Strange Days

29 Oct

The last few days have been odd. Wednesday was the Argentine National Census. By law, everything except emergency services was closed from 8 am until 8 pm. It was so quiet. Everyone really did stay home. It was eerily quiet.

Complicating the census was the fact that Argentina’s former President (and the husband of the current President) died unexpectedly.  His political legacy I’ll leave for others to figure out, but I am sad for the family. His wife, the President, was supposed to be on bed rest getting over the flu. Instead of rest, she has been sitting by his coffin as it lies in state. He was widely believed to have run his wife’s administration so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen now, but I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have no time to mourn out of the public eye.

On a lighter note, Wednesday gave me the opportunity to appreciate the many very odd Argentinian TV commercials.  My favorite has to be the Rexona men’s sensitive deodorant ad. Imagine a montage of manly men doing manly things – construction, training attack dogs, cutting down trees. All seems normal except that their armpits are singing “Mandy”. This is depicted by making the armpits of their clothes look like sock puppets. They stride into the drugstore and spray on the sensitive deodorant and the pits are silenced.  

With that profound image  I’ll end for now.

Cordoba

24 Oct

I spent last week-end in Cordoba. It is Argentina’s second largest city. It’s about a 2 hour flight west of Buenos Aires. Cordoba is very popular with Argentines, but foreigners tend to go there only on their way to wine country or as the closest airport to the hunting estancias in the Sierras.

You might be wondering why I picked this spot out of all the things to do in Argentina. I think it’s important to visit somewhere off the tourist track. Cordoba is popular with domestic tourists so I thought I’d check it out.

The center of town as well as the ranches or estancias outside of  town are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Jesuits were here early (just after Peru) 9and had a huge influence until their expulsion by  the King of Spain.

Sunday, which was Mothers’ Day, I took an all day excursion into the countryside to see the estancias. There are three important ones. Two have been turned into museums. The third is in private hands. The last one was my favorite. It is the private one and has beautiful decoration in the chapel. The statues were carved by indigenous people based on the stories the priests told. Since the Indians had no preconceived ideas of the appearance of Jesus and Mary, they used local people as models. For Mary, they used a woman who had had a stroke and had a paralyzed face. For Christ, they used a 33 year-old man (which was apparently an advanced age). The model had some kind of swelling disease so his legs are swollen and he has a rash.  Unfortunately no photos are allowed so I can’t share. They are very protective of the images and say only people who come in person may view them.

The estancias also served as homes for immigrants from Italy in the 1930s and 1940s. Argentina and Italy made an agreement to settle Northern Italians in Argentina. The immigrants didn’t know where in Argentina they would go until they passed through customs and were informed of their destination. The Argentines did settle groups together (another area is Welsh!).   This area is known for its Italian style wines and artesan meat products especially salamis.

I really enjoyed Cordoba. I met very nice people and my hotel (the Azur) was excellent. I would highly recommend Cordoba as a destination.

Some Random Notes on Argentina

13 Oct
  • The bread often comes with spreadable cheese instead butter.
  • In fact cheese is the gravy of Argentina. Pretty much anything can be smothered in cheese should you desire.
  • The graffiti is amazing. I  especially like the one created with stencils.
  • Taxis are super cheap – less than $5.00 to most places. Even cheaper is the metro at 27 cents no matter how far or how many lines.
  • I’m not sure how it’s genetically possible, but all of the men are tall and the women are short.
  • There are an amazing number of saddleries in Buenos Aires. It’s as if everyone is secretly keeping horses in their apartments.
  • Everyone is keeping a dog in their apartment. Most of them seem to favor large dogs which must take up most of the aforementioned apartments.
  • I love the way coffee always comes with little cookies and a shot of mineral water. For $2.00 you get an elaborate little service and you can stay at the table for as long as you want.
  • In general the cafes are miraculous. You can order anything from the delightful coffee to steak and it all comes out delicious and served professionally.  They even have linen napkins instead of paper.
  • There is a coin shortage in Argentina and anything low-priced is difficult to pay for because there isn’t enough change. YOu have to hoard your “small money” and spend it wisely.

That’s all for now. More this weekend from the city of Cordoba.

So far I’ve…

11 Oct

Let’s go back to last Thursday. Since I’ve mastered the washing machine, I decide to head out. I took the SubTe to Palermo district (smaller panic attack this time) so I could visit the Evita museum.

This museum is one of my favorites. It collects Eva Peron’s personal items and fabulous clothes and uses them to tell the story of her influence on Argentina. The museum is located in a former mansion that Evita turned into a home for single mothers. The building is lovely and they have a terrific cafe as well.  It makes me think of how strong an influence one person can have.

Friday, I went to Recoleta. This is the ritzy part of Buenos Aires. To start I went for lunch at El SanJuanino. This is a cheap restaurant in a fancy neighborhood. It specializes in empanadas and locro. Empanadas here are meat or cheese filled and bigger than Mexican empanadas. They are very yummy and available almost everywhere as a snack or a meal. Locro is a corn stew with mystery meat. The first time I had it I didn’t really know what was in it and I loved it. Now I know it has tripe (which grosses me out a little), but I just don’t eat the big chunks and it’s fine.

After lunch, I proceeded to Recoleta cemetery. I know it sounds odd to visit a cemetery, but this one is special. Each grave is a mausoleum or monument of some sort. The who’s who of Argentine history are buried here. There are some beautiful statues and buildings. It’s interesting to see the various styles from Victorian to art deco to mod 60s architecture. Some are quite well-tended and others are slowly crumbling. The cemetary is full now but families still continue to use the mausoleums. 

 There was a funeral going on while I was there. It seems odd to have such a personal ceremony in such a popular tourist spot, but I think the people buried here have always been well-known. The liked to see and be seen so such a public resting place is fitting.

Saturday, I took a little vacation from vacation and stayed the night at the Marriott. It is the oldest hotel in Buenos Aires and is quite lovely. There was a very noisy party in my apartment building that started in the morning. There was also a road construction project outside my bedroom. It seemed like a night of room service and tv in English was called for.  I snuggled in for the evening with room service pizza. At turn-down, they leave a candy bar on your pillow so I had dessert as well. I caught up on the news on CNN and watched Return of the Jedi. It seemed quite decadent!

Sunday, I ventured far into the suburbs for another polo match. It was the final of the Tortugas Cup at a country club. This match was even more exciting than the first one I saw. The score was close all the way through the chukkers. Not knowing much about horse shoes, I did wonder what kind they use since polo is played on grass. Whatever kind they are, they are very shiny. I don’t know if they are the same kind of ice shoes they use at Round-Up or something else entirely.

On the other hand, I can report that Argentinian children play under the bleachers and beg for money to get ice cream just like American kids. They also bring their little polo mallets to the match which seems like a recipe for danger, but the kids around me managed not to hit anyone.

For today, I don’t have any big plans. I’m going out for a walk. I might see a movie. I’ll report back later.

Hi, I’m not sure if you remember me…

7 Oct

But I used to write this blog. I just haven’t mastered being busy and blogging about it. Now though, I’m in Argentina and I will do my best to keep you up on what I’m up to.

I arrived October 1st. Luckily I have a great Mom who let me use her miles along with mine so I could fly first class. The downside  is coach looks really bad now. The lay flat seat makes a big difference on an overnight flight.

For the first few days, I’ve been getting settled into my apartment and learning the neighborhood. My apartment is in a lovely building with beautiful hardwood floors and lots of plaster work. After only a full day of trying I even figured out the washing machine. (Unplug hot water heater, plug in washer – so simple. I’ll have mine at home retrofitted!)

Monday I watched a polo match right in the center of Buenos Aires. It is the start of the season so it was free. In the tournaments they have early rounds like slack at a rodeo. The horsemanship is really amazing. I enjoyed it so much I’m going out to one of the Country CLubs Sunday afternoon to watch another match. 

Today, it’s pouring rain so I’ll head for a museum. I’m debating between modern art and Evita. I’ll let you know what I decide.

Studio Progress Report

10 Aug

The studio is perking along. Progress has been somewhat slowed by the lack of air conditioning, but they’re putting it in this week. I have some  furniure moved like a big work table and the Wonder Boy, Fabian, put together a big bin rack and shelves for me.

I love my work table. It is a dining room table that was in the house my mother lived in as a teenager. It’s top is some sort of 60s indestructible  wood grain material, but the legs are beautifully carved. The leaves are stored in it and come out automatically. I love having a table that is both perfect to work on and puts me in touch with the past.

I have already made some things in the studio. (Mainly I’m working on gift bags for the Art Center fashion show on September 8th. Each one is different so be sure to buy tickets and come get your loot. ) I am already overjoyed with the space. I can ink or paint bags and leave them to dry and still have an entire empty work surface. Oh Joy!

This week I am in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana for my grandmother’s memorial service. I’ll write more about that later and when I’m home I’ll post pictures of the studio’s progress (they’ll be really cool pics because the A/C is going in!)

A Large Vintage Purchase

2 Aug

 

The story of my studio:

Since I moved into my house about 4 1/2 years ago, the house across the street has been empty. I always admired its bungalow appearance, but I never dreamed of buying it. First, I never dreamed of it because I didn’t know I needed a studio. Then I figured it would never be for sale. Lo and behold, someone started working on it. I thought hmmmm. We started talking about how nice it would be if I could have a work space away from my house.

After a few months of work, I asked if I could look at it. When I walked through the door, I knew it was the perfect studio. It is a craftsman house built in 1915. There is beautiful, untouched woodwork. Even though I was in love, I didn’t really think it would work to actually buy it, but IT DID!

I won’t bore you with the details of the agonizingly slow march to closing. I will instead say that it feels like God directly saying, “Go ahead and be an artist.” What were the chances that the house across the street would be for sale, have perfect light, be my favorite style and have sat empty until the moment I needed it? It seems like God to me.

I’ll be keeping you up to date on the move-in, and I’d love to show you more pictures, but they aren’t uploading so I’ll put them on Facebook.