I was up before everyone else this morning, so I decided to go outside and explore a bit. I found this little bug bathing in the dew.
Funny, I came home and had less than one day there before setting off again - we are in New York right now, at my grandparents' house, for a family reunion on my mother's side. I get to see everyone on her side this time around, which will be nice!
Ryan and I flew into Toronto because it was much much cheaper, but of course this meant getting ourselves from Toronto to Detroit. A bus, a train, and two cars later we got there. But first, a few hours wait in Toronto itself, where we took advantage of the chance to stretch our legs and walked around downtown a bit. Here's the CN Tower reflected in a building down the street.
We're finally going home to visit my parents (!) and on the way, we stopped in Santiago, Chile. This meant flying over the Andes, and just as the sun was lowering in the sky. It may still be from the window of a plane, but what a view, huh?
Okay, so it isn't really our last day in BsAs, as we'll be back briefly at the end of October, for the whole month of January, and briefly again in May, but it was our last night of living in Buenos Aires, and we figured we'd go out for a steak. So, here it is, our not-quite-last-Argentine steak.
Happy Spring Everyone! Today is the first day of spring down here, as well as Student's day - a gorgeous spring day it is, too. Anyway, standing at the bus stop near my house I looked up at the fancy castle top on the church next door, and noticed this satellite dish. A dish just for catching more religious channels, I'm sure . . .
Argentines love their panchos, or hot dogs, but a place up here in Tucumán has taken it a step further. You go in, pay for a six-inch or a foot-long, and then go over to the toppings area, where there are probably 30 different hot dog toppings! They have everything -- eggplant, chickpeas, pesto, spicy sauces, beets, carrots, hummus, applesauce, dozens more. It was amazing, easily the best hot dog I've ever had. The only trouble is, I was so interested in trying everything that I piled on waaaaay too much, making it both difficult to eat, and difficult to actually taste any of the individual flavors. My friend Layne suggested that watching people build their hot dogs would be a good personality analysis. Well, here's Ryan enjoying his foot-long, with the topics divided into different segments -- can you tell he's an engineer?
Okay, so I've mentioned that Ryan and I came up here to Tucumán for the food. More specifically, we came for the empanada festival held annually in a small town called Famaillá. We actually went out to the festival Friday night, which was mostly a peña, or folk music concert, and had a few empanadas then. But the main attraction, the empanada-making contest, is today.
Here's how it works: women (or men, but mostly women) from Famaillá are sponsored by groups called ranchos. On the day of the contest, they bring their own ingredients (only traditional ingredients allowed, too, no adding anything new. In Tucumán, this means meat cut by hand, onions, green onions, hard-boiled eggs, cumin, chili pepper, paprika, salt, and pepper) and make empanadas from scratch as the judges watch. They bake them in igloo-shaped mud ovens, and the judges taste them. They choose the best empanada, and the woman who made it is the empanada queen. She doesn't get a prize, but is recognized as making the best empanadas in town, and her business is pretty much set for the year.
We came up to the place just as they were starting, and within about two minutes they had asked Layne and I to be judges!!!!! I was a judge at the Concurso Nacional de Emapandas!!!!!! (I guess that they like having people from outside of town, who don't know the contestants, to judge whenever they can.) It was an amazing experience, and I learned a lot about what makes a good empanada!
Turns out the whole thing was pretty corrupt, though. One of the judges owns the rancho that sponsored the winner, and was in fact the one who taught her how to make empanadas. But, in all fairness, the woman who won did make some pretty delicious empanadas!
This is a picture of the pile of empanadas left over at our table after the judging. (After all, there were twelve contestants, we could only eat one bite of each, or we'd be full by the time we were half-way done!)
Today we went out to the Reserva Experimental Horco Molle, a nature reserve just outside the city that takes care of orphaned animals and tries to release as many as possible back into the wild. This is Pablo, our very informative guide, with one of their two pumas (the friendly one, as you can see).
It was a fun trip, but what was really neat for me was being able to ask any question I wanted, being able to talk to the people who worked there, being able to speak the local language. We were always able to communicate the basics in Asia, but an inability to ask questions often frustrated me. On our trip around South America, Ryan and I won't be left wondering what's going on or what that thing is over there or why this or who that. I absolutely can't wait to travel like this, to ask my questions and talk to the people.
Here are the people with whom I was traveling: (from left) Ryan, Amy, Layne, and Carolynn. We are in the local market in this picture (living in Buenos Aires, I have really missed having a market nearby) where we went for lunch. We came up here for the food, after all, so we ordered a bit of everything and shared it around. We had locro (a hearty stew), empanadas (little meat pies), tamales (meat and dough boiled in corn husks), humitas (corn dough boiled in corn husks, my personal favorite), meat and cheese bombas (meat and cheese in dough, deep-fried), and chorizo (sausage). It was delicious, although green veggies were certainly missing . . .
After a 16 and a half hour bus ride, Ryan and I arrived in the town of San Miguel de Tucumán, in the northwestern part of Argentina. Spring is coming slowly to Buenos Aires, but is already in full swing up here, as you can see from this picture. (It's strange to travel north and see things get greener and warmer.) Those yellow trees (called lapachin in Spanish) are right at their peak, are everywhere in town, and are absolutely gorgeous!
It felt so nice to get out of noisy busy Buenos Aires, to see a bit more of the country, to finally step out of the unique European bubble that we live in, and get a taste of the rest of the continent. And, of course, this is a part of the country known for its food . . .
This is what I came home to today, all over my kitchen floor. Black gunk that had exploded up through a drain in the floor. I found out later that a pipe on the first floor had clogged up, and caused this backup on every floor. Ick. Luckily it didn't smell too bad, but man, it was soooo black! It took forever to clean up (especially with the well-meaning help of my roommate Ricardo). I am exhausted.
This is our street, Larrea. It is named after Juan Larrea, who was a member of the "Primera Junta," the revolutionary think-tank that helped Argentina gain its independence from Spain, and governed the country immediately afterward. So, he's a founding father.
It's not unusual for streets to be named after famous people here - in fact, I would say that a HUGE majority of Argentine streets are named after 25 or so founding fathers, and a couple of important dates. Which means that there aren't really a whole lot of names to go around. You see the exact same street names repeated in every single town. There will always be a Mitre, a Sarmiento, a 9 de Julio, a Avallaneda, etc. Often, because of the rather elite class that ruled back then, you see the same surnames repeated several times within the same city, naming fathers and sons or unrelated people with the same important names. For example, here in Buenos Aires there are eight streets named Alvarez, after Agustín, Crisotomo, Acevedo T., Donato, Jonte, Julián, Prado Manuel, and Thomás. It can get a little confusing here.
But we figure it must be easy to set up a town - no wondering what to call streets or schools or hospitals! Ryan and I joke that there is some kind of town-start-up kit that outlines exactly which names are constitutionally required, and how big of a street each one deserves.
Yes, another food picture. I swear, I don't weigh 300 pounds, really! But Ryan and I had a special treat today - Sunday Brunch at South American Explorers! Now, this is especially special down here in Buenos Aires, as the "Argentine breakfast" is about as common as unicorns with purple spots. People here usually just have a cup of coffee or some mate. For a big breakfast, they'll have a croissant. People just don't eat breakfast here, something that, as a good American girl, disappoints me. I looooove breakfast food. So today's brunch, featuring pancakes and scrambled eggs and banana bread and fruit salad and those delicious carrot cake cupcakes you can see in the photo, was divine.
Spring is definitely here in Buenos Aires! Actually, we seem to be skipping spring, and heading straight toward summer. I was wearing a t-shirt and sandals today! I know, being a Michigander I can't exactly say that the winter has been cold, but it has certainly been chilly and damp and icky, and I'm awfully glad the warm weather is back.
This is a rather typical cafe door, so I figured I'd comment on it. First of all, the "Ambiente Climatizado" means that they have heat and air conditioning. Or at least air conditioning, which is a big luxury here in the humid, sticky summers. The "Hay Cafe Descafeinado" is advertising decaf coffee, which is an extreme rarity down here. It's impossible to find (which drives me crazy, as I don't drink caffeine) so if a place has it, they're going to advertise it. The "Los baños son para el uso exclusivo de los clientes" means that bathrooms are for customers only, a sign which appears on every single cafe and restaurant door in the city. Public bathrooms simply do not exist here. I think this is to discourage both tourists and homeless, creating a bit of a problem for the latter. The last sign is boasting that they are showing a soccer game between River and Newell's Old Boys, two popular teams here. (You can certainly see the English influence in the names, though, huh?) But man, most cafes are crazy on game day, full of men shouting and standing up and shaking their fists. Not the best time to quietly read the paper.
Hey everybody, I just looked and realized that this is my 400th post! Wow, 400 pictures. I have to say, this little project of mine has been one of the best things I've ever done - I have learned so much about photography, about Buenos Aires, about myself and my abilities. It has been a great source of growth for me, and also a ton of fun!
Okay, I clearly didn't take this picture - the credit goes to my friend Elysse. She took me out for ice cream for my birthday today. I know that I just had a food picture yesterday, but this was something very special. Now, you can see that I love ice cream, and I thought I knew what ice cream was. No, I was wrong, I had no idea what ice cream can truly be until I ate that cone of chocolate with raisins soaked in rum and dulce de leche with chocolate chips. For you see, Elysse took me to Persico, an extremely high-end ice cream place here in Buenos Aires. I had never been because it costs literally twice as much as my corner ice cream place. But oh my goodness, what I was missing! This was the most heavenly, rich, delicious, amazing, flavorful, smooth, wonderful ice cream I have ever had in my life. And I am not exaggerating one bit. If you are or are ever in Buenos Aires, you have to go to Persico at least once.
How fitting - a food shot for my birthday. Ryan and I went to this really fancy restaurant last night for an absolutely unbelievable dinner. It was a giant steak (of course), very tender and nicely done, and came with 14 sidedishes! These were really what made the dinner - sweet corn with cream, brussels sprouts and peanuts, a delicious eggplant dish, squash, applesauce, all kinds of different flavors and sauces and veggies. Some were great with the meat, others were better on their own. But it was delicious! Delicious!
This is my friend Carolyn working on the photo scavenger hunt that Ryan and I put together. We had done one of these in Taiwan with a bunch of friends, and decided to make one here. The turnout wasn't great (it's still winter, after all) but the people who did come had a ton of fun.
This is how it works - we made a few different categories, such as Find a picture that exemplifies this adjective (a picture of "clean," for example), Team activities (take a picture of your team playing futbol with someone), Find a...(person drinking mate), Riddles (and take a picture of the answer), and Find these photos (Carolyn is working on that part above). You get points either just for finding things, or for doing activities creatively.
We really hope to do some more of this. If anyone is interested in doing one in Michigan in October, let me know!
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.