Life’s lemons

One of the main things I’ve learned on this trip (and I guess in life in general) is how to work with what you have. Here, it’s been things like the limited funds I’ve allotted myself or my certainly-less-than-fluent-but-mostly-functional Spanish skills when interacting with my host family and people at restaurants. At home, it’s been things like working on an early schedule and finding stuff to do when my friends aren’t a room away. And at school, it’s been things like cooking for one because it’s a lot harder than I thought.

But when I think about it, I don’t really have a method to my coping skills, whether they’re applied to tchotchke things like the aforementioned or serious things like death or divorce. I just… do it. It’s really frustrating because I’ve gotten to the age where these things happen more often, and I’ve been through them too, but either I’ve been so removed from it (my parents got divorced when I was six and I turn 21 in a month and change) or I haven’t been in exactly that situation, so not only can I not directly compare, I can’t explain my coping process to help others. This trip has been especially weird for that, having one friend’s parents start a divorce and three framily members lose a close relative in the span of a month. Obviously it’s all about them and their feelings, and I want to help, but I’m not much help when I just… do it.

Maybe that’s just it, then. Maybe there is no method, no rhyme or reason to how one adjusts to significant change or really any change. Maybe everyone just… does it, but getting there is different, and maybe all we can do to help our friends in times like this is to pick them back up and put them back on their own track.

And provide ice cream. Ice cream always helps. Happy National Ice Cream Day, estadounidenses, and happy Día de los Amigos, Argentines.

Delayed recovery

I was going to add this as an edit to the bottom of last night’s post, but I decided it should get its own. In addition to drinking two cups of coffee and actually being somewhat sociable Saturday, my laptop decided to crap out somewhere between the first café (con leche) and the 3D printing café. Thanks to the lovely full-time staff in the IT department at school, I knew how to at least diagnose my problem, though seriously, all you do is type in the problem and chances are someone will know what it is and how to fix it (it’s actually our first line of defense after turning it off and turning it back on again).

Anyway, it appears my BIOS battery has kicked the bucket, making it impossible for my crappy little Gateway laptop to get past the Gateway loading screen. It seems like a pretty easy fix, just open up the back, replace the little battery (it’s like what you put in a watch), and then off you go. The problem is that I don’t have a screwdriver here small enough, and I don’t really want to attempt PC repair here in Argentina, mostly because I don’t trust my Spanish enough to explain what I need without sounding like I don’t know what I’m talking about beyond “computer,” “broken,” and “screwdriver” (thank you, bartending classes).

To be fair, it’s also five years old and *ahem* still runs Vista, so it’s not like it’s a brand new computer, but if I can salvage it, that’d be cool. It crashed several years ago when my dad still had it, and he was able to bring it back to life, but other than that, there wasn’t anything wrong with it until this. Chrome works fine on it, Word works fine on it, Inkscape works fine on it, and none of my Steam games are compatible with my Mac, so…

Recovery

This past week was just weird on a few different counts. My article for last Monday was never edited because one of my editors was in Montana for a wedding and the other was busy doing real journalism on the vulture funds negotiations. I didn’t get a whole lot done otherwise because their schedules meant no meetings and no responses to emails, plus Wednesday was the semifinals and Independence Day. And today I braved the crowds and went to Plaza San Martin to watch the final, in which I got to deal with everyone smoking and drinking and lighting off firecrackers, and even now people are still honking and cheering, even though we lost.

But hey, some good things came out of it too. For one, stores will actually be open tomorrow, which is good because I have laundry to do and food to buy. I was a big girl and drank two cups of coffee in one day (granted, it was café con leche so more like coffee with training wheels, but I don’t drink coffee, so this is huge). I went to a pretty neat tango show Friday night like the super cultured person I probably should be.

The highlight, however, has to be finding a café that does both food and 3D printing. I know it’s an odd combination, but it’s a wonderful one considering how much I love both of those things. If you don’t have a 3D printer at home, you can give them a design or model and they can print it for you, or you can rent one or buy one to print your own stuff at home. If you do have one, they sell filament and will fix it if you break it.  And hello, it’s full of food and 3D printers. I’m not sure what else I need.

Bonus: They’re also looking to expand to other cities. If I had any money whatsoever, I would totally consider bringing this brilliant idea back to the States.

A map to guide us

I’ve been making my way around the city slowly, largely because of the PITF restaurants I want to visit, which got me thinking: maybe I should make a map of all the reviews so I can better coordinate my travels.

Somehow that ended up getting changed to making a map of my travels to show where I’ve visited, including the food places I’ve been to, but hey, it’s still a useful map for me to see where I’ve been and for my horde of adoring fans to know all the super cool places to visit.

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It’s a work in progress – as it is, I can already think of a place I missed – but it’ll help me out as I go. And who knows, maybe I’ll get around to making a PITF map too.

Part of the adventure

Part of the initiation process of any trip is getting lost. I’ve gotten a little mixed up here and there so far this trip, but today’s adventure was the first time in which I actually had to hail a cab to get back to where I was going. But hey, at least there’s a fun story with it. My program offers fun perks for its participants like free food when we get together to watch World Cup games and lots of tour opportunities. Last weekend, I attempted their tour of La Boca/San Telmo/Puerto Madero, but it had been cancelled without me knowing, so I ended up hanging out the rest of the day the other girl from the program who had also showed up. Not to be defeated this weekend, we actually RSVPed to the tour like we were supposed to, but we didn’t realize it was a walking tour and there was a tour bus that left at the same time, so we got on that instead because our directors said it was already paid for. Of course, the bus people had no idea what we were talking about and dropped us off at the next stop so we could get back, but then my sense of direction failed us and we ended up walking a few blocks in what ended up being the wrong direction before our guide called to ask us where we were. At that point, we ran a few more blocks before realizing it was the wrong direction, so we ended up hailing a cab and finally got back 20 minutes late. Whoops.

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Directional ineptitude aside, it was pretty neat to see other parts of the city we hadn’t been to before, and the end of the tour was two blocks away from another PITF site I had wanted to check out, so we ate dinner there on the way back to the subway.

Fooding it up

I’ve learned a lot of things in my time here, but when it comes to food, two main things come to mind: 1, it’s everywhere, and 2, it’s not cheap. Every block has a kiosco with all sorts of candy, and bakeries aren’t much less common. Combine that with the prevalence of restaurants and you’ll get what I mean. Unfortunately for those of us on a budget, it’s not exactly cheap either (well, cheaper than the States, yes, but when I’m trying to function on 100 pesos per day, it’s not fun).

But we’re not going to let that stop us from eating everything, are we? No! Of course not!

First order of foodly business: a DIY food tour of Buenos Aires courtesy of the recommendations on Pick Up the Fork. It’s a local restaurant blog with reviews of lots of different places to eat, and she often makes lists of good eats by categories like bakeries, sandwiches, vegetarian, or my personal favorite, cheap food. Since I have a lot of time to myself outside of researching for my articles, I’ve started visiting a few. Monday was DOGG, a hot dog place with all sorts of fun toppings and a great lunch deal (when I went, it was a hot dog with whatever toppings you wanted, fries, and a frozen lemonade for 46 pesos, which is about 5 bucks). Today I wanted some silly food way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but since I already used my hot dog credit this week, I hit 180 Burger Bar, which oddly enough is only a few blocks away from DOGG. Whoever decided to put tzatziki sauce (think that cucumber stuff you put on a gyro) on a burger is brilliant. I’m sure I’ll visit more places in the month I have left.

The second order of business was more of an instance of convenient timing than anything because the tenth annual Caminos y Sabores food fair was this weekend. It’s a big gathering of artisan foodmakers (and some crafty people) from around Argentina to showcase their goods. Wines, sweets, some delicious blueberry chocolate spread stuff, olive oil, mate, queso, salami, you name it. It was a bit pricy to get in (60 pesos), but a lot of stands had free samples, so you could sort of nosh your way through the fair. There was a lady there selling “exotic smoked meats” like boar, venison, pheasant, etc, and I ended up buying some because it was yummy and she was nice. (I would’ve bought some blueberry stuff too, but artisan stuff is expensive and I only had 70 pesos left on me.)

And now I just have to find a way to bring back my stupid Kinder eggs without getting taken into custody or something. Yippee.

I’ve been published!

For real, I mean. I love writing for school publications, but this will hopefully reach more readers than my family. So if you’re looking for fun science things to do in Buenos Aires, here you go :) Beyond that, not much else to say for today other than a fruitless walk to go find food that ended in empanadas at the place across the street from the apartment (2 empanadas and a Milka cookie for 30 pesos).

Argentine oddities

Hooray for having survived a week (sortof) on my own in another country! It’s been pretty neat so far. The food is good, the city is fun to walk around, my family is nice, and it’s all pretty casual. (Just ignore the whole vulture funds thing and we’ll be ok.) I had a list at the start of things I was going to have to get used to, like the whole ll/zh thing and Latin time, but there are still a few things I don’t entirely get:

  • Why everyone smokes. I know that it’s still a thing people do, and I guess I’m willing to overlook the older generations because they weren’t beat over the head with the dangers of tobacco use in health clas like we were. What slays me is that 1, so many people smoke (and of all ages, so you know they went through the class), and 2, that they do it when it says right on the box that smoking kills people and causes asthma in kids and makes your legs fall off. Right on the box. Pictures and everything. And they still do it. Whyyyyyyy.
  • Why restaurants charge a cover. I had to ask my host mom about this one, and she said that in the past, the taxes in the bill were split between the restaurant owner and the goverment or whatever, but now it all goes to the government, so the cover is just pocket money for the restaurant owner and a point of competition between restaurants. It’s not the end of the world (last night mine was 15 pesos, which is like US$1.50), but when I’m on a budget and planning on spending 50 pesos on dinner, an surprise 15 more is annoying.
  • Why a lot of shoes sold here have really thick platform soles. I’ve seen chunky heels and not thought anything of it, but a lot of boots and leather shoes have 2 inch platforms. It’s not like Argentines are especially short, either (there were times in Ecuador where I felt like a giant, and I’m only 5’5″ on a good day). I guess they just really like clunky boots.
  • Oh, and the dog walking here is odd, but in a fun way. I didn’t think professional dog walkers existed in real life until last Tuesday when I saw one guy with like 15 dogs.  All sizes of dogs too, and I was impressed that the big ones didn’t trample the little ones. I’ve seen a handful of them since. Some dogs also walk themselves, either with their leashes in their mouths or just walking next to their humans. I know dog walking is pretty mundane, but this was pretty cool.
  • Update, July 1: And the poop. All over the sidewalk. I’ve probably stepped in it three or four times already. I’m ok with them being lax on leash laws, especially since the dogs here seem to be well behaved, but good god, pick up after your pets!

A plea for the Kinder Surprise

I care about this more than I really should, so here goes.

Having friends outside the US has made me more aware of some of the silly things that we do, like not providing free healthcare or calling the sport you play with your feet soccer (honestly calling it football makes more sense than calling our football football, but I digress) or, most importantly, making Kinder eggs illegal.

I can understand that people want their kids not to choke on things, and putting toys inside food is risky. But I would like to think that people aren’t seriously stupid enough to let that sort of thing happen, not to mention that the egg itself is kinda designed to prevent that. Let’s take a look.

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“Attention: Toy not appropriate for children younger than three years. The small parts can be ingested or inhaled. Adult supervision is recommended.” There you have it, in prominent letters on the wrapper: don’t give this to little kids, and watch your children when they do eat it. Yeah, it’s in Spanish, but that’s because I bought it in Argentina. American ones would probably be from Canada and therefore be in English.

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I forgot to put my hand in for scale, but these things are like 2+ inches long, bigger than a normal egg. If your kids can fit that whole thing in their mouths, I’m impressed.

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The open egg and toy capsule. If you shake the egg, even in the wrapper, you can hear and feel the capsule inside. The egg isn’t that thick. The capsule is also pretty big and very obviously plastic and not chocolate.

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And in case you didn’t read the outside label (or have any common sense), the toy inside the capsule comes with instructions.

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In 37 languages.

Apparently there was legislation back in the ’30s saying you can’t have inedible things inside edible things. Makes sense, but it’s not like no one knows there’s a sizeable toy inside. After some fun importing issues, the FDA reissued the warning, saying “The embedded non-nutritive objects in these confectionery products may pose a public health risk as the consumer may unknowingly choke on the object.”

…seriously? There’s a warning label outside. You can hear it when you shake it. It even says “SURPRISE” on the outside. How on earth does someone not know there’s a toy inside?

But no, because some children died choking on these things, parents fought to get them banned. The losses are tragic, of course, but this sounds more like a parental neglect issue (not reading the instructions on the package and not following them and watching their child).

I may be exaggerating a bit, but I think it’s stupid that someone can purchase weaponry specifically designed to kill people rather than animals (let’s be honest, hunting game with an assault rifle would destroy the meat), but I can’t buy a Kinder egg because “it’s a choking hazard.” It’s stupid that someone can commit a sexual assault and walk off free, yet if I bring back any Kinder eggs, I could be fined $2500 EACH. It’s stupid that of all the things that have killed people, they picked this one to go on a crusade against.

Pick your battles, US, and let me have my damn Kinder egg.

Choripán and champagne

One of these things is significantly better than the other, but you have to guess or read on to find out which one. It’s a Friday night and I probably should be out with people, but I never went out at school where I had friends, so it’s a little difficult to do it here where I still don’t really know anyone. Nevertheless, I’ve been on a few adventures of my own around the city. Alright, I didn’t do a whole lot Monday, largely due to sleeping in til 12 (I hadn’t gotten much sleep on the bus from Bahía to Quito, ok?) I spent most of the day inside putting my clothes away and whatnot, and then I went to my orientation thing for The Bubble, which is the online publication I’m writing for while I’m here. It’s super chill, everyone is cool, and I’ll be doing science stuff in addition to working on a dictionary of Lunfardo (Argentine slang). Tuesday was mostly walking on Santa Fe, which is a pretty central street a block up from the apartment. I had to go to the money transfer office to pick up my pesos, but because I was told not to carry my real passport in case it got stolen, I only had a copy of it on me and they wanted the real thing, so I had to walk all the way back home and then all the way back to the office. And then I spent way too much money on stamps and a super awkward romantic lunch by myself. Wednesday: I finally met other people in my abroad program, which was nice. We watched the Argentina/Nigeria game at a bar and ate cheesy fries and I even suffered through a cup of beer (seriously, I don’t get why people drink it because it’s gross), but aside from the beer, it was fun. After that, I went to the natural science museum as part of an article I’m writing on science attractions around Buenos Aires. It was a lot like the one in NYC, but it was very Argentina-centric, so there were a lot of new things to learn. Yesterday: To continue my science tour, I went to the Participatory Museum, which is basically a science museum designed so you can (and have to) touch everything. It’s all buttons and cords and levers and stuff you interact with to see the science in action. The Bubble also had their monthly champagne party, so after missing the bus, stepping in dog poop, and almost getting off at the wrong stop, I got to not know anyone there beyond my edit0rs and suffer through a glass of champagne before leaving an hour after I got there. And then I had to explain to my host mom why I was home so early. (On telling this story to a friend back home, the response I got was “wow you are awkward as hell, but I already knew this.”) Today: In recovering from the stress of last night, I went to the planetarium to check out a show they had on collisions in space, like nuclear fission in the sun, how the moon was formed, and how the dinosaurs were killed. I also got a chorizo sandwich (choripán) from a street vendor, which was cool. I finished up my draft of the article and poked one of my editors to have her look it over before I publish, being the first article and all. And now here I am. Oh, and all week I’ve been working on finalizing my family for an RPG that the aforementioned friend and his buddies are working on because that’s what happens when you’re in Ecuador and have to stay inside most of the day in fear of getting burnt.