Thursday, May 31, 2007
I've noticed that I'm getting more frustrated in French class these days. I think we've learned a lot of the basic stuff, and now we're getting more nit-picky, and learning the exceptions to all the rules we'd finally succeeded in drilling into our heads. I was feeling pretty good about my verb tenses, but now we're throwing in a bunch of others into the mix, and I guess the class worked on them while I was gone, I dunno, and it's starting to get more confusing. I only have 1 more week left... then I'll take a break for the summer. Then I might take a conversational class or something... just something to continue practice, without so much focus on grammar. I wish I could count on myself to study at home, but I just have not proven myself to be very consistent with that. The good news though, is I do feel a lot more comfortable with French. It used to be that if I needed to ask someone a question in a store, I'd ask immediately if they spoke English. Now, I'll actually try to speak in French. I don't always get understood, but it shows that I have more confidence in my abilities.
I bought some drawer-liner rolls last week, and last night I managed to ghetto-rig them up so they cover the skylight. It actually worked pretty well this morning. Woot! Being able to sleep in our own bed gave me time to wash (and let dry) the guestbed's sheets in time for The Parents' arrival tomorrow. Their comforter is still covered in Sierra furr (it appeared to be her fave spot while we were gone?)... they may just have to deal with that.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
In other news, just now when I went to check if today's mail had come (it hasn't), I noticed that a hornet has decided to take up residence inside our mailbox. And make babies. Our mailboxes are like a cube-ish shaped metal box, with a slimmer upper compartment for letters and a separate bottom one for larger envelopes and small packages. Well, dangling down from the package compartment is a small hornet's nest, with a mama hornet clinging visciously to it. WHAT DO I DO??? I would try to knock it off with a stick, but I'm not sure how quickly hornets fly and I don't want an angry mama hornet coming after me. We had a hornet's nest near our front door one summer when I was younger, and my sister Cristina got stung on the forehead and it was all swollen for, like, weeks. She took to wearing her hair so that half of it covered her face until the swelling went down. I have no hair to cover my face with, so I'd rather just not get stung in the first place.
I would call our landlord, except... I don't really know who that is. Or if they speak English. WHERE is my husband when I need him?? (not that he'd help with the language thing, but he's the MAN of the house and is supposed to take care of this kind of stuff, right?) Oh yeah.... he's on a plane to California. Hmmm, maybe I can enlist my step-dad to take care of this when he and Mom get here on friday...?
So it is now safe to say that I'm pregnant. I'm still worried about miscarriage... something like 20% of confirmed pregnancies don't go to term, which is a scary statistic. However we're young and healthy, so the odds are a bit more on our side... but with these things so often it's just completely random anyway. But, it only took us 2 months to conceive so if something happens our plans should hopefully not be delayed too long.
But enough of that... The baby's due date is Feb 10, 2008. I guess our family could use another early-in-the-year birthday, huh? ; ) (most of the b-days in my family start in May/June and snowball from there on until xmas eve) Unfortunately this means I'll be too big to fly home for Christmas, which means this will be my first Christmas not spent with my parents. This... could be tough. But part of me is looking forward to having our first Christmas as our own little family (!!!!), here in our home, in Switzerland, where we might also end up celebrating a white one. AND it helps us justify a trip to CA and TX in August/September, meaning we can go to Ankur & Subha's and Karen & Benjamin's weddings!! Which is very exciting.
Now we just have to decide when/how to tell people. Mom and Philip arrive to Switzerland Friday, but Zach will be gone until the following week, so I'll have to stay mum until he gets back. Could be tough. After we tell them in person, we may start doing the rounds of calling Zach's parents, and then siblings... we'll see. I still haven't made up my wind whether it's worse to a) tell people and then have to deliver the bad news over and over again in case of a miscarriage, or b) not tell people but if said miscarriage happens, have to suffer alone b/c no one knows. Might have to have some talks with Zach to see how he feels about it.
For now, I'll keep this post as a draft, and then when we decide to make the news public I'll post it for all to see. Deal?
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
On our way back, we decided to stop in on some neighbors that Michel and Gerard had told us a bout, a family that had moved to our small village 16 years ago from the states and never looked back. The mom, Connie, happened to be home and immediately invited us in and poured us a couple glasses of wine as she continued to cook dinner, and talked to us a bit. We met her husband, Matthew, a few minutes later, as he came in from his daily bike ride. They have 4 children, the oldest is 19 and the youngest... I'm not sure, maybe 10? We only met one of them, Henry, who appeared to be about 14 yrs old. We stayed there for maybe 20-30 minutes, then excused ourselves when Connie had to go pick up her daughter from the bus stop at a nearby town. It was great to meet them, Connie said they'd been very curious about us, too, having noticed that someone moved into this house (which apparently, before being remodeled, was famous here in town for the squatters who lived here for a few years) and had seen our definitely un-Swiss names on the mailbox. It's funny to think about that now, as we've noticed many people strolling past and stopping to look at our mailbox, and seeming somewhat puzzled, looking up at the house, then continuing on with their walk.
In other news, Zach and I are now the proud owners of a DVD player! We got the cheapest one from Media Markt, some no-name brand, so it should be interesting. A decent percentage of items that we've known of that were bought at Media Markt have been... defective. Like the washer that we bought and broke a few days later (has been working fine since!). So we'll see how this goes. We just didn't really wanna spend $100+ on a DVD player. I did also find the 10th season of Friends for $25, not bad, eh? That should help keep me occupied while Zach's in California all next week.
Monday, May 28, 2007
It's been a rainy and very lazy weekend. Today's Pentecost, which is a holiday here so both Zach and I were off today. It's been rainy off-and-on the past 2 days, and we've spent them curled up inside the house wishing we had a DVD player to watch some movies on. Not that we have any to watch... hmmm we still have some more nest-feathering left to do, huh? But yeah, we talked about going on a walk a couple times, but each time it started raining again soon afterwards. We did find a quick break to go walk the grass clippings from the yard up to the community compost container.
I think I'm spending even more time than normal on the computer lately b/c I don't have much of anything else to do around here... We have a TV, but can't watch anything on it yet. In Cali I had a near-constant pile of books from the public library to read through, but not anymore. There is an English library in town, it costs about $100+ a year to join I think but perhaps it'll be worth it. I'll try to check it out this week sometime.
Zach leaves Wednesday to spend 10 days in California or work. We're hoping he'll be back for his birthday (June 12). I don't ever like him being gone, but hopefully it'll only be for a short while, and my parents get here Friday so I'll have some company over the weekend.
We haven't had a day like this in a long time... where you're home, nothing to do (or nothing you can do since everything's closed), and too wet and rainy to enjoy the outdoors. I guess I haven't felt very productive the past 2 days. Blah. Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
After 3 months of letting the grass grow uninhibited, it got to astronomically tall proportions (see picture at left). We figured we had to do something. We didn't want to buy a big lawnmower, to spend that much money for such little grass to cut. So we found a push power for $60 and hoped for the best.
Well, turns out those things don't really work very well. To be fair, a lot of it probably had to do with the fact that we'd let the grass grow so long. But still, it was not easy cutting the grass, and even then it only cut the stuff in the middle, the long pieces on each edge of each row of grass just lay flat on the ground. Zach had to go back around with the clippers we also bought and trim a lot of it by hand.
Which, of course, turned into a HUGE mess with grass clippings EVERYWHERE. We did the best to try to sweep it all up, but between the concrete hugging the strips of cut grass, and the fact that some of them were a bit wet still from all the rain we've been having, again it was difficult.
This is what we ended up with at the end of it all. There's still pieces of grass all over here and there, but at least it's better. We're thinking that maybe we should just buy a weedwhacker or one of those yard trimmers, and maybe that will be an easier way to cut the grass? Or maybe we just need to do it more often. Everything's so choppy and uneven right now. We're gonna let it "settle" for about a week and then I think we'll have to do it all over again. Perhaps it woulda been easier if we'd just gotten a full lawn and could mow it the regular way, and leave the clippings lying around. I was actually contemplating this morning if we could just rip up all the grass and plant flowers instead... not sure the owner would go for that though.
I have to say, I'm so glad we live on the French side of Switzerland. The German side is so ANAL about cleanliness and maintenance, etc, I think we'd be burned at the stake if we'd move over there.
In other news, we had a great time at dinner last night. Jules got to stay up a bit with us before it was her bedtime. I think it's safe to say that she's completely nuts about me... it's so great! She wanted me to read her one of her bedtime stories. Then she said to me, "Remember when I came over to your house? I was really excited all that week b/c I was gonna get to come to your house." SWOON! Aruna said she'll call me to baby-sit for her in another week or 2. Zach said he wants to come, too... said he could use the practice. ; )
Saturday, May 26, 2007
First up, we headed up to
So off we went to Ikea, as we've been in a pretty desperate need of lamps. Of course, Ikea was a madhouse. We've been there before on a Saturday, but this was just BAD. But we managed to park, get inside, and book it over to the restaurant to have some of their Swedish meatballs for lunch. All in all it was a pretty good trip to Ikea-- we found the lamps we wanted, along with (of course) a whole bunch of other things like extra throw pillows, another trash can, and a stand for the TV. Here's some pics:
Zach, my faithful little engineer, putting together the tv stand. =) On the right is one of our new bedside lamps, we got one for each side of our bed. Zach picked them out, I think they're awesome!
Some other small lamps we got, one is for Zach's desk/office and the other is in the guest room.
We also got a light fixture for the overhead light in the kitchen. I'll get a picture of that as soon as we install it. So, yeah, today felt a bit like we could've been back in the states. Kinda interesting. we're finishing up setting up our new purchases, as well as cleaning up around the house in general. I gotta finish getting the guest room ready for when Mom and Philip get here on Friday!
Tonight we're meeting up with Colin and Eva at Bob & Aruna's house for dinner. Should be a good time. =)
Friday, May 25, 2007
This afternoon we met up with our relocation expert to take care of getting our Swiss driver's licenses. It's a fairly easy process to do... as long as you take care of it within the first year or residence. With our US licenses they basically just compile some paperwork (including me needing to ask the Texas DMV for a record of when we were first issued our licenses, apparently an important factor here) and then they give you a Swiss license, right then and there (we just had to wait 30 minutes to get our card). Seems kinda odd to me, trusting us to know all the local rules of the road without any sort of test, but hey I'm not complaining!
I'd heard that when they give you the Swiss license you have to give up your US one, and then you get it back when you move away. This obviously would have been highly inconvenient (I can just imagine us trying to get into a club or buy alcohol in Texas using a Swiss license!). Luckily they let us keep both-- woot! However I also noticed that my CA license will expire in sept 2008, which isn't that far off. If we're still living here I may be out of luck till we move back to the states. But that's quite a ways off still...
Not sure what's on tap for us this Friday night, though considering we were up kinda late last night it might be an early one for us this evening.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
My dad has always sort of stood out in the states, thugh it be in a quiet sort of way. People seem to instantly know he's a foreigner. It's not his looks-- with pale skin and blue eyes, hardly anyone believes that he's a full-blooded Chilean. Instead it's something intangible, something about the way he wears his clothes or combs his hair. I've never really thought about this very much until our trip. I suddenly started noticing older men that reminded me very much of Daddy. They had his same style, manner of being. It's not anything you can really point to or put your finger on, but there's a certain something there... and I realized that, though he's a bit of an anomaly in the states at times, he completely fits in in Chile.
The same can be said for Daddy's sense of humor. Sometimes he makes jokes with friends and family in the states and they don't always quite "get" the joke. I've always viewed his sense of humor as very quirky. But then there we were, at dinner with some of our Chilean family members, are they're all firing those same sorts of jokes with each other, followed by roars of laughter. They all "get" his sense of humor there.
My dad is a very cautious type of person. This is the man who, when invited to dinner at Zach's college apartment one evening, he drove there during the day so that he'd be sure of his way for that night. Zach joked to me at one point during our trip that if Daddy had been with Columbus when he sailed in 1942, he they never would've discovered America ("You want to go where? But we don't have a map and we don't know how long that way will take to get there and we might end up lost... Why don't we just go the old way, we'll know what to expect."). He of course didn't mean this in any sort of a bad way, it's just an observation. We thought later how interesting it is that my mother was first married to such a careful, less-than-adventurous person, then went on to marry Philip and man who is, well, a bit more impulsive. I almost want to sit her down sometime and ask her about what it's been like being married to 2 people with such very different types of personalities.
Zach and I planned our trip to Chile as a way to get to know and re-connect with Chile and the family living there. An unexpected, but very welcome, side effect was also to get to know my Dad in a different way. It was so interesting to see him on his "home turf," coming across old friends while walking down the street, seeing him in a place where he really did fit in, a place where although he made jokes to us he also seemed quite proud to show off. It was fun to have him as our host, and see him make such an effort so that we'd have a good time. It was great to go to dinner together most nights and get to talk with him about everything from Allende and Pinochet (he and my mom were in Chile at the time of the coup, barely newlyweds, I believe), to the disaster of the TranSantiago (the govt overhauled the bus system in February and it's been a mess ever since, causing all sorts of problems in this very compact and crowded city). We got to pick his brain and see what's going on "behind the scenes", and I think that alone was one of my favorite parts of our whole trip.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
So I had lunch today with her, Ade (a very fun and spunky Indonesian gal), and Sandra (a Spanish woman that had taken the class, and thus befriended these women, before we arrived to Geneva). We went to this Moroccan restaurant they knew and we all had the "plat du jour"-- a bowl of couscous for each, and then they brought out a bunch of bowls filled with meatballs, lamb, chicken, and veggies all in different sauces to add to your couscous. All this for the very reasonable (for Geneva) price of about $16 per person (a far cry from our $5 3-course specials in Chile!). But it was good, I may have to take Zach there sometime. The atmosphere was really interesting, too, they had decorated pillows everywhere, and even a water fountain (the kind usually seen in a yard, or outside an important building) in the middle of the dining area.
After lunch we made plans to try to go out to dinner together tomorrow evening, and then I headed home on the bus where I proceeded to suddenly become extremely tired and fall asleep... I seriously could not keep my eyelids open. I got home and CRASHED along with Sierra. I was so tired that, as I was sleeping, I half-dreamt of being asleep. I don't know where this came from, and I'm feeling much more awake and better now (after my 1.5 hr nap). I guess it was the jet-lag catching up with me.
Zach has his French class tonight, so he won't be back till about my bedtime. Boo. I guess I should spend the time till then doing things like, um, unpacking maybe? It's been 5 days and my crap is still strung across our bedroom floor, half-in and half spilling out of our suitcases. Why I have such an aversion to the process of unpacking I do not know. I'm glad Zach just accepts it as one of my, uh, charming quirks. ; )
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
In other news, Slate.com recently published an excellent article on Montessori education. Montessori is something that can be hard to describe a lot of the time, mostly b/c it is so different from traditional schooling, but the author here did a good job, I think. I of course believe that Montessori is akin to the Holy Grail, so I encourage everyone to go take a peek at the article. ; )
Nothing much exciting to report today. I have yet got up the nerve to go through the process of uploading the rest of the Chile pictures onto flickr, so for now those of you with the time and interest to peruse them (there's a ton of pictures, yes, but many of them are really cool) you can do so by clicking here and signing into Snapfish.
Monday, May 21, 2007
So the way the bus system works here is sort of on an honor system. Each bus stop has a machine where you can buy your ticket before you get on the bus. You can also buy a monthly or yearly pass and not have to worry about it. Then, you get on the bus. No one checks your ticket as you get on, you just jump on and ride. It seems like this means you could ride without paying, but you can't. There's guys that will make random checks, they'll get on the bus and make sure everyone's paid, and if not you get a big fine. Other than the first week or 2 after we got here (when I was still trying to figure out the whole system) I've always paid for my rides, usually by buying the monthly pass. I've seen them come by and check several times before, but I've always been covered.
Well, my monthly pass expired while we were in Chile. I take the bus to class everyday, so this morning I figured I'd just buy the one-way ticket and then renew my pass once I was in town. Our stop doesn't have a ticket machine, but the bus almost always does. Well, when I got on there wasn't one after all. I couldn't think of what else to do, figured it was only one ride, and so sat down. What are the chances of them checking on this particular bus on this particular morning, right?
I tried to think up my excuse in French just in case, thinking that if I prepare for it, it won't happen, right? I guess Murphy saw through my reasoning. A few stops before I got off on comes the controller guy. I tried to explain why I didn't have the ticket, but he was having none of it-- apparently I was supposed to have told the driver and he could have stopped and waited at another stop for me to buy one. Boo. At this point I was close to tears, knowing this would be expensive, and not really knowing what's going on as aside from that one explanation I couldn't understand a word the guy was telling me.
So now I have to pay a CHF$100 fine (about US$80-something). At least I think that's what it says in the small print at the bottom of the piece of paper he gave me. I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to pay, either... There's an address on the paper, but here there is no such thing as a check so I can't mail one out as payment. I guess I'll wait and see if they send me the bill in the mail and then go to the bank and pay it? (that's how you pay all other bills)
To top it all off I went to the store today to stock up on, well, everything, and I got some baby spinach to make a salad. When I got home I was all excited about making a big baby spinach salad... then I opened the bag and realized what I'd gotten was something that looked like baby spinach, but was actually something else. I guess this is what happens when you can't read the labels of your food. Oh well.
Other than that, my day was ok. Unfortunately tonight Zach has his French class so won't be home till late. Perhaps I'll go browse ifilm.com and lose some brain cells watching some mindless TV.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
But for now, here's your peek: Zach's Pictures of Chile, and BA.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
So to finish up on the narration of our travels... Wednesday night we had dinner with Gonzalo, Alejandra, and the twins Juan Fe and Manuel Jose. We've had such a great time hanging out with all the family. I think now to what it would have taken, if we really had moved to Chile (our plans right before the Swiss option conveniently fell into our laps) and I almost get sick thinking of all it would have taken-- all the stress from moving here, doubled by the fact of doing it alone and with no money. But it's also really cool to see a glimpse of what our lives would have been like, the friends we already would have had through family connections. Zach talks about how after he gets good at French we'll have to go live in a Spanish-speaking country for a while so he can get fluent in Spanish. We haven't ruled out a move to Chile yet, perhaps someday in the future if job stuff works out.
But anyway... then Thursday morning we got up, packed, had breakfast, walked down to the beach, then caught the bus back to Santiago. We dropped our stuff back off at the hotel, then dashed off to see Tia Dotty again. She's such a neat, spunky lady. We only got to hang out with her for a couple of hours, as we then had dinner plans with Peter and Macarena. We went to a little Italian place they knew about that had these great pizzas, then had some ice-cream for dessert. It's almost a shame that we live so far away, as they're a couple I could see getting to be good friends with. But I'm sure we'll keep in touch one way or another.
Then Friday was our last day... We had breakfast with Daddy, then walked around Santiago a bit more, had some empanadas, and then were off to the airport. I can't believe I let 11 years pass by since my last trip, Zach and I are already talking of when we'll go back (hopefully within another 2-3 years). We need to explore the south! And the north! There's still so much to see and do. I'm still holding out hope for a family reunion down south, with me, Jenny, Cristina, JC, and Mom (and Philip and Zach and any other spouses that happened to come along) all going to Chile together. It certainly would be neat.
So... now, back to "then grind." ; ) Zach has work on Monday, and I'll go back to class. I have a lot of catching up to do, internet-wise, and let's not even get started on the 700+ pictures I've taken over the past 3 weeks... It'll probably take me all week to get them all uploaded, sorted, organized, up on snapfish and flickr, etc. Wish me luck!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Yesterday, tuesday, we took the bus out to Viña. We´re staying at this hotel that´s literally right over the water-- friggin gorgeous. The best part is that this place would easily cost several hundred dollars per night, but here it´s only $120. We have such a gorgeous view, I´m tempted to just sit on the patio all day and watch the ocean. In the afternoon yesterday we had seagulls and pelicans flying by within a few feet of us, and we saw a sea lion swimming down below. We walked around a bit at dusk, watched the sunset, then went and grabbed an early dinner. As we walked back to the hotel, we spotted this stray dog on the street, a very cute german shepard mix with one droopy ear. He came over, immeditely smelled the leftover pizza in Zach´s hands, and started begging. He followed us all the way back to the hotel, every so often looking at us and letting out a little howl. I didn´t feel too bad for him, he looked to be in pretty good shape (not very skinny, nice coat). We did give him one small piece of pizza. ; )
Today we took a bus over to Valparaiso... that was an experience. The buses here are kinda crazy... no maps, we had no real clue where we were going, and just stood up t get off when we figured we were at aboput the right place. We made our way up to La Sebastiana, one of Pablo Neruda´s houses, up on Cerro Bellavista overlooking all of Valpo. My cousin Elisa works there as the manager-- the house was converted into a museum in Neruda´s honor by my aunt, her mother, Myriam, and then Elisa took over. She gave us the tour, then we sat outside for a coffee with her and another friend. The house is amazing-- it´s funny, I remember going there when we were in Chile in ´96, but I don´t remember it very distinctly, didnt´t leave a big impression in my memory. This time, however... wow. Neruda shared the house with a couple he was friends with, and he woman was an artist who designed all these mosaic pieces that decorate many parts of the house. The house is very coloful, painted all sorts of different colors, and the decorations are all very eclectic-- it truly is an artists´home. You can tell a lot of thought went into that house, and I can just imagine what it must have been like to live in it. Breathtaking.
We then took some time to wander down the hills, seeing all the cute, if somewhat run down, colored houses along it, then had lunch overlooking the ocean. We rode one of the ascensores up Cerro Conception then walked back down it again, and just now took the metro back to Viña.
Tonight we´re going to Elisa´s house for dinner, she and Felipe may not be there as it´s their 27th wedding anniversary, but we´ll get to hang out with the kids again. Tomorrow will be a full day... we may sit by the beach for a bit before taking a bus back to Santiago, then we´ve got some dates for the afternoon and evening. And then it´ll be friday... our last day here. Time really flies.
Monday, May 14, 2007
This morning I found a little peluqueria to get my hair cut, figuring it would be much cheaper to do it here ($12) as opposed to in Geneva ($75-$100). We then met up with Daddy in Barrio Bellavista for lunch, then did some shopping and scouted out La Chascona (Pablo Neruda´s house, now a museum) which unfortunately was closed b/c it´s monday. I´m super happy though because I FINALLY was able to find some chanchitos! They´re little ceramic piggies with 3 legs that are a traditional Chilean thing and are supposed to bring good luck. I had expected them to be a fairly common item sold as a souvenir, but I have not been able to find them anywhere, but today I found one store with 2 of them, for $2 each, so I got them both. One will go to our neighbors (who are taking care of Sierra). I also found some lapis lazuli jewelry for myself, and a couple goodies for Mom and Susan (the mom-in-law) as late mother´s day gifts.
Tomorrow we´ll go back to Viña for a couple days, then thursday we´ll get together with Tia Dotty, and with Peter and his wife, again, and then friday... we go back to Switzerland! These 3 weeks are going by fast. As great as this trip has been, I´m feeling ready to go back home. I miss our house, and Sierra! Poor Zach says he´s starting to feel more comfortable with Spanish... only to have to go back to French in just a few more days.
I got to talk to Mom yesterday, it was nice to catch up a bit. She and Philip will be out in June to see us, I´m really looking forward to that. I also called Jenny, it was great to talk to her. I miss her.. she promised that she´d come out to visit us before the end of the year, and I´m holding her to it! =P It sure is a good thing that so many people are coming out to Europe to see us, b/c I´m not quite sure when I´ll get to visit the states... hopefully around christmas.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Now, the first show we saw on wednesday, El Viejo Almacen, was recommended by Daddy and our guide told us it´s the best among the more traditional tango shows. The theatre was tiny, and there were maybe 30-40 of us in the audience. It felt very intimate, and it was really cool watching all the tango dancers and feeling close up to them.
This other show, called Señor Tango, is supposed to be the best of the more modern tango shows. It was really interesting to see the contrast-- this one was definitely more of a production, with much more glitz and glamour. The theatre was much bigger, able to hold probably several hundred people. The dancing was much faster, more show-off-y, and the costumes were a bit more, um... naked (we saw some ass-cheeks a few times). Among the more cheesy numbers was the first one where they had 2 REAL LIVE HORSES come onto the stage (a symbolic re-enactment of the Spanish taking over the native americans living here), and 2 numbers taken from the movie Moulin Rouge (Diamonds are a Girl´s Best Friend, sung in spanish by a Nicole Kidman look-alike, and the Roxanne tango which at least is a legitimate tango). I´m glad we went and it was really cool watching the show, but I´m also really glad we saw El Viejo Almacen and would recommend it above Señor Tango if you can only see one show.
This morning we checked out of the hotel, then walked down to Plaza de Mayo. There was a woman selling corn so that you could feed the pigeons, and this one little girl was practically getting attacked by the pigeons as she tried to feed them (she seemed to be ok with it all, and mom was right next to her taking pictures). Another little boy was also feeding pigeons, and proceeded to pick one up and take pictures with it-- at one point he was (fake?) kissing the pigeon as mom took pictures. It was one of the moments we´ve had here where we witness a culture that´s just so far removed from our every-day life.
Then we walked down to Puerto Madero, a ritzy area with lots of restaurants that´s still under some construction but you can see they´re wanting to make it into this nice, pedestrian area where people can hang out. There weren´t a whole lot of people out and about (though interestingly it seems both here and in Santiago to be more common to walk around on weekdays, less so on weekends), and there weren´t many shops, but it looks like it could be a really nice area in a few years´time if they build it up right. Part of me is dissappointed to see them building these huge buildings with all glass that have, well, no personality (instead of taking advantage of some of the cool architechture they already have, and echoing that same style). It´d be interesting to come back in another 10 years or so and see what it all ends up looking like. Anyway, we had lunch and walked around for a bit, and it was all pretty enjoyable. It was nice to be away from all the cars and traffic for a few hours. We then stopped by Plaza San Martin, which was really cute, and then walked up Florida (a padestrian street that´s basically a huge outdoor mall) and back now to our fave internet place (with nicer keyboards than any of the previous ones we´ve found!).
After spending time in places like Geneva and Santiago, which have pretty good public transit (except for the current busses in Stgo), it´s interesting being here, where they´ve clearly made the decision to make cars the main mode of transporation. The roads here are HUGE, several of them measuring 8-15 lanes wide. There´s a metro system, but it´s not very extensive, and b/c the streets are so big traffic isn´t bad. However it´s not as pedestrian friendly as it could be, and the cars and busses everywhere are really loud. But overall I think we´ve both really enjoyed Buenos Aires. We go back to Santiago tonight. It´ll be fun to see Daddy and talk about Buenos Aires and our perceptions of it, as he really adores this city.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wednesday we took a city tour that was part of our hotel package. It lasted 3 hours and we got to see a lot of the city, and got to make mental notes of where to go back to. We´d set up to go to a tango show that night, so after a bit more shopping (Marcy needed shoes b/c I decided to "pack light"... HORRIBLE idea) we got back to the hotel, got all dolled up, and waited to get picked up at 7:30 (they pick you up for the shows b/c the taxis here can be kinda shady, and the part of town the shows are at can also be dangerous... the tourguide made a big deal about NOT going down there at night, unless for an organized show). At Daddy´s suggestion we went to see El Viejo Almacen, which is supposed to be a very traditional tango show. We got dinner first, which was awesome, then watched the show, which included tons of dancing but also the band playing some fun tango music (during costume changes) and these guys playing traditional Argentinian music, like with the cool flutes and everything. I took some videos with my digital camera, I can´t wait to get back and upload them. The dancing was amazing. We´re debating going to see another show, maybe something more modern for comparison.
Today we slept in a bit, then after breakfast we hopped on the metro to go out to the Recoleta to see the Jardin Botanico and the Jardin Japones. The botanical gardens were cool, but what made it really awqesome was how many CATS appear to inhabit the gardens! We walked in and Zach spotted a couple of cats lying on the grass, and we thought "oh cool!" and then moved on. At another spot we looked around and spotted another cat... then another... then 2 more under a tree... and suddenly you realized that there were 10 cats just in that one area. All in all, I think there might be 100-200 cats living in the gardens, it was crazy. But even better than that, many of the cats were so docile and sweet, they´d regularly go up to people, rub up against them, even climb onto their laps! We saw several people with cats nestled up on them, then we sat down and had about 4-5 different cats come up to us to say hello. It was awesome. It´s funny, b/c Santiago is overrun with stray dogs. Here we haven´t seen any stray dogs (though we´ve seen several dog walkers with up to 10 dogs at one time), but here´s this one park that apparently is home to all the stray cats in BA.
After checking out those gardens we went to the Zoo, which was another crazy experience. On the one hand, some of the zoos here in these "less developed" countries can be kinda sad... both here and in Santiago the pens were on the small side, and some of the animals looked less than perfectly healthy. However, at this zoo they let you feed the animals. As in, they sold bags of animal food, and designated which animals you could feed it to. So we got to hand-feed goats, deer, camels, llamas, alpacas, monkeys, etc. I know it´s probably not how you´re supposed to take care of animals... but it was pretty fun. The monkeys were the best-- I think they were actually some sort of baboon, and they were in a cage and the big ones learned how to bang on the cage and point to the little trough down which you put the food. But one of the monkeys learned how to climb up the side of the cage and extend his hand so he could catch food pellets that were thrown at him. I actually got a video of him catching the food and eating it. It was incredible. Zach said this was one of his favorite zoo experiences ever.
So now we´re here catching up on internet stuff, and apparently there´s a band playing out in the streets behind us. Tonight we´re debating doing down to Puerto Madero for a nice dinner, or staying closer in and going to El Palacio de las Papas Fritas, which Daddy highly recommended. =P We´ll see. It´s crazy how cheap most of the food here is. On the tour the guide pointed out the most expensive restaurant in BA, down in Puerto Madero, and a full meal comes out to be US$50 per person. You can get a full meal here, and a good one at that, for less than US$10. There´s tons of leather goods here that also are at amazing prices... However even "cheap" they´re still pricey. I found some grey suede boots that I think I´m falling in love with, but they´re $285 Arg pesos, which comes out to about US$90 I think... I´m debating biting the bullet and getting them. We´ll see, I´ll give myself till tomorrow to think it over.
Monday, May 07, 2007
I sat down to write a long post a few days ago, and then when Zach went to pay for the internet time they accidentally logged off my computer instead of his. Oh well. It basically went on and on about our day in Zapallar and what an incredibly beautiful place that sleepy little beach town is (I personally think the beach and ocean views there and in Viña are even better than in Santa Cruz and even Sta Barbara, something Zach considers sacriligeous). I´ll get to show yáll the millions of pictures I took and then you´ll be convinced. I think Zapallar may be one of my favorite places in the world. I think we´ll try to go back to the coast again before leaving Chile. By the way, I´m so totally jealous of Jenny who got to live in Viña/Valparaiso for 6 months for school... for some reason I didn´t quite realize how cool that was until I was walking down those same streets, by the ocean, relishing it all.
While in Viña we also got to see more family, my cousin Elisa and her 4 kids: Gonzalo (who´s my age), Alejandra (23), and the twins Juan Felipe and Manuel Jose (15). All the kids were so cool, and Zach was a HUGE hit with the twins, despite the slight English/Spanish barrier (they spoke english about as well as Zach speaks spanish...). Gonzalo is studying chemical engineering in school, so we told him he should get a job in California. ; ) I´m trying to collect email addresses so we can keep in touch with some of these people. It´s fun to remember what we were all like as kids, and now to see each other as adults, see who looks the same and who´s practically unrecognizeable...
So we got to Viña friday,went to Zapallar saturday... sunday we walked and shopped in downtown Viña, then headed back to Santiago in the late afternoon. This morning we went to the Cemeterio General with Daddy. It´s more of a park than a cemetery... or seems that way. All the graves are these huge, above-ground monuments, sort of like in New Orleans, and whole families are buried together. It was actually really beautiful and peaceful, the sort of place you could see going just to hang out or have a picnic, which seems so strange to my death-phobic "American" side. We saw some famous graves, such as Salvador Allende´s, and my great-great-great-uncle (was abuelita´s great-uncle) Jose Manuel Balmaceda, ex-president of Chile. He was well known for having tried to implement all sorts of reforms during his presidency which people got all pissed off about, started a civil war which he lost, then 5-10 yrs later everyone sorta realized he was right and implemented his reform ideas anyway, and today people come to his gravesite to write prayers to him, for everything from family illness to helping them get good grades in their current classes. We also saw Abuelita´s grave. It was a nice excercise in family history.
Tomorrow we leave for Argentina and will be there till saturday. When we picked up our tickets today they asked Zach about some little piece of paper that they gave him when we arrived in the country, that he apparently will need in order to leave it... a piece of paper that we have no idea where it might be. I´m assuming it will not be a big deal, but if it does become a problem then at least we figure it out now and still have a week before our flight back to Switzerland... I´m not really sure what to think, so for now I´m not worrying too much. Most of the time when we´ve travelled people see the US passport and simply wave us on. I´m hoping it´ll be like that.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Wednesday Zach and I walked to Barrio Bresil and found this restaurant that was very "hip" and had this set lunch menu that included salad, an entree (which was fabulously yummy), a drink, and dessert or coffee, for $5. Seriously. Not everything is quite that cheap, but on more than one occasion we´ve found ourselves practically laughing at the prices. That night we went to my aunt Myriam´s house to visit with her and some other family members (I´ve started writing out a family tree with all this side of the family that we encounter, as I can´t keep them all straight). My 2nd cousins Josefina and Sophia were there, with whom Jenny and I used to play ALL the time, they´re now 25 and 21 years old and friggin gorgeous. It´s so funny to see these kids, who used to be just kids last time I saw them (like Ñiñi and the mellizos, who were like 3 and 5 when we left?), now be 19 and 21 yr old nearly-adults. I didn´t get pictures of everyone, but we´ll be seeing them again next monday, so I´ll have to pull out the camera then. Tia Myriam was so sweet, the poor thing was left practically an invalid in this awful car accident years ago. She was so happy to see us, and was asking about everyone and Mom and how we all were. You can tell she´s really missed us all.
Last night we went to see Tio Machi and his wife, and their daughter Coqui and her new husband were there. They were all a fun bunch, it was funny watching my dad and his brother bickering over Placido Domingo (Machi is a big fan, Daddy not so much). At Myriam´s we spoke some Spanish but also a lot in English, and Zach was able to understand and participate in the conversation more. This night, at his insistence, we spoke mostly in Spanish which meant he didn´t always know what was being said, but he said it was fun hearing us all speak in Spanish.
It´s so interesting talking and catching up with the family and friends, and realizing that everyone here knew us mostly as a united family-- with my mom and dad still together as a couple (I believe we moved to the states maybe a year after they separated). So they all have this completely different perspective on our family, know this whole different side and past that almost no one in the states knows or experienced. It´s strange to think about, and kind of neat and almost comforting at the same time.
We´re now in Viña del Mar, we took a bus in this morning and spent much of the day walking around along the beach. My Abuelita used to have an apartment here (I actually just found out that it used to be a house that belonged to her parents, my great-grandparents, that eventually got bought and in exchange when they built the apartments they gave one to each of the kids, and that´s how Abuelita got it). We came here a LOT as kids, as did my dad before us, and I have many fond memories of the beaches here, and the parks, and the apartment which faces right onto the ocean.
Tonight we´ll go see Elisa and her family (another cousin of mine) that live here. I´m not quiter sure who´ll be there, I think I remember her kids and they too must be all grown as they were close to my age I think. Tomorrow we´re going to drive to Zapallar, another beach town that´s about an hour away, where Abuelita used to rent a house for a month each summer, and all the family would stay there. Then sunday we may go see some of Valparaiso, and then catch the bus back to Santiago in the afternoon.