Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winning, Spinning, and Wining

I can recall a Nielsen meeting, back in my earlier tenure with the company in beautiful Schaumburg, IL. It must have been in the spring of 2007 or so. One of the attendees was from England and at the end of the day's proceedings, he jumped online and said, "We have a new prime minister!" Tony Blair had previously hinted that he would be stepping down, and Gordon Brown was ready to take over. My reaction was complete indifference. I saw no way it would impact anyone's life, even my coworker who was so interested in the news.

So it was certainly a surprise to me that Josh and I found ourselves hosting an inauguration party last Tuesday. I've certainly never given a damn about an inauguration before! I remember back after Bushy took over, it wasn't considered polite to talk politics. And especially after 9/11, they had us all browbeaten to stifle our dissent. Whenever someone would utter the slightest comment against Bush, suddenly it was like you and your friend had a secret password or something. It's easy to forget that such a climate was so pervasive, and for a really long time. But here in Buenos Aires, most of the extranjeros are young, and obviously pretty worldly people. There was never fear of coming across a ditto-head who would claim that "Bushy has kept us safe" or some such nonsense.

Anyway, I don't need to dwell on that. It definitely feels different today, doesn't it? We watched youtube videos of Bushy's buffoonery at the party. That I could no longer tell my friends, "That's your president!" was awfully elevating. I didn't think I'd be this excited, but I have had extra bounce in my step in the last week, and it is definitely for Obama. Way to go, America! We're not dinguses anymore. On my way to work the day after the inauguration, I passed a Farmacity (think Walgreen's), and posted in their window was a sign saying "bienvenidos" directly above another one that said, "hope". I can't imagine that this had anything to do with politics, especially of foreign countries, but I'll repeat it anyway... "Welcome, hope!"

So my life has changed here a bit over time. I suppose that was expected. I'm settling in a bit more and finding my way. I didn't realize that I wasn't settled in, but now it seems more clear. We still don't have enough furniture in the apartment, and there are some random things that need to be ironed out, but life is in a bit more of a routine. And that's a good thing. Even though the moneda crisis has worsened due to an increase in the bus fare, Josh's discovery of a reliable lavadero just around the corner has alleviated a bit of that pain. Work is going well; things are great with Belu; the apartment is going well; and Frisbee is picking up. I'm not finding enough time to write, but I am finding some time.

Speaking of Ultimate, we are starting to build up a fledgling league here. This Saturday will be the first official game in the new Buenos Aires Ultimate league. Actually, I don't even know what the heck the league is called! Ultimate Argentina, I think, and here's the new website. I've done none of the work, but have contributed a couple ideas that people seemed to like. Anyway, this Saturday at 18:00, the wily veterans of Discosur will take on my team, Big Red. I may have mentioned this before, but Red means network in Spanish, and we think of our team as a global network of people who dig buena onda, teamwork, and the spirit of the game. We have people from the US, Argentina, Colombia, and Japan already. Who knows, maybe we can eventually cover the globe like the British Empire in its heyday...

In addition to the normal pickup games on Saturdays, we've been having team practices every Wednesday. As we were leaving one of them, Kyla said something about getting some choripán. I had no idea what she was talking about which shocked the entire group (it sounded like a dessert or something). Martín wheeled his car around and took us back to the park. "Andrew, you have to have a choripán." It's basically chorizo (no, not your Mexican variety) on a bun with plenty of fixins. And after a rigorous frisbee practice, it hits the spot. I'm sure we'll be getting more of these on Wednesday nights, even though they're served up by a grimy dude in the park.

I dabbled a bit with a caffeine addiction when I was writing last spring, and now I'm afraid it's a full on problem. Well, not a problem exactly. We have a really kickass coffee machine in the office (it's a Bianchi, Dad). So I get my fix whenever I want without issue. But it could be the start of a lifelong habit. I'd be nervous if I weren't so high right now.

This is the second article about Malbec my dad has sent me recently. I've had my share bottles so far, and plan to have many more. Josh and I have a deal that whenever we go to the grocery store, we pick up a bottle. I'm still having problems with the grocery stores here - I am generally having horrible luck choosing which line to get in. Often times it's the people who "forgot that one thing" or grabbed something, but it turned out to be dirty so they send one of the staff back to find another one. This can take upwards of fifteen minutes. When shopping for the Obama party, the store was virtually empty, but I ended up in the checkout where two cranky ladies had made their purchase, but then decided to return half of their items. This turned out to be a 25 minute problem. Awesome. But anyway, the wine is great, and we downed a bottle in celebration. For more, check out Julia's take on her trip to Mendoza (an excursion her report has only made me that much more eager to take myself).

Finally, I've been a busy blogger lately, though not so much in this space. My apologies, but if you want to read more, head over to Road Games and check out these recent postings:
And at Fighting the Youth:Sorry for the delay here, and sorry for the lack of photos. I'll try to be a better blogger going forward. Saludos!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tearing it up for another year

For me, the new year has always had certain connotations. Either a ski trip or, more likely, a frigid night featuring the overconsumption of alcohol followed by watching Michigan lose in the Rose Bowl. The new settings bring all kinds of changes. Well, except for the alcohol thing. But before getting to all of that, I want to talk about a local year-end tradition that proved far more fun than I had anticipated. On the last business day of the year (for some that is 12/30, for others, 12/31), the employees gather together to throw papers out of their windows. It's a little childish and stupid, but then again, so is high school. It's a pretty neat sight to see full sheets of office paper dancing their way to the ground, flipping back and forth, reflecting the bright sunlight.In my office, we're fortunate enough to have a balcony (on the 21st floor!), and cautious enough to shred our paper before we eject it to the waiting streets below. This event is simply referred to as "papelitos" (little papers) and the entire downtown is showered in them for two solid days.
Nico's handful went right in my face a split-second later

Another local tradition is that when someone graduates from school, their friends and family assault them with eggs, mustard, mayonnaise, and all kinds of other kitchen-appropriate substances. Two women from the office recently completed their studies, so they got the egg treatment, courtesy of a VP that is about to move to the US. His technique needs some work, though, as he splattered his own shirt a bit in the process.
He doesn't seem too upset about it, does he?

New Years Eve was spent with friends from Ultimate Frisbee at a pot-luck party. Belu and I tried to make a traditional Argentine holiday dish called pionono. It consists of a thin cake-like substance rolled with savory food inside. Our three versions - avocado-corn-cheese, tuna-olive-egg, tomato-pickle-cheese. The tuna one worked out the best, and people dug into the avocado as well. The tomato - a bit too loose and wet, but we'll take another crack at it again sometime. Also, since we had a spare pionono left over, we threw together a dessert one with dulce de leche and crumbled up chocolate cookies. People said they liked 'em, which means my first Argentine cooking was a success!
Awaiting the roll

Precut Pionono

There's not much left (same with Martín's onion tart)

After watching fireworks from the rooftop, we hit the town without a real plan. 25 of us wandered San Telmo, coming across an impromptu percussion performance in which stopped us dead in our tracks and had just about everybody dancing. I made the error of toting a bottle of Fernet, a bitter spirit normally mixed with cola, and alternately drinking and sharing it straight. Note, I can safely say at this point, that this is not a recommended practice. Fernet con cola is an acquired taste to say the least, but Fernet solo is one considerably more unattainable. Just trust me. Also, I learned that Fernet is really, really strong. After the square, we hit Museum, one of the larger venues in San Telmo and danced until late. All in all, a great night, even if I couldn't quite remember everything once it was over.

I must bid a fond farewell to new friend Arturo whose presence here has been a huge boon to both me and my roommate, Josh. Arturo's apartment was always party-central where people from seemingly all over the world would get together before or after hitting the town. Plus, he introduced me to Belu, so I find myself quite indebted to the man. Arturo's position here was discontinued and he has headed back home to California.

I know it's BFC in Chicago right now, but here the temps keep climbing. Good thing I have a pool I never use. In fact, it's getting so hot here that the cartoneros (people who pick through the trash to sort out the recyclable materials) are generally going topless. No, I don't think this one did that in her day.

The other day, I saw an older man eating an Alfajor at 8:15 in the morning on the sidewalk, presumably right outside the kiosko where he purchased it. This isn't exactly news, but it made me smile.

Further update on the previously mentioned moneda crisis, this time in the Wall Street Journal. This dude's opinion --> Privatize! Yay! He goes on to say that the same thing happened in England over 200 years ago, and they privatized and it worked great! Ups - then he corrects himself and says it didn't end up working at all. My friend Emiliano told me that they are planning to get a card system for the buses thanks to decree by the government, which, actually, should solve the entire problem right quickly. I should also note that this WSJ guy doesn't even know what the coins are called (he thinks they're centavos).
(HT for the above stories - DaVe)

A taxi driver told me I had a French accent. I don't know if that means it's getting better or worse, but it surely means I'm trying. Maybe by next New Years, I'll be taken for a Porteño. Fingers crossed...

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