Friday, August 12, 2011

So I got home.

I don't think any of you were still wondering, but in case you were - I did make it home, and it's pretty great. I'm glad I went - but I think I'm even gladder to have come back. Thank you guys so much for your support, while I was gone and now that I'm back - it's meant a lot to me.

Here's a pretty picture of a leaf.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Guess what's happening.


We're leaving for the airport in an hour and a half and our flight leaves at 9:00. SEE YOU GUYS SOON!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Watch out, normal people, this post is about knitting.

By "normal people," I of course mean "people who are weird in ways other than a love for the fiber arts."

Guess what it turns out Buenos Aires has?

a) Really cheap and enormous skeins of yarn.
b) The most incredible concentration of yarn stores I have ever seen ever.
c) Three less cheap and enormous skeins of yarn than it used to have, which I can't show you pictures of because some of them are PRESENTS.
d) Sandwiches.

The correct answer is ALL OF THEM, but the first two are what I'm going to talk about right now.

Thanks to the knitting blogosphere, particularly a post by Boo over at Craft, Eat, Travel, Sleep.....Repeat and another by Drew at drew-o-rama, I became aware that the 800 and 900 blocks of Scalabrini Ortiz are the unofficial yarn district of Buenos Aires. They each talked about a couple of shops, so when I set out I was thinking there would be perhaps two or three. I counted seven on one block, on one side of the street, and gave up counting. It was incredible. I've experienced the yarn-choosing problem many a time, but I've never had trouble choosing which yarn shop to walk into.

With additional thanks to the knitting blogosphere, I was prepared for the different setup of Argentine yarn stores. Apparently, it's fairly normal for there to be counters stretching all around the room. You might take a number from the deli-number-taking thing by the door, and then wait for your number to come up. Then you go talk to one of the attendants behind the counters, who will pull skeins for you and tell you what they're all made of and everything, since none of the skeins have any labels attached to them. Then you bring what you want to be weighed (prices are per kilogram), and you pay. This seems a little nuts to me, since you have to have a conversation with somebody in order to be able to touch anything or even know what type of fiber it is, but okay. We'll try.

There were stores of varying levels of chique-ness, and I walked into and looked around inside about five of them. Moussa was very nice, and looked by far the fanciest, but Yanabey was the one that won me over. It was definitely a step down from Moussa in terms of fancy-pants yarniness, although both Moussa and Yanabey seemed to stock only their own lines of yarn! Can you believe that? That would be like going into a Cascade store. Or a Malabrigo store. These things may exist, but they are beyond the bounds of my imagination.

Yanabey, however was the only store I went into that had any labels other than the names the company had given to those particular yarns, which were all useless and uninformative things like "Spring Flame." But Yanabey was awesome! They were all arranged all over the walls by type of fiber, and at the bottom of each column they had a helpful sign saying what the yarn was made out of, its price per kilogram, its average price per skein, the recommended needle size, and how many grams you'd probably need to make a sweater. All of this without having to talk to anyone! And the way the counters were arranged, you could touch the yarn! You could pull skeins off the shelves yourself! Ideal for an indecisive minimal speaker of Spanish. The employees were super friendly, though, so if you can speak Spanish, you should talk to them! They were very willing to help, but also seemed to understand the knitter-looking-at-yarn thing. They had a pretty good selection too - a lot of acrylic, a very respectable selection of wool, a lot of cotton, and even silk and other weird things like that. They actually seemed to have done things with acrylic that I had never encountered before - they had a lot of "artisan" thick-thin acrylics. It was confusing. All in all, yay for Yanabey!

So in addition to how awesome and plug-worthy Yanabey was, it was awesome to see that at least right there in that shop, knitting culture was pretty much the same here as at home. There were people walking around holding mountainous armfuls of yarn, saying "It's so hard to decide!" I felt right at home.

Also, how cheap was that yarn? It was 30 pesos, or about 7 dollars, for TWO HUNDRED GRAMS OF YARN. Knitting friends, how unreal is that? A skein of Malabrigo worsted is ONE hundred grams, and it costs like ten dollars. I would have bought so much more if I wasn't already having suitcase struggs to the maximum.

(Also, it has just become my birthday! Yay!)

Monday, July 11, 2011


Yesterday, Nina and I got to video chat with Brad and Danny and Danielle all at the same time, which was way exciting and made me very excited to go home in EIGHT DAYS. Amid our chattering, Danielle asked me whether I am liking Argentina better than I liked Brazil, and indicated that it seemed that way from my blog.

This is an interesting question. I realize that I have done an overwhelming amount of complaining about Brazil, and a lot of excited photo-posting and almost zero complaining about Argentina. I will now attempt to put my whining into context.

There are a few main differences between my experiences in Brazil and Argentina, into which I have attempted to thematically organize my rambling. They are: time, my role, language, and actual differences between these places.

First, I am about to go home. This whole time I've been away, I have been looking forward to this month as The Absolute End. I can now count on my two hands the number of days I have left. This is wildly exciting.

My role in each place has been completely different. In Brazil, I was trying to be a regular person, which was nearly impossible due to the way I look and to my effective but consistently incorrect Portuguese. The Brazilians were normal, and I was trying to fit into that. In Argentina, I'm a tourist. I'm on vacation. I'm not trying to assimilate, I'm just trying to see the city and have a good time. While I am trying to learn things about the culture, I'm not trying to understand it. My role doesn't require it.

There's not a lot of overseas tourism in the Fortaleza area, so not only does virtually no one speak English, but there's no automatic categorization of someone who is tall and white and doesn't speak much Portuguese as a tourist. While this is kind of good, it also makes you feel much weirder than you probably are. In Buenos Aires, there are about a zillion million tourists and a ton of them speak English, and so do a ton of the Argentines they come into contact with. Despite my even more minimal Spanish abilities, I have to rely on my own knowledge of the language far less frequently here than I did in Brazil. I think that alone does a lot for my mental state. It's not a constant struggle. Also, I see Nina every day, and we not only speak English but talk about the many other things we have in common. We can talk about our lives and our friends and have it make sense.

Buenos Aires also just looks and feels a lot different from Fortaleza. It's cleaner, for one thing. The buildings are older and to my eye are more beautiful. It looks more European. There are statues and monuments everywhere. The people look more European - there's not much about me to indicate at first glance that I'm foreign. That is probably the other hugest relief ever. I don't feel as different. Finally, the food is more familiar. It doesn't make sense how much the available food affects how you feel, but it absolutely does. In Buenos Aires there are a zillion kinds of pasta, pizza, pastries, ice cream like you wouldn't believe, and even sandwiches. I ate a hot sandwich with brie cheese, sprouts, onions, and squash on whole wheat bread. I ate two of them. At a restaurant. And it was normal. It was unreal, I felt like I could have been in Los Angeles. I go to fancy cafes and order coffee, and they give you cookies to go with it. At dinner or lunch they give you bread. It's seasoned. Sometimes it's toasted. There is butter. The coffee is not pre-sweetened. I could go on. It's important to keep in mind, though, that I'm also operating in a different social class than I was in Brazil. In Brazil, I was part of a working class family. While there may have been fancy cafes that would serve you cookies with your coffee somewhere (I never saw one in Fortaleza but they must exist in Rio or Sao Paulo or something), those aren't places that my family would go and therefore weren't places that were on my radar.

So, all of that said, I loved Brazil, and I am loving Buenos Aires, but Buenos Aires is sure a heck of a lot easier.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

A whale of a tale.

Nina and I went to Puerto Madryn. It's on the coast about 20 hours south of Buenos Aires. It was a long bus ride. Our goal was to see whales and/or penguins.

It was not penguin season.

It was, however, whale season.

We went to this beach about 20 minutes away from the city where the sea floor dropped off so fast that at high tide you could see whales from the beach. They were right there. It was nuts.

As I enjoyed hearing Nina tell people in Spanish, we estimated that there were probably about a hundred whales in that bay. It was just so many whales. It made us happy.

Then, on the bus ride home, the best thing ever happened. NINA WON BINGO ANDESMAR!!!

Andesmar is the name of the bus company. Nina had previously informed me that they play bingo during their bus rides. When you win, you can't just say "Bingo," you have to say "Bingo Andesmar!" Nina loves Bingo Andesmar. She was very excited. She won a bottle of wine.

Tigre and wandering in gardens.

Nina and I took the midnight train to Georgia. I mean, in the afternoon and to Tigre.

There's a river. You can take a boat from here to Uruguay.

There's a museum! It's very pretty. There's a balcony. There's also a cafe, and we had coffee and snacks. It was cold.

Another day I went to the Botanical Garden.

There were about a million cats. Some of them posed for pictures.

There were large green spaces and statues with places to sit. Wow, how much did this not happen ever in Fortaleza?

So beautiful.

Look look, evidence of real seasons! Leaves on the ground! It's cold! Aaah!

I had fun taking pictures of things close up. There weren't very many flowers, though, what with it being the dead of winter and all.

Lots of trees.

This cat hopped up and started relaxing while I was taking some more close-up pictures of those orange flowers. I was charmed.

After a while, I moved on to the Japanese Garden. It took me a while to find the entrance, but once I was in it was awesome.

There were ponds, and bridges, and fish in the water.

A few flowers.

And birds!


Being a tourist.

It's been good.

In my first week here I went on a walking tour of the city. Look at these buildings! They look so old and permanent.

This is Teo the tour guide. He informed us that Argentines have no morals and graffiti all over everything and that's why they have fences around all their national monuments. 

This is the Plaza de Mayo. There is a lot of protesting here. 

The white shawls of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, painted on the ground.

It was very cold, but pretty and bright.

This is the Casa Rosada. The president, currently Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, hangs out here and works. Or "works," as Teo the tour guide said. The congress "works" somewhere else.

You may notice that it's pink. This is apparently not weird. At night they light it up and it's even pinker.

This is the obelisk. It hangs out in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio. When people get excited about soccer they come here and go crazy and graffiti on everything. Teo the tour guide was very insistent that Argentines have no morals.

This is the Metropolitan Cathedral, which is also in the Plaza de Mayo. It doesn't look very cathedral-y from the outside.

Off to one side is the mausoleum of General José de San Martín. Apparently he was actually a Mason, so they had to put it kind of outside of the actual church part.

The tile floor was pretty.

More pretty.

Another day, I walked over to the Puente de la Mujer, a bridge by Santiago Calatrava that looks very similar to the Sundial Bridge in Redding. It's not a sundial, but it does apparently pivot out to allow boat traffic to pass through.

I also went to this floating museum! It's the Fragata Sarmiento, and it has been around the world many times. It went to San Francisco three times. You can see where the cadets had classes and stuff. It was cool.

More to come. Oh, so much more.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Continued neglect...

So no fun blog post today. I have, however, posted all of my pictures from Brazil and all of the ones from Argentina so far on Facebook!

Here we have Brazil, Brazil 2, and Argentina.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hola, Buenos Aires!

As you may have guessed, I have made it to Argentina, despite Puyehue's best efforts.

The sky over Rio from the airplane... so blue!

So far, I've spent most of my time in Buenos Aires with Nina! Unfortunately, I don't yet have many photos of Buenos Aires - I only took my camera out for the first time today, which is also the first day I ventured out totally on my own, so none of them include Nina. You will just have to wait. In the meantime...

I went to the Feria San Telmo, a weekly outdoor market that happens on Sundays a few blocks from my hostel. The neighborhood of San Telmo was where all the wealthy people lived back in the day, but they all got as far away as they could get in 1870 or so when there was a yellow fever epidemic. So that's fun.

Can you see how cold that sunlight looks? It is freaking freezing here compared to Fortaleza. The feria has a lot of antiques, but also a lot of touristy things and jewelry and things.

I may have bought a sweater. I don't think it's of particularly high quality or is in any way "authentic," but it's made of alpaca and it has alpacas on it, and I was so cold when I saw it that I had to.

This is the Iglesa de San Pedro Telmo, which I had sort of intended to see but mostly just stumbled upon it.

I came in while they were having Mass, and stood in the back. It was very beautiful.


So far, I like Buenos Aires a lot. It's a shock that it's actually cold, and that it's continuing to be cold - it's not just a freak middle-of-the-night thing. It also feels very old and established - I think this is partly because the places I've been to so far have been in the nicer, historical areas, and partly because it actually is older and I think generally wealthier than anywhere I went in Brazil. Regardless, it's incredibly beautiful. 

Tchau, Fortaleza...

A couple of stories from the last week in Brazil...

The day before my friend Emily left, she had a bunch of us over for a party with her family. We hung out and ate sausage – and chicken hearts, which I’m not at all sold on – and mixed drinks and played party games in Portuguese and it was fun. My favorite moment was when Emily’s host brother asked me where I was from. When I said “California,” his response was “Oh. Blunt.” “What?” I said. It was a little hard to understand through the accent. “Blunt,” he said. Then he told Emily that I looked like I probably smoked a lot of blunts. This may be the best response to being from California that I have ever gotten.

During the month of June, there are these festivals held all over the Northeast in celebration of São João and I think also of the harvest, because it’s approaching the end of the rainy season and things are green now but are going to stop growing very soon. I’ve seen a lot of the imagery of this holiday season in ads on TV, but on Saturday, I went to one of these São João festas with my host family. It was one of the most charming things I’ve ever seen. I’ve been trying to think of how to describe it in relation to American things and it’s a challenge. I’d say it looks kind of like if you crossed the Fourth of July with some kind of Pioneer Day celebration. Everyone is wearing clothes appropriate for a good old-fashioned hoe-down, or if not are at least alluding to it through use of denim, plaid, pigtails, or hats. There are scaled-down carnival games, like throwing the ball through the clown’s mouth and fishing for prizes in a little pool full of straw. There is square dancing. There are also those Brazilian quirks, though – the little girls are dressed up in these dresses, which I guess are supposed to be traditional-ish – they’re very flashy, though. There are also these specifically shaped little flags, which show up almost everywhere in the city. They are so ubiquitous that some of the flags even have the shapes of the flags printed on them. On TV there are always people dressed up as cangaceiros, or bandits who inhabit the sertão – the Brazilian outback. There’s a novela on right now that features a romance between a peasant girl who turns out to actually be a princess and a peasant guy who turns out to actually be the son of a cangaceiro, and the show has this Robin Hood take on the whole thing – he comes from bad stock, but he does good. I’m not sure if that’s typical or not, though. The whole thing is very traditionally Northeastern, though, and I’m really glad I got to see a bit of it.

I spent my very last day in Fortaleza enjoying the perfect beach weather...

This was June 21, the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere. Winter in Fortaleza, hah. A likely story.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dear Puyehue...

I realize you're having a hard time right now. I know you're under a lot of pressure most of the time, and that sometimes you just need to let go without worrying about a lot of irritated travelers grumbling at you in airports around the Southern Hemisphere. It's tough. I get it. But I really need for you to just take a deep breath and try to relax. Everything will be okay.

Alternatively, if you could arrange for your ash cloud to blow some other direction than Buenos Aires, that would be great too.


Some amazing photos of the ash cloud and the surrounding area in Chile...
An article and video from Al Jazeera...
And another article...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The view from "home"...

A couple of long-overdue shots out the window of our fourth-floor apartment. 

And this ingenious invention - I don't know why we don't use these to reheat rice in the United States! You put water in the bottom part, get it steaming, and put the rice in the top part. Way better than sprinkling it with water and sticking it in the microwave.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I have finished my ISP. If you really want to, you can read it in a nifty Google Document here. The actual writing part is about 25 pages long, so I don't blame you if you don't want to. But it's there, at long last.

To continue in this celebratory mood, here is some lace...

 And me with Tebe the Italian, on the left, and Melisse the Brazilian, on the right. I'm the really white-looking one in the middle.

The clock is ticking...