A disgruntled librarian packs it up and leaves fabulous New York City behind,
going on random adventures through South America,
while simultaneously promoting literacy
and spreading the love of the written word.

Monday, August 30, 2010

my blog of broken spanish

sometimes people will ask me if my various writing jobs are in english or in spanish.  really?  do you have to ask?  i am flattered that anyone thinks i might be capable of stringing together a coherent sentence in spanish. but then i had an idea.  what if i did write a blog in spanish?  maybe that would help my practice my spanish more.  so here it is ... my blog of very very very bad spanish.

http://myblogofbrokenspanish.blogspot.com

Friday, August 27, 2010

visa renewal weekend!

oh it's a rough life dear blog readers, and the bolshevik and i totally need a weekend away from our permanent vacation.  more accurately, we've been in argentina almost 90 days which means it time to renew our visas!

i feel like this is some sort of rite of passage in the expat community ... we have been here long enough that we now have to leave and come back.  don't fret dear blog readers, here's how it works ...

the argentine government requires that all people here on a tourist visa (almost all expats) need to leave the country after 90 days.  however, there are no rules about how long you need to be gone for OR how many times you can return.  in fact, we paid a pretty penny for our tourist visa which allows us in and out of the country for 90-day periods for the next 10 years.

while we would love to spend a few days in brazil or chile, we don't quite have the money saved up for airfare, so we are going a cheaper route ... we will be staying one night in the riverside town of tigre (only an hour train ride from buenos aires - trains cost less than a dollar!), and then tomorrow we will take a 2-hour scenic boat ride to carmelo uruguay.  we will have lunch in carmelo, walk around and see the one or two sights, and then come right back to argentina, freshly stamped passports in hand.

i don't want to speak too soon ... but i think that this time, (fingers crossed!) a certain bolshevik will NOT be held captive by the border patrol.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

spice free: adventures in cooking

i may have mentioned that they have a little problem here with the lack of spices.  it makes cooking rather difficult (not that i ever excelled in cooking) because everything winds up tasting rather similarly.  a few weeks ago i tried to make chili, which is something i can usually make well, and it wound up tasting like an italian style tomato sauce filled with lots of pinto beans.  not cool.

part of the problem is the lack of black beans.  they only have one kind of canned bean here.  in order to get black beans you have to buy them dry and then soak them for hours.  but i realized the larger problem was cumin.  you can add loads of chili powder to something (which i had to buy in a special "health food" store), but it does not necessitate chili.  so yesterday i went on a quest for cumin.  i'll be honest, i only looked in one place.

they have these stores called dieteticas which from the outside look like health food stores.  they have lots of rice cakes, teas,  spices, nuts and grains, but they also have lots of "specialty" items like chocolate chip cookies and gluten-free dulce de leche.  so it's not quite a health store.  it's more of a shit-you-can't-get-in-the-supermarket store.

so i went in and asked for cumin.  i tried to pronounce it real spanish sounding, because often they take non-spanish words and just pronounce them with a thick spanish accent.  like the time we tried to order shots of jameson and were told it was pronounced cham-ih-son.

moving on!

i received a small sachet of an unfamiliar spice, but i continued with the transaction in hopes that maybe it was cumin in some sort of raw form.  like maybe this is what cumin looks like before your grind it up.

not so.  what i actually received was a bag of rye seeds.  not helpful for chili making.  however, the bolshevik is either going to make rye bread with it or possibly try to distill his own icelandic rye-flavored death schnapps.

in the end, i had an okay chili with black beans, corn, tomatoes, crumbled veggie burger, carrots, celery, onion and garlic.  but it just needed some cumin.  so i got creative.  and let me tell you, when i get creative in the kitchen it usually is not good.  there is much eye-rolling from the bolshevik when i try to freestyle a recipe.

we have this little armenian store not too far from here that sells stuffed grape leaves and hummus and falafel mix.  and i thought to myself, "self .. there is cumin in falafel!"  i will admit it.  i added falafel mix into my chili.  i don't know if it gave the desired cumin effect, but it certainly didn't hurt.  but next time i go on a cumin quest, the first stop is the armenian store.  and hopefully i will figure out how to pronounce cumin by then.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

chinatown and tango

this week on vamonos librarian we journeyed into chinatown or barrio chino ... this is a neighborhood consisting of about two blocks here in buenos aires, but it was interesting nonetheless.  we had some yummy chinese food for lunch, which was nice since it is not often that we get to eat a meal that has spices in it.  not that this food was spicy, but they did at least implement two or more spices in the preparation.

then we checked out some of the local groceries stores, which apparently are the only places you can buy things like red pepper flakes and chili powder and coriander.  crazy.  they also had sushi and dumplings and other more typical asian items, along with an extensive collection of fresh seafood.

then we found what i would consider to be "staples" but are not present in any local food stores.  things like soy sauce, coconut milk and of course ... the ever elusive peanut butter.

apparently, what expats miss most about their homes is the availability of peanut butter.  i personally could go years without peanut butter, but to each his own.  (although all this talk of peanut butter does kind of put me in the mood for some peanut noodles) ... anyway, at a recent expat gathering i suggested that someone could "make their own" peanut butter if they missed it so much.  this idea was met with much hemming and hawing.  certainly, with such a long list of ingredients (peanuts, oil, salt) no one could possibly make this in their own home.  you'd need to be a professional chef or something!

moving on.

barrio chino also has a large supply of buddha statues, paper lanterns, and other asian tchotchkes.  just in case you needed a dragon carved out of jade, that's where you get it.

anyway.  after chinatown, we went to one of the many free tango events that are going on this month as part of the tango festival.

you may not know this, but the bolshevik takes a firm stand against dancing.  he's like one of the old townsfolk from footloose who wants to keep dancing outlawed.  one time, i had to bribe him to take a tango lesson by promising to attend a world cup qualifying futbol match.  but luckily he doesn't mind spending an hour or so watching some dancing, so i guess he's not all bad.

anyway, straight from buenos aires for your viewing pleasure ...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a helpful message to the women of buenos aires

it has happened several times now that i have opened a door or stall in a public bathroom only to find an embarrassed woman already inside there.  then there is a whole string of phrases like "lo siento!"  "perdon!" on my part.

at first i blamed myself.  but now i have come to realize that it is not my fault.  it is the fault of las mujeres.

the other day i went into the bathroom at a cafe and i pushed on the stall door only to have it bump into the woman inside and have her shout out "occupado!"  of course, the first thing i thought was that the lock on the stall must be broken and this poor woman is the innocent victim of poor door design.

but oh no!  that was not the case.  when it was finally my turn and i entered the stall, i saw that there was in fact a lock on the door and it was fully functional.  i even tried to force the door open once i had locked it, and it was impossible.  i would've had to kick down the door like they do in the movies.

then, thinking back to my other bathroom encounters, i realized that all the bathrooms i had been in had locking stall doors.  why would you choose not to lock the door in a public bathroom stall?  i can understand if you're in the privacy of your own home, but in a cafe or restaurant?  is this a cultural thing?  i don't know, maybe it's just me, but being walked in on in the bathroom is definitely one of my top fears, right up there with spiders and death.

so women of buenos aires ... let me give you some advice. because as much as i love you portenas, i don't need to see your ass every time i have to pee.  SO when you enter a bathroom stall:

1.  check the door for one of those little metal bars or "locks" as we call them in english.
2.  once the door is closed, slide the little metal bar from the door into the "locked position"
3.  the door is now locked.  you can pee in privacy

Monday, August 23, 2010

boca, boca de mi vida, vos sos la alegria de mi corazon

the bolshevik in camouflage
at la bombonera
you may be asking yourself, "self, what has miss dewey decimal been up to recently?"  well, we've been quite busy.  in addition to teaching to the masses, impersonating men on the internet and writing their online dating messages for them, and some other odd writing jobs, sometimes the bolshevik and i actually get out of the house and do some fun stuff.

the other weekend we went to la bombonera for our first boca juniors match.  since it's a bit tricky to get tickets, we decided to go with a tour.  so about 20 or so expats from a variety of english speaking countries all went to the stadium with a loca tour guide who would protect us from the "virtually lawless" streets of la boca.

now, there are two sections of the stadium for "hooligans."  we were in the "guest hooligan" section.  apparently there are more "official hooligans" who get to be in a different section which was directly across from us.  due to safety reasons, we had to arrive to the stadium very early.  while we were waiting for the game to start, i snapped this shot of the bolshevik.  can you find him?  he blends in with the scenery so well here.


now, the bolshevik makes fun of me for owning so many dresses.  to be honest, i could wear a different dress every day and i wouldn't have to repeat for a fortnight.  (and those are just the ones i've brought with me to buenos aires) but my beloved bolshevik now owns enough sports-related apparel to put on a small futbol fashion show: track jackets, jerseys, scarves, hoodies, etc.  he is prepared for almost any sporting event.

anyway, once the game was about to begin there was a whole lotta spectacle.  first there was all this blue smoke that came from various parts of the stadium.

then came the confetti.  now, there is a certain amount of confetti which fans bring with them.  but then there were confetti canons which blasted confetti from the field.  within a few minutes, between the blue smoke and the blue and yellow confetti, we could barely see a thing.

then, across the field in the "official hooligan" section, all these people with blue and yellow umbrellas came marching down the aisles beating drums and playing horns (actual horns, not those annoying vuvuzela things).  soon they were lowering all sorts of banners and flags.  then they actually lowered a gigantic boca jersey that covered the entire section of the stadium.  it was rather impressive.  i can barely fold sheets with the rounded corners, and here a huge group of people were coordinating the folding and unfolding of a 3-story tee-shirt.

this shirt belongs to jugador numero 12, or player number 12.  it was explained that only 11 players can be on the field and that the "12th player" is the boca fans.  apparently, number 12 is never given to any player as it is reserved to honor crazy boca hooligans.  that's nice.

then after all this rigmarole, the game actually started.  i had almost forgotten there was a futbol match at hand.  for the first 15 minutes our boca juniors were playing a great game.  they were on like gangbusters.  they scored a goal pretty quickly and things were looking good.  but then all of a sudden the opposing team scored, and then boca just lost all their pizazz.  and yes, pizazz is a term often used in futbol commentary.  in the end, boca lost 1-2.  a sad sad day.

then, just when we thought we could drown our sorrows in the free pizza and beer that came with our tour, we were told that we had to wait 20 minutes before we were allowed to leave the stadium.  you see, for their own safety, the away fans need to be evacuated from the stadium before they let any of the hooligans out.

now, if you read my previous boca juniors post, you know that the away fans are penned into a special barbed wire "away" section.  as they were leaving this section, they were hooting and hollering, stamping their feet, and banging on the walls, making a very loud ruckus as they exited.  (stupid away fans always rubbing it in)

"official hooligans" quarantined in la bombonera
after about 15 minutes we noticed that the other sections of the stadium had been cleared as well.  you know, all the normal, non-hooligan types.  across the field we saw the "official hooligans" were the only other section (besides ours) which remained.  and of course, even though our team lost, they continued to play their horns and bang their drums, having a fine old time as we all waited to be released.  yup, we were quarantined with jubilant futbol hooligans.  just another day in buenos aires.

we continued to wait a good long time, wondering if they ever left fans in the stadium before.  but eventually we were freed from the stadium.  the end.





Saturday, August 14, 2010

nuestro departmento nuevo

here's our building from the street.
that stylish balcony with the moss
hanging down from it its ours!
this is the view from our "work room" ...
it's a narrow room with a counter for lap-top use.
quite handy really, but i didn't take a picture of it yet.
these are the french doors leading out to our balcony.


It's still a bit cold for balcony use, but sometimes
i will sit out here with a cup of tea and my laptop
while wearing a hat and fingerless gloves
and try to do work out here.
that usually doesn't last long.
and here is a view down the street.
please notice our potted plants which
the bolshevik dutifully takes care of.
i have tried to explain my "tough love"
method of plant care (ie, only watering
them once a week, maybe).  he has now
asked me not to go near the plants.

Friday, August 6, 2010

unbeknownst to me, i am now a member of the bourgeoisie

i would like to preface this blog post with a caveat ... i have never had my own cleaning lady before, mostly due to the fact that i couldn't afford it.

and yet, when i received an e-mail from my landlady the other day i was truly shocked and appalled to find out that our all-in-white apartment does not include weekly maid service.  instead we have to pay 12 pesos an hour ($3) for such luxuries.  i am shocked.  

and of course the bolshevik is refusing to pay.  he thinks we can change our own sheets and mop our own floors.  (as i have done my whole adult life)  

but now all of a sudden i cannot believe the injustice of it all that we do not have these services for free.  surely, i shouldn't have to clean my own dishes 7 days a week?  i am entitled to a dish-free day, no?  

i'll tell you, after only six weeks of having someone come in weekly to do dishes, mop floors, wipe down surfaces, and change the sheets ... i have become quite used to this luxurious lifestyle.  i don't know if i can ever go back to the way things were.

lo suspiro.




Thursday, August 5, 2010

brother can you spare a dime? or a piece of candy?

you'll be happy to know that i have become a master of the colectivos, or buses as you may like to call them ... ok, master may be a stretch, but i have learned to take buses to and from my home to various places of interest, and can even sometimes "freestyle" a bus route with little planning.  this is with much help from the following websites such as this one put out by the city or this one which i find to be inferior but useful nontheless.

but here is the thing ... you need monedas or coins to ride the bus.  no metrocards, no bills.  only coins.  easy enough, right?  but if you need to ride the bus every day to and from work (and since i often have more than one student a day, that can be 4 or 6 colectivo rides) all of a sudden you need a hell of a lot of coinage.

apparently, there is a shortage of monedas here, so people at shops are reluctant to give you change unless absolutely necessary (even after you have bought something and asked them really nicely for coins).

in fact, several times when i have bought something and i was owed 5 or 10 centavos, instead of giving me a coin the cashier has given me a small piece of candy instead.  yeah.  wrap your mind around that.  you are owed 10 centavos and instead of receiving money you just get a sucking candy.  i wouldn't mind this, as i do like candy, but i also like being able to get to work.  and much to my dismay, they do not accept candy as bus fare. (maybe they can create a little candy slot next to the coin slot?  or you know how they used to have those big funnels at toll booths and you just threw your change in ... they could have those that accept change or candies)

anyway, now i am quite mathematic about my purchases, trying to get the most amount of change out of every item i buy.  sometimes i will even spread out my shopping, going to more than one store so that i can receive more change per item.

i have realized that the problem is all due to the 2 peso bill.  you see, there are coins for 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos, and a coin for 1 peso.  then there are bills for 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100.  it is this 2 peso bill which is ruining it for everyone.

for example ... you have a 5 peso bill and you buy something that is 3 pesos, but when you get change you get a 2 peso bill instead of getting 2 coins.  so you have to be very thoughtful about what you are buying and how much you are giving the clerk, because if your change is in multiples of 2 then you'll never get any coins back.  one also must consider that if you purposefully purchase something so that you will get 1.90 or 1.95 back, the most amount of change you could possibly receive in coins, it is possible that the store clerk may opt to round up and give you the 2 peso bill instead of monedas.

to be perfectly honest, it's more math than i care to do.

the solution to this problem is simple, although i am sure it will never be implemented.  stop making 2 peso bills!  instead make double the amount of 1 peso coins.  another economic crisis solved by miss dewey d.