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.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

these are a few of my favorite things ... part 2

i forgot to mention public holidays!  now, working in a public library i got a fair amount of holidays off.  however, i often had to work the day after thanksgiving, the day after christmas, election day, etc.  but in argentina they sure know how to celebrate a holiday.  first off, everything closes.  EVERYTHING.  there is no office left open.  everyone has off for every holiday.  there's no, "oh, i don't get columbus day off."  not in argentina my dear blog readers!  dia de la raza is celebrated by all!

now, during our time in buenos aires the good president Christina decided that it was a travesty that there was no public holiday in november ... so she created a new holiday!  just so there could be a holiday every month!  (check out the calendar of national holidays, all of which must be kept oh-so-holy and work-free)

then, in march this year, there were two holidays that fell mid-week ... one on a thursday and one on a tuesday.  so it was decided that a feriada puente or "bridge holiday" would be instituted.  this means that if the holiday falls on a thursday, everyone gets off of work thursday and friday.  or if the holiday is on a tuesday, everyone gets off monday and tuesday.  which means that in march we had not one, but two  four-day weekends!  four days!  it may only be one day more, but a four-day weekend totally kicks a three-day weekend's ass.  ah, i remember those sad sad days in hell's library where i was excited by a two-day weekend.  lame.

the only problem with this is the productivity was at an all-time low during march ... everyone was coming off their summer holidays and you'd hear things like, "well because of the two bridge holidays this month, we probably won't get to that until April."  but really, who cares when you have two four-day weekends?

did i ever tell you about the time that the entire city shut down so that they could take the country-wide census all in one day? maybe next time ....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

these are a few of my favorite things ...

as i'm sure you've noticed, sometimes i like to get my kvetch on.  but i love buenos aires, despite any complaining i might do.  so i'd like to highlight some things that i think are really cool ...

1.  free bikes
bike kiosk at plaza italia
several months ago, the city of buenos aires created a free bike borrowing program.  all you need to do is bring a passport or DNI card and proof of your address (bill, bank statement, etc) ... you wait on one line where they quickly set up an account for you, taking a picture of you for their files, and showing you how to create a PIN.  then you go to the other line where you can use your PIN to sign in and you are given a bike with basket, helmet, and lock!  you're only allowed to use the bike for 2 hours, which kinda sucks, and the weekend hours are limited.  however, there are bike kiosks all over the city, so if you wanted to ride to work, you could drop your bike off when you get there and then pick up a different one when you're ready to ride home.  it's definitely a good start, and if people continue to use the program maybe they will expand the hours.  in general, although the traffic is a little scary, buenos aires is quickly becoming a decent city to bike around.  in the short time i've been here they've massively increased the number of bike lanes throughout the city.  now all they have to do is get cars to stop parking in them.

2.  free cultural events
call me a socialist, but i love free stuff provided by the government.  the city of buenos aires provides extensive free cultural activities throughout the summer (and the rest of the year as well): free tango performances, children's theater productions in the botanical gardens, "drive in" movies in the park (bleachers provided for pedestrians), concerts in various plazas and outdoor venues throughout the city, etc etc.  i wish we had took advantage of this more, but the few events we did go to were all excellent.  one was a concert in constanera sur, near the nature preserve ... they had a reggae singer that apparently is mildly famous.  the music was great, and within the crowd there were people selling homemade breads and other snacks, and people going around selling beer.  mind you, these are not official vendors; these are just random people who thought they'd bring beer or make sandwiches to sell at the concert.  at one of these events i even saw a guy pushing a shopping cart filled with all the makings for milanesa sandwiches (this is a breaded steak cutlet that is very typical in argentina).  sure, the health department could have a field day with this, but i love the industriousness of these people and the sense of community it creates.  much nicer than having to pay $10 for a taco from some vendor at lollapalooza (and that was back in the 90s ... think about how much the price of tacos must've increased with inflation!)



3.  random charming silliness
an argentine friend once complained to me that she felt argentines were completely illogical.  at the time i had just moved to buenos aires, so i had no idea what she was talking about.  but then as time went on i would encounter random odd things and wonder to myself, "why on earth would anyone choose to do this in this way?  certainly there is a better more effective option."  and of course, when pressed for an example it is often difficult to come up with something concrete.
pares y impares
or odds and evens
the other day i went to a new doctor and i was waiting in the lobby for the elevator.  when an elevator came, i walked into it, holding the door open for the other two people who were waiting beside me.  but they just waived me away, saying that they would wait for the next one.  at first i thought this was odd, assuming that they purposefully did not want to share an elevator with little ol' me.  but then when i entered the elevator and tried to push the button for floor 11, i realized that the elevator only had even-numbered buttons.  so i had to go to floor 10 and then walk up a flight.
yes, that's right ... they had an elevator for odd-numbered floors and an elevator for even-numbered floors.  now, while i could see how this could be useful in having the elevator make less stops, the fact remains that it is highly conceivable that the proper elevator could be many many floors away and then the other elevator could be in the lobby, taunting you, unable to take you to the floor you need.  this leads me to wonder, "why on earth would anyone choose to have elevators operate this way?  certainly there is a better more effective option."

4.  street art / graffiti
i've never thought of graffiti as a problem.  sometimes i hear people complain about it as though it were a blight on our society, but i have to admit i like graffiti.  and i especially like murals, street art, and other colorful things painted onto the sides of buildings.  and such urban art is plentiful in buenos aires:



































5.  things that are filled with and/or contain dulce de leche
my favorite alfajor ... cachafez brand
mmmmm ... dulce de leche ... let me count the ways
     1.  alfajores - sandwich cookie with dulce de leche inside
     2.  various ice cream flavors like dulce de leche, dulce de leche con brownie, super dulce de leche etc etc
     3.  breakfast foods like toast or croissants with dulce de leche
     4.  on fruit like apples or bananas
     5.  on top of desserts such as flan, cakes, ice cream sundaes, etc
     6.  straight out of the jar or container using only a spoon or finger

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

and now ... the end is near

all i have to do is practice
my dance moves and i'll be
ready for carnivale!
hello my poor forsaken blog readers ... oh how i have ignored you.

sadly, due to a family emergency, my time in argentina has been cut short.  but before i move on to my misadventures of readjusting to life on strong island, i have a few more stories up my sleeve ...

first off, you can't leave south america without going to one last parade.  so we took a bus to gualeguaychu for carnivale for one last parade hurrah.  the plan was simple ... get drunk on the beach, watch carnivale, and then take a bus home at 4 am.  simple.

for those of you who don't know about carnivale, the town of gualeguaychu celebrates carnivale every weekend from january to march.  they close one of the larger streets and set up bleachers on both sides, making a long runway of sorts for the paraders to parade down. it's the largest carnivale celebration outside of brazil.  apparently, HUGE amounts of money go into the elaborate floats and costumes, and a lot of time is spent practicing dance steps.  typically the parade starts at around 11 or 12 at night, and goes on until about 6 am.

but sadly, somebody (your truly) had a bit too much to drink and ... well ... i believe i slept through a large part of carnivale.  i seem to have a large chunk of time from midnight to 2 am where no pictures were taken and i don't remember much.  but luckily i do have some photographic evidence that i was there!

scantily clad carnivale dancers


i liked these older ladies and their more regal costumes

dancers atop of a float (with dance handles for safety)
i'm not quite sure what this guy is supposed to be ... but i like it