigh.

Thursday November 22nd - We had Gustavo over to our house to speak Spanish.  Ron met Gustavo on the BuqueBus ferry back from Uruguay.  We sat on the balcony while we sipped some Pepsi Light and chatted in Spanish.

Today was the USA's holiday of Thanksgiving and Ron originally wanted to roast a turkey.  Turkeys are very hard to find in Argentina, another cultural dilemma, however, Ron found them at Jumbo.  But since my family had just left from their visit, Ron wasn't really in the mood to expend much effort and we just decided to order sushi instead.  I called and did the entire order in Spanish and in 1 hour we were sitting down to our Thanksgiving dinner of sushi and sashimi.

Friday November 23rd - At our Spanish class we started talking about the holiday seasons and I mentioned that I liked Tchaikovsky’s "The Nutcracker" so I asked our teacher what is "The Nutcracker" called in Spanish, and it's "Casca Nueces", a quite literal translation.  She then taught us the word "costumbres" or customs, and she asked me what is my favorite custom.  I thought for a little while and said, "It's probably how everyone tells you their life story when you ask them how they're doing."  If you don't have a 1/2 hour, don't ask an Argentine how they are doing, they all take this greeting quite literally and will go on to tell you how they're doing, how they are feeling, etc...  I then asked Maria, our teacher, what her favorite custom was and she said that every day after work, before she goes home, she gets together with a friend and they stop and have a cafe and talk together.  This is one thing I've noticed about Argentines, they will stop and talk for hours over one little tiny cup of coffee.  It's one of the things that attracted me to Argentina, they seem to take cafe chats quite serious and a necessary part of their day, they take this conversation very seriously.

One day when we were at the gym talking with Ignacio, he introduced me to Alberto.  Alberto's level of English is about the same as my level of Spanish, so Ignacio thought we could practice on each other.  Today was the second time that Alberto had come over to chat.  I'm finally getting to the point where I can converse in Spanish, on a very simple level, but nonetheless, it's quite gratifying that I'm advancing.  We talked for about 20 minutes in Spanish, then I said, "OK, Now everything is English!"  It was nice to give my brain a rest and see Alberto struggle forming sentences in English like I was when we were speaking Spanish.

Thursday November 29th - George Harrison died.  I remember when I first heard that John Lennon had been shot, I was asleep in bed when my college friend Dave Hirsch came into our dorm room to tell us.  Strange how these events stick in your brain.

Photographs by The Associated Press
The Beatles performing on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, 1964, top;
The Beatles in their "Sgt. Pepper" outfits in 1967, above.

Friday November 30th - Colleen and Gary asked if we wanted to go to the ShowCenter to go bowling.  The ShowCenter is a huge mall type place that is filled with amusement rides, clubs, putt putt golf, etc.  The rides were $3 to $4 each, so we decided to buy an unlimited ride ticket for $10.  We first went on a ride that turns you upside down and holds you there.  This was quite fun except for the feeling of all the blood rushing to your head.  Next Ron decided to sit the roller coaster ride out because it looked pretty jerky and some of those rides hurt his back.  It was a good thing he sat it out, it was a pretty painful ride jerking you around the bends and flinging you upside down.  Next the had one called "The Free Fall".  I've parachute jumped in the past and love the feeling of falling, you know when you're in a roller coaster and it does a little dip where you lift up out of your seat, or when an airplane takes a big dip in turbulent weather?  I love that feeling.  So these kind of rides are my favorite.  Gary said he'd been on it several times and he never gets over the feeling of it dropping.  I was chomping at the bit.  Colleen flatly refused to join us.  We sat in blocks of 3 with our backs to the pole of a big tower, it quickly raises up to the top of the tower, maybe 120 feet or so in the air, the ride then comes to a big stop and you're just handing there, the anticipation killing you, waiting for it to drop.  Then it lets go and seems to accelerate you downwards as you SCREAM at the top of your lungs.  Unlike similar rides in the USA that I've been on, this one then does a kind of bungee jump bounce at the bottom.  I LOVED IT!  We got off the ride as Colleen was shaking her head, saying, "I don't understand why anyone would do that!"  I tell her the best part is screaming on the way down, it's a very liberating feeling to shout at the top of your lungs as you feel as if you're about to die!

We then went in and played a few games of bowling.  I hadn't bowled in years and we had great fun with big wax cups of beer and munching peanuts.