Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting the blog back on track

Hello again. I've decided to get the blog up-to-date whatever happens today, even if it means writing a haiku or a one-word summary of the last few days. It'll probably start with a flourish and end with a whimper, but at least I'll be able to go out this evening relaxed in the knowledge that I've done as much as I can to keep you posted.

Right, Tuesday is probably going to be more detailed, because it was the last day I actually wrote an entry in my diary, so let's start with that (I can just copy it word for word!):

Tuseday 23rd November 2010

After a good night's sleep I woke up to an empty house, well almost empty, because Amalia, the cleaner, was downstairs. I had been warned about this the night before, plus the fact that I would need my best Spanish to communicate, so it didn't come as a total shock. Well, I managed to understand when she asked if I was having breakfast inside or out (outside, obviously!) and from there our conversation progressed onto the good old stand-by topic of the weather.

After breakfast (Italian style) I went to meet Axel at the hotel where he works. It's a lovely boutiquey place only a few blocks from where Camila lives (I'm having to get used to everything being in blocks here, much like in the USA). We then went to the bank (successful extraction of Pesos) before heading back to Camila's for lunch. After lunch I spent a while catching up on internetty stuff (wow, this is informative stuff... I'm even boring myself here!) before Martín and Juliette came proferring cakes. OMG, what an abundance of goodness! I managed 3 with a cup of tea (thus allowing this little rhyme). Martín ate eight! Yes, you read that right. It is one more than seven.

I had previously agreed with Axel to go out with him, Carolina and Lourdes for an aperitif. So, no sooner had I licked my lips clean of sugar, than I was sat in a pavement cafe in Los Lomitas, drinking an artisanal beer (a lovely caramel/honey-tasting fruity affair) and consuming "picada" (a vast board of meats and cheeses + olives, crisps, peanuts and aubergine [not a whole, raw aubergine (obviously), but pieces, cooked and marinated in oil and vinegar, and a bit too much salt!]).

Then, just in case I wasn't already full enough, it was back to Camila's in time for dinner. If I carry on eating at this rate, I will exceed the rate of weight gain that I achieved in Italy (which in itself was a staggering 3kg in 2 weeks). If I keep going at this rate, that equates to at least 2 stone(s) over the course of my trip. Instead of writing this diary entry, I felt I should have gone for a long walk instead, but lethargy overcame me and I decided to go for a calorie-burning 9-hour sleep instead. Tomorrow: el Capital!

Wednesday 24th November

After a glorious uninterrupted sleep (I have slept so well in Cami's room, it has been wonderful, for which I owe her a massive debt of gratitude - Thank you!), I went with Martín (who had kindly offered to accompany me) to get the train into the centre. I had been warned about how dirty, congested and generally unpleasant it was, but I have to say it was no worse than the London Underground. And, of course, there is the added benefit of it being a cultural insight into the place that I am visiting (Cumbia music and ambulant sellers being prime examples)!

After saying goodbye to Martín - he had to go and sit an exam, I walked up Av. 9 July (otherwise known as "My Birthday Avenue" - which also happens to be Independence Day in Argentina) to the obelisk and then back down to Cami's university to meet her after her exam (exam season is in full swing in Argentina at the moment, as it is approaching the end of the academic year). As befits the widest avenue in the world, it was very wide indeed. And very busy too! My first impressions were of a hectic modern city, teeming with life.

After we met up, we walked north, via Plaza Libertad, The Palace of Justice and Teatro Colon, to Plaza San Martín. Here, Cami said goodbye (to go to work at her mother's school - every mother owns a school in Monte Grande - or, from the people I have met, so it seems!). I then proceeded to explore the centre, Puerto Madero and San Telmo, before getting the train back (all by myself - which everyone was terribly impressed by, given my apparent naiviety and innocence abroad!!!). I was probably most impressed with Puerto Madero (modern expansiveness, with some beautiful new parks), and San Telmo (historic quaintness with Tango Dancers in the central square). But I also really like Plaza San Martín, which boasts (god, that sounds like a brochure!) a very large tree in the centre and the glorious blue flames of Jacaranda trees all around. Naturally, the lack of public toilets of course causes me a few problems (god, that sounds like I've got bona fide prostate problems!), but I'm managing, through a mixture of enforced dehydration and making the most of any opportunity that arises!

For a bit more colour and detail re the above, I can let the photos do the talking:

I was pretty tired in the evening, so I am assuming that after dinner (al fresco - que lindo!) we didn't do very much (apart from sit around and chat). However, when it is so balmy (and the air fragrant with jasmine), sitting around chatting is a lovely thing to do...

Thursday 25th November

Thursday was a virtual repeat of Wednesday, albeit in a different area of the city and with the company of Martín for more of the day. Again, we got the train into the centre together (this time it was free [because they didn't have any change!] instead of the extortionate sum of 1.35 pesos [about 20p]). This time I had the added adventure of getting the underground [1.10 pesos] and took in the sights of Retiro, Recoleta and Palermo (the highlights of which were the cemetery and the botanical gardens). However, I enjoyed the relative opulence of Recoleta and Palermo, where the tree-lined avenues reminded me of Paris and Rome (the newer bits) respectively. Oh, and the underground was also free on the way back (this time because the electronic gates weren't working). I'm doing well from the already well-state-subsidised public transport system.

Cami's Milanesas in the evening were a culinary triumph, and I once again went to bed full and tired after a busy but fulfilling day. Oh, yes, and I also went to visit Amelia's English school before dinner (Amelia is the lady who organises the Argentinian trip to S.I.S.). Much like when I was in Locorotondo, I was invited to play an active role in a lesson, speaking to the students and getting an interesting insight into what life is like in an overseas language school (as it happens it reminded me a lot of Italy, which Argentina is managing to do in many ways!)

Friday 26th November

Nursing still-sore feet from the previous two days, I decided to take it easy on Friday and spend the day in Monte Grande (at least during the day). In the afternoon I went to Carolina's mother's school, where I spoke to some of the teachers and students. It was a nice afternoon (very hot too - the temperature has been on the increase since I arrived, along with a lot of sunshine [I burnt my nose and neck walking around the city] - reaching 32 degrees on Friday). There seem to be a lot of small private schools in Monte Grande, but I think it's just a co-incidence that I've met 3 people whose mothers own 3 different schools!

After a mid-afternoon ice-cream stop (dulce de leche and walnut and bitter chocolate - yum!), in the evening we went round to one of Cami's friend's houses (Tincho), for pizza and drinks (Fernet Branca and coke, an Argentinian classic!), prior to going to another friend's graduation party in a bar/nightclub in Palermo. In true Argentinian style we didn't get to the club until 2am and I managed to stay the distance until 6am (sweating buckets in the process... I don't think the temperature dropped much from the peak it had reached during the day). Still, despite being rather a late night for me (according to the others it was early - they don't usually get back until 8am!), it was a lot of fun. The club and the company were both great, so I didn't mind losing a few hours sleep in the process!

Saturday 27th November

Saturday started slowly after such a late night (early morning), but soon picked up pace when we went out for lunch. We had asado (number 2!), which comprised the following:

Matambre (a special cut of beef, stuffed with a filling, rather like your stuffed breast of lamb, Mum!)
Vacío (another cut of beef)
Chinculines (chitterlings - your favourite, Dad, and Cami's dad's favourite too!)
Morcilla (black pudding)
Chorizo (I hope you all know what that is - although it's a little bit different from it's Spanish cousin)
Molleja (sweetbreads - which aren't testicles [a common misapprehension] but a gland found in the neck of a cow, I believe - although I'm happy to stand corrected by any butchery expects out there)
Red peppers (for a token veg content!)

It was all delicious and accompanied by a couple of different salads and red wine (of course). We then visited some elderly relatives of Cami's family, which was interesting as they were former grocers and still had the old-fashioned grocery shop (sadly now closed) attached. It was like a walk down memory lane (meat-slicers and scales bringing back assorted childhood memories)...

I'm now writing this prior to another late night (this time a party/gathering at Monte Grande Rugby Club). But before that I'm going to make dinner and have something to drink...

I hope all is well with you.

Best wishes,
James xx

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