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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

happy chocotorta

many of you may know that i am not a fan of cooking.  i am however a fan of baking.  so when i first learned of the chocotorta i was compelled to find out how to make one.  i actually found a very helpful youtube video that gives helpful instructions.  and it turns out baking is not even required!  what could be better?

the other day i was discussing my love of chocotorta (the desert, the ice cream flavor at freddo, the sundae at freddo, etc) with one of my bosses, and she said that she has a friend who puts banana in her chocotorta. brilliant.  although typically served at birthdays, i decided that i would make one for my friend's christmas bagel brunch.

here's how it works ...

chocolate cookies
dulce de leche
chocolate flavored liquor (or coffee flavored liquor, or cold coffee mixed with the booze of your choice)
bananas (optional)

step one:
empty the dulce de leche and the crema into a mixing bowl and mix until smooth.  it should be a 1:1 ratio crema to dulce de leche.

step two:
take each chocolate cookie and dunk it in the liquor, then place at the bottom of a large baking dish

step three:
spread the crema/dulce de leche mixture in a thin layer over the cookies

step four (optional):
create a layer of sliced bananas (i did this in the middle, which then made the above layers a bit wonky.  it may be better to put the banana layer on top.  however, bananas are not traditionally in a chocotorta at all)

step five:
repeat layers of cookie and crema/dulce de leche until you run out of cookies.  end with a layer of the crema/dulce de leche mixture.

step six:
take any leftover cookies and crumble them on top of the dulce de leche in a decorative fashion.  (or do other creative decorating with any extra cookies)

step seven:
refrigerate for at least 2 hours

happy holidays!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

uruguay: quite possibly the most boring place on earth

november 2010 - visa renewal trip

the bolshevik and i seem to have a little problem picking the most boring parts of uruguay to visit when we have to do our visa renewal.  since we've already been to montevideo and colonia, the two "big" tourist attractions, we stubbornly choose to explore new parts of uruguay, believing that there might be some hidden gem to discover.  why do we do this?  i don't know.

so last time we needed to renew our visas i stood firm on the fact that we needed to go to punta del este or punte del diablo, both of which are supposed to be fun beach towns that are non-boring.    we even found a cheap flight to montevideo, then an equally cheap bus connection to punta del diablo.  we're set, right?  no. sadly we waited too long to buy the ticket and then they jacked up the price and we could no longer afford it.  damned it!

and that is how we wound up spending the weekend in colon (argentina) and paysandu (uruguay) ...

now before i begin my kvetching, let me tell you that colon wasn't so bad.  it was about a 4-5 hour bus ride from buenos aires (they have luxury buses here, which i will describe later), and the town was okay.  it had a couple of main streets with lots of little shops and restaurants and bars.  they also have quite an active art scene apparently, which includes intriguing street art such as this (more street artists need to pay tribute to slash!) ...

a parilla on the beaches of colon
anyway, once you leave the main strip, it's all little houses on dirt roads.  but the town is right on the water so it's got some charm.  there are some beaches to hang out at, and overall it has the feel of a sleepy little beachy town.  it's probably good for families who want to go away but can't afford to do anything too extravagant.

you may be asking yourself, "self, how the hell did miss dewey d and her bolshevik choose this town to visit?"  two words: hot springs ...  and border crossing.  okay, that's four words.

our not-so-trusty guidebook told us that there were hot springs in colon.  let me tell you, the bolshevik and i love us some hot springs.  when we were in costa rica (our first trip together!) we went to this gorgeous hot springs that had several lovely pools filled with spring water heated by a nearby volcano.  we were surrounded by beautiful lush plants, a delicious and healthy spa lunch was included with our admission, and there was a bar where we could order cocktails and then drink them while relaxing in the hot hot water.  awesome.

the hot springs in colon were similar to going to your local public pool.  you pay a very small amount to get in, there's a bunch of cement pools painted bright blue, filled with what we were told is extremely healthy mineral-rich water that was the same temperature as a warm bath tub (hot springs should be hot, damnit!)  and there was a snack bar with fries and soda and simpson's themed ice cream pops.

ok, so maybe these were not the dreamy costa rica hot springs we were expecting, but the bolshevik and i can roll with the punches.  we had a fine time at the hot spring, even though we were among the minority of hot-spring goers who were under the age of 75.

the next day we took a bus to paysandu, which is a short 12km ride across a bridge into uruguay.  paysandu also has hot springs, so we figured we would try out their hot springs and if the town seemed at all interesting we would stay overnight.

well .... it took us 2.5 hours to get to paysandu.  say what?!  it took as about 10 minutes to reach the border crossing.  then the bus driver took all the passenger's passports to be stamped.  we wound up sitting on the bus for about TWO HOURS waiting for everyone's passport to be stamped.  urgh.

then finally when it's time to move, the bus leaves the border crossing about goes about 20 meters before stopping to let someone off randomly at the side of the road.  then the bus drives in a large circle and doubles back to the border crossing.  at this point i was really confused.  weren't we just here?  then three guys get off.  why didn't they get off the bus during the TWO HOURS we were waiting? i don't know.

so we finally get on our way and we are on a large entrance ramp to the highway and it's our bus and  motorcyclist on the road.  no one else.  just us.  and i swear to you, for no reason at all, our bus just swerves into the motorcyclist, knocking him off his motorcycle.  it was almost like the bus had hip-checked him.

exciting metropolis of paysandu
then of course the driver stops and gets out of the bus to yell at the motorcyclist as though it could possibly be his fault.  after about a half hour of confusion a local bus comes to pick us up.  now the problem here is that we have no idea where the local bus goes, but we get on it anyway because at this point we're kind of furious and annoyed ... and really hungry.

finally, we get to "downtown" paysandu where absolutely nothing is open.  saturday at 2 pm ... everything is closed.  maybe it was siesta or something, but we really didn't care.  we decided we had to get the hell out of uruguay.

after wandering around for 30 minutes wondering how to get to the bus station, we finally stumbled across an open "restaurant" that sold very basic fare: meat, fries, empanadas, and beer.  so we took a quick lunch break (mmmm, empanadas and beer) and then finally got some legitimate directions to the bus station.  but not before encountering the most fascinating sight of paysandu, uruguay ... nevada cigarettes.

yes, this american blend of cigarettes may double your risk of erectile disfunction, but don't worry, it's only if you're between 30 and 40 years old.  everyone else can smoke away!

we had to wait a couple of hours for the bus back, but we entertained ourselves with crossword puzzles and beer at the bus station.  then we went back through the border (which this time only took about 45 minutes), back to colon, and back to our hotel.  the following day we visited a different hot springs ... this one was fancier and had a little spa (which sadly was all booked up), and it had water slides!

although we did get a little heat for being the only child-less adults using the water slides, we slid down those things for quite some time anyway.  and honestly, this trip needed some water slides or else it may have been a dud.

conclusion 1: water slides make everything better.
conclusion 2: 90 days from now we will get our act together and go to punta del diablo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

a lonely jew on christmas ...

on my way to punk some rope
in palermo park
as a cultural atheistic jew, i am very strict about not celebrating christmas.  for example, i've never had a christmas tree or eaten christmas turkey or hung stockings or anything like that.  however, one time i lived with someone who was a unitarian and we had a "holiday" tree with dreidels and buddhas and an oddly charming christmas pickle, but that hardly counts.

anyway, often i get pitying looks from christians as though mine is some sort of awful scrooge-like existence, and that i am in some way spiritually and culturally depraved.  (this is not an exaggeration dear blog readers, i could quote many stupid mindless things that people have said to me in respect to this over the years)  mind you, i do enjoy looking at christmas lights, eating cookies, and drinking festive cocktails as well as cleverly named seasonal drinks from starbucks.

so save me your pity, because i actually love christmas.  want to know why?  because it's usually two non-weekend days in a row in which i don't have to do anything!  i have no obligations!  not only that, while all you revelers are stuck traveling to go visit your families i am usually hanging out with a merry gang of jews and heretics doing super fun things like eating korean bbq, going to movies, drinking mimosas, going sledding, or even playing ping pong!  ahhhh, christmas is such a very special time of year!

however, here in BsAs i've noticed that things have a tendency to shut down completely on holidays.  and since christmas is a much more holy than say, national census day, i was a bit worried that things might be closed:

me: i want to have jewish christmas!  you know with a movie and asian food!
bolshevik: i doubt anything will be open.
me: but they have jews here!
bolshevik: (silencio)

well, apparently the bolshevik was right because as it turns out movie theaters are actually CLOSED on christmas.  and on christmas eve the last showing is at 1 pm or so.  what the hell?!  what are all the jews going to do?

anyhoo ... the bolshevik and i decided that we will travel to mendoza for the holidays to drink wine and hang out in the andes.  but not before stopping at a friends for a christmas bagel brunch (thank god for other jews!).  yes, that's right, they do have bagels here.  although not quite a new york bagel, quierobagel probably does the closest thing you can get to an authentic bagel.  ahhhh, a christmas miracle.

Friday, November 26, 2010

goodbye old girl ...

for this blog post i was hoping to do some fancy technological shit where a song plays when you read it ... sadly i have no idea how to do that.  so instead, please press play on this video so that you can hear the song that i would've attached to this post had i known had to do that.

okay, is the music playing?  cool ... then please read on!

my dear blog readers, this week has been mierda.  to recount ... first i took a tumble off my bike injuring my knees and leaving me hobbling around like a cripple.

then .... THEN ... the other day i had to walk to one of my classes since my knees still weren't bending properly.  and i saw that my trusty old bike was locked up outside of my apartment building as always.  so i  limp over to my class, only to be stood up by my student ... grrrrr ... and then when i come home i find that my bike is gone.  GONE!

say what?!

that's right.  ladrones stole my motherfucking bicycle!

oh girl, had i known that our time
together was gonna be so short
i totally would've taken more
pictures with you.  i'm sorry i
didn't treat you better.  and i didn't
mean to get mad at you when you
fell out from under me and made
me skin my knees.  i'd do anything
to have you back. 
now as i have mentioned before i have been the victim of bike thievery before.  my bike's been stolen, my back tire has been stolen, my gears have been stolen, my quick release lever for my seat has been stolen, and multiple lights have been stolen.  but i'll be honest with you, every time i was lucky enough to be in the financial position to replace these things.  but now, being a lowly under paid english teacher / writer, i don't really have the funds for a new bike.  and i rely on my bike to get to several of my classes that are in transportational black holes.

it's very much like the famous italian film Bicycle Thieves.  i have even thought about stealing someone else's bike, but as a moral and upstanding citizen, i cannot bring myself to do such things.

so with this blog post i bid a fond adios to my beloved bicycle.  yes, dear bicycle we have come to the end of the road.  it is unnatural for us to part this way.  you will be missed greatly.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

a chocotorta and two skinned knees

i don't like to think of myself as accident prone, but the evidence is stacking up to prove that maybe i am. as a child, i typically always had at least one skinned knee and there was probably a band-aid somewhere on my body covering a recent accident.  and now as an adult it's still pretty common for me to have black and blues from where i have accidentally walked into stuff or knocked into something.

since coming to buenos aires i have had the following "accidents" which have needed some level of first aid:

1.  i sliced the side of my hand on a broken glass while doing the dishes.  had this wound been on a different part of my body, it probably would've needed stitches, but since it was in such a weird spot there wasn't much to be done.  so now i have a nice v-shaped scar on the base of my thumb.

2.  while taking an outdoor fitness class, i slammed my shin onto the ledge of a concrete wall causing a large gash in said shin.

3.  and today, while the bolshevik and i were out on a pleasant saturday afternoon bike ride, i had a little biking accident.  you see, there are some lovely bike lanes here in buenos aires, but the problem is that they don't all connect properly.  so there's this area by the waterfront where the bike lane dies for a bit and all of a sudden you're left to fend for yourself in this shady industrial area.  first, there's a part where the bike lane actually spits you out into oncoming traffic.  great.  then after that there's this weird area with all these old trolley type tracks crisscrossing over the street.  so i was riding over the tracks and my tires hit the tracks the wrong way and my bike slid out from under me.  not cool.  and i did this little number to my legs.  (please note, there is actually one more bruise on the side of my right leg, but i couldn't get it into the picture. not only that, but i fell in a way that i actually re-opened the injury listed above in #2!)

so now i'm laid up in bed with a swollen knee.  grrrrr.

and of course, we were far from home when this happened so we had to stop by a pharmacy to get first aid supplies.  and then the bolshevik decided the best thing to do was to take break before riding back home, so we got some ice cream.  claro!

we got a chocotorta sundae from freddo ... it was divine.  for those of you who don't know, a chocotorta is a dessert typically served at birthdays, consisting of several layers of booze soaked chocolate cookies alternating with layers of a dulce de leche and crema.  the freddo's version has dulce de leche ice cream and big hunks of crumbled chocolate cookies. i highly recommend it regardless of whether or not you have sustained an injury.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

everything's coming up rosario

man, i am just the worst blogger ever ... i am SO behind on my posts.  how do you stand it?  anyway, about a month ago the bolshevik and i went to a little riverside town called rosario.   here are some highlights:

there's a long promenade along the water so the bolshevik and i decided to stroll around and look for a restaurant, as i am a sucker for waterfront dining.  mind you, we have a guidebook and the guidebook does not say anything about waterside dining.

as we are walking around, we see all these odd looking elevator shafts that seem to be advertising restaurants.  strange.  eventually we venture over to one and look over the side to see a fully functioning restaurant below the promenade right on the water.  that's right ... secret riverside restaurants only accessible by elevator!  why wouldn't you put that in a guidebook?  anyway, we ate at different "secret" restaurants every meal, and had some fantastic fresh grilled fish.  mmmmmm.  i love buenos aires, but they are lacking in the pescado department.

later we tried to find che guevera's house, only to learn that it is now a bank.  lame.  but they did make this nice park in his honor down the street.  here is the bolshevik looking all radical and shit.

one of the more interesting things about rosario was that they seemed to have a wide range of free community programs.  for instance, we were walking around these old warehouses by the river promenade and we saw one of them had been converted into a skateboarding park where all these  local teens were hanging out. skateboarding is not a crime dear blog readers!  as we explored further, we also saw that there were free art lessons and other social organizations that offered various activities and services to the good people of rosario.  but my favorite was when we walked by the old train station that is no longer in service and we saw a bunch of girls learning how to do some elegant style of trapeze on long flowing scarves.

all in all, it was an amazing ruckus trip ... i mean, nice weekend getaway.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

this week on spare room: buenos aires edition

this week on spare room ...

miss dewey decimal and her bolshevik are forced to flee their all-in-white apartment and move into a friend's spare room.

say what?!

it's a long story dear blog readers, but basically my bolshevik lost his cell phone. (then he lost his replacement cell phone, but that's less important)  SO, even though we alerted our landlady that the phone was lost (since she is responsible for the bill, and we just pay her for said phone), she somehow believed that we were responsible for paying for the 500 pesos in calls which were made in the two weeks that followed.  apparently, telling someone that you lost their phone is not enough information, so she decided instead of calling the phone company and canceling the phone (which is in her name), she would do absolutely nothing.

good plan.

this is quite typical behavior for her.  it's quite similar to her reaction to the fact that we don't have cable (or even a television in the apartment) even though both are supposed to be included in the price of the rent.  or her reaction to the fact that the handle broke off our oven door while i was baking cookies, and then the windowpane of the oven door fell out, leaving us without a working oven for 5 weeks and counting. she is quite good at doing nothing.  

but when she came to our apartment screaming about responsibility and how we owed her 3,000 pesos (yes, somehow the price went from 500 pesos to 3,000 pesos all in the course of one argument), we decided that we'd had enough.

so we absconded in the middle of the night, in a "midnight flit" as it were, and are now taking refuge in a spare room.  this spare room also doubles as a storage room for various pieces of luggage and random personal belongings.  needless to say, adding the bolshevik and myself and all of our own crap has made the spare room quite snug.  

but fear not!  i believe we may have found a new apartment to move into next week.  tune in next time to spare room to see what happens next!

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.

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.


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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

new apartment, all in white

through the grapvine (the grapevine being my beloved gossipy mother) i often hear about family members and library employees reading my blog.  apparently, upon reading the description of our first apartment, a cousin replied to my mother, "it sounds like miss dewey d and the bolshevik are living in some sort of cupboard."

quite right.

if you imagine our front door as the door to a cabinet, our apartment has the exact layout of a cupboard with a shelf cutting it in half.  on the first shelf we have a 15 x 15 foot room that is the kitchen/dining room/ living room, with a small closet-like bathroom.  then a spiral staircase up to the second shelf where we have a bed, a dresser, and a small tv hanging from the ceiling like a hospital room.  and that is the cupboard we have been living in for the past 6 weeks.

but today, oh joy of joys, we are moving to our new grown-up sized apartment!

when i first saw the pictures of the place on craigslist i thought that i would hate it.  first, it was over-priced by BA standards.  second, everything in the apartment is white.  EVERYTHING!  floors, walls, futon, chairs, tables, counters, etc.  when i move into a place the first thing i do is paint every room a different color: pink, blue, peach, violet, green.  i have never lived with such whiteness.  but when i walked in there was something oddly cool and sort of mod going on with the whiteness.  and then i walked onto the balcony.  sold!  (and luckily i was able to talk the landlady down $100 per month.  i haggled!)

the apartment is an odd sort of layout, with a living room and a dining room, each one having it's own loft area.  so the larger loft area will be our bedroom, and then the other loft area will be for storage and guests.

did i mention it has a kick-ass balcony?

so dear blog readers, it is a fond farewell to the cupboard today!  we've signed a lease which ends in january, so let the parade of house guests begin!

miss dewey d

Monday, July 19, 2010

la boca ... BOO!

scary, scary, scary la boca!

la boca is a very colorful neighborhood in Bs As that has sadly gotten a bad rap for being dangerous.  and the more you read about it, the more alarmist people seem to become.  now, i've never walked down any dark alleys at night there (you know, because i'm not an idiot), but every time i've been there it has always been fine.  i actually like the neighborhood a lot.  however, it is a neighborhood of a lower economic class, so you know if you walk around flashing your wallet and your iPhone you could get mugged.  kinda like every nyc neighborhood i've ever lived in or worked in.

la boca is probably most famous for it's brightly painted houses, but it is also famous for being the home of the Boca Juniors, our favorite futbol (soccer) team.  while many people support the opposing BA team, River Plate, we support la boca, viewing them as a sort of underdog team of ragtag misfits, not unlike the Brooklyn Dodgers or the NY Mets (if the Mets didn't suck so much).

anyhoo, my beloved bolshvik has already begun adorning himself with a variety of la boca hoodies, jerseys, scarves, etc.  and taking a day off from my various jobs, i decided to join him on a little tour of la bombera (the chocolate box), the famed stadium where the boca juniors play.

being my mother's daughter the first thing i did was peruse the gift shop.  there is so much we can learn from gift shops!  for instance, who knew that dulce de leche (much like wheaties) was the breakfast of champions for futbol players?  well, it must be because they sell coffee cans filled with special Boca Juniors dulce de leche.  i am a dulce de leche fan and all, but this seems like a hell of a lot of liquid caramel goodness, even for me.

on the tour, we were allowed to walk around the empty stadium and take lots of pictures.  we were even given the option of paying an extra 30 pesos to pose on the field while holding a replica of the world cup.  although tempted, i passed on this photo op.

apparently, psychological warfare is a big part of futbol stadium design.  we learned that the away team enters the field through a very small door, so small that they actually have to watch their heads in order to get through it.  while the home team gets to  enter through large grandiose type doors.  but my favorite is the area for the away fans.

in a stadium that seats 50,000 people, there are only 2-3 thousand seats for the away fans.  and no, they cannot mix with the boca fans.  they must be kept in their own separate area.  for their own safety, the away fans are penned into this sort of futbol interment camp where they are fenced in by barbed wire.  according to our guide, this section also has the worst view of the field, AND is at such a steep angle that fans are often afraid of getting too rowdy up there for fear of falling.  nice!

the bolshevik was quite anxious to try to become members of the Boca Juniors club, so that we could get tickets to games.  apparently, there are about 100,000 members and of course there's only half that number of seats.  so we asked around and were told there is a waiting list to become members.  ok, fine.  we'll be here for several months, we can be on a waiting list.  but when we finally found the proper representative to talk to, we learned that the waiting list is EIGHT YEARS LONG!  yup ... you could probably get yourself on a shorter waiting list to adopt a child than you can to get membership to the Boca Juniors.

but fear not dear blog readers, supposedly there are still ways for us to get tickets either the day of the game or from scalpers.  so we may be sitting in the stands eating from a tub of dulce de leche just yet.