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-
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!!!


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 :)


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 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


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.


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:

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
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
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.

Kerala Part 2

Kerala Part 2

One thing I failed to mention in my last post about Kerala is it's a communist state thats filled with catholic churches, next to Hindu temples, next to mosques. It's the most prosperous state in India with the highest literacy rate of the country. So is communism a good thing? Apparently for Kerala it is.

After a couple of days of feeling nauseous, I finally threw up my entire dinner in the hotel sink and I felt perfectly healthy afterwards. At last we were able to really start enjoying our trip through southern India. We drove from Munnar to Thekkady. The change in climate was dramatic, we went from the chilly, crisp mountain air to steaming, humid jungle. The weather must have known I was coming because it let up raining just long enough for us to take an elephant ride, which was FANTASTIC! Easily my most favorite part of our trip. The rain had left the ground soggy and every time our elephant Lucky took a step you could hear the squishing of mud under his feet. The rain also left a low hanging mist clinging to the surrounding jungle foliage, heightening my "cosmic universe" senses. I actually said to bill "do you think it's called mist because it makes things mystical?". Let's just say strange things happen to your brain when you have an elephant between your legs.

We went to visit a spice plantation, and the remarkable thing about that was I finally met an Indian person I couldn't stand. The most amazing thing about India is the people. No matter how destitute the area or how much trash and rubble is at your feet, there is always a genuinely warm and smiling face waiting for you. The people of India are happy. In fact, in a study done measuring happiness, the people in the slums of Calcutta only ranked slightly lower than fortune 500 CEOs. India is a country where the glass is perpetually half full, and I think that's why so many people fall in love with her despite the obvious drawbacks. This bitch, however, really pissed me off. She showed me a plant, which she said when you grind it into a powder gets rid of dark spots left by some skin diseases. She suggested I should try it. I was confused. Then Bill realized she was talking about my freckles. I laughed at first and told her that these spots were not, as she thought, the result of a horrible skin disease but part of my skin. The same thing that made her skin dark was what the spots on my face and arms were. She didn't get it. Throughout the tour she repeatedly suggested I try the powder and when we were in the shop at the end she shoved a big pot of it towards me and told me I really needed it. I just stared at her and had a quick daydream where I clocked her in the face but I ended up grumbling something under my breath and bought the eucalyptus oil instead. I'm not the first white girl with freckles she's seen, Kerala is a huge tourist area, I think she was doing it on purpose and it really pissed me off.

Moving on, we spent a night on a houseboat which was truly magical. Having your own three person crew, including a chef, on a boat of your very own for 24 hours makes you feel like a king. We sailed the backwaters and at a certain point pulled over to a little shack where the locals were selling crabs and what they called prawns. Prawns to me are shrimp; these were gigantic electric blue lobster looking things and we got 5 of them for 1000 rupees which is 20 bucks. I couldn't believe it. The chef prepared the prawns, along with a chicken dish and numerous sides. I was sooooo happy that I wasn't feeling sick and could eat all of these delicious things prepared for us. We docked for the night along a strip of the river that had electricity and bill and I got out to walk around. The village was a single row of houses sandwiched between the river and the rice patties. As we walked by each little hut children peeked their heads out of their homes yelling "Hello! Hello!" and one little boy blew me kisses.

This houseboat was identical to ours

This is what they call prawns!

A walk along the river

Our next stop was Varkala beach. I imagine this is what Goa is like, only much smaller. It was a little strip of black and tan sand beach and blood red cliffs populated by Australian and British hippies. In between the Tibetan craft shops were Aryuvedic clinics and yoga studios, some even offering "philosophic talks" on the menu. The hotel we had was the nicest place we stayed in, by far, the entire trip. They had spaghetti bolognaise on the menu, which we ordered, and devoured. There were lots of little tiki bars and we took shelter from the rain one afternoon, sipping mojitos as we watched the Arabian Sea rage in the storm. It was the first drink I had since the kingfisher beer at pizza hut in Delhi 3 weeks earlier. It wasn't the best mojito, not nearly as good as the ones i make at home, but at that moment it was divine. To quote the movie Old School (best movie ever after Zoolander of course) "it's so good when it hits your lips"

View from our hotel window

Varkala beach

Do I have a love letter to write to India? Maybe. I want to go back one day and do so many things we didn't get to do this time around. Bill will need some strong convincing though, I think he got his fill on this trip. There were moments that, faced with the fact that we still had so much traveling to do, I screamed that I wanted to go back home for good. But if someone asked me how India was I would say, without hesitation, that I adored it. It's the woman you love unconditionally no matter how many times she hurts you. Because when she does shine, it's so brilliant you can't look away.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Maybe Malaria?

First things first. According to the CDC, "travelers sickness" can affect anywhere from 30%to 70% percent of travelers and 90% of cases are caused by bacterial pathogens. Poor hygiene in food preparation is the number one culprit. So basically, the dirtier the country the higher your risk. As Claire had pointed out earlier, the Chanchal Delux was not the spitting image of cleanliness, but our levels of acceptance had been adjusted while in India. Needless to say, it was probably the chicken in the briyani that did us both in, but this is all hindsight now. When your in the moment, you can only make decisions based on the information you have at the time. Granted thats the same logic that is used to justify the invasion of Iraq ex post facto, but the American military industrial complex has nothing to do with my story and I wanted to flash a little Latin... 

At the time, we had access to the Internet which we all know can be a dangerous thing. I know better than to self diagnose, but still couldn't resist the urge to learn if I was dying or not. As sane as I believe myself to be, the urge was overwhelming so we punched Malaria into WebMD and started checking off the symptoms. Chills, headache, sweating, fatigue, fever, fantastic. Thankfully, I hadn't thrown up (yet) and the symptoms are common with several other ailments, only a fool would self diagnose themselves over the Internet. Well, fools and hypochondriacs and since I'm not the latter when I threw up later my spidey senses were going crazy. I mean, who knew eating bad Indian food was going to turn me into a radioactive, wall crawling crime fighter, oh, wait... 

At this point the decision to look up Malaria on the Internet was competing with the decision to order food from the hotel for the bad idea of the weekend award. However, the horrible idea of the weekend award winner was clearly letting your wife tell the Mother In Law (MIL) that you decided to take the Malaria pills as a precaution. The doctor I visited in Berlin said that if I get a fever to just take the malaria pills as a preventative measure. Whether it turns out to be malaria or not, the medicine was an anti bacterial and better safe than sorry. This sort of information when traveling from your doctor, to you, to your wife, to the MIL to you own mother tends to lose some of the details in translation. Thus, taking precautions becomes having malaria. Letting the world think you have malaria right before you embark into the depths of India where you're not going to have the internet for a few days is a recipe for disaster. It's probably the same recipe they used for the chicken briyani.

Four days into the trip, and after another amazing foreign medical system experience, the symptoms had mostly subsided and I was beginning to feel like a human being again. The thought of checking in with the world moved to the top of the priority list (right above feeling human), and we had the driver take us to an Internet cafe. I was greeted by half frantic emails from family members telling me everything from "leave India immediately" to "can you just take a minute to let us know you're ok". The irony was not lost on us as A)  we were leaving India in three days and B) I was taking this very minute to check in. Then the hindsight kicked in, and we had to deduce the sequence of events that would illicit such a response from my family (see horrible idea of the weekend award above).

Moving on from this comedy of errors, we were facing down a 46 hour journey to Buenos Aires. As we had perviously handed out bad idea and horrible idea awards, we had no desire to create any worst idea nominees. Needless to say, we spent the remainder of our time in Kerala avoiding Indian food, the internet, or getting malaria. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vomiting, massages and hospitals... Oh my! Our week in Kerala part 1.

We left our home stay in Delhi on Saturday afternoon and weren't catching our flight until Monday morning so we booked a cheap (think $30 bucks) hotel by the train station. It was dirty. Don't stay at the chanchal deluxe hotel in Delhi, it sucks. There were dead fruit flys all over the floor and bed and the bathroom was scary. I kind of threw a fit and proclaimed I would not eat food from the hotel because of how dirty it was but there weren't many options outside. I guess thats the thing about staying in india for an extended period of time, at some point you just accept that its fucking filthy. What was i going to do? Go downstairs and throw a fit that my 30 dollar a night hotel in the shithole neighborhood that is the delhi train station was dirty? It was all food carts surrounding the numerous religious icon stores where people were hand carving statues of Shiva. So we ordered room service, specifically the chicken biryani which was delicious as we were eating it. Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and Bill is vomiting and has diarrhea all at once. I can only deduce he had a really high fever from the way he felt to my hands because we didn't have a thermometer. Who travels around the world with a first aid kit?! Pshaw.... On top of all this his recurring bad back had given out so he was immobile. I wasn't feeling so great myself but I managed to keep it in on both ends so I was fine. As Sunday afternoon grew into Sunday evening I started getting worried and I did what anyone would do... I called my mother. I figured that if I looked up his symptoms on the Internet it would tell me he was dying (it did, it said he had malaria) so I opted for moms advice instead. She assured me he prob just ate something bad but he should go to the hospital. The one thing I always told bill was if I got sick to never EVER take me to a hospital in Asia. The last thing I want is a needle for an IV going into my body and I get some terrible disease and die far from Brooklyn. He did start taking the malaria pills we had brought from home as a precaution.

I don't know how either of us withstood the flight the next day, or the two hour drive to fort kochi from the airport but we did. Well, i dont know how i did it, bill ate a painkiller and passed out. He was burning up the whole time and I just kept giving him aspirin and malaria medicine. I knew something was up with me because the smell of any sort of food was making me turn green. Our hotel there wasn't great either but it didn't really matter because we both went to bed immediately. The next morning the lady running the place made us eggs for breakfast and sat with us while we ate. I really felt at the time I would never be able to eat another egg as long as I lived. Bill looked like he got beat down with the vomit stick and pushed the food around on his plate. He was also limping around because of his back. After living with a family for 3 weeks with very little privacy, Kerala was supposed to be the romantic part of our India trip. We were not getting off on a good foot.

Our driver for the week picked us up and was a very nice and funny guy. He made bill sit in the front so he could recline back and relax. We drove almost 5 hours to the mountains in Munnar. It was miles and miles of tea plantations rolling over the hilly landscape. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Everything in Kerala was on steroids. The greens were so deep an lush, the flowers were extraordinarily large, the houses were painted in neon purples, teal and lime. The sky was BLUE! There are no blue skies in Delhi, it's just a continual overcast of hazy pollution. These skies were blue! There were elephants on the side of the road! We drove past countless waterfalls that appeared magically out of solid rock. There was barely any trash on the side of the road. This place was amazing. We finally pulled into the Arunyaka resort. There were a small cluster of cottages overlooking a hill of tea plants and a waterfall. The air was silent except for the sound of the crashing water and the rustling of the wind. We ordered some lunch which we both regretted eating and then drove down to an Ayurvedic place to make massage appointments for the next day, then caught a kathakali show, which is a traditional form of dance and storytelling.

The next morning bill still had a fever so we decided he should go to the hospital after breakfast. Thank god they had cornflakes, we lived off of cornflakes for days. I really need to write the manufacturer of corn flakes telling them they saved my life and see if they give me a free box. We rolled up to the Tata general hospital in Munnar. Tata is an all encompassing brand in India, they make the ever popular $3000 car, a plethora of crap, and they have a beverage company which includes tea. Our resort was down the road from the Tata tea packaging plant, so it made sense that the local hospital was also of the Tata variety. I don't know if any of you ever watched that stupid hospital show set in costa rica on ABC ( for awhile ABC was the only channel we got that's why I know this) but the hospital kind of looked like that. A one story building in the middle of nowhere, the emergency room was 8 beds, all empty. The nurse told us to wait and the doctor saw us after 5 minutes. He told bill it was prob a mixture of altitude sickness and food poisoning and gave him a bunch of medicine. The cost of the visit and the medicine was $3.50 USD. I couldn't believe it, we could still make our massage! I thought we would be in there all day!

Bill opted out of his massage and that was a wise decision considering what I ended up going through. Aryuvedic medicine is everywhere in southern India and to get the true healing experience it's a treatment given over time. For example, if Bill really wanted to use the treatment to fix his slipped disc he would consult with an Ayurvedic doctor and participate in various treatments for 3-4 hours a day over the course of a couple weeks. We just wanted a one off massage so our driver took us to one of the many clinics that pepper the landscape of Munnar. It was a tiny little building that wasn't very pretty inside. It was dark and damp and dingy. This is the case with a lot of places in India and then you actually go in and it's fine, so I didn't really think of it when I was booking my 90 minute relaxation body rub. A girl who looked kind of young led me into a dark room. The floor was dirty, the walls were covered in mold as a result of the steam box in the room. There was an enormous wooden table in the center of the room with an oil dispenser hovering over the head of the table. On the side there was a counter with a gas burner and various jars of oils and creams. She told me to take my clothes off so I took my pants and shirt off. She then motioned for me to take my underwear off. The thought that literally went through my mind was "it's India time" I figured that I was in for a penny in for a pound. How many diseases could I possibly get from that wooden table? I already probably had food poisoning and there wasn't any rash a good cream can't cure, right? I took off my underwear and stood in the cold room shivering, stark naked, with a young Indian girl. She unfolded a paper loin cloth thing that she tied around my waist and in between my legs and motioned for me to get onto the table. I was shivering as I lay face down and watched her put oils and spices into a big pot on the burner and then mix some oil into a bowl. She started by pouring oil all over my head and massaging it into my scalp. She worked her way over every part of my body, every crevice, every muscle, down to the tips of my fingers and toes. As the spices in the pot began to boil they let off a very calming aromatic perfume and at one point the electricity went out so for 5 blissful minutes I actually forgot that I was in a set from the movie Saw getting oil rubbed by a minor. After the massage was done she helped me off the table and slid me over, oil dripping off my skin, to the wooden steam cabinet. I sat down, she closed the door and then put the top on so just my head was sticking out and I steamed for 20 minutes. When I wasn't thinking of all the horrible things that might happen to my cooch as a result of it sitting exposed in this environment, it was actually very relaxing. After the steaming was over she came back with a stack of gauze cloths and then proceeded to wipe me down. I would have rather wiped myself down but I guess that was part of the $22 deal I got right? I got dressed and tipped her and ran out of there. Meanwhile, bill and the driver had been chillin in the car and when they saw me, oil dripping from my head, he looked a little scared and asked me if I wanted to shower, which I did. After I got out of the shower though, I looked at myself in the mirror and I was literally glowing from top to bottom. My skin had never looked so brilliant. Bill commented that my face "felt like a baby's ass" and it did. It felt smooth and creamy and had a healthy flush to it. I did not end up getting a weird rash in my nether regions so all in all it really was the best 22 bucks I ever spent on a beauty product. Not to mention they weren't kidding when they said it was a "deep relaxation" massage. I could barely keep my eyes open as we went sightseeing and I fell sleep at 8pm and had the deepest, most restful sleep in weeks.