Monday December 2nd, 2002 – A friend of ours, Thomas, had been relocated to England for his job, however, he was visiting and had a catered dinner at Maria’s restaurant “Restó”. It was great to see Thomas again and get caught up on his life in England as we sipped champagne and munched on appetizers.
Friday December 6th, 2002 – Went to meet Alberto at the gym near his house. When I meet him at 9am, I have to leave the house around 8:30 am to catch the bus to get there in time. It was a wonderful summer morning, walking down the street seeing the store keepers cleaning the sidewalks in front of their stores, the doormen polishing the brass on the doors, the streets filled with delivery trucks, getting ready for the day, everyone smiling saying “buen dia!”. I really enjoyed watching everyone so busy, as I briskly walked to the bus stop, munching a banana as I went.
That evening we went to a wine tasting that our friend Frances had organized. She is studying to be a sommelier and wanted to have a tasting at a local specialty wine store near our homes. The store is small, run by the father and 2 sons. There is a private tasting area downstairs and we started off tasting a wine for $24 pesos. The next was $65 and the last was $110. Funny enough but I enjoyed the 24 peso wine the best. We bought a few bottles for special occasions, or maybe just christening the new apartment!
Saturday December 7th , 2002 – Met with the architects to go over some plans that they had come up with and some of the ideas I had. We went out to dinner at a Korean restaurant with our friends Felipe, Ariel and Ricardo. After dinner Felipe suggested that we take a stroll and find a café to have dessert. As we walked down Corrientas street, this part of Corrientas has many theaters and shows and Felipe spotted something that sounded interesting. He asked if we’d like to hear some tango musicians and we quickly agreed. After a quick café we went to see the show that started at 11:30 pm, it was just 3 gentlemen, 2 sitting together at an electronic piano and an accordion player, but they were fantastic. There was no singing, just a wonderful selection of tango music and original compositions. The venue was small, maybe only 50 people, but the bar was nicely detailed in beautiful wood, a very nice place. The customers were mostly older as ladies sipped Cokes and agua con gas. We decided to order a bottle of champagne since it was a warm night. Had a wonderful time.
Monday December 9th, 2002 – Met the architects at the apartment, Alberto and Ricardo had several different people there to look at things in order to give us bids. One man was looking at the roll up wooden shutters that are standard here in Argentina, one was looking at repairing the windows, one was looking at the plumbing, one was an electrician. It was fun to see all these workers buzzing about. In the past Ron and I have always done all the home projects, I’ve never hired anyone to do anything, so this was quite a new experience for me.
Alberto and Ricardo had discovered that the apartment had a wood flooring in it that had an unusual pattern. The apartment was carpeted but we wanted wooden floors. When they peeled back the carpet the carpenter said it was a very good quality of hard wood and it was cut in an odd pattern, which made it unique. He suggested just sanding the floor and re-polishing it instead of replacing it. Always one to save money, this sounded like a good idea, however the floor was very dark and I really wanted something lighter. The architects suggested that the carpenter can sand just a meter square area so that we can see what it will look like. The floor lightened up very nice and after looking at it for awhile we decided to keep it.
Tuesday December 10th, 2002 – When we visited Tahiti in April we had met a new friend Alan around the pool bar. He’s from Seattle but does research work every year in Argentina. We had given him our number and told me to give us a call when he was in the city. Alan called and said he would be in the city for a few days before returning to Seattle so we invited him over for drinks and then we could go out to dinner.
Alan explained that he was doing research on the vocalizations of penguins and had been coming here for 4 years. He was telling us the problems with getting specimens and samples back to the USA and dealing with governmental agencies, all of which we could relate to. He then started talking about how the government used to charge $10 per tourist visitor to the ecological preserve but now with the devaluation they have lowered it to 1 peso otherwise no Argentines would go to the preserve. Since this is only about 29 USA cents Alan said that they should continue to charge tourists the 10 peso charge (still only about USA $2.90) but charge residents the lower 1 peso charge. This hit a bad note with Ron because a lot of the businesses are starting to do that here, charge residence one charge and charge foreigners a different, higher fee. This did not make for pleasant dinner conversation. Ron can get really grumpy sometimes.
Friday December 13th, 2002 – Met with the architects again and they presented us with 7 different floor plans. I love floor plans and wanted to be an architect when I first went to college, however in the OLD days in 1980 they didn’t have computer programs for architects so everything was manual calculations, very boring and repetitious, I didn’t have enough patience for it. Now, I’m sure they have computer programs so that architects can be more creative and not worry about all the problems of calculating every beam to see if the law of physics will be upheld.
They went over each plan, the pros and cons that they could see with the different ideas. We told them we’d study them over the weekend and pick the things we like from each of the different ideas to incorporate into one final plan.
Monday, December 16th, 2002 – Our friend Ignacio found an apartment building that he wants to buy. He said the owners were asking $150,000 for it, it’s only 3 stories high but the building is about 80 years old, has very high ceilings and a gorgeous staircase up the center of the building. We wanted to see it and he said he was meeting his architect there to check out some things. His idea is to convert it into 6 different apartments, 2 on each floor. The building is in bad cosmetic shape but the architect said the building is sound and there is no expensive construction or retro fitting that would be necessary. The building was amazing, very beautiful and the staircase in the center of the building was amazing.
We returned home and I went to the computer to read some email. There are knife sharpeners that go door to door and they play a pan flute as they go along so you can hear them coming. They have a little grinding wheel attachment on their bicycles so that they peddle to spin the wheel and sharpen your knives. I could hear the pan flute getting closer and sure enough our front door buzzer rang. They will go up and press all the bells to say that he is downstairs if you need any knives sharpened. If you don’t hear the pan flute ahead of time you pick up the intercom and hear many voices saying, “¿Hola? ¿Hola?” as everyone’s trying to figure out who rang their doorbell.
Tuesday December 24th , 2002 – We asked Alberto and Diego if they would like to join us for Christmas eve dinner. Ron bought a “pavita” or little turkey to roast. I had my doubts as cooking with a gas oven is a real art form, but Ron insisted he wanted turkey and it was delicious.
When midnight struck we were still eating dinner and the fireworks began. We all grabbed our wine and headed for the balcony to watch. Diego told me not to lean over the railing because someone might drop something from above. Argentines love their fireworks, venders sell them everywhere and little kids are lighting them off all over the place. Actually quite dangerous but it’s a cultural thing. He told us how every year the day after Xmas they have a listing in the papers of all the people who were maimed, burned or blown up. Hey, what’s life without a little danger?
Wednesday December 25th, 2002 – Alberto asked if we wanted to go on a bike ride to the ecological preserve that is downtown. It is a HUGE stretch of land that was set aside as an ecological preserve, it is kind of unique in that it is right downtown next to the riverside by the financial district. There has been talk for years that developers were going to bulldoze it to build new apartments and businesses as the land is very valuable because of where it is located. I have heard about the ecological preserve but had never visited it. We got our bikes out and headed to the preserve. It was a glorious summer day, not to hot, with beautiful blue skies. The sky here can be incredibly blue. There were lots of families out, lots of people in shorts, strolling, sitting under trees. Unfortunately the park was closed, guess they get Xmas off too, but we were still able to bike along the reserve. Alberto suggested we stop for a “chori-pan”, there are MANY roadside stands that setup a barbeque and start grilling foods. A “chori-pan” is a sandwich made from a grilled chorizo sausage and a piece of bread (pan) that they also toast on the grill. That’s it, no sautéed onions, no ketchup, nothing but bread and sausage, but you can’t believe how good they are!
We munched our sandwich and then bicycled over to the lakes near Palermo, a 20 minute bike ride away along the river coast. Palermo is the neighborhood after ours and there are two large lakes and wonderful parks for bicycling, walking, playing, etc. By the time we got there we were ready for a cold beer. Ron sat down on the grass while Alberto and I went to get the beer. The first vendor did not have “Quilmes” which is the locally produced Argentine beer which is very good. Alberto wanted “Quilmes” so we kept walking. The next place only had cans of beer and Alberto said beer in bottles is much better, so we kept walking…. then we finally found one that had large liter bottles of beer. Alberto had a big discussion with the man and afterwards I asked him what it was about. Alberto said the beer was $3 but you had to pay a $1 deposit on the bottle. When you bring the bottle back, they give you the $1 peso in return. Alberto just wanted to make sure the man would remember his face as sometimes they refuse to take the bottle back after you’re done. We enjoyed the cold beer, sitting on the grass, watching the people go by. Just a perfect day.
We biked back to the house and asked if Alberto wanted to come up and relax. We all took a quick shower, drank TONS of water and then had an early dinner of leftover “pavita” from the Christmas dinner the night before.
Tuesday December 31st, 2002 – Friends of Alberto’s, Eduardo and Miguel, asked us over for a new year’s eve dinner. We weren’t planning anything special so we jumped at the chance. We made a salad with smoked salmon to contribute to the party and took a few bottles of wine. It was a small get together, just 7 of us, but we had a great time.
At midnight we went out on their terrace to watch the fireworks. They live on the top floor of a 7 story building and they have a huge outdoor terrace. We could see fireworks going off all over the place, in the streets below, on top of neighboring buildings, in the distance, etc. We were all sipping wine as Miguel setup a table outside with desserts and little sweet cakes, Ron elbowed past everyone to see what treats awaited. As we were talking and enjoying the fireworks I saw a globe mysteriously drift by, I asked Alberto about it and he said that the Chinese light these globes and release them. You could see several of them drifting, some hovering, some going along at very fast speeds, they were quite eerie and magical. Someone was setting them adrift from a neighboring building and Ron would say, “There’s one, quick, get the camera!” Of course all I got were pictures of spooky globes.
We all toasted to our good fortunes and the new year!