Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fierce

This commercial is all the rage right now on television here:


It plays almost every five minutes, and it never gets old. The model is fierce and the song is so addictive. Wish we got Mexico's Next Top Model in Estados Unidos.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Buenos Aires pictures (finally!)

Good example of the Belle Epoque architecture that is so prevalent here.
Old meets new.
The obelisk in the Plaza de la Republica at dusk.
Old meets new, again. This strip of light was a news ticker screen wrapped around a fantastic old building.
A cafe at night.
The colors of these buildings (below and above) were intense.
The walls surrounding Recoleta Cemetery.
Checking out wares at the artisan fair.
A hippie practicing her moves near the artisan fair.
My favorite mime.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beautiful disaster

Written on Sunday, July 10: 

So where do I start? *cracks knuckles*

I got into the Buenos Aires airport today and waited patiently for my sister and mom's flight to get in (they were connecting through Santiago, Chile.) My flight got in three hours before theirs, so I staked out a seat near the arrivals screens and hung out people watching to Paul McCartney (I'm having a Wings moment) to pass time.

Around the time they were supposed to land, half the flights on the arrivals screens began flashing red. I leaned closer and saw that all flights out of Santiago were suddenly "canceled." God damn it. In a foreign country by myself? Totes not a big deal. In a foreign country minus the rent money my mom was supposed to give our apartment's owner, Tomas, when we signed our rental contract that night? Slightly unnerving. (Here you pay all cash for the big things, and so my mom was traveling with a couple Gs for our place.)

Apparently the volcanic ash from that Chilean volcano was blowing past Santiago at the moment and all flights were grounded until the ash cleared and it was safe to fly. When I talked to the customer service desk, which was not really a desk, just a lone room off the back of the luggage conveyor belt that I had to climb over to enter, an impatient Argentine man sat behind a sparse desk inside and told me had no answers, just that all flights out of Santiago were canceled until further notice. 

Unfortunately I had no way of getting a hold of anyone since wifi seemed nonexistent throughout the airport (nothing makes you look more American than wandering around with your smartphone, sniffing for wifi in every corner and orifice of a building), and all of Tomas' contact info was sitting in an email in my inbox.

Finally, five hours after I'd been in the airport, I found wifi and checked my email. Hello six messages from my sister telling me they were stuck and that United was putting them up in a Hilton that night. Sigh. The grease on my face from traveling for 15+ hours felt palpable. All I could think of was taking a shower. I needed Tomas' number, stat.

Thankfully he happened to be online when I signed on, and he told me to leave right away since he'd been waiting for us for hours, and gave me the apartment's address. He stressed he needed the payment up front in full when I arrived, just as the rules stated, but I stressed this was impossible since the half of our entourage with the money was still en route to Buenos Aires. He said this was going to be problem; I said I could look for a hotel if it was. Thankfully something about this statement made him relent, and he said come anyway.

I jumped in a cab driven by a guy named Julio and chatted with him during the 30-minute ride from the airport into the city. Julio was a big fan of Fleetwood Mac, so when he found out I was from Estados Unidos, he put on his "favorite cd" (Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits) and we talked nonstop until he pulled up to the curb of my building on Sanchez de Bustamente in the Recoleta district. He asked if I wanted to go out later that night with him and his friends, but I told him I was exhausted and needed to decompress, which he acknowledged along with his cell phone number if I changed my mind. Oh, Julio.

Tomas was a very kind, older Argentine who empathized with the whole situation. Instead of telling me to find a hotel for the night, he allowed me to stay, unpaid, but asked for my passport that first night as collateral to make sure I wouldn't up and leave without paying. I laughed at even the thought of doing this, but he said he's had it happen before with an American woman and her child. They'd stayed for a week, promising payment every day and on the seventh day they left without a trace or payment. Obviously after hearing this I understood Tomas' plight. 

After showering and fluffing my feathers, I went out for a stroll around Recoleta, grabbed food at a corner restaurant and ate the yummiest tart for dessert at this confiteria called "La Porte├▒a." Most people here don't speak any English, and I barely speak any Spanish, but somehow communication still flowed well through hand gestures and broken phrases. After I got home with a second tart for the road...I realized that my main credit/atm card was gone. 

In the words of Lindsay Lohan, I felt like my heart was going to fall out my butt. I tore through both purses I'd brought flinging receipts and crumpled napkins everywhere, searching in vain for my card until I realized I'd lost it back at the airport where I last used it. Shit. So much for taking it easy. I signed online and emailed J 40 times, telling him it was urgent and that he needed to call the bank asap to put a stop on the card. Which he did, but not before noticing that four charges totaling $700 were made on the card in the last hour. Ughhhhhh. The claims department was closed for the night, but J said he'd call in the morning and report the fraud. 

Flash forward to five days later and THANKFULLY the claims department reimbursed all the money that was stolen, pending our signature on an affidavit swearing I didn't make those charges. While I could barely sleep that evening with the money issue overshadowing my first night in the city, everything was taken care of the following morning and I've been having a great time so far. Lots of shopping and eating with my mom and sis, who eventually caught a flight out. I'll post pics soon!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Argentina-bound


The time has come to bon voyage. As much as I love hearing my next door neighbor play acoustic renditions of Extreme's More Than Words through our paper-thin walls every day around dinnertime, this apartment is getting too small for me, a husband and three animals -- especially during a long, hot summer. (No intermittent guitar taps -- which Anonymous Neighbor is currently practicing -- will change that.)

I'm off to Buenos Aires tomorrow and won't be back in the states till mid-August-ish. I'm taking my laptop down to do some freelancing from the Southern Hemisphere, but I probs mcgobbs won't be blogging that much (can you blame me?) I'll be posting pictures throughout the next four weeks, though, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What not to do to earn my business



The other day an acquaintance (let's call her "Helene") from my high school graduating class emailed me through Facebook. 

I use the word acquaintance loosely. Back then Helene, like her friends, rarely acknowledged my presence whenever our paths crossed in hallway or classroom. Helene, though average-looking, was one of those popular girls who hung out with the "mean" crowd and did things like somehow garner enough of a vote to get nominated for homecoming queen and ride on the homecoming football float, all with a Vaseline-lined smile and a painstakingly practiced wave that made most of us want throw tomatoes at her. But that was 11 years ago and people change, or so popular theory states. 

"Hi Crystal!" the subject line read. I saw it in my inbox, along with her name. My first reaction was 1.) Why does this name sound familiar, and 2.) Ohh yes. Helene from high school. This is random.

After extending the obligatory formalities such as "How are you" and "Hope you've been well," she mentioned she had talked to my friend Laurel recently (the one I grabbed lunch with a few months ago) and "She said you live in ----- -------- now. How do you like it?" Insert various generic questions about why I moved here. "I lived there for five years cause I went to college at ----- -----, but now I live in --- -------- with my husband and our new baby girl..."

Okay, why all the chit-chat and background info? I did not know her 11 years ago, and to be completely honest I didn't care to get to know her now. And then the next line made it obnoxiously clear why she was reaching out to me:

"I work for J. Rockcliff Realtors as a real estate agent, so if you or anyone you know are looking to buy a house, please keep me in mind."

My audible reaction was a loud groan, followed with "You've got to be kidding me." Not only do J and I already have a realtor we are working with, but the fact that someone who just happened to walk the same halls as I did 11+ years ago thinks that's reason enough to give me a sales pitch and secure my business really irritates me. Probably because it's so blatant and contrived and desperate. It'd be one thing if it was an old friend of mine who I'd lost contact with, but for an essentially complete stranger who acts like they aren't a stranger to try and make commission off me feels tacky and in bad taste. Like a flagrant exploitation of the past.

Helene was not my past, though the people I occasionally wonder about were. Those who were good friends of mine, who I lost to either time or disagreement, rarely seek me out. Those were the people that knew me. They knew what I looked like at 9am on a Sunday after staying up all night watching the first three Texas Chainsaw Massacre films consecutively. They knew what boy broke my heart freshman year simply because he preferred blondes. They knew what my favorite type of pizza was at our preferred pizzeria by the beach, and that at 17 one of my favorite past times was cruising around listening to Third Eye Blind in my Miata. Helene was never one of these people. To her I'm just another face in her yearbook, some person she might recognize in "real life" now if our paths crossed again.

A very small number of old friends have reached out to me. I am just as guilty as not reaching out to them. Perhaps it's because those that matter and are lost in time would rather be content with the memories of who we were. Back when our biggest problems weren't mortgages and calorie counting and breast cancer, but rather which movie we'd see that weekend, or whether that cute guy from fifth period would be at a nearby house party. Our futures were ripe with possibility, and this excited us. But the lightness that comes with youth vanishes with age. Maybe its easier to cope with the passage of time by allowing your past to be exactly that -- the past.

And those, like Helene, who didn't know you before, back when you were a walking personification of invincibility, vulnerability, bravery, cowardice and contradiction? 

Well, they'll be there to sell you a house.