Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Sunday, June 26, 2005

36. Zoo, Tigre (B.A, Argentina)

Woohoo, this blog has recently hit 1000 visits. Thanks for stopping by. Hmmm, 1000 visits in six months = about 5 visits a day. Not exactly blazing hot. My post on teaching English in BA was recently published on

Room pano
Random pic: My $12 peso hotel room for the last 3 months

Last weekend was a long weekend here, so me and my girlfriend got off to a good start by breaking up, again. What happened was my friend Juan came around on an unexpected visit at 1am on Friday night so we sat around chatting over a glass or four of Fernet. The problem was we were chatting in English, which my girlfriend doesn't speak, so she stormed off in a shitty. When she came back at 5am she was the most mad I've ever seen her, silent treatmeant and then snapping, and it was late and I was tired so not really putting up with it. Eventually she stormed out with a No Quiero verte mas! which means "I don't want to see you anymore". I stewed over that for a while before finding her and apologising, and we were back together.

Zoo - 01 - Polar
A lone polar bear in his concrete hangout

So the next day we went to the Buenos Aires zoo, in the suburb of Palermo. It was great, the enclosures were small and completely unnatural for the animals, which meant we didn't have to walk far or squint to see anything. The highlight for me was watching a teenage chimp chewing on his own turd. And you could hand-feed the animals too, from the bears to the birds, if you were willing to pay a few more pesos for a box generic animal feed.

Zoo - 11 - Lions

Monday was a public holiday so along with two thirds of Buenos Aires, we set off to Tigre, a favourite porteƱo weekend getaway. An hour by train, Tigre sits at the convergence of the two rivers which make up the River Plate, on which Buenos Aires sits. Where the rivers converge is a delta, which means the river gets wide with lots of islands in it. People own sections and have built houses on these islands, the main attraction being surrounded by water and getting around by boat as there are no roads. Due to our usual weekend oversleeping (daily oversleeping for my waitress girlfriend) we didn't get to Tigre until about 4pm, which was time enough to take a boat ride on one of the lanchas (longboats) which serve as buses before dark. So we motored around while the locals boarded and unboarded(?) with their groceries. I enjoyed it, it was a nice place and one of my students who used to live there said it's great in the summer, everyone sits out on their jetties sipping mate (mah-tay).

Tigre - 03 - House
A house in Tigre. Like many it has its own island

This weekend I have no major plans, next week's my birthday so I'm organising a night out for Friday night. In other news, I think I'm going to be leaving Buenos Aires in August to see some of South America. It's time to go travelling! I'm sick of the city and even more sick of teaching English. I guess it's not really my bag. It can be fun, but I don't know if I'm very good at it. And the pay is pretty lousy. BA is probably a great city if you've got a lot of money to spend, but living as a teacher I haven't. Remember I've been constantly dipping into my savings anyway. So, I'll stay until my courses finish in July and then move on. Trent, a good friend of mine from NZ is coming to BA at the end of July for a few days, and then in August Juan and Posse and I are gonna do a road trip to Santiago in Chile.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

35. Brazil vs Argentina (B.A, Argentina)

Life goes on here... Operation Beefcake, that is, my weight-gain diet is coming along OK, I've put on 3kg (of muscle) in the first 2 weeks which is a little more than I'd planned on so I'm happy. However I'm already getting sick of going to the gym 4 times a week and eating meat or chicken 3 or 4 times a day.

On Wednesday I was the envy of all my Argentine friends as I went to another futbol game, a World Cup qualifier game between Argentina and Brazil. Both sides are top of the table so neither side needed to win, but still it's a test match so both sides would have wanted to win. The game was in the River Plate stadium, which I don't really like as the seats are far from the field, and it doesn't really have much atmostphere. Happily, getting into the ground was a lot easier than the last time when I went to watch River Plate play, when everyone got searched 4 or 5 times on the way in. But this time it was only a quick bag search and no pat-down.

Argentina vs Brazil - 03 - Kick off (Large)

The game was great, Argentina scorched to a 3-0 lead with 3 excellent goals, in the second half Brazil fought back and put the Argies under a lot of pressure but their defence held, final score 3-1 Argentina.

On Sunday we had a plan to go to the zoo, but due to oversleeping had to settle for the botanical gardens instead...

Botanical Gardens - 06 - Matt statue (Large)
My girl wouldn't do a silly pose with the naked statue so I had to

On Sunday night we went to a play in a theatre, well that's what I thought it was going to be. The theatre was actually just an apartment but they'd set up a lighting rig and rows ofseats. The play was actually not a play but a series of ten minute improvised sets, by a company of local young actors. The show was pretty good, I didn't really get the jokes as it was in Spanish, but the acting was good.

Friday, June 03, 2005

34. Amor (B.A, Argentina)

For the past two and a half months I've been going out with an Argentine girl. She doesn't speak any English, which has been great for my Spanish. Especially for my listening skills. Before, I could speak a bit but not understand much unless it was said at a learner's pace. After a couple of weeks with her I could understand most of what was directed at me. Now, thanks to many evenings sitting around in my girlfriend's room with her roomate sipping mate (pron. mah-tay, a kind of Argentine tea) and listening to girl talk, I can understand most of what is said, not just when it's said to me but also when Spanish speakers are speaking to each other. Well, I can usually understand most sentences but sometimes I'll get lost in the context of what they're talking about. But that happens in English too - you could be in a group conversation and if you tune out for a minute or so you might have to ask "what are you guys talking about?".

Around BA - 49 - Sunrise Rio Plata pano (Large)
Random pic: Sunrise over BA's Rio de la Plata

The relationship itself has been full of ups and downs. From the beginning we fought a lot - mostly over cultural differences. For example, I'm not allowed to audibly fart in front of her. To her, that's something Indians or Bolivians do. Our first break-up was over who should pay for things when we go out - i.e for a drink or a meal. As far as she's concerned, I should pay for everything. This isn't because I'm a rich gringo, she knows I'm not, simply because I'm a guy and she says ALL her past boyfriends have paid for everything when they go out at night. (BTW, I'm her first gringo boyfriend) Now, I'm trying to live off my meagre teaching wages, which hardly allows for one night a week out for myself. So for me, paying for her is out of the question. And, in NZ or Australia (generally) costs would be shared between couples. OK, so the guy might pay for everything during the initial courtship but once we're together costs would be shared. I explained to her that if we're at a bar and I buy a round of drinks, she should buy the next round. To her that was an alien concept. She says she's NEVER bought her boyfriend a drink and the very question of it was offensive enough. Whatever happened to woman's lib? So we broke up over that for about an hour before I said I'd like to change but I can't, that was good enough for her. My local friends here say not everyone here thinks that way and that many girls are happy to share the costs.

Later we had a pregnancy scare - she was convinced she was pregnant due to errant nausea, dizzyness, hunger, and swollen breasts. Well, you can imagine the situation - it's not like we're in love. Well, I'm not. Abortions are illegal here but obtainable. She wanted to keep it, but I told her to hold the questioning until we're certain there is an it. The pharmacy test the next day came up 2 stripes (negative).

She lost her job a while ago, and while she was out of work she got quite depressed as her funds were getting low and she was having a hard time finding another job. I can relate - job hunting sucks, I hate rejection, and I can imagine day after day of rejection would be disheartening. She tearily told me she might have to leave BA and return to her hometown in the country, as the lack of work was getting her down, and I guess her funds were getting low. Fortunately the next day she got a couple of callbacks, and she found a job so she stayed. A couple of weeks later her roommate lost her job too - she'd been waitressing until 1 or 2 in the morning, then had to start again at like 7am the next day. She's a really hard worker, but it must have been too much - she fainted on the job and got sent home. Rather than being sympathetic (especially since she worked her ass off) her bosses told her not to come back. Harsh.

Stencils - 01 - Burns
Stencil graffiti. "Kill your boss. Resign"

The usual she loves me/she loves me not game is one of my girlfriend's favourites. One day she decided we were somos amigos (just friends). I never know whether she's joking or serious so I find it's best to be heartless when it comes to her games. I said OK, and proceeded to call up my friends so I could go out that night to look for a new girlfriend. The next day she wasn't too happy but we were still together.

She can be jealous too. Always questioning where I'm going, who I'm with etc. I'm usually too lazy to lie when I should. She'll ask me a stupid question, like asking me if I'd like to sleep with one of my girl friends who I'd just visited. So I'll say yes I'd like to, just to get her blood pressure up.

The main sticking point for me with her is her daily routine. She's a waitress, which means she doesn't finish work until 11pm. But then she likes to sit around sipping mate until 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning. And she'll sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, since she starts work at 4pm. Now, some days I have to start work early, 8.30 or even 7.30 so for me it's impossible. This, combined with my crap diet, has made me look and feel pretty lousy for the past few months. Recently I've bumped into people I haven't seen for a few months and they all say I'm looking unhealthier. So I tried to break it off with her over this, since if she can't change her routine basically we'd never be able to see each other. Well, we were split up a few days and then it was her birthday and we got back together. This week I've started going to the gym in the mornings, and a new diet, eating a lot more, as I've gotta get my mojo back. So we won't get to see each other much, maybe for half an hour or an hour in the afternoons while she gets ready for work. So we'll see what happens. Oh yeah, and I've given up trying to live off my teaching wages - I'm having to dip into my savings to support my new diet. And of course the skydiving (and a new leather jacket) weren't paid for by my wages.

As I said, it's been up and down but I've been loving it. The breaking up and making up characterised by the 'Latin lover' is not just a cliche. It's been crazy, but fun.