Sunday, December 31, 2006

Calling All Urban Planners!

Buenos Aires needs your help. It is in desperate need of a public transportation makeover. They have five subway lines, and they are mostly to get from the outer suburbs of the city to downtown. So imagine four subway lines, coming from the north, north-east, north-west, and west and all converging at one point in the south. Then there is a fifth, very short subway line, running east-west, in the southern part of the city. And beyond that, NADA! There are very large, very popular neighborhoods with no subway stops. Also, to get from one line to another, you have to go all the way to the south, (downtown), usually to the end of the line you're on, and then switch. Apparently, the city was all set to make 8 subways lines, but on the fifth, they ran out of money, and then there was the economic crisis, so....It's also very crowded, very humid (no AC in the subterraneo), and stops running at 10:30 pm, if you can believe it. For this reason, I rarely take the subway. There is, however, a very extensive bus system. Also, cabs are quite cheap, even for Argentinians.

But what, you ask, is my preferred method of transportation in Buenos Aires?

MY BIKE!!!!!

Yes, my friends, I'm on wheels. Buenos Aires is not exactly a bike-friendly city, it's true. About as bike-friendly as New York, I suppose. There is a major war between bus drivers and cab drivers, and sometimes, it's a little scary to be a two-wheeler caught in the middle. But I thought it would be a great way to get to know the city, and frankly, I was tired of asking people which bus to take where, so I just went for it. My German friend Kristina bikes all around Los Angeles without a helmet, and I'm always saying that I'd be way too scared for that, but I think there's something about being in a foreign city that makes it seem like it's possible. I would say, "when in Rome," but it's not like a lot of people are biking here!

Here are some photos of me and my friend Diana, on our bikes:

Diana is another friend of a friend, a half-Danish, half-Spanish woman who is also spending a month here. The other night, we ended up at a tranny bar called Kim Novak, which is walking distance from both of our apartments. It has a very Berlin vibe - it's decked out like a grungy but retro apartment with no windows and a mixed crowd of trannies, gays, and straights. Anything seems to go at Kim Novak. On the bathroom door, there is a sign that reads, "Please, No Drugs," but of course that doesn't stop anyone. Diana returned from the bathroom, half-giggling, half-disturbed. She told us that there had been a slightly freaky-looking woman who was exasperated by the long wait for the toilet. She decided she had had enough and grabbed a paper towel, put it down her pants, peed in it a little, threw it out, and then grabbed another paper towel, peed in it a little more, threw it out - she repeated this process four or five times. What would the Hitchcockian actress have thought of that!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Taking Cultural Stock

I've been here for almost three weeks now, and I am at the point where I can begin to assess some aspects of Argentinian culture - some qualities I like, some I don't.

What I like:

Argentinians have the true joie de vivre that the French only think they possess. They love to eat, they love to party, they love spending time with large groups of friends. It is truly a culture that holds community in high esteem. Because most people grow up, go to high school, college, and then work in the same town, many people have large groups of friends that they have had their entire lives. Every weekend, they assemble in large groups, and everyone in the group always knows what everyone else is up to. I like this. Perhaps I like it because I'm an only child of divorced parents, and I have always longed to be part of a group, a large, close family. Perhaps I like it because I'm a very social person, and enjoy assembling friends. Argentinians make a lot of noise, they have a lot of parties, and they have a lot of fun.

I also love the schedule. Of course it's not like this only in Argentina, but I love that they have a long dinner at 10 pm, linger until 1 or 2, and then go out for drinks or to a party. You can't meet someone for a quick drink or dinner here - there's no such thing as the American two hour meeting (which I can't stand, incidentally). Nights will very often end at 6 or 7 in the morning.

They also, like in practically every country but the U.S., live with their parents well into their 20s. It's expensive to live on your own, but even among the wealthy Argentinians, I haven't really seen it. The only people I've seen who don't live with their parents either have very, very bad relationships with them, or have parents who live outside of the city of Buenos Aires. To be clear, this particular aspect for me is neutral, it's just an observation.

What I don't like:

They're kind of flakey. I guess when you're really carefree, and you're also trying to coordinate plans with 50 people, some plans fall through the cracks. They are also notoriously late. Several times I've been lost and running 30 minutes late to meet someone, walking frantically around, asking for directions, only to arrive at the meeting place, usually a streetcorner, and see the person just walking up.

Argentinians, because they're so friendly and so communal, have a weird tendency of inviting you to do a million things and then not following through. It's strange to begin with - you wonder why someone you just met is inviting you to their family's weekend house, or to spend Christmas with them. I met a guy for the first time, and in the course of the evening, he made plans with me for practically every night that week - we'll go for an asado (barbeque) this night, we'll go water-skiing this night, you'll come to my family's place the next night, we'll go to the theater on this night, we'll hang out with Maradona on Friday (yes, he said this)....and then I never heard from him again. This is actually pretty typical.

They also have sort of strange dating rituals. The men are quite aggressive, as you may have already guessed. It is normal for a women to reject a man 4 or 5 times before accepting a date. In fact, it's sort of required. In the U.S., if a guy asks you for your number and you say no, unless he's sort of strange, you'll probably never hear from him again. Maaaaaaybe he'll ask a second time - but FIVE times??!?!?! Then, on the fifth time, if she's interested she'll say yes, and they either go out, or else it's quite typical that the guy will then back off, and not call again, regardless of whether they've slept together or not. If the woman doesn't reject the guy at least a couple of times, she seems desperate, and the guy usually backs off.


You talk to Argentinian women and they all say the men are "histericos," which obviously literally means hysterical, but has the connotation of "tease". If you talk to the Argentinian men, they swear up and down that the women are very "histerica", and they're much worse than the men. In any case, who has the time?

One last thing: like most countries outside the U.S., political correctness hasn't really made it down here. As Americans, we take it too far, in my opinion, but all in all, I'm glad that most people feel uncomfortable using, for example, the word "nigger." Here, it's quite common, and they use it to talk about the "native" population of Argentina, the non-Europeans. Of course, at this point, there has been so much mixing going on, that I doubt there is a pure "native" population. However, the people you see begging on the subways, the children who come up to you and ask for money, the people who do the manual labor, all have darker skin. Many "white" Argentinians feel very comfortable joking about the "negras", and I've heard three guys tell me that as a rule, the negra girls aren't pretty. At a dinner, one guy I was with was talking about his friend Jose who was about to join us, and he said: "I love Jose. He's one of my best friends. And he's one of the only Jewish people I know who isn't obsessed with money." Awesome. Of course it's not like no one thinks or says these things in the U.S., it's just that in many circles, people don't feel comfortable being so explicit with their prejudices. I pointed out to this guy that what he was saying was a bit of an ethnic stereotype, and he started backpeddling, realizing he was in the company of an American who probably had a lower tolerance for off-the-cuff racism. "No, they're just so GOOD with money, don't you think? I mean, that's probably what was so threatening to Hitler, no?"

Nice try.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Here in Argentina they celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, you have lunch and/or dinner with all of your family members, including extended family, until about 2 or 4 in the morning, and then you go out clubbing or partying with all of your friends. Clubs, bars, and restaurants are all open. The same goes for Christmas day. It's great.

My friend Omar is down in Argentina filming a movie, so he invited me to spend Christmas with him at the estanzia, the ranch, where he and the rest of the cast and crew are staying. They are filming about 200 km outside of Buenos Aires, near a town called Veronica. It was a lovely time. They served champagne from practically the moment we arrived til the moment I went to bed. For lunch, there was an incredible asado, with lamb, beef, pork, chorizo,and blood sausage (yum!). Actually, I got a little sick, to tell you the truth. I don't know what happened, but my stomach hasn't been the same for the past three days. Maybe it's like what they say about not mixing wine with hard liquor! Don't mix your pig with your red meats? In any case, it was outrageously hot, so after lunch, we all went for a dip and lounged about in the sun. Here's me and Omar, pre-dip:

(The more I look at this picture, the more I think we look a bit like brother and sister, no?)

The two days I spent there were very lazy. We ate, swam, lay in the sun, ate more, lay in hammocks, sat, smoked, talked, drank. There were so many different kinds of trees at the estanzia, along with an amazing array of wild birds. With the hammocks and the long walks, the slow pace of the conversation (which was a mix of philosophy and gossip), the "main" house and the "old" house, the sit-down meals at designated hours, the whole atmostphere was, as one actress put it, very Chekhovian. It's true, it was sort of what I've imagined Uncle Vanya's estate to look like - trees, expanse, and beautiful old houses with high ceilings and creaky floors.

I was also quite impressed with how down-to-earth and friendly the cast and crew were. They were gracious, welcoming, and as it turned out, quite chatty. I did have to peel the arms of a slimy producer off my shoulder, but hey - what's a film without one of those, right?

Happy Holidays to everyone. Besos.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Audition

A friend here introduced me to a casting director in BA. The casting director, Alfredo, then promptly called me in for a commercial audition. We were communicating by email, and he didn't tell me what it was for, just to dress "like Sex in the City." Fine. I get there, and Alfredo, the only person in the office who speaks English, is running around, so he places me in the hands of an assistant.

I must first tell you all that my Spanish comprehension is getting much better. I still can't actually SAY anything, but I can understand a lot more than when I first arrived. The assistant takes me into the taping room, and asks me if I know what the commercial is about, what it's for. No, I don't. And then he tells me:


Hahahahahaha. It's true, guys.

Anyway, he begins to explain that at the beginning of the commercial, I'm sad because, well, I have cellulite. He plays some music and tells me that I have to dance slowly and melancholically (thinking about my cottage cheese thighs, I presume). Then the music picks up in pace, and I'm HAPPY! HAPPY cuz I used the Nivea Anti-Celullite Cream and I don't have cellulite anymore!!! Yippee! He dances around, demonstrating. Great. He tells me that I should be constantly smiling in this section, and I say, no problem. It is NO problem for me to be smiling - it IS a problem, however, for me not to be LAUGHING! Then, he says something I don't understand, something about my clothes. "Como?," I respond (I must say this 100 times a day). He mimes something - I still don't understand. Then he shows me some tape of a previous audition, to clarify. Ah! He wants me to do all this ruminating about my cellulite in my underwear!!!! Unfortunately - or fortunately, I guess - I'm not wearing a bra. I tell him this, and he shudders. Okay, what about the bottom part?, he asks. No luck down there, either - a lacey, transparent thong that's kinda old and has a few holes. He looks perplexed. He says he might have something for me to wear. He leaves the room, and comes back with a mini-skirt that looks to me more like a large belt. Doesn't fit. Exasperated, he just tells me to wear what I'm wearing and if the director likes me, they'll have me come back and do it again.

Something tells me I won't be going back for a second round.

What I learned about golf

I met an Argentinian professional golfer at a party recently. He spends half his time in Florida, and half in Argentina. He went to the University of Alabama on a golf scholarship, met a girl there (an "Alabamian"), and nine years later, they are getting married. I sat and talked with him for a bit about golf, and I was surprised to learn a few things. Honestly, I've always thought golf was quite boring, and all the usual things, and I guess I still do, but there were a few strange parallels with acting that I thought I'd share with you...

He said that because you have a lot of time in golf - between each hit (or put, I'm not sure exactly what it's called), and during the several days that a tournament lasts - that you consequently have a lot of time to think about all the terrible things that might happen. If things are going badly, you have plenty of time to ruminate and mope and make yourself feel bad. If things are going well, you have plenty of time to get nervous that your luck may run out. The real key, the gift of a truly great golfer, is to stay completely in the moment - for the duration of the tournament. Staying in the moment is difficult no matter what, but I imagine for a basketball or soccer player, it's not as trying, as you have to think quickly and spontaneously. In golf, it seems, you think, you walk, you hit, you go to sleep in your hotel, you think, you dream, you wake up, you think some more...And if you're like most people, you psych yourself out. Sound familiar, my fellow actors?

Because it's so difficult, he works with a sports psychologist on visualisation and self-esteem. He visualizes the shots he will make, he visualizes success, etc. He also works on the art of not anticipating, staying completely in the moment - you can't think about the outcome of the shot before you make it, or you're dead in the water (or I don't know, dead in your pink, plaid pants - which is worse). He told me that sometimes as he's taking a shot, he's thinking, gosh, if I get this, it will mean that I'll make this much money, my career will take off, I can buy the house for my wife, etc, etc, and then he's completely out of the moment and messes everything up.

But here's the most important thing: he said that the main key to success in golf was believing that you deserve to win. That is, if something happens in a tournament that surpasses your image of yourself, i.e., you perform better than you think you can, then you will lose the moment. Your image of yourself has to be in harmony with your playing. That, he said, was the main difference between Tiger Woods and the rest of the professional golfers - his understanding that he deserved success.

To sum up : don't anticipate, stay in the moment, and believe you deserve to win/do well. I suppose it's not just actors that this applies to, but it's funny how much the exact same things have been repeated to us over the years as the major keys to success....

ps: I want to work with a theater psychologist!!! Jeez! Is there such a thing? :)

Monday, December 18, 2006

The New Digs

My apartment is adorable. I found it on the internet, and of course, I approached it with a bit of trepidation. To secure the apartment, I had to wire $200 to a random guy who I had only spoken with on the phone. Eek. Practically until the moment I moved in, I was convinced I was going to get ripped off (everybody warns you about Argentinians taking advantage of tourists, etc...). But I didn't!

It's smallish by American standards, but it has a huge balcony that spans the entire length of the apartment and therefore has lots of light.

A view from the balcony:

I sit here and read the newspaper and do my Spanish homework. I've been schooled in the art of making yerba mate, which is a sort of tea that Argentinians drink out of special cup-like thing called....a Mate (accent on the second syllable, like the french name "andre", sorry don't have the accents worked out...)! The way it works, for those who don't know: you put the yerba mate, which is basically herbs and tea, in the mate. You then warm some water, being careful not to boil it. The mate cup comes with a wooden or metal straw which you sip from. You add the water to the cup, some sugar if you want, and sip. You can only have a few sips at a time, because the mate cup is quite small. Then you add a bit more water, pass it to your friend, she sips, and passes it back. The mate never gets cold because the water is kept in a warm thermos, and is only added a little bit at a time. It's yummy. See, even the TEA here is SOCIAL!!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006


So I'm discovering a few things about Argentinian culture. I knew plastic surgery was big here, but I didn't realize it was a size DD. Seriously folks, I think the number of boob jobs I've seen in Buenos Aires trumps the number in L.A. While there's still a stigma attached to having plastic surgery in the States (celebrities who have become practically unrecognizable denying they've ever had anything done), Argentinians seem to have embraced plastic surgery so much, it has about as much stigma as a trip to the dentist. Even the former President Carlos Menem openly admitted to having his hairline and cheeks done! I can't imagine the parallel situation. New York Times headlines read: President Bush Recovers Nicely from Tummy Tuck - Thanks Jesus for Speedy Healing.

So why all the plastic surgery? Many reasons, it seems. Argentinian culture is famous for its obsession with looks. I walked into a pharmacy the other day, needing some eye makeup remover (pharmacies also sort of double as beauty supply stores). I was approached by the saleslady, but I stumbled over the word for eye-makeup remover. " conozco la palabra en espanol, es para---" She cut me off, enthusiastically: "Crema Anti-Cellulitis?" Ugh. I mimed the act of removing makeup as best I could, and she actually looked disappointed. Before I walked into the pharmacy, I wasn't thinking about my cellulite, but you can bet I was when I left. It works this way in most countries - planting insecurities in women to ensure consumption of beauty products, obsession with aging, etc...So what's different about Argentina? Maybe not too much, but many of the people I've spoken with here have brought up the problems with anorexia, so I checked it out. Argentina has a higher rate of anorexia than the United States and Europe. Some people attribute the obsession with looks to the economy. After such mental suffering, the people were in need of a pick-me-up--or in this case, a lift-me-up, hehe. I've also heard that appearance is much more important than competency, so it's possible that surgery could increase one's chances of getting a job. But what about before the economic cris? Some say it's to do with Argentina's obsession with appearing European - they are famous for bragging that Buenos Aires is the Paris of Latin America. Although, there's one thing that's not very Parisian of them: they are also really obsessed with going to the gym. Try getting a Frenchman to trade his echarpe for some gym shorts - not an easy task.

The obsession with looks also seems to have an effect on relationships. According to Miranda France, author of Bad Times in Buenos Aires:

"The obsession with looks, many porteños agreed, made relationships problematic in Buenos Aires; the country's divorce rate was the highest in South America. One of the capital's dating agencies announced publicly that it was to close after five years' business had yielded only one marriage (and that was looking rocky). The agency's director appeared on television, exasperated by failure. 'I've organized more than a thousand dates and only one of them came to fruition,' she told the reporter. 'Argentines don't know how to form proper relationships. The men want someone young and beautiful. The women all want money. Nobody's realistic.' (p.87)

Every woman in Buenos Aires, no matter her size, wanted to be thinner. Looks, but more particularly women's looks, were a persistent, urgent topic of conversation. Argentina spent more money on cosmetic surgery than almost any other country in the world and was fast developing the highest incidence of anorexia. Two-thirds of school girls had ambitions to become, not lawyers, doctors or scientists, but models --- and this was somehow not felt to be a national disaster. When a German 'supermodel' visited Buenos Aires to promote lingerie, she was accorded more honours than a head of state, meeting the president twice and travelling around the city in a fleet of limousines, pursued by thousands of fans. Her thoughts on beauty and lingerie commanded front pages for five days. (p.85)

Although men also spend over the odds on clothes and cosmetic surgery, in practice they could do whatever they liked; it was only unforgivable for a woman to age or grow fat. Female television presenters over a certain age --- and there were precious few of them --- wore long bleached hair and the fixed smiles of multiple face-lifts. Magazines imposed an aesthetic regime that was tyrannical. If a celebrity had taken too long to recover from a pregnancy or had allowed her buttocks to 'fall' --- a phenomenon that fascinated and appalled porteños --- she was chastised with a merciless close-up and a cutting editorial advising to get in shape. Prime-time television entertainment included competitions in which men tried to guess a woman's vital statistics by running their hands over contours of her body, or tested their skills at matching a row of women's barely covered buttocks to the correct faces. Real women were used in these contests. They never stopped smiling as the contestants squeezed and prodded them....."

I've had a lot of conversations with guys this week claiming that it's really annoying that most girls are obsessed with their looks, but after my experience the other night, I'm pretty sure they do their fair share to perpetuate the problem. Any social culture which revolves around men chasing women, and therefore, women's sexual attractiveness to men, is going to instill feelings of competition and inadequacy in women. So that's my personal opinion on why the ladies are obsessed with their looks - and not just in Argentina!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Different Style

Are you missing me? Just a bit? Well, here's a picture that...I took of myself! I went to yet another of these wacky pool parties last night, and I had an experience much like what people describe happening in Brazil. On three separate occasions, someone came up to me from behind, put his arms around my stomach in a close embrace, and started either stroking my arms or hair or neck. Like, random guys. I guess this is the Argentinian equivalent of "Haven't I seen you some place before?" I would turn around, look at the guy, realize I had absolutely no idea who he was, remove his hand, and walk away. He would then follow me in order to make a second attempt. The funny part was, it wasn't aggressive exactly, it was very easy to remove their limbs from mine and walk away - it just had a sort of drunken free-love, hippie quality to it. But definitely not my style. Did ya hear that fellas? If any of you don't know me and want to hit on me, don't put your arms around my waist and try to kiss me.

If you DO know me, though, please, go right ahead!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

La Boca

I went to the final match of the Argentinian football league yesterday. It was Boca Juniors v. Los Estudiantes. Boca Juniors was supposed to win this past Sunday, but in a sudden turn of a events, they lost and Los Estudiantes won a different match, putting the two teams head to head. This match was an added final match, so the stakes were even higher. To give you a sense of how important the match was to everyone, they only sold the stadium to about 80% capacity, in case of riots breaking out.

They also labored over the locale - it was finally decided to have the match a bit farther outside the city at a "neutral" stadium. La Boca originated in the area of Buenos Aires called, you guessed it, La Boca. It's a poor neighborhood, so the Boca team is generally touted as the team of the common man, where as some other teams are viewed as the teams of the elite. I'm honestly not sure where Los Estudiantes lies in this spectrum...

If there were a word that meant manic to the point of inspiring both the purest feelings of love and the purest feelings of violence, it would have originated in Argentina at a soccer game. These people are fanatics. I had read about it, I had seen it on tv, I had heard about it from friends - but nothing is quite like being in the stands AMONGST them. I was sitting on La Boca Juniors side, the team that was supposed to have won on Sunday. Half the country hates them, half would have their babies - and name them Boca, Jr.

We had to get there a few hours early because the crowds can get quite nuts. And nuts they were. As I was stood by the gates, waiting to be let in, Estudiantes fans in cars driving on a bridge above would shout at the Boca fans, and the Boca fans would rally like their lives depended on it. Hands making sex gestures, fingers in holes and the like, the continual refrain of the word "puta," and crotch-grabbing were all standard fare. I learned many very bad words.

Inside, there were lots and lots of men. Shirtless, hairy-backed, chubby men. The Boca colors are blue and yellow, so in addition to waving their own special Boca Juniors flag, they were also waving the flag of the Kingdom of SWEDEN, because it, too, is blue and yellow. Likewise, Los Estudiantes fans waved the flags of Poland and Denmark, which are red and white - and those were just the ones I could recognize from the opposite side of the stadium.

I'm guessing that most teams have a song. The Boca fans had, like, 10. There was one for when something good happened, one for when something bad happened, and another one just for fun. The crowd was in complete unison, in every way - their songs, gestures, cries...Boca didn't play too well - one goal scored in the first twenty minutes of the game, and no serious attempts afterwards - but the fans were amazingly supportive. They even had a sort of "buck up" song, for times when they felt the team was in need of emotional support. Lots of belly-grabbing, arm-flailing, song-singing, and "la concha de tu madre"-yelling.

La Boca lost, and I couldn't help feeling for the side of the stadium I had spent the last five hours with. Many, many tears were shed (see above picture). The Los Estudiantes side was aflame with fireworks, red and white smoke, and Japanese flags.

But I had spent so many hours sitting in the stadium in the sun, that I came home and crashed. It was very much an all-day event.

Palermo Viejo

Here are some photos of a neighborhood called Palermo Viejo, which is is right next to, or as they say in Spanish, al lado de, my neighborhood, Palermo Hollywood. It's super trendy, and very, very polished - the equivalent of Soho in NYC. But what I liked about this neighborhood was the architecture. You'll see in these photos that strikingly different styles of houses stand right next to one another.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tango, etc.

Last night, in the cab on the way home, the driver asked me where I was from. "Los Estados Unidos," I replied. He asked me if I was pro-Bush or anti-Bush. I said anti-Bush, at which point he turned around, took my hand, and shook it. The next day, when trying to direct me to a flea market, a few people told me that it was in San Telmo, "you know, the place where Bush's daughter got her purse stolen (chuckle, chuckle)." It's become a matter of national pride, that Bush's daughter was robbed in their country. Hahahaha.

I'm really loving the Argentinian accent. They pronounce the double L sound like "zhe" (as in, MoZHan), instead of the y sound we're all used to. Their Y is pronounced with a soft J, somewhere in between "zhe" and "je". The whole thing lends itself to a vaguely Brazilian sound, not the staccato, muscular, rapid-fire sounds of Spanish from Spain. That coupled with the insanely deep pitch of the Argentinian male voice - the kind most other people achieve with the somewhat paradoxical combination of lots of smoking and lots of vocal training - makes me go nuts for the Argentinian accent!

In other news, I had my first tango class today. For those of you who don't know, there was a brief period of time during college and while I lived in Berlin when I took tango classes and went to the occasional tango salon. I didn't stick with it long enough to get that great, and for some reason sort of lost the thread. Today, I went to "Confiterie Ideal," which by night is an apparently wildly popular tango salon, and by day, at least by THIS day, was an empty restaurant, with all the chairs pushed back, and a very old couple teaching tango to foreign tourists. My friends, today I remembered both why I love the tango, and why I never stuck with it.

Why I love it: it's pretty spectacular and sophisticated. It manages to be fun, sexy, and spontaneous, while remaining within these oddly strict and refined set of steps. Watching really great tango dancers is incredibly thrilling.

Why I let it go: you have to deal with some pretty insane people. For some reason, many of the people drawn to tango are total nutjobs. And if you're a lady, like myself, you have to deal with these nutjobs leading you, and telling you what to do with a lot of authority, whether or not they're deserving of it.

There was a couple today, for example, wearing matching knee length khaki shorts and shiny, black patent leather tango shoes with black socks pulled up all the way, who insisted on speaking with me in bad Spanish even though they were from San Diego (yes, they knew I was American). Then there was an Italian man who danced horribly and critiqued my every move, giving me his secret tips to improve my gait.

I did find myself in the very absurd position of translating Spanish into German. The tango teacher was trying to tell this German girl (who had been dancing with the Italian man) NOT to dance with the Italian man because he was so bad he was going to confuse her. But she didn't speak any Spanish (or English), and the teacher didn't speak any German, and for some reason, the teacher came up to me and pleaded with me to tell the girl, "PLEASE! Please tell her not to dance with that man anymore!" My head was spinning from all the slap-dash translating, especially from one language I don't speak, into another language that has receded into the netherworld of my brain where all the passive knowledge lies.

My new friend Gisela (another friend of a friend), informed me today that most Argentinians do NOT, contrary to popular belief, dance the tango, and that it's mainly for old people and for tourists. Haha.

This photo of the Argentinian guys was supposed to be uploaded as part of yesterday's post. Note the pile of sausages in the foreground. More soon!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

First day

I think it's safe to say that Argentinians are about the most collectively social nationality I've ever encountered. Going out at night is like the #2 national sport after soccer. Maybe #3, after polo. Speaking of which, I WENT TO A POLO match yesterday! It was mostly boring, but I'll tell you what wasn't: the men! Whoah nelly. I've always sort of thought of polo as an uppercrust, somewhat effeminate, british-y sort of sport, for those who don't like to get their hands dirty. Nothing could be farther from the truth, at least in Argentina. Man on Beast v. Other Men on Beasts is quite aggressively masculine - watching sturdy, swarthy Argentinians ride robust, glistening animals, bumping up against eachother, swinging their mallets, and...Sorry, I just had to take a minute to wipe the sweat from my brow. Anyway, you get the idea. Most of the time, however, they're just sort of riding back and forth on the field and not much is happening. And a horse DIED during the match - or rather, as a result of the match. It's also a highly elitist sport, as only people who own ranches, or estanzias, really have the opportunity to advance. For this reason, it's often quite a family sport - one of the teams yesterday was comprised of a family of four brothers. A man sitting next to me informed me that it's not like in the States where anybody can play polo if they want to (I'm not so sure about that, but apparently, in Burbank, CA you can have a polo lesson for $25. Who knew.)

Later that night, I was taken out by a friend of a friend (I have noticed that I have more "friends of friends" in BA than I have actual friends in LA, but that's a different story) named Fernando, aka Polaco. I spent the evening with five crazy, macho Argentinian men, who first took me to another friend's place to "make a barbecue" and then took me to another friend's place to "make a party." The barbecue took place at Nico's house, who grilled up massive amounts of chorizo, beef, and pork, and then proceeded to eat only eggplant, because, apparently, he "made a barbecue for lunch" and was" having to diet." They say "boludo" at the end of every sentence (I think I'm spelling this correctly), which literally means something like dumbass or idiot, but is used like we use "dude." Needless to say, there was lots of boludo-ing. It's also funny how in every gang of guys, the same archetypes prevail: the shy, quiet one, the saucy womanizer one, the always half drunk/stoned and giggling one, the meathead one, and the smart, articulate one. They were all present last night. I'll leave it to you to guess which one was which. At 1:30 am, Fernando said we should go to the party, and the others all yelled, "Boludo, it's way too early!!!" So we hung out for a little while longer and eventually made our way to the fiesta.

This party was totally bizarre. First of all, it was a pool party. (Fernando had failed to mention this to me, so I hadn't brought a bathing suit). Second of all, there was a strobe light. Next, there was a giant trampoline. And lastly, there was a humongous blow-up slide that you could slide off of and into the pool. The DJ was playing this horribly tacky "cumbia" music, which basically sounds like recycled Macarena. People were drinking and swimming (always a good combination), and drinking more and sliding off the slide and jumping on the trampoline.

Like I said, totally bizarre.

I love it here already.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Hello my friends!

At the suggestion of a pal who will remain nameless (a woman who is prone to a bit of blogging herself, I dare say) I'm doing something very un-Mozhan-like and starting this blog about my trip to Buenos Aires.

For clarification:

1) I am going alone.
2) I am going for one month, or as they say in Spanish, un mes (those who tire easily of the "or as they say in Spanish" joke: run! Spare yourselves now! I will be using it with a bit of recklessness in the next...mes).
3) I have rented an apartment in a lovely little part of Buenos Aires called Palermo Hollywood.
4) I am very excited, and a little nervous.

I hope to keep this updated with some regularity, but as I am new to the blogosphere, you'll forgive me if I'm a bit cybershy.

Here's what everyone keeps telling me:

1) The minute I get there I'll find some gorgeous Argentinian to show me around.
2) I'll fall in love with a gorgeous Argentinian, marry him, and never return.
3) Argentinian men are gorgeous.

There's a theme here, as you can see.

But for those of you who doubt me, rest assured: I am NOT marrying an Argentinian on this trip and I SHALL return! And while I am not BLIND, I have not embarked on this adventure to meet men!

"Well, why IS she going?" Well, a few reasons:

1) I have been wanting to learn Spanish for a long time now, but have traditionally found beginning language classes quite boring, and thought it would be better and more fun to live in a Spanish-speaking country.
2) I received an extra residual check that I wasn't expecting, and instead of, ahem, starting to pay off my student loans, I decided to blow it all on this trip!
3) I have been longing to take a trip on my own. In all of my various travels, I have either traveled with someone (or as they say in Spanish, con alguien), to visit someone, or through some sort of educational program.
4) I'd like to finally get better at Tango.
5) I just wanted to!

My mother, ever supportive of my sometimes untraditional endeavours (haha), informed me today that one of the Bush twins got her purse swiped while dining at a restaurant in Buenos Aires, even though she had TWENTY-SIX bodyguards!!! She also told me, in the same breath, that I shouldn't "dress like I have money" so as not to DRAW ATTENTION TO MYSELF, lest I get robbed. Hmm. I guess I should definitely reconsider the 26 bodyguards I had planned to bring along.

More from Argentina!