Archive for June, 2010

Really tired

I’m surprisingly tired. I guess drinking beer and watching Argentina kick Mexico’s ass in the World Cup may not have been a good idea for my evening dancing plans. Nor was reading to help me sleep and ending up finishing the book last night. I know I should go dance, but I really just want to go to bed. Tomorrow will be a new day, I suppose.

Overall, I’ve learned a few main things from this trip:

  1. Learning tango here would be better if I had primed the pump by progressing past "Oh my god I’m lost" status before coming here.
  2. Learning tango as a beginner would be easier if I knew some Spanish–then I could make friends who would help me practice, instead of just feeling like I’m imposing on the good dancers (which I mostly am).
  3. Learning Spanish would have been better if I’d learned some before I came here. It’s been really pathetic.

So, the trip hasn’t been a complete success. But it’s had many good moments, and there will be lots of good memories and pictures. If I were to do it again, though, I’d change quite a few things.

[Edit] I’m feeling a little less tired. We’ll see about tonight’s dance….

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Still alive

I’m still around! Since I posted last, I’ve seen wild capybaras and monkeys (and deer that the locals got excited about), had my travel plans disrupted by Father’s Day, and had both good and bad times. Dancing is frustrating, but I finally understand why people enjoy crafts fairs. I have acquired some really awesome goodies, but they’re almost exclusively decorative. Transporting some of them might be difficult, but damn I’ll try.

Tonight I’ll try more tango lesson and see if I can manage to screw up my courage to dance with someone afterward. What I really need is practice with people about my own skill level, so they don’t hate dancing with me (last night’s lesson was with people at least 6 months beyond me, and their frustration at my bumbling showed pretty clearly). Maybe I’ll find that tonight, or maybe I’ll even work up the nerve to impose upon more sophisticated dancers. We’ll see.

I might also take the “Rock and Roll” dance lesson tonight. I hear from a local (Noel) that it’s something like swing, so maybe I’ll be able to do it acceptably. Or maybe I’m just optimistic. Eh, not that I have time–I’d need to eat and arrive in an hour.

Look at me still talking while there’s dancing to do. When I look out there, it makes me glad I’m not you. I have tango skills to gain, and a partner to obtain, from the dancers who are still alive.

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latest activities

It hasn’t felt like I’ve been up to very much, but when I try to write it all down, it looks like plenty. In reverse chronological order, to match my memory.

Thursday: Arrive in Iguazú. Go on rainforest exploration, including hiking, rappelling, and a zip-line ride. It didn’t feel like that much of a rainforest–it seemed a lot like a northeast forest, save for the air plants, including some bromeliad-looking plants. You know, there were vines on the trees, and ferns on the ground, and a whole variety of trees, but I’m used to that. Apparently, though, it gets some 2m of rain per year. I also rearranged my plans for the next few days, so they no longer include Cordoba and now instead focus on the carpincho. I managed to call Caely, too. I’ve now been here more than a week! Lunch was beef ribs, cut cross-wise like Korean style. Dinner was in the fine foods area of Iguazú, with a meat-cheese-olive plate and two of those little stuffed pockets whose name I forget, not to mention a liter of Quilmes beer and 3 scoops of ice cream.

Wednesday: Last private tango & Spanish lessons. Walked through San Telmo, which has both large protests and fabulous hand-crafted goods even on weekdays, picked up laundry and repacked, and departed for Iguazú. The bus is amazing! Fancy reclining seats, dinner & breakfast, two movies, all for $50-75. Greyhound is no comparison. Near me was a Canadian woman who told me how terrible some things are in Argentina, particularly the bureaucracy in trying to obtain internet access to her apartment. We who are in microcentro, San Telmo, and Palermo are just living in a bubble, she says. Failure in calling Caely, though. Lunch was street food in San Telmo, just a sandwich, and dinner was a calzone and bus food.

Tuesday: Private tango lesson was moved to their other studio, so a free taxi ride. Went from there to a leather-store district my spanish tutor recommended, but they didn’t have carpincho. I had lunch at a little indoor cafe; not very good. After Spanish lesson, went to order a carpincho jacket in the microcentro (downtown), then to Palermo for a group tango lesson, where I had it reinforced that rotations aren’t done much in tango lessons. I was too tired to stay for the live band, which didn’t start ’til 1am. Had a good dinner on the way home, including a cut of beef from the cow’s diaphragm. Quite tasty, and I never would have known its origin. I successfully returned via a very late Subte.

Monday: Private tango lesson, followed immediately by the Spanish lesson. (Did I mention that she said most students don’t want grammar lessons, but rather some sort of vocabulary and practice? I don’t understand, since books are great for vocabulary and mediocre for grammar, but whatever.) I can’t remember how I filled my afternoon. I think it was maybe organizational stuff, since I have faint memories of having booked my current tour. I know that such bookings were a great hassle at the time. Then dinner with Noel, a Ph.D. who previously worked with Ruth at UC Irvine, at a very nice inexpensive restaurant in Palermo. Then back and right to bed.

Sunday: All day in Colonia, Uruguay, a 1-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires. The ferry was nice enough, and I talked to a helpful Portugese woman whose name I’ve forgotten. First a walking tour, then I wandered on my own, renting an unnecessary bike and having some hassles trying to obtain the $50 Uruguayan pesos needed for the museum. In one museum, I met Mauro, who was extremely helpful and happy to practice his English. I rode my bike down to a beach and tried to talk to some kids who caught a catfish, though all I managed to get was that the fish was spiny and not tasty, so they had to be careful in throwing it back. I bought some stuff at the market, though I can’t remember exactly what. Lunch was the weirdest sort of thing: a ham and onion scramble mixed into french fries. I’ve got the name written down somewhere, but not immediately available. Dinner was back in Buenos Aires, but I can’t remember what. Was this the fancy night with the live classical guitarist, whiskey, and milanesa? I think that was earlier. I’m not sure.

Earlier than this, it gets a bit hazy. I think Friday night was when I failed to dance at La Viruta, and Saturday was early because of the trip the next day. Saturday had my first Spanish lesson, and Friday was the first Argentinian World Cup game. One day, coming back from the port area, I saw a marching band playing in front of a building. They had a small crowd, maybe 50-100. I also saw a great rotating suspension drawbridge, but I didn’t get to see it go. Did I mention the clouds in Buenos Aires are great? Lots of cumulus clouds, happy puffy things that catch the light much better than our San Franciscan fog.

Tomorow, Iguazú falls. It’ll be good!

There, a nice long update at last. Enjoy, folks–what I’ve written here is likely most of what I’ll remember, so now you’ve got as clear an idea of my travels as I have.

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Activities

I’m not sure I mentioned all my activities here. Yesterday, tango lessons, some walking, a flamenco show, and the evening tango dance that was so overwhelming. Today, I watched the Argentina-Nigeria world cup match, took a 3-hour spanish lesson, tried to buy some tango shoes (but failed), and now I’m here before I go take another dance lesson. I’ll have to go to bed early, though, probably with dinner around 9 or 10 (yes, they eat way late here), and then get up early to go to Colonia, Uruguay tomorrow. There’ll be a boat and a walking tour. Monday morning will be a tango private lesson, followed immediately by a spanish lesson (that’s right, 4 hours straight of lessons. Let it not be said that I’m not hardcore), and then I’ll have the afternoon off to hopefully some part of the city. I don’t know what part I should see, or what I should do then.

On Wednesday night, I plan to leave for more than a week of tourism. The people at the hostel are very helpful. We’ll see exactly where I end up going, but it’ll include Iguazu falls, at least.

That’s the myriad excitement here.

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Well, damn.

I went to a milonga tonight. They had a few tango songs, then a few salsa songs, then back to tango, and so on. I watched the salsa and figured I could do it if only I had an hour or so to practice with a good willing follower. Maybe I should take a salsa private and see if I can transfer any of my swing/blues over?

But, the real failure was that I didn’t manage to dance any tango. I watched, and I sort of tried to find a follow’s eye (which is apparently how you find dance partners in tango), but I totally failed. To be fair, it was noticeably lead-heavy, so there weren’t extra women to go around. I watched, and maybe I learned something, and I was okay in their little beginner lesson first, but I didn’t manage to get any practice, and that sucked. Apparently there’s a practica tomorrow at the studio where I’ve been taking lessons, but I think it’s during my spanish lesson. But the spanish lesson will be worth it–I’m getting very tired of being so helpless.

So, as usual in a learning situation, I’m oscillating between excitement and frustration. I can tell I’m a pretty good tango student (yay, I think some of my blues transfers!), but I need to work up the nerve to dance before I can turn my lessons into dancing. But heaven help me, I can tell it’s going to be hard.

Tomorrow there’s a big (here) World Cup game, between Argentina and Nigeria. It’ll be the excitement of the day. I’d better go to bed now so I can appreciate it properly.

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Arrived, sort of

I´m in Argentina, but my flight was late so I missed my (free) shuttle to the hostel. The next one´s in an hour or so, if they have space. I can hope.

Also, Argentina has a $140 entry fee for Americans, apparently in retaliation for the US charging $140 for Argentinians to get visas.

I slept well on the plane, but already the hassles of dealing with confusing unfamiliar things and people I don´t understand is wearing on me. Hopefully as I gain familiarity and language life will become easier.

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Going to Argentina!

I’ll go to Argentina for much of the rest of this month. It’ll be exciting: I’ll learn to tango, and maybe I’ll do skiing or aerotow hang gliding or something else fun. Hiking in the snow? Why not!

I also hope to see capybaras. Other people say something in the range of “What are they?”, “Do they live in Argentina?”, and “WTF are you thinking?!” But all the same, I think they’re adorable and would like to see the rodents of the world.

But I have so much to do before I leave. Flying, pre-travel dance lessons, soliciting tango instructor suggestions, travel plans, packing, augh. Not to mention, replacing a dying laptop hard drive. Busy-ness!

capybaras in the zoo

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