Last night at 4:30 AM, Lisa heard Alex from the hotel room next door banging on it and begging to be let in. Evidently he had forgotten his key and his roommate, Mike, was passed out and didn’t hear. Anyway, she brought him to us and he slept in our room, and then she woke him up in the morning and he had NO idea where he was. Ah ha ha haa! Anyway, she went over and woke Mike up too and made sure they got ready in time. Boot-camp Lisa! Whoo!
At 9, we had a presentation from Axel Monti, who went to DePaul for a semester and who works in Argentina. It was interesting but nothing really to write about. After that, we all got ready and went to a place called Voluntario Global, which was a community center located in one of the poorest areas of Buenos Aires, called La Boca. Argentina doesn’t offer welfare, and the idea behind Voluntario Global is that, after the recession, people should start working again as soon as possible They employ anyone who wants it as long as they join the “community”. If you join, you get free meals on a rotational schedule, and you have to contribute to the bills of the center. You work making the food or doing administration, and in return the government pays you about $150 or $200 pesos a month (or about $50-80 dollars, seriously.) Alternatively, you can work at one of the micro-businesses that the center runs making cookies of sewing linens and school uniforms or silk screening t-shirts. The employees all share equally in the profits, but it’s hard for them because they have trouble doing marketing, etc. They also have contacts with people in other Latin American countries, especially Venezuela. They have a bunch of reciprocity programs where they will give other countries things that they have, and vice versa- for example, every so often Argentina will fly 100 cataract patients to Venezuela for surgery because their medical system is better and cheaper.
It was a really cool day. I got to help with the silk-screening, and they made us food and I bought a shirt. There were a ton of international volunteers there as well, a couple Americans, and Irishman, and a Japanese woman.
They like President Kirchner because he’s the first president to give them any sort of assistance whatsoever. They’re happy about his wife, too. Unfortunately, the mayor of La Boca is pushing really hard for gentrification right now and evicting a lot of people out of the neighborhood, which means out of the city, so that is going to be a huge challenge for them soon.
Now I am in my room and relaxing, although I’m about to go out and walk around a little. Tonight I’m going to the Tango show and I’m sure I’ll be out very late. Then tomorrow is the craft market where I’ll get lots of gifts, and then another one on Sunday, and the Monday is the presidential inauguration and also then we fly home!
ETA: Ok, well, it was an interesting night! After I typed up the last section, Lisa and I decided to go shop around the city a bit while waiting for the evening. When went to a street near Florida, and found some very cute stores, although I didn’t buy anything. I think I might go back to one of the leather stores and pick something up, though- there’s a bad, that, though it’s $100, I really love.
After we shopped, we came home and changed and got ready for the Tango Show! I wore my new dress from Chile, which I really love and can’t wait to show everyone. We went out to a big group dinner first, and the food was wonderful- I had a soup, steak, and chocolate dessert. Oddly enough they rushed us a bit, bringing the food mere minutes after the previous course- but I think that this was because they wanted us to get done in time for the tango show (the dinner and show were by the same people, though in different buildings.) The dinner and show were by a company called “El Viejo Almacén”, which translates basically to The Old Grocery Store”. I got the sit in the front row, not that it was rows- it was tables with chairs centered around them- but I was in a chair right in front of the stage. This got a little scary once the heels started flying. I can’t describe the dance- everyone’s feet were going way too fast for me to notice what the heck they were doing- but it was the most beautiful dancing I’ve ever seen. The women kept all of their weight on the balls of their feet and almost never touched their heels down. Also, there was a band that included amazing accordionists and a pianist, and there was the most amazing violinist I’ve ever heard. Also a band, I believe of native peoples from Argentina but possibly from Peru, played. They were playing native instruments like the Pan-pipe. SO beautiful! After the show I bought one of their Tango cds, which I am excited to listen to. (At the beginning they started it off with three guys all dancing together before the ladies showed up- so hot.) Weird: all of the women we wearing EXTREME amounts of makeup that made them look horrible, when I’m pretty sure in reality they were very pretty. Maybe I only thought this ‘cause I was so close-up?
After the show, I decided that tonight I would go out with the group. First we went to a bar called “Rey Castro”- as you might guess, it was Cuban. Professor Larrea came with, so that was fun, and he bought me a beer. :-D We basically just hung out there and danced for a bit. There was also a stage show, with a really fat transvestite. Oh, Argentina. Anyway she dragged up two guys from out group and mocked them a bit, which I have on film. Good times!
I love Latin American culture- it’s so full of seeming contradictions. It’s very religious and had an authoritarian past, and yet Buenos Aires has legalized gay marriage. (Of course, in Chile at least, abortion is still illegal- but this makes sense, given the Catholicism.)
After the bar, we headed over to a club called Museo which was HUGE. It was the size a warehouse and had three floors. The whole group came which was fun, but Maggie, Mirelle, Lisa and I sort of wanted to go to a salsa club which might have been more fun. They were playing techno and old American hip-hop at this place, sigh. Also there was a horrific strobe light. They started out with some crazy show though that was fun- some sort of contortionist and a spaceman? I don’t know, I think you had to be on E. Anyway, for a club, it was fun and I danced a lot and had a good time, so yay! I think that this was my first club experience, but it was everything that I expected. We had a bit of trouble finding everyone when we went, but we left about 3:55 and got home about 4:10. Ugh. Lloyd was outside and helped us get a cab, but he was SO drunk. :-p
A word on nicknames: Everyone in our group has one. We have named Lloyd Roger because he looks like Roger Rabbit and says “Roger” into his walkie talkie all the time. Fun fun.
Today I woke up at 10, after going to bed about 4:30. That wasn’t too bad, actually- definitely enough sleep to keep me going. I ran out to the ATM and then met up with Maggie, Mirelle, Lindsey, Amanda and Aga to go to the Recoleta craft fair, where I intended to buy many-a-present and did. Recoleta is the most wealthy/fancy area of Buenos Aires, and it definitely show. It’s a pretty gorgeous area and I took a picture of this tree that was just amazing. Its trunk was as wide as probably 20 of me, and its branches extended out really far and low down- gorgeous. And there were ones like that all over!
The craft fair was indeed very nice, and now I have the majority of my gift shopping done, though there’s still a bit left that I need to do. After we had shopped for awhile, we all went to a really nice nearby café and had a sandwich. It was very relaxing and nice and a good chance to people-watch. Also we had an awesome waiter.
After that, we went to the Recoleta Cemetery which was right there in order to see Evita’s grave. This cemetery is SO cool, especially after taking my archaeology of death class. It’s nothing like an American cemetery- instead, it really is a City of the Dead. There is no grass and no one is buried underground. It’s only huge mausoleums, so I assume it’s only for the rich. There are streets made of cobblestone and street lights, and little alleys that take you around to mausoleums not on the main path, and squares kind of like Chicago streets. It was so beautiful. Every mausoleum had an altar inside. There were also tons of stray cats, rather than dogs, which I thought was odd, but they were really friendly. I have a bunch of pictures of this, so I can’t wait to show them. None of the graves said much more than the family name with the names of the people inside on a plaque. Evita’s grave was interesting- it was the Duarte family tomb, and there were a lot of plaques outside it commemorating her, but the mausoleum was actually smaller than the ones around it. There were tons of tourists in the cemetery and even more by her grave, so I felt a bit bad since she’s not really “resting in peace” and neither is anyone else there- but there were tons of people cleaning up and taking care of the place, so that was nice.
After that everyone went back but Amanda and I stayed around to just finish off shopping. We then took a cab back and got back in time to run up to my room and put the stuff away before heading downstairs to the River Platt soccer game! I think that we didn’t go to their usual stadium since there was a huge concert last night, so the soccer field may not have been as big as they normally are. Anyway, the game was fun. There were riot police everywhere but the stadium wasn’t that crowded since it was the last game of the year and didn’t count towards any championships or anything. In a huge section to my left were all the River Platt fans, on in a huge section to my right were all the Banfield fans (I’m not sure where they were from- possibly another Argentine city.) We were in the middle in the third row, *right* on the field. The game was very fun- the two sides of fan were across the stadium from each other and were singing their team’s songs in an attempt to drown the other side out. There was much pumping of fists and removing of shirts, though I didn’t see this close up since they weren’t too near our section. Unfortunately, the River Platt team was really bad and lost 2-0. Alas, alas. I bought peanuts which were unsalted, and a hamburger that may have been made of pork, which would make it an actually *ham*burger. So that was icky, but the peanuts were good. :-D Let me see, what else, what else… I’m not sure. Ooh, people throw little bits of paper on the field when the game starts, like confetti. Santiago spent the entire game ripping up his program to throw it at us when the game ended in celebration of River losing, since he is a La Boca fan and the enmity is sort of like the Cubs/Sox. Oh, also, the players were really hot. Argentine AND a soccer player? Be still my heart!
Now I am about to head out for dinner and then back to the hotel for a bit of an early night. Tomorrow is my last full day here.
ETA: Back from dinner! It was really nice. Not everyone from the group was there, but a lot of people went. It was very relaxed. Lindsey, Aga and I shared a pizza and I had a really good German beer, and then we sat and just talked and hung out for about 3 hours. Shawn, the leader of the Austral Group, has a friend in town for a couple months named Andy and I talked to him for awhile about New York and pop culture and everything. He had a great story about how he was out to dinner in New York with Shawn and their respective girlfriends once, and they were discussing hot celebrities, and the girls didn’t think Scartlett Johanssen was hot but the boys did. And so they argued about it really loudly, and it was a small place, and then after a bit they looked over and Scarlett Johanssen was sitting at the bar. That’s New York, I guess! Anyway, I left with Nancy before most people because everyone was going to stay and drink and I didn’t want to- big day tomorrow.
Random things I’ve been thinking about:
-in Argentina, no one speaks “Spanish”, they speak “Castillano”. I’m not sure if this is the case in Chile or not- I didn’t ever find out.
-no one in Chile mentioned the earthquake that happened in the North right before we came. Isn’t that odd?