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Archive for October, 2010

First, a few quick updates for those less interested in our beer-tasting notes:

  • We both passed our written and oral Spanish exams this week.  Tyler got an excellent score of 89% overall and has officially completed Level 3 and will be moving on to Level 4 on Tuesday.  He’s now in the Upper-Intermediate Cycle, woohoo!  I passed my class (Level 6, Upper-Advanced Cycle) with an astonishing overall score of 90%.   I honestly thought I would get a low-B at most, and Tyler thought he would have to repeat his class, so we are both pleasantly surprised.
  • Theoretically this coming week I’ll start my internship at ConcienciaR2A hasn’t set up an interview yet, so I still don’t have any details.  Once I know my schedule, I’ll probably continue taking private Spanish lessons through the UBA/CUI, or continue onto the advanced cycles of classes if I have time. For now, I’m looking forward to some free-time.
  • There’s recent photos of what we’ve been up to here.

the Taster at Antares

Imagine a terrible, terrible land, where the only beer to be had is water/urine colored, tastes about the same, or, if you’re lucky, it might be skunky, a mediocre stout, or an overly sweet red.   And the latter three are considered novelties and are almost impossible to find in a restaurant or bar and have to hunted down in select supermarkets.  You begin to feel blessed if you can find Heineken, like it’s the best day of your life if it’s on tap.  No, this isn’t the American Midwest, and no, the delicious, well-priced Malbecs do not make up for it.  Sometimes,  you just need a good micro-brew, or even, just beer that’s not from a bottle.  And that is like a treasure-hunt in Buenos Aires.

After some internet research and a conversation with a fellow Oregonian (an adopted Oregonian, like myself), we discovered Antares, a micro-brewery near our house.  They even have a few locations throughout Argentina.  Intrigued, I hunted down their website to see if they were the real-deal, to see if they existed, to see how high the prices were.  All seemed fair and real enough (AR$ 24 per pint, or about US$6 – a little pricey but worth the pain), so we went.

They server little beers with dessert, what could be better?

And it’s my new favorite place.  Besides often having to wait to get in if you arrive past 9:30 (they have a strange system here of “one person in, one person out” after they reach capacity, but that means that if you’re a group of 3, you have to wait until a table of 3 leaves to get in, which means you never know how long you’ll have to wait and the door person will get very annoyed with you if you try to ask.  This isn’t Antares fault however, it’s a Buenos Aires thing.) the place is great.  They place good music (in Spanish and English), it has a great atmosphere that’s a little trendy without overdoing it, and they have a really nice bathroom setup that’s hard to explain. Plus, the food isn’t bad either, though, as always, it is in an adorable Argentine “I’m trying to be like chili-cheese fries but I just can’t handle an iota of spice” sort-of way that applies to pretty much everything they consume here.  It even carried over into the beers a little bit. Overall they seemed a little timid of bold flavors, but managed to make some interesting brews that will keep us coming back when we get our cravings.  Plus, if we come during happy hour (oddly, its literally an hour, 7-8) they’re 2 for 1, which is hard to beat.

The offerings, with our notes:

  • Oktoberfest:  they tried to make a traditional German-beer here and really just failed.  It was the first one I tried so I know my taste-buds weren’t deceiving me.  It just tasted like beerish-sparkling water.  But, it was a special offering which I considered to be a bonus taster, so we won’t hold it against them too much.
  • Kolsch: This beer also had the watered-down factor working against it, but it also had some ever-so-faint flavors of flowers and light fruits, and was quite refreshing.  Serve with the (Tyler: AMAZING, Sharon: weird, not sweet-enough, graham-cracker-flavor lacking crust, but amazing whipped cream and blueberry sauce) cheesecake and we won’t complain.  Sidenote: Tyler and our roommate Michael made me go back here the next day to eat the cheesecake again.
  • Scotch: This was a version of a red ale, that I remember as more or less being overly sweet and somewhat uninteresting.  Pass.
  • Honey Beer: This was the winner for me.  It’s refreshing, has a medium-body, with perfectly balanced flavors of honey, white flowers, and citrus without being overly sweet.  Plus at 7.5% alcohol it’s got a little bang for it’s buck.
  • Barley Wine: A close second to Honey Beer, and probably Tyler’s favorite.  This has a whopping 10% alcohol level and reminds me a bit of Hales’ Wee-Heavy Winter Ale.  Its surprisingly well balanced with some malty-sweetness and hopiness. My second choice.
  • Porter: It’s a decent porter; even better when you put vanilla ice cream in it.  Has good chocolate and coffee notes.
  • Cream Stout: In the Irish style of Guinness, this is a pitch-black stout that’s frothy, smooth, and chocolaty-sweet. Not my thing but others really like it.
  • Imperial Stout:.  Now here’s a stout I love. With an 8.5% alcohol level to stand up the malty-sweetness, it’s a much more interesting and balanced beer, like dark chocolate, roasted espresso, and tobacco.  My third favorite.

Overall, we like this place: it’s close to our house, the service is decent, and they have amazing desserts and promising looking apps and entrees. Plus, we’re really excited to finally have a little taste of northwest-style micro-brews!

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Here’s a short video of a Tango Show we went to last night for free with our school, CUI. It’s not your typical tango music; an Argentine friend with us said it was “muy piazolo,” meaning it was more the equivalent of “punk tango.” We still hope to go to a “real” tango show with fancy dancing and dinner, but this will do for now! Anyway, it was a very cool, very unique show. Enjoy. The group’s name, I think, is Orchestra Fernandez Fierro.  I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the video, but you’ll get the idea.

Also,  here’s a link to some recent pictures from when we went to an amazing park near our house.  Much more to come!

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Thoughts of the Now!

 

Bs. As. From the coast

 

So, as a minor amount of spooning was taking place last night, my wife asked me how I liked Argentina. I told her that I liked it, but I think I lied. Truth be told, I think I love it because I only like it. It can be so easy sometimes to point to ones circumstances as the cause for ones behaviors and emotions that I think it’s really healthy to not be in a place you love too much. Not that I would, say, object to staying  in a pool of beer and computer games where my wife would deliver cigarettes to me in her underwear every morning, but I think it would not be a healthy place for me to spend more than a week….and it would probably ruin my computer games. I guess that in Seattle, I had somehow convinced myself that the problems in how I live and how I think were a result of living in a place I disliked.  “I drink a tad too much ‘because I’m stressed and sad a lot. I’m stressed and sad because I don’t have anyone to carry on any sort of meaningful conversations with, I’ve disengaged from the church, my community, and humanity because they’re crazy, they’re frustrating, they’re shallow, and pretentious; they walk around completely dead inside but refusing to stand still, their little rubber bands not quite unwound.  It’s their fault that I refuse to go be a part of the world.

I’m really pretty glad that I got down here and found a strictly average city to live in. It sounds weird but I’m just glad that Buenos Aires didn’t give me the ability to cop out and point at how great everything is down here as opposed to Seattle. I still lose my temper at Sharon when we miss a bus even though it’s not her fault. I’m still incredibly lazy (made it out of bed by 10:30 this morning though!!). I’m still struggling with follow-through in my studies.  Argentineans haven’t solved the problems of air and noise pollution. That old guy with the horribly ugly coat seems to have moved down here with me ‘cause he is still always hobbling along in front of me when I’m late somewhere, and I still have an almost irresistible urge to tip him over. I still eat pretty average meals. It’s great!  I feel divinely blessed for the opportunity to live up to the facts about myself. That I can be crazy, frustrating, shallow, pretentious, and basically just dead on the inside….and I can also tack judgmental on there. Long story short, I am just extremely happy to have been given another opportunity to find things about a community, a city, a country, continent and life that are good and worth being appreciated without being handed them on a silver platter. Wish me luck and thanks for making it all the way through my random stream-of-consciousness. Weather’s great. Wish you were beer.

-Tyler

Ps. Sharon’s got some more pictures from our trip here.

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our room

Needless to say, we’ve made it safe and sound to our new (temporary) home in Argentina.  After more than 15 total hours of flight time, one 7 hour layover, and a looong taxi ride, we arrived at the home of Julia Massero, a lively single (divorced) mother of one 13-year-old adopted son, Emmanuel.  There is also another international student here from Switzerland (the German-speaking part) named Michael.   There’s no pet kitten, but, they do have a pretty cute dog named Catalina (“the fat guard dog” as Julia calls her). We’re on the seventh floor of a building with one tiny, very old, elevator, and our room has a large balcony. We also have a tiny TV, just enough closet and storage space, and, our favorite feature: wifi!

After finding our very friendly, pre-reserved taxi service, eventually we pulled up to our home-stay where Julia, our host mom, was waiting outside at the door with Catalina to greet us each with the standard kiss on the cheek.  She immediately had us set our bags down and join her for a cup of coffee (unfortunately a Nescafe like substance seems to be the standard here unless you get espresso from a café).  Apparently they told her word for word everything we wrote on our home-stay questionnaire – including my comment about Tyler loving lots and lots of coffee!   We talked about our families, Tyler too tired to really comprehend much (he slept maybe 2-3 hours total in route, poor guy) and I was struggling to remember tenses and irregular conjugations after an entire month without using hardly a word of Spanish.  However, Julia speaks decent English, so when I struggle so far we’ve been able to communicate a sort of improvised Spanglish version that gets the point across.

After a bit of time to unpack, organize our things, and get oriented studying maps, we were off to the Road2Argentina office for our orientation that afternoon.  There we met two other young folks from England also doing their orientation, and some of the Road2Argentina staff.  We got ourselves acquainted with many of the customs in Buenos Aires (we hope to gather enough coins to take our first bus ride this week – it should definitely be an experience worth blogging about – the bus system here is insane!), had our first “real” mate, and were invited back tomorrow to learn the proper mate customs and have some pastries (medialunas) with other students at the student residence, which is next-door to the office.

After our orientation, we just sort of walked around in search of our perfect first snack in Buenos Aires.  Dinner isn’t typically until 8:30 or 9 here (and that’s the earlier version) so it was a necessity.  After making our way back to our neighborhood via metro, or subté as they call it here, we spent a good chunk of time wandering the streets of neighborhood, seeing what’s around us.  Apparently in Buenos Aires hardly anyone owns a washing machine or does their own laundry.  They take their bags of dirty clothes to the neighborhood lavandería, wait a few hours, pay a few bucks, and get their items back, cleaned, dried, and folded in a neat bundle – I know I am going to love this!  There are at least 3 laundry places within 2 blocks in any direction from us, so it should be quite convenient.  While wondering, we stumbled upon a semi-chic section of blocks with numerous shops, an organic café, a giant Catholic church/school, cafes, and so forth.  The shops included several dangerous ones: including no less than three adorable, reasonably priced shoe shops (I left my boots behind and am feeling very left out here as everyone, I mean everyone, has a great pair of boots), a North Face store and a Columbia Sportswear store.  We also finally found our first snack: a hole in the wall empanada and pizza place.  We each had two different empanadas, once that was sort of spicy beef and onions, one that I swear was grape leaves, another chicken, and another labeled “roquefort” but it was actually brie.   Having no other empanadas to judge them by, I’d say they were about average, but for US$ 0.50 each, we can’t complain much.  After some more wandering I braved myself to go purchase the cheapest hair 220 volt straightner I could find, and ended up with one that I’m pretty sure is nicer than the one I have at home.

After that we returned home for our first dinner, which was a tuna salad with eggs, carrots, cabbage, corn, peas, and tomatoes, with a potato fritter-type thing.  Julia is very nice, full of energy, and very talkative, so meals have been pretty fun, and it’s nice to have to plan two meals a day.

After dinner, despite having two cups of coffee, we happily, finally went to sleep.

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