Tag Archives: salsa

Hooray for Random 3-Day Weekends!

21 Nov

This weekend is special because we are smack dab in the middle of spring and have the luxury of a three day weekend. Just a few weeks ago the government surprised us with a surplus of holidays for the upcoming year, and on Monday we’ll be celebrating the Day of Sovereignty. No one really seems to be totally sure of what this holiday exactly means or celebrates, but it has something to do with the navies of France and/or England sailing up the Parana River in the 19th century without permission. If I’m not mistaken, Argentina was mad and said, “Ohhh, what’s a-mattah you? This is our country, you can’t just sail your yacht through our backyard.” And apparently war was avoided because they respected Argentina’s right to sovereignty.

No one I’ve talked to really cares about the little details, but you will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t want an extra day off in the best part of the year. It’s hot but not overbearingly hot like it will be in just a couple of weeks. Even the humidity has been fairly low recently, and upon going out for a run at dusk, you’ll find that the humidity is low, the breeze is perfect, there’s still light by 7:45 pm, and everyone is just in a general good mood. Spring always brings out the best in people.

I was thinking of going to Tigre today, and it would have been beautiful for it, but in the end went with laziness after an all-night salsa party with my new Peruvian friends once again in the neighborhood of Paternal. For the first time I feel I was invited to a legitimate and traditional parilla (barbecue). Not just a restaurant, work function, or picnic. With the birthday girls father, the men gathered on the roof of the house and surrounded the grill with low-heat charcoal, bullshitting over some drinks in the dark. Just a single light bulb illuminated the grill with the choripan (sausage) and meat. The full moon was so bright and stars were out that we probably didn’t even need the light bulb. It was the first time I’ve seen the stars since going to Chile and being in the countryside.

That’s the kind of parilla I’d imagined for a long time but struggled to find. Some kind of old dirty fire pit pieced together on an aluminum roof with years of experience rather than a pretty face. But the experience in the case of a parilla is the pretty face. Empanadas filled in the gap, of course, and we danced salsa long into the night. As I was leaving I thanked the father for the asado and he told me, “This was nothing, just a snack. You have to come back when I have a real asado.” I’m already salivating.



Volley-Soccer and Peruvian Salsafest

7 Nov

Yesterday I spent the day hanging out with a new buddy named Brian from Texas. Brian lives in Palermo Hollywood and his Peruvian roommate Antonio invited us to a salsa party at his friends’ house for later in the day. To kill some time in the afternoon we walked to the neighborhood of Chacarita, which is to the west of Palermo. I’d never really been there before, but there’s not much of a reason to go there unless you know someone. The Chacarita Cemetery is huge and a lesser-known tourist attraction, especially underneath the level of the Recoleta Cemetery, so we were going to check it out.

By the wall of the cemetery we noticed a large crowd gathered watching a game. On a volleyball court there were two guys per team playing, but not in the traditional way. Not using any hands, these guys were only using their legs, chests and heads to hit the ball over. I’d never seen anything like it, and their skill was impressive. It almost seemed like they were working together as one team, simply trying to keep the volley going, and just when it looked like the ball had gotten to far away they were able to pull it back it and keep it going.

The crowd was all men in their 20s to 40s, and everyone was drinking either mate or beer. Instead of using a volleyball they had a soccer ball, and though the game is different, it reminded me of the intense games of Ecuavolley that groups of men would play and watch in Ecuador. I had to wonder about how they got to the point where soccer and volleyball were no longer interesting, and the light bulb went off to combine the two. I could have stayed watching for a while but we went to see the cemetery, though it was already closed.

Later on we got to the Peruvian salsa party in the neighborhood of Paternal, which is kind of out there off the main loop. Immediately we were welcomed in like members of the family, given food and drinks. It was mostly Peruvians from Lima, but an interesting mix with small children running around and some serious dancing going on in the attic-turned into dance studio with blasting music. I’ve realized that if I learned how to dance salsa in Ecuador after a year of practice, the year without practice in Argentina has almost undone the lessons. It took me a couple of songs to get back into a rhythm, but even then I still couldn’t keep up with the Peruvians.

In the end, a few hours of blasting salsa and cumbia was enough for us, but we were invited back anytime for private lessons, so maybe one day we’ll take them up on it. After two years in Latin America, the unquestioning hospitality of latinos is still amazing to me. Immediately you are a friend, invited into the house, offered food and drinks, and hugged. It’s a warm feeling which everyone should get to experience.

The Birthday Weekend Comes to an End

25 Jul

On Friday I turned 24, and walking into the office in the morning with a bag filled with croissants (the tradition here is the birthday person brings in food), my friend Vero immediately came over to tug on my earlobe 24 times. Apparently that’s also a tradition in Argentina, and by the end of the 24 tugs my ear was red and ringing, but I guess it beats the punches I would have expected. The day passed by easily enough, and two of my coworkers took me out for a lunch at a grill near the office. The plan at night was to go out to dinner and then hit up some salsa dancing in San Telmo. Though salsa isn’t very popular here, it’s more of a niche thing that people do sometimes for a different night. My birthday was the occasion this time around.

With some friends I headed to Cumaná in Recoleta. The restaurant is located on Rodriguez Peña 1149 y Avenida Santa Fe and is known for good food, a friendly atmosphere, and cheap prices. We got there are 8 pm which is pretty early for Buenos Aires, but still had to wait an hour for a table for eight people. Waiting outside in the cold, everyone slowly showed up, including Liz, a former volunteer from Ecuador who is working in Montevideo for a couple of months. She used the birthday excuse to come to Buenos Aires for the weekend and hang out.

Once inside and with the table squared away, we ordered out dishes. Ironically they forgot to bring out my dish but quickly brought it up once I spoke up, and we had a really nice meal. I was even caught off guard by the birthday ice cream/brownie dessert, and the entire restaurant started to sing “Happy Birthday” in Spanish. After the dinner we went down to Cuba Mía, a salsa club down in San Telmo on Salta 508 y Venezuela. I’d been there a couple of times back in October and November but hadn’t been back since. It started out with a pretty elaborate show, but finally they cleared the tables to allow for dancing.

Overall it wasn’t a ridiculously crazy night and only a handful of friends made it out, but that’s all I really needed anyway. I’ve never had so many people ask me my age on my birthday and follow up the answer with, “Go to hell, asshole.” Apparently I’m still a young guy, or only know older people. Or both. Saturday was a tired and hungover day, understandably, but I walked around with Liz in the afternoon by the Recoleta Cemetery, and we were able to catch up. The last time I’d seen her was September of 2008. For the night we had plans on going out, but after a dinner in Palermo and hanging out with my friend Javier back at the apartment, we were too tired to do anything. In the end it was a better decision because I was still exhausted from Friday night.

Today was low key still, with cold, gray and rain. I showed Liz around by the Microcentro, Plaza de Mayo, and into the Casa Rosada for a bit before seeing her off. So now the weekend has ended quietly, and after a small steak dinner tonight that I’m going to cook, it’s back to work and the regular grind on Monday. The next milestone to look forward to is a year anniversary in Argentina next month.

Argentina Eclipses Ecuador

22 Jul

I can’t really wrap my brain around this idea, and I’m trying to figure out where time went, goes, will go. I arrived in Ecuador on August 30, 2008 and left on August 2, 2009. About 28 days shy of a year. I arrived in Argentina on August 22, 2009 and will soon be eclipsing my lengthy experience in the equatorial country. This means, as I’ve slowly seen in the last few months, that my connections with Ecuador, the language, and the culture, are growing thinner. Ecuadorian words are slipping out of my vocabulary, replaced by Argentinian words, and names and places are less in focus.

It was always inevitable, but coming face to face with the fact that the huge milestone is about to be triumphed over is in itself a scary accomplishment. At the end of next month I’ll have been living in South America for two years, a point reiterated by recent errors on my part in the last two days. Yesterday I had to translate into English two twin beds that could be combined to make a king size bed. What I came up with was “conjoined twins.” Today I wrote “Wi-Fi in all hotel,” before laughing at myself, followed a minute later by writing “syrup” by accident instead of “service.”

Linguistic errors aside, the time has been well spent and there’s still another year ahead. Tomorrow I turn 24, with the second consecutive birthday abroad, and at least the 3rd total of which I can remember. Last year at this time we were having dinner at the Colombian restaurant and then heading to La Mesa to dance salsa. A typical night, really. Well, salsa isn’t so typical here, but my coworkers and friends are making an exception and after work we’ll be going out for dinner followed by some salsa dancing in San Telmo. Argentinian custom dictates that I bring in croissants for the office as it’s my birthday, so I’ll be starting of the day down a few pesos. But I think it will wind up nicely by the end of it.