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Learning Spanish in Buenos Aires

September 22, 2014

Most expats will probably agree that Buenos Aires can be a difficult place to learn Spanish.  With all the crazy slang (aka Lunfardo), weird accents (shh shh shh) and the use of “vos,” it is really different from the Spanish spoken in all other parts of the Spanish-speaking world.  Plus it seems that every Argentine already knows English and would really rather just speak to you in in it rather than deal with you trying to stutter out a few phrases in Spanish.  I get it,  they want to practice too, but we came from thousands of miles away to do it!

I remember when I first arrived in Buenos Aires with my very basic classroom level Spanish and I thought I was great.  Then my first night out on the town someone asked, “de donde sos, vos?” and even this simple phrase (where are you from) was so different from anything I had ever heard before that I just stood there dumbstruck. It took me a few months just to re-learn all those simple words and phrases that I had finally solidified after four years of high-school language class.  Words like “pileta” instead of “piscina” or “pollera” instead of “falda” or “palta” instead of “aguacate.” (Just in case those were pool, skirt and avocado). Another problem that I have found is that although I’ve made some amazing friends over the past few years of living in this city, the majority were other expats.  Expats love fellow expats… we just understand one another. Only problem is the common language for all these expats is English.  So if you are working in English (teaching or whatever it may be) and hanging out with friends in English, how on earth is the poor expat supposed to learn not just Spanish, but Argentine Spanish??

Well, if you find yourself in this conundrum, here are some things that I’ve done that have really helped.

1. Join a conversation exchange.  There are plenty to choose from online.  Here’s one that I’ve had success with. You’ll receive a lot of messages and you may have to weed through them a bit, but I ended up finding someone that quickly became a friend and we ended up meeting almost every week for about 6 months!

2. Date an Argentine! Maybe it’s a bit blunt, and obviously would take some effort… but with all the millions of good looking people in this city it shouldn’t be so hard.  And once you’ve established your relationship, start getting to know his/her friends and family.  It might take a while before you can confidently insert yourself in a group conversation but once you get there you’ll feel like anything is possible.

3. Take an intensive course at a Spanish school.  I did this for a week at Expanish and loved it.  My teacher was Argentine and made sure to teach us a lot of those common expressions that we hear so often in the streets (“Che, boludo!”). Another school that I’ve heard great things about is the LV Studio Language school.  They also provide classes with native teachers and offer free conversation classes! It’s important when learning to have at least some grammatical background, just to make sure that while you think you are speaking incredibly fluently, you actually are. You know, subjunctive and all that good stuff.

4. Volunteer! Join a club! Do yoga! Take a cooking class! Do a wine tasting! Any of these options is a great way to immerse yourself into the Argentine society and make connections with other people in their language.  The best way to learn the words of the people is to speak with those people, and you may make some great friends along the way!  Be open for conversation wherever you may find it, be it with the mother and daughter sitting across from you on the subway or with the person drinking a coffee at the table next to you.

The tools to learn are everywhere. Just being in Buenos Aires is the best step you could have made in the direction of becoming fluent!

Suerte!

 

 

Things To Do This Week in Buenos Aires (Happy Malbec World Day!)

April 17, 2014
So among other things is it Holy Week, Malbec World Day and some incredible number of Portenos will be heading to Mar Del Plata for Semana Santa, to enjoy the “last weekend” of summer. I went to Mar Del Plata twice and basically hated it both times. My basic reasons are that the beaches are terrible, especially when crowded – and you are bound to get crowded this weekend as it is predicted that the normal 4 or 4.5 hour drive to get to Mar Del Plata will take up to 7 or 8 hours with all of the traffic. With the hoards comes no space on the beach, because somebody had the bright idea to basically rent all of it out as tent space instead of just having it be public and free. Here is an instance where I truly believe that privitization is not a good thing! The amount of beach space allotted to the general public is maybe 10%! Then you have the lines at the restaurants, etc. It would not be bad if you got rid of these problems. So for those with time I always recommend going to Punta Del Diablo, Uruguay, which is about 8-9 hours to get to anyway!
Here goes the list of things to do in Buenos Aires this week…
BUENOS AIRES MARKET
April 19th & 20th (Saturday & Sunday)
Buenos Aires Market is the healthy food fair that counts with the participation of more than 70 producers. Tastings (food & EcoWines) for FREE!

http://www.buenosairesmarket.com/

BANDAS x BARRIOS
April 17th to 20th
Several local bands of different music styles play for free at different venues of Buenos Aires’ Barrios (neighborhoods). FREE!
http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/bajoven/bandas-x-barrios
VISITAS A MUSEOS EN SEMANA SANTA
April 17th to 20th (18th Closed)
Walk the permanent and temporary exhibitions and be more involved in cultural extension activities in BA (recommended to check out El Museo del Humor – Humor Museum)
http://agendacultural.buenosaires.gob.ar/evento/visitas-guiadas-a-los-museos-de-la-ciudad/1127
ACTIVITIES IN BA SCHEDULE FOR HOLY WEEK
Apart from the Museums, there are other several activities that were set to tour BA during the Holy week. Free bike tours in the city, concerts and different celebrations to check out.
http://www.turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/sites/turismo/files/Semana%20Santa.pdf
MALBEC WORLD DAY
17th April
Winestores, Restaurants, Wine Bars… Everyone is celebrating the Malbec World Day in BA. Several restaurants and wine stores offer discounts, special menus, wine tastings. Check out what to do in BA and the rest of the world in here: http://www.malbecworldday.com/

Ruminations on Year 1 of Parenting in Argentina

April 3, 2014

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So as many of you know, I have lived here since 2004, which means I am coming up on my 10 year anniversary here. Wow. I feel old. Yeah I said it. Those of you who know me who are older than me can poo-poo this statement all you want, but that’s how I feel. Oh, and I also feel FAT. FAT FAT FAT!

Why?
Parenting is tough wherever you go, and I’m not sure that there is a net positive anywhere. Some people I know would argue that Argentina has many virtues that lend more importance to family than, say, in the USA. I do agree with some of these things, and in general think that Argentina is a more family oriented place than the USA is, but it depends on exactly which city you are talking about and other such details.
One thing that is tough wherever you go is the lack of sleep and constantly being on duty (so how are you writing this blog, Dan?? funny you ask, I have child care! And in Argentina this is really quite amazing, but more on that in a sec) which makes you tired and makes some of us fat (ME!).
Fortunately after year 1 with my gorgeous boy/girl twins, some of these trends are starting to reverse as they are more consistently sleeping through the night for example, although they still get up plenty.
So what is a distinct advantage in Argentina for a parent over the USA? The cost of a nanny. Now keep in mind, although costs are accessible, the low price comes with, in the initial phases, a lack of trust and perhaps ever a certain degree of incompetence. So you really have to search and interview and test before you make a long term commitment to someone. The thing is that what would cost you $30,000 usd or more (probably much more, I am just guessing!) in the USA, would only cost you 7000 or 8000 usd in Argentina. I do know people here who pay much more and much less.
So what do you get for that money? 45 hours per week or so of child care and perhaps some cleaning of your house as well. This is amazing.
In addition, the jardines infantiles (child care facilities) are very accessibly priced.
So where is the downside? If you have American sensibilities (you want to measure how much milk your child drinks per day, what time they eat, sleep and poop, etc) it will be very difficult to adapt to things here, which are in essence, simply much more accepting of variability and lack of structure. Many Americans here cannot deal with that, and need to rigorously train the people they hire to abide by certain “rules” and regulations so to speak.
This became apparent to Lourdes and I when we went to the USA last August/September for an extended stay. We were desperate for child care and fortunately my parents contributed plenty of their time as well as some financial support. At the gym, for example, it cost $10 usd per hour per child, which is astronomically more expensive than in Argentina. But, for this money, you get a whole slew of other extras. First, this particular place had a 2:1 policy for infants. So our twins had one person who only looked after them. Second, they would count, to the half ounce, the amount of milk consumed by whom and at what time… exactly. After they informed us the first time of the twins consumption, they asked “is it ok that we let them drink that much?” To which we replied “um, yeah, they know when they’re full! Let them drink whatever they want.” They looked at us…. woooowww… you guys are the most relaxed parents we have ever seen! Are you on xanax? What is up?!?!
And the interesting part, to me, is that while we are maybe the most relaxed parents within the context of professional child care in the USA, when in Argentina, we are likely among the most rigid. For example, when visitng the pediatrician, he informed us that our kids could eat noodles now. We said, yeah, but we will probably stay away from that (Ojo, they have had noodles, we just don’t like using that as a staple as it is 100% processed flour, and spikes their insulin levels, etc) and will probably use brown rice more often, to which, this MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL made a face. “Seriously”, he said. Why would you not give them noodles, he asked. Well it is full of processed flour and that spikes their insulin levels and both my wife and I have diabetes in the family. Oh right, he replied, forgetting this very basic level of hormonal responses to food intake.
Sometimes it is amazing how much influence culture has over us humans. Where you grew up, and the messaging that your culture reinforces, dominates your world view, to an astounding degree.

Staying Creative in Buenos Aires; What’s On the Agenda.

March 27, 2014

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so enough of this staying beautiful/staying fit malarkey, how about some activity for our rusty cogs?  Of course, each individual wants to stimulate their grey cells in different ways but for me I love a bit of creativity; art, film and performance. Bring it on! If you feel the same you might be interested in my list of what to do in Buenos Aires this weekend.

With turning of the seasons I am bidding a solemn farewell to my darling summer days and planning for hibernation, i.e. activities inside; away from the winds and the occasional bone-chilling rain.

  •          THEATRICAL SHOW:

Fuerza Bruta is in town!

fuerza

If you haven’t heard of this Argentine art performance group it is time to pull your head from out underneath the pillow, dust yourself off and get your sweet ass down the Centro Cultural Recoleta ASAP! My first experience of Fuerza Bruta was in 2010 and it left a lasting throbbing impression, however trying to explain what they do is no simple task. We can but try…. Fuerza Bruta is an energetic ride, where the world as we know it becomes a surreal parallel universe as acrobatic performers act, dance, fly and literally fall from the sky in time to the powerful music score with strobe lighting, special effects, nudity (moderate), water (lots) creating scenes of a poetic, violent and beautiful nature combined with whole lot of mess and YOU. It’s an all-standing rave of a show and quite simply you need to see it (and feel it) to understand why Fuerza Bruta has become the phenomenal worldwide theatrical success it is to today and one of the must-do activities for locals and travelers visiting Buenos Aires.

  •          EXHIBITIONS:

Mario Testino: In Your Face at MALBA, March 14th to June 9th

kate

I worshipped this man (along with 90% of my class piers) throughout my three years studying photography at University. Mario Testino has produced some of the most iconic fashion images over the past three decades, using intense vibrant color, elegance, contradiction, glamour and fame to create potent and seductive results. His photos suck you in to hyper time, taking you to a surreal world minutes before dumping you back into your comparatively grey boring life. Go and see it!

  •          FILM:

Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel showing at Showcase Cinemas Belgrano

grand

Another one of my God’s at University! Wes Anderson distinctive style has brought him cult following around the world, with his monochromatic pallet, the dry sense of humor complimented by surreal narrative storylines, makes each of his films a pure nugget of gold and I can’t wait to see this next one!

 

Yes, I’m set for the weekend! Have a good one, whatever you get up to.

Staying Fit in Buenos Aires

March 20, 2014

So what’s my obsession with personal appearance at the moment right? Well, it’s not so much appearance that is the problem….it’s an age thing. I have started the 6 month count down to my 30th birthday. Nothing like a big milestone to get you thinking about how you are taking care of yourself! The older I get the more I see how boozing until the early hours and scoffing 5 burgers a week has taken its toll and I don’t like it, not one bit.

So this is it, I am getting fit for 30, that includes healthy eating programs (note; I did not write the dreaded  ‘d word’), acupuncture, facials and of course exercise classes. Exercise, does anyone truly love it? I mean I love the feeling after as endorphins do a like dance and make a little love, but actually do it, urrrgh! It’s a ball ache. So I tried to be a little more inventive then just ‘going for a run around the block’ and this is the best compilation of fitness regimes Buenos Aires has to offer.

Boot Camp Buenos Aires: This expat run group will get you fighting fit (and totally out of breath) in no time. The outdoor gym sessions are run from Puerto Madero and Palermo Parks, focusing on strength, resistance training and cardio and don’t require commitment. You can pay as you go or pay for a six week intensive course. Whatever suits your fitness and pocket needs.

BuenaOndaYoga: I’m not  a Yogi type myself; I’ve always found that I wanted to sleep in the class rather than feel energized by it but I hear this is just because I’ve have bad teachers. You’ll find no such thing at BuenaOndaYoga, I have it on good account that these ladies know what they are doing and you be working up a sweat long before counting sheep. Constant variation in classes and teachers means you’ll be putting your legs behind your head in no time.

Pole Dancing at Art Dance Studio: Release the sex goddess within! We all have one and Art dance studio will help you find it. All shapes and sizes are welcome of all levels so prep yourself for some intense core action as well as hardcore bruising! It’ll all pay off and you’ll be hanging upside down before you know it.

And, finally, in the words of Freddie Mercury: Get on your bikes and ride!

Even if you don’t own a bicycle the Government of Buenos Aires has done everyone a favor with their new EcoBici scheme. Tourists and locals alike can find rental bike station dotted all over this fair capital. With a flash of your ID you can rent (unattractive but functional) bicycles for the day and scoot along the new bicycle lane (bicisendas) from one side of the city to the other. Once you make it to Palermo parks, tie your bike up and take a nap under a tree. You deserve it after all that exercise!

Staying Beautiful in Buenos Aires

February 20, 2014

Every lady from the Buenos Aires Expat world has one; a beauty treatment horror story. Hands covered in giant ball of wax held over Bunsen burners before being applied to private lady parts, old wax drying out in between the hoo-ha’s and 3 ‘beauticians’ being unable to remove it, hair dye burning the skin of foreheads, inflated prices from the quotes price list, pedicures that draw blood, manicures that create hangnails; yes, we have got it all.

Maybe it’s because we are too picky because we are accustomed to high standards prissy in our respective home countries…or maybe it’s just because Buenos Aires has yet to figure out how the world of pampering works. WE LIKE TO FEEL PRETTY NOT ABUSED!

I am my mother’s daughter; I love beauty treatments, at least I did when I lived in the UK. I don’t have all the money or time in the world to get them but when I can I will and when I can’t…well the wooly mammoth in the corner is probably me.  It has taken three years of searching and a substantial amount of misery (and humiliation) to figure out some of the best Buenos Aires beauty treatment saloon’s so here is a list of some of my favorite so you pretty thangs out there don’t have to go through all the suffering and pain that I did.

To be manicured one must be manicured; Buenos Aires Nail Salons

Probably one of the most common quick fixes to make us feel just that little bit more sophisticated versus the dirty mucker that has been digging in the mud for gold.

Pretty and pink. Some of the girls working there might be rather mardy but they certainly know how to get your hands and feet glammed up. Huge selection of varnishes, acrylics and gels, with good complimentary coffee, good cheesy TV channels and US and UK fashion magazines on the side! Well worth a look in.

  • Cassandra May Esthetics: Colegiales

https://www.facebook.com/cassandramayesthethics

This beautiful lady travelled all the way from Canada to make every woman in Buenos Aires feel like a goddess and focuses on what the customer wants and needs. Her gorgeous light soaked space is perfect for ‘me time’. Great selection of colours and gels as well as heavenly foot massages. Green tea, fresh fruits, and great company….

Hollywood hair; Buenos Aires hairdressers

Possibly the most terrifying of them all; bad haircut/colour! There’s no turning back once you’ve had the chop so let’s make sure we get it right.

  • Mala Peluqueria by Pantene; Palermo Soho, Gorriti 4646

http://malapeluqueria.com/

Clean modern space, full of all the darlings of Palermo so they must be doing something right! Friendly staff, trained hairdresser who ACTUALLY do the colour and cut you ask for. AWESOME head massages (I found a lot of places don’t bother with this important step and it irks me somewhat), good coffee, tea and sodas free

A fave among the BA expat world. I have yet to meet the lovely lady but many have ranted and raved about here chopping skills

Porcelain perfect skin and body knots: Buenos Aires Facial and massage treatments

  • Cassandra May Esthetics: Colegiales

https://www.facebook.com/cassandramayesthethics

Another win for Cassandra. Trained as a top esthetician, she is can cater facials for your skin type, needs and concerns…a true rarity it Buenos Aires.

  • Home Hotel Spa; Palermo Hollywood; Honduras 5860

http://www.homebuenosaires.com/EN/spa

While maybe you won’t find packages to tackle specific skin concerns they do offer a wide selection of facials and massage. I can’t say it better than their website: ‘Leave the noise and grit of the city behind and step into our Spa, a space where relaxation reaches new heights.’ Don’t mind if I do!

Just a Little Prick; Buenos Aires Acupuncture

Beauty comes from within and Lauren Dulberg will help you release it.

  • Acupuncture Buenos Aires; Almagro

http://acupuncturebuenosaires.com/

Native New Yorker Lauren Dulberg is the only place to go. Whether it be internal or external she will get to the root of your problems with her magic needles, cups and Chinese medicine; making you healthier, happier and therefore prettier!

Hairy Mary: Buenos Aires Waxing

No solution found: I have purchased an IPL laser hair removal ‘gun’’ to take care of it myself!

Please, if you know a nice Buenos Aires beauty outlet, share the knowledge!! As one, we are beautified!

I am British…..

February 6, 2014

The other day I read a blog post which tickled me pink; it was entitled ‘How to piss off and Argentine’ from Matador Network who have done an extensive series about how to aggravate different groups and cultures from all over the world. The motive of this blog is pretty clear, 18 small things that you might do, as a gringo which goes totally and utterly against the cultural practices of Argie bargies.

Check it out for yourselves:

http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/how-to-piss-off-an-argentine/

In my opinion this guy has got it pretty spot on, even when I showed it to my Argentine husband he begrudgingly agreed and then got pissed off that I thought it was so funny. I guess Argentines might also take themselves a little too seriously?! The guy who writes the article goes on to point out that Argentines seem to get miffed if you mention that you are from the US; ‘layer of something like jealousy, suspicion, a sense that you’ve had it easier somehow’….well try telling them you are from the UK buddy!

It’s no secret that relations between Argentina and Britain are a little, to say the least, rough around the edges. The first time I came to Buenos Aires to visit my then Argentine boyfriend, he took me on a ‘swanky’ date, to the famous grease ball pizza bar ‘El Cuartito’, ahem, and proceeded to explain that his father had been lecturing at him all afternoon ‘You could have picked a girl from anywhere in the world but you just HAD to pick one from England!’. Okaaaaaaaay. Great. So glad I have to meet this man tomorrow. Luckily, he was charmed by my enormous cheesy grin and quickly forgave my British roots but trust me, the fear of admitting my country was burnt deeply into my frontal lobe from that experience.

I’m not saying that all Argie’s get upset by my background…heck no. In fact the other day I had a girl stare at me in wonder, asking over and over again WHY was I living in her country and married to a dark and broody Argentine when I could be living in the most beautiful country in the world surrounded by the fair headed, bad teethed, polite British men.  Ummmm, go figure?! Most Argentines are sensible and loving people that are clever enough to figure out I wasn’t responsible for the past. I am a ’84 baby peeps, I wasn’t even part of the world during that sad time.

It’s only on very isolated occasions that I have felt the cold front come in once mentioning my background, more often than not in a taxi cab. So you are British, in a taxi and alone. What do you do to prevent the stream of outrage? Obvio! Say you are from Australia. Just make sure you know EVERYTHING about Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Savage Garden before you do.

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