Monday, July 27, 2009

One of these days, I'll understand the humour.... I hope...

It is Monday, my last Monday in Buenos Aires. 4 more night here, precious little time to waste.
Which is precisely, I feel, why I am not in Canning right now. Where I should be.
It is because the universe has a sense of irony that is well past my puny level of understanding.

I realized that we were out of toilet paper. So I figured I would run to the pharmacia before going to Canning and buy a roll. On my way back from the pharmacia, as I closely watched a group of three kids who looked vaguely up to nothing, which in my book always means something, I stepped on what looked like a solid piece of sidewalk. Instead, it was far from a solid piece of anything, and it was resting one edge on a bare centimeter of earth. Beneath the precariously perched sidewalk section was about a 4 inch drop. Perfect for a really good ankle twisting. Which is exactly what I did. And as I fell the three youths rushed to my side. To offer aid. As I swore in English, Italian and German (because one language is never enough in these situations), the kids helped me up, picked up my toilet paper for me, and one pointed to a huge pile of dog poop that I miraculously did not fall into. I thanked them, they asked if I was ok, I said "Mas o menos" which they thought was hilarious. With every step home my left ankle screamed at me and I muttered the F bomb in response. So here I sit - ice on ankle and glass of wine in hand. And Sorin is out of credits, so he is unreachable by cell. Of course.....

So what else am I going to do but finish one of the posts that I had started. Along with the glass of wine of course.....


It is now the time when I am saying "This is the last _____". Which is sad. I am also starting to say goodbyes. Which is even sadder.
Sunday night was my last Glorieta - and I so love that place. The air had a definite nip to it, there was a humidity to the cold that was not really present until the middle of last week. But there were people there regardless. I had a wonderful time. Enjoyed myself thoroughly. I even enjoyed a dance that was a mistake. I was asked to dance by a very young man, and I accepted. And as soon as we started, I realized that he had no idea what he was doing. And very soon into it, he realized he had no idea what he was doing and started to panic a little. After the song ended I asked him if he danced tango, and apparently he was so moved by watching the class before the milonga, he joined in, so he has had half a class. oh boy. But I don't want to rain on someone's enthusiastic parade. So I talked as much as I could through the second song, and then said "Uno mas?" And we walked out the next couple of minutes to Callo.

After Glorieta, where I had to say two goodbyes to leaders whom I enjoy dancing with thoroughly, I was going to go home. That hard stone gazebo floor is murder on my knees. But, our friend E was disappointed that she did not get to lead me in a milonga, that she asked me to go with the group on to Loca. Now Loca is not my favorite, mostly because the floor is like solid polished ice. And the music is usually less than great. But, E asked, and so I went. And I am actually glad I did. I had some really wonderful dances up until the performance, including a super fun tanda of milonga with E! Whew! The performance was actually phenomenal. This couple, Bruno Tombari and Maria Angeles Caamano, were elegant, engaging and a joy to watch. Let me put it this way - Sorin enjoyed the performance! And they performed 4 songs!
After the performance I did not dance much at all, actually, I did not dance at all for over an hour until the final tanda came on. But this was ok, the level of dancers in the room was amazing. I was at the bottom of the barrel. So I had no problem sitting and watching people who were so much better than I.
And to be honest, the dances that I did have were all superb. So there is that. :o)

Friday, July 24, 2009

T-7 and counting.... yikes!

Only one more week left! I can't believe it....

I had my last Spanish class today. And starting today I can say "It's my last Friday night in BA."

The last two days were horrifically cold and wet. If I was in Boston during winter, it would not seem so bad, 35 degrees is not horrific. However, when the house you are in has no insulation, the windows are not meant to keep cold out, and the air is wet with the cold - it is miserable. I stayed in last night because I figured who in their right mind is going to go out?? I cooked in the kitchen for hours to keep warm. I am rather happy Sorin was not around to take a picture, I was wearing leg warmers over my jeans, multiple socks with my muppet slipper-socks over them, long sleeve shirt, 2 sweaters and my scarf. Once I got cooking though, the scarf came off. ;o) But I was a funny sight for sure!

I have a few posts started, and promise to finish them up over the next few days.

I was asked by the fine folks over at KnowTango to write a guest post for their blog about Traditional Milongas and what is needed to make them good. If you are interested, take a gander over to HERE. Please keep in mind that I am by no means an expert, this is simply my opinion based on my short time here in BA and my slightly longer, but still short time in tango in the US Northeast. That said, I am interested in what others think and have to say on the topic. So please feel free to open a discussion there.

More soon!
Chau Chau!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Down then Up

I lost a week.
I am now down to two weeks left in my adventures.
This week I was ill, again. Stomach virus. Blech.
So almost this entire week was lost to me as I was in bed, again.
Rather aggravating.

But yesterday I was well, I felt good, although weak. And decided I was healthy enough and no longer contagious to go dancing. I decided to go to Villa Malcolm with Sorin so that I would be close enough to home if I needed to leave. I felt sure that I would be exhausted by midnight.

So not the case.

I had possibly one of the best nights I have had here. All of my dances were good, most were great. My "worst" dance of the night was still good. And I was so happy to move, so happy to be out of the apartment, that I was moving freely. I was afraid I would have been stiff and slow, but on the the contrary, I felt so alive. So connected to everyone I danced with. I was happy.

And I danced my first Chararera. With a blind man. How awesome is that?!? There is a gentleman from San Francisco here whom I met about a month ago who dances tango. He is an incredible inspiration and watching him dance is awe-filling. I am convinced that he has Spidey-Sense. We danced last night and he asked me if I knew how to dance the Chararera, I said sort of, I had been taught it awhile ago, but I did not really know it. He asked me to find him at the end and dance it with him, so I did. It was a blast, although more exhausting than tango!

So I walked home on shaky weak legs and with a happy heart.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Its time to talk shop.... shoe shopping that is!

So, I have been a good girl and not gone hog wild on the shoe shopping.
I could have.
There is much trouble to be gotten here.
But I was good.

I have been asked by numerous people about where to shop for shoes while here, so it seems worth a post even though I know that many people write about shoes. So, here is my opinion. I am only going to write about what I LIKE and LOVE. I am not going to write about the places I did not like, if you have a question about a place I don't write about, send me an e-mail or post a comment with your e-mail address (I won't publish it) and I'll send you my honest thoughts on that place if I have visited them.

First, and foremost, naturally
Comme il Faut - number bought - me - 2, friends - 5

Love, Love, LOVE this place! First of all the women there are so lovely and helpful. And they rather give you a feeling of being super, high class special because they discuss with you what you like, what you want, and then they bring the shoes to you to try. It might seem difficult, but actually it is not. The more specific you are with them, the better they can help you. I ended up buying shoes for multiple friends here as well as two pairs for myself.

Located on the second floor of a shop located in the Rue de Artisans, they set the tone of being exclusive with simply the location. Walk off of the busy street onto the Rue de Artisans, in a beautiful courtyard, up a flight of stairs and ring the buzzer. You are usher in with a warm "Hola, Como Esta?", sit on one of the benches and one of the sales ladies talks with you about your needs and wants. Boxes and boxes appear, you try on, you admire in the full length mirror, and all the women in the shop at the time will chime in with their comments. One of my visits there there were two women from France, one from Japan and one from London. We all gave opinions on each others, as well as swapped out shoes when we saw that one had a pair that another really liked.

My favorite place to shoe shop is here.

Take note - if you pay in cash, the price is about 20 pesos cheaper. As with most places in Buenos Aires, if you pay with a credit card, you pay the fee that the vendor is charged by the credit company. So go with enough cash to save yourself some money if you are buying more than one pair of shoes.

Did you know that CiF makes a shoe with a 1.5 inch heel?!?! They do! On my last visit to buy for friends, there were two adorable older women there, who were trying on shoes that looked like CiF, but had a 1.5" wedge heel. My friend Sally was with me and we both exclaimed over the shoe. We asked the salesgirl if these were new, she said no, but they do not have many and it only comes in one style (peep toe with closed heel) and two color options, royal purple with silver accents or black and red. Regardless, if you are interested in a super low heel from a very well made shoe, go to CiF and ask for them.

2x4 -number of shoes bought me - 1, Sorin - 1

Find of the century. These shoes are AMAZINGLY comfortable. Possibly the most comfortable tango shoes I have ever worn. They also have interchangeable soles, so that you can change how your shoes respond to the floor, you receive three options with your shoes - hard leather, suede and rubber. I was unsure how secure these soles would be, but they are perfect. The sole never slips (held in by super industrial velcro) and, as I did at one milonga, you can change the soles if the surface of the floor changes through the night from humidity, heat, etc. If you are there when the owner is there, ask him how he came up with the design, the story in itself is worth the trip, and he is so passionate about creating the Perfect Tango Shoe.

One drawback for women - there is only one style of shoe - many many colors - but only one style - a strappy sandal with a closed heel. They are a little "older" looking in style. Compared to my CiF's, they look very "sensible". However - I took a 90 minute milonga class in these and never had a problem.
For men - there are multiple styles and colors to choose from.

You must try these on. I found out that in these shoes I am a 36.5 - where I normally take a 37.

Located on Scalabrini Ortiz in Palermo, you will most likely do what I did and walk past the address not realizing it is a store. It is a normal, residence building, and 2x4 is located in the back on the first (ground) floor. There is a white buzzer above the residence buzzers that has in small print "2x4". Look for the address number, not a sign for the company, and make sure you check them out!

Word of warning - these are the most expensive shoes I bought. 470 pesos. Well worth it, but they are a cash only business. So make sure you have enough money with you!

Taconeando - number of shoes bought - 1

A new, young, hip store located on Arenales, this store is wonderful. Created by a young tango dancer, her designs are simple and clean and her colors vibrant and eye catching. If you want the most vibrant of metallic leathers - come here! The most saturated satins - come here! She also has some outrageous shoes as well - think maribou detailing..... hhummm!
The prices are also very reasonable, between 250 and 300 pesos for most designs.

The heel heights are high or not as high, so if you are looking for a low heel, they most likely won't have it. However, the balance of the shoes is fantastic. I brought my friend Sophia there, who was adamant about a low heel height. She tried on the shoes and and was amazed that she did not feel as though she was in a high heel. She ended up buying a gorgeous black velvet Mary Jane style shoe with gold embossed flowers. Really chic. While we were there, a woman from Miami was picking up her shoes. She told us she was 75 years old!!! And her high heels were in what was most definitely Miami colors (aquamarine blue, hot pink, and celedon green). She was so enthusiastic about the shoes, that all I could think was if a woman in her mid-seventies was dancing all night in these shoes, everyone should.

Neo-Tango - number of shoes bought - me - 1 sneaker, Sorin - 1 (at Tango Brujo)
You can go to the NeoTango store, located downtown at Sarmiento, or you can buy their shoes at Tango Brujo .

The actual NeoTango show room is beautiful, bright and right in the middle of everything. The displays are drool worthy. Their shoes are really well made and are a wonderful combination of colors and materials. Again, you have to try them on. I ended up buying a pair of sneaker for classes because I really needed a pair, I've been using ballet flats for years now, and I wanted a pair of sneakers that did not have a huge, thick sole that stopped me from feeling the floor and felt like 10 pounds on each foot. The sneakers I got are great, brown with some gold accents, they are super comforable, have a split sole and are thin enough that I can feel the floor. They had much flashier colors available in the sneakers, as well as more sedate. The pair I really wanted were a cool pattern of browns, but they no longer had my size.
The heels I really liked, but they unfortunately do not fit my feet. The 37 was too big and the 36 too small.

Monday, July 06, 2009

All I want is a muffin

The Universe is having some fun with me.

Yesterday I went to a gorgeous little cafe in Palermo SoHo called Baraka with Sally and her amor, Carlos, and his daughter. If you are in Palermo, you really should go, Corner of Gurruchaga and Goritti. Fantastic coffee and ginger infused beverages, along with organic foods and sweets. Plus the whole environment is cozy and comfy without any pretension. And the prices are great.

So, I ordered a cafe doble and I saw a display of beautiful muffins when we walked in. On the menu it listed "Muffin" along with the available flavors. One of which was arandano, or blueberry, which is my favorite. So I ordered a muffin de arandano.

When the plate arrived, my eyes grew to saucers, it was a huge blueberry crumble tart. It was gorgeous (and insanely tasty), but it was not a muffin. I laughed and explained to my friends what I was expecting, I pointed to the display and asked Carlos "Como se dice?" It was explained to me that it was a Budin. We laughed over the word mix up, I inhaled my "muffin" and all was well.

I now knew what a muffin was in castellano. I was prepared for future ordering.

Fast Forward to this afternoon. I went to a different cafe, saw another lovely display of what I know as muffins and knew was budin in Buenos Aires. Read the menu and saw "budin" listed with a variety of muffin-like flavors. I ordered a cafe doble y un budin de limon. Confident I had cracked the code.

I got my coffee along with a gorgeous slice of lemon bundt cake. Not a muffin at all. I started laughing, which really confused the waitress. I think that she was concerned that I was either unstable, or she had missed something. I tried to explain the sitation (she spoke no English). I went to the muffin display, pointed, and asked "Como se dice?" She said "Panecillo". I told her about my ordering in the other cafe and that the work in Ingles was "Muffin". She started laughing. She pointed to a small fruit tart and said "Es un muffin!" We spent a few seconds pointing at different things and telling each other in our languages what the name was.

She then apologized and said that since she had already cut the cake, she could not take it back. I said it was ok, I would be happy to eat the lemon cake. I knew it was not in my cards to have an Inglese muffin (as she called it) any time soon.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Bracing for Culture Shock

I have the feeling when I get back to Boston I am going to have a huge adjustment to make.
Not tango wise.
But life wise.

I have becoming very comfortable with sleeping until noon, eating dinner at 9, 10 or 11 at night and then staying out until 4 or 5 am.

Back home I am almost never hungry at 5 or 6pm, when most people serve dinner. This late night eating suits my system. And the whole relaxing at the table, lingering over coffee, needing to send up a flare for the waiter to bring you the check.
I love it.

I have the feeling when I get back to Boston the whole rush rush rush of life is going to be a bucket of cold water.

But, I'll enjoy this culture while I have it still.

Sticking it out to the end

The same advice I give beginners who go to festivals seems to apply here at the regular milongas. Stick it out to the end. Seems I need to take my own advice.

Last night a group of us went to Canning, which is a beautiful room and has a really lovely energy. The floor is a fantastic, although slick, chevron parquet, and seems to be the perfect size. I really liked it there. We all sat at a table, ordered beverages, and started to scope the floor for potential partners. It became apparent that although there were quite a number of good dancers there, and a few name brands, it was going to be a tough night to get dances. Cabeceo was difficult for me. I had to laugh at times because I would focus on a leader I wanted to dance with, and watched him be focused on the follower he wanted. He’d seal that deal. So I would move my eyes to another leader. Same sequence. And so forth and so on. Luckily one of our group was a leader and he was lovely enough to dance with me several times which allowed me to both be seen and have some lovely fun tandas while waiting.

Finally, around 2:40am I started getting really good dances. The room had cleared quite a bit, and the leaders I had been looking at were finally looking around. The last hour and a half I had one great dance after another. When the milonga was ending around 4am, I went home happy.

It is really hard to stick it out. I know. Keeping that up energy and smile is at times torturous. Luckily my tablemates were all lovely friends and conversation was rarely lacking when some of us were sitting. So make sure you go with friends to the tougher milongas so that you will not have to amuse yourself while waiting. But waiting to the end, until a good dancer is willing to take a chance at the end of the night can pay off big time for you. The other dancers are better able to see because there are fewer people and they watch the expression and interaction between you (the unknown) and your partner (a known quality).