Monday, December 26, 2011
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 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.
At least there will be more cupcakes for me.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
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
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!
Friday, December 16, 2011
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 :)
Sunday, December 11, 2011
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 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.
Friday, December 9, 2011
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.
It was the best chai I've ever had.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
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.
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.
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.
Friday, December 2, 2011
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.
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...