Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Confessions of a Drama Queen

After discussing with Jackson the length of time we will be spending in Buenos Aires, I came to realize that I'm a spoiled, American woman. I might at times go as far as saying princess. Living in Chicago, I would have never considered myself to be spoiled or a princess. There are definitely people in the USA who would win the prince/princess yearly award over me. In our own ways , we all become spoiled royalties when we step on foreign soil. Take the movie Sex and the City, when in Mexico, Charlotte carried chocolate pudding in her purse because she was afraid to drink and eat in Mexico. This is a clear example of fear and princess-material, but most americans are afraid to crap in their pants if they drink faucet water in a foreign country. I'm not like Charlotte in that aspect. However, two weeks in Buenos Aires has made me think of all the luxuries I once took for granted.

I confess, I'm not completely comfortable living her yet. There are too many things I miss and I hate that I do. Not only have I turned into a spoiled princess but I've turned into the person who can't stop talking about her hometown. I'm not carrying chocolate pudding in my purse but I am missing how with the push of a button, I can get Mr. Barkys, Patanol, Allegra, a great hair cut with Paige and even thumb tacks. Even laundry becomes an issue. In Chicago or any city in America, you go to a laundry mat or if you're lucky you have a washer and dryer at home....I wasn't that spoiled as to have a washer/dryer. But here, I could be wrong because I still have to investigate this further, you take your clothes to what looks like a laundry mat so that someone else does it for you. Now here is where more of the spoiled Erika comes in play. If your like me, I have specific ways of doing laundry. I don't like completely drying my jeans because they shrink, this goes for my t-shirts as well. There are certain fragrances of laundry detergent that I cannot stand. In other words I'm picky. So yes, I confess that silly things like this diverts my excited and enthusiasm of Buenos Aires. I confess that the dog shit and crap on the streets drives me completely insane and overprotective of my dog who by the way used to have the bad habit of eating things on the streets. I confess that the walking chimneys is irritating my throat and worsening my allergies. I confess, I'm afraid that the pollution is going to turn my lungs black...of course, I'm exaggerating. I confess that I'm not thrilled with the buses. The trains, FANTASTIC!!! Buses not so much. I believe this opinion will be debunked once I've figured out the routes. I confess, I don't want to use el voseo. I want to keep my peruvian roots alive. And if peruanos say chompa than for crying out loud why can I not say it. Okay , I admit that's over the top because I can't ask for a chompa if that's not what they call it here. I think you get the gist though. My confessions have opened a door I was too scared to go through. But, I will courageously walk through it. I'll put my confessions in my backpack and continue on this journey. I don't know if my walking shoes will take me to two years but I guess only time will tell.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Haunting of Paros

Why is it that Jackson and I are being followed by paros?! We both thought that our days of being caught in strikes were long behind us. After the strike we experienced in Cusco that forced us to stay an extra two days and experience hunger pain, we thought we would never again have to be the innocent bystanders that are forcibly affected by a paro. I guess we were wrong.

What started off as the end to another nice touristy day, ended up being a very long walk down a sketchy street. Avenida Corrientes is not sketchy during the day or even during late night hours. For 15 blocks or so, the street is filled with people wandering into bookstores and in line for night showings at the theater. But after the blocks of open stores and theaters end, you're left with closed vendors, making the street some what sketchy at 11pm. Walking down this street and walking over 25 blocks home wasn't by choice, though. We knew our route home. We were going to take the SubT, jump on line C, switch to line B and get off at Avenida Medrano. Little did we know that the SubT and collectivos (buses) started a strike at 9pm, right when we were eating are way through a vegetable souffle. Of course when we found the gates to every SubT station closed (this was around 10pm), we had no idea about a paro. I simply thought it was ridiculous that the city of Buenos Aires had such an early time to stop trains from running. And at this moment, I missed Chicago. As Jackson and I were walking down the streets, I was having a mental conversation with myself. "When has the CTA ever closed because it was passed hours?! Never!!! Sure, the CTA sucks and is always under construction but at least it runs ALL day. At least, there are options. If one station is closed, there's always another one. But in Buenos Aires, what do people do? How do they go home..SAFE? This is stupid!! Why are SubTs closed?!" I know, this is very childish and judgmental. However, I was extremely tired from walking around Puerto Madero all day (I'll talk about this later). Plus, I was NOT looking forward to walking home all the way from downtown Buenos Aires. I know this isn't an excuse but at the time my PMSing mind thought it was. When we finally got home, I saw on the news that the SubT and the collectivo strike started at 9pm. Reason being, bus and train drivers were protesting for their safety, after a 44 year old man was stabbed to death by a passenger. Okay, the news made me shut my trap and take back my thoughts of the city's transportation system but let me just say that only in South American will strikes like this happen. In some ways, it's refreshing.

As for the earlier part of my day, Ines, Damian, Jackson and I drove to Puerto Madero, one of the most priciest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. We saw tall, modern buildings, hotels like the Hilton, restaurants, and shops all of which cost an arm and a leg. Among the restaurants we saw were TGIFridays and Hooters for a moment it felt like Chicago. This, however, is definitely one aspect of American culture we try to avoid which we did by moving right along the boardwalk. In all, Puerto Madero reminded me a little of Navy Pier with its docks and boats. For a cloudy, Sunday afternoon, Jackson and I did rather well from boardwalks to bridges to a piece of American culture to yummy vegetarian food to experiencing yet another paro.

Navy Pier? Pirate ship? No, a ship docked at Puerto Madero.

La Puente de las Mujers. As Jackson pointed out, this bridge looks like a sharks fin.

My cousin so cleverly avoided the TGIFridays in the background. Way to go Ines!!

Crossing La Puente de las Mujers.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Don't Cry for me Argentnina

For the first time since my arrival to Buenos Aires, I felt completely at peace and at home. Maybe it was the dinner and a movie that made me feel like this...I don't know. What I do know is that Jackson and I both enjoyed yesterday's outing with my cousin to see the 7pm show of Sex and the City in Recoleta. To start off the night, my cousin made us speed race to the theater. Of course this made it impossible for Jackson and I to familiarize ourselves with the route to Recoleta or the theater. Fortunately, the speed racing paid off because not only did we manage to buy tickets but we also managed to buy something to munch on as well. Odd thing about buying movie tickets in Buenos Aires, at the ticket booth, you select your seats!! It's not like in the USA where you buy your tickets and then "Good luck in finding a good seat!" I haven't quite decided whether I like Buenos Aires ticket buying system better. I guess it makes better sense to know you're only option are crappy seats. Unless you absolutely want to see the movie, crappy seats are perfect. As for most people though, if the ticket booth lady says "the only seats we have are two in the front row" then we probably will come back for the next showing.

The movie itself was nice. Like Jackson said, it had a lot of what women like...clothes, shoes, relationships, a great group of BFFs, kids, dogs and who can forget...LOVE. One downside about the movie is that the closeness between Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda made me miss my friends back home. After the movie, we walked to a near by restaurant where we devoured panqueques which in translation means pancakes. I know pancakes for dinner?! Not quite, another unusual difference in Argentine culture is that panqueques are like crepes that are not sweet. The one Jackson and I shared was filled with cheese, olives, and tomatoes, very good by the way. On our way back home, my cousin pointed out the famous Recoleta cemetery which Jackson and visited the next day.

Today, Jackson and I went to Recoleta cemetery to visit Eva Peron's (Evita)tomb. The cemetery was unlike any other cemetery I have ever seen. People walked down the paths as though they were walking the streets of Venice. The cemetery itself seemed to be a hidden castle. It had high brick walls with glorious statues peaking out from the top. The streets of Buenos Aires surround the cemetery. Its not until you walk through Recoleta Park that you find the museum like entrance. Surprisingly, there weren't a lot of people visiting Evita's grave considering that tomorrow is the anniversary of her death. Once the musem closed which was fifteen minutes after we arrived (we made it there just in time), Jackson and I walked home. I hope that we have more days like these. It helps me get to know the city more and helps me feel comfortable with our move.
On our way to Recoleta cemetery.

Entrance to the cemetery

Streets of Venice?

Only the cats stay after the cemetery closes.

Flowers for Evita

Beautiful statutes....I could have been in an art museum.

Full from a delicious dinner.

Scene of the crime and the end to wonderful day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Unlocking the Door to a New World

These are the keys to my new home. Instead of opening the door to my apartment, they should open a castle door. Don't you think? Now that I've unlocked the door, here are some pictures highlighting my days in Buenos Aires since the first day I arrived, July 16th 2008 until now...enjoy.

Zoe knocked out on her new pillow after a rough flight.

Both Zoe and Jackson looking out the balcony. And what do they see you may ask?...........

....This is what Zoe and Jackson saw.

Our living room...

Jackson already working hard in our dining room.

July 18, 2008, the day I received my first delivery. My mom, dad, and sister sent me this beautiful bouquet for my 28th birthday.

Zoe is looking at the heavens, amazed at how beautifully yellow these flowers are.

The streets in San Telmo.

Downtown Buenos Aires at the Obelisco.

Getting some ice cream with Carlos Gardel.

And, these were just a few pictures of our first week in Buenos Aires. Hoped you enjoyed:)

Walking on a Minefield

It has been exactly one week since Jackson, Zoe and I left Chicago. The long talked about move finally came and we are now established in our cozy, one bedroom apartment in Palermo. It was a rough flight to Buenos Aires for the three of us especially Zoe. The poor pooch suffered some serious motion sickness and threw up on her self several times, making her in need of a good bath. As for me and Jackson, we both felt that the flight was very bumpy. I sort of felt a little sick to my stomach so I can only imagine how Zoe felt being in a travel bag underneath my seat. Once we arrived to Ezeiza, we gathered our suitcases with the help of an airport employee and made our way to the exit. Jackson and I were both surprised that after all we went through to get Zoe into Buenos Aires, all of which included an extensive physical exam to obtain an international health certificate and extensive screening at the USDA office which by the way charged me $25 to get the health certificate stamped, we thought that a vet would be waiting for Zoe at the gate in Ezeiza. There wasn't a vet waiting at all. According to the airport employee who helped us, there's an office to take arriving animals but he had no idea where it was. So, he simply walked us out of the airport where we met my uncle and cousin. It's unbelievable that it was so easy to bring Zoe. Even in O'hare, no one knew we had a dog in a travel bag. If I would have known how easily Zoe would be unrecognized, I would not have paid the $100. Hopefully, it will be this easy to take Zoe back into the USA. We shall see after a year or as Jackson prefers, two years.

Since the very beginning, the thought of moving to a foreign country scared the shit out of me. And now that I'm here I have to admit I'm still scared. I have all these thoughts running through my head and I don't know who talk to about them. I feel that if I tell Jackson, I will shatter his dream of moving here and if I tell my parents, they might think I'm unhappy which I'm NOT. Anyone who truly knows me knows that it takes me awhile to get used to my new environment. Jeez, it took me awhile to get used to working at Comer, coming from a small community hospital. Now imagine, a foreign country where the Spanish is not the Spanish I'm used to and I don't know anyone except Jackson, my uncle and cousin. I admit this is a better start off than some people but for me, it's a giant leap.

After being here for a week, my allergies have become a living nightmare due to the pollution. I'm afraid that the pollution will stop me from running which makes me very sad. Not to mention, the dog shit all over the sidewalks makes it almost impossible to run without stepping in it. Why don't the Argentines know how to pick up dog shit, leaving it on the ground only makes the city a walking minefield. I am happy to see a lot of dog lovers in the city but how well do the Argentines take care of their dogs? I'm disappointed that Zoe won't be able to have her organic, animal-free testing food. With some research, I decided to feed Zoe Royal Canine which doesn't preform inhuman animal testing... I hope. We are lucky enough to have a vet two blocks away from our apartment who not only sells Royal Canine but is also a groomers. Now, the question is whether I trust this place with my Zoe? I'll have to be bold and test it out. As for me and Jackson, we are very happy to have found Lotus and La Esquina de las Flores both being a natural food store with organic and vegetarian products. However, I still miss Whole Foods, Trader Joes and all our favorite vegetarian restaurants in Chicago. For my birthday though, Jackson treated me to dinner at a really nice vegetarian place called Bio, located in Palermo. The food was very yummy, especially el flan de coco.

So far, our time in Buenos Aires has been very nice. Jackson is super happy to be here which scares me because I'm not on the same page as he is. Jackson talks about staying here for two years. Now, this really frightens me because I was shooting for a year. Even then, I don't know if I can be here for a year. I don't want to tell him this because I don't want to be a disappointment and rain on his parade. Seriously, what am I going to do here, work wise?! If I'm not nursing than I don't know what I'm capable of doing. At least, Jackson has teaching experience. I don't even have that. What do I know besides nursing? Jackson talks about meeting new people and having great conversations but that can easily be done in San Francisco. Why not travel through South America and Europe together?! I know this is a great experience and will allow me to grow in more ways than one, but I don't know if I can get used to this. Like I said this is a giant leap for me. It's going from one extreme to another. Why couldn't my start be in New York or California?! I know I have to give it time. I know that eventually I will learn to assimilate. This is a new cultural experience and as an anthropology lover I should embrace this opportunity. I don't know my way around. I don't know what neighborhoods to avoid...what train or bus takes you where...how one goes about seeing a doctor...what medicines you can get at the pharmacy without a prescription...Give it time, Erika!! I tell myself this all the time. "Two years, though?! What happened to your plans of going back to school? Or the baby talk?" These are questions I ask myself. What can I say, I'm complex. I like to think though that we all are in our own little way. This is what I'll repeat again and again: "This is an opportunity of a lifetime. Make the best out of it!! Everything in life happens for a reason. We grow every day through the stuff we experience. Now conquer the world!!!"

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Color me Argentina

These past couple of days have been jam packed and what sucks is that the craziness hasn't ended. I finally got to the Zoe part on the "Argentina To Do List." Saturday I took Zoe to get her last anal gland expressing ( I know it sounds gross but Zoe NEEDS it done every so often. It's either that or see her drag her butt on the floor all day which I admit can be amusing) I have no idea if I'll find a vet who will squeeze Zoe's anal glands in Argentina? Is this just something that fanatical dog lovers do in America because for most dog lovers our dog is like our child? This brings me to all sorts of questions in regards to Zoe. Just like a lot of Americans are proud parents to a Beagle, a Boxer, a Maltese or in my case a Shihapoo (Shiha what? Shitzu Poodle) a lot of us have also joined the organic food band wagon, myself included. Being a near vegan and being totally against animal cruelty, I researched on PETA's website the various dog foods that don't test on animals. You would think that dog food companies wouldn't test on animals given the fact that the product is for an animal. NOT TRUE. I was amazed to discover the various brand name dog foods that test on animals. Well, I'm glad to say that Zoe's Whole Foods dog food is cruelty free. But, will I have this luxury in Argentina? As retarded as this may sound, will Zoe have her organic, cruelty free food? Will she have a groomer that knows knows how to cut her hair? I know these questions may seem ridiculous and silly. I mean, I know there are probably excellent groomers in Buenos Aires. And, I know that there must be a cute dog boutique that sells cruelty free dog food. But, all my questions arise from a woman who has never lived outside of Chicago. I'm developing the "missing syndrome." I'm going to miss the groomer, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, the simplicity of getting vegan foods and for crying out loud I'm even going to miss Whimpie, the Golden Retriever from two blocks down. Before I went on my dog food tangent, I was mentioning crossing off stuff from the Zoe part on "Argentina To Do List." Something that makes our move closer and official is Zoe's International Health Certificate. Today, Zoe had a health exam like no other. The vet checked her retina, her range of motion, her breathing, her heart, ears, teeth, you name it he checked it. Of course, this makes me happy because in some warped way this satisfies my hypochondriasis. Everyone will be happy to know that Zoe is super healthy and ready to fly the friendly skies. Well she'll be ready once I get that certificate stamped by the USDA vet. That will be taken care of this Friday.

I'm proud to say that Jackson and I have been making some progress in our packing. There are boxes all over the place but the good thing is that we're filling them. We'll be filling them and moving things into storage until the day we leave. 6 days and counting....the count down started. I don't even want to think of the days because it starts the water fall that takes place in my eyes. How can somebody be so conflicted about moving abroad? I LOVE the idea of moving with Jackson and Zoe but I HATE leaving my mom, my dad, and sister. I've never been away from them for so long and it kills me. I won't be able to hug them. Skype you're awesome by allowing me to talk to family everyday but I want a hug from my mom! I'm beginning to feel that Argentina is consuming every inch of my body. The boxes in my house remind me of Argentina -6 days and counting. The fucking "Things to Do" reminds me of Argentina-6 days and counting. Jackson's new Argentine accent reminds me of Argentina-6 days and counting. STOP THE COUNTING. Yes, I can't wait to get there but I also want to stop time because I want to be with mom, dad, and Fia which I thankfully did today.

Jackson, my mom, my dad, my aunt and I went to Millenium Park today for a concert. A free concert! It was great! How many times do you get to hear classical music in the park?! We had our own little picnic. Jackson and I brought some yummy vegan BBQ ribs from Soul Vegetarian, corn bread and sweet potato pie. My mom took guacamole with chips, juice, and fruit. It was the perfect feast and a perfect evening. It was in those two hours in the park with my family and Jackson that Argentina wasn't the talk of the town. It was in those two hours that time stood still for me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Keep Writing

This entry is for Jackson. Thank you for reminding me that I have a blog that needs more entries. Truthfully, I'm uninspired right now because Argo Tea is too damn cold. I will write another entry soon:)