One of the less-pleasant parts of living in a foreign country is having to get foreign haircuts. In Taiwan, this was a very risky operation, especially for girls, as Asian hair is extremely different than curly/wavey western hair.
Here, you know the stylist knows how to handle your hair, but there is still the question of fashion. In Argentina, the mullet is extremely popular. I would say 70% of all males have some form of mullet, from the full-blown, to hockey hair, to just a little too long in the back to be good-looking.
Unfortunately, this long-in-the-back-but-short-on-the-sides look extends to girls. I got my hair cut recently, and this is what resulted. You will notice that one side is considerable longer than the other. Don't worry, my head is balanced, but the problem is that he cut the sides extremely short, but left the long layer in the back really long. I'm tempted to get it re-done, but that would mean chopping off an awful lot. I've been growing this hair forever, and don't know if I can stand such a set-back.
So, in the meantime I have an Argentine girl mullet, or gullet.
So, not much was going on yesterday for the big revolution holiday, but boy did we get our fill of patriotism today!
Our friends Elysse and Jacob called us up and asked if we wanted to go to a "military display." We thought this meant a display of old tanks and guns, which they love to do in museums and stuff here, and figured why not. But when we arrived at the designated corner, and found ourselves at a polo field full of 19th century soldiers, we realized we were in for something more than just some dusty old guns.
It turned out that it was a kind of mini-reenactment of all the major battles in Argentina's history. The Creole Spaniards fought off the British, then the Argentines threw out the Spaniards, probably a hundred horses charged across the field led by the hero San Martín, modern soldiers fired machine guns and zoomed around on motorcycles. Probably the most dramatic of all, however, was when they brought out a giant Argentine flag, laid it on the ground, and six men (who had probably jumped a while ago) precision-parachuted onto it.
What followed was a long-winded booming voice going on about how "The Malvinas are Argentine!" and the glory of the nation and the courage of the fallen and lots of adoration of war in general. It was all a little too "glorious" for me, but a neat show.
(Don't you love it when a holiday falls on Friday?)
Happy Revolution Day, everyone! On this date in 1810 the Argentines declared independence from Spain, and started a war for their freedom. (You can see the date on that statue in the picture, if you look very closely.) As you can probably tell, it went well.
Not much went on today, but Ryan and I wandered around downtown a bit with an acquaintance of ours. There were certainly a lot of flags out, but no big parades or anything.
Every now and then I am reminded of just how temperate Buenos Aires is. In many of the parks here, you can see these green parrots as well as the normal pigeons. They're extremely flightly, if you'll excuse the pun, and won't come scrambling over for every bit of food that falls, but aren't exactly hard to find, either. It's just quite fun seeing parrots (or some kind of parrot cousin) in the park!
I was taking a picture of this building when an old man came up and starting talking to me. Unfortunately, he was speaking with a thick oldmanese accent, which makes any foreign language very difficult to understand, but basically what I understood was that: This was, and possibly still is, the Argentine Naval headquarters. Also, it is the oldest building on the street/block/in the neighborhood.
The stripes of decoration on the building is actually all carvings of seashells, very neat, and fitting. And there's a very elaborate marine-themed door, complete with Poseidon!
Ryan and I attended another peña, or folk music concert, out in Berazategui this weekend. Sandra and Alan's band was playing, along with dozens of others, and some of the same kids' dance groups performed.
Fall is in full swing here! It's strange, though, to see the leaves change in May. I find it difficult to remember what month it is, and often have to stare at the paper for a while before actually writing the date.
There isn't a ton of fall color here, as the temperature drop is more gradual than back home, and it never gets below freezing. But a few trees, the oaks and sugar gums, have a nice show nonetheless.
There was a giant protest today which was against either abortion or hunger, or maybe somehow both, I'm not sure. I saw it going screaming down Rivadavia, and later today walked through the Plaza de Mayo, where it evidently culminated. The whole plaza was filthy. There were these pamphlets thrown around, actually coating the ground in some places. (This is actually normal after any march. You can't have a protest without handouts, after all. It must make so much trash every year, considering that there is at least one big protest a week, and countless small ones.) But there was trash everywhere, too. Bottles, wrappers, papers, stuff floating in the fountains, used firework casings, just litter everywhere. It was disgusting.
I hate to sound so negative, but seeing all these protests, all this trash, having lived here for nearly a year now, I have come, unwillingly, to this conclusion. Porteños are a very angry people (perhaps rightfully so, but angry nonetheless) and have no respect for their city.
A bike in an entrance hallway. (Often, especially between stores, houses have one narrow door on the street, a little hallway leading back, and then open up into courtyard and house further back.) In the Chacarita neighborhood.
This picture is a comment on the Argentine economic reality.
Apartments are expensive. Salaries are low. Inflation is high. So, not very many young people move out of their parents' house until they get married. Since everyone lives with their parents, there's not much privacy at home.
Therefore, you see people making out in public all the time. Way more than you see back home. The park on a nice day looks like make-out point at some old drive-in movie. And boy, some of these couples are quite . . . affectionate.
This is my mate. I just bought it. I think it's cute and great.
I like mate a lot, but didn't drink it often because the stimulant effect is a little too strong for me. But I recently found a brand of yerba that has only 40% mate, and lots of herbs mixed in and little bits of dried apple, so I can handle that. I figured I'd better get a mate of my own. I'm even considering buying a thermos, for taking it on the road with me . . .
The Bird family has found that they rather like the afternoon tea tradition (especially the submarinos, Argentine hot chocolate.) Today we had a slightly more formal tea at Las Violetas, a cafe known for its stained glass and delicious cakes. We certainly had our fair share of those cakes!
It is clearly a very popular place for tea on a Saturday afternoon, though. There were dozens of people waiting outside in the cold for their spot at a table the whole time we were there, and were still lined up when we left around 7!
We had the most amazing dinner tonight. We ate at Casa Saltshaker, which is a restaurant in a personal home. Dan, who was a professional chef at all kinds of fancy restaurants, moved to Argentina and now feeds fabulous food to 12 people at his house every Friday and Saturday.
He chooses a theme each week, usually based on some day in history, and designs a menu around it. Our theme was Hungarian food, after a tiny town in Hungary that has its own holiday. We had five divine courses, and each was paired with a wine that matched perfectly, creating new flavors within each already delicious bite.
Okay, Mom, brace yourself. This picture is of my favorite course. It is stuffed zucchini. (I normally can't stand zucchini, but this was great!) That's how good this dinner was - it made me like zucchini!
In Iguazu, in Mendoza, and now in Montevideo, we have made many new friends. Stray dogs who decide to follow us around for an hour or so, faithfully walking just in front of or behind us, for no explainable reason. This photo, however, explains all. It's Chad's fault! He is befriending strange dogs and enticing them to follow us with no intention of giving them food!
We visited an interesting museum today, which presented a rather odd combination. The bottom floor was a coin and money museum, devoted to the currency of Uruguay. These little cards were neat - I guess for a few years many businesses around Montevideo printed their own cash, little coupons good only for their own services. This was quickly declared illegal.
The best coin there, however, was a little gold one called a "gaucho," because it had a gaucho, or cowboy, head on it. There was also a half gaucho, and a quarter gaucho, whose names made me giggle a little.
Upstairs was the gaucho museum, full of whips and knives and swords and mates and livery and other gaucho things.
No rest for the wicked! From Mendoza, back to BA for a night, and then over the river and through the . . . Uruguayan pampas, to Montevideo we went. Yep, we're spending a few days in the capital of our dear beefy neighbor to the north. (Yes, believe it or not, they actually eat more beef per capita in Uruguay than in Argentina.)
One last picture of Mendoza, on the day we leave the city. A fountain in the Plaza España, which is full of beautiful tiling. All the benches, the planters, the fountain, a big mural, all with gorgeous blue-themed Spanish tiles.
Ryan and Chad went hiking today, so Mr. and Mrs. Bird and I were left in the city. We sat at cafes and chatted, wandered around the city, I spent some time e-mailing, it was nice.
This is a picture of one of the asequias, or water canals, that characterize Mendoza. It is a complex system of ducts that brings water from high in the mountains to the city, and has been in place since the time of the Incas. This one's dry, as there's some kind of timetable or schedule for when water flows in which places.
Also visible here are the sycamores which line most streets. Mendoza is actually in a desert, but you'd never know from downtown, which is green and shady.
We didn't get quite enough wine on Tuesday, so we decided to visit a local wine-tasting place here in town. We each got to taste five local wines, although because we shared everybody really got to try 10 different wines. It made for a lot of wine glasses at the table, and a little bit of stumbling home, but man, it was some good wine. The bad news is, the wine that was my favorite by far is only available in Mendoza and costs 75 pesos a bottle! Ah well, it will just have to be a lovely memory.
Ryan and I in front of Mt. Aconcagua, which is the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas.
We took a "high mountiain" tour today, which turned out to be a little more sitting in a bus than was pleasant, but it was really neat to be up in the Andes. The air was definitely thinner up there, but it was cool and fresh and clean, the wind was brisk and refreshing. It was really nice.
We also saw the Puente del Inca, the Incan Bridge, a natually formed bridge made of some kind of bright yellow mineral. Once again, Ryan outdid himself in picture-taking. If you want pictures of mountains, you know who to talk to.
El libertador José de San Martín is the founding father of Argentina. He's like the George Washington of Argentina, except way more popular. I've put up a picture of his giant tomb which is within a cathedral, guarded 24/7 by guards in fancy uniforms, and has an eternal flame outside it. There is a street in every single town called San Martín, and usually a school, a hospital, and maybe a few other things, too. He liberated Argentina, Chile, and Peru from the Spanish, and marched over the Andes with only horses and a few soldiers in a very short time. (I forget how long. 24 days?)
Anyway, you see his name a lot down here, and even more so here in Mendoza, as this is where he lived with his family. Today we took a city tour, which wasn't great, but I discovered that San Martín has his own adjective in Spanish. Now that's impressive. This sign is showing a San Martín route, where he marched with his soldiers on his way to Chile.
I began taking a photo each day on the day I moved to Buenos Aires in August 2006. It's been over five years now, through normal working life in Argentina, a trip all around South America, a long visit home to the US, teaching in Taiwan, traveling around the Middle East, living in Vancouver, and traveling around Canada.
I have a few lapses, but I decided that it was better to feel good about the blog instead of feeling like a slave to it.
These photos are the things that I see - things that are common or interesting or odd or delicious or beautiful or terrible - things that catch my eye in some way. This blog is a way for me to keep in touch with family and friends so very very far away, an extended photography lesson, and a kind of daily journal of my own impressions of places both new and well-known.