The New Memories

Down the street from my old house, I found the little crustless sandwiches I used to love and I bought one to share with Michael. It waIMG_8351s the ham and pineapple one and he loved it! Then we wandered up and down Santa Fe just as I did a decade ago. The streets were crowded with people coming from work and I began to feel a little overwhelmed. We turned on our cross street towards the BnB, and I remembered that Michael was still hungry. He is usually quite vocal about it but today he was being very gracious and letting me lead the way.

Just a couple blocks from Gus’s BnB, we stumbled upon a cute little diner on the corner. It was a perfect place to grab a drink, eat some food, and people watch. It wasn’t very busy inside so we got the table for two right by the front window. The waiter was kind and patient when we tried to speak to him in our broken Spanish. We asked him what was best and he recommended the empanadas. We ordered one of each of the four flavors they offered and couple of cokes. They were playing good music that I knew. I began to decompress a bit and was able to r20140909_173450 2elax.

I watched the people on the street and noticed that most of them were wearing black. One thing that is different is the garbage cans everywhere. This is a great new feature and it did seem that most people were using them. Also it doesn’t seem like there are so many people smoking anymore. Before it was incredible how the whole city seemed to smoke. So we finished our food and paid our bill, then walked the short block home.

IMG_8355On our way, we found a Coto supermarket. Knowing that Michael would be hungry again in a couple hours, we stepped in. We bought some of my old favorites, more empanadas, and a bottle of wine. The wine here is so cheap! It would be a crime not to drink it.

After that we went home and slept the best sleep in a long time.

Grateful for making new memories in old places.

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The Dolar Blue

The cool thing about traveling to Argentina right now is the underground economy. The official rate is 8.4 pesos to the US dollar, but the Dolar Blue is at 14.35 and rising! This makes the peso very lucrative for people with USD. It’s not legal, per say, but everyone who has dollars uses the touts who shout, whisper or advertise cambio in someway. It seems very common and makes it much more affordable to buy anything from food to clothes to rent. In fact, we chose to wait to rent a place longer-term until we arrived in Buenos Aires. This way our chances were higher to be able to pay in pesos. With most online apartment rental companies and even AirBnB, only allow payment in USD. Everyone here is crazy about the dollar and the locals will do just about anything to get them.20140909_145713

In the short time we have been here the Dolar Blue has gone up almost $0.50 which is alot when you are exchanging thousands of dollars. Luckily, I have friends here who helped me exchange my dollars for pesos at one of their reputable cambios. We ended up getting a rate of 14 pesos for the dollar and I felt rich! Suddenly things were almost half-price. The very next day it went up 10 cents and it’s been going up daily.

I don’t really understand how it is going to continue or how the locals can live in this very split economy, but it sure makes living here very cheap if you have the wanted currency. The downside is that though there are tons of places to rent, almost all of them want their rent paid by dollar. That is the only currency they will take. We knew we would have to go house hunting in a few days but for now I had booked us our space to get settled.

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I tried to sleep for a little while but Michael just felt antsy to go out and about. I didn’t want to go anywhere without having pesos and we had to wait for Flor to do the exchange. Luckily she was quite fast and we met her at the nearby mall to get our take. It ended up being quite a lot of bills and we felt quite rich. After giving Flor the Nerf Gun she had asked for for her little brother, we parted ways and we went to explore.

After we stashed most of our bills safely at home, we went out for a walk. Michael was starving, as usual, so we were on the hunt for food. I kind of knew the area but I still felt a bit turned around. I just couldn’t find my sense of direction. I knew that if I got to my old house, I would know where I was. So that is what we tried to find…

Grateful for locals, Dolar Blue, having connections, and feeling at home.

 

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The Best Bed and Breakfast in Buenos Aires

IMG_8328Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I had been listening to Flor telling me how things were so different now and that it wasn’t as safe here. She told me to be very careful and I faintly remembered hearing the same words the last time I came. This time I asked whether either of them had been held up or had crime done to them. They both said no. I am sure that with common sense I will be fine, I assured her. Besides, I have Michael here now and he is my protector.

We finally made it near the microcentro and I started recognizing streets and parks. It was not so different at all! The rain just would’t let up so we had a quick goodbye and we waited in the doorway for our AirBnB host to let us in. Though the walk (sprint) to the doorway was just a few feet, I got drenched. When Gus answered the door, he whisked us in out of the terrible storm. Since we had arrived so early, our room wasn’t ready yet but he graciously let us rest in his living room for the morning. We had intended just to drop off our bags and go walk around the neighborhood but that was not in the cards. The storm was ferocious and would not let us even think about stepping foot out there. Instead we laid down on the L shaped couch and I watched the rapid fire lightening until I drifted off to sleep.IMG_8322

A few hours later, we woke up and found that the storm had gone and so had Gus. We waited in the living room and I noticed Gus’s good taste. He was meticulous with his belongings and everything seemed to have a place. I had read good reviews about Gus on AirBnB and so far it was all true. A short while later, Gus showed up and said that our room was ready. He took us across the hall to another condo which he had converted into a Bed and Breakfast. I was so impressed with his ingunuity to have such a cool guesthouse that still allowed him his own space. Brilliant!IMG_8324

Gus showed us our room which happened to be the best of the three, and I was so relieved. It was better than in the pictures! How often does that happen? He spent time explaining the area and how he had gotten there. It was a great story and I was inspired to someday do the same thing. He really enjoys his guests and makes them feel at home. He took the little chalkboard off our door and wrote our names on it and where we were from. I glanced at the others and there was a German Thomas and two guys from Venesula. It was so cozy and sweet…very well kept. When he finally left us to settle in, I flopped on the comfy bed and exhaled. Finally, I’m back.

Grateful for hospitality, good honest reviews, space heaters, home made medialunas, and drying off.

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The Long Way

20140907_214515When we got near Buenos Aires, there was a pretty intense storm. I had my face stuck to the window to capture the beauty of it all. I was slightly surprised that we were flying right into it but strangely, I wasn’t scared. I guess I was too excited to be feeling anything else. I have been thinking about coming back here for quite a while. But only in the last few months was the feeling very very strong. I am not sure why but I just needed to come back. And stay a while. A week wouldn’t do. No, I had to revisit my life here. I am so glad to be bringing Michael. It’s a completely different feeling traveling with someone. And right now, I need his moral support.

When I liv20140908_172930ed here almost a decade ago, I was a different person. At least I think I was. I feel like the places that have defined me have been the ones that have most challenged me. And Argentina was the best and the worst, in so many ways. I knew before I landed the first time that I would stay here for a while. I wasn’t sure why but I just knew I would stop moving from place to place and take a rest. I had been traveling non—stop for three years. So it was time for a break. Some part of me knew it was home. At least for a while.

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Plane rides done right

After a wonderful couple weeks at Burning Man, we packed up and are now on our way to South America. I am sitting on the plane (2 out of 3) smelling the yummy food being heated. My tummy is growly so I must be hungry. Michael is sleeping in my lap. Luckily, we got the whole row so he could spreaIMG_8188d out. That happened on the last flight too but I took my turn sleeping between San Francisco and San Salvador. It certainly is a long trek down to Buenos Aires taking more than 26 hours but that is the price you pay for getting good deals on tickets. Besides, Avianca ain’t so bad. They feed you for free and that is a major plus in my books.

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There is nothing like gliding through the baby blue expanse, high above the clouds nibbling on a hot buttered bun and sipping wine. No matter how bad the food may be (insert random joke about bad airplane food), I will never tire of dining among the stars.
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Malos Aires – Vigo, Spain

Slept in again and didn’t get into Vigo until well after noon. I had gone up to they gym for the morning exercise class at 8am but was told it and all other classed were cancelled for the day. A little disheartened I crawled back into my bed to sleep off the disappointment. Without Shawn there to inspire and push me, I really could get up the gumption. I decided I would walk up a storm in town instead.

As I wandered up and down the crooked streets noticing that most of the stores were shut. I frowned at my own negligence to remember that here they observe siesta. As I glanced at the hours of operation pasted on the window, most were indeed closed from 130-430pm, exactly the time allotment I had left for myself. I guessed it wasn’t too bad of a situation as I really wasn’t there to shop anyway. Still, I like to have the option.

I proceeded to go on my merry little way snapping photos of statues here and buildings there. It was a little annoying to have to manuver around the trash heaps piled up on every block. Some were taller than me and boy did they stink! They say that scent memory recall is extremely powerful and I had a vague recollection of a stench very familiar.

I observed the countless piles of doggie doo-doo carelessly left behind on the sidewalks. Last time I had turn on my turd-alert I was living in Argentina. I began noticing that the signage, the locals, the architecture, and even the flora struck a chord very close to home. I realized that this port city of almost 300,000 was reminiscent of Buenos Aires in so many ways.

I swallowed my sentimentality and trudged up the steeply inclined cobblestone streets trying to stay present. It was slightly difficult not to allow myself to be flashed back to my life back in South America several years ago.

Drunk with nostalgia, I got lost on Av Camelias. I ambled up Gran Via and past Praza de Espana into El Castro. This fortress is surrounded by a lush peaceful park filled with hundreds of kinds of trees and flowers. After stopping briefly to take in the stunning view of the bay where our ship was docked, I hurried back down through the steep snaky roads to get back on board.

Throughout the day, I had stopped in every little fruit stand and supermarket I could find to look for cherimoyas. Only one store had three and they were almost rotten, bruised beyond edibility. I had almost given up on finding my delicacy until the very last minute when I discovered one very perfect cherimoya just waiting for me. Yum.

Grateful for nostalgia.

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Experiences and ideas = Inspiration – Costa Maya, Mexico

After hauling my prizes back to my room (not an easy task when most of it is carved fishbone and soapstone), I laid out my paintings to dry. I had a short visit with the gang who were congregating in my room. After a short time, I had to politely ask for some space and quiet as I had to get my “write” on. After such a wonderful day, I had so much to say. The inspiration was oozing out of me like cream from an overfilled chocolate éclair. Oh yeah, I went and got snacks and coffee to give me some sustenance then I was off like a bullet. read more

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Tourist Trap – Belize City, Belize

Tuesday morning I woke quite early to the sound of the captain over the intercom system out in the hallway. I deciphered something about tenders heading into Belize City and then stopped listening. I know this drill all too well. When you go into a port on a cruise ship, there are two options. One is driving right up to the port and passengers debarking off a gangway. The other option is getting onto little speed boats called tenders that shuttle you into the dock. read more

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Snowy Cirque de Ice Capades – Belize City, Belize

After getting back from the tender, I decided to try and have a little nap. I called all the others to remind them that we had tickets to the ice skating show at 7pm. We all met up in the hallway and then made our way to the bottom level where the ice skating rink is located. I know it sounds strange to have a giant slab of ice on a boat that is plowing through the Caribbean. But hey, whatever floats your boat, right? I chose this ship purposely because of the ice skating rink and rock climbing wall. read more

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Bubbly from the bubbles – Ocean, Belize

After a yummy dinner with the gang, Audrianna and I decided to go for a few drinks. We wandered about here and there but nowhere was really catching our interest. The English-style pub was too dark and the sports bar was too boring. The Latino bar was too loud and the piano bar was full of oldies. read more

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