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, September 27, 2010

this is why your bike is stolen

entonces ... being the joiner that i am, i have joined several e-mail lists, yahoo groups, etc filled with expats living here in buenos aires.  now, i have met some lovely people through these groups, and i have found some valuable information.  for instance, one of these groups had a long string of emails recommending gynecologists in the area, and i was able to find a very nice doctor for my *ahem* problems down there.  moving on!

sadly, despite the helpful nature of these groups, i can't help but notice that they are filled with a lot of whiny cry babies.  (please miss dewey decimal, don't hold back!  speak your mind!)  yes, it seems that every day i read messages complaining about this or that: oh buenos aires is so dangerous ...  oh buenos aires is so dirty ...  oh buenos aires isn't exactly like the town, city, country i came from and i expected this foreign country to be just like home but with palm trees ...  oh buenos aires is chaos, i want to be in an orderly country like germany ...  oh, i'm upset because i moved to buenos aires hoping to exploit an economy that is in poorer shape than my home country, but lo and behold i am making pesos now and the exchange rate is no longer working in my favor.  (please note that these are not the opinions held by your beloved miss dewey decimal, but rather ridiculous rantings that i have encountered from various expats)

let's face it people ... although when walking down the supermarket aisles it may seem as though we're living in soviet russia (really, would it kill them to stock a few more varieties of cereal?), it is in fact not soviet russia.  YOU ARE FREE TO LEAVE AT ANY TIME.  so if you don't like it, pack it up and go home.  no need to clog up what could be a useful forum with your random complaints about DHL service.

you may be wondering to yourself, "self, what the hell is miss dewey decimal going on about?"  well ... i do have a point buried in here somewhere ...

obnoxious note from old italian ladies in brooklyn.
note reads: move your bike.  this is not a bike rack.
if anyone falls getting out of a car or crossing the
street, i could get sued.  it's on my sidewalk.
(this of course is wholly untrue.  if you're
retarded enough to trip and fall over a bike
you cannot sue some random brooklyn
resident who IS NOT the owner of the bike. residents
do not own the sidewalk)
you see, the bolshevik and i are in the process of getting bikes.  yay, bikes!  so i checked out a forum on biking, thinking i could find useful information on the following topics:
1.  bike lines, and where to find maps of bike lanes (i have since figured this out on my own)
2.  biking laws - can you ride on the sidewalk, are you supposed to ride with traffic, are you allowed to ride the wrong way on a one-way street, etc)
3.  bike lock etiquette - there are no bike racks here, and in brooklyn there are a fair amount of crazy old italian ladies who will get mad if you lock up a bike near their property.  they will actually come out of their homes and yell at you, OR they'll leave obnoxious notes taped to your bike.

anyway, although i did find a few pro-bike voices of reason on the internets, mostly instead of finding answers to my questions i found a bunch of complaints.  go figure.  these complaints fell into three categories:
1.  danger - not only is buenos aires a lawless city of criminals waiting to pounce on you at any moment, but it is also a dangerous place to ride a bike.  BE AFRAID!
2.  dirtiness - buenos aires is so dirty and if you ride a bike you will be choking on bus fumes the entire time.  (i ask you, except for Melbourne, Australia aren't all cities dirty?  is that not the nature of cities?)
3.  theft - your bicycle will be stolen immediately.  because, as it is stated in #1, this is a city of criminals just waiting to rob you blind.

now, i have been the victim of a fair amount of bike thievery.  my bike has been stolen.  my back wheel has been stolen (with all the gears!  super expensive to replace!).  my lights have been stolen (this is just mean as it leaves me riding in the dark at night).  and finally, the release lever for my seat was stolen.  i had the seat with me, but some asshole stole the lever so then i had to have my seat permanently bolted on.

anyway!  i have noticed that when i see bikes locked up here they are not using the height of bike locking security.  usually they have a rather skimpy lock, which i'm sure could easily be cut with a wire cutters or other hardware store tool.  when i had my bike in brooklyn i locked it up with a thick metal chain and padlock.  it looked rather badass, and the thick metal chain also doubled as a weapon.  (one time i had to wield it menacingly at a creepy guy who followed me home one night)  ahhh, brooklyn.

so the other day i saw this bit of silliness locked up in front of my house.  now, please note that although the lock is locked around the fence, the lock is not actually locked onto the bike.  if you were to turn the bike on its side slightly, you could easily slide the handlebars right out of the lock!  in addition to locking a bikelock to a fence or other secure area, you also need to lock a bikelock TO YOUR BIKE!  as in, through the wheels or through the frame of your bike.

dare i say, that if this is how people are locking up their bikes, then it's no wonder their bikes are being stolen.

i am not a thief, but even i was kinda thinking that maybe i should try and take this bike, just to see how easy it would be.  AND to teach the owner a valuable lesson.

this is my old bike when i hung it up for the winter
and then decorated it for christmas.  what?  is that not
normally what you do on christmas?
i'm jewish, i don't know these things.
ANYWAY, if you look at the handlebars
you can see my badass chain and padlock,
for proper bike security.
for instance, i used to "double lock" my bike, locking the frame and front wheel with my badass chain, then locking the frame and back wheel with a kryptonite lock.  one day i came to get my bike and the kryptonite lock was sliced in two.  now, my bike was still there because they couldn't break the badass chain.  i like to think they were sending me a message.  as in, "hey ... we've got our eyes on your bike and don't think that crappy little lock does jack shit."

yeah, that's how the thieves roll in brooklyn.  this little lilac number would've been gone in seconds had it been locked up in south williamsburg.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

t-t-t-tigre! (and carmelo, uruguay)

oh dear blog readers, how i have forsaken you ... so a couple of weeks ago my beloved bolshevik and i journeyed (and by journeyed i mean we took a 50 minute train ride) to the riverside town of tigre.

tigre is super cute and kind of reminds me a bit of new england, you know ... if new england was flooded with spanish speakers.  tigre seems to be famous for two things ... rowing and markets.  due to it being kind of winter-ish here, we did not do any rowing.  but we saw the famous tigre rowing club, which was quite pretty.

the fruit markets, as they are called, are a huge complex of market stalls spanning several different blocks.  they sell furniture, art prints, antiques, old signs, mate gourds, and random things made of wicker.  and then i came across this little stall that only specializes in troll dolls?  say what?  the bolshevik refused to go inside this one because apparently he has a fear of troll dolls.  fair enough ... these guys were kinda creepy.

later, we rented bikes at our hostel and rode on a promenade that runs alongside the river.   eventually we came across a beautiful building which turned out to be the museum of tigre art.  as we did not actually go inside, i am unsure if this means it is a museum of art by tigre residents (or maybe artistic renderings of tigre) OR if it is just an art museum that is in tigre.  either way we took a gazillion pictures of it.

the following day we took a boat into carmelo, uruguay.  while we would've been happy to have another day in tigre, we needed to leave and re-enter the country in order to renew our visas.  so we took a nice ferry type boat ride and after 2 hours we docked in carmelo.

two "points of interest" at once: the bridge and the promenade
there are only 2 boats going to and from carmelo ... one arrives in carmelo at around 11 am, and then leaves at 5:30 pm.   let me tell you something about carmelo, uruguay ... it is possibly the most boring town on earth.  at around 11:05 we wondered how the hell we were possibly going to entertain ourselves for another 5 hours and 55 minutes.

at the boat terminal, we were given a small map of the town, with several little "points of interest" ... things like: bridge, plaza, fire department, new church, old church, tourist office etc.  during our 5-minute walk to the tourist office we actually passed by a large number of the sites on the map.  see that, they call that multi-tasking.

the nice man at the tourist office suggested we go to the winery.  but the winery was several miles away, and when we asked if we could take a taxi he explained that the next taxi wouldn't arrive until 1pm.  hmmm.

thankfully we noticed a whole load of bikes in the back of the office, so for the bargain price of $10 US for the entire day, we both got outfitted on some run-down bikes.

well i'll tell you dear blog readers we were infinitely happier once we got ourselves on some bikes.  we rode past farms and vineyards and horses and the four seasons golf course.

what?  yeah, apparently there is a huge luxurious four seasons in carmelo, uruguay.  we looked into hanging out there and it turns out its like hundreds of dollars for just about any activity. (little known fact ... miss fifi and her man got hitched at the four seasons in uruguay.  yup.)

my busted up bike in front of Narbona vineyards
for the first couple of miles everything was going well.  then the hunger set in.  then a few miles later we reached the hills.  oh, so many hills.  we were starting to get very disheartened that maybe we had passed the winery and would then have to go back and ride over all the hills again.

then luckily, without out any signage that can be seen from the road (really people, what are you thinking?  it's the only point of interest for miles.  invest in a sign!) we finally stumbled upon the winery.

inside the winery was a super cute little restaurant that was all dark and cozy and filled with wine.  the bolshevik and i, being starving and having just ridden about 7 miles or so on very shitty bikes up and down a variety of hills, were eyeing many menu items.  they were a bit pricey, but we figured that we deserved it (hey, we were on vacation!)  and then we realized that the prices were in US dollars and not uruguayan pesos.

and that is how the bolshevik and i wound up having the most expensive lunch we have ever eaten in our entire lives!  but we did it in style dear blog readers! we tasted several wines, tried some grappa made from honey ... all before ordering a bottle of wine, a plate o' cheese and some amazing homemade pastas. mmmmmm.

the only problem was that afterwards we had to ride 7 miles back to our boat, full of pastas and cheeses and a fair amount of vino.

i won't lie to you dear blog readers, it was rough at times.   but in the end we made it to our boat with several minutes to spare.  back in tigre we got some raised eyebrows from the border patrol, but ultimately we were allowed back into the country and no one was detained and no bribery was required.  all in all, a successful visa renewal weekend.

the end.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

¡feliz rosh hashanah!

on this day we eat apples and honey ... and then we take the leftover apples and drop them into a vat of vodka along with some cinnamon sticks and simple syrup and then let it sit one full week until the day of our housewarming party ... wait, that doesn't sound right ...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

people i have kissed

here in buenos aires it is customary to kiss everyone you meet on the cheek.  everyone.  men, women, everyone.  and it does not matter what your relationship to this person is.  if you speak to someone for more than about 2 minutes, you are now on kissing-terms with them.  if you walk into a party, random people you have never met will kiss you first, then tell you their names.

although the bolshevik finds this highly uncomfortable (being a cold-hearted anglo-type), i find a sort of comfort in knowing that there will be no awkward  goodbyes, no wondering whether or not you are going to hug, shake hands, kiss, etc.  or worse, no going in to kiss someone on the cheek only to realize that they were planning on shaking your hand.  i like a good steadfast rule.

with that said, here is a list of random people we have had to kiss:

1.  our realtor - a woman showed us ONE apartment that we absolutely did not want to take, and then afterwards we had to kiss her as we tried to excuse ourselves from the situation.  uncomfortable.

2.  my students - i kiss all of my students both hello and goodbye.  it's just odd to be that friendly.

3.  our banker - the bolshevik had to kiss his banker after a fiasco with a lost ATM card.  i'm sure he had not expected this level of treatment when he became a premiere member of HSBC.  for a while, this was #1 in awkward kissing situations, but then today i had a winner with ...

4.  my gynecologist - yup, i had to kiss my gynecologist today, as well as her receptionist.  very strange.

although odd, i am kind of getting used to this level of affectionateness with everyone.  the other day, the bolshevik and i were watching an episode of mad men, and i was amazed at how stiff and unemotional everyone was.  at first i thought, "oh, that's what conservative late 1950s/early 1960s america was like."  but then i realized, no ... the reason everyone seems so uptight is because people are shaking hands and the entire office of Sterling Cooper aren't kissing each other hello.  (which i would imagine in a large office takes a long time ... it must be at least 9:30 am before everyone has kissed everyone and can commence with the work day)

¡obra social!

hey you americans out there ... i just want to gloat about my new health insurance!

for AR$260 a month (all taxes and fees included), i now have health insurance.  i can go to any doctor, dentist, specialist or hospital on the list FOR FREE without the need of a referral.  i get 40% of all medications as long as i have a prescription, and 30% off glasses or contacts (which i need since i seemed to have left my glasses somewhere between peru and buenos aires). and for a measly 20 pesos i can get a doctor to come to my house.  i think i'm going to do this at least once, just for the fun of it.  also, i am pretty sure that after one year i can get one free cosmetic surgery?  am i reading this right?  i can get a free boob job?

moving on!

anyway, totally psyched to go to a whole bunch o' doctors.