Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Presidential Debate in Buenos Aires

Though traveling, I'm compelled to do my part in the upcoming election and am lucky that I'm currently settled in Buenos Aires to do so. I recently turned in an absentee ballot request form at the US Embassy, and last night, I was able to watch the presidential debate at a local bar that showed the debate on two different projection screens. By the time the debate started, it was standing room only. The crowd consisted mostly of Americans traveling or living here in the city. Once the debate ended, the bar returned to it's normal operations and started up some dance music. I stuck around, joined by Adam, some newfound friends, and a random group of Argentinians out for a night on the town dressed up in costumes. I think I spent a few songs dancing next to a popcorn box.

The mostly silent crowd observing the show

Adam, the Bumblebee and Romiro probably discussing politics in Spanish

My dancing buddy...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

La Recoleta Cemetery

Any first-time visit to Buenos Aires is not complete without wandering through the alleys of mausoleums in this very old cemetery in the Recoleta district. Crypts laid out like city blocks and filled with dusty coffins make this quiet city of the dead just a little creepy. However, the local cats add some life.

Alley of crypts

Evita's remains are here

Cobwebs abound

Downward facing cheetah

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pick-Pockets, a Piano and Parillas

Day 5 in Buenos Aires, and it was very letter "P" themed.

While walking through some parks this afternoon, my awesome travel companion, Adam, and I were pick-pocketed. It was a very smooth operation that I've since learned is a common scam and was performed in under a minute. After walking under some tress laden with birds, a seemingly nice couple came up to us saying that we had bird poo on us. Looking down, it seemed that we did. They offered us assistance by giving us napkins and helping wipe us down. A third person also came up, jovial, trying to speak English. During all these distractions, one of them successfully pulled Adam's wallet out of his front pocket, unzipped it, took out his debit card & his $100+ pesos (about US $40), zipped it back up, and put it back in his pocket. If I sound a little impressed, it's because I kind of am. It was such a well rehearsed operation. They seemed so nice and it seemed possible that a bird really could have done that. Online, there are plenty of other stories just like ours from not only BA, but other South American countries as well. Next time someone approaches with napkins, though, we'll be on our guard.

A picture taken in the park right before the notorious pick-pocketing debacle.

After picking up a Buenos Aires Herald, the English newspaper, we read about a free classical concert at the Casa de la Cultura featuring a pianist and a violinist. They were fantastic! The performers were pretty young but both had studied from an early age and were very skilled.


A parilla is a traditional Argentine grill, and parillas can be found all over the city. In fact, our Lonely Planet guide, mentions how parillas are as easy to find as falling out of bed. After the concert, it was around 9:30 and time for dinner. We've adapted to the PorteƱo way of life very easily, so dinner is always a little late. We decided to go to a Parilla in the San Telmo district that was recommended to us by a US citizen living in BA. This one didn't disappoint. The steaks were perfectly cooked.

Penguins follow me everywhere...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buenos Aires Arrival

Upon leaving Santiago, it felt good to be on my way to my next home, Buenos Aires. I'll be staying here for one month in an apartment located in the Palermo district. To get to Buenos Aires, I took 2 buses. The first bus crossed the Andes during daylight hours, heading for the town of Mendoza. Customs was a breeze and once in Mendoza, I only had a 2 hour layover for my overnight portion of the trip. The bus rides were amazingly luxurious. I had plenty of leg room, large windows, beautiful scenery during the day, and my night bus had seats that fully reclined, perfect for catching a few zz's.

As I've spent the last several months living in a land of no vegetation, it's not surprising that one of the first sights I saw in Buenos Aires was the Botanical Garden. The garden was just what I needed and didn't disappoint...sunshine, lots of green space and cozy park benches. As an added bonus, there were lots of cats roaming around. I've since learned that they are taken care of by volunteers and receive free veterinary care to keep them healthy and the population under control. The botanical garden itself was created by Carlos Thays, a French citizen by birth who moved to Buenos Aires when he was 40. After 6 years of hard work, the garden opened for the first time 110 years ago on September 7, 1898.

Switchbacks leading the way over the Andes Mountains

A theater turned bookshop called El Ataneo. There is a coffee shop on the main stage

The Botanical Garden. It's early spring here but there were a few flowers blossoming.

Muchos Gatos

A very sweet kitty that walked over and hung around my park bench, sometimes dozing underneath.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Santiago Times

My time in Santiago was a Chilean whirlwind. I arrived on a delayed flight from Punta Arenas with no clear plan or a place to stay. After spending the night in a hotel my driver recommended, I tried to leave the next day on a bus but due to schedule challenges, I had to stay one more night. It was a good choice. After finding this cool little hostel to lay my head, I spent some good time wandering the town in the sun. I climbed a hill offering good views of the city and the mountains beyond, spent some awesome time barefoot in the sunshine in a city park, and had a late night dinner with a random crew of travelers including a fellow Antarctican, an El Salvadorian and an Austrian who lives in Venezuela. I'll have to return to Santiago in a few months to fly home, but this time, I'll have my traveling shoes firmly on and a favorite hostel and restaurant picked out for my stay.

Hangin' out in the local park

A pretty mosaic found on the side of a building

Yummy dinner with friends

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Arrival in Punta Arenas, Chile

Being back in civilization is exciting but also a bit strange, especially when the civilization you're dropped into is already a foreign one. However, I think I prefer this over the States, as I'm sure American consumerism and marketing would be a little much for me at the moment.

Punta Arenas has quite a few charms that can't be overlooked; day long sunshine, a large square with unique trees and buildings with beautiful architecture. Stray dogs abound, jaywalking is just as easy as before and people watching has never been so fun.

There are moments when I'm overwhelmed with the activity of the place and get distracted easily. While sharing a drink with a friend, it was hard to ignore the couple making out incessantly across from me or the kid shrieking behind me. However, I've also had moments when I'm also overwhelmed by the niceness of the people here, such as the doorman who leaves his post to help you with your stubborn lock or the woman who saves the day when you realize your shopping cart is not going to fit through the checkout line and have no idea where to put it.

Soon I'm off to an end of cruise dinner with 20 other Antarcticans where I look forward to looking at a menu and practicing my Spanish while I order a delightful meal that will hopefully include fresh seafood.

Dogs sleeping in the square

Local kids on skateboards + 1 stray dog

View from my room with the LMG and the NBP in the background

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sailing Away

It is now time to leave Palmer Station for the second time and this time, for real. My experience here has been overwhelmingly positive despite the drawbacks of living in a commune-like environment, the dark winter and working 54 hours a week. I've learned a myriad of things that have nothing to do with computers, seen beautiful vistas and cool wildlife, had some great times with new friends and experienced new sights and sounds on a regular basis.

My last night on station was a good one, with a surprisingly appropriate costume party.

Now, it's time to board the ship, sail to Punta Arenas, and then hop around South America.