Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yikes, Argentine Economy!

Here's one of my translations of a story in today's Clarin. Yikes. Not looking good. I'll be interested in following this once home. I hope things don't get as bad as it sounds here!

Prat Gay and Redrado responded to Cristina and Warned her about the Economy
The deputy of the Civic Coalition said that the questions from the head of state ‘were a great praise’ and alerted that the country entered ‘a recession with very high inflation.’ Redrato assured that ‘the conversation that the President said didn’t exist” and added: “There isn’t a feeling of discouragement: the economy is worse and the people are worse.” The ex-heads of the Central Bank Martin Redrado and Alfonso Prat Gay ended up responding to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner this morning, who yesterday harshly criticized them in the setting of an opening ceremony in which she also complained about the banks and the ‘sentiment of discouragement” of which she accused media of communication of being a part.
In her speech, the head of state referred specifically to Redrado: she confirmed that they chatted about the external commerce of 2009 and said that the President of the Central Bank foresaw a surplus that ended up actually being double what he thought. “The conversation that Cristina said happened doesn’t exist,” the economist asserted today, who accused Cristina of having ‘a penchant for distorting reality” and “a bad memory or bad faith”.
In a dialogue with Radio 10 and Mitre, Redrado said that foresight that the President attributed to him was in reality that of the Relevant Expectations of the Market (REM) that the Central Bank made with the opinions of many analysts, centers of investigation and universities. “She is referring to a survey among 50 economic institutions and confusing it with my personal positions. My role as president of the Central Bank never was to make projections nor was it to generate public politics like what we took in 2008 and 2009,” added Redrado.
Prat Gay, for his part, said in a conversation with La Red (the Network) that the criticism that the President made ‘are a great praise.” When I ended my term at the Central Bank, (Nestor was president then), Kirchner offered me another term, but I told her no, because I saw the transformation of the economy coming, the deputy of the civic coalition said.
“I don’t believe that the President has a personal problem with me,” he added before questioning: “It bothers me that she spends her time on me when there are other things to do. Yesterday she denied the existence of these problems, the inflation, the recession, that the INDEC recognizes.” “We have entered into a recession, the inflation is very high and this combination is lethal,” he added.
About the actual situation, Redrado was also critical: “There is not a feeling of discouragement: the economy is worse and the people are worse off, they consume less, prices are increasing, there is less employment, the reality doesn’t reflect well on the president, that she doesn’t see economic measures as necessary and she is a short of solutions to face this crisis.” 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gracias Por Todo, Buenos Aires! (Versión Español)

El dia ha llegado: regreso a los Estados Unidos esta semana y quisiera decir algo sencillo en español para que pueda dar gracias a esta ciudad y la gente de acá. 

Tu ciudad y esta aventura me han enseñado muchas cosas de mi y la vida que quiero vivir cuando regrese a los Estados Unidos. Me considero afortunada de haber podido disfrutar de este viaje. Una lista corta de las cosas que voy a extrañar: 

- Que la vida se mueve mas despacio acá 
-La Belleza de tus calles, aunque muchas veces estén cubiertas con bolsas de basura! De alguna manera aumentan su encanto. 
-Mi tienda de vinos de elección, donde se puede posible encontrar NACHOS también! Voy a extrañar los recomendaciones del dueño 
-Mis amigos porteños, tomando clases con Lorena, haciendo cafe con ella, riendome de mis errores tontos  en español!
-Que soy una cliente conocida en distintos lugares — la gente en los dos Havanas saben mi pedido y siempre estÁ listo cuando entro, las mujeres en Papila Madre que saben mi mesa favorita en su cafe, etc
-Los Bosques del Palermo y el jardin de rosas- hay mucha paz allá 
-Milonga Catedral- Mirar a las parejas bailar tango, es muy bonito 
-Mis compañeros a Fundacion Huerta Niño: Gracias por todo: tu amistad, que me dieron un bienvenido muy cariñoso. Voy a extrañarlos. Me enseñaron como un lugar de trabajo puede ser divertido y productivo. 

Muchas Gracias, Buenos Aires. Voy a recordar estes meses para siempre.


In Closing, A Letter To The Reader: Things I've Learned Or Reiterated in Buenos Aires

Dear Friends,

With less than 2 full days left in Buenos Aires, I’ve finally allowed myself to both enjoy and look forward to the prospect of going home. While I am excited for all of the usual reasons (friends, family, a stable central banking system, currency that doesn't wilt in my hand), there are two other reasons I am excited and those are:

 a) No more uttering phrases dripping in sexual harassment/borderline verbal abuse at me on the street ("No, I don't have time to go somewhere and have your babies right.now.sir") and
 b) I won’t have to wear pants anymore.
However, pants-hating and feminism reasons aside, so many good things have happened these last months, and Buenos Aires has been a good city to me. I have been doing a lot of thinking about my time here and what it has meant for me, and I’ve come up with a quasi-sharable, only semi-embarrassing list. (I mean, with everything else I've shared with you, I...think we're gonna be fine.)  The things one, including myself, would usually construe as cheesy though,  I really really mean them- it's really not lip service or fluff. You’ll see what I mean. Most importantly, I really feel different about my outlook and am ready to come home and tackle the next phase.   So, here it goes, in no particular order:

-Spanish. Duh. 
-What I want to do next in my career. 
-How to cook some typical Argentine dishes
-How to host an Argentine asado
-How to stand in unending lines and not tap my foot or sigh once
-How to be uncomfortable (going to a party where you don't understand or know anyone/HELLO, Buenos Aires SUBTE!)
-How to hike for 4 days and 3 nights without a shower
-How to adjust to altitude changes
-How to horseback ride!
-How to go to a place not knowing anyone and make some great life long friends
-About the economy in Ecuador, the Incans and Spirtuality in Peruvian culture, Cooking Chilean Delights & Argentine city and gaucho culture
-Traveling by oneself can be very rewarding
-How to flirt (I mean, um, kind of, I’m still pretty ridiculous. Also I'm not sure if my newfound 'skills' are transferrable to, say, NYC orrr the Northern Hemisphere in general.)
-How to be more open
-How to schedule 30 minutes into my day to go to the ATM
-How to be more flexible
-How to not die while trying to surf.
-How to make a mean ceviche and pastel de choclo
-How it’s ok that not everything gets done completely on time
-There's not much that's super easy that is also worth doing ('cept ordering a 10 pc KFC bucket and watching horror movies/MadMen...GLORIA)
-What Histeria Masulina is and still be confused
-How to continually have a sense of adventure, whether it’s at your home or somewhere else
-That it takes time to get used to things and that’s ok...I’d say, minimum 8 months to a year in a new place before calling it a day and moving on
-It’s ok to not be doing something all the time
-Being alone without books, movies, the internet, friends, etc is ok and healthy and most importantly, NEEDED. 
-That I really enjoy writing, especially about travel and on my blog
-That my friends and family are truly the greatest. Truly.
-It’s ok and healthy to want to be happy and not worry about that latest stressful TPS report for the rest of your life.
-You have to do new things all the time to build your confidence. 
-You need to step outside your comfort zone to truly grow. I was feeling stuck and stunted. Now I'm good. And if/when that feeling crops up again, most importantly, I will know what to do with it.
-You can have a work environment that’s not like reenacting a modern day version of The Crucible.
-If you want things to change, you have to make moves yourself. Ain’t nobody gonna do them for you. 
-That cars WILL mow you down in BA from 2 blocks away if you’re remotely thinking of crossing the street when the light is green for them.
-Change is hard, fo shizzle, but the sooner you embrace it, the less time you spend wallowing. (This is especially true for me, as I was wont to wallow in times of change in the past.)
-You can be your own biggest obstacle. 
-You should try everything (within reason) at least once, except maybe the GMAT. And duck testicles. Take it from me: you can cross that off the list.
-Just say yes.
-Give people a chance, even if they’re a male doll collector. 
-That I want to see the entire world, every single freaking inch of it.  Except the DMZ. Did you know there are tourist trips right up to the line and you can see the soldiers staring each other down and everything? #Nuts
-That I love photography and want unlimited money to buy lenses, classes, post-production software and trips to take said pictures.
-That I can (but won’t) live without meat
-That ceviche is the greatest thing in the world
-What constitutes good coffee, even if I still don't like it
-What constitutes good wine, even if I drink laudable/worrying quantities of it, depending on who you are (swayz)
-That garbage can pile up on the streets for literally weeks on end in 100 degree heat in the summer and no one is phased by it.

And there you have it, friends. 7 months summed up in 40-something lines. I'm truly grateful for this opportunity and have been very excited to share much of it along the way with you via blog, Facebook, email, Skype, telepathic messaging, skywriting, Prodigy, etc. Thanks for joining me. Thanks for your emails and comments. Thanks for your support and interest. Thanks for being my pals.  Can't wait to see you all soon.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dating in Argentina/Histeria Masculina

We all know I'm not exactly batting 1000 in the dating department. If I were, my wonderful parents could rest their collective head on their pillow at night knowing I wasn't a future crazy cat lady/eccentric mystic/my aunt Nancy.

But nothing has confounded me to date as much as dating in Argentina/Histeria Masculina- and I include geometry, the logic behind the math portion of the GMAT, skorts, why people insist on liking bananas and dating in NYC on that list. And um, that's sayin' somethin'.

The other day at work, my friend Poli asked me about said histeria masculina in New York. After my blank stare and my strong conviction that she must be joking subsided, I asked for further explanation since surely she meant something else, no? Turns out it's quite a literal translation, yet really has no literal translation that can be summed up in 2 little words in English.  Essentially, apparently, it's when you meet a guy and they ply you with compliments via text/facebook/the cloud/friendster saying how hermosa you are, how they can't wait to see you again, how about Friday at 2am, or Sunday (Sunday?), etc. You dutifully respond because, hey, in New York, this is a rarity, this someone-acknowledging-in-a-forward-manner-that-they've-met-you-thing. You set up times to meet, you GO to said places, only to have the messaging stop at the exact moment you are supposed to actually meet in the flesh again. Until, of course, a random future time, when the 'you're beautiful, when can I see you?' messages start up again without warning, provocation, reason or context. What? So in about 75 words, there you have it, folks: Histeria Masculina.

Last night, I was out at a milonga (tango hall) watching some lovely dancing when I decided to answer the latest round of 'histeria'. I'm not sure why, exactly, since I knew I was just subjecting myself to another dose of the 'histeria' (it sounds like a disease one could catch in 1690's Salem, no?). The immediate response, in Spanish, was, "I received this message, but who is this?" Yeow. Didn't you...just...text- nevermind. So, in Spanish, I said, "Haha. You've sent me a few messages recently, so I wanted to respond. Nevermind, not worth it." (Ok, I might have left out the "not worth it" part, but my nuanced Spanish was at a low after 3 copas de vino)  The immediate response, "Ah, it's Jill (you got that from my response? No, it's just another example of histeria masculina)...With a face like that, you shouldn't be insulting people. Go back to where you came from, Yankee. No one wants you here." Wow. Kind of uncalled for? Ok. I guess I'll...just...go back to where I came from?

My point being, that, um, my face is just fine, thank you very much, but more importantly, dating is complicated all over the globe. Why did I think it would be different in the Southern Hemisphere?

In other news, when does the homemade pasta shop open? I'm hungry.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chile, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

Stepping into Chile is like stepping into a magical, mystical world, full of amazing (1st world) delights.

Ok, so that may be a slight exaggeration, but I did spend the entire 10 days mystified, walking around in a fugue state, my eyes ablaze with wonder and merriment. And here's why:

1. Efficiency: Oh Sweet Jesus, thank you for delivering me to this land of efficiency, punctuality and general with-it-ness. Coming from Argentina (see subway rant entry from May), it is truly amazing how efficient this country is. Buses come when they say they will, there's nary a 30 minute ATM line in sight,  and most importantly, people don't scrutinize you like you're the Walter White of counterfeit money manufacturing when you hand them a bill. It...took my breath away. I felt complete again!

2. The People: Like other countries I have visited in South America, I found the people to be magnificently welcoming and moreover, super helpful. "Oh, there are two blondes trying to figure out how to put the ticket in the subway turnstyle for minutes on end like morons? Let me help them."  "No, lady who is obviously not from here, taxis will not pick you up in the busy bus lane." Everywhere we went, people helped us and seemed to want us there.  Here are some people shots I took, trying to improve my camera skillz.

3. The Food and Wine: By now, I think you're probably noticing a trend with me: I love autobiographies of dead presidents. Well, yes, that, but ALSO, local cuisine and vino. Wow, Chile's got it goin' on. We took a cooking class one day in Valparaiso and I learned how to make ceviche and pastel de choclo, among other things. Chile's version of the lomito/chovito in Argentina and Uruguay is a churrasco. And damn, that ish was fine, despite the need to check in with a cardiologist immediately thereafter.

As far as vinos go, do yourself a solid and check out the Koyle Syrah. I am currently working on a master plan (read: ordering it online) to get a case of it back into the US of A. And for all your non-red weirdos- I mean drinkers- out there, this could be just the thing to tickle your fancy.

And yes, I looked like this photo below for the duration of the trip. Facebook photos to corroborate.

4. San Pedro De Freaking Atacama: 

There are no words for this place. Vale la pena to go to on a flight or 27 hour bus ride (um, flight) to San Pedro from Santiago. We spent 4.5 glorious days in this driest desert in the world and saw so many different landscapes, I...it was one of the coolest places I've been lucky enough to visit. Below you will see a shot of Valle de La Luna, with its Mars-like landscapes, Geysers del Tatio, where we ascended 2,500 meters (approx 7500 feet) in one hour, causing all manners of altitude sickness and slight frostbite, and THE SALARS DE ATACAMA/CEJAS. All singularly cool and 790 photos-worthy. 

5. The History: Yea, yea, leave it to Jill, she who asks for treatises on Abraham Lincoln and his views on slavery for Christmas, to end on a dull/dorky note. To that I say, Go to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago. You will not be disappointed. We spent 3+ hours there without even thinking of it (except that it's winter, freezing there, and Chile does not have central heating systems so it was freezing in the building. I think the AC was actually on, but I digress), and we learned a TON about Pinochet, the junta from 1973-1990 and more. Before I came to South America, I had no idea about any of that.  #ThanksUSHSHistoryClasses. Today, however, I emailed Swayz asking her to pick me up 3 Pinochet and Chilean history books from the library for our week at the lake.  Nothing like a light beach read....

I really could go on and on about this biznass, like I could about everything I've done, but we can just discuss it over a glass of Syrah or 3 when I am home...next week! I can hardly believe it. I've got some fun plans for my last week, including my last trip to my favorite Armenian restaurant tomorrow, and I will be sad to go. Stay tuned for a couple more entries, if you're even still reading my rants and raves.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Galapagos Unplugged!

Ok, so you know how people say Disney is the most magical place on earth?

To that I say, False. 

The answer to this conundrum, dear readers, of the most magical place on earth, is the Galapagos Islands. Protected as a World Heritage Site, the islands offer a ridiculous amount of sub-climates and sub-ecosystems. One day, when we were hiking (slash I was falling into) a volcano, our guide, my BFF for life Julio, told us there were 30-something sub-ecosystems. Huh? 

I have been up til 3am for the last several weeks trying to figure out how to put this trip into words. Ok, part of that statement is true. I've been up til 3am but that's Buenos Aires' fault, not my tongue-tiedness about the Galapagos.

Regardless, I will say that the way to do this trip, if you are so inclined, is to do it with a smaller group. I would not recommend a 100-person cruise, not just because I would need an IV of Dramamine in me at all times/40 16 oz bottles of ginger ale, but because...we just did cool stuff. For example:

-There were 6 of us. 
-ROW Adventures is the only tour group with permits to camp on the islands. We camped for 2 days and I was lucky enough to have my 30th birthday at our campsite/happy hour on our boat watching the sunset (see FB for photo evidence). 
-Because there were so few of us, we saw way more wildlife up close and personal...like the day we were snorkeling and I just kept yelling, "Shark!" in quick succession to be annoying slash Jaws-like. But seriously, there were 4 sharks circling. It was absurd.
-Sea Lions just hung out next to us in the water. They would come out of nowhere and swim right up to your nose like a rocket and then stop and seemingly laugh in your face.
-Impromptu surf lesson! (See photos)
-Great conversation and great new friends
-Big cruise ships can't go to the lava tunnels we went to one day. If the tide is off, no one can go, so it was a bit touch and go even for our small boat. But when we got there....wow. There are these lava formations sticking up all over the place, and it's entirely likely you can capsize, but we did it! And then we got to snorkel with all sorts of wildlife.
-We got to learn lots about Ecuador from some passionate Ecuadorians including our guides. They spent time with us at meals, on the boat, etc really sharing their culture, history and present-day with us. What a cool thing. 
-Homemade food at the campsite, on the boat

I could go on and on about the sheer uniqueness of this trip, but instead I will leave you with some pictures.  When I say that these pictures don't do this trip justice, I wish there were another phrase I could use, because that phrase doesn't seem to do this trip justice. :)

This is a little out of order (who knows why, really) and it gets a little long, mainly because I'm incapable of figuring out how to put more than one picture on the same line. Sigh. Maybe in my next lifetime. But I promise you, these are worth it!

Oh, and a special thanks for Rose, Brian, Laura, Paul and Helen for not only sharing their pictures with me, but for also making this a truly once in a lifetime trip!

  Blue footed boobies! Look at those feet!
 Brian swimming through an underwater cave at the Lava Tunnels

 Craziest sea turtle in the world- look how close!

 "Oh, it's on." "I will wreck you." So it went. 
 On our volcano hike...ocean in the background, lush green behind us, cactuses and 12k yr old lava rocks. Pretty gnarly (Californian for 'cool')
 Boobies' feet!
 Apparently it's rare to see more than one flamingo. We saw 14. As Seb put it, we had good karma. Yea that's right. 
 Rosie had some fun with some sand pellets leftover from ghost crabs digging on the beach. I reap the benefit of her labor.
 The gang!

 Find the iguana! The camouflage they have adapted...just out of this world.
 Julio eats his 4th wasp because...why not? 

 Sea cucumber!

 Our fearless leader! 

 Insert Jaws music here. 
 Chillaxin and breakin the Sunday Blue Laws in Guayaquil 

 Ill-fated surf lesson. Attractive surf instructor (jesus), idiot Jill sitting around doing pilates poses. 

 I feel like we're reenacting Backstreet Boys' "I want it that Way" (yes, I just said that) or U2's "Beautiful Day" here
 Underwater snorkeling!

Friday, June 22, 2012

No puedo creerlo- queda un mes!

With a tad over a month left before the next Jill adventure begins, I thought it an appropriate time to share a shortlist of the things I will and won't miss about this pretty amazing country.

What I Will Miss:

1. The Men. 
I mean, seriously. This country has more than its fair share of good looking men (and women, to be fair). See exhibit A below. I'm not sure how this person exists in real life, but he does. I swear to you. Unless I was drunk from the 3 pounds of meat I consumed that day and he was a mirage.  Also, see Exhibit B: Every trainer that works at my gym.

2. The Food.
Yowsa, these people know how to eat well and cook well. I've never had so many choice cuts of beef, bottles of wine, homemade pasta, fresh veggies and other amazing delights in my life. And so affordable too!

Here are some of my favorite wineries in case you're looking for something new:


You can also buy wine from this wine tasting place in BA- they have a distributor in the US. You can't go wrong with any of their wines. I would know. Please.  And it ships quickly.

3. How Long it Takes To Do Anything.
It is my dream come true to sit around for 3 hours sharing a meal with friends. It is also my dream to actually take a lunch break with co-workers in the office and chat for an hour. These people have it right- more relaxation is good for the soul (and my stomach, knowledge of wine, etc). It's also been fabulous for getting to know people better, honing my already moderately bearable conversation skills and not drinking the fabulous wine as quickly as I might want to in my head.

4. The Mamacita-ing on the Street.
God, Who else is going to tell me how great I look right after the gym when I've just run 4 miles and have on 4 layers of clothes?! I'm beside myself with sadness.

5.  The Late Nights.
I've really gotten on board with the late nights, leisurely late dinners and just generally not being on the go-go-go here. When I went home for Julie's wedding and my mom wanted to have dinner on the table at 5:30, I was all, "But...I just had...lunch. What...do you mean?"

What I Will Not Miss: 

1. The Men: This is generally not true. Please. See #1 above, honestly, people. What I mean by this is what is discussed in #4 below.   On the contrary, the men I've gotten to know here are pretty neato, as a general rule.

2. The Food.
What I mean by this is the lack of diversity. Swayz, do not stop the car from JFK until we can get an IV of salsa in me stat (accompanied by 3 baskets of tortilla chips).  Also, a chicken cutlet sandwich with honey mustard sauce and everything on the KFC menu, except if they still have that Double Down sandwich thing, because that's just gross.

3. How Long it Takes To Do Anything:
Why, God Why, Do I need to allot 30 minutes to go to the ATM on the corner?!

4. The Mamacita-ing On The Street.
Ok Sir, I did not need to know what you'd 'do to me and my 3 friends at the same time' just now as we passed you on the street.  Also, does that jam work for you ever? Like, what's your success rate? Just wonderin'.

Here Kate's very timely and accurate depiction of what I've experienced here as a woman- could not have said it better myself: http://www.kateclick.com/blog/2012/06/18/piropos-the-fine-argentine-art-of-sexual-harrassment/

5. The Late Nights. 
I am all about the dancing, singing, eating, wine-ing until the cows come home sorta lady, but 7am last weekend? A Philly bar with a last call of 1:30 has nothing on BaAs? People don't show up anywhere here until after well after 2am. Please...I am just craving someone to tell me to go home!

When I think about it, it's hard to believe this amazing adventure is coming to a close in just over a month. One thing's fo damn sho: Necesito aprovechar el tiempo que queda aca en Buenos Aires!