Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Argentina, Part III

And the adventures continue... Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Sunday as we left the hostel we walked by what used to be Borges' house (see me pointing to the plaque indicating the literary importance of the place, photo on the left). That was on our way to Caminitos where we walked around the markets (packed with tourists), saw what the right way to dance Tango on the streets is (see second photo on left for a still-demo), and take pictures of the famously colourful houses. And I bought my first work of art ever! In retrospect, I should've bought two. Live and learn! We also saw the famous Bombonera stadium (on one side it has rooms and balconies - like an integrated hotel! madness. football really is the opium of the masses!). In the afternoon we headed to the Recoleta Cementary but it started raining, so we veered left and went into the ginormous movie theater next door. The third picture down on the left is Mauri uber ready to go to the movies, teehee. Saw the movie about the brother and sister killed during the Second World War for their counter nazisistic (is that even a word?!) activities. Then, as everyone left feeling unsatisfied, we felt the need to try again. This time we saw "The Illusionist". We all thought we were seeing the movie about two magicians facing off but it turns out we saw the movie where Edward Norton is a magician in love with a woman in a higher social class than he. Not bad, entertaining and unexpected! And yeah, we never made it to the cementary, oops.

That said, one thing I forgot to mention was that we DID go to an Art Museum during the weekend, so my BA experience was not cultureless. In any case, I intend on going back, and then I'll make sure I hit up a few more tourist "musts".

Last but not least, Monday we had time to squeeze in lunch with Yaz (most disappointing pseudo mozzarella salad EVER, haha - just look at her face on the picture bottom left!) on a nifty rooftop terrace across from our hostel, and then it was time to head to the airport (no way was I going through a second 30+ busride in a week!). Doesn't sound like much for a Monday, but that's because in the morning we were busy running around to get medication unavailable in Bolivia for kids in the Oncology ward of the La Paz Children's Hospital...

What a vacation!

Buenos Aires is a fantabulous place, the perfect mix of Europe and South America. Delicious meat, wonderful wines, fun people - it definitely makes my top ten. Hanging out with Yaz and her studyabroadites was excellent, what a crowd of crazies! I loved it. Thank you Yaz for showing me such a great time, and thank you Mauri for tagging along.

Argentina, Part II

Friday we walked around BA with Mauricio, took touristy shots (see Mauri in front of the Obelisco on the left) as well as real unique BA shots (see me next to graffiti bunny on the lower left), and then came the time to meet up with Yaz et co. Considering the previous day fiasco, when Yaz told us to meet her at Plaza San Martin which happens to be huuuuuuge, we decided that today we'd meet at another smaller square, and specificially, at the statue. Half an hour after our meeting time, still no Yaz! So I left a post-it on the statue to go call her (you know, just in case Yaz showed up right as I walked away and panicked because I wasn't there)(see third picture on the left), and it turns out there were TWO statues in the damn square! Just our luck.

In the evening, we went to a stunning steak place near our hostel and enjoyed Argentinian meat (see photo on the top right) and wine, a scrumptdidiliumptuous combination! Not only that but the restaurant had signed plates on the wall, for famous people. Can you see where I am going with this? YES! I convinced our dear waiter that we were cool enough to get our own plate (which happened to have a black sheep amidst white sheep design on the border, haha - appropriate methinks) (see the results of our geniusi minds put together on the right). Ooh and Andrew Alper came along, a friend from back in the day when I was a summer intern at the Weightman Group Advertising Agency (we bonded in boredom and via ragu/raman lunches, haha) and who happens to be living in BA! Small world.

After dinner we went to see some CRAZY show "the new rage in NYC" apparently. Not sure how else to describe it. A random set of sensory experiences which included people running on crispy material, someone rebelling against bureaucracy and getting shot, people doing the jump'n'slide on a transparent pool thing hanging from the ceiling, and sprays of water. Interesting. Original. Weirdest 45min EVER.

To wrap up the night, we went and had drinks at a bar called Soulfunk (cool retro deco) (that's Andrew, Mauri and me at Soulfunk on the right) and then went to discover one of the big nightclubs called Pasha.

Saturday we walked around more, and went to Yaz's neighbourhood for lunch and then the BEST ice cream ever! Well, my double chocolate flavour was deeee-licious, though I am still a fan of Haagen Dazs, Ben&Jerry's and Movenpick for life! Hehe. And the cherry on the cake of this whole trip, in the evening we went to a huuumongous stadium for the SHAKIRA CONCERT! Muahahaha. That woman is incredibly sexy (don't worry Angelina, I still heart you above anyone else).
Me & Mauri enjoying that yummilicious ice cream.


Argentina, Part I

Considering I was already at the border to check out green horses, I decided (in pre-organizational stages of the trip, in case you were wondering) that it would make sense to go from Yacuiba down to Buenos Aires to visit my cousin Yaz who was studying abroad there from UPenn (and thus the Radjy legacy lives on, hehe). As Mauricio jumped on the occasion to tag along and discover Argentina, we decided to go backpacker style, i.e. from Yacuiba, a 27h busride to Buenos Aires!

The double decker bus we rode in was incredibly comfortable (good) and we got the upstairs front left seats - so we had front row seats for the view (good, even though after the first 5min it was a repeat sequence of land that looked perfect to race around on a horse on) as well as in relation to the small TV in the aisle where approximately 9 movies were played during the trip (good squared). Unfortunately, our bus stopped absolutely everywhere (bad) which is why it took so damn long to get to our destination! At least we got to enjoy Argentinian meat from the very first stop (gooood - see Mauricio digging in the photo below left). Overall, it was more fun than anything else - and yummy, because I got to catch up on sleep big time! On the left, our view out the window... lots of flat greenness and a ton of bugs that went kerrrr-splat!

And of course, at the first checkpoint I mentioned to Mauricio that traveling with me was never all that easy and definitely never boring, and sure enough - at checkpoint no. 2 we were asked into the policemen's "office" (a trailer parked on the side of the road) so they could check through aaaaall our stuff. I even had to take off my shoes! Next time I am totally traveling with Red Cross gear so that maybe they realize before making me unpack and repack everything that I am not a bad person! Hmpf.

Once in the wonderful city of Buenos Aires, we settled into our hostal, Palermo House (neat, clean and relatively inexpensive - just be warned that there are a million stairs to get anywhere so don't go with this option if you are lazy or even mildly disabled in any physical way!), we went out to call Yaz, and met up a few hours later for dinner at a trendy spot called Asia de Cuba in the Port district. Great wine, delicious food, and then the place turned into a club! Most practical.
On the left, my crazy and brilliant cousin Yaz (think she's eating vegetarian sushi) next to another friend of hers who came to visit from California. Among the four of us at dinner, we represented Bolivia, Greece, Iran, and Switzerland!


After finding out that I had to change horses by February, I was told that there were some very green 3 year old horses for sale. Turns out Edwin, one of the Sargentos' stablehands, had two unbroken horses at a ranch in Yacuiba, right by the Bolivia-Argentina border! So finally, I went. We flew to Santa Cruz, had to stay overnight because our plane stopped over in Cochabamba so we missed the last bus out of Santa Cruz, and shortly after dawn we took an 8h bus ride to Yacuiba. We actually nearly missed the bus because it left 5min BEFORE schedule! A first in Bolivia.

We got to Yacuiba late afternoon and by the time we drove out to the ranch it was dark (not to mention that the horses were out and therefore impossible to find because one thing they are not short of there is land), so it was for kicks. Deciding against staying overnight, we drove back to Yacuiba, slept for a few hours, and headed out again, pre-dawn this time. The horses were in a fenced off area, so we singled out Edwin's two and then made up a natural obstacle so I could see them jump.

The first mare, a redhead, didn't have very graceful proportions (nor was she very big) but had a very promising jump. I also liked her character because after a few jumps she decided she was done and therefore jumped the FENCE to get out and go join her friends! Granted she jump-crashed-through-it, but I liked her attitude. That's her on the right.

The second mare was bay, bigger and more elegant, but her style was much tamer and therefore less appealing to me. That's her looking dainty and cute on the lower right (the picture also helps you get a feel for the ranch). Still, I took all the required photos and filmed some motion so that I could get expert advice once back in La Paz.

The ranch itself was very rustic, basic, functional. The owner was straight out of a caricature, a plump, mustache sporting, worn cowboy hat wearing man. Yacuiba goes up to 45 degrees Centigrade in summer, and aside from water shortages they also have problems with a random set of people who came to town and set up shop on lands they just decided they could live on! The area we drove through was lush, and the road was actually decent even though it was not paved. This whole mini adventure was surreal, it was like sticking my head in a bubble of parallel reality!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Judith in Bolivia

One of my bosses from Pictet & Cie planned a two week trip to Bolivia and Chile with a friend of hers, and I got to take them out to dinner on their first night in town! We went to El Vagoncito by Plaza Avaroa, and had some delicious traditional yet relatively light Bolivian food – trout for the ladies, and a silpancho for yours truly. It was a lot of fun meeting Suzie from England and catching up with Judith (think it’s been more than two years since we had coffee together, let alone a longer-than-5-min-conversation)… After they went to Copacabana and Sun Island, they were back in town and I caught up with them after dinner at La Comedie and they were truly thrilled with their trip so far. For the record, they loved Bolivia… and rightly so. It’s an amazing country, with so much to offer on every level – it probably has every type of microclimate, fruits and vegetables grow enormous and incredibly tasty, the food is delicious, and the people are warm. Bolivia rocks!

A Cousin’s Engagement Party

It turns out Flavio, aka Musla, Mauricio and Alejandro’s cousin, was having a getting-engaged party right after the baby shower, upstairs! A few of us went and it was intense – Musla proposed to Edith officially right there in front of the whole family, read out some words he had written which was like hearing love be read out loud; his mother handed him the grandmother’s engagement ring, and that was it! One more couple taking the leap of faith, into forever after. After that, quekas were danced, cumbia was played, and the celebration lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

I wonder if the expression of love here is touching because a) it's not what I am used to, b) it reflects the eloquence of Spanish literature and poetry, c) people are more in touch with their feelings here than in other places, or d) a combination of the above options...

Baby Shower

Claudia and Alejandro are having a baby! She is scheduled for the first week in December, and her name is Monserrat, Monsi for short. The baby shower took place on November 11, and everyone was there, with a present. Or two. Or three. The pile of presents was huuuge, and who knew there were so many baby shower games! First, randomly assigned couples had to feed each other banana mash (the guy prepares the puree and then the blindfolded girl feeds it to him as quickly as possible); then we all tried to figure out the perimeter of Claudia and by ripping off lengths of toilet paper we thought were the right length and then measuring them around the belly to see who got it right; and last but not least a few single men practiced changing a baby’s diaper and dressing it with a blindfold on and as quickly as possible. I didn’t know things like this happened at baby showers, it was actually enjoyable... Then came the presents – Monserrat already owns more shoes and bags than I do! Last but not least came the cake and other munchies. I admit, I was surprised at how much fun the baby shower was. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I am all about babies now – but maybe they aren’t all evil after all, haha.

Edson, blindfolded, changing the baby doll's diaper and dressing her up...

Oscar checking his length of toilet paper to see if it matched Claudia's perimeter - nearly!

Everyone gathered around the happy mom and dad to be (middle) at the end of the present opening segment of the party...

Scorpios Rule! My Birthday...

On the day of my birthday, Tuesday November 7th, I managed to make it down to La Gitana just 45min late for a scrumptdidiliumptuous dinner with the cousins and friends – Daniela and her boyfriend Alejandro, Edu, Martin and Cecilia, Pepe and Mauri. The shrimp was unbelievable, the wine was just right, and the twelve or so desserts that were brought out were overall quite stunning.

On Thursday, I headed down from the FLP with a couple people… the plan was for a small group to have dinner together before others joined in for a party. What happened was the opposite – we started with the party and dug into dinner around 4am, hehe. Ooh and around 11pm, guess who made a grand entrance? The whole Deszaire band! Well, not all of them, but the guitar player and the lead singer (wearing red and turquoise on the right) were there with a few other randomites, and that’s what matters. One of the top five bands of the country sang at my birthday party! Unbelievable. What a way to turn 24! Thank you Mauri for somehow pulling that off!

Here's one of the few photos of me from that night (somehow I managed to run around all night, in disbelief, and in spite of the party taking place in a single small-ish dining room-living room area - making me scarce on film!), with Carol.

Scorpio's Rule! Happy Birthday Riss...

November 4th, Saturday. Risselli's Birthday. We decided to throw a little party at my place and it was Bolivian style - I called Alvaro to ask him to bring a guitar and he showed up over an hour late and with a guitar, Michael Angelo (the tall med student), Cesar, and a HUGE drum. I didn't even know people owned drums that big unless they were part of a band or orchestra or something - and it never crossed my mind that anyone would think of taking the drum to a party in an apartment building on a whim! Hehe.

Photo on left (left to right): Miguel Angel playing the big drum, Adolfo playing the guitar, Cesar and Alvaro, singing along...