Monday, December 26, 2011

Our first week back

It's been a week since we returned from our trip and it feels like we never left. Barely 48 hours after landing we were at our friends annual white elephant holiday party. This year's theme was glitter and gold; guests were encouraged to dress their best but with a little pizazz. This of course meant sequins. Claire had the foresight to buy gold sequined kimono from eBay that would have made Liza Minelli proud. We also had to prearrange for our gifts to be shipped ahead of time. Last year, my Darth Vader light up chest plate t-shirt was a huge hit, especially as it was picked last preventing anyone from stealing. The pressure was on to top such a display of awesomeness. Originally I had wanted to purchase the Calvin and Hobbes box set, but Claire talked me out if it. Mainly because I really wanted it for myself, but also because she didn't think it lived up to last year. Through a series of fortunate suggestions from Amazon.com I stumbled upon the ten kitten t-shirt. Awesome, but not awesome to eleven. I needed to up the ante. Cue the kitten magnet... kitten yoga 2012 calendar... LOL cats box set... And the kitten holiday party DVD. That last one isn't a porno and is totally SFW. Wait, doesn't that stand for single white female?

Claire's present was a more of a subversive success. She had bought P Diddy's coffee table book on asses called "Culo" but was worried it wouldn't be cool enough or that most people don't care for coffee table books.  However, halfway through the gift exchange someone unwrapped a copy of Culo. While they were doing so, I thought to myself "when did Claire change her wrapping paper?" That's when we turned to each other and realized there were two ass books under the tree! Double Culo! Needless to say, it was a huge hit. Every round, both books were stolen up to the exchange limit until the very last unwrapping. Dirty minds think alike and it was good to know our six month absence had no deteriorating effect on the bond with our friends.

The rest of the weekend was spent adjusting to domestic life and planning out the week ahead. Our audacious plan to spend a week in NYC as if it were part of our trip took one big step forward, then about faced right back to the couch and reruns of Modern Family and Happy Endings. Though we made it to the tree at Rockefeller Center and the rink at Bryant park, we skipped on the skating and have yet to see any of the other sights we sought out. The Statue of Liberty got rained out, Dyker Heights Xmass displays were too far without a car and everything else we've either lived through, know better to avoid, or it was quite frankly too cold out to go see. Ironically, its unseasonably warm at 55, but when you've just come from 85 and sunny you have a different perspective on temperature tolerance. Having a working fireplace in our sublet isn't helping.

The rest of our time has been spent submitting resumes, revamping the blog, planning a trip to Mexico for a wedding, joining a gym and baking cupcakes. Normally the last two things you wouldn't put in the same sentence unless they were cause and effect, but one has nothing to do with the other in this instance. The gym is for us and the cupcakes are for the brother in law. It turns out Claire's brother Aaron missed out on the cupcakes at our wedding. Upon hearing such news, I promised him cupcakes for Christmas. With a little creative shopping at Target were were able to bake vanilla and fudge swirled cupcakes with vanilla icing and various combinations of M&Ms, Reeses Pieces, Peppermints, and sprinkles as toppings. Next year we're going to try crumbled gingerbread cookie pieces and eggnog icing so stay tuned.

As for joining the gym, there were several factors at play, but mostly because of the one question no husband can ever answer: "Am I getting fat?" It's a conundrums that has been explored by numerous stand up comedians over the ages so there's no need to explore it hear. When you spend 24/7 with someone, subtle changes over time are often imperceptible. Claire had no idea I lost weight between Ibiza and India, but it still happened. Would I have noticed if my wife gained any weight over a six month period? I'm not going to answer that upon fear of death.  Mind you, we were in tip top shape last June in time for our wedding, but fast forward several months and we were both worse for wear. Today we had a real, full on work out at the gym that left us both feeling better about ourselves. That is, until Claire got on the scale in the locker room. Needless to say, we'll be going to the gym every day until further notice. Husbands know how to lie about such things, but scales do not.

At least there will be more cupcakes for me.

- Bill

Sunday, December 25, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS!


It's Christmas day and we are on the bus back to NYC from Philadelphia. We came in last night to spend Christmas eve with family. I haven't been that excited to see my family in a long time, I'm so glad we made the decision to be back for Christmas. It really is the most special time of year. Today we should be back in the city around two, we have a turkey tenderloin waiting in our fridge at home, then I'm not sure. We are trying to round up a gang of family-less misfits to have a rowdy holiday party tonight so if your in New York and have nothing to do later, let me know!

MERRY CHRISTMAS WORLD!!!!!! Hope everyone's holiday is extra bright this year :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Pick Pocketed Sucks


I have to back way up for hot minute because I never shared my pick pocket story. I feel like it is my duty to warn travelers the world over of my particular experience leaving Buenos Aires.

That's right, we were leaving. We checked out of our apartment at 5:30 pm and walked to the Subte to take the train to the bus station where we had tickets on the 9:30pm bus to Mendoza. It was the first time I was carrying my new backpack with all my stuff in it and it was heavy. We had ditched our suitcases because we figured backpacks would be the way to go while bussing it through Argentina and Chile. We made the right choice but I wasn't used to lugging this thing around, especially in an extremely crowded metro at rush hour. In addition to the backpack I had my purse, which is like a whole other suitcase on it's own. It had all my makeup, wallet, reading glasses, extra sunglasses, passport, voltage converters, camera, camera accessories, camera battery charger, iPad, iPad charger, some jewelry, a scarf and some other small random things in it. It also had 2 small outside pockets, one was full of tissues and chap stick and the other had my change purse in it.

We were well aware that all of South America is full of petty thieves. Every single guide book will tell you to watch your belongings and don't display electronics or expensive jewelry. After being there for a month I guess I just got a little too relaxed and comfortable in my surroundings. I was stepping onto the train, with the big bag in front of me, struggling with the weight while not hitting anyone. My humongous purse was over my shoulder pushed towards the back. I noticed that some guy was really close behind me, too close. No matter how crowded the subway in New York gets, people always keep their tiny bubble of personal space around them. This is not the case in other parts of the world, I personally think Europe is the worst. It always really annoys me when people are riding my ass so I turned around to be like WTF DUDE and then I knew exactly what was happening. He had his jacket over my bag and when I turned around he ran off the train. My change purse was gone. It only had 5 pesos in it so the money wasn't a big deal but the purse itself was a gift from someone I really care about and I had used it for years. Not to mention that you collect a lot of change while traveling, most countries use coins for small amounts and bills only start in larger denominations.

My enchantment with Argentina was wearing off at this point. Between this, the fake money and getting shortchanged (that was the most expensive coca cola I ever bought) I was leaving with a bad feeling about Buenos Aires. Why do people do things like this? My uncle, who has severe Down Syndrome, goes to work everyday at a gym close to his group home and saves his money to buy his nieces and nephews Christmas presents every year. Now some piece of shit low life asswipe has my change purse that my uncle bought me. Really? I hope he's happy that he has my 5 fucking pesos. I wish I could find this guy and literally strangle his disgusting neck. But putting hurtful energy out into the universe isn't good and I doubt my uncle Tim would condone all the bad language I'm using so i just have to let it go. Most times people are awesome, sometimes they suck hard. Just watch your bag in Buenos Aires!

-Claire

Friday, December 16, 2011

Home

Some thoughts I had on the plane yesterday....

We are finally on our way home! I know we are way behind on the blog, and i promise one of us will get around to posting about Santiago and the Chilean coast but right now we are on the plane! Going home! We took a flight from Santiago with a lay over in Mexico City. I was very anxious this morning when we were connecting because our flight was late, and we had to go though immigration, pick up our luggage, go through customs and then drop the luggage back off then go through security again, all in an hour and a half. It would be my luck that on the last flight of the trip something would go wrong and I would not be able to get back to my beloved city. But it didn't and now I'm on my way home! Woo hooo!

We have a tight schedule ahead of us today- flight is supposed to land at 12:45pm at JFK. Then we have to grab a taxi and go to the bank to get a cashiers check for our new landlord, while bill is at the bank I'm stopping over to my friends salon across the street to plead with her to fix the horrendous mop that my hair has become. 6 months with no hairdryer, no products, no color, only 1 trim 3 months ago in Germany. Not to mention I've been washing it with shitty free hotel shampoo for the last 3 weeks. Its a serious frizzy, scratchy, broken mess. But Concetta can work wonders so I'm hoping she is free tomorrow. Then we have to get the keys to our sublet, pick up a zip car that's reserved for 4pm and go to the storage unit to grab all our winter clothes.
Tomorrow is equally as busy. Getting the phones turned back on and miraculously finding the chargers in the mess of boxes will take at least a couple hours I'm sure. I desperately need to get to the nearest cvs and stock up on razors, body wash, face wash, vitamins, make up, etc. All labeled in English so I'll actually understand what I'm buying! And of course a mani/pedi at my place on 27th St in the city. I seriously have troll feet right now. I took a nasty fall in Quintero while I was walking in the pitch darkness gazing at the stars in the sky so my big right toe is a bloody disgusting mess. Then we have a date with two of our very best friends to whom we have been shipping boxes of Christmas presents to hold for us. They have promised to order pizza so we are really really really excited for that. We made a list (to be posted shortly) of all the things we missed about home and, not surprisingly, the list was mostly food related. Can-not-wait for real Brooklyn pizza.

I know people who have been following our trip must be wondering what we are feeling right now, as we are on our way back home. I personally feel like nothing is ending at all. I think if I took one thing away from this whole crazy ride, it was this: whatever you want to do, do it. Dream bigger, make it happen. The last couple of weeks we have been talking about all the new plans we have for the future, near and far, and list is growing quickly. Our lives were very full before we left, and coming home with the knowledge that anything is possible as long as we are breathing is making our plans even more fantastic. Things that once seemed impossible now look easy. How about we both freelance permanently so we can spend every September nude snorkeling on the beaches in Ibiza for a month? Finally get a dog? Open my multiple million dollar mashed potato business? Very easy, if that's what we choose to do.

I think I may have mentioned a couple times (ha!) that NYC is the love of my life and I've missed it so much while I've been gone. Coming home is exciting, not at all sad. I feel like I got to take a really deep, 6 month, breath of inspiration. I'm so thankful for the luck that came my way, but I'm even more thankful that I worked my ass off, made good decisions and earned this experience. I pray everyday that going forward, in-between my fits of impatience and frustration, I can send a little bit of love back into the world.

THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES......

P.S. If your interested in investing in my multiple million dollar mashed potato business, tentatively titled: FUCKYEAHMASHEDPOTATOES! Then you can email me :)

-Claire

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mr. Hugo's Jetpack Wine Tours

A few weeks ago while researching the city of Mendoza, I was elated to find that there were numerous bicycle wine tours of the infamous Mendozan Wineries. I love bicycles, I love wine. Surely a winning combination. The challenge then was to find a reputable, reviewed and recommended tour operator as there were numerous options. Luckily through the magic of Facebook, we learned that our leading inspiration for this trip (who also happened to be our wedding photographer), had done such a tour himself. Upon his advice, we went with Mr. Hugo.

I had emailed them in advance to ask the basic stuff; hours, dates, costs, etc. Their responses were always in Spanish despite both their website and my inquiries being in English. Odd, but irrelevant. We were set for Saturday, could arrive at our leisure, and the bus was only 40¢. We had yet to ride a collectivo in Argentina, and the ones here were way more manageable to navigate than back in Buenos Aires. It was a far cry from a chicken bus, though live poultry always makes South American bus stories better somehow. Instead, we were joined by three fellow travelers from Amsterdam. They too were heading to the wine highway but without any specific plans. After a brief explanation of the concept of wines AND bicycles, they were sold on the idea. How could anyone from Amsterdam not be excited for bicycles? Have you ever been there? They have more bicycles than pigeons, and Dam Square is ground zero for flying rats.

As soon as we got off the bus we were bombarded by touts on bikes eager to sell us their tours. This was a first for us as every single tout we have seen prior on this trip was a pedestrian in nature. Hopefully this trend of evolution stops at bicycles because I would hate to see touts with more advanced technology. Jet packs are awesome, but in the wrong hands could be menacing. It was easy to waive them off with a simple "no gracias" (because they didn't have jet packs) and we headed straight to Mr. Hugo's.

It was just after noon and the party switch was already on. Casual, nondescript, non offensive club music was playing loudly enough to create atmosphere, but not too loud to drown out conversation. The home made wine was flowing, riders were being briefed, biked up and sent on there way. Map in hand, destinations in mind, no helmets and no waivers. That's just how they roll in Mendoza (and the rest of the world for that matter). Our party of five grew to seven when joined by the Australian couple we had met at our hotel and we were soon on our way as well.

The best bicycle wine advice we received was to start at the end and work your way back. The logic being you will be closer to your final destination at the end of your trip. In other words, the more wine you drink, the less bicycling you have to do. The flip side however, is you start your day with a 12km bike ride. After the first few kilometers we all decided to skip wineries 12 through 9 and start at number eight. This was the second good decision we made in a row, go team!

The winery was great, laid back, antique wine making thingies hung on the wall and a row of benches in front of the counter.  We sampled the young, old, aged and desert wines. The young wine was preferred by most, but we all loved the desert wine. There was a nice walnut after taste and no after burn. Sadly, we couldn't sample their limited, but were able to try their white when we sat down for wine and cheese, completely forgetting about the actual tour of the winery itself in the process. This would turn out to be the only winery we would make all day. It would be all down hill from here.

The next two wineries we attempted were both closed. We had no warning from the organizers that this is was even a possibility. Especially as they were the two most recommended. Instead, we settled for the beer garden, a refreshing change of pace after all of the wine we've been drinking. Typically when you envision a beer garden, giant steins of german beer, long wooden tables, pretzels, schnitzels, and liederhosen all come to mind. However, when the locals decided to create this beer garden they must have been oblivious to the concept of false advertising. Rather than walking into a Bavarian wunderland, we walked into a garden. Like an actual garden. With vegetables. This may have explained why the empañadas were so delicious and why the beers were not.

From there it was an easy jaunt back to Mr. Hugo's. The second best decision we made all day had paid off just in time for us to make our one bad one. Part of Mr. Hugo's allure is the endless, free flowing home made wine and late hours. The wineries close at 6pm and Mr. Hugo stays open till 9pm. What transpired in those three hours was sort of a verbal circus. Though our bodies were well behaved and there was no table dancing (regrettably), mouths were forming words that typically don't sound as intelligent during the inevitable morning after recollection.  Interestingly enough, was that I had not participated in, nor over heard, any conversations leading to sex death or taxes. Instead, I was witness to such gems as "you don't look Australian", "we only budgeted $10,000 for our week in NYC", "how can you not like Madonna if you're gay", and  "New Yorker's aren't in a hurry, we're just efficient walkers" (that last one was Claire). 

As fate would have it, we were spared any further awkwardness of conversations from the wine itself. I had detected a slight slur in my speech and hid my cup to prevent any further refills. It was time to go home. We split a cab back with the Australian couple from our hotel and immediately passed out upon our return. The morning after was spent piecing together the night before, eating breakfast, and regretting nothing (except that Mr Hugo doesn't offer jetpack wine tours).

- Bill

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our very own Mistletoe Moment

Our very own Mistletoe Moment: written for 1000 Fights
http://1000fights.com/mistletoe-moment/

Our MM moment happened in Delhi, India. I know what you must be thinking.... We have been to amazing romantic cities like Paris, Rome and Vienna. Countless sunsets were watched over pristine beaches in Spain and Croatia. We've had many adrenaline pumping adventures in South America. Nope, our moment happened in a slum in New Delhi, India.

I have no idea why we decided to volunteer, I think it was my idea but I can't quite pinpoint the actual reason I wanted to do it. It may have been that I wanted to "give back" which really means I wanted to absolve myself of the guilt I had for quitting my job and flitting around the world spending all of my husband's money, or maybe it was really all about making myself feel like a better person. Whichever reason it was, at the end of the program I felt all the terribly cliched things about volunteering: I really did fall in love with the kids, they taught me way more than I taught them.... You know exactly what I'm talking about, you've heard this before....

So it was our first day of our assignment. We were going to teach English to kids in an alleyway on the edge of a large slum in the Okhla Phase 2 district of Delhi. It really was an alleyway, with an awning made of corrugated asbestos pieces. At the end of the alleyway was the "office" which was a little shack made of scrap metal, bricks, and had the same asbestos ceiling. Attached to the ceiling was a wood beam, with a fan tied to it by a piece of rope. The fan blades were attached to a small motor that had a cord, the cord was cut and peeled back to expose the inside wires, the wires were shoved into an open electrical looking thing. It wasn't a socket. It was like a box, and there was a hole, and these wires were shoved into it. The fan was having a seizure as the blades whirled slowly and precariously over our heads. It was the beginning of October so the temperature was around 38C/100F so as much as I was scared that this fan was going to decapitate/electrocute me I was thankful for it's small, pitiful existence. The guy who runs the school was an extremely nice gentleman who asked us all about ourselves, told us about the school and offered us some Chai. When someone who obviously has so little offers you something, you have to accept. I couldn't decline on account that I thought that tea made in a pot on the floor was going to be dirty. What's a little dirt anyways? (I found out, by spending a month in India, a little dirt won't kill you. Actually, a lot of dirt won't kill you either). One of the children turned on the electric burner, also with exposed wires shoved into the same electric-hole-box that the fan was operating out of.

We chatted, I looked warily at the electric burner, smiled, chatted some more. The director became inpatient and rattled off something stern sounding in Hindi. I guess the water wasn't boiling fast enough? Did I mention this was water they got out of a pipe in the alleyway? Yeah. I was having visions of all the hurt that my stomach was going to experience as a result of this tea. I really, really, really wanted to make sure the water was boiled, for like a really, really, really long time to get rid of whatever parasites were in it. then it came out- a gas propane tank. It was covered in dust, dented and a little rusty. There was a broken piece, that looked like the valve, which they were arguing over in Hindi. They pulled out a gas burner for it and started shoving wires in and taking them out and playing with the valve and arguing. I looked at Bill. Bill looked at me. I can't quite explain the look we both fixed onto one another. A look of terror perhaps? Devotion? Love? My thought was literally that if I died, in a huge freak-Chai-gas tank- accident in India at least I would be with my husband. Staring into his beautiful large brown eyes as my body exploded into flames and the pieces of my ash floated up into the somewhat hazy, muddy sky of Delhi. Such a romantic way to go. I never thought it would be like this. I don't know what I thought it would be like, I never think about dying, it scares the shit out of me. We both took a small breath of anticipation as they turned the broken valve one last time and exhaled a very huge sigh of relief as the flame came on and we did not explode.

After a very hurried cup of tea we went out for lunch. Over vegetable samosas in a thing that was kind of like a restaurant, with roaches crawling on the floor, we confessed to each other that we were both thinking the same thing at the same moment back in the office. The look we shared was one of undying love, and the desire to express so at that exact place in time. We did make it through our two weeks of volunteering miraculously unscathed. Thankful for the experience, but more thankful for each other.

It was the best chai I've ever had.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tough Life- Steak Edition Pt.2: Featuring Thanksgiving!

I know I squeezed a lot into the title up there but I also squeezed a lot of freaking food into my stomach in the second half of our all you can eat bonanza week. Here's some more reviews of the places we ate:


Lateral Bar and Cafe- Rep. de la India 2899
We woke up late and had a packed agenda of sightseeing and a tango class at 1:30. We didn't make the tango class. While exiting the Recoleta cemetery and arguing about whether or not we had time to see some flower sculpture before getting in a cab to go across town for the tango lesson, I looked at bill and Tom's faces. They obviously did not want to tango. Tango was vetoed, we saw the flower sculpture and then we came back to Palermo and attempted to go to lunch before hitting up the Evita museum. We all wanted pizza. Bill remembered seeing a pizza place on our walk home from the restaurant the night before so we went over there. They sat us on the roof terrace, passed out menus and like 10 minutes later told us the "oh btw there's no pizza today because there's a problem with the oven". Ok, so we left. Next we walked into an Italian place called Guidos and asked for the menu. They said there was no menu but for 150 pesos per person they would give you what they felt like making that day. This kind of thing works beautifully in Italy, I'm not convinced it would work so well in Argentina. We left. We were starving, it was like 3pm at this point, and we decided on a small cafe on the corner. They had pizzas and salads and beer and happiness as a side. I forget exactly what we ordered but it was all very good. The salads were enormous and the pizza was the best we've had yet in Buenos Aires (that's not saying much, but it was pretty good). It was well past 5 when we realized the museum was only open till 7 so we rushed out as fast as we could with our stuffed stomachs to see Evita before she closed.


Pura Tierra-3 de Febrero 1167 and Cumana-Rodríguez Peña 1149
Tom and Jen went out to eat by themselves Tuesday and Wednesday night. The report we got was that both restaurants were awesome, delicious and cheap. This seems to be a theme in Buenos Aires.


Sheraton Golf and Spa Resort: Lobby Bar- Colonia, Uruguay
Our ferry to Uruguay left promptly at 8:45am Thursday morning and 1 hour later we were docking in Colonia. The town of Colonia is exactly what it sounds like: quaint, quiet and colonial looking. We strolled around town, hit up the local craft market then hopped in a cab for a short drive to the Sheraton. Can we just take a sec to talk about the Sheraton hotel? After 5 1/2 months of staying in bare bones, no frills, and sometimes questionable accommodations do you have any idea what it's like to walk into a Sheraton and know you are going to sleep there? Jen has a bazillion hotel points from traveling for work so she booked us our own room for the night. It was huge, it's the first really comfortable bed we'd had in over a month and there was a gigantic jacuzzi tub. Ahhhhhh luxury. After lounging at the pool we were hungry for lunch so we grabbed a corner at the lobby bar and ordered sandwiches. I got the chicken club, Bill got the salmon cucumber and cream cheese. Tom and Jen got a hamburgeusa complete and a steak sandwich. I loved the food. It was such a nice change from all the heavy stuff we had been eating lately. If you ever stay at this Sheraton (no the Sheraton is not paying me for this review but they freakin should) get the chicken club.

Toasting to Uruguay at lunch.

Meson De La Plaza- Vasconcellos 153, Colonia, Uruguay
It was Thanksgiving so of course a big, delicious meal was in order. I had skyped my family in the afternoon and I was jealous that they were eating tons of turkey. My mom had made 6 pies, brownies and 3 different kinds of cookies! I'm really happy that we decided to come back in time for the holidays because we originally weren't going to be back until the end of January. I love thanksgiving, I love getting ready for thanksgiving, I love eating with my family, I love seeing my family, I love everything about the holiday. And I love Christmas even more. I'm the type of person who hates giving gift cards because I want to wrap presents and I want people to have real presents to unwrap. I love decorating the tree, I love shopping in the stores, hanging lights in the windows, making cookies, etc etc you get the idea. So I was a little homesick and nothing cures homesickness like an awesome dinner. It was not traditional Thanksgiving dinner but it was super awesome. I had pumpkin soup, followed by ink squid raviolis stuffed with shrimp. Bill ordered a salad to share and steak. I forget what Tom and Jen had for apps but they got the lamb and meat filled raviolis. Of course copious amounts of wine and a couple hours later we were ready for dessert, which was grandma cake. I asked the waiter was grandma cake was and he started by saying "it is a brownie, with dulce de leche....." I told him he need not say more and to bring me this thing immediately. It turns out there was syrup and ice cream and a bunch of other delicious things on it but bill and I inhaled it so quickly I didn't take a picture.

My ink squid ravis

What was left of the grandma cake

The Mujer Bridge in Puerto Madero
Las Lilas- A.M. de Justo 516
Everyone kept telling us we had to visit Puerto Madero. It's the newest and most wealthy part of Buenos Aires. Think high rise million dollar condos on the waterfront. Also on the waterfront are a bunch of old warehouses converted into 5 star restaurants. The look and feel of the place made me think of what DUMBO was 10 years ago, or maybe what's happening on the greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront in recent years. a lot of high rises with no other signs if life. No grocery stores, gyms, public space or neighborhood feel. These things always take a little bit of time to appear so maybe in 5 years Puerto Madero will be a full fledged neighborhood. Actually strolling down restaurant lane reminded me of the meat packing district. Formerly gross, now chic and expensive, Las Lilas is the creme de la creme of restaurants in PM. We mentioned to our bike tour guide that we had dined there for free (Tom and Jen generously covered the bill that night, thanks guys! Kisses!) and he exclaimed "my god! You are living the life, to eat at Las Lilas and not pay!". The restaurant was gorgeous, service was impeccable, the food was out of this world and with dessert came a drink caddy with bottles of grappa and limoncello. Our meal started with a mix plate of apps, and some grilled provolone. I had the strip, Tom had the rib eye, bill had short ribs, and Jen had chorizo. we polished of the obligatory 2 bottles of wine and numerous dessert shots (on top of real dessert which was a dulce de leche something or other) before stumbling into the beautiful warm night surrounded by the cozy lights of the port and the Mujer bridge. It doesn't look like people dancing tango, I don't care what anyone says. It was on the cab ride home that we were passed a fake bill by the cab driver which we already vented about, but all in all it was a great night, and a great way for Tom and Jen to end their trip.

Mixed app plate

I'd like my steak medium por favor!

I need a caddy like this at home!


-Claire

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Legend of Mr. Fuzzyball Puffypants and Mrs. Bill

Many moons ago, while executing our wedding planning schedule spreadsheet, it came time to get our wedding license. A pretty straight forward task if you live in Brooklyn. Head down to the municipal building, fill out a form, wait in line, pay a fee and Ta-Da! You can now legally get married in the state of New York. It was that easy. Even waiting in line wasn't all that terrible. There were several other couples ahead of us running the gamut from a young Hasidic couple, a caribbean couple, some old ball miss matches that make you scratch your head, and Ronnie and Sammy from the Jersey shore. A fair representation of Brooklyn if I do say so myself, Marty Markowitz would be proud.

What we didn't know, was that folded into this process was the ability to change your name. The back of the form simply stated that if any party wishes to change their name, they can do so by indicating below. It made no differentiation between bride or groom, first name or last name, it simple asked you to put down what you would like your new name to be. This was a moment of pure excitement for me, a flash of brilliance had erupted in my head. I could forever be known, legally, as Mr Fuzzyball Puffypants.

I immediately raised my newfound wishes with the future mrs, but she laughingly, and lovingly, rejected the idea. She had no desire to be Mrs. Fuzyball Puffypants. I was devastated to say the least. Any future enjoyment I would have received from the people I handed my passport to had vanished. Entering nightclubs would no longer be accompanied by second glances from bouncers, cashiers would no longer question my personal checks, and my children would no longer be beaten up at school. Daily. Instead, life goes on as WMD. Please don't tell Bush and Cheney, but I was here all along.

However, despite Claire's refusal to accept a life of mockery with me, this did raise a seemingly important question. Tradition stands in western cultures that brides adopt the surname of the groom. In this case Claire Barrett would become Claire Darby. There were only two problems with this: 1) We had never really talked about it and 2) We were leaving the country soon and would not have the time to update everything properly (bank accounts, passports, SS#, credit cards, beneficiary forms, IRAs, email, etc). We had a wedding to plan and a RTW trip to take and couldn't be bothered with all that paperwork. By "We" I mean Claire.

The couple in front of us were merely Ronnie and Sammie look a likes and came off rather well adjusted from their conversation we eavesdropped on.
There was no hope of an eruption into fisticuffs that would delay their processing, leaving us with only a few minutes to discuss the name change issue. We were next in line and a decision needed to be made.

This wasn't something that was on our spreadsheet or even something that we had talked about in any length of depth. I'm not a stickler for tradition and Claire infamously is not a stickler for paperwork (you can ask her old boss all about that). Simple enough.  We both felt it was unnecessary at this time, and if we ever changed our minds we could take care of it in the future. Right now we just wanted to file the form and get on with the day. We both needed to go to work, and you know, make money.

I still would have preferred life as Mr. Fuzzyball Puffypants, but we both felt the name change was a non issue.  We forgot all about it until the day of our wedding when we were asked about it. Some reactions were mixed, but others still were unexpected. Apparently I was now married to a modern woman. Perplexing to us because A) I've always felt Claire was modern (independent, stylish, charming, beautiful, etc) and 2) because we never saw this as an issue (from any perspective).

On a future occasion when talking to my dad, he asked me how "Mrs. Darby" was doing, and being my father's son I responded "Mom's great". I had to correct him that Claire was in fact not Mrs. Darby, so he has taken to calling her Mrs. Bill. Admittedly, the thought of her as a claymation character prone to catastrophic encounters makes me giggle on the inside. The name Mrs. Fuzzyball Puffypants however, makes me out right laugh maniacally. There are so many other important things to take care of first that it has gone from a non issue to a non priority. We might discuss it someday, but for now we need to find jobs, and you know, make money.

- Bill



A note from Claire: seeing how this post largely has to do with me I thought I'd put my two cents in. It really never mattered to me what my last name was, I am seriously allergic to paperwork and that was the reason I didn't rush to do it all before we left. I never would have got my passport back in time for the trip anyways. I think women must have never had to worry about these things back in the day because they didn't have bank accounts of their own and retirement accounts and passports and all the things that their husbands were in charge of anyways. At this point, I don't think my status as "wife" changes at all according to what my last name is and I do like the sound of "modern woman" it has a nice ring to it, so I will keep the name I was born with, I think it suits me better anyway. Our future kids can have Darby though, that's a tradition I'll stick with. And I need someway to prove who the baby daddy is. Ha! Just kidding. Maybe ;)

Anyways, what are your thoughts on the matter? Married or not married I think every woman has an opinion on this...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tough Life- Steak Edition. Part 1

Bills older brother Tom, and his girlfriend Jen, came to visit last week. It was nice to see some familiar faces and we took a great little side trip over to Uruguay for Thanksgiving. I still maintain that they came to Buenos Aires, not to see us, but to have an intimate experience with the world famous asada. We ate like crazy. Here's the run down of the restaurants/bars we went to:


Sugar Bar- Costa Rica 4619
An expat bar in Palermo. We immediately recognized it by the American flag on the giant tv screen. They serve wings, burgers, etc and show American football games on Sunday. There are expats of all nationalities that hang there, but most seemed American. A girl sitting at the table next to us was listening to our convo and jumped in when she heard a mention of Snookie. She had been in BA for a couple of months and hadn't heard a peep about the Jersey Shore and was overly delighted to discuss the latest and greatest with us. She also introduced us to her prized "souvenir" of Argentina (her words not mine)- a very handsome gentleman who gave us some tips on where to go and what to see. The drinks were super cheap, we had a couple of rounds and in true BA fashion, headed off to dinner around 10:30.


Don Julio- Gurruchaga 2107
An awesome parilla in Palermo. Things did not get off to a good start when we walked in. There was a wait and we asked if we could have some drinks in the meantime. When the waiter came to deliver our sparkling wine he promptly spilled it all over Tom. We ended up getting a great table on the second floor overlooking the grill so I figured they felt bad about the spill and made up for it with good seats. Every square inch of shelf space is filled with empty wine bottles with messages people scribbled on them in their half drunken stupors. The food was solid, service was good, the wine was great and I drew portraits of each of us on the second bottle for the restaurant to keep. We had sweetbreads and grilled provolone for apps, we all had steak in different cuts, and dulce de leche crepes for dessert along with some other delicious things I can't remember. We were pleasantly surprised at the bill also. I think it was under $200 for all of us, which is fantastic. We left the restaurant at 2am and there were still families with small children eating dinner. Kids definitely have a different schedule down here, none of them are going to bed at 8pm like at home.

We took a pic of the BK bottle :)

Wherever Bar-Santa Maria de Oro 2476
Tom and Jen went to Bahia Blanca for a couple days to visit Jen's pen pal from childhood that she still keeps in contact with. They wrote each other for 25 years and just met for the first time here in Argentina, crazy right!? We decided to continue the "going out after dark" streak alive and went to our language school for a meet up. We actually took a nap so we missed the language exchange part but we joined everyone after class and went to Wherever Bar for drinks. It's a very laid back, cozy, yet spacious bar that has a small menu of food and a large selection of drinks. We chose off the happy hour menu and I think our beers were like 12 pesos each. Im beginning to think it's cheaper to go out in this city than buy groceries and stay home.
After that we went to Plaza Serrano and picked one of the many many many bar/restaurant options for a hamburguesa completa, fries and a drink for 35 pesos each. One thing I'm absolutely taking back to the states with me is the fried egg on a hamburger. It's awesome.


Random Street Fair- Centro
Bill and I stumbled upon an Italian heritage festival somewhere int he center of the city on Saturday afternoon and got steak and sausage sandwiches.



Desnivel's- Defensa 855
Upon their return from Bahia Blanca on Sunday, we went to the San Telmo market for a little stroll. Bill and I had checked this market out before and thought they had some good souvenir stuff. I think Jen and Tom bought some small things, and we came across a really lively, loud and good street band. It was an all out dance party in the street with a few hundred people working up a sweat. We made our way down to Plaza Dorrego and had a drink while we watched some tango dancing, then went back down Defensa to Desnivel's. We got there at the height of dinner and things looked pretty busy. After some confusion caused by language barriers we were finally seated. Then there was comical confusion when ordering, specifically when I tried to ask what the pork was stuffed with, making a lewd hand gesture to try and drive home the point. All in all the food was good, what we got of it anyway. They were out of the stuffed pork and the ribs. Our blood sausage came out cold but the waiter immediately remedied the situation. I actually really liked this place. The atmosphere was super laid back which is how it should be when your gobbling up steak and downing cheap wine. The electricity went out for a hot minute during a torrential downpour and the restaurant erupted in cheers, prompting us to order another bottle because we didn't have an umbrella, and why not? They were cheap as shit, delicious, and it was early by BA standards, only a little after midnight. 2 weeks of Spanish class did come in handy at the end of our meal when i asked the waiter to please call us a cab, which he did with pleasure. Probably laughing at my Spanish the whole time.

Mmmmmmm blood sausage....

Cooking with Teresita- www.try2cook.com
We took a cooking class outside of the city in Adrouge. We took the Subte to the train and around an hour and 15 minutes later we were in a delightful suburb of BA. Teresita was great, her house was gorgeous, and we learned how to make a proper empanada which apparently we've been doing all wrong. While the filling was cooling in the fridge she cracked open some bottles of wine and we had a seat in her lovely garden sipping away and meeting the other people in the class. We stuffed our empanadas and baked half and fried the other half. When all was said and done there were mountains of corn and carne empanadas on the table with even more wine to help wash it down. I think I ate 5 before throwing in the towel. Bill was more ambitious, scarfing down 8 empanadas before declaring he was going to barf. We wandered around the town for a bit before getting back on the train home. I took a nap to help digest all the greasy fried carne goodness in my belly.

Plenty of wine was readily available

Stuffing our empanada shells

Finished product, ready to eat!

Bella Italia- Republica Arabe de Siria 3285
Jen had made dinner reservations at a parilla for that night but after we all awakened from our naps we started thinking that maybe we needed a break from the endless piles of asada. So we went to Bella Italia for pasta. There is a Bella Italia cafe caddy corner to the restaurant. It looked very busy in there but we went to the actual restaurant across the street. It was just what I needed after so much steak. The atmosphere was a little too romantic for a group but nice nonetheless, who doesn't like dim, soft lighting? The service was great, the pasta was great. We got raviolis and Tagliatelle to share which were delish. The risotto we shared was really rich and heavy, then the mixed seafood grill came out and by that time I was in pain. The empanadas, the pasta and the risotto were all making me actually look 5 months pregnant. But I ate some mixed grill and then......dun dun dahhhhhhhhh!!! Dulce de leche volcano appeared. It was a cake with the middle cut out and dulce de leche poured in.

The love of my life- Dulce de leche volcano

It was oozzing over the top. Ugh. I've never hated myself so much. I couldn't even walk home, I waddled. I haven't seriously exercised in almost 6 months. While on this trip I've lost a couple pounds here and there and gained a couple pounds as well, nothing too noticeable either way. What I have noticed is the complete loss of muscle mass that been replaced by jiggly stuff and I'm not happy about it. I'm also not going to get up and go jogging so the jiggly will have to stay until I get back to the gym in BK. I lamented to Bill that I seriously didn't want to eat like I did that day ever again. But of course we did. Those restaurants will have to wait until part 2.

Too be continued!!!


-Claire

Monday, November 28, 2011

¡100 Pesos Falso!

When doing our research on Buenos Aires, two notorious scams were mentioned over and over. The first, is being short changed. This happens everywhere in the world so we didn't think anything of it. Sure enough, we were shorted 10 pesos on a coke the first week we were here and just decided to let it go. The other notorious scam is the fake 100 peso bill from Taxi drivers. The way the scam works, is when you go to pay a taxi driver with a 100 peso bill, he will tell you that he can not make change and hand you back the bill. However, given their obligatory training in magician school with a specialization in slight of hand, he has actually handed you back a counterfeit bill. 

Knowing this, we always make sure to carry small change. On the night in question though, we completely failed ourselves. We were in the cab and I offered to pay for the ride as my brother and his girlfriend had just paid for our VERY expensive dinner. The problem was, I only had hundreds from a fresh withdrawal at the ATM. I mentally prepared my argument in Spanish as we drove towards the hotel: "Manejás un taxi todos la noche perro no tenés cambio? De puta madre!" but as quickly as I could explain what was happening to the other passengers and start yelling at the driver, he had handed me back the 100 pesos and Tom gave him exact change.

I had forgotten about the possible switcharoo, but was instead focused intently on making him give me change. Claire remembered however and asked me immediately if I had seen the 100 peso bill in his hand the entire time. I was convinced that I had, but it was late, dark, and we polished off two bottles of wine and several shots of limocello and grapa at dinner. I pulled out the bill to examine and it looked real enough to me. It did not look real enough to the concierge when we asked him for change however as it was clear in the hotel lobby lighting that this was el falso. Laughably so. It's about as bad as a low-res inkjet print out copied onto a piece of tissue paper. I had been looking for a souvenir from Buenos Aires the whole time we've been here, maybe something nice to hang on the wall. I had now found it.

The next morning we both awoke with a bad taste in our mouths. It wasn't the grappa/limocello combination aftertaste, it was the sour knowledge that we were taken advantage of for merely being gringos. We started to miss India, at least people there were friendly to foreigners and would even ask to take their picture with you. We were used to the indifference in Spain, and didn't encounter any specifically direct discrimination elsewhere in our travels, and we've been to Paris! At least if anyone in India would scam you, 100 rupees is no sweat off your back and will do far more to feed their family or buy them shoes. 100 pesos to a taxi driver is a little more of a hit to your wallet, but more so to the ego.

I blame bad parenting (as I often do), obviously this man's parents raised him to both discriminate and be deceitful. You have a steady job picking up people from expensive restaurants all night, you're not hurting for money. Why did you think it necessary to be such a piece of shit? We're hoping he chokes on the steak he bought with our money. I know it's not properly karmic to ever wish illl will on someone, but somebody has to do it. This is how we spent our Saturday morning. Fuming over essentially something that isn't real. Thankfully we remembered that we had found 100 pesos in the bus station a week earlier, calmed way the fuck down and felt the universe had somehow balanced itself out. Our desire is no longer for him to choke on steak, but our opinion of him remains the same.

At least there's plenty of dulce de leche around to get rid of the sour taste.

- Bill

Sunday, November 27, 2011

¿Como es Buenos Aires?

It's easy to say you've fallen in love with a place. Travelers do it all the time, we have too. But this is a different kind of love, not the typical fantasy day dream produced by whirl wind traveling escapades, (see Vienna, Paris, etc) but true love. The better or worse kind where practicality and daily life supersedes romance. Not that romance is dead, but instead of  Palaces and the Eiffel Tower, you get date night in Palermo. Admittedly, the closest experience we've had to home yet.

Such a perspective is deepened when thinking of these neighborhoods as mash-ups of familiar places back home. Palermo is reminiscent of Park Slope and Forte Greene (there's actually a Palermo SoHo too) with designer boutiques, restaurants, cobblestones and remnant colonial charm. Puerto Madero blends Red Hook's revived waterfront look and feel with the restaurants and prices of the meat packing district; the cranes still stand, the steak is abundant and shit is expensive. There's even a China Town, which aside from Paris, is the only other we've encountered on our trip. We've made similar associative comparisons between home and our destinations before, but being a couple of Brooklyneers it's inevitable. Whether or not its true in this instance is questionable though as we're near the end of our trip and are greatly looking forward to going home. I could just have Brooklyn on the brain and see it everywhere.

For clarification, a Brooklynite is someone who is born, bred and lives in Brooklyn. A Brooklyneer is someone who has moved to Brooklyn and made it their home (think pioneer). A term coined by my friends father, Sgt Lynch of the NYPD, (retired) current resident of Bay Ridge. </shout out>

Running through these neighborhoods are an infinite number of Collectivos (busses), dozens alone going down Santa Fe, the nearest artery to our apartment. It runs for several kilometers straight into the heart of the city and is lined non stop with commerce. Most of the high end and chain stores are relegated to the malls, but every manner of mom and pop, boutique and local establishment can be found in this endless stretch of a shoppers paradise. Not the Barney's sample sale kind, but in it's own Buenos Aires way.

Like any city, there are numerous construction sites littered throughout the booming neighborhoods. Buenos Aires is a city on the upswing, it's construction sites are fully operational. We haven't passed a single stalled site that was so common back home.  Instead, we live adjacent to a site that has a daily grill going for the workers. Everyday, Around 10:30 in the morning, the smell wafts it's way into our apartment and reminds us that it's almost time to go to class. People build their own Bacon alarm clocks, but this is far safer and easier to manage. I  imagine that some clever Argentinian has seen the Bakon alarm clock and is now hidden away in his secret lab/BBQ working feverishly to create the Asada Alarm Clock. Did I say imagine? I meant hope. 

There are more parillas per square block than pizzerias in Brooklyn. Which is a good thing because the pizza here quite frankly sucks. Thankfully, Argentina eats more beef per capita than any other country in the world. We've eaten more steak this past month than we have in the past year. Any weight I lost in India has been healthily restored thanks to Argentinian steak and Beer. The latter of which, I know have an obsession which. The beer of choice here is Quilmes, my favorites being the red lager and the bock. Quilmes controls 75% of the market share and was founded by a German immigrant back in the 1800's (impressive beer credentials). They're real beers. Eastern European quality and taste. None of that piney, over hopped, over flavored micro brews that are so common in every bar in Brooklyn. I may not be able to find it when I get home, so I've been drinking a liter a day to get my fill. I'm not becoming an alcoholic, that's just the size of the bottles they come in.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all steak and beer in Buenos Aires. There's enough culinary options here to hold it's own with other big cities, but you'll always be known for what you do best. Here, it's steak, wine, empañadas, and dulce de leche. We've already taken to making empañadas at home and put dulce de leche on everything (except the empañadas). Though there are traditional empañada filling recipes, you can actaually put anything you want in them. We're even going to make banana and dulce de leche empañadas for breakfast tomorrow (ignore the last parantheses).

Before your think all we've done here is eat, we've actually spent hours walking around the city, have met numerous locals and Claire can even speak a little spanish now. What little we've met of the people and have read of it's history, it's easily apparent this is a city of survival. Life goes on in the face of adversity, a little hard to judge from our perspective of swanky shops and fine dining in Palermo, but you can see it lying just underneath the surface. The homeless encampments in the city squares are neither vagrant filled squatter slums, or smelly homeless enclaves you'd find tucked away in places like New York or London. It's not the slums of Delhi either. They appear full of people just trying to get by, but definitely steps above the aforementioned. On two separate occasions to date, we've seen make shift Asadas in progress. I guess when you're country has the highest per capita beef consumption rate in the world, even the homeless eat meat. Sad, but impressive at the same time.

Also sad and impressive is the life of Eva Perone. She came from a small town, became a famous star, married a powerful politician, empowered the impoverished (creating enemies by doing so) and was nominated for Vice President all by the age of 33 before she was stricken down by cancer. Then, her corpse was hidden for 17 years by the military after the Coup. Though it was later returned to her husband, it had been badly desecrated and eventually laid to rest in her families tomb. Her enduring popularity is ever present in the city. She's the only historical figure we've  seen prominently who isn't some old general, on a horse, pointing (we've lost count of these kinds of statues throughout the city). Given her unofficial title of "Spiritual leader of the People", it would be easy to draw comparisons between her and Gandhi. There are similarities in both the legacy of their work and their lasting endearment, but I've already written about Gandhi and wouldn't do her any justice. Gandhi defeated the British empire and her life was cut short, I'll leave the debate up to the historians. Sadly there's no good documentaries on iTunes and I would never endorse Madonna as an actress. However, if you need a floor filler remix while DJing a chelsea nightclub at 5am, that's another story altogether.

There are millions of stories this city has to tell. It would be impossible to recount all the ones we've created ourselves alone.  I've always heard that Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America and I've made several allusions to NYC myself, but the truth is Buenos Aires is itself. Calling it anything else dilutes the brand so to speak. Why not just call it what it is? A grand metropolis, full of history, charm, struggles, and achievements.

And steak.



- Bill

*Editorial note: we learned today that the expression "Paris of the South" comes from the countries strong ties to France and subsidized immigration of French people to Argentina in the 1800's.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Am I the only traveler on earth that wants to go back to work?

There's no place like work, there's no place like work, there's no place like work.....

If there are indeed people reading this blog who don't know Bill and me personally, they probably are a bit confused as to who we are, since we do not have a "who we are" or "about us" tab conveniently located at the top of the screen. I'm not going to get into anything real deep here about who I am, finding myself, and a bunch of other existential crap but I have learned a bit about myself on this trip, the big whopper being that I actually want to go back to work. I'm like, looking forward to it. Crazy right?!

I am a lingerie designer. If any recruiters in NYC are reading this I have worked on everything- baby dolls, panties, juniors, loungewear; some very sexy crotchless stuff to some very conservative grandma stuff. I can do it all! Please get me a job! Thanks! I loved my job and without blowing my own horn too much, I personally think I was pretty good at it too. Before I got into lingerie I worked for a small designer making very expensive and gorgeous sportswear. Sportswear are not things you work out in, it is a category in fashion that denotes separates. Skirts, jackets, pants, tops, etc.. I have never sat in a cubicle in my life. In fact I had a big office with a window! My job was, at times, incredibly creative and challenging. I even got to travel to Asia a bit, and hopefully at my next job I'll get to travel even more. You want me to go hopping across Europe for a week on an all expense paid shopping spree through London, Rome and Paris? No problem! Of course there were some very stressful moments, late nights, and the usual inter office bullshit that comes when anyone has to work with another human being. Throw in the huge fashion egos and a couple of gay guys to the mix and there is going to be drama in the workplace. (I'm going to say this now before I get emails saying I offended a gay person- I love the gays and the gays love me, I'm like the #1 fag hag ever. Besides, what I said is true and you know it) the fashion business is a tough business, not for the faint of heart or the thin skinned. There have been so many times I presented my work to a room full of people and they said "oh my god i hate that". There have been meetings where I've been told such and such style was not selling in the stores, that I needed to come up with something better. There have also been times I really pushed for something I loved and it ended up being a hit. Fashion is like art, it's all subjective, and at the end of the day it was bunch of old men at the executive level trying to tell me that women don't like black underwear. Really? In what universe?

So the point is, I didn't quit my job and take this trip because I was trying to escape the rat race or I was unhappy or I felt like I was doing meaningless drivel for a paycheck. 10 years ago I was going through some very serious personal shit and I moved on August 18th, 2001 to New York to go to college at the F.I.T. It was a complete upheaval of my life and the best decision that I ever made, and the best decision my father ever made concerning me. (thanks dad!) That first year was the most insane, emotionally explosive- and now that I look back on it- therapeutically healing year of my life. How I managed to stay alive and out of jail is beyond me, its how I know there is a God, but those are all stories for another time... Or never actually. So these 10 years go by and for a long time I had been feeling like I needed a change. I needed to shake things up to keep myself sane, to keep my perspective in check. I had also been feeling like i was getting the designers equivalent of writers block and I needed to clear my head and get back some of the electric energy I had been drained of over time. It was an idea Bill and I tossed around for years. We met people who had done the RTW thing, we thought about it then decided against it. Then we started meeting more and more and more people who had done it, but the timing wasn't right. Then we decided that we should actually do the wedding thing because we had been engaged for over a year and hadn't even thought of wedding plans and suddenly it was like (forgive the cheesy cliché I'm about to drop here, but this really was what it was like) the stars aligned and the universe was screamed LETS DO THIS THING MOFOS!!!

In all seriousness though... It was the right time. We were getting married and this would be our honeymoon. As we were deciding to do this, my company put the division I worked for up for sale. I would either be laid off or make the move with the new people to jersey, the latter prevailed. My commute doubled but it allowed me to keep saving for the wedding/trip for an extra 6 months. Bill had been working an awesome freelance gig for awhile so with some serious scrimping on our parts we really did have the money to go, and come back with a cushion.

Now it's been 5 months on the road, with 3 weeks to go. I've never not had a job since I was 16 so the whole not working thing has been a little weird, I've felt a little lazy. I also realized rather quickly that having a job meant that Bill and I spent roughly 10-12 hours a day away from each other and now we were together 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Days would go by and we wouldn't have any real interaction with other people besides each other. As much as I love him, I don't want to see his face 24 hours a day. Working also put me on a time table which made the rest of my life easier to schedule; like laundry, grocery shopping, the gym, yoga class and happy hour with my friends. Do you understand how hard it is for me to motivate myself to do the 8 minute abs routine after waking up at 10am and taking an hour to eat breakfast? Life has been an eternal Saturday for the last five months and as much as that sounds wonderful, the truth is Saturdays are so great because they only happen once a week. Let's see... What else.... Oh yeah I LOVE making money!! Getting a paycheck every week for doing a job that you like and are good at is pretty freakin sweet. Spending that hard earned cash on guilty pleasures for myself, family and friends every once in awhile is even sweeter. Most of all I'm ready to go back because I honestly miss doing what I do. This has been the experience of a lifetime, and I literally mean that because we aren't ever going to do this again, but it's time to return to reality..... Or my reality at least, which I've noticed is quite different than let's say, the reality of an office clerk in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Now I just need to cross my fingers, update my resume and actually GET a job. I'll be available for interviews Dec.16th :)


-Claire

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reporting In From Creamfields Buenos Aires

If you've been reading our blog, or know us personally, you know that we consider ourselves party connoisseurs with a heavy emphasis on dance music. When we knew that we'd be in Buenos Aires in time for Creamfileds, it was a no brainer that we would go. It was listed on our honey fund, and appropriately enough, was gifted to us by our friends Ripp & Steph. They are two of our best friends in the whole world (Ripp introduced us, I was a groomsman at their wedding, plus a million other stories) and they themselves had gone to Creamfields BA two years ago with tremendous results. I myself had been to the Creamfields festival in the UK in 1998 and 2001, so needless to say our excitement level was pretty high.

As it turns out, being a party connoisseur does not necessarily mean you have party preparation foresight. A good example of this is our friend Wes. Wes considers himself an alcoholist (completely different than an alcoholic), and knows what it takes to spend a night drinking without becoming a complete mess. He knows that if you go out for a night of heavy drinking that you should eat a large dinner. He knows that if you go out in a far off neighborhood you should look up the number for the local car service in case you can't find a ride home. He knows that if you hypothetically end up at Flashdancers, it's not necessary to tell your significant other. All good examples of foresight and preparation. For Creamfields, we did the opposite. 

We woke up at an early, respectable hour on Saturday morning and the weather was gorgeous. For whatever reason, we decided to go to the park and exercise for the first time in over four months. The park by our apartment has public work out stations plotted along a course running a few kilometers around the park. Several rounds and two hours later of push ups, dips, sit ups, and gasp, a little jogging, we were exhausted and headed home. No foresight or thought was given to the fact we were endeavoring to stay up all night dancing. An activity that usually requires one to be well rested, loose and limber. We on the other hand were now exhausted, sore and achy. Totally ready to party.

As much as we would have loved to take the party bus to the party, we had yet to figure out the Collectivo (what they call the busses here), and instead opted to take the Subte. Again, not a whole lot of appropriate preparation going on here as it took us two ours to reach the venue. The upside, was when we transferred to the trolley, we got a brief tour of some of the more unsavory neighborhoods of BA. Probably not as bad as the worst neighborhoods, but a good reminder that we were living in a one of the nicer areas. The downside is that we missed one of the scheduled DJs we were hoping to see.

The trolley ride was long and packed like sardines, but every stop closer we got to our destination illicited a little more enthusiasm from fellow passengers. When it reached the last stop, there was a moment of hesitation as to if this was truly the final stop, followed by cheers and a mass, eruptive exodus. There was no need to get our bearings or figure anything out from there as we just followed the crowd. The walk towards the main gate was flanked by every manner of vendor typical for such a gathering. Fake merchandise, beer, water, street meats, live chickens, etc. I made the last one up, but one can dream.

The entrance was well managed and security was a breeze. We were in. After a quick time check we knew it was too late to catch any significance of Jooris Voorn's set and had also missed the CouchSurfing.com meetup we hoped to join. We spent the next half hour orientating ourselves to the festival grounds and figuring out who was playing and where. We were in Buenos Aires and were determined to see the local hero, Hernan Cattaneo. Eagerly awaiting his arrival, the tent was packed with several thousand people who I assumed were Argentinean based on the greeting they gave him. He hadn't even started playing yet, but his mere appearance on the stage caused the crowd to erupt. I don't think I had ever seen such reaction for a DJ without even playing his first track. Too bad we didn't care much for what he did play after he came on because it was kind of a snooze fest circa post early century progressive. If your not into EDM and don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry because you wouldn't care and you're not missing out. 

We didn't want to miss out on anything either and switched back to Plan A of seeing Booka Shade. Unfortunately, their set was all but over at this point so we needed a plan A.2. I get my numerical ordering skills from an old George Carlin skit, it's confusing but hilarious in it's simplicity. Go ahead and YouTube it, I'll wait... Anyway, Ellen Alien was playing in the same tent as Luciano right before him so we decided to give her a second chance. We had just seen her this past August in Berlin and weren't impressed. It was perplexing because she's been around forever and has a good reputation. Perhaps that night in Berlin was just an off night? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, quote George W. Bush. So, let me get this straight... You're getting paid thousands of dollars to entertain thousands of people using thousands of dollars worth of technology, yet the simple task of beat matching still eludes you after a long and prosperous career? I can't think of any nice ways of saying she sucked, so yeah...

The benefit of sticking out Ellen Allien was getting front and center for a true professional. Thankfully, Luciano took the stage and saved the day with his long hair and ridiculously deep V. I couldn't name the tracks but didn't care. They were good, groovy, danceable and got the crowd going. The night had finally taken a turn for the best. The best part ever though, was the security guard telling people to put their shirts back on. This might possibly be the greatest act of bouncing I have ever seen in my life. Maybe the laws are different down here, but this is just phenomenal. Anyone who has ever been to a club, concert, festival whatever and has been brushed up against by the sweaty, stubbly shirtless guy should immediately come party in Buenos Aires for relief. 

At this point we had exhausted our supply of beer tickets and headed out to acquire more. This is where we entered the twilight zone. Dun dun dunnnnn!!!! In a world where sixty thousand people come to dance and listen to electronic music all night, and signs everywhere proclaiming alcohol is served until 5am... The beer runs out by 2am. At first I thought maybe I didn't understand what the ticket vendor was saying, so we tried another ticket booth and then another. It was hard enough for my brain to comprehend talking in another language, but trying to comprehend how an event of this magnitude could run out of beer just wasn't registering. I'm still in denial about how such a thing can happen. Imagine going to the Indy 500 and half way through being told there was no more beer. Unlike the firing of a known, child rapist cover up conspirator, this indeed would have been cause for a riot. They might not have ever run out of beer at Penn State football games, but nobody was raping children at Creamfields. Maybe the local alcohol control board in Buenos Aires knows something I don't. 

As much as I couldn't let go of this new beer-less reality, it was time to move on and see the DJ we have been stalking for the past five years one more time. Sven Vath, who has been mentioned in our blog before, has always held a special place in our hearts. Mostly because we love his music and what he stands for, but also because of the rarity and difficulty in seeing him perform (he only comes to NYC once in a blue moon). This time it felt more like a reunion party as we were familiar with more than half his set. It was the the seventh time we'd seen him in just over five months. Prior to that, we had only seen him six times in five years. A reversal of fortune that bordered on gluttony, but it was borderline magical to be reminded of the time we spent in Ibiza. Granted, at this point the exhaustion had reduced us to sitting on the outskirts of the tent and just enjoying the music instead of full on dancing,but we were thankful nonetheless. 

From there we headed over to catch Danny Howells at the Cream Arena. John Digweed was finishing his set and it was so over packed and over flowing you think it could easily have been mistaken for the main stage. Three tracks in and my legs and stamina were giving out. The sorry excuse for an energy drink they were schilling here just wasn't cutting it and the thought of trying to catch a cab while 60,000 people left the grounds at the same time was frightening. Though I made the decision to leave early, Claire later confessed that she secretly hoped I was ready to go. Unlike Sven, Danny Howells is in NYC all the time. It would be far better to catch him back home with all our friends than here with thousands of strangers.

It wasn't that hard to find a cab home after we figured out the traffic was being detoured one block away. Our Spanish was good enough to give directions and get us home safely. Contrary to the nightmare scenarios we've read about, he didn't take us the long way home, try to rob us, or any other douchery you could imagine. It was a long drive, but it was nice to see more of the typical neighborhoods in BA instead of just the rich or poor. We were given a greater sense of size of the city and likened it to home. Where else can you spend two hours on public transit and still be in the same city, only to have the same trip take just 30 minutes by cab on the way back.

Overall, it was a successful night. Not stunning or stellar, but as we learned long ago, these kind of nights are always better when you're with your friends.  As we learned that night however, those kind of nights are always better when they don't run out of beer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Day at Pompeii Part 3: Vesuvius





A day in Pompeii Part 2: Pompeii Scavi

Videos we filmed in Pompeii, I assure you they are VERY historically accurate...








And just because...

A Day in Pompeii Part 1: Hotel Shenanigans

This is how we prepare for visiting a Unesco world heritage site...





Cooking with Davide, Napoli Edition

It's purely coincidence that we have two friends living in Europe named David, but our Italian friend Dave sometimes spells it with an "e". It's a further coincidence that they're both really good cooks, but it is no coincidence that we captured their culinary prowess on video. Here now, is Cooking with Davide, Napoli edition:



Saturday, November 12, 2011

HOLA BUENOS AIRES!!!!


Let me start by saying British Airways sucks. Yes it could be the fact that we had three 10 hour flights back to back to back and that flight was in the middle but I almost had a panic attack on the plane. We were in the back row, middle aisle, next to the bathroom. I've never seen a plane crammed full of so many seats. There was no room whatsoever. The middle aisle had four seats and somehow Bill and I ended up in the middle two seats. I have this thing about disturbing people on the plane if I have to go to the bathroom so on big flights I always choose the middle aisle end seat. Always. And this time around for whatever reason we couldn't choose our seats online and we were late checking in blah blah blah and we got really shitty seats and I sat down and buckled in and I started to have a cow. Like, I literally thought I was going to give birth to a moo-ing miniature little cow thing. Fortunately the woman on Bill's side was separated from her husband so when another couple got upgraded (assholes) the woman moved with her husband into the empty seats. I politely explained to the steward that we were coming from Delhi, on our way to Buenos Aires and I would need copious amounts of wine. THANK GOD Zoolander was on the movie menu. After our "dinner" I watched my favorite movie of all time and passed out drunk immediately afterwards. What I do need to mention is how utterly astounded I was when our baggage actually shimmied its way onto the conveyer belt in the Buenos Aires airport. I was almost counting on it being lost so I could go shopping but there it was. 2 transfers, 3 airlines and 15,000 miles later, safe and sound. Except for Cap'n Carryon which Bill told you about previously....

Let's skip ahead to Buenos Aires. We thought, for a hot second, we were going to have a repeat of Berlin with a no show key guy for the apartment we rented. It turns out he didn't hear us buzzing and he came downstairs to find me sitting dejected on the sidewalk with all of the luggage while bill was looking for a pay phone. Ha! A pay phone! Where on Gods green earth is there a pay phone these days?! Do you know we went to an antique market in SanTelmo and they had telephones for sale. TELEPHONES! Like, not rotary phones, the ones with buttons! I'm either getting old or the whole world is going to shit if a telephone with buttons is an antique in 2011. Maybe it's both all at once, yeah, the world is def ending. Omg I just want to die, I can't deal with being an outdated model of society.

Anyways, the apartment was really nice. It was clean, bright, a real mattress with fitted sheets, which you don't think is a big deal until you spend 5 months sleeping in beds that do not have fitted sheets and you wake up every morning hopelessly tangled in a mess of sheets with your face pressed against a dirty naked mattress. Oh, and the apartment had a toilet instead of a hole in the floor. These are all multiple pluses for BA.

Our BA apartment living room. We scored this sweet deal for $30usd a day.

We immediately located the nearest super duper huge supermarket, appropriately name "JUMBO" and I reveled in their wine selection. I've decided to try every single wine that's either Malbec or made in Mendoza that's under 25 pesos. So what if I'm cheap? After two bottles you don't know the difference anyway. Bill immediately fell in love with Quilmes beer.
It took us a couple of days to readjust to the time zone. I spent lazy, rainy afternoons in my underwear writing about India, singing along to Radiohead's In Rainbows. It was a great way to transition between continents. India instantly becomes the love of your life as soon as you step foot off her shores. I effortlessly waxed poetic on our time spent there, cozy in my new, comparatively luxurious apartment. If you had asked me my opinion just five days earlier you would have received a very different response.

We went to the Recoleta cemetery which was quite charming despite my crippling fear of the dead. We went to the SanTelmo Sunday market which really had some interesting things,not just the usual crap you see every where. We've made very messy empanadas and have taken to eating steak for breakfast. We trolled Santa Fe for cheap shopping, and I totally scored with a dress and shirt. When it comes to the clothes I'm totally channeling my inner Caro to get my South American groove going. That's right Caro, I called you out girl!

A street in the cemetery

Spooky cobwebs

Street musicians in San Telmo

Our first ever batch of carne empanadas, a little burnt but delicious!

We signed up for Spanish lessons after Bill realized he had no idea what anyone was saying. I never have any idea what anyone is saying to me anyways, I just give them a blank stare and say "um... que?" with a furrowed brow. This was not the Spanish we had heard in NYC or Spain. It turns out Argentina Spanish pronounces the ll/y sound with "sh" and the Tú becomes Vos. So "pollo" is pronounced "posho" and "Yo mi llamo" is pronounced "sho mi shamo". Very weird, we are having a difficult time adjusting. Our language group is pretty diverse, there's a French guy who teaches autistic children, a Scottish girl who's and actress and singer, and a girl from the UK who's a ballerina. We have class two hours a day, every day for the length of our stay. The school has a smattering of events throughout the week so we are going to be social tomorrow night and go to their evening language exchange. Half the battle of learning a new language is having the confidence to speak it in public, which is something I really struggle with.

Bill already is completely in love with BA. I haven't met anyone in my life that has spent time here and didn't leave loving it. I am warming up to it very quickly, I will feel more comfortable if I can leave understanding a teeny bit of Spanish. If I could choose a super power it would be the power of genius and with that would be the ability to speak any language the world, but for the time being I'm going to have to get back to my vocabulary flash cards.

-Claire

Friday, November 11, 2011

Over capacity!!!

After four months on the road, our bags are officially over capacity. Though we had sent some things home, and thrown other things out along the way, we've also done a 'little' bit of shopping. If it weren't for my expansion seem breaking, we'd still be in good shape. To refresh, here's what I started with:

http://apostcardfrombrooklyn.blogspot.com/2011/06/and-this-is-what-i-packed.html

From that, here is what remains (with a little more detail):

One pair jeans
One pair pants
One linen pants
Four t shirts
Four Polos
One dress shirt
One jacket
Eight pairs socks
Nine pairs underwear
Miracle ball
Umbrella
Cell phone
Headphones and spare buds
Prescription meds
Two plug adapters
Two iPad adapters
iPad and plug
Video camera and charger
Camera charger
Micro SD adapter
USB stick
Two razor handles
Eight razor heads
Key chain
Nail clippers
Facial fuel
Flashlight
two wrist bands
Tylonol pm and vitamin c

In addition, here are the things that have been added to my load (and where they were added)

One pair cargo pants Delhi
One linen pants Ibiza
One t shirt berlin
Two t shirts Delhi
One button down Berlin
Snorkel and goggles Ibiza
One knit hat Vienna
One pair scissors Ibiza
One exacto knife Berlin
Rock from Vesuvius
Two bath towels Berlin
One beach towel Zadar
One mirror Tangier
Earplugs air Berlin
Batteries Berlin 
Eye mask Air Berlin
Six earplugs Ibiza

I have no idea how the he'll I've been hauling all this shit around the world, but it wasn't that bad... Until we got to Delhi. The shopping in India had us literally bursting at the seams (See above). So, to turn this defeat into a victory, we did more shopping! We bought a matching pair of back packs to handle the temporary overflow. Then, my older brother Tom is going to take back our original luggage with him after he visits us in Buenos Aires. We will then finish off our two weeks in Chilli with just the back packs. Super convenient considering the amount of time we'll spend on the super luxury busses crossing the Andes. The irony is that when we set out on this trip, the last thing we wanted to do was back pack through South America on a bus, but yet somehow that's exactly what we're going to do. We should have known from all the RTW blogs we've been reading that this would somehow be inevitable. Our packing could have benefited from a little foresight, but then again, what wouldn't?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting to Buenos Airrrrrres

On the day we left for Kerala I threw my back out and a wheel fell off my suitcase. We then spent twenty minutes trying to find the right bus or a rickshaw that would take us to The Nw Delhi railway station before giving up and taking a cab. Surely not a sign of things to come I had hoped, but fast forward twenty four hours and all was not well. I was however, able to salvage the wheel, bearings and all, and hammer it back into place using a pad lock (MacGuyver style yo!)  It held up long enough to make it back to Delhi after Kerala, but when it came off the carousel, it was just a sad looking little peg. I knew this was probably inevitable, but was going to try my luck at the customer service counter. We had eight hours to kill and nothing better to do.

Enter the language barrier. Sure they spoke English, but the CSR didn't seem to understand what I was saying. I had to simplify: "there was a wheel, now there is no wheel" as I comically used the kathikali gesture for "over here" to indicate my missing wheel. I resisted all urges to throw in the Indian head tilt, probably not appropriate but I had taken to making this gesture behind peoples backs, but mostly to grind Claire's gears. Sadly, or rather predictably, there was nothing they could do for me. There was an email address I could contact, but at this point the fight had gone out of me and this didn't turn out to be as entertaining or time killing as we needed it to be.

So what did we learn? When buying a suitcase at Target, just because it looks sturdy doesn't mean it is. There have been times on this trip where the belt needs to be tight and other times when money was no object. Buying a suitcase should have fallen somewhere in between, but sadly was the former in an attempt to save twenty bucks. That twenty bucks could have gotten me the matching Swiss Gear set of belt, wallet, "vertical boarding bag" and luggage. I could have been a fucking fancy pants going through all those security check points, but no, not this time. Instead I'm  just a schlep who has to carry around Cap'n Carryon.

We spent the next Few hours waiting for the earliest possible check in to our 7am flight. It was just after midnight and since we couldn't check in, we had to wait it out in front of the counters. We found a spot that later turned out to be poorly squatted. Two rows of chairs were pushed close face to face with two bags on one end. We didn't think anything of it, so pushed the rows open and took our seat. Enter the traveling Russian circus family. From what we gathered from the pissed off matriarch, the man one row over failed in his duties to cordon off and secure seating for the entire family (the seats we now occupied) and she threw a little hussy fit before changing her pants and storming off in search of a place to nest, roost, whatever. The rest of the family seemed perfectly ok with changing their clothes in public right next to us as well, because hey, who needs privacy? I was secretly hoping one of them was hiding a monkey in their bags that was going to spring out and start juggling, but my hopes were merely a manifestation of the sleep deprivation. It was 3am after all and we had been up and traveling all day.

We were shorty after able to check into our flight and headed through to the gate side. The food court was all but closed except for McDonalds. Nothing says breakfast like a chicken sandwich, fries, and frosty at four am. I would have preferred a comically huge bag of peanut M&Ms from the duty free shop, but the thought of consuming the entire bag had a worse effect on my stomach than the actual consumption of the McDonalds.  We've since vowed not to eat there again for at least a year. Buenos Aires was going to be the land of delicious meats and there would presumably be no need for an American fast food emergency in the near future.

The last few hours were spent sleeping on chairs outside the duty free zone. Had we ventured closer to the gates we would have found reclined chairs and the rentable sleeping pods I had read about, but luck wasn't with us at the airport. It was however, all over the first leg of our trip. We were embarking on three consecutive 10 hour fights and needed all the luck we could get. Surprisingly, the Air India flight was the best. Enough leg and elbow room to rival business class on domestic flights. I could fully extend my legs and put my head down on the tray in front of me without any unusual contortioning. Food and entertainment center were above par to boot. Sadly, it was BA and AA for the second two legs of our trip and I can't say as many nice things about them. Thankfully the booze was free. Cheap bottles of wine go a long way to make a long trip enjoyable.

Living out of an airplane for two days was a stark contrast to the eight days we just spent in Kerala. From non stop, lush beautiful scenery to non stop airplane food and cramped quarters. One day you're being driven around "God's own country" by your own personal driver on the way to your elephant ride, then next thing you know the concept of date and time have become as foreign as the country you just left. We're a pair of city folk, and our time in Kerala was the most nature either one of us had been exposed to in a long time.

So after 40+ hours of traveling, were happy to be recalibrating to civilization. We've been in Buenos Aries for a few days and we've already found their equivalent of Target (it's two blocks from our apartment), paid a visit to the Puma store, and have started making plans for our stay that involves learning spanish, booze, dancing, shopping and eating meat. Claire commented the other day that if all we did was eat meat, drink wine, and shop for four weeks she'd be perfectly content. I saw no need to argue her point as Buenos Aires is looking to be one of the better decisions we've made on this trip.