abril 23, 2004

To Cara (edited)

Dear Cara,
I was about to settle in and write you a long endearing letter, but was rudely interrupted by the sound of a jackhammer directly below my apartment; this is new. Usually it's just car alarms and motorbike delivery guys (has this country HEARD of a muffler?)
Miraculously, I'm awake before noon with nary a class in the world to attend today. So I'm puttering around on the internet, racking up local phone charges. This weekend I'm forcing myself to lay low and study which is un-fucking-believably hard in a city with so much to do. I am taking a break to go to the international independent film festival that lasts a week every year here; and maybe the huge, enormous city book fair. Oh, the devil, he makes me spend the money!!! Made me spend money on a futbol game this week, too. Totally awesome, but that'll be another story.
Apparently Lauren Biloski who was in my class in OR is coming to Argentina for a few weeks this summer/winter...isn't that weird? I can't tell you how much I wish it was you-- I MISS YOU!!!! You know, the city's great and all, but you're fabulous!


abril 20, 2004

More News from Argentina

Hola, todos –

The halfway point of this trip, like any other landmark, puts me to thinking about bigger questions, profound ideas: namely, I don’t want to come back to the US. Not only do I feel more at home here in my apartment but walking around town. The guy with the wine store waves at me every time I’m walking to class, I have a flower guy (not a good flower guy, but he is my flower guy), a regular newspaper stand halfway to the university, the Ukrainian kid who runs the produce market knows me and Randy by sight. Really I’m finding almost everyone knows me by sight: I went to La Boca this weekend, where I hadn’t been in more than a month. While I was there to see an art opening I stopped in to buy a t-shirt I looked at last time. The girl said, “oh, you came back for the t-shirt—it was this one.” This could either be very flattering, or very, very bad. Yes, there are other palefaces here (some even natives) but am I really that impressively, unforgettably ghost-like?

But now it takes people I meet on the street several minutes of conversation for them to guess I’m foreign (less for Randy but still they don’t always get it right away); they don’t even really ask if I’m a tourist anymore. So I live here now, but knowing it’s temporary, not in any weird philosophical this-life-is-a-façade way, but having a plane ticket that tells me it all ends August 3rd, is unsettling. I have, as many of you have pointed out, an insurmountable nesting urge so the walls are getting covered with art; I’m starting to want things like furniture, nay, even apartments. You can get a beautiful, jaw-dropping apartment in one of the less wealthy neighborhoods for US$50k. Not shabby since this week I read the average price in Manhattan is over $1million. I don’t love everything here. For example, going to the bank is like chewing rocks. Every time I go they have charged me unexpected fees or failed in some simple task. Most recently it was ordering a second ATM card for Randy, which compounds both of the aforementioned consequences of going to the bank because, unbeknownst to me, they charge you 3 pesos every time you use the window (this is more than a dollar)! The utter lack of communication on the part of most Argentines is maddening, as is the comparably astronomical rent we pay as foreigners. But where in Tennessee of all places could I take a latin rhythms aerobics class with impressive booty-shaking by all the members of the class? Well, to clarify, not all members: my gringa friend Kayla and I had to have special instruction from the oh-so-wiggly male instructor (not flattering; if I weren’t already pink from sweat, I would’ve turned it). And we still go to the artisan fairs/swap meets every weekend where there are concerts rivaling for attention all day. Last week the city’s book fair started which is a huge convention center affair that lasts a month and is *free* to university students, making the illusion of saving money so easy when buying mounds of books I justify because they are either 1) a good deal or 2) things the US just doesn’t get, ie postcards from Cuba and cartoons mocking Bush in Spanish. Cities are nice. I order delivery several times a week. Sometimes it comes in the form of mouthwatering steaks and beef ribs, sometimes fresh rotisserie chickens, sometimes devilishly fried empanadas. Not usually pizza because I’m addicted to a place within a block of the apartment and have a waitress I like.

My goal for this weekend is to attend a fútbol game, but sadly have less than a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing Boca vs. River next weekend (amplify UT vs. Florida by possibly a hundred times). Instead I’m gonna flee to the countryside to a national park called El Palmar, which is a huge area of palm savannahs dotted with scrubby forests. Countrysides are nice, too. And cheap buses with leather reclining seats.

Well, I hope all’s well in all your parts of the world—I’d love to hear from you (love even more to see you in my part of the world).



abril 11, 2004

Dirty Old Men (e-mail to Cara)

So, the longer I'm here the more I'm actually starting to feel like a 40-something single guy: tonight I caught myself thinking, "I really don't feel like walking 20 minutes to the movie theater, but at least I can drink a couple of beers and watch some porn on cable..." Tonight R and I went to a restaurant/bar called "Viejo Indecente" (Dirty Old Man), which is true to its name, and is full of dirty old men. There's one cute young waitress, but a whole lot of cute young men too, maybe to give the women more to do while their husbands are checking out the tourists at the bar... Anyway,
Randy joined the bar as a member, and that means they'll cook him a cake on his
birthday, maybe shaped like boobs.
This weekend we went to the country with Andres' parents, but it was cold and rainy so I got some reading and studying done. Since almost nobody here is really catholic, there's not a lot going on: most of Buenos Aires went to the beach this weekend. And I forgot to buy a chocolate bunny so maybe I'll drink instead. mmmmm....drinking and not doing schoolwork -- this, in fact, IS what I was missing about the college experience all along. Except most of this college experience is in Spanish, and I love it.
I, on the other hand, miss YOU. Sell glass--come here. After the plane ticket it's cheap and wonderful. we saw the preview of the opera for $1.60 last week. Steaks are even cheaper than that.


abril 02, 2004


Hola, todos –

Last night (April 1) we had our first good introduction to Argentine democracy, when we inadvertently participated in a protest of hundreds of thousands of middle-class argentine citizens. We only knew there was going to be a protest yesterday, but not exactly why – or how big.

You’ll need a little history: between 1976 and 1983 argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship, brought into power by fears of terrorism and an increased need for “security”. During this period nearly thirty thousand citizens were kidnapped, tortured, and killed (“disappeared”) for their political views. The dictatorship came to an end 20 years ago after a disastrous war in the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, and the war is commemorated every year on the second of April.

Last week a university student named Axel Blumberg was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in a manner eerily reminiscent of the disappearances, the latest in a rash of kidnapings which was believed to have ended. The populace of Buenos Aires strongly condemns the police force for these events, thinking that they are at best bumbling and at worst complicit (the police have a long history of complicity in state-sponsored terrorism here.) Last night, in a protest called by Axel’s father, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to march on the Casa Rosada and Congresso. It was a sea of people shoulder-to-shoulder and front-to-back all carrying candles and chanting “justicia” and “seguridad” that filled the entire downtown area and paralyzed the city for several hours to demand reform of the police force. We were caught in the middle of two of the city’s largest streets unable to move or breathe as the police were caught off guard and could not manage any sort of crowd control, but it was a beautiful moment of democracy unlike any we have witnessed in the United States.

Partly it was such a poignant protest because this is a country that had lost its democracy, and now clings to it like a wild horse’s mane. With our country being in its currently miserable state of “democracy,” it was energizing to see so many people coming together to demand something important from their government. How much more impressive it would be if we could get so worked up *before* democracy gets lost, or before university students get killed for greed and point-making (when Axel’s parents hadn’t paid the ransom, they killed him anyway).

Well, this is very heavy-yet-important, but the city is going on mostly the same. Tonight our waitress at our pizzeria was collecting signatures for the petition to reform the police. Tomorrow we’re going out of town for the day with another exchange student, but we felt like we had to write something after such a moving event last night.

we love you all,

anna & randy

p.s. as always, we got caught in an opportune moment without our camera, so we’re attaching a picture from one of the big newspapers here.

The Protest Posted by Hello