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Living In Argentina: Why Are You Here

This is not going to be a post about my personal trials and tribulations in Argentina.  It is a translation of something I posted to Facebook in Spanish.  Thing is, in Spanish it was very funny, I am not sure about the translation in English.  It seems that these days I am funnier in Spanish that I am in English. Imagine that.

I am sick and tired of people who come to Argentina ; Buenos Aires, and do nothing but complain.  There is always the comparison of here, to where they came from.  I get it,  Your home country is your reference point.  However, if you are traveling, whether it be for a short time or extended time,the idea should be to broaden your horizons, to learn about a new culture, to experience the people, the food, the music. I know there are some people who travel to check a box to say they have been there.  Maybe they have different criteria.  People, can you please stop saying that pizza, ice cream, shampoo, toilet paper and whatever other stupid insignificant thing is better in the USA, Europe, Asia, Australia, or wherever it is you come from.  I don't want to hear it, and neither does anyone else.

Then there are the people who move. People have many reasons for changing their country.  Some are economic, people who think they will have more opportunities if they change their country. Others leave because of political or natural disaster like in Venezuela, Haiti, or Syria. Here you also find people who fell in love when they were on vacation, so they are here for a person. Others because they are digital nomads or retired and they believe that their money will go further. 

Sometimes you don't have a choice, but when you do, you should choose somewhere to live that you like. When you change your country, you must change your mindset.  You should forget everything you knew, in order to accept your new culture. If you don't and you are always comparing, or looking for things that you had or used from your home country, guaranteed, you will be miserable. Unfortunately these people make everyone around them miserable.  It's a good thing misery loves company because these people will hopefully find each other.

My neighbor is a perfect example of this.  He is in Argentina because his girlfriend is Argentine.  She is lovely.  He is a jerk. Until yesterday I bit my tongue and did not say much to his constant tirades of how Europe is better than Argentina. (It takes great effort for me to keep my mouth shut) Dude have you heard about Brexit? The Yellow Vests in France? Italy on the verge of a financial meltdown? 

Yesterday we crossed paths and he went into one of his long speeches lambasting Argentina. He was angry about rising prices.  (He actually lives in Euros not pesos, so he should not be complaining as much as those of us who have to live in pesos)  We have over 40% inflation in Argentina. You need to be prudent and look for good prices.  They exist, but you have to find them. He was complaining about the prices in Coto. (Coto is one of the large supermarket chains here)

"No, no, no," I told him. "Coto is super expensive. You should shop in the smaller stores." He glared at me.  "On Calasanz there is small store that sells cheeses, ham, and other cold cuts for cheap prices." Instead of listening to me he continues ranting how Coto raised the price of pategras 4 times in 2 months. "This place where I shop is the cheapest in the barrio. This guy has actually lowered his prices on some items."  Instead of listening to me he continues ranting about Coto and his fucking pategras cheese.

"Look," I say to him, You should buy your cheese and ham from the guy on Calasanz near Rivadavia. "Is it Chinese?" he asks?  "I won't shop where the Chinese are owners, they are dirty."  I ignore this and continue on. "Supermercado Dia is good for things like yogurt, milk, queso blanco (it is kind of like sour cream) "Oh Dia, I don't like that place.  They are horrible in Spain. People in Spain hate them." he says.  "BTW", I tell him, "The Chinos (it is what people here call the supermarkets owned by the Chinese) are the best place to buy cleaning and paper products."  "No, no, no.  didn't you listen to me?  I won't shop in a Chino.  I don't want to support people who are trying to take over the world.  They are buying everyone and everything." 

"In Spain and Europe people shop in the big chains.  They are the best.  They have the lowest prices." I respond to him, "Not here. The big chains are the most expensive. Everyone knows that.  The few times I go to Coto or Disco I am shocked at how expensive they are." "Well not in Europe." he responds. "In Europe they are the best places to shop, and the cheapest."

That's is, I have lost my patience. "Listen you shithead, you are not in Europe,  you are in Argentina.  In Argentina the big chains are the most expensive, but you can shop there and complain." The idiot completely ignores me to continue complaining.  I want to slap him. Now he starts on the tourism. "There is no tourism in Argentina, Barcelona has more tourists than all of Argentina." "Fair enough" I start to explain to him that before the current government there was the problem with exchanging money, there were few planes. These things have been corrected and tourism is now up."  "It will never be as good as Spain.  No one wants to come to Argentina."

That does it. "You are such an asshole, why are you here? Why don't you just go back to Europe if it is so horrible here?" He is shocked. "You called me an asshole?" he asks.  "Yes I did.  Get the fuck out of here. No one wants to hear your constant complaining. If  Europe or Spain or wherever is better, then go. Good Riddance."  Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

*Original Post in Spanish

Estoy harto de gente viene para pasear, vivir y siempre todo esta mejor en EEUU o Europa o cualquier país. Hoy mi vecino (de Europa) estaba quejando sobre los precios en Coto. Explique es mejor a comprar quesos en la quesería sobre Calasanz, los lácteos en Dia, los productos de limpieza en el chino..y no. Me dijo no va a Dia, porque odio en España. No va al Chino porque ellos están comprando el mundo. Me informó como en España las cadenas grandes son mejores a comprar. Yo explique acá no, son mas caro. Siguió peleando como mejor es España hasta yo como Argentina adaptada dije "Andate de España boludo, porque acá no es España, es Argentina. Si no te gusta y todo esta mejor en España, andate." Que se yo...

 


Dating With Deby: Three Strikes And You Are Out, Strike 2

The architect calls me on Monday and asks me out for Thursday.  He invites me to dinner.  He tells me that he wants to go for Korean food.  He tells me to choose.  I think about it.  I love Korean food, but it is not exactly a place for a date.  The best Korean restaurants are the BBQs.  Places with communal tables, florescent lighting.  I don't need a 5 star restaurant, but something a little nicer.  Besides, there is so much food at these places, it is much better to go in a group.

We speak on Thursday afternoon, to solidify the details.  I tell him I prefer we go to another restaurant.  He tells me to choose and that he will pick me up at 8:00 pm.  I decide on the African restaurant, El Buen Sabor in Villa Crespo.  I like the food there, and the owners are super nice.

At 7:45 he calls to tell me that he will be late.  I can see that this is going to be a constant in this relationship.  Yes, people are always late here, but not like this, not on a first or second meeting.  Finally at almost 9:00 he comes to get me.  I tell him about the African restaurant.  He is disappointed, but says OK.

On the way to the restaurant he talks mostly about work.  Yeah, a guy thing here.  It is to show me how "important" he is.  The conversation is mostly 1 way, because that is also how it is.  I try to interject at times, but he keeps talking.  Sometimes I raise my hand and say "Permiso para hablar?" (Permission to speak)  It is the only way to make it a 2 way conversation.  Men here are not aware that they do this, in fact they deny it.  Ask any woman and they will laugh and tell you yes, that is how they are.  Beyond mansplaining.

We arrive at the restaurant.  The owner greets me.  I met them when they first opened the place.  I am always amazed that they still remember me.  I don't go often, but I guess the hair is a dead giveaway.  I introduce the architect and we sit at a table in the corner.

He wants no part in helping to decide what to eat. He is leaving this to me.  You can look at this two ways. 1, if the food is not good, then I can be blamed, or 2. He wants to be a nice guy.  Most likely a combination.  I choose several plates, he wants double appetizers.  No problem.

 The conversation is mostly nice, low key.  First date conversation.  I change the conversation from his work.  He is not interested in mine.  He doesn't speak English and says he cannot learn. It isn't like I am conducting a class, I like to talk about my students, or the challenges.  We talk about food.  We talk about our travels.  I tell him about Bali and what an effect it had on me.  He tells me that he went to Miami and is not interested in the USA.  I tell him the USA is more than Miami and New York. (Where 90% of Argentines travel to in the USA) He prefers Europe and he wants to go to Thailand.  A common ground.  Asia.

Then in the middle of this conversation he changes it.  He tells me that his son came to visit him today.  "Great."   I say.  I remember that he told me he doesn't have much of a relationship with his sons.  "No," he says.  "He only comes to see me when he wants money." I don't comment. "He wants to go on a trip to Mexico with his friends, and his mother told him to ask me for the money."

At this point, I am assuming the son is graduating high school and he and his friends are going on a trip to celebrate.  I mention this. He responds, "No, no, no.  He graduated from high school, this is just a trip with a group of his friends."  I ask him how old his son is. Before this point I was assuming that he was young. "23," he tells me. Before I can stop myself the words fall out of my mouth. "23?  Tell him to get a job.  He isn't exactly a child."  The architect tells me no. That is not how it is here.

"Excuse me,"  I tell him, "I don't want to get involved, but at 23, he should not be asking you for money."  He proceeds to tell me that is the only time he sees his son.  That he feels like his son is a prostitute and that he should just hand him the money in a white envelope. This is passive aggressive behavior.  "Why don't you just tell him how you feel?  I say.  "Maybe it will clear the air, rather than do something like handing him an envelope, which will solve nothing."

He doesn't get it.  Then he starts to blame his ex-wife. I stop the conversation here. "Look,"  I tell him, I don't want to be involved.  It has nothing to do with me."  I don't want to hear about his ex-wife.  It is like he doesn't hear me.  He is on a roll.  "It is because of her, I cannot see my grandson."  He catches the look on my face and stops. Thank God.

I turn the conversation back to something else.  Cooking is a much safer topic.  He tells me how he loves to cook.  I tell him I do too.  I tell him about my friends, and that we are a group of people that love to cook.  He says he will invite me to his place for dinner.  I tell him, that I don't have a kitchen table.

After dinner he takes me home.  The conversation is light, until we get to my apartment.  He puts the car in park and then leans over to grab me.  This is what I hate.  Nothing ever seems to be consensual. It is like being conquered.  Uff.  No.  Not at this age.  When I was lots younger, like most women, it was easier to say yes, then push someone away.  Now I don't care. One kiss.  Then he asks about coming upstairs.  I tell him no.  "How will I ever get to know you?" he asks.  What is this, the bible?  I make it clear that I am not looking for just sex.  Sex is a part of a relationship.  I don't hop beds anymore. (Especially here with the Madonna Whore complex alive and well.) I let him know that it isn't no for ever, but I want to know someone first.  "But sex is a way to know someone." he insists. I give him my bored look.  I know what comes next. "We are both adults," he says.  I hate when they say this.  I am supposed to be guilted into having sex.  I keep my mouth shut. I don't want to argue. I open the door to his car and prepare to get out.

"Hey," he says.  I will leave it up to you, if you want to go out again.  "How about Saturday?"  I ask. This is the way to find out if he is in another relationship.  "No, I can't this Saturday. Monday?  Tuesday?"  I tell him we will talk.  I shut the door of his car, and walk into my apartment building. I am not too sure about this guy. Vamos a ver.

 


Homemade Yogurt: Easy and Delicious

A departure from the norm.  If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I was diagnosed as having Celiac disease 3 years ago.  For me being gluten-free is not an option a reason to jump on the latest diet fad in the USA.  It is the difference between living well or having sharp pains in my stomach, and worse.  Argentina is a great country to live in for celiacs.  The is a huge awareness.   By law, restaurants have to have at least one item on their menu for us.  It is not only the food, but the utensils used to prepare it.  You cannot cut bread with a knife and then use the same knife to cut vegetables for us. This is known as cross contamination.

While we enjoy a high level of awareness (we even have a supermarket dedicated to products that are regulated for celiacs), we do lack products like the killer chocolate chocolate chip cookies at Trader Joe's.  This pushed me to start making my own bread, cakes, pies, pizzas, and whatever else.  Yogurt.  The yogurt in Argentina is meh.  The good stuff comes in tiny packages and is super expensive.  The other stuff,  you haven't seen in the US or Australia, or anywhere in ages.  It is yucky and you are limited to two or maybe three flavors.  So I decided to make my own.

Rather than another snarky blog post, here is something you might be able to use.  Most people have no idea, how easy it is, to make their own yogurt.  Like usual, I searched the web for information. I started making my own yogurt about 2 years ago. I started with this link: Wikihow.com/Make-Yogurt. It even has pictures.

I started with this recipe and then I improved it. The best thing you can do is invest in a cooking thermometer. I paid 45 pesos for one here in Palermo. You absolutely need to get the milk to between 85 - 90c. It is absolutely necessary to get it to the correct temperature. If not hot enough it will produce slimy but edible yogurt. The heat breaks down the proteins. Then you need to cool it to around 40 - 45c. If you just let it cool you get the film so you should whisk it to keep this from happening OR put it in the sink and fill it with cold water. Once the milk is cooled, add 1 T of sugar and 2T of yogurt. (The starter yogurt should be room temp) You can also add 1/4 of powdered milk if you want.

Make sure that it is well mixed and then pour it into a container. I found a plastic pitcher with a removable lid has been the best for me. NOW, the next important step is consistent heat. I finally broke down and bought a heating pad. I put the heating pad on low, place the pitcher on it, and cover it. Leave it alone for 4 hours. The yogurt does not like to be disturbed. So don't stir it or move it. Once it is solid you put it in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

I like tart yogurt so I leave mine usually for 12 hours. You can leave it up to 24 if you want. It has to go in the fridge as the last step. If your yogurt is not firm enough you can drain it.  Place a tea towel in a colander and then place it over a bowl.  Pour in the yogurt and let it drip away.  The liquid is called whey.  You can use it in baking, or scrambled eggs, or just throw it out. 

I use bag whole milk. I like the flavor of whole milk yogurt.  I am so over the low fat craze of the US. You can also do this with lowfat milk.  I would not recommend non-fat. You can use any milk but don't use Larga Vida or super ultra pasteurized, the stuff that comes in boxes. I tried it and the yogurt was runny, I had to drain it, and I would get half the amount.

You need to use sugar. It is what the lactobacillus reacts to.  I have also used honey with mixed results.  It probably depends on your starter. As for yogurt I have used the Dahl plain unsweetened with excellent results, and I have also used Supachense from Dia with good results. You can use flavored yogurt, your first batches will have a tinge of the flavor.  I know in the USA and Australia you can actually buy lactobacillus, we don't have here in Argentina.

So there you go, this could be your Saturday project for today.  Enjoy!


El Impuesto Gringo - Foreigner's Tax

When I moved here I never expected many things that have happened.  I moved from California, a state that is very pro-consumer to Argentina which sometimes appears to be anti-consumer.  It was a rude awakening.

All over the world, tourists are usually charged more money to buy things.  Many people always say that they want to travel like a "local."  The fact is, you are not a local, the second you open your mouth, your clothes, how you act,  the locals know that you are not from there.

I remember once in Mexico I was trying to buy something on the beach in Puerto Vallerta.  First I chatted up the vendor.  Then I asked the price of the item I wanted to buy.  He asked me, "Do you want to pay "el precio nacional" o "el precio gringo"?  Of course I told him "el precio nacional" which was the price for locals.  We haggled and finally I bought.  I knew the price, mas o menos, and I knew it was fair.

Flash foward.  Buenos Aires is like the last frontier.  Anything goes.  When I first got here, I ran from store to store comparing prices.  What I found was all the stores charge the same price within a few pesos.  There was no competition.  If you found something you liked you bought it. There were no discounts unless you were paying cash on a large ticket item.

The problem was (and is) the things that don't have prices.  It is normal to go into a store and nothing is marked.  You have to ask the clerk what the price is.  I hate that.  Most of the time I don't buy in those kinds of stores.

Once in a fruteria (the stands that sell fruits and vegetables) I was quoted a much higher price for something.  In this case the clerk was honest "Porque sos turista".  Only I was not a tourist.  I told her that, and that I lived here.  She didn't care.  She called me a name and walked away.  I would like to tell you that this behavior is not common, but unfortunately it is.

We have an ex-pat yahoo group.  From time to time people post asking for referrals.  One man added to his; " I do not want to pay "el impuesto gringo."  It was his way of saying he did not want to pay more, just because he is a foreigner.

The other day I was standing in line at the fruteria down the block.  My neighbor came and got behind me.  We started talking.  She told me that she used to go to the fruteria on the other side of the street.  "Muy tramposos ellos." she said to me.  I was surprised.  She is an Argentine.  She told me how they would overcharge her.  When she would get home she would add up everything and realize it was anywhere from 2 - 10 pesos too much.  The day it was 10 pesos she went back, demanded her 10 pesos and said she would never return.

"Wow!" I said to her.  "I thought they were overcharging me because I am a foreigner."  I told her how they tried that with me.  "No," she said, "es mala gente." (Bad people)  We both agreed that this place was much better, except for the woman who works there.  My neighbor said to me "Una mala persona es una mala persona, es mala con todos."  (A bad person is a bad person and they are bad to everyone.)

I agree, however foreigners are easier to cheat.  We are an easier mark.  For me now, I understand what is going on and I can defend myself.  Before no.  Every culture has its way of conducting business.  Here in Buenos Aires it is buyer beware. Whether you were born here, or just live here.

 


The Accidental Resident

In 1988 there was a movie starring William Hurt called "The Accidental Tourist."  Hurt played a character who writes tour guides for people who hate to travel. The tour guides tell people how to find American food, avoid the locals, so that they never feel like they have left home.

We all know tourists who complain about things not being as good as where they are from, why don't they speak English.  These are tourists.  However there is another catagory of people who I like to call the "accidental resident."

The accidental resident comes in various flavors.  They can be someone who travels to a place several times a year, immersing themselves in the local culture or someone who actually stays in the remote place for an extended period of time. One is the temporary accidental resident and the other is the permanent accidental resident.

It doesn't even have to be another country.  It could be another city or state.  I know people in California who spend inordinate amounts of time in New York or Florida, but they never make a committment to live there.

My experience of course is more with people who come to Buenos Aires.  Although I realize after this post is published I will hear from my friends in Mexico, Thailand, Australia, and other parts of the world  The accidental resident can live anywhere or be found in any country of the world. They can be from any country, not just the USA.

Before I moved to Argentina, I was an accidental resident.  I was an accidental resident of Paris, of Mexico, and finally Buenos Aires.  I spent alot of time in Paris and in Mexico.  I fantasized living in both countries.  I would look at apartments, I made friends.  I even had a job offered to me in Paris.  But I could never make the committment to actually move.

Then I went to Buenos Aires.  That was the end of my trips to Paris and Mexico.   In Spanish we say "Buenos Aires me engancho."  I was hooked.   

I came to Buenos Aires 18 times before my official move.  I had what I called my "other life."  I would leave the Bay Area and land in Buenos Aires.  I would fire up my Argentine cell phone as soon as I could.  When I got to the apartment I had rented, I would start to call my friends.

My Argentine life would start.  Milongas from late afternoon to sometime the next morning.  Practicas with my teaching friends, cafes and pizza.  Anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, "I lived in Argentina."  

I would return to the Bay Area with Argentine wine, dulce de leche, dried pasta, mate, and whatever else I could bring.  I looked for Argentines to befriend.  I was a little crazy now that I look back.

I considered myself an expert on Argentina..even though I didn't live there. I was the temporary accidental resident.  This is what is so annoying about temporary accidental residents.  They think they know it all.  (Myself included.)  I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with people who come here and know more about living in Buenos Aires than the people who live here.

Many times they refuse any type of recommendations, help, or information..because they know it all.  The sad thing is most of the time they have no clue.  They are immersed in one part of a culture and that is all they know.

Last year when I was on the bus with a couple of Argentine women coming home from the milonga we had a conversation about the current situation.  We talked about the inflation, the insecurity, and politics.  Both women laughed at me.  They remembered how when I would come on my visits when I was a temporary accidental resident.  I would argue how safe Argentina was, how easy it was to live here, how everyone was so friendly.  Really living in a place can change your perspective.

Now what about the other accidental resident?  This is usually but not always a temporary accidental resident who has moved to a new country,state, or city for a reason other than work or family.  Do not confuse the accidental resident from the person who actually has made a committment to their new residence.  The accidental resident usually never leaves the cocoon of their native country or city.

If they have to learn a new language..they almost never do, and then complain that nobody understands them.  They hate the food.  They don't like the people.  Nothing is as good as where they came from.  The system is all screwed up.  They surround themselves with other accidental residents who feel the same way as they do or people who speak their language.  You have to wonder why are they there?  Usually they begin to wonder that too, and they leave.

Like my friends in Mexico, Thailand, and everywhere else I made a committment to live in Argentina.  I have permanent residency.  I work, I pay taxes.  I learned to speak Argentine Spanish.  I find it really annoying to have to listen to foreigners complain about the food and everything else here.

People always ask me; "Why are you here?"  It is a very simple answer, I like it here.  I have a good life.  Maybe my life is not as easy as it would be if I still lived in the USA, but I like my life here.  I have good friends.  They are from everywhere.  I actually see my friends and I don't have to make an appointment in advance to do so.  I love my work teaching English.  

I love the food.  I get tired of the complaints.  Argentina has great fruits and vegetables.  I get wonderful walnuts here.  In the US I never ate chicken, the chicken here is delicious and so are the eggs.  No, there is no cheddar cheese here, but so what?  I love pategras and queso Mar del Plata. There is no sour cream but I love Casan Crema and if I absolutely have to have sour cream it is easy to make.

Like some of my friends we make the things we can't get here; kosher style dills, greek yogurt, different kinds of bread, Thai food, Mexican food.  (The Thai and Mexican food here is not that good..better to make it yourself.)  I don't miss anything enough to complain about it.

I have always said the only reason to change your country is if you have to, (work, political persecution) or because you want to.  If you want to, you need to really like the place.  If you change because it is cheaper or for a hobby, you might be severly disappointed, and then people like me are going to have to listen to you.

 


Change Partners...

Last week when I was in a shoe store there was a nicely dressed man talking to the owner.  We were all talking.  He was not a tango dancer, he was someone who was there to do business with the owner.  I had things to do so I left.

I was surprised when he ran two blocks to catch up with me. "Wait." he said to me.  "Where are you going?" It was flattering to have this attractive man run after me, especially since this was not one of my better days.  It was raining.  I had no umbrella, I didn't use much makeup, and my dress was sort of bohemian. "Back to Palermo" I said to him.  He asked how I was going and said that he would take the bus with me. Hmmmm.

In any event, in a small conversation he managed to tell me he was an artist and his paintings were in a cafe, and he wanted to show them to me. Uh huh..well a cafe is not an apartment.  I was charmed. So I agreed to go. 

The cafe was beautiful and his paintings were magnificent. He said he is a partner with the owner in several ventures.  He supplies all the designs and art.  How could one not be charmed.  We chatted for two hours about many things.  I met the other partner.  Another charmer.  They asked me, perhaps I had another blond friend I could introduce to the partner.  Maybe we could all go out together. Me have another blond friend? Oh indeed.

So I call my "other blond friend."  I tell her what happened and she finds the whole thing pretty interesting.  "A double date. Not only that.  A blind date."  She says.  I tell her not to think of it that way.  I think it is more like getting together with two guys who are different.  She and I are always up for different.  Like when we went to Rumy.  But then that is another story.

We show up at the cafe around 9.  First the artist comes to greet us.  We sit down and chat.  He is still charming and sweet.  He talks about being an artist and how sensitive he is.  Then the other partner comes. He winks at me.  He says why don't we go to a table. It will be easier to talk.

For more than 3 hours they ply us with food and drink. Whatever we want.  I have champagne.  They order different plates for us.  We talk about food.  The other partner and I discover we have many common interests.  My friend discovers that the artist and she like miga sandwiches slathered with butter and apples. Yeech.  Many questions go round and round the table.  We are foreigners and somewhat exotic.  They are men recently separated. Hee, hee.

The people who work in the cafe are getting ready to leave.  They suggest we move back to the couches. OK, I know this is going to be a problem.  Maybe we should leave too.  So here we are we TVs blaring music videos.  I begin to feel a migraine coming on.

The artist moves in.  "I want to bite your lips off."  he says to me. I throw my hand to my mouth in horror. "No!" I say to him.  "Don't act stupid." he says to me. "I want to kiss you. I want you." Oh how seductive, I think.  I telll him "No."  He is rather surprised.  "Why not?"  I personally cannot believe we are having this conversation. "I don't feel comfortable."  I nod towards the other couple on the other couch. "We can go into the kitchen." he says. "No quiero." "Somos grandes." he says to me. "Obvio." I say back.

I have played this game before.  When I was 15 years old.  Now I get to play it again.  I cannot believe at this age, men use guilt to get women to go to bed with them.  It must work.  Not with me.  How seductive.  He moves away.  "I won't bother you anymore.  I won't call you.."  "OK."  I say to him. "If that is what you want."  Now he is backed into a corner.  When I was 15 I would beg them.  At this age, I don't care.

He looks at me.  "Is this what you want?"  I tell him "I want to get to know you.  I think  you are a nice person.  I think you are interesting.  I do not want to be pressured.  If what you want is to pressure me into something, then I don't care if you call me again.  If you want to know me as a person then this is something else."  He thinks about it.  "OK, but you will talk to me, you won't be angry?"  "No,why would I be angry?"  He doesn't know what to say.  I think about someone else who I like much better. Why do I do this to myself?  I must like it I suppose.

I glance over at the other couch. They are talking.  I think the same thing is happening over there. I ask my friend if she wants to leave, she says yes.  We are trying to extricate ourselves.  She ends up back in conversation.  My headache begins to get worse.  I take a pill for it.  I want to leave.

The artist is making conversation with me.  He is talking about something.  He tells me that he thinks my friend is more open minded than me.  I tell him that if he likes her better then maybe he should go out with her.  He is shocked.  "You want me to go out with your friend?"  "Well, I hardly know you and if you think she is better for you than me, maybe you should go out with her.  It is OK.  Not a big deal."  American women, we are so weird.

Finally we get them to understand we need to leave. They walk us to the bus stop. Of course not the close bus stop.  We miss two buses in the processes.  While we wait for the bus, the artist is still trying to kiss me.  I give him a little peck, but I am not about to have a make out session on Callao with him. I say to him "Why can't you be a gentleman like your friend?  Look at him."  For the moment, It appears the two of them are deep in conversation, but then I see my friend veer off to the side as the charmer moves in for the kiss.

I immediately move over take her arm push her over to where I was and go "Change partners." She starts to giggle. Of course they have no idea what we are talking about. She starts to explain to the artist and I to the charmer, but the bus is coming.  We get on and call good bye.

"What did you think?"  I ask.  "They were nice."  she said.  And then we both started to laugh.  Which one did you like? We start to laugh again. "Both of them." we say. "Change Partners." and we continue laughing.

In group tango classes people start out dancing in one couple, and then the teachers always call out "Change partners."


Best Friends Never Say Good Bye

Today is my last full day in Seattle.  I have the rest of my shopping to do.  The big event is that I am going to see my high school friend Judy.  She and I met at Birney Junior High School when we were 12 years old.  Can you imagine?  We were friends until we graduated from Southfield-Lathrup High School.  Then we went our separate ways.  She to Michigan State and eventually married and moved to Florida. Me, well, you know that story.  We saw each other briefly at the 20 year reunion, this would be the first time since then.

I want everyone to go to dinner together.  I know they all think it is weird.  In Argentina it would be a normal thing.  I am tired of trying to act in a way that is not me anymore.  I want to share my time with all my friends.  To me this sounds normal.  I insist everyone come and join me in my last night.  I am looking forward to it.

Jeff makes reservations at Ray's Boat House.  We go to pick up Judy and her husband Robert.  I wait for them in the lobby.  I go to give them my Buenos Aires hugs and kisses. I am still not used to not doing this. I will never stop.  I think this is a wonderful thing to do.  Touching people.  North Americans are so weird about this.  Don't touch, don't look.  What kind of society is this they have?

"You look like you could be my daughter!" she squeals.  "You are crazy!" I laugh at her.  She is beautiful. "You look great!"  She does.  She always did.  She was beautiful in high school.  She introduces me to Robert, her husband.  He is a very sweet man. It is a good thing Jeff and Mary Lynne are here, because Judy and I are gabbing away.

The restaurant is on the water.  We sit upstairs where we have a beautiful view. Judy and sit next to each other.  She says to me "Do you remember when we kissed that boy in your bedroom closet?" That sends us off into peals of laughter.  We had our first kiss with Clifford Dunn in my bedroom closet.  We were probably 13 and took turns with him.  Another one of those things my parents never knew about. (I am sure the vacuum cleaners  are revving their engines now.)

"I love your hair."  I tell her.  In hair school I remembered her with long straight dark hair. "I gave up ironing it." she tells me. I am shocked.  "You ironed your hair?"  I didn't remember.  I tell her I straighten mine.  I show her my California Drivers License.  She is shocked.  My transformation.  Hair was the bain of our existence in high school.  It made us miserable.  Our mothers never understood.

We want to take a picture of ourselves.  We go outside the restaurant to the deck. "Oh great," I tell her, when I touch the door."Now we are locked out."  We look at each other and laugh.  It is like another one of our great adventures.  We take some pictures and then a guy with a "real" camera appears.  We ask him to take our pictures with our cameras.

We stay and talk outside awhile.  We talked about people we knew.  Where they were, what they were doing now.  How some people who had been so rebellious were now the straightest, most conservative of our class.  I told her how now and then people find me from my blog and write me.  Of course most are surprised I ended up in Buenos Aires.  It is a little far from Southfield Michigan.

When we want to go back in I tap the window near the door.  There are 6 young men dinning there. They grunt at me and look back at their food.  In BsAs they would have opened the door.  Jeff is about ready to cross the room when one of the grunts finally opens the door.  I thank him. 

Our dinner is nice.  I am ready for my Argentine food.  All these foods with sauces or crusts or something.  I just want my plain food.  It is nice having access to fish and I do like it.  I even have dessert tonight.  This is my last night to indulge. I miss cortados.  Capuchinos are nice, but they are not cortados.

"I was so bad." Judy tells me.  "I used to sneak out my bedroom window. "Me too!"  I laughed. "Dave Alfond would be waiting with his car.  I would go with Laurel, Gary, and Nora, and whatever boyfriend I was with."  I guess we all did that at one time or another.  I would do it when my parents had parties and I had to stay in my room for some stupid reason or another. (I think it is good I live in Argentina, vacuum cleaners don't fly this far)

She told me about her family, her lovely children, and of course now her grandchild.  It is weird to have a friend I went to high school with that is a grandmother.  But there you go.  I guess we are not eternally young.  We always thought we would be.  

We could talk forever, but the rest of our group is ready to go.  I do not want the evening to end.  I make her promise that she and Robert will come visit me in Buenos Aires.  She is excited to visit.  I do not want to say good bye to her.  I hug her and Robert and tell them I will see them soon in Buenos AIres.  So just like in high school.  I didn't say good bye.

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Back to Seattle

My feet touch the ground and I leave the Amtrak train.  I see Jeff as I leave the station.  Mary Lynne is in the car.  Jeff as usual has a plan.  We are going to a Japanese market.  Jeff lived in Japan when he was in the Navy.  He learned to speak some Japanese.  He should meet Gigi.  She lived there too. 

The area we go to is like a small Japan town.  The market is beautiful.  I want wasabi chips.  Jeff insists I first walk the market.  He points out many things to me.  Some were things I knew, but others were new to me.  He told me about a tea that becomes a beautiful flower when you put it in water.  He and Mary Lynne had experienced it on one of their trips.  They have it in this market and he shows me the tin.  He secretly buys one for me.

I decide to buy real green tea as it is very expensive in Buenos AIres.  Except when I see the prices here, I am astounded!  $17 or more!  The prices in Buenos Aires really are not that bad.  I convert everything to pesos.  I know that this sounds funny.  But sometimes something that might be a good price in dollars is not that good a price in pesos.  I can buy it cheaper in Argentina.

Jeff points out some less expensive brands of tea.  We go to find my wasabi chips.  I go overboard.  I love wasabi chips.  I but several different types.  Why am I buying so much junk food?  I never eat like this.  We go up and down the isles looking at all the different things.  Japanese packaging is pretty cool you have to admit. It screams "Buy me I am so cute."

After our brief tour of the Japanese market we go to some other shopping areas. Tonight I am having dinner with my fiend Ken.  We are going to go dance in Seattle at China Harbor.  I am excited.  I have never actually met Ken.  He is one of my blog readers and a friend of many of my friends.  Jeff and Mary Lynne are a little rattled that I go out with men from the Internet this way.  It is hard to explain "El Mundo del Tango."

When I get home I ask Jeff what he did with my suitcase.  He looks at me blankly. "Don't you remember I gave it to you?"  I tell him.  He goes out to check the car.  We think about it.  I actually have him convinced that I gave it to him.  The fact is that I left it on the Amtrak train.  Visions of Federal Express stream through my brain with my suitcase ending up in Peoria or Tallahassee.

We call Amtrak.  I brace for the worse after my Federal Express experience.  The woman asks for the ticket locator number and then apologizes as she puts me on hold.  She comes back, tells me my suitcase is on the train in Portland, they will put it on the train to Seattle and I will have that night at 9:45. My, Federal Express, take a lesson in Customer Service.  Hopefully it will be there.  Jeff says he will go get it while I am at the milonga.

Then reality hits. I HAVE NO MAKE UP or PLANCHEADOR: (I don't know what you call it in English) What am I going to do?  In a way it is sort of funny.  It would be horrifying if I was in Buenos AIres.  But here in the states it almost makes no difference.  Jeff offers me some of Mary Lynne's makeup.  I make due with what I have.  The fresh look I suppose.  Not my normal vamp look.

It is nice to finally meet Ken.  I love meeting my blog readers.  We have mutual friends.  It is sort of funny.  He comes on time like an American and ends up in the living room with Jeff, who acts like my dad and gets to approve.  I like an Argentine am late and come in well, like I do, talking.

Ken thought we would go to dinner at Ivar's but it was a long wait.  So we set off to find a restaurant close to the milonga.  On our hunt we pass a mysterious looking building.  Ken decides we should go there and check it out.  The place is called Pasta Freska

We walked in.  It looked OK.  People were eating.   A slim Indian woman in jeans was running around dishing out food with a spatula.  She smiled at us and waved us to a table.  "The chef will be with you in a moment." she said.  "The chef?"  I thought.  "OK".  We watched as the woman continued to dish out food from bowls and plates at each of the tables.  It was a little strange.  Ken and I watched.

In a few minutes came The Chef, Mike.  He asked us what we didn't like to eat.  I told him no beef or pork,  Ken told him no anchovies.  He asked a few more questions.  He told us that the menu was a surprise.  That it would be 6 courses.

A surprise it was!  We were never allowed to ask what was coming.  The food was incredible.  I ate everything.  More bad great food.  I had a wonderful tortellini in hot pepper cream sauce. Ken had penne pasta with meatballs, I had a halibut baked with spices and vegetables, Ken had a seared shark, there was chicken marsala stuffed, the food was amazing, and it didn't stop coming.  The chef Mike and the young woman were very attentive.  While it was a very strange dining experience it was well worth it and fun.

Now overly full it was time to go dance.  I had heard great things about this milonga.  It is in the banquet room of a Chinese restaurant overlooking the lake.  I sit and watch.  I am content to do this. Most people dance the same pattern.  They dance it well, but the same.  I listen to the music. 

A young Mexican man asks me to dance.  He is a beginner.  It is a disaster.  I am kind.  I sit him down after the first song.  He wants to talk.  I am kind.  He wants lessons.  I tell him I am leaving on Wednesday.  Mostly I watch.  I am not used to asking men to dance or being forward.  I am used to using the cabaceo.  They do not do that here.

I use it on one man.  He is very nice.  He wants to come to Buenos AIres.  I tell him about my Bed and Breakfast.  He is sorry I am leaving on Wednesday.  I meet several very nice men when I am dancing. I find the dancers in Seattle to be very nice.  I dance with my friend "Arturo" who spends half the year in Buenos Aires. 

A woman comes up to me.  "Are you Howard Bisgeir's cousin?" she asks me.  I am a little shocked.  I laugh, "Yes,"  I tell her, "How did you know, we don't exactly look alike."  She laughs and says "You are on his Facebook."  Ahhh if it isn't on Facebook, it doesn't exist.  She tells me she used to work with my cousin and what a sweet guy he is.  I think I know this.  He is my cousin.  What a small world. Facebook and Tango.

I dance a few more tandas.  I like Seattle. The people are nice here.  It is not Buenos Aires, but it is nice.  I wish I could have stayed a little longer, but my "dad and mom" are waiting for me outside in the car, hopefully with my suitcase.