Good Bye Buenos Aires

May 6, 2010

Of course, I knew this day would come and now, here it is, the final day when I close the door to my sweet apartment in BA and leave Buenos Aires behind. I have been the pilgrim, the wanderer, a seeker, a scout in my own kind of odyssey. And now, I’m down to the last few hours before lovely Marie and I share a limo to the airport. She’s off to Spain and Switzerland and I to Boulder, my home. I said my goodbyes and my cool portena friend, Liliana had a wonderful goodbye party

Goodbye party at Liliana's

and included the people I hold dear in Buenos Aires.

Cool Liliana

I took in my final view from her high-rise rooftop that has a panorama of the whole city, out across the Palermo parks to the Rio Plata. I’m all set with presents, great CDs, spices, fabulous new boots, books, drawings and some leaves, sand and shells from my journey.

lovely Marie

I have many thoughts on travel, on hellos and goodbyes and certainly have a better understanding of how and why I came here six months ago. I left with some questions but found answers to questions I had not even asked . Yes, my marriage is big enough for a “time out” and is all the more enlivened by it. Yes, I can land in great big, crazy, foreign Buenos Aires and fit right in. Yes, at age 60 something, I can change it up and reinvent myself. These are empowering yeses! Forgetting how, remembering why. Forgetting if, remembering yes, forgetting seek, remembering find. (this, from e.e. cummings, in time of daffodils – one of my favorite poems, to follow)

So one question is; why do people travel? It’ a good topic of conversation and a question I am often asked. Travel, will make you question whatever myths you hold true. It will test your tolerance for everything: your willingness to engage rather than judge, re-think or reinforce your beliefs. It keeps you on your toes as you respond continually to everything around you and sharpens your inner radar as you navigate new subways, train stations, markets and crumbling sidewalks. One is called more often to your gut feeling when meeting new people; should I just move along, or, this could be interesting! That’s why it’s so exciting and makes you feel so alive. Travel is full of daily learning and accomplishments.

Neighborhood corner

On a deeper level, as my friend, travel and food writer, Peggy Markel said, “it’s food for the soul“, giving new meaning to “soul food” (www.Peggy Markel.com). Your day is not defined by a schedule or job, you are not defined by a career or nationality, married or not, mother or not. You get to create each day filled with the newness of language, food, culture, people, places and experiences. And, when you spend a lot of time with yourself in a new place, filling each day with your own meaning, you feed yourself with that vitality.

And then, at some point, I began to feel life on the periphery. I read a blog about this very subject and wish I could credit the author (didn‘t keep his name), but he mentioned how as travelers, we are not the worker, but the customer, not the regular, but the guest and friends are all new. Travel keeps us on the periphery and in the end makes us want our place. I agree, my time is up in Buenos Aires and I look for my place and purpose again. When we get our fill of all the wonderful newness of a culture and the freedom of not having much stuff to care for or think about, we look to have a home again. As Dorothy so simply stated “there’s no place like home”, “there’s no place like home”. And so, here I go and my heart is beating faster as I get close to my Chris, my girls, my Boulder.

I left a lot out and perhaps will catch up on this blog site. Chris came for 10 weeks and we traveled to Mendoza, Santiago, Iguazu Falls and across Uruguay and I have a ton of pictures and more travel observations about these places. And, I have working titles for many new blogs like; Second Hand Sex in Buenos Aires, Baby O Baby, an observation of childhood here, The country in need of a screwdriver, Why the “cheek kiss” every time you come and go is so wonderful, Observations about smoking and making out on the street, Why people are out and about till all hours, How amazingly interesting, smart and sweet Portenos are, how relationship, in this case my marriage, can evolve in new and wonderful ways. All, future blog food. Plus, my friend, Juan from Talk Time and Leo, my dear, Mr. tambourine friend, Leo keep asking for new blogs.

Mr. Tamborine man, Leo

They’ve always encouraged the Donnie in me.

This morning, I went to my favorite bookstore for a final coffee. It’s one of those classic Buenos Aires neighborhood places on one of the lovely tree-lined Palermo streets which by the way, are turning golden with the fall leaves. It’s an old building with big open front windows, wood floors, bookcases with rolling ladders lining the walls, cozy tables and nooks with comfy sofas and floor lamps, a perfect small bar with great wines, coffees and pastries. They play the best music…cool Argentinean jazz, old Lou Reed or groovy electronic tango. It’s always busy; people sit for hours, talking, reading, kissing, reading.

Favorite bookstore / cafe

The waitress brought my perfect café, a cortado mediano, a small plate of toasts with creamy cheese and jam, accompanied with the usual small cookie and tiny glass of sparkling water. I just love the ease and niceness of it all. And, then, I started to feel the sadness of leaving. I know I’ll be back, but now, I’m leaving and believe me, Buenos Aires has a piece of my heart. I felt kind of dreamy, just taking it in one last time and when I looked across the room, I think I saw a little hint of my future… it was like a small sweet painting.

I saw a nice looking mid-aged couple talking, reading the papers, enjoying their coffee and they had a baby carriage next to them, which they occasionally peeked into and then, smiled at each other. I realized that these were the grandparents and as I looked at them, I saw myself and Chris. No pressure meant to anyone, I’m just saying, this is where sometimes the heart speaks or one gets a glimpse of something more. I saw myself in that sweet painting.

So, in a few hours, Hello Northern Hemisphere, Hello USA, Hello Spring and oh, yes, hello daffodils.

Beautiful Buenos Aires

I want to live here!

Buenos Aires

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in time of daffodils by, e.e. cummings

In time of daffodils (who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so (forgetting seem)

in time of roses (who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if, remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek (forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me


No longer a tourist

February 7, 2010

Recoleta Cemetary detail

This past week, I realized that I am no longer a tourist here in Buenos Aires. No, not because I’ve passed the three month mark, or because I speak Spanish–I don’t. Not even because occasionally people ask ME for directions. This was way beyond any guide book. This was very personal. My friend’s son died last week. This friend, this woman was one of the first people I’d met in Buenos Aires. She introduced me to my painting teacher, she gave me leads on apartments, and she introduced me to Talk Time where I go each Wednesday for a sort of salon-style evening of discussion with an international crowd.

Adrianna, that’s my friends name. She took me under her wing the first month I was here. We met for tea and she filled me in on history and the showed me the Porteno way and she argued with me about Evita, telling me all about the Peron government and its dark side. Her father was an ambassador in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, so she had a very sophisticated upbringing both in Europe and here in Argentina. She’s been a thread that’s run through these past three months that I’ve lived here.

You know I have this fascination with the Recoleta Cemetery; it just beckons to me. The Recoleta Cemetery is considered one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Buenos Aires and families pay a lot of money to maintain their family crypts there. Getting hold of one of these is very difficult and only occasionally is there an advertisement in the paper for one. This is the final resting place for the most influential people in Argentina; Presidents, Scientists, writers, Statesmen, Industrialists, and of course Eva Peron. Besides having an amazing array of architectural styles, the statuary is amazing here. Angels beckon towards heaven and gently press intricately carved bronze doors closed.

Adriana found this fascination I had sort of curious and in fact, she’s the one who said it must be my Scorpio rising sign that causes the attraction. I just think I like the statues of the angels and the light and shadows that fall on the marble and granite. I like the serene feeling I get when walking through here as it is another world within this huge city. Well, her family has a crypt here and she offered to show it to me. We went there and she had the key and we went inside, which is something right there that most tourists would never get to do. Her father’s profile was engraved on a bronze plaque at the entrance. The altar was adorned with a beautiful candelabra, a stain glass ceiling let in light from above. The narrow winding staircase led to the burial site below. I asked her if she would be buried there. No, it’s not important to her, she told me. Her brother will be and she said her son wanted to be be buried there; he was very respectful of the family lineage and loved this place. We wandered around the cemetery and she told me all about the famous people who are buried there. You can learn the whole history of modern Argentina just on that tour!

And you start to recognize these names because the streets in Buenos Aires are named after these famous people. There are no Elm, Park or Main streets in this city. They are Avenida Uriburu named after a President who led and won a military coup and Avenida Pueyrredon, named after a General who fought against the British Royal Navy or Avenida Anchorena, named after one of the signers of the independence declaration.

Recoleta Cemetary

It was just a few weeks later when I heard Adrianna’s son had died suddenly. And, yes he is now buried there at Recoleta Cemetery.

When I went to her home to pay my respects, I saw her apartment filled with beautiful art, antiques and framed photos of her family over the years. She showed me photos of her handsome 35 year-old-son who had just died and of his older brother. We looked at photos of her parents, and of herself as a young mother with these beautiful boys, her gorgeous wavy blond hair blowing so casually. I felt privileged to be in Adrianna’s home and to share these intimate memories with her. I always feel that It is very special to be invited in to someone’s home especially, when you’re a tourist.

That was the day I realized I was no longer a tourist. This wasn’t a museum, or a play or a guided tour. This was a personal connection. A woman who befriended me suffered a terrible tragedy… probably the most painful sadness a parent can suffer. How can I be a friend to her? How can I give support. There is no guidebook necessary here. This is where life overlaps, where I experience the connection between two women, two mothers, and two new friends. It is profoundly sad and beautiful.


The little brown dog in the subway.

January 22, 2010

Average Joe, the subway dog


It’s the middle of summer in Buenos Aires and all the guide books were right about January ’cause yes, it is hot and muggy. I forgot summer in the city since I’ve lived in Colorado for so long. I lived in Miami which is more or less an endless summer and I did live in Chicago and it was hot that summer. But, this is more like I remember in India. That hot sweaty kind of air where you just plod along to get somewhere and take several quick showers each day. Many places are not air conditioned including this apartment. Fortunately, I’m moving in two weeks to one that is. But it reminded me how it used to be, I take a shower and stand in front of the fan and basically wake up in a groggy sweat. This is where an ice cream cone or liquado (delicious fresh fruit drinks) come in and slowly, I’ll adapt to yet another rhythm. Now after 9:00PM, it’s another story; that ‘s when the South American lifestyle really has it down. You go out of the apartment where all the fun is You feel like eating and moving and being out and about and even some sweaty dancing.

I take the subway when I need to go far and that’s a steam bath and a crowed one at that. You need to take a deep breath when you descend those stairs, get ready for the experience which I have to say, I like because I’m mingling in with everyone else going somewhere to do something. The other day, when I got down the long flight of stairs to the train platform, there was a dog lying on the floor. It was one of those brown, short-haired stocky dogs which are everywhere in the world, an “average Joe” kind of dog. I looked hard at it and even took a picture. I was worried that it was sick or perhaps dead but it was just lying very still and I think, getting a bit of comfort from the cool tile floor. But, that’s a long way for a dog to be and the first time I ever saw an animal in the subway.

What was interesting was how people reacted to it. You could not miss this dog as it was positioned right at the bottom of the stairs. You had to step over or around it which most people did but a few sort of bumped it or stepped on its tail and never looked back. People are talking on their cell phones or hooked into their i-pods and are in another world. Some people looked concerned others didn’t. I’ve been noticing how people are with dogs in this city. One thing, I don’t see people talk to dogs on the streets like they do in Boulder!

I’ve never been one to like living with animals, something about the hair, the odor, the whole animal in the house thing. OK, I’ll just say it, I’m not an animal lover! There! I have memories of little fussy lap-dogs in France and Belgium who often sat on the table while old ladies ate dinner. And, I think American dog pets are usually big, slobbering, friendly, jump-up-on-you kind of animals who like to catch frisbees. Here, the dogs are big, not friendly and very macho. People here like Dobermans, and huskies and pit bulls and rottweilers and it appears that they are not castrated. I look, and damn, these are some big male dogs! Which leave huge piles of excrement on the sidewalks and often are in large groups with dog walkers. The walkers have to wear big industrial gloves to hold on to all these huge chains attached to these huge dogs. It’s just another observation and I’m sure an interesting study could tell us which nationalities like which dogs and what that says about us. That would not be my “kind of study”.

Back to the little brown “average Joe” dog in the subway. I told myself that if it was still there when I came back from my art class later that day, I would do something. Thankfully, the little guy (and he was a guy) was gone because I’m not sure what I would do, not being very good in the dog helping department.

But, what that did, was make me sad for stray dogs which made me sad for children who beg on the subways and then for the people in Haiti and, well, you know how these thoughts keep going—just sad for any person or animal that suffers. I know, suffering is one of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism, but I have a hard time becoming un-attached to that sadness. Which brings me to Haiti. As my friend here pointed out, there are no collection boxes at check-out lanes nor are there food drop-off places and from what I understand, people are skeptical of giving money to organizations because they are used to stealing and fraud. I just don’t see a big grassroots effort although, I understand the government is sending aid.

So, for me, suddenly, I’m seeing “Haiti giving opportunities” more often all over this city. The blind and handicapped play music for a few coins, children walk the subway cars selling pens and calenders and old ladies without teeth sell kitchen towels on the sidewalks. There is always an opportunity to contribute and I like giving directly to a person who is doing something or selling something or is just plain, old and seems, forgotten. Street musicians put on a great show for a few coins and I have a few favorites around the city.

On a lighter note, I just found a writer who believes in a “Chief Culture Officer” for companies and I would again, suggest a “Minister of Culture” in our government. Check out Grant McCracken.

Am I done yet here? NO! I might have been whining about the weather, but it’s still wonderful, interesting and a bit more familiar each day. Chris comes in a week and we will keep a base in Buenos Aires but travel to Mendoza, across the Andes to Santiago and then back across to Uruguay. Argentina is as long as the US is wide so, everywhere is far with big stretchs of pampa between cities and even regions. We’ll get a start on knowing the country and Chris can see the Buenos Aires that I love. I knew when I first got here, this could take many trips! The travelog is about to begin.

With love from Buenos Aires,

Donna


Buying Happiness

January 5, 2010

New Years eve at Sette Bacca

Gabriella and Leonardo

So now I’ve had a couple of interesting comments about my first few blog entries. I have to admit, I’m quite touched that people I don’t even know take the time to write after someone forwarded the link to my new blog site. I actually have a group of readers!! And, this one will have pictures, the number one comment was–photos please! So, the comments, well, they give me food for thought and it makes it easy to get started writing and kinda makes me … wanna blog about it!!

One person commented on the statement I made in my introduction about what would Donnie do when I could remodel my kitchen, have a face lift or give my money to charity. The comment was; “Why do you have to choose? Do it all and more” Which got me to thinking about thinking too small. Heck, I’m just getting started, figuring out the ropes and yes, the world looks a whole lot bigger to me now.

Several readers commented that they related to the “I didn't find myself very interesting a few months ago” statement I made and one felt she was dying on the vine herself. Another said it was brave to admit that out loud and another said he believes you can buy happiness and I probably had made a good investment in that. Which has me thinking about what we all invest our time, our money, energy, our lives in. And, heck, investments in general… the stock market, precious metals, real estate, new cars, toys, etcetera. We put our money there with a hope of a return on investment or the pure pleasure of enjoying some thing. So, I have bought and paid for happiness. I can honestly say it was a pure investment in myself. Not cheap, and takes some effort and is mostly intangible but yes, I am buying happiness each day I am in Argentina.

Which leads me to one response that really got me thinking. You can see it on the blog site. Although encouraging of my adventure, someone raised the question about the meaning of being a tourist and not giving back to the country and how Americans spend their golden years traveling, that it seems so self-indulgent. Well, from the get go, I said I'm here for myself and my own personal growth and fun! I didn't join the Peace Corps. I can only hope that my own happiness extends to others I encounter. But, I think the very idea that I, as an American should be assuming I need to help is arrogant. As my friend, Leo said, that is a very Americano way of thinking.-to go somewhere and think you have to change it or make it better. This was the beginning of a very long and heated discussion, he's a lawyer and likes to argue, and brought in the whole idea of cultural superiority and American knows best thinking. That’s probably someone else’s blog.

On a lighter note, a friend said, just wait until you have grandchildren and you will think differently. I'm not really sure what her point was but well, that's probably true and I'll wait “till then to think about it. And when I have grandchildren, I'll love that too. One lesson I'm getting is that I can only be here, now!

My second month in Buenos Aires flew by. Gabby came and went, the holidays are over and it's a new year. Chris has his ticket for February 2. So, to slow down for a moment, allow me to recap the month with some of my thoughts and pictures. Actually, it was a whirlwind holiday; Gabby came in Christmas eve, suitcase lost but in top form and her usual adorable self. May I just indulge myself for one moment to tell you how great this 25-year-old daughter I was fortunate enough to get is! So smart, pretty as can be and quite the head turner on the streets, fell right in with her Spanish, melts in with everyone and on top of it tells great stories and jokes!! Plus, she cooks, cleans up, dances great and has a wonderful outlook. We laughed that she was visiting her mother in her mother's apartment-a flip of the usual way. I've always said, I want my family to know me; understand what I love, stand for, think about and she does, now even more!

Christmas eve, a big celebration at Leo's downtown apartment with all kinds of food and all kinds of people from all over the world. We had to reserve a car to pick us up at 4:00AM because the taxis and subway just stop. We ate, danced played twenty questions, sang and just had fun till then. Christmas day, we walked to Marie's (you know, my beautiful Swiss friend ) and made a quiet dinner. The cast of characters grew with Donald, a wonderful gentleman I met at a Salt Shaker cooking class. He's from Sedona, Arizona and spends several months here each year. Well, as I've told you the “food scene” here is wonderful. Great everyday eats from empanades to creamy, dreamy ice cream and the “gourmet” scene is quite nice as well. Donald is the man, he knows all the cool places! So, it was out and about to these 10:00PM dinners as the friends added on friends and a very wonderful group had formed. We texted and e-mailed and caught up with each other all over town.

The icing on the cake, (couldn't resist the food metaphor) was New Year's Eve at Sette Bacco, a chef owned restaurant in the neighborhood. The sidewalk was covered in rose petals as we approached, one of those fabulous double, ornate doors awaited, and then, we entered a little piece of heaven. It had just started and was already one of my favorite memories! The food, course after course was lovely; small vegetable terrines, chicken breasts poached in champagne, bite sized puffs wrapped in smoked salmon. Truthfully, the menu is hard to recall and was not remarkable, but nonetheless, lovely. In fact, I can't remember a standout New Year's eve dinner-I think it's hard to pull off. But, the party, the full blue moon rising over the upstairs patio, our private dining room with gauzy curtains surrounding us, the Scottish guests dressed in full kilt regalia, ladies dressed in our versions of the perfect little black dress, the portenos of all ages toasting each other, dancing 'till all hours and then, walking home in the most amazing summer's night air with a perfect soft warm breeze, that's memoreable.

It's been two full months on my own in Buenos Aires. As I told Chris, aside from my family and friends, there's not much I miss in Boulder and I'm not ready to think about leaving. My return flight is not until May, so why fret? Slow down, I keep telling myself. Just enjoy the day to day. So many more sights to see, pictures to take, phrases to learn, dinners to enjoy. Now you're wondering, do I tire of the city and the sights? No, I'm just scratching the surface and just getting here. Every week I plan out a few new places to go; a bookstore, a cafe, a museum, a neighborhood, a garden and then make my way there. What's different now is that I know a group of people and they call and invite and I make dinner now and then and it's more fun than ever! People here are very inclusive, sure bring a friend, come along, meet me there. Chris is coming in a month and we will travel more around Argentina. I know he's going to love it too and I’m looking forward to sharing this and more with him.

And the whole New Year's thing, well, I guess I got a jump start on a “new year” back in November. You know the saying; “leap and the net will appear”? Well the net is here! With all the best to you dear friends and new readers, keep writing, fill me in on your thoughts and be well.

Besos,
Donna

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Dancing backwards–and not the tango, yet!

December 17, 2009

December 15, 2009

Remember that saying about Ginger Rogers… She did everything Fred Astaire did, only in high heels and backwards? That’s kind of how this is for me. Most of my days are filled with familiar activities, I’ve established a nice weekly rhythm but, it’s just that it’s in another language, in a different country and within a different culture. Here’s what I mean, shopping in a store, the products look the same, but, I see now, some of the coffee comes with sugar added which I hadn’t expected. So, it takes a long time to shop when I’m trying to understand the labels. I found a wonderful yoga studio and I’ve done yoga on and off for years so I know what to do, although sometimes, I’ll open my eyes and find everyone facing the other direction…I had missed the cue. And, then, I walk everywhere which I enjoy, so it all takes longer. I do like the subway system and get a thrill when I emerge to the street in yet another part of this amazing city. It’s just …..the sounds, the sights, the smells, the way things work, they are all slightly different and coming at me and around me all the time. That makes me feel alive and in the moment– looking, trying to figure out a word, do I push or pull this door? do I get in this line or that? is this where I connect to the blue subway line? However I just realized, I sleep like a rock, my legs don’t ache (which they had for the past few years) I have better short-term recall and, new ideas are streaming in all the time. My brain is alive and the synapses are firing! And, as I told Chris recently, my creativity cup is getting a major refill.

A week ago was the Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival. I went to open-air concerts, small late night clubs, old and new jazz movies, and ran into trios jamming in the streets. It was amazing to be up close to world respected musicians and singers while watching the sun set over swaying palm trees. Note to friends: this is the perfect month and perfect festival to come to each year! I now love jazz! Probably, it’s the air, the vibe, the sensuousness of it all, damn, you just feel cool! And, I want to mention this; these events were sponsored by major corporations as well as the Minister of Culture. I’ve been thinking about that, and I believe the US needs a Minister of Culture. What I see here is wonderful centers and museums that are full, lots of concerts, poetry, dance and music all the time and they are affordable. I believe that when we respect the arts as much as other institutions, we nurture creativity, ideas and ultimately, create a more vivacious population. Plus, it’s a key component to soothe international relations; exposure to dance, music, the visual arts and food doesn’t need translation and enjoyment seems to come naturally for us. It’s what makes us human, after all.

I’m well into my art classes now with a very accomplished teacher and a small group of five women. We are working in acrylics and I’m enjoying the discipline of her class. It’s all about mixing colors, developing hue and tone, brush strokes and techniques for transparency and dimension, basics that I never got. It’s a wonderful retreat from the intensity of this enormous city; where, I take the subway, schlepping my supplies to the very micro-center of Buenos Aires for this class. The bonus is, my teacher, a Brit born in Chile ( just a few years younger than myself) who’s lived all over the world. She’s a multi-lingual, well traveled and very sophisticated lady. I feel so lacking, not being at least bi-lingual. However, a woman I met recently reminded me that most likely I’m good at other things. My teacher, her apartment, that’s what I’m getting to, could I just say is magnificent! It’s in the old French Consulate building that she and her husband bought it in 2007, gutted but keep the wonderful bones, including parquet floors, winding staircase and original tile work. As I’ve been telling you, the architecture in BA is fabulous, with many of the buildings built from the early 19th century when French, Italian, Spanish and Eastern European immigrants flooded here with their skills in masonry, tile work, glass and tile décor. In the 1930’s an interesting modernist movement brought a flood of new design. Some of the subway stations (built in 1913 and called the “subte” for subterraneo), have fabulous tile platforms.

New friends, that’s what’s keeping me going. I pretty much say “yes” to everything because, well, why not? The more I do, the more I experience and the more I enjoy life and let’s face it, that’s my whole purpose. Life and people are interesting, and I guess to others, so am I! Wow, that’s news to me because…. I wasn’t even interesting to myself a few months ago! So, in the end, it’s not the places, the architecture, the performances, honestly, it’s the people you meet and connect with. Friendship is wealth. With that in mind I returned again, for the third time to Casa Salt Shaker, the “closed door restaurant “ that I told you about. It’s familiar, comfortable and always, besides good food, you find, really interesting people. My new friend Marie, a beautiful Swiss woman was there as well. She told me she just doesn’t feel “Swiss”, as in, “it’s not the country where I feel alive”. So, she’s one of the “ex pats” who make up this diverse and wonderful, interesting culture in Buenos Aires. Oh, believe me , I am digging into these stories, and they are a big part of the changing world, the new world working force and, sophisticated people who are on the go, crossing cultural, age and country boundaries.

I was thinking the other day, in some ways this whole blog thing is both narcissistic and confessional. But, in the end, after all, I am an extrovert and I like to connect with new people and stay connected to you—whoever is reading this out there in the bogoshere! And, I think it’s fair to use my own life as a prism. After, all what else do I have except my life as a viewpoint? Does that mean what I have to say is unique or different, not necessarily, just mine!

It’s the week before Christmas and I can honestly say I’m glad I’m here. It’s a much lower key event, more at home with good food, not much decoration around and hardly any commercial aspect, except for the champagne and toroni candy and panetones that are in the markets. For me, I saved a tree this year! But, a group is forming for Christmas eve dinner and my Gabriella will be coming in that day (that’s my present) and we’ll have a beggar’s banquet. Different foods and drink from a pulled together group who miss home but know how to have a good time anywhere.

So, with my next blog, I promise photos as some friends have requested. I’m slow on the uploading thing. I’m working on it. For now, the best of holidays to all and keep those emails coming. Now, you can write back on my blog.

With love from Buenos Aires and besos!

Donna


making a home away from home

December 1, 2009

Recoleta Cemetary

School Children

Colonia, UruguayNow, it’s three and a half weeks into this sojourn and here’s my current thought; What the hell was I thinking? Leaving all the comforts of home and family, a community where I’ve made a place and all in easy to understand English, to boot! Damn, I must have been crazy! But, I did make that choice and I’m here and I’m pretty sure this would be something called “the one month buyer’s remorse”. As one friend commented, I am shedding a skin which feels itchy and feels good at the same time.

Part of the melancholy, is, it’s raining… a lot!! It doesn’t really rain in Boulder, certainly like this. I forgot what it was like to put on my cute little red Burberry jacket, and walk under my umbrella for ten or fifteen blocks and back to “do my business” for the day. And, then, wait out a particular hard down-pour in a little cafe, reading the Buenos Aires Herald en English with a coffee. I’m in no hurry, hardly need to be any where soon, so what’s to complain about. It’s just getting used to it.

Well, I’m feeling less like a tourist and more like a…a …visitor? I’m not sure the name. But, things are more familiar and I don’t get lost as much anymore and I can jump on and off the subway easily and I’ve found my favorite local empanada shop and wine store and they now greet me at my local lavadero with “hola, Senora Donna, and I’ve manage to ask them to iron several things and wash my blacks in cold water. Now, that’s taking care of business!

I took a little min-vacation to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay for a few days this past week. It was an opportunity to get across the river by a one-hour high-speed ferry and stay at a sweet little posado in the old city which, historically, went back and forth between the Portuguese and Spanish since 1680 or so. It’s a tiny charming town; cobbled streets, trailing bougainvillea hibiscus, palm trees, lemons dangling from branches and gently lapping waves of the Rio del Plata, which was named because the silver extracted further inland from Peru and Bolivia was floated down here on it’s way to Europe. And the big guys like Magellan and Drake had been here.

I had a perfect Thanksgiving dinner sitting under an umbrella over-looking the river at a place I had scouted out on the main plaza. Around 4:30 I had a big-ass fillet of beef with a mushroom sauce, lettuce and tomato salad and half a bottle of lovely vino tinto. I sat there for a full two hours, reading, being and then walked the loop up and around town again and topped it off with an ice cream cone, deep chocolate and coconut.

Which brings me to the wines of Argentina and Uruguay. Damn they are good! Some of these vineyards in Uruguay have been making wines since the Spanish and Portuguese were there and the climate I falls into the same latitude as South Africa and Australia, other wine producing areas. These Argentinian wines are good and inexpensive. A really nice estate-bottled Malbec or Tempranillo from the Mendoza region runs about US $6-8 a bottle. I can’t wait until Chris gets here and we spend some time in those growing areas.

Just when I start feeling frustrated or indulging in a bit of self-pity for not having this whole thing better together already, I think of several things. Both Alexis and Gabriella did this alone and as teenagers when they each lived in Spain. Oh, yes, you might say, they were young and blah, blah, blah, but, I’m older, wiser, have way more life experience and know-how so, I just think, they did it, so can I! For the record, throwing yourself out there does not get easier. Because while you get more practiced at it it’s still you and the world. You can do the thing that terrifies you and watch your world get a little bit bigger. Or you can do what you have done before and have your world shrink imperceptibly. As in, you will not notice it, whatever the size. There are still no rewards for the former but the former. There are no consequences to the latter but the latter. I’m just reminding myself of that, again which one of my blog gurus said . (see commicatrix.com)

 Damn, I was happy to back in Buenos Aries, my neighborhood and my apartment. I walked to the National Museum of Fine Art which has a nice collection of European and South American art, not The Met or The Louvre, but very nice. And, I went to the Eva Peron museum. Now, that is a woman you have to take a long look at. People love her or hate her but she was a kid from the ghetto who worked her way up to marrying the man who became President of Argentina and did a whole lot good for “the people” and is credited with getting the woman’s vote and to some, is almost a saint. I’ve always been fascinated with how people are born and somehow destined to leave their name in history. The woman was dead at age 33. That’s what I mean. What stars had lined up to make her life such?

On my stroll back from the museum, I passed the Recoleta Cometary again, it’s that amazing collection of architectural gems from pyramids to Greek temples as burial crypts and where all the founding fathers and Eva Peron is buried. It’s like a magnet to me, I just can’t walk by without walking in. My new friend, Adriana, said it’s my Scorpio rising sign. All I can say is it’s fascinating, laid out like a small city with street signs and a central plaza. Yes its a bit creepy, but so opulent and oddly serene.

Gabriella is coming for Christmas! We had a g-mail chat one day, she got on Orbitz and has a ticket for arrival December 24th. We’ll have a ball, a once-in-a- lifetime chance to experience this together and, gotta love this, she speaks Spanish! If she translates, you bet, I’m paying!

 I’ve tuned in to some interesting web blog spots recently. There are so many smart and interesting people thinking about and doing interesting things. I’m just having the time to dive in. I’ve read about The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen spent a year test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy. Now she’s producing a book on the same topic. And the website, TED Check It out.

If you haven’t’ listened to the very entertaining and witty talk by Eat, Pray, Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert, do yourself a favor. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

The the food blogs, and living in Buenos Aires blogs are so amazing too. Some days, I start with a cafe or bookstore or even a certain old building I’ve read about and make it my whole purpose to find it. Figure out the subway, map it out and It opens up the city, and exposes all kinds of interesting sights and experiences. I’ve always been fascinated by windows and doors, symbols of change, transition, and of course the mystery of what’s behind the closed door? This is a portal extravaganza!

And, to finish, let me tell you about some of the things I really like about being here;

 I like that everyone is always out and about. People don’t just get in their cars go to work and then, home alone. They spend time in between, parents and kids are having a coffee or soda together. Tons of people are in the cafes, talking, drinking a tiny coffee, or having a wine with a few chips, and walking those crazy dogs. I like that taxis are always there and they’re cheap. You just stick out an arm and they pull over, and I show them and address on paper and I’m there. I like the markets, the laundries the sheer number of small shops on each block, the beautiful bakeries, the wine shops, the ice cream shops. People walk arm in arm, burst out singing sometimes, kids are rowdy and teens are punky. They give a lot of besos (kisses) and often say goodbye as “chau, besos!” 

In spite of the dirt, clutter, decay and continual use for 400 years, people are sweeping and washing the sidewalks, re-doing whole buildings and arranging flowers on balconies.

Most of the time, I’ve stopped seeing everything from my own lens; as in “you’d never see that in the US” or we do it so much better in Boulder. Now, I just am amazed at how it all works, in a small area, with so many people and the sheer humanity of it all. And, that’s why I’m here, to look through a different lens, ask myself a lot of questions, paint what I am understanding and take it all in before its over.

All the best to you and yours, write when you can. You know how much I love hearing news from you.

Donna

The days are long, but the years are short”

from; The Happiness Project

You have to be willing to get happy about nothing”

Andy Warhol

 

 


Making my way

November 17, 2009

       So, every now and then I take a break to get my bearings, usually a coffee which is brought with a tiny cookie or two or maybe a tiny scoop of ice cream, it’s perfect. I like the Recoleta neighborhood and I am oriented here. This is where I want to live. It’s old and charming with big sycamores and ash trees-and lots of European architecture Oh, by the way, that apartment with the pool—pictures lie!

      I can see that many people who once had the good life, don’t anymore. They are renting rooms to people like me. Even the guest house where I stayed, the owners live upstairs, and are happy to have an income producing house which is another reason people love cash. It’s the under-ground economy, baby! The antique markets are full of wonderful silver tea sets, chandeliers, paintings, lace, books, whatever has value. The lesson? Buy good collectibles when you have money and always have a room to rent!

     Back to the apartments, they’re not cheap. Most are short term for tourists. I found a real estate person and paid her $100 US and looked at about seven of them. I found one in this neighborhood for about $500 a month…a modest but adequate place, not charming but I will take it through February. I’ll just say, it’s fine. I have a place to park and can take off from here. I start language school tomorrow and I’m ready to dig in to take a look at the history, music, art, architecture, food, wine, people and see why I’m here.

     Oh, I found a painting teacher, an interesting Chilean woman who lived in the UK and teaches and speaks English. I’ll meet her later this week to discuss classes.

     Every time I round a corner I see something wonderful and curious-for example; The Foundation School of Martin Buber or the Xul Solar art museum that houses paintings of this esoteric, visionary artist from the early 20th century. Or a mere shelf of a store with tiny tarts lined up perfectly. A small store that only sells pens and pencils or odd brass fittings. Terrific small wine bars are in this neighborhood and nice fresh pasta shops, and perfect vegetable and fruit stands—it’s berry and peach season and produce just gets better as the summer comes on.

     And, of course, The Recoleta Cemetery, it’s right here, ten blocks away. Sure, I’d read about the Recoleta Cemetery before my trip to Buenos Aires … but nothing prepared me for the enormity and intricacy of this historic place. With more than 6400 ornate stone crypts laid out along a street-like grid, this graveyard is an architectural masterpiece. The architecture reflects the passage of time and include Gothic, Neoclassic, Art Nouveau, Art Deco , even modern styles all grand, huge granite and marble monuments to the founding families, famous city builders, presidents and of course the tomb of Evita, or Eva Peron. It’s a photographers dream, wonderful images, difficult lighting.

     Evita, her name and face show up regularly; like at a gay pride parade I went to with some younger friends I met right away. The tee shirts and flags have Che and Evita; iconic symbols of revolution and radical chic. One woman explained Evita; revolutionary leadership, femininity and the mystical. Add her young and dramatic death–a legend!

       It’s interesting being on my own, thinking about the world, where I fit, the joy I can take in these simple but in some ways radical way to spend my days. I had a name for this beginner blog; La Faux Boheme, as in, I’m just pretending to be a bohemian as I have another more traditional life in Boulder==thank God. That name is taken. I’ll just stick to godonnie, when I’m ready to publish. So far, it’s nice to broadcast my world to you. Many thanks for writing back to me and for your encouragement! It’s been wonderful and rough!!

      Well, the week just got better. I moved in, dropped off laundry, shopped for fruits, vegetables, coffee and basics, found the language school, the bread shop, the ready to go roasted chickens and figured out the stove, black-out wooden shades, on demand water heater and the bidet.

     Then the perfect ending for this, might I say, daunting, first week.

     I went to Casa Saltshaker, a private, in-home dining salon for great food and conversation. As it turns out it was a dinner celebrating the annual feast of the Roman goddess, Feronia, who, is the goddess of first fruits (it is Spring here) and wouldn’t you know also, travel, freedom, fire, water and just about anything else. It was wonderful; great company of several nationalities, excellent food, service and the pleasure of being in someone’s home. It was fun to dress up, I wore heels and pearls and took a cab home at 1:30AM. Ah, so civil and lovely. Check out www.saltshaker.net and find similar dinner settings all around the world.

      Angel of the week award!!! Goes to my dear friend in Portland, Robert Reynolds, chef and teacher. Just when I was really feeling like a stranger in a strange land, he e-mailed me about his friends who were also here in Buenos Aires. I was in touch, they told me about casa saltshaker and then I met them for lunch today. Many thanks, Robert for taking the time to make the connections!!

      It’s hard to overstate the beauty, albeit faded, of the buildings, huge tree lined avenues, the amazing air, which gets cleaned regularly by fierce rainstorms that whip in—hence the name, Buenos Aires. The intensity of movement, the aliveness, the people who I can see I’m going to like; I ‘m working on some interviews with a few woman I met. And, its hard to overstate the deep longing I feel for those I love.

      Until next time, stay well and write when you have a chance. It’s like camp, I look forward to mail!

 Donna