Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December starts the summer

I’m writing this at midnight, Xmas Eve – just rode my bike home from work. Opening the door to my building I half jump from a firecracker set off in the street. The neighborhood is noisy with cherry bombs, honking horns, and cumbia villera playing constantly. I’m sitting here in a hundred-year old house at a big glass desk and widescreen monitor with the doors wide open onto the terrace hallway (New Orleans style) and garden over a mini courtyard downstairs.

Kasha comes in and visits me between making her rounds in the big house. She’s got two stray kitten/cats who keep running through and eating her food and using her litter box before she can barely get up from lounging on the terrace. She’s trying to protect her territory but she’s definitely out of shape and the youth are wiry and quick. Funny, the cats and dogs here are just like the people – they are tranquilo! They rarely bark at you or hiss, they basically don’t panic and assume you’ll be cool. Another example of how pets are like their owners.

All the travelers that were staying here these past two months have taken off to the beach or the countryside and the rooms are vacant until January. I just got the house ready for a dinner here with friends tomorrow night. It’s been a lucky couple of months in Buenos Aires.

Last month was the start of a boarding house/ mini hostel at the border of San Telmo and La Boca, the old part of the city. So far, a German girl, a Danish couple, a Londoner Greek guy (hi Chris☺), and a Scottish girl have lived in casa de Kashi. Kasha has really enjoyed the company and I did too, great peops all of them. I’ve been waiting almost two months for the phone company to put in a line and I don’t have the funds to properly stock the kitchen yet or to purchase a couch. We chop veggies on plates and sit on stools but the garden is rocking hard. I may turn out to have a green thumb.

This was the month of my new favorite job. My best impression of Lois Lane, I report on Argentine politics and economics – hard news, as well as arts and culture. Officially, I'm on the serious beat but end up submitting music, art, and happenings too. Enjoying the meaty issues as much as the nightlife interviews.

Today I covered commuter rowboats in the polluted old port of La Boca; yesterday was the Presidenta’s plan to subsidize refrigerator purchases and a piece on the murderous beatdown of a hipster out in BA’s version of the Inland Empire. The other day I did an art feature on the city government and Krylon’s sponsoring of a graffiti paint-athon at the park. I’d like to include links but the website doesn’t let you read the whole story yet. The paper was just purchased by a financial publication so hopefully they’ll get our finances straight and fix up the digital side.

Work has taken me out a lot lately – went to a great music and design fest in Parque Palermo, Buen Dia, and heard my new favorite band, Norma, there. Checked out some new nightlife spots and wrote about them along with restaurant reviews for Time Out’s new summer issue. Got to do my first Time Out feature on the Italian influence in Buenos Aires! Which brings me to my next piece of news.

Last week completed the application process and acceptance for graduate school at the Universita de Bologna. Copernicus’ alma mater, the school of Dante Alghieri of Inferno fame, aka the oldest university in the western world.

Of course, Italy one thousand years later is no longer the center of the world (that’d be NYC) but it’s still a nice place to study International Affairs with a focus on the European Union and the Mercosur (South America’s regional market org). They have a campus here in Buenos Aires where classes start in March, end in August and then finish off with 3 months and an internship in Italy. Sounds pretty good, right? If you're thinking about grad school, could be your way to save some loot and eat some pasta.

It’ll be exactly 16 years since I lived in Florence, 45 minutes away by train, and I hope to relive my culinary adventures without gaining the weight I did at 20. I feel better prepared to handle gender relations there this time too. Supposedly women have made some gains since then, but judging by my interview with the Italian academic coordinator, I don’t buy it and I’ll have to see how much sexual harassment still goes down. 15 minutes in conversation with him about my career in at-risk education and my social justice goals had me leaving feeling like a brainless PR bimbo. Because, well, I’d dressed up nice and smiled and I was female.

Argentina has been a great place to work and walk the city streets as a member of the bouncier sex. Men treat you nice and you’re not a second-class citizen. If you come up against gender-based discrimination it’s subtle and folded in charm and chivalry. Which is a nice break from the outright competitiveness of the US workplace, so far. I’m a couple of months in to my new job and I can’t believe how pleasant the office is. Granted, the pay is garbage so it better at least be nice, but it could just as easily have been sucko and it's good. Many of the people who work there have been at the Buenos Aires Herald for 15+ years. They’re all Argentines and Brits. There are two other Americans, both editors. It’s a very cool experience getting to write what I want and learn more about this cool pocket of the world.

What else? The city is happy to be in spring and heading into summer - and the month where everyone goes on vacation and the place turns into a ghost town full of tourists. I’m happy to welcome a bunch of friends heading here on vacation from NYC.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Making Over a Casa Antigua

A few blocks from Argentina's most notorious futbol stadium, la cancha de Boca Juniors, lies my new home. On the borders of San Telmo, La Boca, and Barracas, an old, worn out house was made over by a few local handymen, friends, and me. We got it into working order in two weeks time, so I could move in and rent out the other two rooms before heading too NYC for a visit. Somehow, it all worked out and it went from nasty to nice with some paint, sweat, and meat-fueled muscle.