Friday, October 20, 2006

las fotos!

...and we´re off!

1. the masses at casa rosada

2. evita´s grave - recoleta cemetary

3. tamara blessed in recoleta

4. recoleta reflection

5. ¨may your travels take you far¨

6. us in la boca

7. stencil in san telmo

8. our street in san telmo

sorry for the fotos not accompanying the text and being out of order - we´re still learning...


paul and tamara


Beautiful smiling faces. The porteños are not afraid of eye contact, or of checking each other out from head to foot and then back again, not from a place of judgement, but from the angle of appreciation. Nor are they afraid to share what they know about barrios/neighborhoods, or to give a full schedule of buses off the top of their heads. These are porteños. The beautiful smiling faces of Buenos Aires. The people here are full of laughs and generous offerings of their hearts. What makes the portenos such joyful people? They know how to live large -- with mate´, helados, carne, vino, tango, walking and lots of afternoons in the park.

Ashtanga -- Yes, I found a small neighborhood ashtanga center and tried my first Argentinian mysore class. The practicioners were serious, and my lighthearted/smiling yoga practice was noticed and (it seemed to be) appreciated. The class was on the roof top in a small white tent, with 10 people packed in and pouring sweat. I loved it. Pablo, the teacher, was perplexed by my creative sanscrit-spanish explanations of my poses, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

Contact Improv -- Within 5 blocks of our hotel, we discovered the Espacio Eclectico which holds Contact jams once a week. The timing was perfect and I showed up for the "early jam" from 10pm-midnight. It was a wonderful reassurance that a jam is a jam is a jam, where ever you go a jam is home. The space was filled with great dancers, with the ambiant music of a small violin being plucked. I was home again and within minutes I was rolling around on the shoulders of my dance partner, then inverted and being spun in circles. During those moments of the world spinning underneath me, I left Buenos Aires and was transported to a home that has no name, a place that´s timeless. I was everywhere at once.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

bienvenidos a san telmo!

hi everyone!

things are going great here. the city is starting to feel a little big and loud and dirty, but our neighborhood, san telmo, is quieter and much less fancy than almost everywhere else a foreigner would stay. we often start our day waking at 9, doing some yoga and stretching on the aging and splitting hardwood floors in front of our third story room, which is huge: 25 ft ceiling, balcony over a busy street, double doors to the balcony with the option of swinging open one layer to let in light through windows. we descend the circular stairs of marbled stone past cracked stained glass missing panes and views over the rooftops and apartment buildings in the distance. through the lobby and a ´buen dia´ to the ancient man smoking cigarettes through missing teeth who mans the desk surprisingly attentively. out onto the street and into the neigborhood full of character and characters. we sit at a lovely little french cafe, trying to read the paper and watching the world go by through full length windows. we´ll have a veggie empanada or more likely our favorite - tarta de brocoli - a delicate egg quiche in flaky crust rich with broccoli. tamara sips a little ´cortadito´ - espresso and milk in a tiny cup, served with cookies and a glass of soda water on the side. and then were off into the world...

san telmo - our neighborhood - is famous for tango ('sad thoughts that can be danced') and the site of the first spanish colonial encampment. it is a working class, rundown barrio on the verge of reborn hipness. crumbling colonial facades laced with succulent creeper vines rise above chic boutiques and overpriced antique stores. at the heart of san telmo is plaza dorrego. a pair of heavily made-up tango dancers freeze for fotos: a taught, fish-netted thigh thrown high, eyebrow raised, heads tilted , eyes locked desperately. bright-eyed artesans sip mate while selling hand-made jewelry of hemp and bone and fine metalwork. it´s a creative, artsy barrio - home to la universidad del cine. dark men with long hair and intense eyes holding guitars stride briskly down the street. young people with any conceivable facial piercing smoke cigarettes and sip espressos and liters of beer on cafe patios at noon. men sing out in drunken abandon at 3 am from below our balcony. there are very few of the high fashionistas who populate the upscale neighborhoods in the northern part of Buenos Aires.

as we walk north, we see less of the graffitti which dominates the streets of san telmo. some are simply political protests spray painted in an angry hand, sometimes ranting on for half a block. but most graffitti are amazing hand-made stencils. nearly all are political, although some blatantly commercial images can be seen - sometimes crossed out. the stencil work is truly impressive: they are simple and powerful, while containing sublime details. this particularly moving image speaks of ´la guerra sucia´, the dirty war, of the late 1970s and early 80s in which tens of thousands of people ´disappeared´- often while walking down the street of sleeping at home. in 1976, general iberico saint-jean announced "first we'll kill all the subversives. Then we'll kill the collaborators. Then the sympathizers. Then the undecided. And finally, well kill the indifferent."

the political and continuing economic struggles of argentines seem to have brougth at least the artistic community together. the stencil work reflects this too. in many ways it seems like a public forum; often whole walls are filled with pieces playing off and responding to each other.


we stroll ten blocks north, to the plaze de mayo - political and symbolic center of the city. it is here where soccer victories are celebrated and many, many protests are held. most famous of these are the mothers of the plaze de mayo, who have been gathering here every thursday since 1977 demanding accountability for their family members disappeared in the dirty war (many of whom are still unaccounted for.) it is also in this plaza that the beloved and revered evita addressed the masses. from the collonaded balcony of the glowing casa rosada (pink house) she spoke as wife of president juan peron (and held more political clout with the people) and a former radio soap opera star. but the masses gathered below understood she was also one of them, having grown up in poverty. and this gave her words that much more currency and an almost magical power to invoke hope.


"with evita dead, president peron is a knife without a cutting edge." she died of uterine cancer at age 33, struck down at the height of her power. evita now holds near mythical status in the argentine psyche. so we went to visit her. recoleta cemetary is in itself a city of elegant, elaborate graves; a museum of marble mausoleums. it is located in the ritzy neighborhood of shiny malls and shinier shoes. and it is here that the elite aspire to be buried. indeed, as the saying goes, ´it is cheaper to live a long life of luxury than to be buried in recoleta.´actually, evita was initially barred from passing through these ornate gates. her embalmed body, such a powerful symbol, was hidden in a box labeled 'radio equipment' and sent away. no one knows to where. but more than twenty years later, she was smuggled into recoleta - and finally put to rest in the place that so symbolizes the inequalities she fought against.we wandered the labyrinthine passages, gazing up at towering tombs topped with graceful angels, fingers arching delicately heavenward. through this maze of avenues and alleys, a black cat darted by, like an apparition. we followed her, catching glimpses of a twitching tail rounding a corner, until we found evita´s grave: shiny black of heavy stone, adorned in flowers and fotos and inlaid with plaques praising her near sainthood.


time for a late lunch. we sit down at a local parilla (grill,) the one that is crowded with conversation, smells, and smoke from the grill. there seems to be the equivalent of 3 to 4 cows on the grill and as we the house wine we cant help but giggle at the spectacle. leaning over a pit of coals, like a teepee of flesh, are the entire, in tact rib cages of several beasts. nearby, on the grill the remaining parts of those cows are laid out along the 12 feet of smoldering coals. sausages, both blood-filled and not, flank steak, rump roasts, sirloin, tenderloin, organs, intestines, and countless other cuts which probably don´t even have names in english are all nestled into their proper place by the attentive grillmaster. we order the ´vacio´- a thick, juicy cut of meat from behind the ribs, which probably weighs in at over 4 pounds! along with a large salad, a basket of bread, and our slab of meat, a bottle of red wine with a bottle of soda water on the side rounds out our feast.we´re stuffed and happy. reclining in this carnivorous stupor, i look over again and cant help but be amazed: 2 men enjoying 2 bottles of red wine over a 2 hour lunch at 2pm. they entered the restaraunt, walking slowly, and sat themselves down, exhaling. immediately a bottle was brought out with two heavy glasses, a small bucket of ice, and a siphon of soda water. while one started speaking intently on a subject of momentary importance, the other pours a good 12 ounces of the deep red wine into the glasses. soon the first man gulps deeply from his glass, the sweet wine soaking his thick mustache. the other man, scratching his scruffy beard takes the chance to launch into a monologue punctuated with fiery eyes and emphatic gesticulations. the mustachioed man drops a few ice cubes into the cups and a quick burst of soda water brings them to full. during the course of the afternoon, the men speak passionately and intently to each other. they order empanadas de carne and ravioli in red sauce with chunks of moist meat. then two more hunks of red meat come out, along with another bottle of wine, carried by a paper-thin woman with a scratchy, incomprehensible voice. they are constantly engaged: with each other in animated conversation and with the food and drink in large, whole-hearted gulps and mouthfulls.just do it. just stand up. we´re so lazy after the meal that only the temptation of an ice cream will get tamara up. all that is left to decide is the flavor... there´s dark chocolate, almond, melon, raspberry. and of course there´s dulce de leche and if that´s not enough, try the super dulce de leche. or maybe she´ll go for the apple tart, or kiwi and pineapple. maybe something creamy: russian cream, american cream, banana cream. of course, i encourage her to try the mate or even the whiskey. how about beer flavor?