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Epic Epilog: The Attack of the Panoramas

This is an epilog (i.e., I was too lazy to finish it before I left).

I’m really going to miss the constant international mix I became accustomed to while abroad, as well as having to use a different language for daily engagements. Case in point, a few days ago, I was sitting in the common room of my residence, where I found a German friend and Brazilian friend watching a soccer match between Germany and Brazil, teasing each other as they watched. Friends and family, don’t be offended if I drift off board in a conversation because you aren’t speaking Spanish or English with a foreign accent.

Please click on the panoramics to see them zoomed.

This was found in a naval museum in El Tigre, a pleasant river town. It’s the Argentina coat of arms:

The Argentines take pride in their smurf-hunting abilities.

Also there was Jacques Cousteau:

20,000 leagues, etc.

Nope, not paint. Ketchup.

I went to visit a good friend of mine in Córdoba, an old, much more pedestrian friendly city. Here are some memories in the form of pixels:

Reminding me of Spain

Taking diligent notes at the Jesuit school.

Weird building. Apparently a club.

God, I've seen a lot of old churches. Oh, sorry God, wasn't talking to you, just a manner of speech.

Does stained glass ever get old? No. No it does not.

Surprise! Went to a museum.

My friend, the devil.

That's funny, I don't remember it being that warped...

My friend (Felipe) took me to a really great restaurant. It was kind of a wine shop first, and restaurant second.

Best Restaurant Argentina 2011, as rated by Porteño Eye Dining Out Guide.

Where the magic happens.

Slave labor/ Sous Chef

There were packs of stray dogs highly interested in the ducks.

Obese trees that need to meet Mr. Atkins.

Churchypoo

Given that the Córdoba's founder has been perplexed by his map for some time now, I decided to lend a hand.

We went to a nice feria one night, and wandered into this antique furniture shop, which impressed me by its clutteredness, so I took a picture that wasn’t that good, and probably wouldn’t have included it, except that the guy was really rude to me, saying photos weren’t allowed. Felipe, defending my honor, replied that there wasn’t much to see, anyhow. The shopkeeper’s surly reply probably shouldn’t be printed.

Just to spite him.

I see rainbow potential here.

Coolest book store ever. Click on me.

I’ve continued to be curious about that Quebracho thing. In my last few weeks, it became like a scavenger hunt for clues:

Another clue

I think the E's were a red herring trying to throw me off the trail.

I now know this is a typical puppet style, very common in the ferias.

Creative stensiling. "Your life is a jail. It's time you woke up. Read the Gauchos."

The Water Palace, as they call it

From the Gardel museum, in a former house of his.

Obsession is an understatement for Porteños' adoration of Gardel.

The street on which the museum was located:

My boss was enthralled by my panorama app.

Restaurant Lezama. Exquisitely presented cholesterol.

Then Les Luthier, a very funny musical comedy troupe. I was ecstatic that I understood more than half the jokes. It was really funny. Therefore I recorded half the show:

Subway:

Mafalda, the dearly beloved satiric cartoon character of Argentina. "Look at this. It's the world, see? You know why this world is so pretty? Because it's a model. The original is a disaster!"

Yet another clue!

Totally white. A graffiti artist's wet dream.

Caught my eye because it is a pedestrian depicted realistically, i.e. scurrying for his life across the street.

One day I emerged from my cave to find a desfile that had something to do with police violence in a nearby town. You could actually see the hammer and sickle shown proudly. This was very shocking for me. My visceral reaction as a well-conditioned God-fearing, American capitalist was to shout profanities at these dirty heathens, but I was able to suppress this powerful urge.

In Argentina, you can actually utter the word "Socialist" like it's possibly a good thing.

No comment

I looked at my ratings recently, and found that the 18-25 zombie demographic was really lagging. Here’s for them:

Braaaaaaaaaains! And intestines. In the grocery store.

Americans and peanut butter doesn't even touch Argentina's obsession with matte.

Teatro Colón is a very famous theater, in which I paid for the privilege to sit. I saw the Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra.

So, will I continue blogging? Hmmmm…Maybe if West Lafayette becomes as exciting as, say, Spain. Oh, what’s that? Your begging me, because I’m so awesome? Well, perhaps I could make an exception. But anyhow, it’s back to banging my head on text books, trying to violently infuse information into my brain.

Fin

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Roughly Translated: Assassin’s Fair

Well, hello there. I didn’t see you come in. Please, have a seat while I talk at you in stilted, and highly sarcastic language about my eccentric experiences that I think everyone should find just as important as me. Without segue, I walked out of my door one day to find another protest that no one cares about. At least it wasn’t blocking traffic like the one at the end of this post.

A strange protest. Not really sure what it was all about. Involved folkloric dance.

As I found out the hard way, prepaid phones are a complete rip-off in Argentina, ironic, considering how much more socialist Argentina is than the U.S. I had to go back to the phone store to have them put the money on my card that they were supposed to the first time. And then they still didn’t do it like they promised, so I got fed up and just did it myself, eating 45 pesos. Teléfono Personal: You suck. I hate you.

Anywho, on my way back from the store, I encountered this, along with an uncountable number of underwear retailers. I’m not sure why Argentina’s demand is so much higher than other countries. Maybe they’re more romantic, or something.

I'm realizing that you could essentially boil down all my photos into just a few categories...

Unrelated. Here’s a truck that was pulling over, as men were collecting gas tanks that had fallen out while it was driving. But wait, what does that say on the back of the truck?

"Danger Explosive"

There are some things I’ll just never understand:

I think they were chasing after that person

I took another look at Recoleta Cemetery.

This time I saw its most popular destination.

Depicted in his preferred form of clothing

Oops, actually that’s some Casanova type who had sexual relations with an inordinate number of women. I meant the Eva Perón grave:

Like an obedient little tourist

The next one over:

Next door neighbors can't compete with her business

Elections happened recently, or something along those lines. I just know that I wasn’t able to buy alcohol for a day. They literally blocked off the liquor section of the grocery store.

Election shenanigans

According to photos of this iPod that I jacked off some guy (and whose identity I’m currently thieving to the max), I then went to a soccer match, probably Copa America between Mexico and Uruguay. It was there that I had an encounter with death:

My best bud Death

But it’s cool, we’re friend now. We sat in the Mexican section and got all painted up.

Mexican professional wrestler and exaggerated Mexican mustaches. Apparently the Mexicans have similar stereotypes of themselves as we United States-ians.

Here’s a Mexican song combined with fútbol footage:

I’ve also been known to do work on occasion:

Boxes

I dragged an American friend with me to see the Feria de Mataderos, which I thought meant “Assassin’s Fair,” but that would turn out to be too good to be true. Actually, matadero means butcher.  I’ll continue to pretend, though. Here was our bus stop:

Bus stop signage. Sasquatch was here.

These gauchos had to extract a tiny ring with a tiny stick from the frame at full gallop.

I always wanted to combine the adjustable squeezing power of vice grip pliers with the brush-clearing capabilities of a machete, but just couldn't figure out how.

Took all my will power not to jump on the saddle

It was the second time that I saw the type of product below, as you may remember.

Variations on a theme

Panoram o' Rama!

David Tomczyk likes tamales and so should you

Close by, there was a museum about the Argentine Creoles.

Wild, wild west...in Argentina

This was a particularly strange entry (diagrams of the various cow cuts):

Brought to you by the Argentina Beef Industries Association, reminding you: "Fuck Chick-Fil-A!"

The truth comes out: Argentina killed Bambi's mother!

Gauchos

Still in use

Are those not the creepiest puppets you've ever seen?

Anyone have a spare?

The root of my daily headaches from incessant honking

Misc.:

Probably the best bus I've ever seen

Volcanic ash. Don't see that every day.

Around the town:

Very common is soliciting on public transportation. You will be bombarded by people putting random items in your lap in hopes that you will want to buy it.

I’m pretty sure that my bus driver lit up a mary-jane one time on my way back from work. He was also driving like a madman.

Finally tried bitter máte. It was interesting.

I thought a COP was going to pull over a car here for speeding and got my hopes up, but they were dashed. I continue believing that it has never happened here, ever.

IRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONICIRONIC

Went to Tecnópolis today, a technology expo supposedly of Argentinas latest innovations.

The expo was interrupted two days in a row because the tents couldn’t withstand one day’s rain. Apparently too much for Argentina’s technology. They also didn’t indicate said closure on the website.

Next up: Córdoba!

Screw Argentina, Let’s Go to Uruguay!

Recently, to brighten up the interior, the residence handyman put up a variety of indigenous-looking masks on the walls. I’m convinced that they have already started laying curses. Unequivocal evidence is that my room’s light switch just broke. Therefore, I’m writing by candlelight. With ink and quill, etc. In other news, it got cold here. Muaaaa…Here are some off-kilter pictures to match my strange, winter-when-it-should-be-summer-induced mood swings.

Amurrica! Oh, wait, what country am I in?

Is this legal in the U.S.?

Yes. Empanadas are THAT important here, constituting approximately 68% of the Argentine economy.

I thought it was just my residence. But no, this is the kind of key they use everywhere in the city. Really secure, I'm sure.

If we aren't 100% splendid, your money back, guaranteed!

A clothing store in Uruguay. I refuse to believe that they didn't know.

Fishing and bathing prohibited in docking zone

A more effective signage strategy: Onomatopoeia

Ad at a bus stop. I guess their faces were just that offensive.

It was a pretty posh restaurant, so I don't think anything was lost in translation.

Tourism in Argentina

Pirates are surprisingly sensitive about their weight, as it turns out.

As a mechanical engineering student, I wanted to interrogate this guy about his fully-motorized skateboard.

Near the place of work of my friend Ulises, scrap metal sculptures:

You may have noticed that some of the pictures above were from Uruguay. Given that I’ve indicated my residence in Argentina, the only four logical conclusions would be

  1. I went to Uruguay with a photographic device, whose data I later transferred to the inter-tubes,
  2. Someone else took these pictures, which I have shamelessly robbed,
  3. Someone stole my photographic device, took pictures, then returned it to me following anonymous threats to their health, or
  4. I’m not actually writing this blog

Since I’m Fair and Balanced, and tell the Other Side of the Story, I’ll let you decide which of the item #1’s above is correct.

Regardless of the source of these elicit photos, they are on display below. Because I know the Mainstream, Liberal Media won’t cover this. Because they are biased and unbalanced, and compose a vast majority of the overall media viewership, and I’m just a small fish in a big sea, trying to save this nation from the perils of a valueless, socialist society. We took a boat to get there.

The Titanic

The seats were strangely arranged like an airplane, even though there seemed to be no need for that.

I'm not sure why they print the 20 Peso bills upside down. Someone should really say something.

We toured the beaches. It’s off-season now, so we were the only people in all the places we went.

Lileni in Colonia

Colonia ocean front

Colonia street view. These flowers were a common sight.

Our resident Mexican chess master

Some adorable old man who I thought would make the picture better

We paid about negative $0.15 to ascend the tower.

We had a really, really expensive lunch.

There was a custody dispute over this old car we found. It got messy.

South America is different

A brief pit stop during the night in Montevideo to wait for a bus:

Service really sucked, but food was excellent.

We then headed for Punta del Diablo, a precious beach town that was zen-like in its tranquility during the off-season.

Must Love Dogs

Possibly due to a spill, dead and almost dead penguins were tragically washing up on shore.

We laid out to bask like lizards in the sun on the rocks

I got a new app for my iPod. Let’s see if you can guess.

Click on me! It's like a massage for pictures.

I’m still trying to figure out how to minimize the blurriness, but I figured I’d still include the picture.

Where's Pamela Anderson?

Dog begging my food

In Punta del Este, we found God:

The only interesting thing in Punta del Este

And then we left.

Here’s some cultural exposure around Buenos Aires.

Shoe polishing, a common sight

I finally tried máte, at work.

Máte is somewhat ritualistic. They drink it all day long and pass it around like a bong. Mostly, it just tasted like sugar water to me. Here is the Argentine equivalent of the White House:

Recently added light show on the Casa Rosada. Government money well-spent.

With some friends I went to an Armenian restaurant, which was a completely random choice as we were walking by. It turned out to be an entire cultural experience. For instance, I learned how much the Armenians hate the Turks. Might have been the genocide that ticked them off.

No to Turkey joining the EU

There was also a show! I was dragged up there at one point with the other men to learn how to dance Armenian-style.

Recent events in my life also include perusing the famous Feria de San Telmo. I bought hot sauce and a hat, which you will see later if you are not bored to death or struck down by a curse beforehand.

View from San Telmo

A café along the way

Another view of the antique interior

Our bill. No joke. And we had to collaborate with what seemed like all of the employees to make it happen.

Here are some street musicians from the market.

Also went to a cool restaurant (see In Case of Hungry poster above) with excellent food, and a super awesome bar that still has the lounge feel of the urban mansion it was converted from. See below.

My new hat, for those of you who are still conscious.

More recently, I met up with an American friend, Danny, who is studying here in BsAs. We went to an organic foods market that included a Parrilla (grill), which are as common here as empanadas.

Located near a train station

Parrilla

Abandoned bus

I also saw where a bunch of famous dead dudes were buried. Like Cesar.

Entrance to Recoleta Cemetery

Nearby, there was a fair. This included various forms of puppets.

The puppet master. Or rather, marionette. 

A mechanical flower made from airplane fuselage. Supposedly it opens and closes and has lights.

Well, my candle is burning low, so I have to wrap this up. Until next time, friends, and I hope you didn’t forget to hug an American Flag on the 4th. It really makes their day.

¡WTF, Tráfico!

Reading about Argentina as preparation before arriving, I had all but worked myself into a state of hyper-paranoia for fear of all the permutations of ways in which I could be robbed/mugged/run over by a car. Contrary to all my expectations, my luggage was not pillaged for its valuables or lost, nor was I robbed or mugged upon arrival, despite how delectably helpless and bewildered I must have been from the point of view of a thief or con artist, lugging my large suitcases over uneven pavement, scurrying for my life across the 12-lane crosswalks and staring at my map. For the thieves, I imagined it would have been something like this:

I’m the chocolate bunnies. Mmmm…chocolate.

While searching that picture, I also ran across this, which is precisely my sense of humor, but has nothing to do with Argentina:

Here are the highlights from my epic journey from Madrid to BsAs:

  • While lounging around in my gate, I watched a group of noticeably larger persons waddle by and knew immediately that they were Americans. I had forgotten how much skinnier almost every other country in the world is.
  • I connected to something called Free Public WiFi. It didn’t work. Grrr…
  • More than one older woman on the plane flipped out about my using my iPod. First the woman seated beside me irritably scolded me about how electronic devices are not allowed on the flight, and after I politely tried to inform her that it was not actually a phone, she spouted something about not wanting the plane to crash because of an “estupidez.” After that, I just hid it from her view behind my book while using it as a Spanish-English dictionary, thinking this would solve the problem. But later, a woman from across the aisle tattled on me to stewardess.
  • The passengers applauded when we landed. This was very strange. I looked around to see if anyone else shared my opinion. I don’t think they did.  Perhaps they were all really feeling that insecure about our fate…
  • I got free alcohol!
  • After the passing of an ice-age, I reached the end of the customs line and was informed to go to the “box, green.” When I asked how to get there, the helpful employee informed me (in Spanish) that I should put one foot in front of the other repeatedly. Duly noted, sir.

And then…OMG, TRAFFIC!! You will die!!! The kind reader will recall that in many places, the designated lane directions are considered one of the more important rules to follow. Buenos Aires does things differently. In general, it’s everyone for himself, doing whatever he can get away with. Enough words. More pictures!!

The government’s halfhearted attempt to implore people to not drive like such f#@!ing lunatics

I noted that a lot of places don’t have stop signs or anything at the intersections, and my boss chortled and replied that the city doesn’t bother, because it wouldn’t make a difference. Also, people drive way faster than they should, which could possibly be the reason that Argentina has the most vehicular accidents in South America.

Upon entering, shot from the bus window. An abandoned overpass project.

So…Buenos Aires has some areas that aren’t super developed, as I found out passing some slums along the waterfront during my ride from the airport to my place of residence. The overpass above seemed an abandoned project. One of the slum areas became the art project for an artist whose name I’m too lazy to look up (I guess you know that’s a recurring theme by now).

In front of a museum in La Boca

Even with all the street performers trying to get you to pose with them in a picture and then charge you money for it (mostly tango dancers, but also Maradona impersonators), the place had a laid-back, lazy Sunday feel to it.

Nada de prisa. There were lots of stray dogs napping blissfully in the streets.               
During the 5.3 hours we waited for our food, I got bored. Really bored.
Art seemed to be the subtle subtext of this most popular of BsAs tourist districts.
I had a nice conversation with the shopkeeper upstairs while my friends waited below, patiently.

One thing I learned is that vegetables don’t  exist in Argentina.

My first Porteño culinary experience. The single, gigantic slab of cow would be a sign of things to come.

Speaking of food, the following is also food:

The Alfajor. Impossible to avoid in Buenos Aires.

As far as I can tell, the Alfajor (a pastry that ensconces a core of dulce de leche between two cakes in a chocolate shell) is almost as important to Argentine culture as the Tango. And it’s almost as ubiquitous as the prostitute solicitation on little square slips of paper that litter the sidewalks (not pictured here). Here’s where I live:

Just kidding. Here’s where I actually live:

Seriously, my residence is right there
More architecture in the near vicinity. The dark building seems abandoned. It should be a haunted house if it isn’t already.

I also learned that people in Argentina used to be rainbow-colored. It was caused by a tropical virus from the same genus as malaria.

Maintaining my worldly traveler status

The inflation in Argentina is very high, on the order of 20% annually. But let’s distract ourselves from that slightly disturbing detail by looking at more pretty buildings, like this one:

A side note on protests in Buenos Aires. I had read before coming that protests were a common occurrence. However, I didn’t quite understand the concept until I arrived. Here’s a pretty standard example:

They love their drums at protests.

Argentina has a long tradition of protesting any- and everything you can think to protest.
“Enough to persecute Quebracho.” It’s on almost every block, but I can’t figure out what Quebracho is.

Someone explained to me that this tradition is a sort of reaction to the recent dictatorship, an exercise of freedoms they now have. Also, Argentinians are just like that. But there are so many protests all the time that they mostly are ignored.

And now, for a new segment called Things Other People Wouldn’t Have Taken Pictures of, because They Aren’t Quite so Strange as Me. Actually this could probably include most of my photos.

Look closely under his nose:

The graffiti affords evidence of lingering anti-neonazi sentiment.

Trash day:

My Mexican friends Chris and Ulises discussing the societal implications of the trash Pyrenees
I’ve been seeing a lot of this stencil graffiti around the city
The elevator in another residence, which sported manual doors. It was probably at least 90 years old.
The more Kitsch side of La Boca.
Balls. [Suppresses immature snickering]
Menu fail. Maybe I really should upload this to Fail Blog.

I noticed the following when I first arrived.

“Not an ashtray.” Then what is it?

In BsAs, for some reason they took the franchise name “Burger King” quite literally. Seriously, we saw this one that was like a warehouse:

The Burger King’s Palace of BsAs sports 1.5 million square feet.

That café in La Boca where we waited forever had an interesting interior.

On a hop-on, hop-off bus tour where we learned that 95% of the city was built for the centennial of the May revolutions, we stopped at China Town.

At the entrance to China Town. I just thought it was really funny.

My bus stop marker to go to work. But wait, it gets better.
For the return trip. Argentina marches to the beat of a different drummer. Well, it’s actually more like they pay attention to him, since they assume it’s another protest.

The bus system in Buenos Aires is something special. I try to ride the bus as little as possible, because every ride takes about 6 months off my life. This is because the suspension system in the buses is lacking something, in addition to their excessive velocities and the roughness of the pavement. Sometimes I notice locals fast asleep during these theme park rides that are the colectivos. But, hey, at least my abs get in a good workout.

I was also informed by a British woman who had lived in Spain 28 years and now Argentina that different bus lines are run by different companies. This is why some buses are in better shape and run on time as compared to others. There is a constant stream of buses everywhere I go. It blows my mind. This leads me to my next point. I’ll tell you a story to make it more interesting.

The Search for the Magic Bus Fare

Once upon a time, there was a city called Buenos Aires (Spanish for “Good, umm…Aires“) that had thousands of magical transport creatures called buses that drove all day and all night long. One day four young travelers who were visiting the city decided to use one of these magic creatures to go see a zoological. At a tavern the night before, the locals had told them that the creatures only liked coins, not paper, and would devour you whole if you paid otherwise. So before embarking, they went to change bills for coins, which they believed to surely be an easy task. But at the first store, the shopkeeper, wild-eyed and crazed, refused maniacally, and all they could get out of him was the phrase es muy difícil, es muy difícil muttered over and over. The next place was cold and hostile, and refused, as well, as if these coins, which carried next to nothing in monetary value, were in fact dearly precious commodities. After extensive journeying, the travelers encountered a wise wizard who told them that the thousands of commuters trying to obtain coins for the bus fare was causing a shortage that had reached epidemic levels, and people were hoarding and turning on each other, and the magical creatures everyone had thought could only bring good were in fact tearing apart the fabric of society. He suggested that they go to the old witch’s hut at the northern outskirts of the city where they would be given a set of special herbs to bring to the shrine of…

Okay, I’m bored now. But true story, basically. I find the shortage of coins farcical. It gave me a few good chortles inside my cynical head. Eventually we made it to the zoo, which looked like this:

And then I had gastronomic success with a really easy Spanish tapa called Pan Tomaca. Basically blended tomatoes with spices on bread. I threw in a fried egg for good measure. It was a proud moment for me.

¡Viva España!

And then, of course, there’s tango. Some friends and I went to a Milonga in the famous Café Tortoni. It looked like this:

Café Tortoni. The finest in Argentine snooting!
Es todo, mis amigos. Hasta próxima vez. In the next installment, you can look forward to Uruguayan adventures, giant mechanical flowers, and much, much more!