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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Why I Don't Write (Anymore)

I notice that, as usual, a decent percentage of the people coming here are coming from the Footprints Recruiting website. If you happen to be reading this and coming from there, start back at the beginning, January, and go on through to June and you will find lots of pictures from Taipei and around Taiwan, and more importantly, you will find a lot of stuff about teaching and life there.

Yesterday it rained for the first time since I've been in Argentina. I felt like I was back in Taipei. Rain coming so hard that an umbrella was meaningless. My shorts were soaked all up the front, and splattered in the back. My new shoes were soaked, squeaking as I walked. Water was pouring down the sidewalks, across the whole sidewalk, a foot deep. Down the street, too, so there was no escape. I was on my way to the gym and had to turn back. I didn't know it rained like that here.

I came back to Nati's house, where I am staying. Her mom made me lunch and I sat down to work on a story. I have been working on stories a lot lately, new stories and old stories, anything that I can submit to magazines. Something I am finally doing.

For a long time now I have found it hard to write here (here being this blog). It started somewhere near the end of my time in China, and then was exacerbated in Myanmar because there was just no chance to do it. When I got home I had nothing to say. Now that I am here, I sit in front of the computer and try to get excited about the idea of writing something for an inconsistent audience that for the most part doesn't know me and more often than not moves on after a quick viewing of whatever is at the top of the page. I try to remember the mornings in Taipei, when I made myself get up at 6 AM to write for a few hours on this blog, even though no more than 10 or 15 people might come by on a given day. It was an excuse to write, and since I did not have the energy to work on stories at the time, it was the best I could do.


There is a lot of traffic outside and it is eleven at night. I've had a busy day. I worked out, took a lot of pictures, worked out a story that is almost ready to send off, figured out a few other things that I want to write, helped Nati tutor a couple of kids and read a book. In less than a week I start my Spanish classes. I don't feel busy yet, but I can feel it coming on. I don't know how much time I will have to write, here anyway.

My undershirt is sticking to my back. I can almost smell the stink starting to take hold on my body. It has been comfortable most of the days and nights here, but tonight it is humid inside. There is the smell of fresh paint because some workers from Peru just painted the front of the house and the door sized shutters on the windows. I am going to stop writing now, and I don't know when I will write on this page again - although I will try to put some more photos up soon. If you do come to this page, and you haven't been here before, and you are interested in Taiwan, or China, or Laos, or Cambodia, or any of the islands around Taiwan, or teaching, then maybe you should see some of the stuff that I posted in the past. Otherwise move on as soon as you come.

Oh, and one final thing. I put a picture up on Ebay. It is called Sunrise over Lake Karakul...no one has bid on it yet. If anyone is feeling charitable, the auction ends on Sunday afternoon (and if not this picture, I will be putting more up there soon, I think)...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Progress

So, are you interested in learning Spanish in Buenos Aires? I have not started yet but it looks like I will study at Lenguas Vivas, a school near Nueve de Julio, the wide street running through the middle of the city. The cost? 400 pesos a month, with classes lasting about three weeks, for four hours a day, Monday - Friday...although the more advanced classes (and there are five levels) only meet Mon-Thursday, and thus cost less. What does 400 pesos cost in American dollars? About $133.
What else have I managed to do in the almost one week Ive been in B.A? I managed to take some of the photos posted over the weekend. I managed to join a gym today, about a 15 minute walk from Natalia's place (60 pesos the first month, 55 the second, and 50 the third). I've also dropped off a resume at an American school - and found out that with schools here you have to take care of getting your own work visa, at least at the schools I talked to. One of them, the Wall Street Institute, pays just 8 pesos an hour, at least according to the secretary, which works out to about $2.50...not really worth it, I think. It seems that the rough going rate for private lessons is about 25 pesos and hour, give or take, and I think if any money is to be made here, that would be the way to do it.
Over the weekend we walked quite a bit, went to a somewhat somnambulent mass in an Anglican Church - a gorgeous building in one of the wealthier neighborhoods, Belgrano. We walked around loving the houses and enjoyed a nice brunch, croissants, eggs, cafe con leche, on a sidewalk at a corner cafe, reading the Sunday paper while people walked their dogs. Then we met some of N.'s friends from Chinese church and went to another cafe for cakes, coffees, smoothies, or wine.
On Friday we had gone out for drinks in Palermo, an Irish bar that went from almost empty to mostly full at around 1:30, a time when all the other bars were packed and getting more packed. Saturday was window shopping and neighborhood strolling and movie watching.
So, after one week, the verdict...if you have a chance to come to Buenos Aires, do it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mom's Cat

 
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A Kind Man on a Bench in a Park in Downtown Buenos Aires

 
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Hand

 
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Street Vendor

 
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Protester

 
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Family Portrait

 
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Eyes

This is a girl who was performing on a pedestrian walkway downtown. As far as I could tell her performance involved not moving.
 
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Boutique

Palermo is a trendy neighborhood full of bars, cafes, restaurants, young people, tress, and nice houses.
 
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Looking Out

 
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Corner Shop

 
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Old and New

A mix of architecture.
 
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Down the Street

Another building shot.
 
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Phone Booth

I took this photo in honor of my friend Jeff, who was kind enough to share a number of photography books with me, including one by an artist who took a lot of images like this one.
 
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Passing Time

After I took this picture, this guy noticed me and asked where I was from. Then came the Bush question. Then he said his favorite presidents were Clinton and Kennedy - the third guy to say this to me.
 
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Digging for Gold

At night, you see a lot of trash piled up on the side of the road, pulled out of bags by scavengers. Here a man searches for treasure in the middle of the day.
 
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Homeless

I've already seen a lot of homeless people...a lot of them in the park, with all their belongins on the bench beside them.
 
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Exercise

In the parks you will see people sleeping, kissing, reading, watching, and sometimes exercising. In the background is the Argentine version of Big Ben, just near the train station.
 
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Kissing

There are lots of people to be seen making out in Buenos Aires...these two were going at it for a good five minutes.
 
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Cafe Life

When I pictured Buenos Aires before arriving, the image was of sidewalk cafes everywhere, populated by well dressed and attractive men and women sipping cafe or wine or beer...pretty much spot on.
 
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How to Pass the Time on a Perfect Day

In Buenos Aires, by sitting around and doing nothing.

 
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Sleeping

There is a definite sense of being relaxed in B.A. - much more laid back than in Taiwan...still, I dont know if I could sleep right in a small park in the middle of the widest street in the world.

 
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Obelisk

This is the obelisk that marks the center of Buenos Aires.
 
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Thursday, January 19, 2006

The First Full Day

Buenos Aires is big, that much I know. As to what all it holds, I canĀ“t yet say - it might take awhile to get through all the streets, find all the nooks and crannies. Actually, it would probably take a lot longer than awhile. As it is, here is what I }saw today: a lot of people making out. A couple lying in the grass near the obelisk in the center of the city as hundreds of cars drove by, the girl staring at the guy with the most "I want to mmmm you" face that I've ever seen and then devouring his mouth for the next five minutes. Then, on a sidewalk near a small park, a stunning woman tongueing a rotund guy for at least five minutes as two guys surrounded by trash bags looked on. I got decent pics of both these events. I also saw a lot of people lying around, taking in the sun.
I saw the nicest interior of a McDonalds I have ever seen (and no, I did not eat there). It was old school, old money Europe inside, with a marble fireplace in one room and I could not help but hate McDonalds even more because what should have been a warm wood floor was covered in that awful white and black tile. I visited a 100 year old school, the place I will probably take Spanish class for about 100 US a month. I also had a beer in a large airy cafe, was lectured about the history of the Americas by a guy on a bench near the Congress building, photographed my first Argentine protest (it seems there is one a day - this one was for people whose houses are being taken away...speaking of which, anyone know what happened in the Supreme Court case with the people in Norwood who were fighting pretty much the same thing?) watched an adorable boy feed pigeons (and was quite flattered when I heard the mom tell the boy he was being photo'd by a professional, a notion I did not disabuse her of), was asked my feelings about good old xiao bushi a few times (although here it is just Bush), ate two scoops of tiramisu gelato in a thick sugar cone, checked out the closest gym (less than $20 a month), wrote a bit, kissed my girlfriend several times, hung out at her office for awhile (and witnessed all of her coworkers come in at least two hours late), chatted with one of her coworkers about a musical he is writing, drank coffee, avoided stepping in dog crap, admired several beautiful people, stared at performers on a pedestrian street, inquired about a teaching job, had my hair cut (the last time was in Myanmar, and the time before that China...I think thats pretty cool), clipped my fingernails, ate some fresh pineapple, shook my head at lots of awful graffiti, admired a famous ceiling painting inside a old mall, and watched the same CSI Miami that was on last week in the U.S. All in all a pretty good day.

And an afterthought...Yesterday I mentioned that there is now a site will my Myanmar photos. There is a link at the top of the page to get to that site.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

En Argentina

Si, yo estoy (or is it soy here) en Argentina. And I am trying to remember how Spanish sounds but Chinese keeps bubbling to the surface. Five hours last night at Miami International Airport, reading, writing, taking pictures of Koreans and chatting with young children on their way to Uruguay...the girl about three and running around showing me how fast she was and the boy, seven, asking me what I was writing, asking if I would write a story about them. In fact, they are about to enter into the story I was writing when the little girl asked me what I was doing.
Arrived in Buenos Aires at 9 this morning. The airport out in flat countryside, a half hour from the city. We drove in through downtown, along the widest avenue in the world and down past the obelisk that marks the center of the city. European buildings and fashionable people under a sunny sky, temperature about 78.
Met Natalias parents and had to remember how to speak Chinese (more because we went to eat at a Chinese restaurant tonight). Natalia and I walking like two new lovers holding hands and smiling disgusting smiles walking along the river, past upscale restaurants with full patios, beer and wine drinkers, long lazy lunches. We ate two big steaks and had a beer and watched pigeons devour any food that touched the ground as a long row of fans turned in unison and our waitress tried to figure out what the hell she was doing.
Walked more than, and then got on the underground, train tracks surrounded by stones and pebbles, the tunnels dim. Got off near Palermo and walked around, boutique shops and outdoor cafes and restaurants and bars and nice houses and apartments bringing a once down area alive. Then two hours in a cafe while Natalia tutored before heading off to the aforementioned Chinese dinner. After dinner a late night walk along dark streets, avoiding the largest dog turds Ive ever seen, piles of trash and tossed clothes scattered across the sidewalks, falling into the street, torn out of trash bags by scavengers seeking treasure.
Now Im watching CSI.
Im also very tired. If you come across this post and are curious to see what Myanmar looks like, check out http://www.outintheworldmyanmar.blogspot.com.
Im hoping to go out tomorrow and take some pictures here...celebrating the fact that I finally have lenses for my camera again, after having my lens go bad in Myanmar. And maybe Ill get around to finding a school to study Spanish in and doing all the other things Im going to have to do at some point since it looks like Ill be here for awhile...